OD&D [Original/1e/2e/Classic] Writing a class system that feels like both BECMI and AD&D

Egon Spengler

"We eat gods for breakfast!"
Not long ago, I had to put the kibosh on the campaign I was running, mostly due to a lack of free time on my part. I was running what could best be described in today's old-school vernacular as a mashup of the Original and Classic editions — mostly BECMI as the foundation, but with elements drawn from the LBBs or Holmes Basic as needed. Very little (except for the training rules) from AD&D. And it only occurred to me after this campaign had ended, and I was pondering the usual postmortem issues, that I somewhat regretted not using more AD&D in the mix. It wasn't that I missed the nitty-gritty of the AD&D mechanics per se; whenever I go back and play 1e or 2e, I find myself very quickly wanting to revert to Basic-style initiative, surprise, morale, reactions, etc. Rather, the AD&D classes (even the four base classes) just have an entirely different vibe from the way they work in BECMI. Something about the different power-scale, and the slow crawl to reach the highest experience levels… it had me wondering if I could perhaps port that into a Basic/Expert style game, and maybe even kick it up a notch. (Because why do anything if you're not going to crank the amp up to eleven?)

When I was a kid, we never frankensteined together D&D and AD&D. The books said that they were separate games, and so we treated them as separate games. Mixing and matching and mashing up OD&D and AD&D may be old hat to a lot of you who started playing back in the 70s or the 80s, but it's something that I've legitimately never done! And doing it requires making a series of choices — deciding how things are going to work in my game, drawn from the smorgasbord of (surprisingly compatible) options laid out in the white box, red box, 1e, and 2e. One of the first choices to make, before I can even decide how (or whether) I'm going to implement things like demihumans, dual- or multiclassing, sub-classes, and so forth, is how I want the basic character classes to advance. I've written in the past that original D&D basically gives two advancement schemes, a slow pace of advancement used by fighters and mages, and a rapid one used by clerics and thieves; and that AD&D reconciled this by making all the classes advance slowly (the XP tables go linear after about 9th level), while Classic D&D opted instead to make all classes advance rapidly (the tables mostly go linear after 8th). There's also the matter of ultimate scale: AD&D goes up to 30th level maximum, and D&D to 36th.

In my experience, I've rarely gotten a lot of use out of the game's highest levels (be they dubbed Master or Epic); this isn't an uncommon story. There's even been a rumor floating around the old-school blogs and forums lately that Frank Mentzer ultimately regretted following the note in the '82 Cook/Marsh Expert Set that said the D&D game would go up to 36th level, and that he would have preferred limiting things to 20th himself. (I have no source on this rumor, nor do I have any inkling of its validity.) Looking at the tables from the various editions, and considering how I'd like to "mash" them together, I'm thinking I'd like to do something a little bit cheeky and make the following alterations: (1) the XP tables will go linear in AD&D fashion after 9th level, but only until 11th level, after which the XPs required to advance will slowly ramp up even more (×1.5 from levels 12th to 14th, ×2 from levels 15th to 17th, and ×2.5 at 18th), and (2) the maximum level for all the classes will become 18th level, which is close to 20th (but not such a neat, round number — eighteen has character) and also exactly one-half of 36th. (I'm sure at least some people out there will mutter something about the Expert Set and 14th level, but, no. Fourteen levels aren't sufficient. As mentioned earlier, "B/X" was never intended to cap out at 14th level in the first place. It doesn't feel right to treat 14th as the apogee of human PC advancement, forever cutting off the highest spell-levels from play.)

So, without further comment — except to say that while I haven't quite settled on how I want to treat demihumans and subclasses yet, I'm leaning toward an expanded system of race-as-class with slightly raised level-caps (perhaps in the vicinity of 10th for hobbits, 12th for elves, 15th for dwarves) and the option for human characters to change classes (fighter to paladin, cleric to druid, etc.) if they meet certain requirements and reach a minimum level (around 2nd to 4th) first — here are the revised base classes (fighter, thief, cleric, and mage) that I hope to test-run soon, should that welcome day ever come that I can find the time to play again!

(If there's any interest in seeing more, I'll update this thread from time to time with additional content as I hash it out.)

EDIT (2/10/22): Added ability score tables and monks.
EDIT (2/12/22): Finished sketching out all of the character classes!
EDIT (2/18/22): Final update! Added the assassin and demihuman character classes, as well as some design notes on why this class system was designed the way it was, and also the rules for artificer devices.
EDIT (6/11/22): Gave the document a small overhaul to reflect a better understanding of alignment; also added cantrips and orisons.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

GreyLord

Legend
Well, just things to note...

AD&D 2e only went up to 30th level if you used High Level Campaigns.

Forgotten Realms in 2e could go up to 40th level but in theory had no level limits and advancement (at least for spellcasters and the spell slots) worked differently than it did in HLC.

In AD&D 1e, there were no level limits (which sometimes resulted in insane or even absurd levels in parties, such as 765th level parties, or one that I heard of, 10,000th level characters...etc).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, most parties didn't get past level 5 or 6 in many instances (which is the case with the current AD&D party I've been playing with for the past year, we have been at levels 5 or 6 for most of that time thus far).

I think it depends on your playstyle and DM on what levels are generally played in your group.

PS: Dragonlance Adventures originally had an 18th level cap, very similar to what you are proposing.

PPS: I thought you had passed away? Nice to see you aren't a ghost.
 

