Simple Combination Classes

Here are some rules for adding simple combination classes to old-style D&D and retro clones. (This is what I do in my D&D inspired house campaign with the kids.)  Basically the idea is that players are free to choose to be dual classed, and each combination has its own name and role, and one or more minor special abilities.  Some of the specifics relate to other rules I’ve added like Talents (swiped from Tunnels and Trolls, a Talent is a bonus you get to rolls involving areas that Talent covers).
First off, I’ve added two classes so that there’s a class that uses each Primary attribute.  Obviously you can ignore those and all the combos that involve them if you like.  I also strip Clerics of their fighting and armor-wearing abilities; in my campaign Priests fight like Mages… if you want an armor-wearing, mace-swinging caster of clerical spells you take a Monk or a Paladin, depending on which aspect is more important.

Ranger

  • Primary Stat is Constitution
  • d8 Hit Die
  • Cannot wear armor heavier than Medium Armor
  • Can wield swords, knives, bows, slings, and spears, and thrown weapons
  • Can use shields
  • Save as Fighter
  • Special Talent: Survival at first level (better of two d6)
  • Bonus equal to level on Ability Rolls using Survival Talent.
  • Combat as Cleric
  • Move Silently and Hide in Shadows as a Thief, but only in the wilderness
  • Climb as Thief
  • Animal Companion: have a loyal, trained domestic animal as a companion.

Actor

  • Primary Stat is Charisma, Charisma Bonuses are doubled
  • d4 Hit Die
  • Cannot wear Armor heavier than Light Armor
  • Can wield only Light Weapons
  • Cannot use Shields
  • Special Talent of Acting at 1st level (better of two d6)
  • Save/Ability Bonuses +1/Level Cha
  • Get a bonus equal to Level to Acting Ability Rolls
  • Actors get one additional Talent at 1st level

Combination Classes

Primary/

Secondary

Fighter Mage Priest Thief Ranger Actor
Fighter Magic Knight Paladin Brigand Barbarian Swashbuckler
Mage Wizard Seer Rogue Hermit Witch
Priest Monk Thaumaturge Charlatan Druid Oracle
Thief Assassin Mountebank Cultist Outlaw Spy
Ranger Scout Explorer Shaman Hunter Emissary
Actor Bard Conjurer Evangelist Jester Minstrel

In order to qualify for a Combination Class you must have a minimum score of 9 in each Primary Stat. E.g. a Magic Knight must have at least STR 9 and INT 9.
Combination Classes get:

  • The better of the hit-dice between the two classes
  • The armor restrictions of the Primary
  • The better of the weapon Restrictions
  • At first level, they are treated as being 1st level in both classes at once (e.g. spells/level, special abilities and saving throws).
  • They advance in their Primary class on even levels and their Secondary class on odd levels; they get the better of the Saving rolls.  E.g. A 4th Level Paladin is treated as the better of a 3rd level Fighter and a 2nd Level Priest for saves.  A 6th Level Thaumaturge casts Priestly spells as a 4th level Priest and Mage spells as a 3rd level Mage. Upate: When I first posted this I had the write-up reversed… if you start at 1/1 and advance in the primary faster, the sequence goes: 1/1; 2/1; 2/2; 3/2; 3/3…
  • Some Combinations have special abilities of their own

Fighter Primary

Magic Knight (Fighter/Mage)

Magic Knights are fighters who employ magic to aid them in war.

  • Magic Knights may cast spells even with weapons in their hands
  • Magic Knights have the ability to enchant their arms and armor. Starting at 1st level, whatever weapons and armor they have count as enchanted. Every third level (rounded down) they get a bonus of +1/+1 to their arms and armor. This bonus doesn’t stack with other pluses on the weapons.

Paladin (Fighter/Priest)

Paladins are holy champions of their God.

