The below classes—fighter, thief, magic-user, cleric—are probably familiar to everyone reading this blog. Their incarnations here, however, might not be; they lean heavily into choice of class as choice of playstyle. This spawned from the idea that the fighter class should be designed such that the correct response to a player who’s concerned by the “combat is deadly and should be avoided if possible” ethos of the OSR is just “oh, you should play a fighter!” Similarly, the thief here supports a risk-taking, “trust the dice to solve my problems” playstyle; the magic-user supports careful research and preparation followed up by precise execution of a plan; and the cleric supports careful shepherding of resources and logistical thought. All of these are reasonable ways to play D&D, and I conjecture a fair amount of party friction and even edition-warring comes from systems providing mechanics that push everyone towards that system’s favored playstyle. Having each class pushing everyone towards a different playstyle, I further conjecture, may alleviate some of that tension.
Let the cleric weigh their hit-points against the enemy’s attack, the thief maneuver knowing they’ll be splattered by an unlucky hit, the magic-user mutter about combat being a failure state. Problems can be solved by sufficient amounts of violence, and you are violence.
A: Arsenal of All, Toughness
B: Signature Techniques
C: Warden of Battle
Arsenal of All
You can wield any weapon and wear any armor. This applies even if it was not originally designed with that purpose in mind; if you can lift it, you can kill with it.
If your maximum hit point total would be less than 10, instead it’s 10. When you run out of hit points, don’t roll on the Death and Dismemberment table; instead, you’re out of the fight, maybe bleeding out a little, but basically fine. On each of your turns thereafter, save vs. death; if you fail three saves before either someone spends their turn patching you up or you succeed three saves, then it’s Death and Dismemberment time. Otherwise, you can get back up with 1 hit point after the fight ends. Additionally, you get all your hit points back when you rest for the night, and can do so once per day when you rest for at least an hour.
You have mastered two signature techniques that epitomize your fighting style, chosen from the list below or invented with your referee’s approval. They only work on enemies that haven’t seen you use them already; the element of surprise is crucial. When you attack with a signature technique, add an extra die of damage if you hit, in addition to any other effects here.
- The foe is knocked down.
- The foe is knocked flying backwards.
- You can swap places with the foe.
- The foe can’t move next turn.
- The foe must attack you next turn if it can.
- The foe’s disarmed.
- The foe must roll its next attack twice and take the worse result.
- The foe can’t use magic next turn.
- The next ally to attack the foe rolls twice and takes the better result.
- Your enemies must immediately check morale.
Warden of Battle
When you dedicate your whole turn to getting someone willing out of a fight, they’re out. You can only use this feature on yourself if you’re fighting alone. You have remarkable leeway on how to manage this feat, though it generally doesn’t accomplish anything else in the process—when the thief’s surrounded by skeletons, you can knock them aside to clear an escape route, but won’t instantly shatter them; when the bridge behind you has collapsed, you can hurl the cleric back across; when you’re alone on the crashing airship with the evil archmage, a savvy hero always remembers to pack a grappling hook. This doesn’t stop pursuit after combat ends, naturally.
Your non-signature attacks also add an extra die of damage if you hit. When your attacks deal more damage than your target has hit points, the remaining damage spills over onto nearby foes, as many as necessary until all the damage is absorbed.
Let the fighter walk out of every fight battered to a pulp, the magic-user do nothing more interesting than they expect, the cleric stand certain in their faith. You live to feel the rush of fortune, to risk it all and never back down, to gamble your life against the treasures of the underworld.
A: Last Chance, Infiltrator
B: Ambush Expertise
C: Master Infiltrator
D: Thief of Fates
You always get a saving throw. If something is going to kill you or cause you other catastrophic and/or permanent harm, you will always have at least one opportunity to roll a die, and be basically fine if you roll high enough. Poison needle in the lock? A giant’s fist dealing more damage than you will ever have hit points? The inescapable curse of a great wyrm? Thrown into the sun? You get a saving throw against that. (This feature doesn’t give you a second saving throw if you’d already get one, but it does mean that if your doom resulted entirely from other people’s die rolls, you also get a chance to seal or escape your fate with your own hands.)
When terrain features obstruct your party’s passage, you are 25% likely to be able to render the obstruction irrelevant with minimal effort. Locked doors spring open, sheer cliffs are easily surmounted with rope and a grapple, chasms are leapt or bridged, eldritch seals are broken with a single smudged line.
While you’re scouting alone, you surprise monsters on a roll of 1-4 out of 6. When you and/or your party surprises monsters, if you choose to flee rather than fight, the monsters never notice. Your attacks deal an extra die of damage during the surprise round, and if you deal half or more of your target’s hit points in damage during a surprise round you silently knock it out.
Your infiltrator feature works every time, 50% of the time.
