Monday, August 2, 2010

Exceptional Traits for B/X (oh crap...)

Okay, okay, okay…I don’t know if this proves I have nary a creative bone in my body or that I am a master of riffing off other people, but after reading Tim’s blog post about wanting “something special” for his chargen process I couldn’t help but mull the idea over until the following optional rules (for B/X Dungeons & Dragons) manifested themselves like some Cthulhuloid deity.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that I do not think any of this is necessary to enjoy B/X play. I believe the creative minded person can come up with their own interesting/unusual character within the confines of the seven fine character types and the Big Six ability scores. The following rules are given as a possible jump start to the imaginative process and/or something to “change things up” after many years of straight B/X play.

[also note, that I doubt any such new rules will do much to satisfy some folks’ craving for more. You allow elves and someone wants a Drow. You allow Drow and someone else wants a Dragonborn. See Palladium Rifts regarding “Never Ending Cycles of Bloat”]

Okay, here goes (ugh!):


While already possible to create a multitude of interesting and distinct characters using the current B/X rules, some groups will find the following rules useful for additional customization. For each character roll once on the proper table at 1st level to determine the character’s exceptional trait. Dwarves and Halflings should roll on the Fighter Table; Elves may roll on either the Fighter or Magic-User Table (not both). DMs may allow characters to gain additional traits as a character advances in level; a new exceptional trait may be gained at each of levels 4th, 9th, 16th, 25th, and 36th. Traits marked with an “*” may only be taken at 1st level. Some DMs may allow players to select an exceptional trait of their choosing rather than rolling randomly. DMs should feel free to further customize these traits to better match the needs of their campaign.

Traits may be lost in play. A character does not gain a replacement for a lost trait.

Cleric (Roll D10)
1. Animal Friend
2. Apostate*
3. Contemplative
4. Learned
5. Martial Order*
6. Righteous Faith
7. Slayer
8. Underpriest
9. Visions
10. Witch-Finder

Fighter (Roll D10)
1. Berserk
2. Dopplehander
3. Grizzled
4. Heirloom Armament*
5. Large*
6. Pugilist
7. Signature Weapon
8. Smart Pet
9. Squire
10. Two-Fisted

Magic-User (Roll D10)
1. Conjurer
2. Elvish Blood*
3. Halfling Wizard*
4. Loremaster
5. Mystic Aura
6. Naturalist
7. Quiet Magic
8. Sleeps Eyes Open
9. Spell Sword
10. Smoke Magic

Thief (Roll D10)
1. Acrobat
2. Cat Burglar
3. Contortionist
4. Dwarvish Outcast*
5. Elvish Bastard*
6. Locksmith
7. Musician
8. On Edge
9. Tracker
10. Trap Maker

1. Animal Friend: Normal animals (not giant, prehistoric, or magical) are naturally disposed to the cleric (+2 all reaction rolls).
2. Apostate*: The cleric was originally a member of an opposite order and retains much forbidden knowledge; the cleric may freely cast normal or reversed spells regardless of alignment.
3. Contemplative: The cleric may enter a meditative trance, re-gaining one spell after one hour or 1D6 hit points over night.
4. Learned: The cleric has spell knowledge as if one level higher.
5. Martial Order*: The cleric may use any weapon, just as a fighter.
6. Righteous Faith: The cleric adds his or her wisdom bonus to any undead Turning rolls.
7. Slayer: The cleric always recognizes undead and knows their weaknesses; may avoid energy drain attacks with a save versus petrifaction.
8. Underpriest: The cleric has an NPC assistant assigned to him or her that adventures with and learns from the character. The underpriest starts as a Normal Human and gains XP as a henchman (i.e. one-half normal), though never enough to equal the cleric in level. The underpriest does not count towards the cleric’s henchman limit and need not be paid; morale is determined as per the cleric’s Charisma.
9. Visions: The cleric is subject to premonitions and dreams of both the past and future. The DM can make these visions as cryptic or useful as appropriate.
10. Witch-Finder: The cleric can detect spell-casters within 60’ and estimate their level of power, relative to his own. The cleric can tell when non-divine magic has been used within the last 24 hours (within the same vicinity).

