Started work on a new OD&D supplement this morning (my personal "Book IV"), mainly because I wanted to capture the new illusionist material. My intention, once completed, is to have a working "campaign Bible" to supplement (ah! That's the word!) my edited version of OD&D. At this point, it is perhaps putting the cart before the horse, considering I haven't yet set down one word of Book II.
[there are a couple reasons for this "hole" in The Work. First off, I haven't really needed the book yet: I own two copies of Book II anyway, and many creatures in my adventures to date have been hand-designed or else adapted from other sources. But mainly, I'm really considering an entire overhaul of Book II's structure, organization, and contents...and I'm still considering the exact paradigm I want to use. Is this supposed to be a book for me? Or a book for anyone? Or a book for players and DMs who want to use my campaign setting? Or what? I *do* eventually want some "bestiary" type book, but I'm not yet sure exactly what it will contain...perhaps every entry will have an "ecology" section while the tables have the necessary short-hand combat info for inclusion in adventure write-ups]
[oh, yeah...I also want to completely overhaul or do away with the treasure tables as designed. I do make use of them - somewhat - for identifying how much treasure a monster tends to have in its lair, but then I tailor each encounter's hoard individually to suit my needs. And while I have been using the included magic items as "templates" and inspiration, I am striving to make each one unique and special, and none of them are being generated via random roll. Figuring out how to rewrite THAT section is a bit of a bear, and I might not even do so, instead simply throwing some hasty notes into an appendix of Book III]
Why throw a PC class like the Illusionist into a supplement? Because I'm not yet ready for the class to be "open" to players (some things shall be "revealed" in time). For a similar reason, gnomes (as I conceive them) will not be added into Book I but, rather, left for the "supplement;" they are my own strange species (call them "svirfneblin lite"). Besides, I can't be adding a race with an illusionist option before I've introduced the illusionist, can I?
The new supplement should also include the Thief class, once I've overhauled the damn thing. Despite his Gord the Rogue writings, I'm starting to get the impression that Gygax disliked the thief concept, and I'm starting to feel the same. However, I continue to feel a lot of love for the assassin as a concept, and a thief baseline is thus a necessary evil. Starting player characters at 3rd level mercifully solves the issue of new assassins having no thief skills, and the idea currently bumping about my noggin is that of assassins as a sort of "prestige class;" that is, there aren't any 1st or 2nd level assassins (at least, not as player characters). Non-human thieves are NOT going to be the "go to" class (caused, I'm sure, by the unrestricted leveling); instead, any such character is going to be some sort of outcast from their society, probably restricted from training or progression in ANY other class.
[might make an exception for half-elves with a wisdom under 13; i.e. half-elves who are unable to progress as clerics. To me, half-elves are the true "jack-of-all-trades" character]
Of course, that would do away with my favorite multi-class combo: the gnome illusionist/assassin. But since gnomes, illusionists, and assassins are all going to be part of the supplemental material, maybe they'll get some sort of exception, too. Or maybe not...phantasmal killer is fine and dandy for any illusionist styling herself an "assassin."
[as is using a phantasmal image to conceal a booby trap, pit, or hidden assailant]
Bards will probably be a similar story (i.e. unavailable except as a single, restricted class). But then why would anyone choose to be a thief if you could get all the abilities - albeit at reduced level - plus magical abilities, bardic charming, an increased (d6) hit dice?
I am, of course, looking at bards as originally presented by Doug Schwegman in The Strategic Review (volume 2, issue 1). This particular bard had none of the multi-classing madness (even though it would have functioned better and more sensibly in OD&D...). Schwegman's bard is also available to elves, dwarves, and hobbits, unlike the version Gygax gives us in the PHB. While half-elves are not mentioned, I would guess that this is a case of the class being submitted to TSR before the publication of Greyhawk (or before it was read by Schwegman), just as happened with Aronson's illusionist class (requiring his later update in The Dragon #1). Schwegman's class is a bit over-powered...attacks and saves as a cleric, magic-user spells up to 7th level (hmmm...guess he did read Greyhawk), bardic charm and legend lore, double languages, chain armor, and d6 hit dice, plus unrestricted weapon use. Sheesh.
[can you imagine a teleporting bard with the ability to cast delayed blast fireball?]
I see why A) Gygax threw the class into an appendix as an optional class, and B) attempted an update to make the thing playable within the spirit of the original, while preserving some semblance of "balance" (OR, alternatively, making the class as hard to play as possible in order to dissuade its use). I haven't yet got around to my (planned) post on the AD&D bard, but...well, now I've got this OD&D trainwreck to deal with.
[one might ask why bother? Multiple reasons, not the least of which my soft spot for the class after spending the majority of my AD&D career playing bards. Recently, I've been reading the old MZB Lythande stories...part of my research on Thieves World, one of the major inspirations for my campaign setting...and I am considering how such a character might best be modeled in the game. "Bard" would be a fair choice...]
As for other stuff that will be in the Supplement: info on the campaign world, including its geography, cosmology, history, etc. The various deities, the PC races (how and why they interact with each other), major political entities, etc. Probably The Haggard Goat (the tavern/inn that is the PCs' base of operations) and its proprietor, Meredith. Assuming she survives the players' antics.
Yes, there will be rangers as a playable class...but again, they have not yet been introduced to the campaign (they are outside the city my players are currently exploring). Half-orcs...no. This isn't Tolkien. And even in Tolkien, "half-orcs" appear (to my reading) to have been very much a product of magical cross-breeding (a la Saruman), NOT the biological offspring of two distinct species. My orcs are not the "fecund race" of 1st edition. I'm not yet quite sure WHAT they are (my players haven't encountered any); once I figure that out, I'll consider blogging about it. Maybe.
[probably some sort of magically created slave race, engineered in the misty past by decadent, sorcerous elves. Would explain why elves speak their language, as well as the animosity between the two species. In fact, done. That's the short answer to the "orc question"]
Monks? Ummmmmm...haven't decided. Need to run some mock combats between monks of various levels with a variety of opponent types. That's a loooong way off, at this point. Assassins first.
Druids? Yeah, maybe, probably. This isn't really a foresty setting (as currently conceived). Mostly sand and scrub and swamp and sea...the four S's of environments (also snow and subterranean...six S's, I guess). My original intention was to include them as a character class (the "neutral cleric" option), but I kind of like the neutral clerics I've already added to the game. Nothing in OD&D prevents a player from playing a "neutral" cleric; they're simply limited to 6th level of experience (i.e. no 5th level spells). This has allowed me to add multiple "minor (i.e. neutral) deities" to my world along with perfectly competent clerics that have no ability to raise dead, commune, or create food (they still have the potential to turn any of the undead types). Adding the druid diminishes the impact and utility of such characters...why go to a lesser cleric when one can find a druid? Mainly, however, it's more of a setting/environment thing. I'm not sure yet how many bears and beasts are going to be in the setting. Still developing.
Anyway. Huh. I sat down to blog about elves this morning and I got completely distracted with my own thoughts and ideas. And I didn't even talk much about the campaign, just thoughts on what's going into the supplemental material. *sigh*
Apologies folks. More later.