Jump to the class here.
Author’s note: The original version of this article linked to Jeff Rient’s blog post on random advancement tables. Mr. Rients has since come out in support of a person accused by four women of sexual assault and abuse. I believe these allegations and don’t want to direct traffic toward websites that take Mr. Rients’s position. As a result, I have removed the link.
I’m a big fan of random advancement tables. For the uninitiated, these are d100 tables you can roll on when you level up to get a random improvement rather than following a class’s written level progression. Much of what I’ve been running over the last few years has been OSR-style one or two shots that involve only a few levels, and this kind of thing allows me to add a bit of excitement to leveling up, plus ways for the players to differentiate themselves even if they pick the same class.
The thing is — and this is a common theme for my intersection with OSR content — I tend to run stuff that’s a bit more whimsical and a bit more inspired by old console RPGs than by heavy metal magazines and Dying Earth stories. So as an attempt to contribute to the pool of OSR content in a way that reflects my own exposure to fantasy and relationship with RPGs, here is my first draft of a random advancement table for a Dragon Quest-inspired OSR class: The Dreamer.
The Dreamer is basically the “Hero” class in Dragon Quest, named after the equivalent class in Bluffman’s Artifact Adventure. It’s a jack of all trades and a master of, well, most of them. Adapting that to tabletop RPGs is a bit inimical to the idea of having a party of specialized adventurers, but the random advancement table means that I can represent what that sort of character is without forcing them to have everything. A player can get a sense of what kind of table they’re rolling on without actually possessing everything on the table, if that makes sense.
Before we get to the class, I’m going to have to specify what kinds of OSR systems I had in mind when making it. I usually use Into the Odd or The Black Hack for the kind of game I’d use this chart to run, but lately I’ve been experimenting with a stripped-down version of Shadow of the Demon Lord and really liking the results. The problem is, getting better at rolling to hit opponents is a core mechanic in both Shadow of the Demon Lord and The Black Hack, and both of them handle it differently from other OSR games. In an attempt to make this class as useful as possible to as many people as I can, I’m going to split the baby in a pretty ugly way and provide three solutions: one for games with ascending attack bonuses, one for games that use boons and banes, and one for games that simply roll under your stats to resolve combat. God forgive me.
One last thing before we get to the class — this class uses a simple version of magic resource management. Spells cost magic points to cast equal to their level, and 0-level spells cost 1 point. Each class of this series starts with a certain amount and accumulates them on its own schedule.
HP: Start the game with either 8 HP or the amount of HP your system starts you with, and increase every level as directed by the game. Assume d6 hit dice if your game uses per-class hit dice. Shadow of the Demon Lord doesn’t use hit dice, but increasing health by 1d6 per level (or 3 every level) should work fine.
Background: Assume a single Background or Profession.
Saves: If your game uses old school D&D-style saves, progress as a Fighter.
Cooperate: You can team up with another party member in combat or similarly time-sensitive situations to make them more successful at what they do. They make saving throws (or any other roll to avoid harm), damage rolls and checks to interact with the environment with advantage. You give up the chance to take any actions or perform any saving throws in that time frame if you do this.
Magic: Start with 2 magic points and the spell Fearlessness (1). You regain 1 magic point when you obtain for the first time the sincere gratitude of an NPC, when you discover a dungeon or similarly ancient or mysterious locale, and when you discover a new floor of a dungeon.
Fearlessness (1): Protects target creature from fear-based effects for one dungeon turn (or ten minutes). You may target additional creatures with this spell at a rate of +1 MP spent per creature.
Equipment: If your game uses equipment proficiencies, The Dreamer can use any weapon and light and medium armor. They can also use any shield.
Storied Weapon: Describe a weapon described in the old stories. It may be a lost family heirloom or perhaps something used by a mythical hero you idolize. You decide what it looks like and the context of its original use, plus one ability you describe in vague terms to your GM. The GM decides the rest of its stats and puts it somewhere in the game world. The weapon must become discoverable (though you may not succeed at obtaining it) at some point during the campaign, though you may need to reach a certain level to wield it.
At first level, roll twice on this chart. Every level thereafter, roll once on any chart in this series.
**Asterisked entries: These entries do what they say plus a couple of other things, depending on the rules base you use:
A game that uses attack bonus: +1 attack bonus and +1 extra HP.