  • Save as the better of a Fighter or a Priest of their full level
  • May choose one first level spell that they can cast as a permanent ability: once per day per Priest level, requires no preparation (i.e. does not occupy a “slot”).

Brigand (Fighter/Thief)

Brigands are highwayman, ambushing travelers and using their skills to elude pursuit (or to open such locked strongboxes that the travelers might have).

  • Hide in Shadows as a Thief of their full level

Barbarian (Fighter/Ranger)

Barbarians are warriors from uncivilized lands, where the ability to survive in the wilderness is almost as important as the ability to swing a sword.

  • May choose one of the following abilities:
    • Hardihood: add Con bonus to HP at first level. Each new Hit Die roll twice and take the better.
    • Rage: once per day per level gain +Con bonus damage for the duration of a fight, then take Con bonus in fatigue damage when the fight ends.
    • Animal Companion: may choose an exotic, but non-magical, animal companion such as a wolf or an eagle.

Swashbuckler (Fighter/Actor)

Swashbucklers are flamboyant fighters who use their Charisma and sense of drama to aid them in fighting and leading troops.

  • May use the better of their Charisma bonus or Dex bonus in hand-to-hand combat
  • Use their Acting bonus on Leadership and Morale rolls

Mage Primary

Wizards (Mage/Fighter)

Wizards are adventuring Mages that specialize in combat-oriented magic, and learn to use arms to supplement their magical power.

  • Wizards may cast spells while holding weapons.

Seer (Mage/Priest)

Seers are Mages who probe the secrets of the universe in the furtherance of the cause of their God.

  • Cast Divination or Information spells as a Mage or Priest of their full level.

Rogue (Mage/Thief)

Rogues are Rogue Mages who will stoop to theft, deception, and perhaps even assassination in their quest for magical power.

  • Can cast spells they are at least 1 level higher than the minimum required to cast with their hands full. (So a Rogue can start casting 1st level spells without gesturing at 2nd level, but needs to be 5th level to cast 2nd level spells hands-free.)
  • Can cast spells they are at least 3 levels higher than the minimum without speaking.

Hermit (Mage/Ranger)

Hermits are Mages who live in the wilderness so as not to be distracted by civilization in the pursuit of their magical research. Hermits are much more concerned with the why of magic than the how.

  • Research all their own spells: do not have to pay Wizard’s Guild for new spells, instead spend one quarter the normal cost of research in gold to acquire ingredients and books (often by hiring adventurers).
  • Animal Companion: can have a magical animal companion, as the Familiar spell without taking that spell, or an ordinary domestic animal companion as per Ranger.

Witch (Mage/Actor)

Witches are Mages who employ the skills of Acting to help accomplish their goals, it’s all part of Headology, you see.

  • Witches may add their Acting Talent to the difficulty of any Saving Rolls targets have to make to spells involving Headology (roughly illusion, mind control, charm).

Priest Primary

Monks (Priest/Fighter)

Monks are holy men who have trained in the arts of war.

  • Monks may wear Light Armor (despite their Primary class being restricted to Cloth Armor).
  • Monks may choose one weapon (subject to restrictions that their god might impose) with which they fight as if Fighter was their Primary class (i.e. bonuses to combat one level early).

Thaumaturge (Priest/Mage)

Thaumaturges (literally miracle-workers) use their Magic and Prayer to the greater glory of their Gods.

  • Save as the better of a Priest or Mage of their full level

Charlatan (Priest/Thief)

Charlatans are priests, who steal by preying upon people’s religious sensibilities. They are actually genuine priests, but not of the God they profess to serve. Their real God is a secret God, who approves of their duplicity (whether for evil purposes or just as a trickster). So as to avoid retribution, the god they pretend to worship is one who is either forgotten or better yet, doesn’t actually exist. Since there are a myriad of Gods, they are seldom caught out just for this.

  • Resist attempts to detect lies, even magical ones, as the better of a Thief or a Priest of their full level.

Druid (Priest/Ranger)

Druids are priests of the forest and wild lands.

