Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The 1e AD&D All-Dragon NPC Classes Swashbuckling & Sorcery Campaign

Years ago Jeff Rients wrote a post about proscriptive campaign creation - "drill[ing] down on campaign creation through deliberate acts of omission" - in which the usual game-books were limited, in order to focus the campaign. Old school D&D bloggers ran with the idea, suggesting campaigns which replaced core books with non-core monsters, deities, and classes and spells.

In re-reading the duelist class for 1e AD&D, I thought about what a swashbuckling campaign in which the duelist replaced the fighter might look like. That led me to check out other 'npc' classes in (The)Dragon, and, well, here we are: the All-Dragon NPC Classes Swashbuckling & Sorcery Campaign.

The 'core four' character classes of 1e AD&D are the fighter, cleric, magic-user, and thief, so a 1e cape-and-sword campaign should include roughly those same roles in the party. The 'core four,' then, for the A-DNPCCS&SC . . . yeesh, that's the first and last time I type that . . . are the Duelist, the Alchemist, the Witch, and the Entertainer.

  • The Duelist, from Dragon 73, replaces the Fighter in the A-DNP . . . uh, the campaign. As I noted yesterday, the bonuses to armor class are gone, and I have to weigh keeping the combat bonuses as written or eliminating them and allowing weapon specialisation instead.
  • The Alchemist, from Dragon 49, takes the place of the Cleric. Though far from a perfect fit, the Alchemist replaces some of the healing lost by removing the crusader Cleric. Len Lakofka's Alchemist kinda sucks at lower levels - nah, he really sucks at lower levels - but Tom Armstrong's Alchemist from Dragon 130 seems overpowered to me, particularly for this campaign. Anyone who wants to show me the error of my ways is welcome to do so. At least Mr Lakofka's Alchemist gains levels quickly, so the period of throwing flasks of oil and holy water and binding wounds is short.
  • The Witch, from Dragon 114, replaces the Magic-user. No brainer. One of the best non-player character classes published in Dragon, and wholly appropriate to swashbucklers'n'sorcery.
  • The Entertainer, from Dragon 69, takes the place of the Thief. Jugglers, acrobats, and troubadors ably replace the tomb-raiding thief in the swashbucklers'n'sorcery campaign. And yes, I considered the Jester.

Now that covers the core four, but there are some swashbuckling'n'sorcery archetypes that are missing, and in 1e AD&D, archetypal classes are king, so three more classes round out the campaign: the Bandit, the Mariner, and the Savant.

  • The Bandit, from Dragon 63, replaces the Ranger from the core rules, and fulfills the cape-and-sword highwayman archetype. Another no brainer. I love this class.
  • The Mariner, from Dragon 107, is another Fighter option to the Duelist, providing the pirate and sea-dog archetype. I'm not wild about this class - as with the Duelist, there's too much ocompensation for the lack of heavy armor with bonuses to armor class along with elaborate parrying rules which need toning down.
  • The Savant, from Dragon 140, replaces the oft-overlooked divination spells of the Cleric. The Savant is a strange sort of early attempt at a prestige class and would need a bit of reworking, but the class is good for the knowledgeable priest or scholar in the party.

So, the Duelist, the Bandit, the Mariner, the Alchemist, the Savant, the Witch, and the Entertainer. Holy crap . . . I could actually run this.

Or I suppose I could just run Backswords and Bucklers instead.

Addendum (8/20/12): Jonathan Thompson suggested the Cloistered Cleric, from Dragon 68, as one of the classes; I thought of this, but I couldn't find it in the DragonDex at first, but in going back again, I discovered it was under "Cleric," not "Character classes."

This means that 'core four' becomes the Duelist, the Cloistered Cleric, the Witch, and the Entertainer, with the 'sub-classes' of the Bandit, the Mariner, and the Alchemist; the Savant gets dropped. The Cloistered Cleric is a 'true' npc class and was written without an experience points table; the thief's experience progression seems reasonable to sub in.


  1. "[E]laborate parrying rules?" Maybe that was the one thing 2nd Edition did right. I remember it was simply a matter of sacrificing an attack to try to beat your opponent's roll -- or was that a house rule? I don't think it was a house rule... Anyway, it admittedly encouraged fighting with a two weapons to get that extra attack, but this was the post-Drizzt period so everybody fought two-handed anyway.

    1. I never played 2e, so I'm not familiar enough to say. The 1e rule was that your character sacrifices his attack to gain his Strength to-hit bonus as a penalty to the opponent's attack.

      But this goes back to yesterday's post, that hit points reflect that sort of tactical acumen better.

  2. How about AC= 8+Dex/2? Any Armor that shows up is either a Damage Reduction or a Saving Throw.

    1. Should have mentioned-Let the attack bonus (whatever you call it) be able to be split into attack and defense (AC bonus). e.g. Someone with a +8 can all out attack +8 to hit / 0 to defense; All out Defense +0 / +8 to AC or anything in between. Maybe let fighter types sacrifice AC for attack bonus to some extent e.g. +3 to hit / -3 to AC.

    2. I don't really feel the need to house rule how armor and combat works in AD&D - I think the system works well enough as written. The problem, from where I sit, is when designers ignore how that works, and the parrying rules for the Mariner do that for me.

      It's a pretty simple fix, though, so no big deal.

  3. I would add the Charlatan from The Dragon 120


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