10 April 2014

Classic D&D Class Options List, revisited

Over the years, one of the common topics of discussion among BECMI, and those of the other Classic D&D editions, players has been the "limited" class options in the game. It's always tempting to write up a bunch of homebrew classes, or try and split up the races and classes like AD&D did, but it occurs to me that if we take a look at what's really there for the game, some of that temptation. Let's flip through the various books and review, then we can decide what, if anything, is missing.

"Core" Classic Rulebooks:
Magic User

OD&D Supplement I: Greyhawk
Dwarf Fighter
Dwarf Cleric (technically presented as an NPC option, but I won't tell TSR if you let your players use it)
Dwarf Thief
Dwarf Fighter/Thief
Elf Fighter
Elf Cleric
Elf Thief
Elf Fighter/Magic-User/Thief
Half-Elf (Treat as the standard Elf class, but note the level limits vary)
Half-Elf Fighter/Magic-User/Cleric (with lofty ability score requirements)
Hobbit (Halfling) Fighter
Hobbit Thief
Paladin (1st level start, different than the standard Companion Rules "prestige class")

OD&D Supplement II: Blackmoor

OD&D Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry
EW is also the source of the Classic D&D rules for PC psionics, If you care to adopt them.

Companion:Druid (high level Cleric subclass)
Knight (high level Fighter subclass)
Paladin (high level Fighter subclass)
Avenger (high level Fighter subclass)
Magist (high level Magic User "subclass", more of a role than a class, no real unique abilities)
Magus (high level Magic User "subclass", more of a role than a class, no real unique abilities)
Guildmaster  (high level Thief "subclass", more of a role than a class, no real unique abilities)
Rogue  (high level Thief "subclass", more of a role than a class, no real unique abilities)

Mystic (sort of a cloistered monk class)
Guidelines for non-human (and non-elf) spellcasters, handy if you use one of the spellcasting add ons for shaman types found in the books below.

This set obviously introduces a bunch of new options for ultra-high level PCs, but these are beyond the scope of basic class options.

Gazetteer 2, The Emireates of Ylaruam
Dervish (a desert themed druid variant)

Gazetteer 3, The Principalities of Glantri
Magic Crafts: (variant "specialty" class options for magic users)

Gazetteer 5, The Elves of Alfheim
Special rules for "splitting" the elf class to focus on either fighting or magic use

Gazetteer 6, The Dwarves of Rockhome
Dwarf Cleric

Gazetteer 8, The Five Shires
Halfling Master (Spellcasting class for Halflings)

Gazetteer 9, The Minrothad Guilds
Merchant Prince (seafaring spellcaster with a pirate flavor)

Gazetteer 10, The Orcs of Thar
These are all basically fighter type classes for the various humanoid races.
Shaman (this is an add on to the race based classes above, giving them minor cleric spellcasting)
Wicca (this is an add on to the race based classes above, giving them minor magic user spellcasting)

Gazetteer 11, The Republic of Darokin
Merchant (a travelling trader with minor spellcasting)

Gazetteer 12, The Golden Khan of Ethengar
Horse Warrior (a fighter subclass for the mounted warrior)
Bratak (a thief subclass with a penchant for spying, diplomacy and riding)
Hakomon (a magic user variant)
Shaman (a cleric variant for the less civilized)

Gazetter 13, The Shadow Elves
Shadow Elf (a minor variation on standard elves)

Gazetteer 14, The Atruaghin Clans
Shamani (another totemic cleric variant)

Dawn of the Emperors Gazetteer (Boxed Set)
Forester (a human version of the magic using fighter elf class)
Rake (a thief variant geared toward burglary and adventuring instead of backstabbing and muggings)

Creature Crucible 1 - Tall Tales of the Wee Folk
Wood Imp
These are, with a couple exceptions, just the typical "fighter" versions of these races, but as with the Orcs of Thar, rules are included for adding on to the class to grant some spellcasting abilities as well.

Creature Crucible 2 - Top Ballista
These are, with a couple exceptions, just the typical "fighter" versions of these races, but as with the Orcs of Thar, rules are included for adding on to the class to grant some spellcasting abilities as well.

Creature Crucible 3 - The Sea Folk
Aquatic Elf
Sea Giant
Shark Kin

Creature Crucible 4 - Night Howlers
Devil Swine

Hollow World Campaign Setting
Warrior Elf (an elf variant with no magical ability)
Krugel Orc
Kubitt (actually just a variant human "race", they use the normal human classes but have racial modifiers and abilities)
Malpheggi Lizardman
Once again, rules are included for adding on to the class to grant some spellcasting abilities as well.

