Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Open Game Content: D12 Sword & Planet Subclasses for B/X or Old School Essentials Games

Love Romances Publishing /
Allen Anderson / Public domain
After a long delay due to continuing editing work on Long Sword by Fantasy Heartbreaker Games as well as helping my daughter finish up her last month of online distance learning for her school in addition to work and helping out my dad, I'm back with another set of D12 Subclasses for B/X or Old School Essentials games. As a reminder, the genesis of these subclasses were inspired by the original D12 subclasses created by Dyson Logos.

For other subclasses in the series, you can go to the subclasses tag for the full list, which includes Experts/Specialists, Wilderness, City-Based/Urban, Naval/Sea-Based, Horror, and Fairy Tales, as well as D12 Sorcerer Bloodlines I created for a B/X-Old School Essentials Sorcerer class I developed.

As I mentioned in my last post, based on comments and requests I've received on Facebook and MeWe, I'm working on tightening these up and getting some new layout and some art done so I can publish these as PDFs for sale. I'll be writing a more official announcement on that soon.

If you're read this section before, you can just skip down to the DESIGNER NOTES.

For those are haven't seen my previous posts or Dyson's original D12 subclasses, the idea with these is that every character in the game would take a subclass to keep things balanced, as the subclasses are slightly more powerful than standard B/X classes. If a player opts not to take a subclass and prefers to use the standard B/X classes, the referee should award that player's character an extra +10% to earned XP.

These subclasses are intended to be short, quick modifications to allow for a bit of customization without creating an entirely new class, so while there may be a whole host of additional abilities you could think of to add to each subclass, they would most likely make it too overpowered or would warrant creating a new class instead of modifying an existing one. Each class adds one or two new abilities, and often removes something as well as a balancing feature.

This group of subclasses was by far the most difficult to create, both in terms of coming up with 12 distinct, but broadly defined, roles that could depict the genre, as well as figuring out which standard class would make the best option to modify to create the subclasses. The sword and planet genre is quite fascinating in that it has it roots in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series and the related pastiches that came after, but also encompasses newspaper comic strip and early movie serial characters like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Some 1980's animated series such as Blackstar, the Pirates of Dark Water, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe are also often considered part of the genre, and some would argue that popular works such as Dune and Star Wars are also at least tangentially related.

I tried to pick subclasses archetypes that were common among a wide of array of sword and planet source materials, while also adding some of my own ideas that fit the genre, such as the tech priest. The list started with the "Plucky Princess," inspired by Dejah Thoris, which is why I didn't also include a princess subclass in my Fairy Tale list (instead renaming her a "clever girl" for that list). Since I had added the "plucky" adjective to the name, I decided to keep that naming convention throughout this list.

One of the biggest sword and planet genre conventions is that characters typically wear little or no armor or clothing (in some cases, they might be completely naked or dressed only in a sheer gown or a cape and nothing else), so you'll notice a lot of the abilities are based on adding to the character's armor class if they are wearing little or no armor.

Another thing I struggled with a bit for this list was how to utilize dwarves, elves, and halflings. In the end, I just turned them into aliens, with the idea that I was basing the subclasses on the mechanics of the base class, but that the appearance and culture would be left up to the referee and players to determine. "Animal-men" are a frequent character archetype in this genre, which is where the birdman and catman came from. I had a longer list that also included a reptile-man but I removed it to make room for some of the other subclasses. 

You'll notice that there's a "red alien" but no others for green, yellow, white, black, etc. The "noble savage" subclass would be used to replicate a "green martian" from Barsoom, but for the most part, most of the other martians in that series are relatively human-like for the most part, other than their skin color and long life, so ultimately I decided to just use the "red alien" as an example. I encourage people who want different color martians/aliens to use these subclasses as inspirations to create your own new ones.

The heroic outlander is intended to be used to create characters like John Carter, Jonathan Dark (aka "Jandor") from the Callisto series, or Buck Rogers. For this subclass as well as the plucky princess, I got inspiration from some articles that James Maliszewski wrote about way back in 2009 on his Grognardia blog. 

The inspiration for the merciless ruler should be pretty obvious, and the cunning mentalist is another character type that appears frequently in this genre. The sky pirate seemed like a natural fit for the thief class.

This is a genre that's really ripe for experimentation and creativity, to add things like ray guns, air ships, scores of different aliens, and weird scientific gadgets. More on that will be coming soon.

In the meantime, here are the subclasses. As always, I very much welcome your comments, inputs, suggestions, and critiques.


  1. Awesome!

    Although the Plucky Princess reads more like Princess Aura or Princess Ardala to me... more like a Royal Foil than a Plucky Princess. :P

    Speaking of Pirates of Dark Water, it had more to do with my two Stormbringer/Elric campaigns than Moorcock did. Noy jitat!

    1. Thanks, Chris!

      Yeah, with these archetypes, I tried to pick elements from the main inspirational resources to come up with a "one size fits all" subclass, so while I was originally inspired by Dejah Thoris in terms of thinking of the idea of a strong female character, elements from other sources like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers definitely crept in.

      Interestingly enough... I missed "Pirates of Darkwater" originally - I was in college when the first season came out. Interestingly, I was totally fine with watching "Animaniacs" at that time, but I didn't get into more "serious" animation at that age for some reason.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...