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What are the flavourful "Dying Earth" OSR systems/class sets?

Geburah

Brickotherapist
Validated User
The Ultraviolet Grasslands Kickstarter has me eyeing OSR systems with curiosity. I've not delved in much up to now, with only a short stint playing Mazes & Minotaurs a few years back, and some looking around in the past few days - flipping through Backswords & Bucklers, Basic Fantasy, The Nightmare Underneath, Fantastic Heroes & Witchery - and exploring the big list of OSR games available here (D&D Retroclones).

Given the universe presented in Ultraviolet Grasslands (including Cat Overlords, masked mind-networked immortals and such), I'd be really loath to have characters who are "Fighting Men", Wizards and Thieves. It just lacks a certain flavour, for me. What are (if any) some good Dying Earth/Urth of the New Sun OSR systems out there? Or reskins? Or even just class sets? Fantastic Heroes & Witchery has a few classes in the Science Fantasy style but I'm not fully hooked...

I'm looking for some real weirdness: people who graft hives of nanotech bees to their backs, which produce "spells" (healing, "create food", farsight, fly), fighters who have touched a monolith to gain the ability to generate elemental effects in their blades/over their bodies, people who ride AI-driven chrome horsecycles, glitching thieves who have stolen the litteral Keys to Space and Time and can teleport, apport, or pause time (at increasing power with higher levels, of course). Races that are human variants bred of science or sorcery: shapeshifters bereft of a lasting identity, endless clones of dead magus, brutish Servitors betrayed by sensitive hearts and a yearning to write poetry, husks reanimated by an AI helm. Maybe it's a pipe dream?

One possibility would be a class creation system - do any of the OSR games have "build your own class" system (I seem to remember an old Dragon Magazine (?) with a "build your D&D class" article in it, for example)? Another would be using a different system entirely (Fate Core, HeroQuest or even something like Apocalypse World - but emphatically NOT Numenera, which I own but do not like), but that might remove some of the charm...
 

BeholderThief

Registered User
Validated User
I don’t know if anything specifically matches exactly what you want. But I’d take a look at a couple sources, including...

Mutant Future
Dungeon Crawl Classis
Mutant Crawl Classics
Crawling Under a Broken Moon ‘zine
Other Dust / Stars Without Number

I’d also just take a look at OD&D or a cleaned up version of it. The thing with old school classes, is that you may be writing down ‘fighting man’ in your character sheet, but your character can be any sort of warrior type. Same thing with magic user. The class names are intentionally vague and generic because that are broad strokes of what function your character plays mechanically in the game. You can graft any specific fluff or just add any special abilities you feel free to. Maybe it can add a little work but those classes are really just starting points.

Edit: as an aside you have already come up with several class concepts more creative and interesting than you are going to find in anyone else’s published work. I say just pick a simple core game and run with your own ideas.
 
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DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
I'm looking for some real weirdness: people who graft hives of nanotech bees to their backs, which produce "spells" (healing, "create food", farsight, fly), fighters who have touched a monolith to gain the ability to generate elemental effects in their blades/over their bodies, people who ride AI-driven chrome horsecycles, glitching thieves who have stolen the litteral Keys to Space and Time and can teleport, apport, or pause time (at increasing power with higher levels, of course). Races that are human variants bred of science or sorcery: shapeshifters bereft of a lasting identity, endless clones of dead magus, brutish Servitors betrayed by sensitive hearts and a yearning to write poetry, husks reanimated by an AI helm. Maybe it's a pipe dream?
Hate to shill, but the only thing I can think of for something like this is my own Quantum Flux: Unique Superscience Artifacts. It is a Mutant Future supplement and describes a few score items that have multiple functions, both spell and mutation (plus a handful of unique). You can find it on Drivethru.

One possibility would be a class creation system - do any of the OSR games have "build your own class" system (I seem to remember an old Dragon Magazine (?) with a "build your D&D class" article in it, for example)?
The one I remember is in 109 it is horrible. Uses percentages and lots of math. Apparently there is another in 243 according to the index at aeolia.

Something you may want to consider instead is Player's Option: Skills and Powers and PO: Spells & Magic. Those two books provide plenty of ideas on how to customize the existing classes. I like the advantages and (esp) disadvantages in Spells & Magic for cultural wizard and monster design.
 

E.T.Smith

A Most Sincere Poseur
Validated User
Check out Warriors of the Red Planet. Though it's Burroughs style sword-and-planet stuff, that genre is a very close antecedent of the Dying Earth genre, with weird "indistinguishable from magic" technology, incomprehensibly old civilizations and plenty of strange monsters.
 

Geburah

Brickotherapist
Validated User
Mutant Future
Dungeon Crawl Classis
Mutant Crawl Classics
Crawling Under a Broken Moon ‘zine
Other Dust / Stars Without Number
Thanks, Crawling under a Broken Moon looks like it might hit some spots, and I picked up the free version of Mutant Future... The more post Apoc' stuff of Other Dust and clearly Sci Fi of SWN seems less of interest, unless there's some interesting system features.