Hollow World, Kingdom of Nithia Sourcebook
These are all just variant fighters, with specific bonuses offset by reduced general abilities
War Cleric
This is just a variant cleric, with specific bonuses offset by reduced general abilities
Mage Scribe
These are all just variant magic users, with specific bonuses offset by reduced general abilities
Royal Seal Bearer
These are all just variant thieves, with specific bonuses offset by reduced general abilities

Hollow World, Milenian Empire Sourcebook
Cleric of Halav
Cleric of Matera
Cleric of Petra
Cleric of Protius
These are all just variant clerics, with specific bonuses offset by reduced general abilities
Griffon Rider (A variant fighter class)

TSR Magazines
Strategic Review Magazine #2

Strategic Review Magazine #4

Strategic Review Magazine #6

(The) Dragon Magazine #2

(The) Dragon Magazine #3
Woman Fighter
Woman Magic-User
Woman Thief
Woman Cleric
Apparently Len Lakofka's campaign setting has no female Elves, Dwarves or Halflings ... harumph! All kidding aside, I included these for completeness, I doubt anyone would actually use them in 2014 :)
Dwarf Fighter
Dwarf Thief
Dwarf Cleric

(The) Dragon Magazine #12

(The) Dragon Magazine #16

(The) Dragon Magazine #20

(The) Dragon Magazine #26
Mugger (A class for a D&D variant based in "inner city 1979")

Dragon Magazine #158
N'djatwa - Magic-User(A weird half elf/half ogre hybrid race)
N'djatwa - Druid

Dragon Magazine #176
Robrenn Druid (A first level druid variant)
Druidic Knight (A druid-fighter hybrid Companion-rules style "prestige class")

Dragon Magazine #178
Elven Cleric
Elven Paladin (A Companion-rules style "prestige class")
Elven Avenger (A Companion-rules style "prestige class")
Elven Knight  (A Companion-rules style "prestige class")
Half-Elf (A template of sorts, applied to the human classes to reflect the racial differences)

Dragon Magazine #181
Lupin (A template of sorts, applied to the human classes to reflect the racial differences)
Rakasta (A template of sorts, applied to the human classes to reflect the racial differences)

Dragon Magazine #183

Dragon Magazine #185
These are all the fighter type class for their respective race. The article also includes notes on using the Shaman or Wicca (At this point renamed Wokani) options for spellcasting individuals, as in the Orcs of Thar Gazetteer.

Dragon Magazine #186 
Chameleon-Man Medicine Man

Dragon Magazine #187
Phanaton Shaman

Imagine Magazine #27
Freeman/Freewoman (A class for commoners)

Imagine Magazine #28
Lycanthrope (Dual stats for D&D and AD&D)

Wow! That's a ton of options. It has never really made a lot of sense to me why people complain that the options are limited. I understand that some players want totally customized, unique characters, but BECMI, and other early editions of D&D assume that characters will fit into some genre archetype.

If you expand the optional rules for humanoid shamans and wiccas (that allow them to take spellcasting abilities in addition to their normal class abilities in exchange for an increased experience cost to gain levels) to allow any of the non-human classes to purchase minor cleric or magic user spellcasting, a huge bunch of new options opens up, probably satisfying most players. Remember though, as soon as a character adopts the methods of a cleric or magic user, he should be bound by the same armor and weapon restrictions that those classes are, he may still use barred weapons and armor without penalty, but can't cast spells while doing so.

White Dwarf and other magazines, and products from early 3rd party publishers like Judges Guild, Games Workshop, Mayfair Games and others may also present new options, but I haven't went through them and checked.

If you don't have access to the OD&D books and other sources I bring up here, I'd recommend checking into some of the OSR 'clone' games. Swords & Wizardry and Mazes & Perils in particular are very OD&D friendly and revisit a lot of the same material via the Open Game License.

The OSR stuff can be an excellent source of new options and material too! Again, I dont have a detailed list yet, but things like Labyrinth Lord, Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Dark Dungeons and the supplements for those and other games offer some new choices not available in published form 30 years ago.


  1. Let's not conflate things so quickly.
    Options for OD&D are not options for BECMI.
    Options in setting books are not options in the core rules.
    Options in Dragon are definitely not options in the core rules.

    The first is most significant, and does away with a sizable chunk of both different system and magazine classes.
    Of the other two, a sizable portion are nothing but monster classes, which are going to have very limited access even in the most open campaign.
    Then we separate out those that are little more than very minor AD&D-defined "kits", being just class tweaks.
    Finally we have the ones that are setting dependent.
    So what is left?

    Magic User
    Dwarf Cleric
    Elf (Lord)
    Elf Wizard (location restricted)
    -Master (location restricted, expanded subclass)
    Mystic (NPC class)
    Dervish (NPC class, location restricted)
    Merchant Prince/Merchant (more like the Shaman and Wokani options for non-humans but with more potential)
    Horse Warrior/Bratak/Hakomon/Shaman (and "specialty" clerics) (location specific)
    Shadow Elf (really a monster class)
    Shamani (location restricted)
    Forester (power creep multi-classing)
    Rake ("angry mom" sellout)

    And that list of options is clearly not as extensive as you want to suggest.

