Monday, March 7, 2011

Background/Social Class for Labyrinth Lord AEC

It was bound to happen, I'm sure: someone forcing Runequest-style backgrounds and social classes into D&D. Yes, it happened in Unearthed Arcana to some degree, but I hardly call that a worthwhile effort. What follows is my own take on the whole social class notion, and I'll be making more posts in the future to supplement this stuff. Namely, new classes. One problem I ran into was that there are A LOT of new classes I need to create to fully flesh this thing out, which in itself isn't a huge deal, but it certainly is time consuming considering some of these classes are just variations on existing classes. Perhaps I'll reedit as necessary, but I sort of like having a bunch of different options at times. I said Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Characters in the title as that is the game I'm targeting. Obviously, it is easily adaptable to any version of D&D with hardly any work.



Background/Social Class

What follows is the basic outline for a four-tiered background system, directly ripped off from a once extremely popular RPG. There are several assumptions made in this system, the first being that the character in question is human. Non-human characters generally do not fit into these categories in typical fantasy settings, as they are in general homogeneous. While “unrealistic”, humanocentricsm is the basis for most RPGs and non-humans who do appear are rare, representative of their race as a whole. The second assumption is that the social structure outlined below does exist in your game world. Typical fantasy worlds can be shoehorned into the following system, but you may make adjustments as necessary. If, for instance, civilization is extremely rare, there might be a proportionally higher number of primitive characters.

Several new character classes are described below, and many from LL:AEC are referenced. While this is not strictly a LL supplement, use of AEC is extremely helpful.

Roll a d10 to determine background and another d10 to determine social class.

A player may choose any character class listed for his social class or lower; anyone can become a thief, for instance.

Primitive (1)

Primitive cultures are roughly defined by a lack of economic development. This in turn creates an environment where little social stratification exists between individuals. Even though the distinction is made here for playability, the only member of a primitive society who ranks above others is the chieftain. Some tribes may not have a chief, and instead rule by a committee of elders, or possibly an elected/appointed head. Characters from a primitive background tend to be more concerned with ability than primogeniture and/or class distinction. Nobles would be anyone who pulls more weight than a regular member of the society. While the “nobility” is looked up to, there is a strong sense of self-identity, and the relationship is more familial than formal. Tools are simple, clothing sparse to non-existent.

All primitives receive a +1 to initial CON and STR rolls (18 maximum still applicable) and -2 to CHA to represent their inability to full integrate into modern society. There is no CHA penalty amongst their own tribe. They are proficient with spears, clubs, knives and thrown weapons, regardless of class. Only Witch Doctors and Shamans are literate. Most eschew armor in toto, although primitives who spend time around more civilized people tend to wear appropriate types. Hunters and Thugs add an additional +10% to Hide/Move Silently.

Middle (1 - 5)
  • Hunter
  • Thug

Noble (6 - 10)
  • Shaman
  • Witch Doctor


Nomadic (2 - 3)

Nomads are closely related to primitives, but are versed in a form of agriculture, specifically herding livestock. They are typically experienced in riding animals such as horses and organize themselves into clans. These clans may or may not be hostile to one another. They move frequently to ensure their herds have quality grazing, but may sometimes setup semi-permanent outposts for trade purposes. Nomads typically utilize modern tools and have distinctive modes of dress. As with primitives, nomadic cultures do not have a definitive class system. The nobility may or may not rank above everyone else, although most clans tend to recognize some form of ruling class.

Nomads can ride horses, rivaling knights for horsemanship. They are +1 to attack with bows (which all classes may use) and suffer no penalties when firing from horseback. Due to their relationship with animals, nomads make superb hunters: +1 to attack and damage when engaging any animal in combat. Nomads of the Hunter and Skirmisher classes are +2 to this roll. Neither of these abilities stack with the bonus to bowmanship.

Middle (1 - 6)
  • Bandit
  • Hunter
  • Skirmisher
  • Thug
Noble (7 - 10)
  • Healer
  • Shaman
  • Witch Doctor

Barbarian (4 - 7)

Barbarians are an intermediary between civilized cultures and primitive types. Typically, barbarians are technologically advanced, have a sophisticated economic system, engage in various forms of agriculture and have a loose class-based system. However, while most tribes do have a form of nobility, there is much greater emphasis placed upon individualism; citizens in a barbarian town are free to come and go as they please. Religion is much more formalized, although typically less practiced. Craftsmen and warrior-types are generally seen as superior to most everyone else, although this is nearly always due to admiration and respect as opposed to rigidly defined rules. Barbarians are extremely hardy and add +2 to their initial CON roll (18 maximum). Most Civilized people see them as brash and rude, however, and they are -2 to CHA when dealing with individuals of that background. Barbarians interact with Primitives and Nomads normally.

Middle (1 - 7)
  • Beggar
  • Berserk
  • Cutpurse
  • Hunter
  • Ranger
  • Skirmisher
  • Thug
  • Warlock

Noble (8 - 10)
  • Druid
  • Fighter
  • Healer
  • Hedge Wizard
  • Lay Priest
  • Mage
  • Skald

Civilized (8 - 10)

Civilization is denoted by a strong centralized government that collects taxes and provides a paid soldiery. Magic and religion are formalized. Classes are extremely rigid, and it is difficult to move up, if not impossible (joining the clergy is the easiest way to change social class). Slavery exists, although slaves and serfs are not mentioned here as available character classes for obvious reasons. Civilized characters gain a +1 to INT rolls (18 max) to simulate a more learned environment.

Low (1 - 2)
  • Assassin
  • Beggar
  • Burglar
  • Cutpurse
  • Hedge Wizard
  • Monk
  • Necromancer
  • Ranger
  • Skirmisher
  • Sorcerer
  • Thug
  • Warrior Priest (Cleric)
  • Witch

Middle (3 - 6)
  • Bard
  • Lay Priest
  • Soldier

High (7 - 9)
  • Alchemist
  • Healer
  • Mage (Magic-User)

Noble (10)
  • Knight
  • Paladin
  • Wizard

4 comments:

  1. The chance of civilized seems a little too low, but maybe you can weight outcomes on this table for different types of campaigns (+2 for instance if it's a more settled, advanced world).

    Would early feudal societies be considered "barbarian" under this scheme?

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  2. I dunno if it's too low if you're coming from a S&S assumption; perhaps it may be low if you have different ideas about the game world, though. I also like how hard it is to qualify to be a knight or paladin, even before the attribute requirements. If you're setting your game in Lankhmar, chances are everyone will be civilized anyway.

    And, yeah, I think early feudal societies would definitely be barbarian. In a fantasy context, this means much less organized magic and religion.

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  3. I was thinking that you for the barbarians that you need some kind of "noble warrior", something like a proto-knight.

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  4. You're probably right; I realized I didn't have a regular Fighter class available for Barbarians. That should cover it.

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