Author: Grognard

The Archer (Fighter Subclass) for AD&D3E

This subclass is my take on the old NPC class from Dragon Magazine issue 45 (January 1981). The archer class has some sentimental value to me, as my first D&D character, Azak Baggins, was a halfling archer. Even back then I was tweaking the rules, since archers were supposed to be solely for NPCs AND the class was prohibited to halflings.

The Wild Mage (Magic-User Specialist) for AD&D3E

Wild mages were, originally, specialist wizards for the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. While 5E has rules for Wild Mages, I was always partial to the class as presented in 2nd Edition AD&D.

My AD&D3E version is rooted its 2nd Edition forebear… which was a little more unpredictable and, consequently, more fun to play.

BX3E edits

Based on some playtesting that I’ve done, as well as on comments from Bill Littlefield, I’ve spruced up the Fighter and Magic-User a bit, while giving slight downgrades to the demihuman classes and the optional monk class. Check out the updated BX3E file to give the changes a proper lookover.

The Fighter now dominates lesser foes, doubling their number of attacks against foes with Hit Dice equal to or less than their Fighter level divided by 4. They also are the only class that gets 3 Extra Attacks per round… and start getting Extra Attacks at 6th level rather than 8th level.

Magic-users now begin play with a familiar, a Spellcasting Focus (which augments spells cast through it), and the ability to cast Comprehend Languages, Detect Magic, Find Familiar, and Read Magic as ritual spells. They may cast these spells at will, as a 10-minute ritual that requires them to have their spellbook on-hand, and automatically have these spells in their spellbooks.

Magic-users will now be able to cast utility spells to detect magic, and read both magic and unknown languages, without having to memorize those spells… leaving spell slots open for more “fun” spells. The inclusion of a Spellcasting Focus boosts their spells’ Save DCs while working, thematically, with the whole wizard shtick.

Dwarves, Gnomes, and Halflings have had their Saving Throw Bonuses dropped from +4 down to +2, while both Halflings and Elves have had the Darkvision ability replaced with Twilight Vision (much more in keeping with their fantasy roots). Twilight Vision eliminates penalties to Perception and Attack Rolls due to dim lighting conditions but does nothing to offset darkness-related penalties.

Monks have gotten a few tweaks to bring them more in line with other character classes. Looking back at AD&D and the Mystic class of BECMI, monks were a bit of a convoluted mess with the potential for overpowered greatness; especially when compared to the lowly Fighter class as presented in AD&D (pre-Unearthed Arcana) and BX/BECMI.

Star Frontiers: First Impressions

Over the past few months I’ve been gaming with two friends and, together, we’ve been giving various games a try: Old School Essentials, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Mothership, and, most recently, Star Frontiers. For the most part, these gaming sessions have been 1-shots, played with hastily rolled up characters, that give us a chance to dabble in various systems to see what they offer.

With Star Frontiers, however, we’ve actually made up a slew of characters with the intent of playing every adventure that TSR published back in the 80s. As someone who made up a ton of player characters but never managed to get a game of Star Frontiers up and running, I’m very excited to finally be giving this a shot.

Or course, my obsession for rules tinkering already has me looking at way to improve the skill system and ranged combat system! I’m not running the game, so I’m going to curb those impulses and play the game as published but, after we get some game sessions under our belts, I’ll definitely post some ideas here.

Magic-User Cantrips & Ritual Spells

In my last post, I mentioned ditching unlimited cantrips for magic-users (and the hedge wizard variant class from the Dungeon Master’s Guide), and giving access to ritual spells in place of that.

Cantrips: Magic-users know all of the 0-level spells, also known as cantrips, listed for their class but can only prepare a limited number of them each day, as noted on the table above.

Ritual Spells: Magic-users may cast spells with the (Ritual) tag beside them at will. Ritual spellcasting adds 10 minutes to the spell’s casting time, and requires the magic-user to have learned the spell, scribed it into their spellbook, and have their spellbook on hand.

Ritual Spells, by Spell Level:

Cantrips: Read Magic, Wizard Mark, Write

First Level: Comprehend Languages, Detect Magic, Find Familiar, Hold Portal, Identify, Portent, Unseen Servant

Second Level: Knock, Wizard Lock

Third Level: Dispel Magic

Here’s the new write-up for magic-users, as well as the updated chapter on Magic and updated magic-user spell list. All of these changes are incorporated into the Player’s Handbook file but, I’ve posted them here in case you’d like to print them up.

Minor Change to AD&D3e

For those of you who are playing or interested in my 3rd Edition AD&D simulacrum, I wanted to note that I’ve made a minor rule change.

The magic-user cantrip Elemental Bolt has been removed from the game. Its inclusion always felt like a step too far towards 5th edition for me.

A player in my last campaign felt that low-level magic-users lacked offensive options after burning through their 1st-level spells. Adding Elemental Bolt was my solution at the time, but it never sat right with me.

The ability to cast unlimited cantrips (something I’m still on the fence about) more than compensates for the lack of offensive spell options and all magic-users are able to utilize at least 4 of the following spells at-will each day:

  • Affect Normal Fires
  • Audible Glamer
  • Dancing Lights
  • Light
  • Mending
  • Message
  • Prestidigitation
  • Read Magic
  • Wizard Mark
  • Write

My question to you is whether or not I should get rid of unlimited cantrips altogether and replace that option with ritual spells (which comes out of 5th edition but could easily work for an old-school game). Ritual spells would add 1 turn (10 minutes) to a spell’s casting time and would require the caster to have (1) prepared that spell that day and (2) have their spellbook on hand.

The only ritual spells would be:

  • Read Magic (cantrip)
  • Write (cantrip)
  • Comprehend Languages (1st level)
  • Find Familiar (1st level)
  • Identify (1st level)

This option would still give magic-users an edge over other casters without negating common challenges like countering darkness, repairing damaged mundane items, etc.

What do you think? Please post comments below.

Moving on from Gamma World…

As you can tell from my dearth of posts, my Gamma World revision has ground to a complete halt. Having only played the game a few times back in the ’80s has gotten in the way of my ability to overhaul the rules so that it runs smoothly while managing to “feel” like the old game.

I might return to those rules eventually but, for now, I’m going back to what I know; both Dungeons & Dragons and Barbarians of Lemuria.

On the plus side, I’ve gotten a playtest session of BX3e, a modern take on Tom Moldvay’s Basic and Expert rules, under my belt and am happy with how smoothly it ran. The only minor quibble was that one player would have preferred to see a Dex-based melee attack modifier for daggers and short swords (which fall under the umbrella of finesse weapons in recent editions of D&D).

So, I’m considering one of two options:

1] Allow all unencumbered characters to add their DEX bonus, rather than STR bonus, to all melee attack rolls with daggers or short swords. (The simpler option)

2] Create a duelist/swashbuckler class for those who wish to make a DEX-based fighter. I’ll post this in a little while…

… I’m back in the saddle (again)

After a few months of playing video games, watching far too much TV, and generally bumming around, I’ve decided that I should get back to work on my updated Gamma World rules.

My work on those rules came screeching to a halt when I came to the combat section and decided that the original rules were a bit of a mess (apologies to those who like them, warts and all). Having not played Gamma World since the early 90s (and, even then, I used Bruce Nesmith’s 4th edition rules), I had forgotten how kludgy the game was. That realization discouraged me from continuing on the rules… until now.

The challenge is to create consistent and intuitive rules, while making the game still feel like old school Gamma World. I’m not sure if that’s possible, but that’s the plan. 😉