Old School DIY Class Round-up

I'm currently running one Swords and Wizardry game with a group of five veteran players, and about to start another with a less experienced group. Although I was initially enamored with S&W's spartan class choices (as opposed to some more of the bloated new school fantasy RPGs), I was awed by the fun presented by classes published on old school gaming blogs, and as such, have added them to my game (I've also thrown in two of my own so I can direct my players here during character creation). Check them out for all their original glory.

Click for that old-time gravy flavor*

The Alice 
The Alternate MU
The Alternate Fighter 
The Aurumancer 
The Barbarian 
The Battle Princess
The Beastmaster 
The Blue Mage
The Dandy
The Dreamland Octopus (mixed with this flavor)
The Gunslinger
The Merchant Prince
The Muscle Wizard
The Olympian
The Quixote
The Warlord
The Witch

*Actual flavor may vary

Oppression Angel

An (or the) oppression angel* is the planar servant of Myrwing, the deity of militant domination and greed (and, as with all fun pantheism gods, something random--birds of prey). They appear as a humanoid with a hawk's wing for a head, eagle's talons for breasts, and manacled chains made of red iron for arms. Oppression angels aid supplicants of Myrwing in protecting wealth amassed by might and in identifying those who would try to rob them. In combat, an oppression angels fire their manacle-arms at enemies, which then lock around necks, arms, or legs. While the angel itself can be killed, and the chains sundered, the manacles can only be removed by way of magic (such as Remove Curse**). This leaves would be vault-robbers marked so that the clergy of Myrwing can easily find them.

Swords and Wizardry stats:

Oppression Angel
Hit Dice: 5
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Attacks: Claws (1d4)
Saving Throw: 12
Special: Collars (successful attack roll = attach)
Move: 12
Alignment: Lawful
Challenge Level/XP: 6/400

* Calling them "angels" might be a little generous
** Only by clerics of Myrwing, if you really want to stir the pot


City Conflict Generator

After playing scores of city adventures, I've realized that all conflict boils down to this table.

Elements of Conflict

Roll at least twice:

1- Drugs
2- Prostitutes
3- Guards
4- Nobility
5- Disease
6- Guilds
7- Bribes
8- Murder
9- Beggars
10- Indecent Sex

The rest practically writes itself.


The Quixote (A Swords and Wizardry/Old School Class)

In some village in La Mancha, whose name I do not care to recall, there dwelt not so long ago a gentleman of the type wont to keep an unused lance, an old shield, a skinny old horse, and a greyhound for racing...

The Quixote is someone who has had too much free time to read those poisonous romance novels and listen to troubadours sing tales of chivalry and honor and courtly love. He envisions himself as the perfect knight-errant. His mind has become rattled, unable to separate reality from fantasy. Through blundering and buffoonery, the Quixote somehow manages to occasionally pull things through.

Requirements: Wisdom must be below 9
Prime Attribute: Charisma 13+
Hit Dice: 1d8 per level
Armor: Any
Weapons: Any
Saving Throw: One better than the Fighter class
Experience: As Fighter
Attacks: As Fighter  

Quixotic Points: Whenever the Quixote does something outlandish or idiotic in the name of chivalry, he gains a quixotic point. He can have at any given time a number of quixotic points equal to his level.

Quixotic Combat: The Quixote can spend one quixotic point when in combat to blunder and accidentally aid himself and his allies. The action is determined by a d8 roll:

1 The Quixote trips over his own weapon, and in doing so, crashes into a foe. One enemy within melee range of the Quixote falls prone.

2 The Quixote mistakes some inanimate, nonmagical object for a thing of evil, such as a giant or a dark artifact. If the Quixote can land an attack against it this combat, he strikes with such fervor that it is destroyed.
3 The Quixote decides it necessary to rattle off some pseudo-philosophical nonsense to an enemy. As long as it can understand, the enemy loses it's next turn as it stares incredulously at the Quixote.
4 The Quixote remembers reading about a similar foe in one of his books of chivalric romance. Although the information is completely wrong, if the Quixote spends one round prepping some unusual attack (such as coating a lance in butter, or swallowing gold coins), he gains a +5 bonus to hit and to damage as a result from the ensuing confidence.
5 The Quixote's ill-fitting helmet slips over his eyes, causing him to swing wildly. He can make three attacks this round, but at a -4 penalty.
6 The Quixote stubbornly charges an enemy. If the attack hits, it deals double the normal damage. Regardless, the Quixote is unhorsed and knocked prone at the end of this attack.
7 Whatever the enemy did last round has dishonored the Quixote's beloved. The Quixote rolls twice to hit against this enemy, and takes the better of the two options.
8 The Quixote passes wind, loses his pants, unhorses himself, or something of equal un-grace. All enemies must spend each round laughing uncontrollably until they make a successful save.

