Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blogging the Dragon: Healers, Jesters and Witches.

I was going through my index of Dragon back issues, looking for items to add to my ever-growing "Hooks, Encounters, and Brainstorms" file.

Issues 3-5 contain some suggestions for NPC classes. I won't go into as much detail with them as I did earlier with the Alchemist class; but I'll summarize them, along with my ideas for using them in a campaign:

Issue #3 gives us the Healer and Scribe NPC classes. I can understand why you'd want a doctor-type NPC. He would be a secular alternative to the evangelistic Cleric. The Healer's science-based methods might not be as effective as a cleric's Cure spell, but his understanding of anatomy is superior, which can make him valuable as a trainer for a military organization or knightly order, or as a state-sponsored physician, or a prison inspector. Unfortunately, the Healer presented in The Dragon is a spellcaster, like a Cleric, but not as powerful, which makes him redundant in a typical fantasy RPG setting.

The Scribe is offered as someone who can be hired to transfer spells from scrolls and spellbooks to a PC's spellbook. It seems that nowadays most rules allow for the PC to do this himself somehow. Even if that were not the case, there are ways you can make this happen without having to utilize an official class.

Following are the Samurai and Berserker classes. Naturally, the Samurai is well-treated in modern rulebooks and supplements; so I chose to ignore the article. The Berserker, on the other hand, looks like an interesting predecessor to the Barbarian. They're similar in that they both can fly into a rage; but in the Berserker's case the timing is at the DM's discretion. Also, the Berserker is described as belonging to a lycanthropic clan. So I promised myself I'd revisit this concept by adding this line to my Hooks, Encounters, and Brainstorms index:
  • The PC's must neutralize the threat of a roving clan of evil berserkers (issue 3).
Finally in issue 3 we have the Idiot and the Jester. Basically, these two classes are designed to cause confusion in an enemy. They use Charisma as a barbarian uses Strength. It's up to you to find or create a good class description, but here's what I entered in my index:
  • An Idiot or Jester is employed by an underground organization to disrupt the PCs' investigation into the organization's affairs (issue 3).
I didn't find anything of value in issue #4, so skipping on to 5...

Issue 5 gives us some very deep insight into Witches and witchcraft. The article doesn't actually contain rules for a character class, but there it does contain a plethora of witch lore. Here's what the article inspired in me:
  • The young sister of an accused witch asks the party to intervene, before her older sister is burned at the stake. Meanwhile, a malevolent witch is sabotaging the local witch hunt by serving on the town council. (issue 5).
You have to be careful how you handle this plot idea. In a high-fantasy world where even the clergy are casting spells, witches might not be persecuted solely for the fact that they are spellcasters. Rather, there may be a stigma associated with the witches' culture. Their deities could be in direct conflict with the popular local pantheon, or maybe they are seen as belonging to a culture of sadism and falsehood. Maybe they are thought to be cursed -- that their mere presence brings pestilence and decay.

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