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3E Class Variants in Mystara

by Greg Weatherup

I would like to stir up some discussion on 3e variant classes in Mystara, hence this thread. I wasn’t sure if this should go here or in the Mystara 3e thread. At first I was going to put this in the Mystara 3e thread but a) I don’t want to derail Gawain’s project and b) thought I might get more input here. If any moderator things it should be there instead, please don’t hesitate to move it.

Obviously we would want to rename some of the options with Mystaran appropriate names.

Keeping the rest of this post for an index.


In Mystara barbarians are usually associated with the following: Antalians (Northern Reaches, Heldann, Norwold), Goblinoids, Rakasta, and Atruaghi and secondarily with Ylari, Esterhold, Hinterlands, and nomadic cultures (especially Steppe Cultures). Roger also lists Sind and 'Dread Sea', but I don't see it.

In Unearthed Arcana the concept of Totem Barbarians are introduced, where some abilities are swapped for others, with the default (unchanged) being the Jaguar Totem. I wonder if this wouldn't work for Atruaghi and Hinterlander Barbarians? But which Totem for which?

For Bear clan I immediately thought the Bear totem but after looking over the changes I'm wondering if the Ape totem would be better.
For the Elk clan I was undecided if the Eagle or Lion totems would be best, or just the default Jaguar.
For the Horse clan I was torn between the Horse or Wolf Totems, though the Lion totem might work as well.
For the Tiger Clan, Serpent Totem, or maybe Dragon Totem
For the Turtle Clan, I don't know maybe the Eagle totem

For the Thracians of the hinterlands maybe the Boar Totem or maybe the Dragon Totem or just keep it Jaguar

Would any of the totems be good for other groups? Nomadic Rakasta perhaps (Lion, Eagle, Boar totems)?

Secondly in Unearthed Arcana is the Rage Variant: Whirling Frenzy. Ylari barbarians anyone? Or just stick with the Dervish?

lastly in Unearthed Arcana is a Barbarian variant crossed with some Ranger abilities, but to me it seems too much like a Ranger and not enough like a Barbarian. However I'll ask, does any one see any Mystaran Barbarian-Ranger crosses of this type? Esterhold or Rakasta Barbarians perhaps?

Other barbarian variants from outside of UA that I am aware of include:

The Horselord which to me just screams Ethengarian and so likely also Makistani
The Implacable: They give up Fast Movement and instead of Rage get Resilient Rage (instead of +4 Str, +2 Con, +2 Will, -2 AC, they get +4 Dex, +2 Con, +2 Will, and +1 DR - not sure if they still get the -2 AC, which would be cancelled out by the +4 dex anyhow). Any ideals on how, or even if, this fits Mystara?

and minor variants include:
Berserker Strength - Antalian/Northern Reaches Berserkers!
City Brawler - An Urban Barbarian concept that I actually like, a raging pugilist, but is it too overpowered? Any particular cities or cultures for this one? where would a rage version of boxing fit in Mystara? Dwarves?

Dashing Step - In exchange for Trap Sense they gain increasing AC bonuses while charging. Not sure the flavour idea behind this one. I used it once for an orc Bbn-1 and he gave quite a first round whollop to the parties’ paladin. Broken Land/Goblinoid shock troops perhaps? Rakasta's perhaps?

Fearsome Gaze - only comes into play level 7 and above, gives an intimidating stare down...
& Relentless Smash - only difference is at level 20
For these two I can't think of any particular culture, but would probably keep both of them as player's options for 7th and 20th level.

Unshakable - I like this one and am considering making it the default option in my games. Only difference is at 5th level instead of Improved Uncanny dodge, gains Immune to Fear effects. Like with the City Brawler though, is it too powerful? Perhaps some sort of bonus to resist fear effects (1/4 Bbn levels, 1/2?). In either case, this fits a variety of Mystaran barbarian cultures, right?