The Black Hack 2e or Into the Odd: Follow the normal rules for level up with regards to stats (i.e. you get a chance to raise each stat once). When you roll an asterisked entry, you get +1 extra HP and get to increase any single stat once, even if you’ve already increased them.
Shadow of the Demon Lord: Increase a stat by 1 and gain +1 Health. You cannot increase a stat other than Health beyond 14 by doing this. If you have increased no stats by level 4, increase a stat by 1. Do the same at level 7 and at level 10.
Random Advancement Entries:
01-04 **Remember: Either through memory training or keeping meticulous notes, you can recall things with surprising accuracy. You have advantage on any roll to recall something, which you do with photographic memory.
Second Roll: You gain 1 magic point.
05-06 **Unarmed Training: You seem to get caught without your sword a lot lately. Luckily, you’ve picked up some skill in unarmed combat. You deal d4 damage when not using a weapon, or increase your unarmed damage by one die size if it’s already a d4.
07-20 **Magic Study: You’ve been lax in your magic studies, but you get a lesson in here and there. You gain 1 magic point.
21-22 **Jump: You learn the spell Jump (1). It allows you to jump 5x your normal height and distance exactly once. You may cast it as a triggered/minor action if desired.
Second roll, or if you already know Jump: You gain 1 magic point.
23-27 **Boomeranger: You become extremely skilled with boomerangs and can use other thrown weapons as boomerangs. When throwing something as a boomerang, you can hit two enemies at once, dealing d4 damage to each. If your game has attack rolls, make a single agility check that results in both damage rolls. The boomerang returns to you after. Additionally, you can use boomerangs (that is, actual boomerangs and not another item used as one) to hit switches or pick up small objects and bring them back to you.
28-29 **Armor Training: You gain the ability to wear armor! If you can already wear armor, you can now wear the next heavier step of armor (e.g. the Dreamer already wears Medium Armor, and thus can now wear Heavy Armor). You can also wield any kind of shield if you couldn’t before.
If you can already wear the heaviest armor, you gain a natural source of 2 damage reduction.
30 **Animal Companion: You form a close bond with an animal (or have trained an animal companion you already have)! Pick an animal no larger than a tiger. They’re no good in combat by default, and roll the smallest damage die available if they manage to deal damage. Choose one of the options below (they do not stack):
(A) When you enter a room, they have a 1-in-4 chance to communicate to you whether treasure is in it and where.
(B) When you meet a stranger, they can alert you to whether that person intends to attack you in the immediate future. You cannot be surprised in combat as long as your pet sees the attacker and is able to use this ability.
(C) They can track a scent once exposed to it. They give you advantage/boons on any attempt to track a creature.
(D) They can be used to send messages. They take an amount of time appropriate to the distance covered and their speed, but they will not die on the way to the recipient or back. If they cross particularly dangerous territory, they have a 25% chance of collapsing dead after bringing you a reply.
31 **Fight Dirty: Weeks or months of hard travel and deadly battles wear away at your naiveté . You have advantage or boons on any attempt to inflict a status condition or otherwise sabotage on an enemy in combat, which must replace an attack. You cannot use this ability to inflict damage.
Second Roll: You get an extra chance to interact with the environment or an object on your turn. You cannot attack or cast a spell during this extra bit of activity.
32 **Premonition: A prophetic dream offers an answer to a question you pose or the location of a person or object you seek. The GM puts this information into the game and accessible to you for close to free, even if it would normally require resource expenditure. If the information would lead to great power or influence, it may require you to adventure to find what you’re looking for. This ability effectively allows the party “skip” a step in an adventure or plan, or act on information they should not yet have access to.
Second roll: Gain 1 magic point.
33 **Revelation: You may change your background or profession, and/or add a key detail to it you hadn’t yet disclosed. This detail can be practically beneficial to you.
34 **It Takes a Village: Word of your exploits have made it back to your home town, and they’re so darn proud! When you next return there, the residents will offer you a gift and whatever other aid they can, as long as it doesn’t involve leaving the vicinity of the town.
35 **Diligent: You’ve learned to take care of your weapons and armor, and you ration supplies better. You have advantage/boons to any checks to take care of or repair items, and you may reroll a single result (per usage die roll) of 1 or 2 on a d4 usage die. The item still breaks/runs out if you roll a 1 or 2 after that. If you don’t use usage die in your game, you get a free use of each expendable item you own or acquire, as long as more can be plausibly be said to exist.