  • Cast spells related to nature as a Priest of their full level.
  • Can speak the languages of the animals native to the region.
  • Animal Companion: can have an exotic or magical animal as an animal companion (as the Familiar spell).

Oracle (Priest/Actor)

Oracles are Priests who use the talents of Acting to impress their followers and give weight and import to the dictates of their gods. Unlike Evangelists they are not concerned with spreading the faith (“putting butts in the seats”) as much as they are in making sure that their God’s will is carried out, which means making certain specific people (not necessarily even followers) believe that it’s important to carry it out.

  • Bonus equal to their Wisdom Bonus to Ability Rolls to persuade or impress someone with a pronouncement by the god (this is in addition to the bonus for Acting)
  • Cast spells of Divination as a Priest of their full level.

Thief Primary

Assassins (Thief/Fighter)

Assassins are Thieves who specialize in killing people quickly and silently.

  • Sneak Attack as a Thief of their full level

Mountebank (Thief/Mage)

Mountebanks are Thieves who use magic to aid in their quest for riches. Most times, that entails using deception to appear to be more powerful Mages than they are, so that they can secure funds from the gullible for further magical research. Mountebanks often pose as Alchemists, and trick rulers into thinking they can change lead into gold or some such, and are merely in need of funds to scale up the process, or as Healers selling elixirs to the crowds.

  • Mountebanks can cast spells while their hands are full, and without speaking.

Cultist (Thief/Priest)

Cultists worship forbidden gods. While their primary class is Priest, they use the stealth and deceptive abilities of their secondary class to conceal the nature of their worship and carry out the forbidden designs of their gods. Unlike Charlatans they may not appear to be Priests at all, though if they are openly Priests then they too will pretend to serve a non-existent God. Cultists aren’t necessarily Evil: in Evil lands, a Cultist may be a secret worshiper of a Good deity.

  • Resist attempts to detect lies, even magical ones, as the better of a Thief or a Priest of their full level.

Outlaw (Thief/Ranger)

Robin Hood.

  • Hide in Shadows as a Thief of their full level.
  • Sneak Attack as a Thief of their full level when using a missile weapon.

Spy (Thief/Actor)

Spies gather information and carry out espionage for their patrons, employing Acting to deceive and disguise.

  • Bonus to lie or deceive (but not perform) as an Actor of their full level.
  • Hide in Shadows, Move Silently and Pick Locks as a Thief of their full level.

Ranger Primary

Scout (Ranger/Fighter)

Scouts are woodsmen who are trained in combat and serve as lookouts and advance forces for the military, penetrating deep into hostile territory, or keeping watch for trouble in the wilderness.

  • Sneak attack as a Thief equivalent to Ranger level (e.g. 5th Level  Scout Sneak attacks as a 3rd level Thief), only in the wilderness.
  • Hide in Shadows as a Thief of their full level, only in wilderness.

Explorer (Ranger/Mage)

Explorers seek to explore and understand the world, and use magic to further their explorations. They have a strong preference for spells of transportation and clearing the way forward, though they’re not above using combat spells to get themselves out of a tight pinch.

  • Can cast spells related to travel (e.g. Spider Climb, Expeditious Retreat) as a Mage of their full level.

Shaman (Ranger/Priest)

Shaman are woodsman who serve the gods and spirits of the forest, and who often serve as witch-doctors to primitive tribes.

  • Cast spells related to nature as a Priest of their full level

Relic Hunter (Ranger/Thief)

Relic Hunters travel the world seeking out and recovering lost treasures.

  • Relic Hunters Detect and Remove Traps and Pick Locks as Thieves of their full level.

Emissary (Ranger/Actor)

Emissaries are sent on behalf of rulers (and others) on missions of good-will, where the goal is to communicate and persuade. They are hardy travelers, since getting there is often half the battle, and persuasive speakers.

