Saturday, 5 April 2014

Beast Handler. A new OSR class

From popular request, I'd like to offer up the Beast Handler class.
Seeing the different suggestions made was fun, and I will definitely try to go back and cover a few more of the suggestions that came in.

This is a variation on the Fighter, with some Ranger elements. It should be usable in most any game using OSR rules, such as Swords&Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC as well as of course original D&D, AD&D and "Red Box" D&D.
Some of the rules elements are set up intentionally to refer to a parent game (such as hit dice, attack rolls and saving throws) as these factors can differ based on the rules you use. Feel free to adapt this as you need.

While humans and demi humans train a variety of animals for tasks such as sentry duty, search and companionship, a few such trainers achieve a much greater level of connection with their animals. While these are traditionally large dogs, due to their general level of intelligence, response to training and combination of tracking skills and loyalty, other animals have come into use too, whether in their regular or giant varieties.

The GM will have to make judgement calls on what types of animals are appropriate. In general, the Beast Handler is about being on a roughly equal footing with the animal, and this is not a cavalry class, so the animal selected should not be a riding animal or beast of burden.

Pick animals that have obvious utility and are at least reasonably intelligent. In a higher level campaign, or a more high powered game, you can experiment with things like dire wolves or bears. Just be careful that the choice of animal does not overshadow the remaining characters.

To play as a Beast Handler, the character must have a minimums of 9 Strength, 9 Constitution and 11 Wisdom.
All races may play as Beast Handlers, advancing to the same level they could achieve as Fighters.

Combat and dice rolls:
Beast Handlers use the Hit Dice progression of Clerics, make attack rolls and saving throws as Fighters and advance in level using the Fighter experience charts and progression.
They do not receive multiple attacks in melee, unlike Fighters, and do not take advantage of any class specific ability score benefits (such as exceptional strength or higher hit point bonuses for Fighters)

They may use any single handed melee weapons, and may use "light" missile weapons (Sling, Short bow, Light crossbow).
Beast Handlers may use a shield, and may wear armour up to and including Chain Mail or equivalents.  Many Handlers are rustic types, preferring natural materials such as Leather and Hide armour, but this is by no means the rule.

If using skills or a proficiency system, treat Handlers as Rangers (if available) and Fighters if not.

The Companion:
Handlers get their companion animal at level 1. If the animal dies, it may be replaced during the campaign, but will generally take 1D6 weeks in a suitable locale to replace the animal. The GM may let this happen between adventures or set up a small side adventure to locate and befriend the animal.

While the Handler will begin the campaign knowing a single animal type, at every 3 levels of Experience (3, 6, 9 and so forth), a new animal type may be added to the list of possible animal companions.

At levels 5, 10, 15 and 20, the Handler may increase the number of companions at one time. Hence, at level 10, a Handler may have up to three different companions, whether the same or different animal types.

When rolling hit points for a Companion, any hit dice that score a 1 or 2 may be rolled again, guaranteeing the Companion at least 3 hit points per hit die.
While Companions do not generally accrue experience points, when the Handler levels up, each Companion increases their maximum hit point total by 1.

The Bond:
Handlers form close bonds with their animals. In general, the companion is treated as a type of Henchman largely under the control of the player. While the companion should generally be treated as a very intelligent member of it's species, it is worth remembering that it is ultimately still an animal. Overly complex instructions will be unlikely to be followed, and the companion is still subject to distraction when the Handler is not around.

During combat, if both Handler and Companion are in the same battle, they each receive +1 bonuses to Armour Class and Melee attack rolls.
While fighting alongside it's Handler, the companion is not subject to normal morale rules, and receives a +2 bonus to saving throws against magic that attempts to influence, control or scare away the animal.

Other Skills:
Handlers generally have good working knowledge of animals. If approaching an animal on their own, or slightly in advance of a passive party of adventurers, the GM should roll two reaction rolls, applying the better of the two. This applies for regular as well as "giant" varieties of animals but not for monsters and magical beasts, unless the GM decides otherwise for a given creature.

If taking a few minutes to examine an animal after a battle, the Handler may cause any animal (not just a Companion) to recover 1 hit point per hit die of the animal in question. This cannot recover more hit points than was lost in the battle or encounter.

If using proficiency or skill systems, Handlers receive a +1/+5% bonus to any skill based on animal handling and training, increased to +2/+10% for animal types available as a Companion.

Handlers tend to seem somewhat distant from other humanoids, limiting them to no more than a single henchman at any one time. They may acquire hirelings for short tasks, but are unlikely to commit to long term contracts beyond a single expedition or task.
They do not attract followers at high levels, and while they could construct a castle, they'd receive no special benefits from doing so.

What do you think?
I aimed for a fairly minimalist approach, to make it easy to insert this class both in "basic", "advanced" and "zero edition" OSR games or TSR games.

If you feel more features should be added, put in a comment and let me know.

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