I don’t mean playing in a string vest while drinking Special Brew (that’s fine, we do that all the time), I mean getting rid of ‘class’ as in Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, etc. Bear with me, it’ll make sense in a minute.
You Are the Hero
A bit of background: me and a few friends have a weekend away coming up, so I wanted to create a little one-off adventure we can play one evening (or all day, let’s face it, we have no interest in going out). I thought it would be cool to do a modern-day adventure, where everyone plays themselves, and so starts off as useless ‘commoners’ and become proper adventurers (or corpses, depending how it goes).
One way of doing this is to play for a little while as level 0, with very little power or abilities, and after the first couple of encounters level-up into level 1 of one of the classes. My problem is that this just doesn’t fit a modern setting, where you start as – for example – a Project Manager, and then after fighting a few zombies/goblins/rats you become a level 1 Paladin, who can sense evil and has a healing touch (along with all the proficiencies, skills and saving throws). It just didn’t feel right.
So why not pull all the class features apart, and let everyone choose what they like, one ability at a time?
Just Crazy Enough to Work
Don’t get me wrong – this is not the basis for a sensible, long-running campaign. But for a one-off session, that reaches the equivalent of level 2 or 3, it might just work.
At the bottom of this post is my big list of abilities. Players choose one of the standard abilities during character creation, and gain more throughout the adventure. Most of these are ‘normal’ things a modern-day human could achieve, and allow the players to find their own niche in the group without simply saying “I’m a fighter/rogue/whatever”.
At some point in the adventure, they’ll able to choose one of the special abilities, which are a bit magical and so require some reason for them to be unlocked. Maybe they help some fairies, have a spiritual experience, or get bitten by a radioactive badger?
Skills and That
Weapon and armour proficiency is simple: if you can find it and pick it up/put it on, you can use it. In a modern setting most weapons are simple anyway (I’ll be setting it in the UK, so firearms will be very rare) – a kitchen knife is a dagger, a baseball bat is a club, etc. Armour will be whatever you can take off the things you kill, as well as some modern styles, like a hockey keepers kit or police stab vest.
So the process of creating your character goes like this: (I’m keeping it low level, so we can assume the proficiency bonus is fixed at +2)
- Assign the values 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 8 to the usual stats (Str, Dex, Con, etc), and determine modifiers as normal.
- Skills and saves are determined as normal, but:
- Choose one save to be good at – this gets an extra +2
- Choose two skills to be good at – these get an extra +2.
- Choose one general ability (below) – this might affect your skills, AC, speed, attacks, etc.
- Without any modifiers:
- Max HP = 10 +/- Con
- AC = 10 +/- Dex
- Speed = 30ft
- You start with no equipment, other than what would be expected of your character in the situation you start in.
- i.e. a lenient DM might let you start with a swiss army knife, some rope, a torch, etc.
As the adventure goes the characters will gain more skills, another save, more abilities and more stat points. Hopefully by the time the adventure is finished each character will have a series of abilities that define them and what they can do, but will have developed them in a gradual, organic way.
I’ve been playing around with the Natural Crit website (which is awesome by the way!), so this list of abilities is also available as a pretty PHB-style document: http://homebrewery.naturalcrit.com/share/HyAw-pLn
Most of these are designed as stand-alone class features, but some are also based on 5e feats, and a few are invented entirely by me! As I’m creating a low-level adventure, I haven’t bothered with proficiency bonuses, hence why many abilities give static bonuses.
When it matters, you can apply yourself, and get stuff done. Twice per day you may take an extra action on your turn.
And His Name Is…
You grew up watching ‘professional’ wrestling, and you’re fairly sure you can do most of the moves. You may grapple or shove as a bonus action, and your unarmed attacks against a prone enemy or one you have grappled do 1d12+Str damage.
Seriously, I think you have a problem. You have a +5 bonus to initiative, and can never be surprised (in the combat sense, you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting for your birthday). In addition, hidden enemies don’t have advantage against you.
You run, cycle and generally keep fit. You’re probably even a healthy weight. Disgusting. You may dash or disengage as a bonus action, and your speed increases by 10feet.
You grew up on the mean streets fighting for survival. Or the bullys in your boarding school were particularly rough. Either way, you know that fighting fair is overrated. If you attack someone when you have advantage, or if an ally is within 5 feet of them, you may add 1d6 to your damage roll. You can take this ability more than once, adding another 1d6 to damage each time.
You and your pet are inseparable, you go everywhere together and have a deep connection. I bet you dress them up in cute outfits too. You have an animal companion (cat, dog, rabbit, bird, etc). It mostly obeys your commands, and acts on your initiative.
Good Eye Sniper
You served in the forces, are a member of an archery club, or just play a lot of FPS’s. You gain +2 to all ranged attack rolls, and your attacks ignore half and ¾ cover.
How Hard Can It Be?