Thief of Fates
When you critically hit a creature in combat, or spend a minute unnoticed within reach outside of combat, you can roll twice on the following table of possessions and choose one to steal.
- The Show
- 1d12 Years
Let the thief hope to get lucky, the cleric pray for salvation after everything’s gone wrong, the fighter charge in recklessly. You brought something into the dungeon more powerful than even your sorcery—you brought a plan.
A: Arcane Blast, Prepared Spells
B: Light ‘em Up
C: Superior Spells
D: Bespoke Arcanum
You can throw magic to attack, with range and effectiveness comparable to throwing an enchanted dagger. Instead of you needing to roll to hit, the target can save vs. spells to halve the damage. In order to use this ability, you need to consume flashpowder; a belt-pouch full costs a gold piece, suffices for 20 blasts, and is ruined if it gets even slightly wet. With the referee’s permission, when you create your character you can substitute a more thematically-appropriate reagent with the same cost and a similarly inconvenient restriction.
After you rest for the night, choose one of the following problems for each magic-user template you have. You can cast a spell to bypass or otherwise solve each chosen problem once in the following day. You need to be able to speak and have both hands free to cast a spell.
- It’s on fire.
- It isn’t on fire.
- You don’t speak or understand the relevant language.
- It’s too dark to see.
- You don’t know what it does.
- It’s not big enough.
- It won’t fit.
- The fall will kill you.
- Although the foes are weak, they are far too numerous.
- You can’t reach it.
- It’s too heavy to lift.
- It’s broken.
- It’s too slippery to climb.
Light ‘em Up
You can burn all but one dose of your flashpowder (or other arcane blast reagent) to make an arcane blast attack against every enemy you can see at once. It doesn’t matter how much you have, as long as you’re using at least some; after you go all out, you’ve only got one shot left.
You can additionally choose from the following problems when you prepare spells.
- You can’t unlock it.
- It’s right behind you and you can’t escape.
- You can’t consult with your party.
- It’s invisible.
- You don’t know where it is.
- There’s nowhere safe to rest.
- You can’t see behind it.
- You have to breathe.
- You’re too slow.
- They’ll notice you immediately.
- You’ll be shot to death before you can get close enough.
- Your arguments are unconvincing.
- An isolated guardian is impractical to fight.
After you rest for the night, you may secretly record a detailed description of a specific situation you expect to find yourself in the following day. Reveal the description to resolve that situation with a spell you devised or recalled for exactly that purpose; the situation is resolved as completely as it was described. If any detail you described doesn’t match, the spell fails.
Let the fighter take the brunt of the charge, the thief risk their skin tampering with fiendish devices, the magic-user answer the threats they knew about in advance. When everything inevitably comes crashing down, you and your god will be the ones pulling them from the fires of hell back to safety.
A: Turn Undead, Divine Power (5)
B: Armor of Faith, Divine Power (10)
C: Eminent Divine Power (20)
D: Celestial Smite, Divine Power (35)
Your attacks, magic, and presence cause undead creatures to check morale as if they were ordinary humanoid troops with the same number of hit dice; so skeletons flee if green recruits would, and vampires hold their ground against you as well as hill-giant mercenaries. Additionally, fiends, occultists, anti-paladins, and similar creatures of sinister supernatural power must roll their morale checks caused by your attacks, magic, and presence twice, taking the worse result.
You have a reservoir of divine energy, described by a number of points increasing with further templates, and restored to full with a night’s rest. You can expend this divine energy to restore the same number of hit points to a creature, closing minor wounds and restoring stamina with a touch, up to one point per cleric template per round. You can also expend this energy to accomplish other effects.
- Create food and water — 1 point per person per day
- Create light, as a torch — 1 point
- Check something for curses, possession, and other evil magics — 3 points
- Double an attack’s damage against a fiend or undead creature — 3 points
- Remove magical fear, or restore broken morale — 5 points per person
- Protect from extreme temperatures — 5 points per person per day
Armor of Faith
Whatever you wear, you are as well-protected as if you were armored in heavy plate.
Eminent Divine Power
You can also use your divine power to accomplish the following effects.
- Check something for magical and mechanical traps — 10 points
- Ask the referee whether a plan is sound or foolhardy — 10 points
- Check any divine and/or occult allegiances a creature may have — 10 points
- Save a creature poisoned within the past 10 minutes — 10 points
- Create light, as the sun — 20 points
- Cure blindness, deafness, or nonmagical disease — 20 points
- Break curses and enchantments — 20 points
- Seal a door or passage against the supernatural — 20 points
- Exorcise a possessed creature — 30 points
You can make an attack that blazes like the sun, deals two additional dice of damage, and automatically banishes summoned and/or bound creatures it hits. When you do, each of your other allies that attacks this round also gets +1 to hit with their attack. Once you use this feature twice, you can’t do so again until you rest for the night.