Racial substitution variants-
Goliath Barbarian- I don't know anything about these Goliath's, so they are not in my Mystara. Anyone have any experience using them?
Halfling Barbarian- I admit, I laughed when I first read this... laughed hard... But after looking it over, it makes sense. I don't think it works to have hin Barbarians (of any kind) in the Known World, but could this work for Norwold or Davanian Hin Barbarians? (and try not to laugh .. seriously, stop laughing already! )
Half-Orc Barbarian- not many Half-Orcs in Mystara, and the few Half-Orc barbarians I would think would be better suited to use vanilla Barbarians, but I wonder if these abilities, especially Reckless Charge and/or Insightful Rage wouldn't work better as player options for regular barbarians? Mystara compatible?

Bard- The class that is always good in theory, but never good in practice. I’ve never found a system (under any ruleset) that melds theory and application together to make the bard work like it should, and 3e doesn’t even seem close. Of course part of that I suppose is that there are different impressions of what a bard is? My take is a “Jack of all trades” – knowing how to do and about bits and pieces of this and that, but not specialising or in-depth ability or knowledge of anything, who’s “magic” is more of a social and subtle magic with a little bit of dabbling in the arcane and/or profane. That’s my interpretation, and 2e got close, but even then it needed too much flavour tweaking. 3e does okay for ‘the Minstrel inspiring with poetry and arts and music’ and it does so-so for ‘a lucky and plucky adventurer knowledgeable in lore and stories’, but 3e combines the two into one plus a good helping of arcane spellcasting with a bit of a sage ability. And I’ve never seen a good Antalian skald take.
So, what other types of bard are found in Mystara?
Antalian Skalds
Savage Coast Heralds
Kaelic Warrior Poets
Troubadours and acrobats and entertainer types
I’ve seen one suggestion to use the bard (with slightly different spell list) as a Shepherd of Rad.
Are there Elven spellsingers in Mystara? (probably not) though there would be Faenare windsingers right?

So what does 3e offer us?
Vanilla – see above for my rant on it (sorry). Does anyone see a fit for Mystaran Bards in there?
Bardic Sage – If you want to go the sage route then yes, but I personally already think that vanilla is too much of a sage. Any Mystaran example of this type?
Divine Bard – Same as vanilla but more spell selection and spells are Divine rather than arcane in origin. Personally I think the bard already has too much magic, though the concept of Divine origin gets the first step (of many needed) closer to the skald.
Savage Bard – Chaotic only, Fort is good instead of Ref, Illiterate, Decipher Script and Speak Language are Cross Class skills in exchange for Survival as a class skill. Mystaran applications???
The Bard with some fey/druid connections. Makes for a perfect Satyr/Faun character, but other races??? Maybe drop the animal companion ability and use it for Elven druid types.
Harbinger – Non-Good, frightener and ‘puts-you-down’ character….. um… ok….

Minor Variants:
Bardic Knack – only difference is at 1st level Replaces Bardic Knowledge with Bardic Knack. Nice, I would probably make it the default choice.

Gnome – can’t picture what role and style a gnomish bard would look like so I don’t know what to think. Are there Bards in Gnomish communities? Outside of gnomish communities would they be acrobats and tumblers and buffoon types (I think there was one troupe in Lizzieni in Glantri)? Had a player briefly play one (and use this variant) in one of my email games but that player then had to bale on the game due to RL and I then had no idea how to portray his character concept as an NPC.
Half-Elf – Not many half elves in Mystara, but I like the Soothing Voice and Secrets of the Diplomat as options for vanilla.

Various Schools representing different background training. Basically two skills become cross class in exchange for getting +1 to two other skills. i.e. “Mountaintop University” a reclusive and hard to get to place looses Knowledge (local) & Gather Information for +1 boosts to Balance and Climb. I’m not sure any of the sample schools are quite right for Mystara, but it seems like we could come up with some of our own Mystara appropriate schools.

Anyone have any comments or suggestions for Mystaran 3e bards???