Electrum Pieces

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.


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.

Electrum Pieces

Alternatives to Spell Lists

Talysman over at The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms wrote about Clerics without Spells almost a year ago. As is his talent, he can produce a simple mechanic that sounds intriguing and fun to play. It's fascinating the almost complete lack of bookkeeping required. Roll 2d6 + (2 * (Cleric Level - HD effect)) >= 9.

Read the post to get the details of the categories as well as the follow-up post with some clarifying details. Really good stuff.

Being a 2e fan, I began to mull how this could work with the idea of Priests of Specific Mythoi. For example, some Clerics do not turn undead, but incite battle rage (God of War). Some Clerics get a Druid-like shape-changing ability.

Under my proposed system, a cleric would choose any six categories. The original categories are: Command, Defense, Disease, Dispelling, Healing, Warning. My additional categories are:

  • Resistance:  Cleric is granted an automatic saving throw against certain types of attacks, energy or a specific class of spells for a number of turns equal to the Cleric's level. Resistance to Posion is a 2 Hit Dice Effect. Resistance to Fire, Cold, Lightning, Acid, and Sonic energy is a 3 Hit Dice effect. Resistance to Psionics is a 4 Hit Dice effect. Resistance to a class of Magic is a 5 Hit Dice effect.
  • Shapechange: Cleric can change into any non-magical, non-planar creature up to the Cleric's level divided by 2 in Hit Dice. For example, at 1st level, a Cleric could change into a fox on a successful roll while a 14th level Cleric could change into any type of bear on a successful roll.
  • Passage: Cleric can travel at normal rate regardless of terrain or physical condition. Examples include, underbrush, forest, sand, ice, snow, wind and more. Forest, hills, deserts, snow and rocky/broken areas are a 2 Hit Dice effect. Wind, mountains, jungles, swamps are a 3 Hit Dice effect. Ice is a 4 Hit Dice effect.
  • Communication: On a successful roll, the Cleric can communicate with any creature or plant. This can only be attempted on an individual creature or plane once. If the attempt fails, it will never succeed, regardless of level advancement and/or number of attempts. The effect lasts for a number of hours equal to the Cleric's level.
  • Favor: The Cleric can grant bonuses to saving throws, Armor Class or attacks to an individual. The Hit Dice effect is twice the bonus. For example, a +1 to Saves is a 2 Hit Dice effect. A +3 is a 6 Hit Dice effect. The effect lasts for a number of rounds equal to the Cleric's level.

The rationale for Resistance to certain categories of spells deals with a bias against mages in my campaign world. The reason for the psionics separation is again a campaign world thing. Psionics are the only form of magic available to those that want to use magic. Mages are like d20 sorcerers in that they were born with the ability.

For a couple of the categories, I had to make a table and I'm looking for a way around that. The other option, of course, is to rework the entire system to use the basic mechanic in ACKS. Hmmm.

For weapon choices, I would allow a few weapons that do d4 and two weapons that do d6. A missile weapon can never do more that d4 damage.

It also occurs to me that I could do the same thing with mages using spell types as categories. But if that happens, it will be another post.

ACKS, Electrum Pieces and OSR Project

More Thoughts On the New Setting

The language of magic is common enough that the upper middle class and idle rich like to impress each other at parties with their so-called knowledge of the secret tongue.

This cause mages to seek out areas of refuge away from anyone speaking magic. Otherwise, they could inadvertently begin casting spells and nobody wants to do that by accident!

In cities, mages organize network of so-called Quiet Areas. These quiet areas are areas safeguarded against anyone that would speak magic, even other mages. If a Quiet Area cannot be found, a good mage always has the ability to use two helpful and relatively inexpensive magic items. The first silences the area around where he is sleeping. The second locks the door. Wholesale manufacture of magical items is rare. These two items are a noted exception - they are created by mages for mages. They are not made available to anyone that does not practice magic.

