My Favorite Playable Race/Class

I've always thought that whatever you want to play should pretty much be fair game. You want to be a dragon PC? Sure. You start at 1st level with one hit point per die. You advance as an elf (4000 xp for level 2). You follow the M/U spell progression table, but you gain a hit point per die every fourth level. I tend to think of dragon PCs as being Silver Dragons because in D&D they are the most fond of humans, but if you want to be red, we can invent reasons why you are playing a good red dragon that enjoys the company of humans, dwarves and elves without eating them or their horses.

I'm not totally flexible. If you want to be a 1st level lich or beholder, I may ask you to think of something else. Then again, if we're playing with characters starting somewhere around 15th level or so, a lich or beholder is not impossible.

In short, play what you want. We, meaning the playing and the DM, can figure something out that will work for everyone in the group.

When someone asks what is your favorite race and favorite class in two separate questions, there is an embedded in the questions. Specifically, that you play with race and class as separate things when playing D&D. That is not how I started playing D&D, so I really can't answer it as two separate questions. Then again, my favorite was presented in AD&D as a separate race with a choice of classes.

Confusing?

When I started, my D&D was a mix of many different systems. I've mentioned Spell- um. er. Flying Grognards in Space before, but another book I treasured was the Dragonlance Hardback. It really belonged to my friend Bill, but he wasn't as taken with it. My group wasn't too fond of the setting because of what we felt like were needless restrictions. Today, I would enjoy Dragonlance, pretty much as written as a setting. Playing it though, would require the rules to be converted to S&W, and the non-weapon proficiencies thing would need to modified, and that whole thing with wizards would need to be worked out as well...

Point is, at the time, we couldn't be bothered with a setting that would tell us that we were doing it wrong because we wanted to learn any spell we wanted and didn't want magic research to go through some committee. I've changed since then, but Dragonlance is the source of my favorite playable race/class.

On page 69, you'll find the Krynn Minotaurs. I loved them. In the setting proper, they could be Fighters, one type of Mage, one type of Priest and a Rogue of little consequence (limit of 8th level).  Up to the point of finding the book, I had always played Magic-Users (I changed the word on purpose) or Clerics. I saw that a Cleric-type character was written in the book for Minotaurs, so that is what I wanted to be.

I do not remember his name, but I do remember that I modeled him after Beta Ray Bill. Instead of a twin-bladed axe, he wielded a huge warhammer. He wore chain mail for reasons I never really explained. Per the setting, he was considered a heretic by other minotaurs because he worshiped Kiri-Jolith. For this reason, he left Krynnspace and found a home in a different sphere.

Clerics in my setting were d6 in hit dice. I guess the convention was the same for everyone else because as much as I loved starting with 2d8 Hit Dice (per the Clerics of Good rules in Dragonlance), I started with 1d8 instead, reflecting the minotaur's size and strength. He had no spells at first level, but otherwise progressed as a Cleric.

I believe I only played him once. I enjoyed the concept of him quite a bit, but unfortunately, I remember nothing of his adventures. Oh well. I will check my sources, but this guy may turn out to be someone I created, but never played at all. That happened a lot for me because I was usually the DM.

If you like, I post the Minotaur Cleric class formatted for S&W. Otherwise, thank you for another trip down memory lane in my favorite race/class character.

Swords & Wizardry Classes

I love to dream up classes for S&W. The main reason is to create interesting NPCs. Although I've never been challenged on it, I like to have the rules setup ahead of time when a party encounters an "alternate" spellcaster or a fighting-man that seems to do a whole lot of damage.

The guidelines I follow are as follows:

  • Start with Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User classes. Also include a tweaked Thief class.
  • All skills of a class are handled per Thieves' Skills (roll on d6 or roll d%)
  • Limited Special Abilities are handled per Turn Undead table using various dice,'X' number of times a day or Spellcasting tables.
  • Other Special Qualities are "always-on" abilities (like Fighter's Parry), Stronghold/Keep/Guild at name level.
  • One other mechanic I use is a custom mechanic for handling psionic combat. I hope to adapt it to handle things like wizards' duels, clerics' tests of faith and sanity checks.
  • There are no abilities unlocked at certain levels with the exception of name level. This is why the Thief is tweaked to always be able to Read Languages, though he or she will have a limited chance at 1st and 2nd levels.
  • Hit Dice are d3,d4,d6,d8 and d10.
  • Name Level occurs at Up to level 13 for d3, Up to level 11 for d4, Up to level 9 for d6 and d8, Up to level 7 for d10.
  • Extra hit points after name level are +1 for d3,d4,d6 and +2 for d8,d10
  • One and only one ability score is used to provide a bonus to XP.
  • One +2 bonus to a type of Saving Throw bonus.
  • I have a custom system for weapons allowed. I allow anyone to throw flaming oil and use slings.

