Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Grognard's Grimoire: Alien Noble

I've never been a fan of noble classes for D&D, mostly because "noble" isn't really an adventuring archetype. Sure, there have been plenty of aristocratic adventurers in fantasy literature, but for most (if not all), their blue blood isn't the most important aspect of their character; it's an optional "add-on," to speak.

That's generally not the case in sword-and-planet literature, where an alien noble -- or alien princess, at any rate -- is an adventuring archetype. John Carter's love, the incomparable Dejah Thoris, doesn't just lounge around the palace in Helium. She sometimes accompanied Carter on his travels across Barsoom and, while prone to finding herself in distress, she's no pushover. The Alien Noble class is thus my stab at creating a class that's both genuinely useful in standard adventures while still having features distinctive of its social status.

The entirety of this class is hereby designated as Open Game Content via the Open Game License.

Alien Noble
Requirements: CHA 9
Prequisite: CHA
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: None

The Alien Noble is a member of the aristocracy of the civilized -- and often decadent -- realms of another world/time/dimension. Born to power and used to the deference of those of lower station, Alien Nobles exert wide influence within their native (and allied) cultures. Firstly, they may employ double the maximum number of retainers normally allowed by their CHA score. Secondly, and more impressively, they may use their positions to make "requests" of those under their authority. The base chance that a request will be heeded is equal to the Alien Noble's (CHA x 2) + (Level x 3) as a percentage. Such requests can range from the mundane ("Bring us some refreshments") to the unusual ("Bring us the head of the Sky Pirate King"), with the referee assessing bonuses or penalties based on the difficulty of the request. An Alien Noble may make request as often as he wishes, but too many requests will likely generate negative feelings toward the Noble and decrease the likelihood of success. Likewise, this ability functions only when among those who recognize the Noble's position. Among savages or enemies, the ability generally has no effect.

Alien Nobles fight as clerics and save as fighters of equal level. They may wear any type of armor or use any type of weapons. They begin play with more starting funds than other classes: 3D6 x 100 gold pieces.

Alien Noble Level Progression



Hit Dice (1d6)






























+1 hp only*



+2 hp only*



+3 hp only*



+4 hp only*



+5 hp only*



+6 hp only*



+7 hp only*



+8 hp only*



+9 hp only*



+10 hp only*



+11 hp only*

*Hit point modifiers from Constitution are ignored.


  1. I like the simplicity of the approach, James.
    --Good deal. :)

  2. I can't help but think with my B/X mind here...Charisma as a prime requisite? Does that make it adjustable?

    Sounds a little too 3rd edition-y, JM. For S&W, I'd think Strength or Wisdom as the prime req (depending on whether you wanted your nobles to be feudal warlords or wise rulers). I can see Charisma as a means of advancing in court, but not as providing bonus XP in an adventuring career.

    Everything else looks great.

    Word verification: "thinket"

  3. I have no problem with Charisma as a prime req. It's one of the main the ability scores from 0E and, frankly, makes the most sense.

    No politician gets to be in a position of power based on their "wisdom" (seriously!) or their physical strength.

    And no, the governor of California doesn't count.

    Neither would I attribute a nobel's success on intelligence. Paris Hilton anyone? It's all charisma baby!

  4. While I think it's a fair point that CHA was never used as a prime requisite in OD&D or B/X (or Labyrinth Lord for that matter), DEX wasn't used originally either. In the LBBs, you can't adjust your DEX by lowering other ability scores. Once Supplement I came out, suddenly DEX was a prime requisite just like STR, INT, and WIS, so there is precedent for this within the OD&D tradition.

  5. OH man, that John Romita can sure draw a purty girl.

  6. Not about this specifically, but I just noticed the new picture for your blog profile. Nice!

  7. Nice, but seems a bit underpowered, James - I'd suggest using the Cleric XP table, for a start. Even then I can't see too many players taking this, though it's a good 'NPC class'. Their noncombat ability doesn't go much beyond what most GMs would assign as ad hoc probability.

