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Races and Classes
Though I have defended race as class in basic D&D, many of the players I play with would much prefer the wider range of character choices when race and class are split. If splitting the two means my players will let me run an old school campaign, well, that's a compromise I'm willing to make.

So I've been looking into how to adapt Labyrinth Lord to split race and class. I was really hoping that the Advanced Edition Companion would come out before I had to do any work on this, as I figured I could probably just lift what I needed from that. Unfortunately, the release on that work has been delayed, and my opportunity to start a new campaign will arrive sooner than that. Also I really don't want all the baggage that comes with 1st edition (which is why I'm not considering OSRIC or the like), I just want dwarves, elves, and halflings to have access to the same classes as humans. I'm not sure how closely to 1e Daniel Proctor plans to adhere in the AEC.

Now, Michael Curtis wrote a nice article entitled New Classes and Racial Variants for Basic, which happens to have an appendix full of tables that breaks apart the features of each class into XP modifiers so you can build any custom class with a correctly scaled XP progression chart (which in turn is based on an old article from Dragon Magazine #109). I'm a big fan of using level progression as the balancing factor, so I decided to try and use these as a basis for my own race/class system.

I started by creating a spreadsheet of those tables so I could quickly play with options and see the effect. Apologies to MS Excel users, but I use Open Office, so you'll have to download that if you want to check out my spreadsheet. It is free after all.


Anyway, playing with those tables I was able to recreate some standard classes with reasonable accuracy. So next I tried creating some non standard classes, such as a dwarven cleric or an elven thief. Mostly I was trying to come up with a quick formula that could be applied to one of the core four human classes to make a non-human version.

To do this, I first had to decide what class features should be tied to race instead of class. Obviously, the 'racial features' table goes with race, and includes all the special rules for a race such as infravision, finding secret doors, and the halfling +1 with ranged weapons. The other item I decided should be part of race is the saving throw chart. I know 1e just converted this to saving throw bonuses for different races, but I kind of liked just allowing the non-human races to just use their own chart out of the book regradless of their class.

Given that, I started to see some easy math emerging. It boils down to this:

To create an elven version of a human class, add 20% XP to each level. To create a dwarven version, add 10% XP. To create a halfling version, use the XP chart as it is.

The halfling thing may be surprising, but basically it looks to me like the bonuses for halflings (hiding in wilderness, +1 to ranged weapons) are easily countered by their detriments (small weapon requirement). This makes the assumption that the race as class versions of dwarf and halfing are equivalent to the 'fighter' version, which probably precludes those original race-classes as written (why would you play a halfling with less hp and a level cap instead of a halfling fighter?) I think I would leave the elf race-class in as an option though, as the only real example of a multi-class character.

This is just a quick off-the-cuff idea, I haven't really done any close analysis of what this produces. It may be well enough for my use though, at least until Proctor gets the AEC out.

It does raise one question for me though, which is do I really want all races to have access to all four core classes? Thematically, I'm not sure about the idea of dwarven magic-users. Halfling spell casters of any type also strike me as a bit odd. Elven clerics seem unusual, but I'd probably just skew them in the direction of druids, at least aesthetically. I'm not sure though, perhaps it's worth polling my players to see what they think.
December 11th, 2009 - 08:08 am | Comments (0) | PERMALINK

About Those Small Weapons
One thing I had a little trouble with on those class generating tables was the small weapon restriction for dwarves and halflings. The chart doesn't really categorize small vs. large, but instead shows weapons in somewhat arbitrary groups (axes vs. swords for example). This made it hard to figure out what the impact of the small weapon restriction had on XP charts.

In fact, this sent me diving through a few different sources to try and figure out exactly what weapons dwarves and halflings were not allowed to have. Fortunately, the original BX books are pretty explicit. For both classes, they are specifically forbidden two handed swords and long bows. I find it a bit odd that pole-arms are not included on the list, and I'm personally tempted to include those as well.

Labyrinth Lord's expanded equipment list makes it more confusing I'm afraid, especially as the wording on the restriction in the text is even more loosely defined. Dwarves are still specifically restricted from two-handed swords and long bows, but the section for halflings reads:

Like dwarves, halflings may not use large and two-handed weapons, but may use any other weapon and armor.

Now, the comparison to dwarves implies that it's the same list of weapons, but the subsequent text does seem to try and genericise the limitation to any two-handed or large weapon. Are we to assume halflings are more limited in weapon choice, or that the section for dwarves needs expansion to also include any two-handed or large weapon? Just which weapons are considered large anyway?

At least in BX the equipment list is pretty brief, so it's easy to identify the three potentially limited weapons: two-handed sword, pole-arm, and long bow. In BX there isn't even a 'long sword', it's just a 'sword', so no worries there that it's too big.

LL introduces more troubling weapons, and not just the rename of sword to long sword. There's the morning star, heavy pick, heavy flail, and trident, all two-handed weapons. Crossbows are grouped into light and heavy, should we make exception for the heavy crossbow just as we do the long bow? The battle axe is specifically listed as being two-handed as well, but not allowing a dwarf to use a battle axe just seems wrong. And what of the bastard sword, which can be used either one or two handed?

If we go back to BX and assume use of the optional damage by weapon chart (remember default in BX is that all weapons do d6 damage, which to some degree makes this whole thing kind of moot under that system), and we assume that pole-arm should be included in the list of proscribed weapons, we can see that dwarves and halflings lose access to melee weapons that do d10 damage, and ranged weapons that do d8 damage. That at least seems like a real mechanical limitation.

Allowing dwarves and halflings to use a mace (d6) but not a morning-star (d6) reduces the rule to purely aesthetic. If instead we say that the limitation applies to any melee weapon that does more than d8 damage, and any ranged weapon that does more than d6, we not only have a rule that has actual mechanical impact in LL, but also a pretty manageable list of proscribed weapons: two-handed sword, pole-arm, bastard sword, long bow, and heavy crossbow.
December 11th, 2009 - 08:40 am | Comments (5) | PERMALINK

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