Looking at the core classes, they breakdown as follows.

Cleric:

d6 tops off at 9th level
Wisdom provides bonus to XP
Weapons Restriction: Blunt Weapons + oil and sling.
Limited Special Abilities: Turn Undead, Cast Spells per table,
Special Quality: Stronghold at name level.

Fighter:

d8 tops off at 9th level
Strength provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: NONE
Limited Special Abilities: NONE
Special Qualities: Multiple Attacks, Parry, Stronghold at name level.

Magic-User:

d4 tops of at 11th Level
Intelligence provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: Small list of weapons + oil and sling. No armor.
Skill: Knowing Spells, Making Magic Items
Limited Special Abilities: Casting spells per spell table
Special Quality: Tower at name level.

Thief:

d4 tops out at 10th level
Dexterity provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: One-handed weapons Leather Armor only.
Skills: Climb Walls, Delicate Tasks and Traps, Hear Sounds, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Open Locks, Read Languages
Limited Special Abilities: NONE
Special Qualities: Backstab (always-on), Read Magic (gains at name level)

The biggest changes from S&W Complete is that the Thief gains the ability to Read languages any time, but cannot read magic until 10th level.

It's not so much a change, but since there is no explicit rule, I have the Magic-User able to make magic items any time. One part of my rationale is due a house rule I have about XP gained on money spent. Making magic items gives M-U's a reason to spend money.

And Now for Something Kinda Different

So how does this work with custom classes? It is not as limiting as it may appear. Notice that no one has an "X" number of times ability. There's all kinds of ways to modify spell tables (half the spells of an M-U, change the spell levels possible, custom spell lists, etc.) In other words, there are many possibilities, but a limited number of ways to express them.

For an example of how these fit together, let's look at the Hewcaster:

Hewcaster:

d4 tops of at 11th Level
Intelligence provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: Small list of weapons + oil and sling. No armor.
Skill: Knowing Spells
Limited Special Abilities: Casting spells per spell table, Extracting Essence per Turn Undead table, Making Elixirs per spell table.
Special Quality: Alchemists' Lab at name level.

If I wanted a Barbarian, I'd do this:

Barbarian:

d10 tops off at 7th level
Constitution provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: Two-handed weapons only
Limited Special Abilities: Rage up to level times a day
Special Qualities: Multiple Attacks (Crom count the dead!), Stronghold at name level.

+2 to Saving Throws from spells and spell-like effects

If I wanted a Psionicist, I'd do this:

Psionicist:

d6 tops off at 9th level
Charisma provides bonus to XP
Weapons Restriction: Small list of weapons + oil and sling. No armor.
Skills: Learning Psionic Techniques, Grapple Incorporeal Foes
Limited Special Abilities: Uses Psionic Abilities per table, Psionic Attacks per table
Special Quality: Psionic defense (always-on), Academy at name level.

+2 to Saving Throws from Charm and other mind-effecting spells.

For an Assassin:

d4 tops out at 11th level or d3 tops out at 13th level
Intelligence provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: One-handed weapons Leather Armor only. Can use shields.
Skills: Climb Walls, Delicate Tasks Disguise Self, and Traps, Hear Sounds, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Open Locks, Read Languages
Limited Special Abilities: NONE
Special Qualities: Backstab (always-on), Make Poison, Read Magic (gains at name level)

+2 to Saving Throws from poison and paralysis

For a Ranger:

d8 tops off at 8th level
Strength provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: NONE
Skill: Tracking
Limited Special Abilities: NONE
Special Qualities: Bonus damage to Giant and Goblin types (always on), Alertness (always on), Casting spells per spell table at Name Level, Use of Healing, Scrying and Travel based magic items at Name level, Fortress at name level.

+2 to Saving Throws from spells that alter the senses or sense of balance.

For a Bard:

d4 tops out at 9th level
Charisma provides bonus to XP
Weapon Restriction: Any weaponsa and shields, but Leather Armor only.
Skills: Hear Sounds, Hide in Shadows, Lore (Identify Magic Items, know the location of dungeon, etc), Move Silently, Read Languages, Read Magic
Limited Special Abilities: Casting spells per spell table
Special Qualities: Psionic Defense (always on), Guild at Name Level

+2 to Saving Throws from charm and mind-affecting spells.

