By the time most of you folks read this (assuming its Thursday night) I shall hopefully be in the middle of gaming with some newfound compatriots at the local coffee shop. We’ll see how well these "convention contacts" work out…I’ve got a little nervous anticipation just thinking about it.
However, at the time I’m writing this, it is still Thursday morning (I won’t have a chance to post it till after work), and my brain is zooming around quite a bit this morning so I figured I’d better get my thoughts down on paper.
D&D…that’s what I’m thinking of right now, specifically my next writing project. I have two in mind, neither one of which is finishing that adventure module dammit (I don’t know why I keep procrastinating on that. Oh, wait…the maps, right). Anyway, two other products have suggested themselves to me, neither one of which would be nearly as ambitious in scope as the B/X Companion, and both of which would make heavy use of blog topics to date. Since both would be slim tomes, I was thinking I might combine them into one big one…I know gamers just LOVE to throw money at a hefty book!
The first possible project is one I’ve talked about a loooong-ass while ago: recreating (or re-interpreting) The Compleat Adventurer for B/X play. I’ve already written up a couple-three of the classes: the Beastmaster, the Bounty Hunter, and the Witch Hunter. In going over these today (something I haven’t done in several moons), I still find that I am satisfied with how they turned out, and would be happy to publish them…along with similar class write-ups…in a book.
Would people pay money for my musings on classes? Maybe not a lot…especially as more than a bit of it is available free through perusal of this blog. But there are probably people that wouldn’t mind having all these “optional extras” in one handy-dandy tome. Kind of an “Unearthed Arcana” for B/X.
Besides, it was too long ago I had blog readers clamoring for some sort of compilation. And for the most part, I’m proud of my work.
Don’t think such a thing would be limited to…or a simple re-telling of…the classes in TCA. For one thing, I don’t think they’re all necessary. One of the great things about B/X is the structure of their classes. Classes are just that: “classifications” of adventurer. And most things can fall under the purview of one of the Big Four: cleric, fighter, magi-user, and thief.
Here’s a list of D&D “classes” you will NOT see in any book of mine:
Assassin: anyone can kill, with or without poison. If you want an assassin with thief abilities, you’re playing a thief who murders for money.
Barbarian: any fighter can be an illiterate barbarian. If you want to make him as buff as Conan, make sure he has a high strength, dexterity, and constitution. Conan wears armor, but you don’t have to.
Buccaneer: there’s already a B/X monster for this; likewise with the bandit, merchant, and noble.
Cavalier: any fighter can wear heavy armor and ride a horse. Write up your own Code of Honor. There’s no need for any “ability score inflation” or extra bonuses. What is this…Rifts?
Knight: see Cavalier.
Ninja: see Thief.
Paladin: my feelings on this class have been covered extensively. See Cleric.
Rogue: See Thief.
Sage: this is an NPC hireling in B/X.
Spy: another NPC hireling.
Templar/Temple Knight: see Paladin.
Warrior: see Fighter.
Personally, I doubt I would ever write-up a “Gygaxian Druid” as a B/X class…these are fairly specific to Gygax’s game world and bear little resemblance to historic druids. As it is, I do have a druid “monster” in my B/X companion, and I prefer the “druid of the grove” archetype to the “adventuring druid” any day of the week. B/X isn’t World of Warcraft!
The original Compleat Adventurer had only 13 new classes. Right now, I can only think of 9 or 10 that fail to fit into one of the standard archetypes. Hmm…maybe I should say “fails to fit into the standard archetype well;” after all, one could certainly use a cleric as a witch-hunter, or a fighter or thief as a bounty hunter. But people that buy the book want to pay for SOMEthing; the following classes are ones that I think would be fun to write-up and would add something “extra” to the average B/X game:
Much as I love the jack-of-all-trades Bard, I don’t think I would include it. Depending on the type of literary reference you’re using, I can see many different character classes working just fine as a minstrel: Fighter (Fflewddur Flamm), Magic-User (Vainamoinen), Elf (various Nordic folk tales)…even Dwarves (Tolkien)! All they need is a musical instrument (call it 50gp).