As a mage increases in power, these magic trinkets and even the Queit Ares tend to become less effective. The growing need to avoid accidental spell casting drives a mage to build a stronghold away from other people.

This is the primary reason why mages, as they get more powerful, have less to do with people and the real world and seek refuge their stronghold. Many even escapes to the various planes that float along the Astral Sea.

Another effect of the common knowledge of the language of magic is that all magic items have a code word to activate. Weaker items usually have easy-to-guess code phrases. Any fighter with experience can usually guess the code phrase for weaker magic items.

In a d20 based system, determine the DC for a mage to get the code word, divide the cost of the item by 100. That provided the DC to beat on a d20. For those using ACKS, a limited ability to guess activation words is included in the Adventuring proficiency.

Since the knowledge of the language of magic does not grant the ability to use magic, a would-be magic user has two options. The most popular option is to join a temple and offer your services as an emissary. Emissaries, often called clerics, are given a measure of power by a deity in exchange for service. This arrangement usually works out well for both deity and cleric. However, due to a large number of potential applicants, clerics do not gain the ability to use divine power right away. A cleric must go through a time of testing to prove their devotion.

There are a number swordsmen and military men in urban areas that left the temple before gaining the ability to use divine power. Their lack of faith makes them a bit resistant to divine magic, including any healing magic.

For those using ACKS, this is a new proficiency called Lack of Faith. It provides a small bonus (+1 or +2) for saving throws against all divine magic. It also forces a character to make a saving throw against healing spells to be healed.

For those that want the ability to wield magic, but do not have the desire (or faith) to join a temple, there is only one option: psionics. The Science of the Mind holds the promise of allowing anyone to harness the power of magic that exists within themselves. In that sense, psionics are nondiscriminatory. The difficulty for the would-be psion is that not all teachers that claim to know the science actually do.

Finding a teacher that can actually imbue psionic power is difficult in urban areas. It is almost impossible in more remote areas. It takes a powerful psion to provide the training and the ability.

For those using ACKS, only a 9th level or greater psion can imbue power. Imbuing the ability is a power a high level psionicist must learn to use. The cost is great and can be done a limited number of times in a psionicist's life.

The drawback to being a psionicists is that it is a one way trip. Once a person becomes a psionicist, he or she can never become something else. No temple, even the most inclusive ones, will ever admit a psionicist as a cleric. Without the ability to use magic, there is no option to become a mage. Psionicists are not trusted by fighting men and will not be trained.

The other cost for learning psionics is tremendous difficulty with the language of magic. Whereas anyone else can learn and speak the language of magic with realtive ease, the act of gaining their power removes this ability. This also prevents them from using their Suggestion power and "placing" magic phrases into a mage's mind while he/she is asleep in order to trigger a spell.

Psionicists are not driven to seclusion by their power. Unlike mages that are born to their power, a psionicist chooses theirs. Their power is not bound to
a certain language or phrase. In fact, many psionicists tend to enjoy people and crowds as they gain power. Instead of building strongholds and castles, they build schools and train others.

The schools are not publicly advertised. Many temples actively seek to destroy such schools. These schools are seen as destroying the faith of the weak-minded. To a cleric, true power comes from a deity, not from within.

Mages tend to see psionicists as second-class spell casters. A common expression is "those that can't do, teach" often used as a pejorative. To a mage, the powers of a psionicist can be either duplicated by magic (ESP, Clairvoyance, Telekinesis) or are not very useful (Postcognition). There are limited battle powers available to a psionic. A mage can easily prevent their thoughts from being read by a psionicist without resorting to magic. (This last statement is often repeated, but not entirely true. The mage chooses to think in the language of magic thereby preventing a psionicist from understanding a mage's thoughts. However, thinking in the language of magic requires a lot of concentration to prevent a spell from being cast by accident.)

The rest of society does not see any difference between the three methods of using magic. To them, having the power is a price too high, even in a world with supernatural creatures.

Clerics always build strongholds near populated areas. More followers = more power.