1. Berserk: In melee combat the fighter may enter a frenzied state gaining a +1 to hit and damage rolls and immunity to fear effects. The fighter may not flee or evade combat once entering a berserk and is always fatigued afterwards.
2. Dopplehander: The fighter is adept at using two-handed melee weapons, gaining a +1 on damage rolls and +1 bonus to Armor Class. The fighter still attacks last and may not use a shield.
3. Grizzled: The fighter is a scar-toughened veteran and commands respect. Add +1 to reaction rolls and treat negative Charisma as a positive bonus when intimidating NPCs. All henchmen morale is at +1.
4. Heirloom Armament*: The fighter begins the game with a magical weapon or piece of armor handed down from a parent, relative, or mentor. The item is +1 enchantment.
5. Large*: The fighter is of huge size for his species, gaining a +1 to every hit die rolled and +1 to damage inflicted in melee. Armor must be sized to fit (twice normal cost) and the character has a -1 penalty to Armor Class (big target).
6. Pugilist: The fighter is adept at fighting unarmed, attacking at +1 and doing 1D6 damage. Humanoid foes reduced to 0 hit points may be “knocked out” for 1D6 turns.
7. Signature Weapon: The fighter has a specific favored weapon type (e.g. the short sword, the battle axe, etc.) with which he or she receives a +1 bonus to hit and damage.
8. Smart Pet: The fighter has a reasonably intelligent and loyal pet (e.g. a falcon, a hunting dog, a war horse). Besides its loyalty, the animal is normal in all respects.
9. Squire: The fighter has an NPC assistant assigned to him or her that adventures with and learns from the character. The squire starts as a Normal Human and gains XP as a henchman (i.e. one-half normal), though never enough to equal the fighter in level. The squire does not count towards the fighter’s henchman limit and need not be paid; morale is determined as per the fighter’s Charisma.
10. Two-Fisted: The fighter may fight with a weapon in each hand. The normal attack roll is made, but damage is rolled for both weapons with the character choosing which roll to keep for damage.

1. Conjurer: The magic-user may perform simple illusions and sleight of hand tricks and may pick pockets as a thief of the same level.
2. Elvish Blood*: The magic-user has elvish blood in his or her ancestry and enjoys both the infravision and immunity to paralysis abilities of the elf class. The magic-user will generally be long-lived as well.
3. Halfling Wizard*: The magic-user is a Halfling that was apprenticed to a wizard or elf from an early age! The magic-user retains a Halfling’s stature and +1 bonus to Armor Class, and knows the normal languages of a Halfling character; in all other ways the character is a magic-user (including new exceptional traits!). Elves should re-roll this trait.
4. Loremaster: The magic-user is knowledgeable on a variety of subjects and has a 50% chance to identify the properties of a magical item, once the character has ascertained it is enchanted. The DM may apply this chance to the magic-user’s ability to remember trivia and ancient history as well.
5. Mystic Aura: The magic-user has a palpable feeling of magic that emanates from their person, causing awe and disquiet in those that share the character’s presence (+2 reaction bonus to impress/intimidate).
6. Naturalist: The magic-user is well-schooled in the natural world, able to identify most plants and fauna, and understands the speech of birds and beast (though they may not understand the character).
7. Quiet Magic: The magic-user can cast spells with minimal words and no gestures. Full gagging is necessary to prevent the character from working magic.
8. Sleeps Eyes Open: Even when sleeping the magic-users eyes are open and aware; the character can never be surprised while sleeping.
9. Spell Sword: The magic-user has been trained to use weapons normally prohibited by his class, and the character can benefit from a potion of heroism like a fighter of the same level. This does not allow the use of armor or shields. Elves should re-roll this trait.
10. Smoke Magic: The magic-user is adept and summoning and controlling smoke and mist. In addition to blowing impressive smoke rings, the character can summon mist to conceal himself as if a thief of equal level attempting to hide in shadows.