    Now this is not to say that BECMI is as closed as some like to pretend, but it is also clearly not as wildly open as D20, or have as many kit options as AD&D.

    Of course even that neatly avoids addressing the quality of the options in AD&D and D20 versus those in BECMI.
    Looking back, I think that is where the real problem in development and evolution was; everyone became fixated on options for the sake of having options, and quality, as well as utility, balance, and all of the other major and minor factors, got lost in the process.

    1. I don't get your reasoning on why monster classes don't count. The whole point of the Creature Crucible line was to offer monster classes.

    2. I'm not a die hard nitpicker on the rules, so to me, the classes for OD&D are pretty much 99% compatible with BX or BECMI. Minor tweaks may be needed here and there, but that's the case when using anything beyond the core rules, no matter what edition.

      For this list also, I wasn't trying to compare the options in Classic to AD&D 1 or 2, or even 3e/D20 or 4e. One of the often heard criticisms of Classic, even OD&D, is that they lack options beyond F, M, T, C classes (OD&D doesn't even have Thieves if you stick just to book 1-3!), so I took it upon myself to catalog the classes and options available for those who might want them.

      Granted, I don't encourage trying to use or allow everything (Tim Kask warns against this as well in Dragon Mag. when they start printing the variants), nor would I encourage a 3e DM to do the same. Pick what works for your game and campaign setting and go wild.

      @Hedgehobbit: I think he was just pointing out that for a given campaign and DM, a lot of the options I listed, especially monster and mystara/hollow world cultural specific classes, will be barred from use for being silly, overpowered or just too alien to the milieu the DM is creating. Let's face it, some of the Creature Crucible classes are pretty silly or comparably over or under powered compared to the core Basic set classes.

    3. As Darva said:
      Monster classes are nice in theory, poor in permission, and often worse in balance.
      And let's imagine a party of a:
      Do I even need one hand to count the number of DMs who would allow that?
      At a certain point they become beyond superfluous and just form a list of stuff to be rejected automatically.
      Most people wind up considering that a problem to be addressed in the next rules revision rather than a feature to brag about.

      Options for the sake of options are a waste.
      A robust system than can handle options without breaking is a true feature.

    4. Samwise said: "Options for OD&D are not options for BECMI."

      How so? The differences between the classic systems are not significant. You can *easily* grab the ranger from Strategic Review #2 and run with it using Holmes, B/X, or BECMI with very little modification, if any.

  2. One of the great things about revisiting early RPGs is that the rules were really just suggestions, unlike the crunch-heavy products today. The choices are wide open. You don't even have to stick to something that's "like D&D" because at that time, it wasn't so clearly defined what D&D was; and more importantly, was not.

    In my opinion, if none of the fighter, wizard, cleric, thief, demihuman core seven work for your concept, or if you want to play a different race (even a weird one), just work it out with the DM. Grey Matter has rules for playing a Hill Giant and a Skeleton racial class and a gunslinger profession class. Mazes & Minotaurs has a Centaur class as a core class.

    There shouldn't be a hard rule against importing any trope or archetype or monster in the old games (although not everything is fair game, DM's option).

    Unless you're playing in some RPGA event (is that even still a thing?), make up whatever you want.

  3. My old BECMI group were reasonably flexible when it came to the rules. Later in our campaign a new player joined the group as a human, dual classed Magic-User/Thief. You might want to check out the details on my AD&D page at this link:


    Eventually we ended up moving to AD&D 2nd edition because it seemed to give more ready-to-use character class options, something that we were moving towards anyway. Some of our group also wanted to ditch their present characters for ones that were 'beefed up' in terms of ability scores. In this switch-over we kept our version of Mystara which included Dragonlance and Greyhawk elements. It was a mishmash setting.

    Plus, if you check out the link, you'll see we took the suggestion on the character sheet about recording things like 'monsters encountered' literally and created death tolls. The mix of opponents featured on those lists is interesting. The Elves in our party did a lot of damage with their sleep spells. Please note that I have not uploaded all the death tolls there .... hopefully I'll get it done in the next few weeks when I find time.

    There's an adventure page to the blog too. I mostly explain what everything is about on the site.

    Keep up the good work !

  4. Correction to that > a human multi-classed Magic-User/Thief !

  5. Silly? SILLY?! Well, yeah, some of them are silly. Some silly is good. Wanna make something of it? :D

    Anyway, say what you want, Creature Crucible brought in the Gnome to Basic D&D where he belongs and for that I'm grateful. Wanna make something of THAT? :D

    BTW, thanks for the Mazes & Perils shout-out.

    -DM Glen


Thanks for your comments!

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