    Sword & Planet nobility are normally well trained in the martial arts, so I'd suggest Fighter attack table, possibly the Cleric save table as they are more likely to resist mind effects and such than are common Fighters. The 1d6 hd makes sense as S&P nobility are not the most durable types, but that then takes a lot of balancing - in the absence of Clerical spellcasting you need to look at similar classes like the Halfling as a guide to what balances out a d6 hd. They can be a bit weaker than a Halfling to balance out their unlimited progression, but not excessively so.

    Of course in a game centring on diplomacy & political power, their high station may be very powerful, but this isn't really represented here - a Stranger PC who wins high social status through feats of arms will match the born Noble PC, plus be a lot more formidable personally.

  8. Hee! Gotta love the Romita illustration.
    I'm proud of you, James, for letting a class have a completely new prime requisite. There's no reason not to if it's appropriate to the class, and I'd venture that any naysayers are stuck under the thumb of tradition. Old School doesn't have to mean no new (reasonable) ideas.

  9. I can't believe you went with the Marvel Comics Dejah Thoris and not the Michael Whelan or the Frazetta version.

    That said, I've become a huge fan of Frank Schoonover's original representation.

  10. That Marvel Comics Dejah Thoris is the one on the cover of the copy of 'Princess of Mars' I'm reading right now. :)

  11. Though revealing my ignorance of sword & planet source material, I will ask: Could someone please tell me who the ravishing princess is?

  12. A lifelong ERB fan, I think these are great distillations, sir.

  13. Herb:
    "I can't believe you went with the Marvel Comics Dejah Thoris and not the Michael Whelan or the Frazetta version.

    That said, I've become a huge fan of Frank Schoonover's original representation."

    I think the Marvel version has more of a 'strong' look, more suitable for a PC. The Frazetta version looks more like a chattel than a protagonist.

  14. Very nice James! I too designed a Noble class which has some features as yours, plus some others. Here are the details (in my campaign the maximum level is 10th):

    Wealth: Nobles have a huge wealth at their disposal: the character starts with 500 gps (besides the normal allotment), and he receives this sum every year, provided he does not squander the money publicly.

    Diplomacy: Nobles add +1 to any Reaction rolls.

    Rally: At 2nd level a Noble's retainers have a +1 to their Loyalty score.

    Leadership: At 4th level Nobles can hire 8 retainers instead of 4 (plus their charisma modifier).

    Coordination: At 6h level the the coordination abilities of Nobles allow a +1 to group Initiative checks to him and a group of allies under his leadership.

    Absolute power: At 10th level characters who may fear the Noble's reprisal must make a Morale check at +1 penalty to take action against the Noble.

    Nobles fight and save as Clerics. They may wear any armor, and may use any weapon. They use the XP table of Clerics. HD: d6

  15. I think this might have been meant to have the 'burroughs' tag, since it's on your other two 'Barsoomian' classes.

  16. I think the Marvel version has more of a 'strong' look, more suitable for a PC.

    That's precisely why I chose this illustration -- that and I love Romita's artwork.

  17. S'mon,

    Good points, all around. This class, honestly, was one I just created on the fly without a lot of thought beforehand, so I'm not surprised it needs some work. I just wanted to get the basics down, so I could revise it later, when needed.

  18. Thanks, hope you find my input helpful. I think Antonio has interesting ideas there - I especially like Coordination, giving a +1 bonus to the LL/BX initiative check. Init bonuses in LL/BX normally are individual and only apply in one-on-one combat, so this group bonus is an ability that is both simple, powerful, and eminently supports the 'air of command' archetype.

    Me likes it lots. :)

    BTW the first 'Stranger' PC has just started in my new Wilderlands PBEM!

  19. Thanks for the kind words S'mon!
    You have surely noticed how I interspersed the special abilities among the 10 levels of play. It was done to "simulate" the advancement of classes in the d20 Conan book (I also wrote new classes for fighter, thief and sorcerer to use in that setting, and "cultural backgrounds")

  20. I think that there is certainly a place in the game for a Noble class, and it makes sense to me that CHA would be a prime requisite for such a character. The Noble simply introduces a different type of encounter, a different style of game than the traditional dungeon crawl.

    Well done!

  21. Totally using this as "inspiration" (shameles stealing it) for my own Alien Noble. Together with Antonio's twist and giving it my own twist.