Okay, so that's a bunch of stuff that everyone already has in various forms or another, except the Hewcaster. Could I do a Monk class? Honestly, I would feel the need to add a martial arts sub-system to do classes like the Monk. I'll give it a shot on the next post.

The Hewcaster

hew

  1. to strike forcibly with an ax, sword, or other cutting instrument; chop; hack.
  2. to sever (a part) from a whole by means of cutting blows.

In short, a hewcaster severs the essence of a creature or object and uses it to research spells, create potion-like magic items called elixirs and ultimately create hideous creatures that sear the mind. He is part magic-user, part alchemist, and part mad scientist.

Taking Essence and Making Hewstones

Aside from spells, the hewcaster can take the essence of any creature or object. What is essence? Essence is made up of the qualities of a creature or object that make it distinct. For example, the essence of a bear consists, in part, of its Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. It also includes furry skin, claws, sharp teeth eye color, physiological structure and large size. More than that, it includes the need to hibernate in the winter, a taste for salmon (or other fish) and all the memories it has. With enough thought, I'm sure you could come up with more characteristics of a bear not mentioned here.

Now that I've defined what essence is, what does the hewcaster do with it? At first, if the hewcaster is successful in taking the essence of a creature or object, the essence forms into a solid object called a hewstone. A hewstone is a smooth, rectangular-shaped rock that is about one foot long, seven inches wide and two to three inches thick. In this form, the essence can be kept indefinitely.

Back in the laboratory, the hewcaster can study its contents to research new spells, learn more about the type of creature from its essence, or learn about the specific creature's essence. Using the example of a bear mentioned before, the hewcaster could research new spells based on the characteristics of a bear, learn more about bears in general (like what they like to eat, what happens to their when they hibernate, etc), or learn about the specific habits and memories of the specific bear whose essence is trapped in the hewstone.

Elixirs

The new ability of the hewcaster is to create elixirs. Elixirs function like potions in that drinking one will grant the imbiber some magical effect. Elixirs are different from potions in that applying it to a target will do the same thing. This means that it is possible to throw an elixir at a target and use it as a weapon.

Elixirs are made by a hewcaster when he or she employs a catalyst to draw power from a hewstone. Catalysts come in five types. Each catalyst is able to draw different aspects of essence to produce certain effects.

Type of Catalyst Effect
Body Gain the Strength, Dexterity, Constitution or one physical characteristic.
Mind Gain the Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma or memories.
Shape Gain the form
Soul Be transformed into the target
Blood Gain a special ability of the target

Referring to the bear example once again, taking a hewstone with the essence of a bear and applying a Body Catalyst will create an elixir that grants a physical characteristic of a bear. This could be as straightforward as creating an elixir that grants the strength of a bear or as subtle as making an elixir that makes the target fur-covered.

Of course, the effects of an elixir need not be positive. Making an elixir that grants the intelligence of a bear will change the target from its current intelligence to the intelligence of a bear. Doing that to a human (especially a magic-user) will lower the target's intelligence. (Then again, using the same elixir on an animated statue or golem would make it more intelligent.)

One major difference between a spell and an elixir is that a hewcaster can make an elixir in a short amount of time (about 10 minutes) with the right materials. However, the hewcaster can only handle a limited amount of exposure to essences and catalysts before suffering great risks to mind and body. As a hewcaster increases in level, he or she can make more elixirs.

Final Notes about Hewstones

A hewstone can only be used to make an elixir once. Catalysts can be used up to 50 times to make elixirs. A hewstone that has been used to make an elixir can still be used to research spells. It will not, however, be useful in making another elixir. Such an attempt will destroy the hewstone and harm the hewcaster along with most of his or her equipment.

A hewstone with the essence of a magic-user can be used to create an elixir that grants the ability to cast spells generally or cast a specific spell. Any spells cast from these types of elixirs do not count against the allowable spells per day. One way of using an elixir to grant spell casting powers is to allow a thief or fighter to hurl a couple of spells. Another way to use spell casting types of elixirs is to allow a hewcaster to cast 8th and 9th level spells.

Why a Hewcaster is Neutral at Best

The downside of a hewcaster is that the act of taking a creature's essence will change the target into a horrible cypher beast. A cypher beast is a pale, four-legged creature with a huge maw, four clawed limbs and little else. The transformation lasts for only a couple of days.

After Nine Hundred Words, Finally the PDF

Details of the hewcaster class can be found in the hewcaster pdf. I've also attached an open text document for modification here: hewcaster.odt.