  • Can demand Right of Safe Passage in civilized (and many uncivilized) lands.
  • Bonuses to Diplomacy as an Actor of their full level.

Actor Primary

Bard (Actor/Fighter)

Bards are performers who are trained in combat, and to aid in combat, inspiring troops and signaling on the battlefield with their horns and pipes.

  • Charisma bonuses for morale are applicable within earshot of their instruments on the battlefield.
  • Loyalty and henchmen/hireling rules apply as a Fighter of their full level, but based on their Actor Charisma bonuses.

Conjurer (Actor/Mage)

Conjurers are performers who use magic to entertain the crowds.

  • Cast spells of Illusion as a Mage of their full level.

Evangelist (Actor/Priest)

Evangelists are interesting in getting the good word out there, reaching out to the masses, and attracting followers to their religion (or increasing the devotion of the existing followers if there aren’t competing religions). They’re not above putting on a good show for a good cause.

  • Add half their level (rounded up) to Loyalty rolls.
  • Cast “mass” form of spells as a Priest of their full level.

Jester (Actor/Thief)

Jesters are performers, courtiers and sometimes spies. They enjoy a privileged position of being able to tell the uncomfortable truth, as long as it’s cloaked in a jest. All Jesters employ sleight of hand, subterfuge, and snooping in order to ascertain what is the truth. Most Jesters are simply performers; adventuring Jesters go further and actually serve as collectors of information for their patrons (often, but not always, the person ostensibly employing them).

  • Privileged position: people who openly take any action against a Jester for something said “in jest” become laughingstocks.
  • Jesters can use anything that comes to hand as a weapon with no penalty, from long hours practice with comic props.  Count blunt instruments as a club, edged as a dagger.

Minstrel (Actor/Ranger)

Minstrels are traveling performers.

  • Safe Passage: Minstrels can demand safe passage for themselves, and as long as they take no hostile action they are free to travel where they will.
  • Hospitality: Minstrels are almost always welcome where ever they go, and outside major cities will be put up for free at least for a short while unless the hosts have a very good reason not to, for news and entertainment are hard to come by.

11 thoughts on “Simple Combination Classes

  1. Doug says:

    I like the combinations. The problem I see with it is, like in 3rd edition DnD, for a spellcaster to not have access to spells of their full caster level really reduces their power level.

    Since generally adventures are designed for a certain power level, if you actually try and play a combination of different focused classes, you end up not being able to be effective in either class. (You’re not a good enough fighter to fight, and not a good enough caster to have spells that are effective against enemies of your level.

    There are probably ways to overcome this, but it’s something to think about/playtest.

  2. Joshua says:

    @Doug the caster issue is why you start at 1/1. I think I might even have described the progression wrong in the main post: the idea is 1/1, 2/1, 2/2, 3/2, 3/3, etc. We haven’t played to a high enough level to tell if the combo classes, which start out with a bit of a leg up, are so much weaker as it progresses that it’s an issue… this is old-style D&D so there’s not as much per-level power-creep as in 3e (IMO) and one of the biggest, if not the biggest, things you get per-level is HP, which is just as good for combos as pure classes (and in the case of most spell-caster mixes better). Still, it’s something to keep an eye on.

  3. Russell says:

    I disagree about the level effects increasing with editions. If anything, higher level spells were nerfed in later editions so that they would be less game-changing than they were in OD&D, They wanted people still to be wandering around in dungeons at umpty ump level, not setting up keeps or waging wars.

    Consider the best offensive spells available to an OD&D wizard:
    Level 1: sleep. Pretty much the only offensive spell, and obsolete by mid-levels since didn’t affect 4 hit die creatures.
    Level 2: Phantasmal forces.
    Level 3: Fire ball and lightning bolt. Wipe out huge groups of foes.
    Level 4: Poly other. Save or be a newt.
    Level 5 Cloudkill. OK, you no longer have to actually enter the dungeon to exterminate everyone.
    Level 6: Disintegration, Death. Roll up a new character.

