Wednesday, 10 September 2008

BECMI Planescape

One thing I've often thought about is making a BECMI D&D version of Planescape. It wouldn't require a heck of a lot of work at first glance; alignment is easily expanded on from the Law/Neutrality/Chaos three-way matrix, and things like hit dice and armour classes don't really change. The only major task would be reworking the races and classes - but as soon as I start to think about that, I realise that it in fact the whole thing is a heck of a lot of work.

It's also a bit intellectually dubious, really. I like race-as-class in BECMI because it's part of the humanocentric viewpoint encouraged by the designers. There might be dwarf clerics and elf thieves and halfling druids, but they are otherworldly, remote, and fantastical. The only dwarves, elves and halflings who humans regularly encounter are the occasional, and highly unusual, adventurer - who is always of a certain archetype because the others of his or her race just don't go adventuring.

Planescape isn't humanocentric, though; and moreover it is infinite. The BECMI view that dwarf clerics (or whatever) do exist but never adventure doesn't work with Planescape because in infinity anything is more or less possible. There will be one adventuring dwarf cleric somewhere given that there are an infinite amount of dwarven clerics. (The true possibilities of infinity are, I fear, never properly realised in Planescape. I'm going off on a tangent here that I'll probably expand upon in another entry, but in the multiverse, it should be possible to encounter literally anything that is possible; it is the one place in, I believe, all of roleplaying where the Infinite Monkey Theorem could be put into practice. See this old entry for more thoughts on such matters.) This is even truer with level caps: you're telling me that in an infinite multiverse there isn't a single dwarf who ever reached level 20?

Nevertheless, it seems like a fun exercise. What would tiefling, aasimar, bariaur, modron, genasi, githzerai and planar half-elf classes be like? What would their spell lists and saving throws be like? What about their abilities? And what about factions?

All thoughts I which I ruminate over in idle moments.


  1. My house rule for BECMI is that there are indeed Elven, Halfling and Dwarven clerics, thieves and the like, and the players are free to play them: their abilities and advancement work exactly the same as humans of that class, except they get to keep Low Light Vision. Everything else, from immunity to Ghoul's Touch to ability to better hiding in the woods is a class feature.

  2. I had similar thoughts when I started in on my Uresia/RC conversion. For me, the question was eased somewhat by the fact that the setting is inspired by anime/CRPGs, which are inherently rather one-dimensional and archetypal. The way I settled on it, "race as class" doesn't represent a type of individual from a race, it represents the race. Humans can choose classes owing simply to their inherent versatility--in a way, it's their "bonus" for being human.

    Not sure any of that applies to Planescape, necessarily. Then again, the planes are all about extreme archetypes...

  3. Note that, at least in real world physics kind of multiverses, you can have an infinite number of worlds and still not have one particular world (or creature or nation or whatever) in it -- you can have an infinite number of apples without having any oranges.

    But Planescape, yeah, if it's weird it should be in.

    How workable would it be to bolt a class/race system onto BECMI? You might have to move the power level up a bit . . . I don't really have any idea, my only experience with the system being a quick skim of Labyrinth Lord.

  4. Jamused: But people are free to play archetypal 'elves' if they want to?

    sirlarkins: The Planewalker's Handbook had a whole list of 'planewalker archetypes', in fact. It would be a lot of fun to base classes on them, rather than races. In fact... that gives me an idea that I'll make a post about.

    Odyssey: That's true, but each prime material world is supposed to be different from the others; eventually, if there are infinite prime material worlds, there will have to be one which is distinguishable from another purely by virute of having adventuring dwarven clerics.

    There are rules for separating race and class in the Rules Cyclopedia. But it kind of defeats the object, I think - you might as well just play AD&D.

  5. Actually, yes. Humans could play "Elves", "Dwarves" and "Halflings"...the assumption is that they were raised in that culture (a la Carrot Ironfoundersson). They get all the class features except low-light vision. It's straight-forward enough, and pretty obviously causes no (extra) balance issues.

  6. jamused: That's actually a really fun idea. I have to ask though: Carrot Ironfoundersson?

  7. Ah. Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson is a recurring character in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. He's a human who was raised by Dwarves before being sent from the mines for his own safety (since he was six feet tall he kept bashing his head) to become a Constable in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. Culturally and by Dwarven law, he's a Dwarf.

  8. Ah, I've never read any Terry Pratchett.

  9. Your point about the human-centric world view makes me think about all the BECMI demi-humans as the quintessential murder-hobos of their cultures. :^)