[...]The class names are intentionally vague and generic because that are broad strokes of what function your character plays mechanically in the game. You can graft any specific fluff or just add any special abilities you feel free to. Maybe it can add a little work but those classes are really just starting points.

Edit: as an aside you have already come up with several class concepts more creative and interesting than you are going to find in anyone else’s published work. I say just pick a simple core game and run with your own ideas.
Thanks! It's just that - despite years of playing AD&D2, wayyyyy back, and a lengthy Rules Cyclopedia D&D campaign - I'm no longer familiar enough with the system to tinker. I was rather hoping some enterprising OSR creator had come up with something I might make use of...

Hate to shill, but the only thing I can think of for something like this is my own Quantum Flux: Unique Superscience Artifacts. It is a Mutant Future supplement and describes a few score items that have multiple functions, both spell and mutation (plus a handful of unique). You can find it on Drivethru.
Cool, will take a look.

The one I remember is in 109 it is horrible. Uses percentages and lots of math. Apparently there is another in 243 according to the index at aeolia.

Something you may want to consider instead is Player's Option: Skills and Powers and PO: Spells & Magic. Those two books provide plenty of ideas on how to customize the existing classes. I like the advantages and (esp) disadvantages in Spells & Magic for cultural wizard and monster design.
Fished through my Dragon backcopies and your assessment of 109 is pretty accurate.

True, I'd forgotten PO. I think my brother (my early teens DM) bought them back in the day, although I'm not sure we ever used them in anger. But wasn't that an unholy abomination of point counting?
 

Groat

Alt-Wrong
Validated User
One possibility would be a class creation system - do any of the OSR games have "build your own class" system (I seem to remember an old Dragon Magazine (?) with a "build your D&D class" article in it, for example)?
This may be helpful. It is bound to the LotFP rules but those are close enough to B/X for what matters. Here is a random generator based on the construct.

I write new OSR classes all the time. Here are a few of the quirkier ones, most of which would fit right in on the Dying Earth.
Skaven Engineer
Child of the Pines
Faerie
These three and The Extras are my favorite. Ever since the day I read the words, "You can build a 'doomwheel': basically a giant spiky hamster wheel 4' wide and 8' across, powered by a bunch of giant rats running along inside it. And then you can build a seat on top of it and ride around on it while cackling madly, because you're obviously totally fucking nuts", your work has held a special place in my heart.
 

Geburah

Brickotherapist
Validated User
One option to consider is the kickstarter Arcana of the Ancients because it brings that sort of weirdness to 5e without the Numenera system.
Yeah, thanks. I'd seen it but am somewhat turned off by the lack of detail of what will be in it. It feels more "tacked on" and less a full on Gonzo Science Fiction/"Dying Earth" take. Is there more information for backers on the content, specifically options for characters?
Check out Warriors of the Red Planet. Though it's Burroughs style sword-and-planet stuff, that genre is a very close antecedent of the Dying Earth genre, with weird "indistinguishable from magic" technology, incomprehensibly old civilizations and plenty of strange monsters.
Will look into it. Classes seem a bit bland but might be an interesting base to work on.
I write new OSR classes all the time. Here are a few of the quirkier ones, most of which would fit right in on the Dying Earth.

Sandsculptor
Patchwork Girl
Angel
Deep One Hybrid
Ghoul-Blooded
Skaven Engineer
Blood man
Child of the Pines
Tinker
Faerie
Mud Man
Gothic Villain
Thanks, some of these are brilliant. The Sandsculptor fits in nicely with a class idea I had for a nanite manipulator (Wielder of the Black Sand), as do the Ghoul-Blooded and the Brass Man from your classes book. This is quite cool. Do you have a process for coming up with these or do you just "jump in"?

One thing I was wondering is if there is an OSR game that takes Numenera's "Character Focus" idea, or Grant Howitt's Unbound's approch to essentially giving the character two classes: one traditional and one power related. It's be interesting to actually have that double progression. I could see something like the traditional classes and then power classes like "Blaster" (protection from element and "scorching ray"/"chill blast" 1/day at 1st level, increasing power as you level, and fireball or cone of cold at higher level), "Rider" (evolving companion that gains power as the class levels), "Unstuck" (short distance teleporting at 1st level, like Eladrins, powering up to dimension door and haste), "Host" (has a parasitic organism, regenerates slowly, resistance to mind control, mind control at higher level?). So you could have an Unstuck Rogue or a Blaster Fighting Man...
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
True, I'd forgotten PO. I think my brother (my early teens DM) bought them back in the day, although I'm not sure we ever used them in anger. But wasn't that an unholy abomination of point counting?
It can be, but what I find much easier is to just go over the advantages and disadvantages and use them directly to modify the existing classes. So gain X points for dropping the fighter to a d8 and use those points to buy an increased movement rate for example. After rereading S&P, there aren't that many disadvantages so you would have to come up with more on your own (though that can be really easy by just looking at a class description). I am use to Spells & Magic, which has much larger lists for mages and priests.
 
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