    I don’t know if it’s really an issue in your game, but you can’t blame every problem on new editions…

  4. Joshua says:

    Casters… maybe…but a Lightning Bolt or Fireball isn’t even always an encounter-ender against a lot of the creatures you might be meeting at that level (Vampire is 7-9 HD, Chimera 9, Black Pudding 10, even without its immunity, etc.) Also, party buffs are crazy strong and important in 3e compared to OD&D, which had haste (albeit a better version) and that’s about it.

    And the idea that a mid-to-high level fighter in OD&D has anything going for him that makes him a much better fighter other than a bunch more hit-points (which combos get in my system) and gear that’s forbidden to the casters (ditto) is silly. +1 to hit and +2 to saves every three levels is nothing compared to the feat trees of 3e.

  5. Russell Impagliazzo says:

    I think you’re missing the point. Doug was talking about the handicap for spell-casters not having a spell of their highest level. Yes, having a high-level spell didn’t guarantee success for a high-level caster, but not having it guaranteed suckage. Your sleep spell was absolutely worthless vs. the ogres you met at 4th level. Having party buffs (many at second level) and so on actually makes a 3e wizard useful even without the highest level spells (I played such a multi-class wizard/cleric reasonably successfully by doing so.) This option isn’t available to the 0D&D mu (but neither is multi-classing…)

    Also, the real game-changing spells like Flight, Invisibility, Dimension Door, and Polymorph Self were there from the start, and they were much less restricted. A high-level mu wasn’t just a scaled-up low-level mu.

    It is true that 3e tries (not quite successfully) to balance the power curves for spell-casters and non-spell-casters. So the derivatives for fighters and rogues became steeper as that for wizards and clerics was levelled. But I don’t think this is too relevant to the discussion.

  6. Joshua says:

    Reread what Doug said: “You’re not a good enough fighter to fight, and not a good enough caster to have spells that are effective against enemies of your level.” That’s not a problem if you are a good enough fighter to fight, which you certainly would be if you bolted this on to something like OD&D where the difference between fighter levels other than increased HP (which you would get) is minimal. If anything, Fighter/Mages have it too good: same HP, weapons, and armor as Fighters, and nearly as good attack and saves until quite late in the game. That’s what I would be more worried about, if I thought anybody would actually get to 15th level…

  7. Joshua says:

    Now, maybe double-spellcaster (Mage/Priest or Priest/Mage) would have the problem that Doug describes, where neither side is good enough compared to a pure one of the same level…. that’s something to keep an eye on if anybody ever plays one.

  8. Mike says:

    Thanks for posting this, it looks really good. I was the guy that requested you post this over at Grognardia. Been very busy and only now have had a chance to look at it. I still think the idea is inspired.
    If advancement is handled as it is in AD&D with separate experience tracked for each class, the combined classes will be quite powerful, since they will be only a level or 2 less than a single classed character. If it is done like D&D 3.0, where they will be ½ level, that might be a problem.
    It sounds like you handle like 3.0. I’m still not sure they would be underpowered owing to the better of the hit points and weapons, plus the special abilities. Fighter/Mages would have fighter HP, Armor and Weapons. Would give up ¼ BAB for magic abilities, plus the ability to enchant weapons and armor. (not sure why anyone would play a mage/fighter, no heavy armor, no enchant weapons and armor, same everything else) The Priest/Mage might be a little under powered.

  9. Joshua says:

    I do XP per level a bit more like 3.0 than AD&D (basically each level cost 1000 XP, but XP awards are divided by your total level so that an orc that’s worth 100 XP at first level is only worth 50 XP to a 2nd level adventurer, and 33 to a 3rd level, etc), but if I were trying to preserve the old D&D different xp progressions per level, I would probably do it so that XP was tracked separately per level, but at a given level you’re only earning on one track.

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