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.

Making Custom Classes

It's funny the things that come to you when you are working on rules for a specifically NON-D&D game. The KOHE system, which I've written about on Google+. I'm building a spell point system for it because characters do not have levels. Seeing how flexible characters are, I began to think about D20 style class systems again. (Near the end of the post is a link to a system I used to generate classes for a retroclone.) Here's what comes from rumination on custom classes.

I've read it somewhere that the only currency to manage classes in AD&D and older versions of D&D was Experience Points. Building on that premise, Crabaugh wrote a class creation system that allowed the creation of various classes whereby more power equaled more experience points per level.

In the 2e DMG, a similar system was developed, but the rules said upfront that the system couldn't be used to build the standard classes and that the rules were mainly designed for GMs to use for NPCs.

Then came Skills & Options (aka 2.5e).

I am still not a fan of it. However, the system did allow for a simpler way to do customized classes and multiclass characters. For example, even the PHB mentioned Priests of Specific Mythoi with different spell choices and alternatives to Turn Undead. I always created Priests of Specific Mythoi for my campaigns mostly for the alternatives to Turn Undead. At the time, I didn't always like the choices, but they made sense for Clerics of a God of War, etc.

Still, Priests of Specific Mythoi are still not different classes, just variations of the Priest class. What I want in making custom classes, I want something more than variations of a theme and a mixture of two existing classes. Since new class concepts are very difficult to come by, especially in a set of tables, at least let there be several forms of magic, unique abilities that do not currently belong to the standard five classes (thinking 2e) and a way to adapt spells into spell-like abilities. I realize that this is still variations of a theme, but at least it can add a sense of multiple cultures reflecting multiple ways of doing things.

For example, in 2e, the Shaman class had Spirit Magic. Invoking spirits required a ritual, but the spirit allowed for certain abilities and spells. It's not a spellbook and the spells are a mixture of traditional Mage and Priest spells.

Another example, outside 2e, would be a set of abilities centered around ghosts and shadows. I'm thinking more B/X and OD&D here. In the Basic Rules, shadows were explicitly defined as "not" undead. Going back further to Strategic Review #3, Ghosts were defined as "not true undead", either. (Yeah, I know that changed later, but work with me here.) An ability to temporarily grapple incorporeal creatures would be unique in any class-building system I've seen. As stated in an earlier post, this is also a natural segue to the use of psionics.

Some time ago, I wrote a Class_Generator that allows me to correctly generate the standard classes for Basic Fantasy. So, I wondered if I could adapt it to "add-in" these ideas. So far, adding in abilities that are equivalent to Turn Undead is pretty straightforward. Adding in the aforementioned Spirit Magic was pretty easy as well. However, trying to add in a Verb/Noun magic system is more complicated and I'm not quite there yet.

We'll see how progress goes.

More Alternate Cleric Stuff

One of things about using clerics without Spell Lists is that it fits well with Scott Ludwig's Basic D&D Custom Class Template. Since the ACKS custom system is really similar, once I get the Player's Companion, I can make comparisons.

The system uses thirds and halves, so custom classes are easy. 1/3 Cleric gets two categories, 2/3 Cleric gets four, 150% gets 8 categories.

For the Human Template, anyone choosing 200% for Divine gets all 11. I would like to have 12, but even one of my five additional categories is a bit of a stretch.

Looking at the sample Paladin at the link: d6 Hit Dice,  three categories, melee weapons as "Monster" and missile weapons as a Magic-User. I like the idea that not all Paladins are the same.

Will a 1/2 Cleric get a category at half strength? That's up to you. It complicates the formulas used to determine success. Since it's a custom class, though, you can just make a table for success.

If you go the full strength route like me, I simply changed the XP values for Divine. Basically, it matches the Arcane table. This breaks the system for calculating a regular Cleric, but since I allow a spell at 1st level, I use a different chart for Clerics anyway.

One other route could be to have a Piety score. By default it could be Level/3 for non-Clerics and set a Hit Dice limit on using the categories. This means a Paladin with Healing is not healing 2d6 hit points until 6th level and reaches a ceiling of 5d6 at 15th level. The other advantage of going this route is that you don't have to say "no spells at 1st level", the only category that can be used at 1/3 power is healing and that only equates to 1 or 2 hit points.

Still some details to work out. The Paladin still feels too powerful even with my change to the XP Table. (Which is 2125 XP to advance to 2nd level on my adjusted charts instead of 1750 xp on the standard chart.) Also, changing the Divine chart has consequences for non-human clerics.

Postscript

Here is the conversion of the Turning Formula for ACKS:

1d20 + ( 3 * (level of cleric - hit dice of undead) )
Hit dice of undead is increased by one for every special ability (asterisk next to HD number)

Success is adjusted roll of 10 or better

For example, 1st level cleric turning skeletons:

1d20 + (3 * (1 - 1) ) or roll 1d20 with a 10 or better.

As Keith Davies mentioned in the original G+ post, there's a better way to state it:

d20 + 3*level >= 10 + 3* (undead HD + special)