36 **Cavalier: You figured out how to do more than just sit on a horse. You have advantage/boons on checks to do fancy tricks with the most common type of animal you can ride in this setting, and to avoid being knocked off of one. If you make an attack while riding a horse against an on-foot enemy, you increase the damage die by two levels.
37 **Last Ditch Save: You have figured out how to use your own body as a magical reflector. As a triggered action/reaction you can jump in the way of a spell, even an extremely powerful one, and reflect its effects back at its caster or nullify them entirely. If the effect deals damage, you still take the damage. After using this ability, you must make a will save. If you fail, you die.
Second roll: Gain 1 magic point.
38 **Song of Serendipity: You learn or recall a song said to open an important door. You decide what that door is at the moment you perform the song. It can be literally any door or gate you encounter on your journey. Once you decide what that door is, you cannot change it. If the importance of the door you chose was not already obvious, the GM decides why it was important.
Second roll: Gain 1 magic point.
39 **I Got a Good Feeling!: Before you enter a dungeon, you may declare a single, specific thing you are looking for. When you enter the floor of the dungeon it is on, you know in your gut that you’re close. When you enter the room it is in, you feel once more in your gut that you’re very close.
40 **Well-Rounded: Your companions have served as your mentors, intentionally or otherwise. Increase any stat of your choice by 1, even if you’ve already successfully raised a stat this level. It cannot be a stat that has already been raised. If you’ve somehow raised every stat on this level up, you instead gain 1 magic point.
41-42 Sleep: You can cast the Sleep (3) spell. If you cast this spell on enemies who are already fatigued, injured (half HP) or who are unaware of your presence, it costs -1 mp to cast.
If you already know the Sleep spell, you gain 1 magic point and can now cast Sleep on a sleeping creature to view snippets of their dream. You also have advantage on saves against magical sleep.
43 Vivify: You can cast the Vivify (5) spell. If you cast this spell on an ally who is dying or has died in the past minute, you can resuscitate them, bringing them back to 1 HP.
If you already know this spell, you instead gain 2 magic points
44 Lucky: Gain a fortune/luck point immediately. At the beginning of each day, if you have no points remaining, you gain a single point. These points can be used as they are in Shadow of the Demon Lord (spend a fortune/luck point to succeed on a roll, avoid dying and remain at 1 HP, turn a d6 roll into a 6, or to grant 2 boons to an ally’s roll). You also gain 1 magic point.
45-46 Combat Expertise: You get a boon on attacks with weapons. If your system does not use attack rolls, you roll damage with advantage instead. If you are playing a roll under system, subtract the boon from your roll instead of adding it. You can give up the benefit of this feature on an attack to accomplish something extra (I.e. a normal attack plus try to trip an enemy), which may include more damage dice. Offer what you want to do to your GM and negotiate the benefits and consequences. While the GM has final approval, you must always be able to gain some kind of benefit for doing this. Depending on your system, this may result in needing to make a check where you otherwise would just deal the damage.
47 Career Development: You gain a Profession. You either picked it up during downtime or always had it and never brought it up/couldn’t put it into practice until now. You also gain 1 magic point.
48-52 Spellbound Sword: You can weave magic and weaponry into a single deadly art. Immediately before rolling damage, you can spend 1 magic point to increase your next damage roll by 2 dice steps. You may do this only once per damage roll.
Second roll: You are a full-blown Spellblade. Choose one:
A) Following the above rules, you can now instead spend 2 magic points to instead add d6 to your damage roll,
B) You gain 2 magic points.
53-54 The Chosen One: You can call on some prophecy, local myth or your own (supposed) ancestry to impress people. You have advantage/boons on checks to recruit, maintain and pacify hirelings, and it costs you half as much to hire them. You also gain 1 magic point.
55-57 Believe in Yourself: You gain +1d4 HP. When you drop to 0 HP, you may make a will save/check. On a success, you don’t make fate/death save/etc rolls and immediately count as stabilized, though you can’t act in combat for 1d4 turns (unless you are healed). On a crit success, you immediately stand back up at 1 HP. If your system requires you to roll on a table to determine a lingering wound, scar, or other consequence of dropping to 0 HP, you may choose to reject the result.
