December 30, 2011

A second look at Table 9: Extras

Alright, now we're getting to the fun stuff.

The previous tables cover the abilities and stats that are more or less shared between all the classes. These next two tables focus on the specialized abilities, skills, and talents that can help make a class unique.

Table 9 has the special abilities and skills that even humans can master.  I tend to think of these as teachable skills.  Table 10 on the other hand is for all the abilities that require non-human physiology or heritage.  Wings, gills, and eyes that see infrared are all definitely "beyond human".

Between those two extremes is a whole host of natural talents and innate magical abilities.  I'll leave it up to the individual DMs to decide which abilities their human classes can use.  Different campaign settings are going to put different limits on human potential.  You might give humans access to psychic talents and innate magic abilities, or reserve those for non-humans only.  If human clerics have the Turn Undead ability, can other human classes channel different supernatural forces; talking to spirits, summoning djinn, or making infernal pacts?  Different worlds are going to play by different rules.  It's really up to you to draw the dividing line between human and non-human abilities.

Table 9: Extras
Open Locks - +10%
Remove Traps - +10%
Pick Pockets - +10%
Move Silently - +10%
Climb Sheer Surfaces - +10%
Hide in Shadows - +10%
Hear Noise - +10%
Backstab - +10%

Student of Linguistics - +20%
(Read Languages 80% at L4 & Arcane Scroll use 10% failure at L9)

Turn Undead - +20%

Magic Research at L9: create spells, scrolls, and items - +25%

The only abilities I have listed in Table 9 are the ones already used by the human classes in B/X.  I'm sure to make additions, but for now I want this table to just be bare bones so that I can use it as a template for almost any setting.

The costs here are all highly subjective, so feel free to ignore my numbers and make up whatever costs seem fair to you.  Even if you want to keep the B/X xp tables unchanged, you could raise Backstab and Climb Sheer Surfaces to 15%, and lower Move Silently and Hear Noise down to 5%.  Trading percentage points between Turn Undead and the Cleric Spell Progression is really easy, same with Magic Research and Magic User Spell Progression (but that applies to the Elf class too).

If you want some rough guidelines...  

When making new abilities, I usually try to imagine what level of spell could create that same effect, then I set the cost at around 15% per spell level.  If the effectiveness of the ability is scaling based on character level (like thief skills and turn undead) or it doesn't start until the character reaches 4th level, I reduce that cost to about 1/2.  If the ability isn't gained until level 9, I reduce the cost to 1/4.

Good luck, and have fun!


  1. These work well for me, as you've seen. I also think that you can house-rule it so that characters could learn new skills, and pay the cost in a little XP increase to keep them balanced :)

  2. I've been thinking a lot about individual PCs learning new abilities on the fly, but I can't seem to decide exactly how I want to do it.

    The half cost for 4th level and quarter cost for 9th level that I mentioned above assumes that the class is paying these higher xp requirements even in the early levels before they have access to the ability. So to only begin paying for a skill at the level when it is gained should cost more than that.

    For a new ability that hasn't increased the earlier xp requirements, I'll probably use the full cost for that ability to determine the xp for every level after they've gained it. Then I don't need to worry that someone is taking advantage of the system to speed through the early levels for fast hp. It's far more cost effective pay a smaller percentage every level than to have a large jump and higher percentages later on.

    The scalable skills are harder to account for. The longer you wait, the less effective that skill will be. If someone suddenly decides at 5th level that their PC should have Open Locks equal to a 1st level thief, what's the cost of that? If they had planned it from the beginning I'd probably have them pay 5% each level in order to start progressing in Open Locks at 3th level. To suddenly gain it at 5th... I dunno, still 5%?

    Downtime might also be a factor. If the party spends a month living with a Dwarf clan and they all learn to speak Dwarvish, do you raise their xp after that or is it already covered by the month of downtime? I think what I'll do is make fluency in individual languages cost 5% (or 10% for 3 languages at 1st level). Spending a decent amount of downtime to learn the basics of a language costs 0%.

    I'm sure I'll just house-rule this stuff on the fly anyway, so I should just stop worrying about it.

  3. Great stuff! I'll be using this as the basis for calculating XP requirement when I create classes in BX. (Which I sometimes do). I think you made the right decision by tying in all XP to the BX leveling requirements instead of using a more subjective measure.

    With that being said... I've always felt that Clerics are undervalued from an XP standpoint. For everything they can do (very tough on defense, good on offense, good on hp, turn undead, healing, spell casting, good saves, etc), why are they only 1500xp to 2nd level and 3000xp to 3rd?

    Since I believe Clerics are so undervalued, it means that you are forced to undervalue certain unique clerical abilities. To me, that is why Turn Undead is only 20% - which seems very low. And that is why MU's have over TWICE the credit (250% vs. 120%) for their spell casting.

    In any case, I understand the desire to tie in to the BX totals, so I'm not criticizing your methodology. I've just never gotten over the Cleric XP thing. :)

    But as I said - great effort by you on this stuff and I will happily use it.


  4. Thanks for the kind words. I'm always flattered to hear that people appreciate my efforts.

    I tend to agree about clerics. They do seem to have the most Badass per XP. The low cost of Turn Undead and their spells might be because they are granted by an outside force. Clerics can instantly become nothing more than a crappy fighter if their deity gets pissed or goes missing.

  5. That's a cool idea. That didn't occur to me.