LoganRan

Explorer
Well, just things to note...

AD&D 2e only went up to 30th level if you used High Level Campaigns.

Forgotten Realms in 2e could go up to 40th level but in theory had no level limits and advancement (at least for spellcasters and the spell slots) worked differently than it did in HLC.

In AD&D 1e, there were no level limits (which sometimes resulted in insane or even absurd levels in parties, such as 765th level parties, or one that I heard of, 10,000th level characters...etc).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, most parties didn't get past level 5 or 6 in many instances (which is the case with the current AD&D party I've been playing with for the past year, we have been at levels 5 or 6 for most of that time thus far).

I think it depends on your playstyle and DM on what levels are generally played in your group.

PS: Dragonlance Adventures originally had an 18th level cap, very similar to what you are proposing.

PPS: I thought you had passed away? Nice to see you aren't a ghost.
765th level? :oops:

My highest level character ever was a 10th level Druid.

Regarding your PPS: If he were a ghost, would he have to "bust" himself? :unsure:
 



Egon Spengler

"We eat gods for breakfast!"
PS: Dragonlance Adventures originally had an 18th level cap, very similar to what you are proposing.

I'm aware. Just forgot to mention that it was one of the inspirational notes at work behind this notion.

PPS: I thought you had passed away? Nice to see you aren't a ghost.

Rumors of my demise are either greatly exaggerated, or of dubious canonicity. :p

Check out Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy. It almost does exactly what you're talking about. It starts with B/X (not BECMI) and adds in the AD&D races and classes. They present both race-as-class and race-separate-from-class as options.

🤷‍♂️ I think I liked it better the first time, when it was called the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion. :unsure:Ahem. Redundancy of retro-clones aside, it's not quite what I'm aiming for, since OSE goes even harder at "B/X-ifying" the advanced classes (including the relatively rapid pace of advancement above name level), and I'm trying to go in the opposite direction, sort of "AD&D-ifying" the BECMI classes.
 

Egon Spengler

"We eat gods for breakfast!"
I like the fighter and thief additions. I especially love the naming of these abilities. /subscribed.

Naming abilities is fun. :D But of course, everything is still tentative at this stage — case in point, I've now added the monk class (along with some hints about how I'm going to work up the remaining human and demihuman classes), and the monk abilities don't all have clever names quite yet.

Stay tuned next for the artificer. :geek:
 

Egon Spengler

"We eat gods for breakfast!"
The artificer and then some! — With this latest update, I do believe that I've finished mapping out all of the playable classes I'm going to need. The system breaks down as follows:

Base Classes (human characters with no special requirements): Fighter, Mage, Cleric, Thief, and Artificer
Specialist Classes (human classes that are meant to be a bit rarer): Monk, Psion, Minstrel, and Ranger (where Rangers are elf-trained fighter/mages as well as woodsmen, a true gish in the vein of the BECMI forester class)
Prestige Classes (must begin as another class to enter): Druid, Bard, Paladin, and Avenger
Demihuman Classes (appropriately level-limited and with hefty XP costs): Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit, Gnome, and Orc

From here, the next step is to actually pretty everything up and flesh out the details and descriptions. Then I can move onto looking at the actual rules of play, to see if there's anything from AD&D besides the all-important training rules that I want to back-port over to this… uh… OD&D-AD&D-I-haven't-thought-of-what-to-properly-call-it-yet… thing. Yeah. :oops:
 
Last edited:

Egon Spengler

"We eat gods for breakfast!"
All right, final update! My house rule & character sheet document is finally done (and hopefully ready to be taken for a spin, whenever I have a chance to run a campaign again). The overall shape of the system has received one last tweak, in the shape of the assassin class, which I decided to add on after all, because it means that this system now has at least something to cover every possible core class archetype from every edition. To wit:

As things now stand, I have nineteen classes: the basics (fighter, mage, cleric, thief), the promotions (paladin, avenger, bard, druid, and assassin), the hybrids and oddities (monk, psionicist, artificer, ranger, and minstrel), and the demihumans (elf, dwarf, gnome, hobbit, and orc). Plus some optional and briefly-sketched notes for how to potentially run half-elves, half-orcs, half-ogres, kobolds, goblins, and hobgoblins.

The fighter as written covers fighters (of course).
The thief covers thieves and rogues.
The cleric, clerics and priests.
The mage, magic-users/mages/wizards and also (via diabolism) warlocks.
The paladin covers the paladin and cavalier/knight archetypes.
The avenger is, in this ruleset, both an antipaladin and a berserker/barbarian.
The bard is the warrior-type bard and warlord archetype.
The druid covers Celtic-type druids. (I'm not really making an effort to represent shamans here, as they've never been a core option.)
The assassin covers assassins/spies/ninjas/killers/thugs/headsmen (gosh, this class has had a lot of names down through the editions).
The monk covers monks and psychic warriors.
The psionicist covers psionicists/psions/erudites/wilders, mystics, and sorcerers (but in a far less bothersome fashion than "magic is genetically heritable").
The artificer has your tinkers, technologists, and artificers covered.
The ranger is both a ranger/forester type and a spellsword/battle-mage/eldritch-knight/gish.
The minstrel is the rouge/performer type bard, arcane trickster, and jester archetype, as well as the dedicated illusionist/beguiler.

Whew. I think I've got all possible bases covered, but if there are any important, core D&D archetypes that remain, I'd love to know what I might have missed!
 
Last edited:

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top