1. Acrobat: The thief is capable of many feats of agility and has a 50% chance of being able to somersault or back-flip behind an opponent in melee allowing a “backstab” attempt.
2. Cat Burglar: The thief has no fear of heights and may balance on thin ledges or tight ropes with the same chance as climbing sheer surfaces. If the thief falls while climbing, the player may make a second roll at half the normal chance in order to catch himself, preventing any damage.
3. Contortionist: The character is extremely flexible, able to squeeze and fold her body in ways that seem humanly impossible, including squeezing between bars and escaping chains and restraints.
4. Dwarvish Outcast* (minimum Con 9): The character is a Dwarf that has been cast out of his clan for thievery! All thief skills are at -15% except Open Locks, Hearing Noise, and Find/Remove Traps. However the thief gains the dwarf’s infravision and language abilities and rolls D6 for hit points instead of D4. The character is considered a thief in every other way (including the gaining of new exceptional traits!).
5. Elvish Bastard*: The thief has elvish blood in his or her ancestry and enjoys the Elf’s infravision ability and immunity to paralysis. True elves cannot believe one of their blood would stoop to thievery and the character suffers a -2 penalty to all reaction rolls with elves.
6. Locksmith: The thief is an expert with locks, receiving a +15% bonus to opening them. The thief can create fiendish locks of his own with time and money.
7. Musician: The thief is an accomplished minstrel able to play for his supper (earning 1D6 gold per day), serenade members of the opposite gender (as a charm person spell), or tame the savage beast (as casting a sleep spell). These latter two abilities require a full turn of playing; none of these abilities can be performed in combat and all require a musical instrument of at least 50gp value.
8. On Edge: The thief is extremely furtive and paranoid and is never surprised unless asleep, drunk, or unconscious.
9. Tracker: The thief is adept at finding, following, and recognizing tracks with a chance equal to his or her ability to find traps. The DM may modify this chance by weather conditions.
10. Trap Maker: The thief is an expert trap finder, receiving a +15% chance to both the finding and removing of traps. The character can also build both simple and elaborate traps given time and resources.

[all right, that’s enough “exceptional traits;” feel free to adopt them for your own B/X campaign, swapping out those you don’t like and adding in your own. Keep in mind that they haven’t been play-tested…though I’m seriously considering using these tables for my upcoming B/X game. Just for fun, you, understand…as I mentioned, B/X is already pretty cool, as is]

: )


  1. Thanks! Those are nice and simple.

  2. Great stuff! I think it's perfectly fine to provide these sorts of "traits" in OD&D, since you really aren't worrying about game balance for the most part. Because, let's face it, if the PCs can have them then why not NPCs? Also, it allows for more "personalization" of PCs. And I think these can serve as a simpler substitute for multiclassing. I plan on using something similar in my upcoming GMing endeavors, but I think I'll call them "talents." Whatever I call them, I won't be calling them "feats" ;-)

  3. Actually, I think my favorite part of these tables of "customizations" is that, unlike D20 Feats, they are RANDOM. No waiting around for folks to construct their character...if a player HAS a clear idea of what they want to play (say a Halfling magic-user, a la Willow) there's something there; otherwise, roll D10 and see what's "different" about your character.

    I should probably have noted, no player HAS to roll on these tables.
    ; )

  4. Very nice! I have a similar system of talents which "build" upon existing rules of the game. For example, Survivalist raises the chance of hunting and foraging to 50%.

  5. Great work JB! Looks like you have put a lot of thought into this and I like it. There are tons of stuff to work with. I always liked these kind of things for my players, adding another fun factor to the mix. Again, great job.

  6. Another thought occurred to me: if you think that these traits would indeed create some sort of imbalance (again, I don't worry too often about game balance), then you can require players to take on some sort of disadvantage along with the trait, such as a limp or some other physical difigurement, a mental disorder, an arch enemy, etc.

  7. These are actually really cool. I was going to take a similar tack, except tie them in to fighter "sub-classes", but maybe I'll just use these instead?

    Cool stuff, man.

  8. This is awesome. Consider it stolen.... YOINK!

  9. @ Drance: I do not think they'll create any type of least not in B/X.

    @ Tim: Thanks...I'm glad you like them (since YOU were the inspiration).

    @ Antonio: The idea is to make it as simple to use as possible...feel free to swap in and out your own "traits."

    @ Everyone else: Thanks for the kind words...and thanks for reading!
    : )