Addled: The Quixote automatically sees through all magical illusions--manipulating reality's appearance doesn't affect him because he's already trapped in the illusions of his own mind.

Knightly Honesty: The Quixote cannot tell a lie, for to do so would be to go against the chivalric code. He holds everyone to this standard, and as such, always must take everyone at their word.

Chivalrous Command (3rd): Once per day at third level, the Quixote can spend a quixotic point and make a chivalrous demand upon a Lawful creature that can understand him. That creature must make a save or be forced to uphold the demand (as per the spell Suggestion). If the creature succeeds at the save, the Quixote believes them to be upholding it. For example, if a Quixote demanded of a cleric of a Lawful deity to not sacrifice a maiden, and the creature fails the save, it cannot make the sacrifice. But if the cleric succeeds and sacrifices her, the Quixote might think that the Cleric had tripped and accidentally slit her throat, or might "realize" that the maiden was a demon in disguise. 

This class was inspired by Zak Sabbath's Alice class (they're both literature-based, I guess?)


Random Trolling Events

Roll a d20 for each day of trolling. On a 20, the crew catches something interesting.

1. Swordfish or sharks create minor holes in the nets
2. A treasure chest
3. A school of undead fish. Not powerful individually, but present in great number
4. Something tears through the net. Leaves water-proof apology
5. Nets become extremely entangled. Needs several hours of work to fix
6. Horse-sized mounds of rotting flesh. Lingering stench prevents any catches for several days
7. A fish with metal scales and a human face. Can answer any question about a random topic, such as horticulture or fashion
8. 1d6 water-tight barrels of 
     1. Wool
     2. Tobacco
     3. Salt
     4. Hardtack
     5. Dead ship rats
     6. Sulfuric smoke from Hell
9. Pieces of the king's personal ship
10. The king himself. Has no idea how he got in this situation
11. Mauve and ivory driftwood. Might be useful for wards or wands
12. A massive vertebra
13. 100 sets of sailors' clothes
14. A library of water-logged books
15. A flock of dead albatrosses. One was bad enough...
16. The remains of of a sail-wizard's potion stock. 1d6 random potions
17. A group of merfolk. Probably unhappy
18. A marlin made of dreams and mirrors
19. The current macguffin, stuck through a fish
20. Roll twice. Take both or your choice, I don't care

If you had asked me this morning if this table would ever be used, I'd say no. But today I found myself lost at sea and desperate for food and interesting encounters.


DiceSoup: Controlled Anarchy

Here's a thing I wrote a while back for DiceSoup, so that explains the more formal format and the lack of naughty words.

Controlled Anarchy: Power to the Players

If traditional games were a nation, The UN would be on them like butter on toast. The distribution of creative control is a tyrannical system: nearly all of the game world’s creative control rests in the hands of the greedy, clawed hands of the ruthless GM.

Okay, so it’s not that dramatic. But traditional games are certainly designed to give the most control to the GMs. Players have control over their characters (through character creation, backstory, and in-game decisions) as well as the immediate environment their characters can affect (whether it be by moving it, killing it, or magical force bolts at it). This system of power can be fun, but it gets really fun when we allow some of that creative power to trickle down to the players. When players create something, they are more likely to interact with it, and therefore be more interested in the game. This in turn makes your job easier, which makes a better game over all! In short:

empowered players = happy players = interested players = happy GM = enjoyable game

Giving players power doesn’t mean tearing the role of GM down. This can be done by handing out little “power nuggets” to players, using many different techniques. So turn on your Rage Against the Machine, ‘cause we’re about to tear down this tyrannical establishment and stick it to the man. Let’s have some anarchy!

