Friday, September 24, 2010

Gedankenexperiment: Recasting B/X Demi-Humans as Human Classes

Seems as if a lot of folks out there are interested in running their version of Ye Auld Game with a more Sword & Sorcery flavour.  S&S is a relentlessly humanistic genre; if you want to try and extract some theme from an entire genre, you could do worse than this for S&S: "people are venal and petty, but they are, ultimately all we have."  Or, as a famous hill-man has it, Crom helps those who help themselves.

Theology aside, the multi-species Fellowship of the Ring model implied by the rules is fairly contrary to the humanocentric nature of S&S.  So sitting awake the other night with a fever, I decided to engage in a little thought-experiment in using the B/X version of demi-humans as human classes.  I'll list the basic recasting (using the class as written with no changes other than the flavour text), followed by an option or two which might make a slightly better fit (alert, imaginary readers know that I can't resist fiddling with rules).

* The Elf becomes the Dabbler (aka the Picaro): The Dabbler is a man of many talents who learns swordplay as easily as spell-casting.  The sacrifice is that he will quickly be outstripped in those fields by those who concentrate in them (the Fighter and the Magic-User).  Still, the Dabbler has an admirable breadth of skills to bring to any situation; in addition to fighting and sorcery, he is also a linguist (the extra languages), a man with a keen eye for secrets (Detect Secret Doors), and, perhaps most usefully, a fellow who knows how to get out of the way of danger (Saving Throws).

Option: Drop the resistance to ghoul paralyzation, which never made any sense to me for actual Elves, much less a Gray Mouseresque Dabbler.

Option: Drop infravision.  One might replace it with better night vision.

Option: Get rid of the Detect Secret Doors ability (I'd give it to the Delver class below).  One might exchange it for unlimited level advancement.

Option: If you are going full S&S on this, then you probably won't want humanoids any more than demi-humans.  Replace the humanoid languages with other human languages, or ancient eldritch scripts, or something more S&S in tone. 

[I was originally thinking of making this class more of a Jedi Knight - a mystic warrior.  And, of course, Jedi are cool.  But that's a little too campaign specific and isn't very S&S anyway.  Still, it might be a cool option for another type of game]

 * The Dwarf becomes the Delver (aka the Dungeoneer aka the Tomb Raider): The Delver is a specialist in plundering ancient tombs and ruins for profit.  He brings with him an expertise in stonework and masonry; he can spot the tricks and traps the ancients built into their dungeons and, if he can't spot them, he's good at dodging them.  To that end, he's made a study of the languages of those who dwell underground (Kobolds, Gnomes).  But don't call him just a thief; he's a trained warrior because the most dangerous trap can be a monster.  He isn't proficient with two-handed weapons - too bulky when raiding a dungeon - but he's a match for any Fighter otherwise.

Option: Drop the infra-vision.  As with the Dabbler, maybe replace with better dark vision.

Option: Give the Elf's Detect Secret Door ability to the Delver.

Option: As with the Dabbler, drop the humanoid languages, since there won't be any humanoids.

Option: I could see reducing Hit Dice to D6 to make the delver more in line with the Cleric as a limited warrior.  Again, the trade-off could be the unlimited advancement.  If that doesn't seem enough, I could see reducing the XP requirements to match the Fighters.

* The Halfling becomes the Ranger (aka the Scout): The Ranger is the wilderness warrior we all know and love.  He isn't proficient with the bulky greatsword, which isn't much use in the forests, but he can use pretty much anything and is especially good with missiles.  In the wilds, his wood-lore makes him is virtually invisible and even in the dungeon, he can stand so still as to be unnoticed much of the time.  The Ranger is particularly trained in the endless war against the gigantic marauders which haunt the wastes and has learned how to avoid their clumsy blows to an amazing degree (-2 AC vs. giant-class).

Option: Change the -2 AC to a +2 to hit.  This makes him more like the AD&D Ranger and makes a little more sense.

Option: As before, humanoids aren't that S&S.  Replace the -2 AC to apply only against animals, as the Ranger has learned how to stave off the attacks of wild beasts.  Yeah, yeah: animals don't sound that cool.  But animals in B/X are pretty damn tough.  And I would let in apply to something like an Owlbear, which is, after all, just two natural animals combined.  It might apply to other things like Displacer Beasts and so on.

Option: If you see the class as less of a horse-mounted scout and more of a woodland hunter, then you gotta let them use the longbow .  If that seems unfair, you might disallow plate armour or weapons  designed only for war (like the sword).

Option: Give them a tracking ability.  Maybe in exchange for the -2 AC if it seems too much to you.

Option: I would, for free, give them an improved ability to hunt.  Unlike other characters, they only need take half a day to hunt; if they do take a whole day, they get twice of many supplies.

I could totally see playing a game with these classes.  I actually could see playing a Delver as fun, even though I have never, ever wanted to play a Dwarf.  As always, let me know what you think.


  1. Pat at Ode to black Dougal also recast the BX demihumans.

  2. My gosh, I had forgotten all about that. What's neat is that we came up with very different takes.

  3. indeed to have a little more classes and less races is my intention too

    in particular instead of races if one wants to add option "horoscope" or "destiny" can be considered