Thursday, April 9, 2020

Open Game Content: D12 City or Urban Subclasses for B/X or Old School Essentials Games

This continues my short series on creating some subclasses for various different themes of B/X D&D Games (compatible with Old School Essentials), with some city/urban subclasses.

The idea of creating subclasses came from a series of posts on Dyson Logos' blog (I keep pointing that out each time because I want to make sure Dyson gets credit for the idea!).  As a reminder, from the system that Dyson created, the idea is that every character would take a subclass; if the player chooses not to, then the standard character would earn +10% XP to account for not having the additional abilities afforded by the subclass.

The idea of creating some more city-based subclasses sprang from the D12 Expert-Specialist subclasses I put together. When I was working on this, I ended up with a few more than 12, and I also got some input from a few folks on social media to add some different abilities to one of the subclasses, which then ended up becoming a separate subclass in its own right. I began to see that I could put the subclasses into thematic "buckets" like Wilderness or City. I've got two more lists pretty much ready to go, and then some very loose notes on about three or four other genres. If there's anything you'd like to see, drop a comment below to let me know, or better yet, take a stab at creating some yourself! Just make sure to link your creations here so I'll see them.

From this list of city/urban subclasses below, a few of them had their origins in the proposal I was writing back in 2004/2005 for a 3.5 edition book about the Expert NPC class, namely the engineer, appraiser, cartographer, courtesan, and forger. From there, I just expanded the list and tried to include at least one for each of the four main classes (this time, I didn't create any for the three demi-human races).

For clerics, I've gone back and forth on the chirurgeon as to whether it's too powerful or not. Given that the chirurgeon can only give a dead character a one-time saving throw versus death to try to recover, and can only do it on the round immediately after the character has died, I don't think it's too game-breaking. The scholar is essentially the same as the sage subclass of magic-users from my D12 Experts-Specialist Subclasses list.

For fighters, I originally had a "constable" but ultimately ended up changing that to the city watch. For the engineer, I tried to make it different enough to stand out from the siege engineer and artillerist from the D12 Experts-Specialists Subclasses, but also not have it involved in the actual building or crafting of structures, since that's not really something exciting for an adventurer to worry about.

The magic-user subclass for this list was a bit difficult. I originally had a "guild mage" on my list, but decided that wasn't all that different from the standard magic-user. In my head when putting together these city/urban subclasses, I envisioned a slightly higher technology level in a later time period that the standard medieval environment of most games, and the idea of a character specializing in hypnotism and mesmerism seemed like a good fit for a city campaign. The idea is that the mesmerist uses hypnotism to put someone "at ease" and make it easier for them to be subject to other spells.

The thief class got the most subclasses on this list. The courtesan class was inspired by the "doxy" character concept that I was asked to write for my Quintessential Expert proposal. I liked the term courtesan better, as it referred mainly to someone who uses dignified etiquette to attract wealth, powerful, or influential clients. Originally the word came from the term courtier and wasn't necessarily sexual in nature. You could call it an escort as well. For the spymaster, I originally just called it a spy, but I'm trying to avoid repeating names that Dyson Logos used for his subclasses, and he had a spy as one of his. I changed it to infiltrator for a bit, but ultimately settled on spymaster.

Similar to the D12 Wilderness subclasses I posted earlier this week, I think that a DM who tells players that they can pick a subclass from this list also immediately helps with world-building - it signals to the players that they'll be participating in a different kind of adventure than a standard dungeon crawl, but one full of intrigue, social interactions, and perhaps law-and-order.

As with all of my subclasses (and any of my other Open Game Content) here on the blog, I always welcome your comments, suggestions, and yes, even criticisms (as long as they are backed with reasons).

Hanging: Home office (laptop) and living room (hand-written notes on a notebook)
Drinking: tap water
Listening: "Wristband" by Paul Simon, from the album "Stranger to Stranger"


  1. Detective: Perhaps have the Spot Disguise scale with Level or replace Find Traps % with Spot Disguise/Infiltrator ?

  2. Thanks so much! I like the idea of it scaling with level, and the Find or Remove Traps scale works okay up until about level 7 or 8, I think. After that, it almost makes the Assassin's ability useless. I might update it to something like +2% to +5% per level. Thanks again!


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