You pick things up quickly, and have learned a little about everything. You gain +1 to all skills you don’t have proficiency in.
Historical Reenactment Club Member
NERD! Although all that running around in armour seems to have paid off. You gain a +1 bonus to AC while wearing armour.
I Know Kung Fu
You can totally do that thing where you punch through concrete blocks. Just not right now, you’ve got a bad wrist. Your unarmed attacks do 1d6+(Str or Dex) damage, and you may make an unarmed attack as a bonus action.
I very nearly called this ‘White Privilege’. Three times per day, when you or an enemy roll a d20, you may choose to reroll it and take the new result.
Twice per day (probably when someone claims Star Wars is “overrated”) you may enter Rage. While in Rage you gain resistance to all damage, +2 to melee damage rolls, and advantage on strength checks. You can even manage without your inhaler.
Your quick reflexes let you block attacks and protect your friends. When you, or someone within 5 feet of you, is/are targeted by an attack, you may spend your reaction to add +2 to your/their armour class.
While foraging, you can almost always find enough food for the group. You always know which way is North, cannot get lost while outdoors, and have advantage on saves against environmental effects (heat, cold, etc). In addition, you always wears sensible (but hideous) clothes.
Your scaly hide makes you tougher than average. Gain 2 extra hp, and your unarmoured AC is 13+Dex (rather than 10+Dex).
You are really good at one thing. You probably talk about it all the time, and have a blog devoted to it… One of your skills that you are proficient in gains an extra +3 bonus.
Swing away buddy, swing away. When you hit with a two-handed melee weapon, you gain +2 to the damage roll.
When an ally within 30feet of you makes an attack roll or ability check, you may spend your reaction to make a DC10 intelligence check. If you succeed you may condescendingly advise your ally to enable them to reroll and take the second result.
Ouch! You perform a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20. You may take this ability more than once, reducing your critical range by one each time.
St John Ambulance Training
You save lives in your free time. No big deal. Three times per day, as an action, you may heal someone 1d8+Wis hit points. Or if someone is dying, you may bring them back to 1hp.
The Power of Heart
Every group needs a pink ranger. Three times per day you may, as a bonus action, inspire an ally. They can use this inspiration to add 1d6+your Cha mod to an attack roll, saving throw, skill check, etc. (basically anything that involves a d20)
These are all the magical abilities, which will be unlocked at some point in the adventure (maybe). Obviously if you want the standard magical setting you could include them during character creation, it’s just that I wanted to set my adventure in the ‘real world’ and (as far as I know) none of my friends are wizards.
If applicable, the stat for calculating attack bonuses or save DCs is noted in italics after the description, and it’s as you’d expect – Wizardy abilities use intelligence, Clerical ones wisdom, etc.
You’re like, in touch with nature, man. You may cast the cantrips Druidcraft, Poison Spray and Resistance, and twice per day you may cast either Entangle, Speak With Animals or Thunderwave. Wisdom
You can cast the cantrips Guidance, Sacred Flame and Thaumaturgy, and twice per day you may cast one of either Bless, Command or Protection From Evil and Good. In addition you must take a vow of chastity. Wisdom
No-one understands the darkness in your soul. That’s why you hang around in graveyeards and write ‘poetry’. You can see in the dark (darkvision), cast the Chill Touch cantrip, and twice per day you may cast either Blindness/Deafness or Speak With Dead. Intelligence or Charisma
I’m a Hwhat?
You can cast the cantrips Firebolt and Prestidigitation, and twice per day you may cast either Magic Missile, Shield or Misty Step. In addition you have a lightning-shaped scar and have taken to wearing robes. Intelligence
Not Swear Wolves
Twice per day you may, as a bonus action, transform into a beast with a CR no greater than 1/2 that cannot fly. This lasts for 1 hour, or you may use another bonus action to change back to your human form. Note that if you if you shift back to human form while wounded, any damage carries over to your human form.
Powered By Fairy Dust
That man you met in the woods when you were a child really did give you magical powers! You can cast the cantrips Dancing Lights, Friends and Minor Illusion, and twice per day you may cast either Sleep or Disguise Self. Intelligence or Charisma
Praise the Lord!
Once per day, as an action, you may pray to God (whichever one you prefer). You then become illuminated by a beam of light. Either every hostile creature within 20 feet takes 2d10 radiant damage, OR every ally within 20 feet gains 1d6 hit points.
Twice per day, when you hit an enemy, you may ask God (one of them) to smite your enemy. You may add an extra 2d8 to the damage for that attack.
Sold Your Soul
You can cast the Eldritch Blast and Mage Hand cantrips, and twice per day you may cast either Armour of Agathys, Arms of Hadar, or Witch Bolt . In addition you’ve grown small horns and are going to hell when you die. Charisma
So that’s my plan for abilities and a classless d&d utopia. Once I’ve done the adventure I’ll do a full write up here (I don’t want to give away too much, in case the guys are reading this).