Second roll: You gain +2d4 HP.
58-60 So Protectable: Whenever an ally intervenes to take damage for you or otherwise protect you, choose one:
(A) They gain advantage on the related roll.
(B) They gain 1d6 damage reduction for all sources of damage that comes to them in the immediate future or until the end of the next round.
(C) They deal double damage on their next attack.
61-63 Turn the Tide: Any damage roll you make that uses a d8 or higher can explode.
64-65 Avenger: If you see an ally drop to 0 HP, you gain damage resistance 3 and step up the damage of all attacks by 2 levels until the end of combat. You gain 1 magic point.
66–68 Mimicry: You have developed your ability to mimic the skills of those around you. If you spend a few minutes observing someone doing a skill that requires manual dexterity, such as picking a lock, casting a spell, etc. you can perform the exact same actions as long as the context remains largely the same. E.g. if you see someone picking a lock, you can do whatever is necessary to pick that lock; if you see someone weave a basket, you, too, can use the same materials to weave a basket, etc. If the action is a spell, you can cast the spell provided you have the MP and caster level required. Your “memory” of these actions fades quickly, which means you need to mimic the action within about a dungeon turn of seeing it happen.
69-71 Falcon Cut Technique: You can spend a round in combat dealing 1 unpreventable damage to up to four different enemies. Do not roll for this attack.
If you already know this technique, it now deals 2 damage to up to eight different enemies. You still don’t roll for this attack.
72-74 Determination: You may use a triggered action/minor action in combat to immediately heal 1d3 HP. You may do this a number of times per day equal to your level (minimum once).
75-79 Return: You gain 1 magic point. You learn the spell Return (5). Return – you and anyone touching you may return to a location you’ve slept in before, but only if A) you have earned the gratitude or affection of at least four people you can name who live there, or B) you have purposefully left an object precious to you there.
Second Roll – You gain 1 magic point. You may now cast Luula on another person. The requirements are the same (and apply to you, the caster), but the person being teleported is someone you point to. If they are unwilling, they get a will save.
80-86 Hoimi: You gain 1 magic point. You learn the spell Cure Wounds (1) (or equivalent).
Already know Cure Wounds – Choose one:
A) gain 1 magic point and learn Heal (Cure Wounds on a group at half power) (3)
B) gain 2 magic points, your choice.
87-89 Inspire: You can spend 10 minutes to tell a story, give a rousing speech, or play music to motivate your party. They now have inspiration and can spend it to gain advantage or a boon on an ability check of their choice. They lose it when they rest. No one can gain more than 1 inspiration from this ability at a time. You also gain 1 magic point.
90-92 Gigadein: You have learned to harness the power of lightning (4)! It casts the equivalent of the spell Lightning Bolt. You may spend 8 mp to cast it at double potency. If you are in the middle of a thunderstorm, it costs you 2 points less to cast than usual.
Already know Lightning Bolt – you gain 2 magic points. You can summon rain by spending 2 magic points and concentrating in an area for 10 minutes. Another 10 minutes and 2 magic points in a rainy area will allow you to summon a thunderstorm.
93 Strong Mind: Choose one mental stat. You make rolls to avoid harm using that stat with advantage.
94 Strong Body: Choose one physical stat. You make rolls to avoid harm using that stat with advantage.
95 Rampage: You gain a damage die (d6)! Whenever you attack during your turn, you may assign this damage die to another enemy within your range. If your game uses to-hit rolls, you must roll an attack for each creature targeted.
96 Sorcery: You took a break from martial arts training to focus on magic. You gain 2 magic points.
97 Field Study:
(A) If you have encountered magic in the form of a scroll or magical object, you may study it to learn a spell. Unfortunately, doing so destroys the scroll or object.
(B) You gain 2 magic points.
98 Magical breakthrough!:
(A) Learn any spell listed in an entry on this random advancement table or a spell you have enough magic points to cast from a different random advancement table.
(B) You gain 2 magic points.
99 Epiphany: Choose any lower-numbered entry on this list.
100 Remarkable Growth: Roll twice on this list, ignoring this result and re-rolling if it comes up again. You may not gain more than 2 magic points in a single level up this way.