Wednesday, April 17, 2019

White Box Class Overlays

The only thing remotely old school I've been into lately is Charlie Mason's White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game. Since most of the people I game with are scrubs who play Pathfinder or 5E or my goddamn hippy PbtA stuff, it's all wishful thinking tinker work.

My present project is something I dub "class overlays." WBFMAG (what a torturous abbreviation) sticks to the four basic character classes. Since most of the people I know like a little more variety than that, I started working on little templates that keep the essentials of the class while giving it just a little bit of flavor.

So I start off with the Assassin. Hmm. -1 to Thievery, +4 Backstab, 3 damage dice. I write up a simple ability to brew poisons at 5th level, keeping it vague and very much up to the GM in the spirit that WB is written in. (The game very much trusts the GM to do their goddamn job.)

Alright, done. On to the Druid. Neutral alignment...changes to weapons and armor, turning ability is animals instead of undead, slight alterations to spell list... a little less of an overlay. Hmm.

And then I stopped. Not because I'd made the Druid too complicated, but because... boredom. Why bother rolling out the nth iterations of the same tired-ass roster of character classes? Someone, somewhere wrote up a Northern Godi and a Jester for Swords & Wizardry White Box. Why shouldn't I do the same and take a departure from the usual suspects?

The goal:
-Keep 'em simple. A dash of flavor to the existing standard four classes, but still very much a member of that original class.

Something along these lines:


Practitioners of hedge magic, Witches are a subclass of Magic-User that consists mostly of women. Witchcraft tends to be more subtle than the fiery evocations of the standard Magic-User, and Witches also know their way around herbs and fantastical brews.

Weapon and Armor Restrictions: Witches can only use daggers in combat, and the only missile weapon they can use is oil. They are not allowed to wear any armor, nor use a shield.

Spellcasting: Witches generally function as standard Magic-Users, with a few modifications. They can learn and cast Cure Light Wounds (and its reverse) as though it were a 1st level Magic-User spell. When a Witch casts a charm or illusion spell, any target has a -1 penalty to their Saving Throw. In addition, calculate the duration of such spells as though the Witch were two experience levels higher. Witches cannot cast Fireball, Lightning Bolt, or other spells which cause direct damage.

Potions: Starting at 5th level, Witches can brew potions. The exact requirements, time and cost are left to the GM, but one recommendation is that they need a week's time, access to a cauldron, and rare ingredients that can cost between 500-1,000 gp. The GM is also free to impose a shelf life on the potency of the potions. The Witch may create any potion from the list in WBFMAG. If the GM wishes to limit this, perhaps the Witch gains a single recipe at 5th level, and learns an additional recipe with each experience level, or perhaps they must learn (or steal) the recipes from other Witches.


Now, I know that witches are hardly new to D&D and have had lots of incarnations, but this was just a starting point. I'd like to see some other fantasy, pulp, and even fairy tale archetypes get some love instead of ranger-paladin-monk-druid-bard-rinse-repeat.

I'm working on these in my drive right now, but I could well post them here as I get them done.


  1. I like that the witch is restricted from using spells that cause "direct damage;" makes it all the more necessary to be creative with the use of curses and such.
    : )

    1. I've tried to create elaborate witch classes in the past... this is actually the first time I've been okay with the result, and it's the simplest version I've ever done. Mind blown.

  2. My favorite way to do classes right now (not that I'm DMing anything, however I am playing in a DCC Classics game) is how Continual Light does em. The four basic classes at one basic XP, and as many classes as you can think of built off one of the four with a couple extra abilities that require a little extra XP to balance em out. The possibilities are really quite endless and unbelievably simple. But since I gave up traditional XP in the 90's (I've never had time for XP, especially when I was a teenager) I love their simple XP system.

    1. I dig that idea. If you think about it, the B/X dwarf was just a fighter with a few extra abilities and a 10% experience surcharge. I think the elf got the best deal, double fighter exp for basically being a fighter and magic-user at the same time...

      I haven't actually read Continual Light. I might have to put it on my to-do list... behind the five thousand other things I should be reading fml...

  3. I also love White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game. One of my favorites right now too

  4. Heck yes, White Box! I haven't yet gotten to run it (for pretty much the same reasons you cite), but I've read the whole thing cover-to-cover multiple times.

    As far as adding additional classes, if I were to do such a thing (though not to please whiny players - if there's one thing I've learned, it's that those who complain about not getting to play their special character will never be satisfied with the changes the referee makes), I'd just drop in the ones from the Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook. My idea for the assassin was much the same as yours, at least as far as adapting percentile thief skills to the d6 roll.

    1. Yeah, but like I said in the first part of the post, I'm *tired* of those classes.