Disclaimer: These techniques require trust in your players. One reason why many traditional games limit the control the players have over the world at large is the desire to maintain a challenge. The thought is, if players have world control, they’ll just poof in a treasure chest full of vorpral swords or do some other game breaking action. This has the same effect as “god modes” in video games: it’s a blast for the first fight, sort of fun for the second, and then by the time the third fight comes around, you’re missing the challenge.

Like all problems, this can be solved with communication. Explain your expectations to the players. Tell Grabak the Barbarian you’d prefer if he didn’t create an army of Gundams to use. Then trust your players to respect your expectations. Don’t say no unless it’s hurting the game experience. If they toe the line, explain how and why their actions are hurting the game (they may not even be aware), and ask them not to do so. The worst case scenario is you have to say “No, sorry, you can’t do that.” You’ve got nothing to lose.

Apocalypse World Rules: Disclaim Decision-Making
Nobody would know how to empower players better than the story game community. If you haven’t already MCed (the game’s term for Gamemasters) Vincent Baker’s  story game Apocalypse World, do yourself a favor and do so. That game’s structure for GMing has been a great influence on my own style. One of the game’s MC guidelines is of particular use to us here: occasionally disclaim decision-making. In Apocalypse World, this means that sometimes when a player asks, “Are there chandeliers in the Great Hall?” you should respond with “Are there? You tell me.”
This gives the player a creative input into the game beyond what they usually have. Of course, a player could abuse this, but we’re going to trust them not to, because the results are awesome. If a player asks if there are any chandeliers in the Great Hall, it's probably because they're about to do some sweet shit with it. Let them have it.  Let’s do a comparison:

Option 1: Decision-making disclaimed
Player: “Are there chandeliers in the Great Hall?”
GM: “Are there? You tell me.”
Player: “Uh, okay, yes, there are. Can I jump onto one from the balcony, swing across, and then interrupt the king’s speech by skewering him with my rapier from above?”
GM: “Sure.”

Option 2: Lame
Player: “Are there chandeliers in the Great Hall?”
GM: “Nope.”
Player: “Huh, okay. I guess I’ll just shot him with my bow.”

I hope I don’t have to explain which of these the better option is. This technique can be used for anything: environments (like above), social interactions (“Is he lying? You tell me.”), historical clarifications (“He might have an illegitimate heir, what do you think?”), and more. Disclaiming decision-making works best when it’s used relatively sparingly and used in ways that give the PCs toys to play with.

Player-Drawn Maps
If you play a game that using miniatures and maps for battle, allowing your players to draw out battle-maps is one of the easiest ways to give players a taste of the sweet, sweet nectar of creative control. Briefly explain the general contents of the map (“It’s a town square,”) and any features that are needed (“so there'll need to be buildings, and there’s probably like a fountain or something too”), then give the players the markers and sit back: prepare your notes, get a drink, nod off, or whatever you like. Meanwhile, the players will create for you an interesting map. In all the times I’ve done this, I’ve never been disappointed with a blank map.

 In fact, most often, players are going to include something extra to give them an advantage. And that’s totally okay. If a player creates a terrain feature, they are nearly certain to interact with it. It’s far more interesting for Grabak to push down rotten trees on top of the goblins than for him to walk up to the and whack them with repeatedly with his greatsword.

Player Controlled Monsters
Dave tipped me on to the awesomeness of this one in a custom critical hit charm for magic against zombies (Dave’s secretly a gaming anarchist too, he just doesn’t know it yet). One of the results on the magic hit table allowed the caster to take control of a zombie, and basically use it as a puppet. When I read that, I was instant enamored. Fewer monsters for the GM to control, more fun for the players to have. This can be done in-game, like Dave’s example above, or out-game, where you just hand the players sheets for the monsters. This doesn’t have to be an all or nothing, either. You could say that goblins are indecisive and bad tacticians, so one turn the players will control them, and another turn the GM will.

Let’s Start a Revolution
These are, of course, just a few methods to break down the tyrannical distribution of power in traditional games. As you use these, others will develop, and soon you’ll have full blown anarchy on your hands! (Okay, hopefully not. But you will have fun, enriched gaming.) Do you use any techniques like these to play with the power distribution in your game? If so, let the world know! Leave a comment below describing how you stick it to the man!