Since it’s obvious I’ll have some room to make up, I was also considering adding some of the spell-casting classes from The Compleat Spell-Caster to the book. As with the “adventurer” classes, I don’t want to simply re-tread the spell-casting archetypes already in B/X (i.e. clerics and magic-users), but would want real, new “magical stuffs.” This one is so much harder, not because it would be difficult to create new spells (I actually think THAT would be a ton of fun!), but because it’s so difficult to create separate schools of magic, when magic is so well-defined by the game system.
B/X magic IS well-defined. It is Vancian, living stuff that wraps itself around the mind of the spell-caster until it can be released into the world. Magic-users implant these “spell creatures” through the study of books, clerics have them implanted by their deity (through prayer and meditation). What other ways could spell-casters have magic stuffed into their brains? Eating fairy food? Reading rune-carved standing stones? Bargaining with demons and spirits?
The main reason (I would think) that most people come up with new spell-caster types is because they want a new spell list (or alternate list). People play druids in D&D because they think it would be cool to call lightning, animate plants, turn into birds or bears, and (in later editions) have an animal companion. Most are not thinking about what it means to be a druid from a historic or even game setting perspective. Not wearing metal armor is something they have to “put up with” in order to get the cool powers, as is the limited availability of high levels (in old AD&D anyway).
I’m not about that. At least, I’m not JUST about new spell lists and cool powers. New classes (in my mind) should provide different styles of play. The bounty hunter PLAYS DIFFERENT from a normal fighter or thief. At least, if you want to make use of his special abilities. I don’t want my illusionist to be “just another magic-user.”
That being said, here are the spell-casters I’m thinking of including in the book:
These are not set in stone, but they are my current considerations. Yes, the Harlequin and Witch-Hunter are technically “spell casters” but their abilities are so minor, they don’t rate their own spell lists. These guys (and gals) do.
Unfortunately, each of these is problematic for different reasons.
Necromancers are “evil” pure and simple; anyone who deals with demons and seeks immortality through turning themselves undead is a Very Bad Person. In B/X terms, the person is CHAOTIC, being extremely selfish and self-centered in their actions. Yet, none of the classes in B/X have alignment restrictions…and I do NOT want to start! But is there any way to create a Lawful demonologist?
Witches, on the other hand, can easily be of any alignment: Glenda or the Harry Potter chicks are examples of non-evil Hags, and Baba Yaga might even be considered Neutral in some circumstances. The problem with witches is how to treat them: are they nature worshippers (like clerics/druids) who derive their magic from on high? Are they potion brewers and spell crafters (as in, formula writers) like modern day Hermeticists? How to treat them…perhaps as some sort of cleric/m-u hybrid?
I think Mystics are probably the easiest guys to write-up…they’ll be something of a cross between the Compleat Spell-Caster version and the Rifts Mystic OCC (possibly with a little oriental monk thrown in). The trick with them is making them interesting enough to play, without bulking the class down in a bunch of extraneous “special powers.” I think these guys will draw magic from their own “inner resources” (like meditation) or possibly “reading the Akashic records.” They will have the smallest spell list of any of the classes.
And the Illusionist? Well, I’ve blogged about the Illusionist before. I really do think this can be a good class for an adventurer: spells are useful and different, alignment is un-restricted, nothing ties them down. The only question is: how do you make them different from magic-users BESIDES their spell list. I don’t want them to just be a magic-user with a different spell book.
Maybe I need to take a page from pulp and look at all those Eastern mesmerists of fiction (the Shadow, Fu Man Chu, etc.), as well as the Howardian pulp illusionists and be-dazzlers. I really think they need magic that comes from something other than a spell book…any character limited to spells of 7th level should NOT need to carry around a spell book (especially if they can’t go armed and armored). Arabian Night stuff is more what I’m thinking about.
Hmm…maybe illusionists will be more like mystics after all. Like architects in the film Inception, they will create labyrinthian structures in their own minds every morning, locking away a portion of their own “disbelief” in order to create the reality-warping structures that will blow peoples’ minds.
Hmm…that sounds pretty good.