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The Forester Classby Craig Antoun from Threshold Magazine issue 11
Revision of the Forester character class for BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia D&D
by Craig Antoun (Irondrake)
The forester was first introduced under the BECMI1 D&D rules in the Dawn of the Emperors boxed gazetteer, and presented as a human character class that shares many aspects of the elf class, the most significant of which is the ability to cast magical spells while wearing armor. Though an interesting new class, mechanically the forester, as written, is not much different from a standard elf character, and only lacks the elf’s racial abilities of infravision and immunity to ghoul paralysis. The class also shares the same experience point table as the elf, including progression beyond the 10th level of experience with attack ranks, a game mechanic normally attributed to the demi-human classes. Traditionally, human character classes (save for the mystic) can advance up to 36th level, but the forester was designed with the same level limit and mechanical build as the elf class, which makes little sense when compared to the other human character classes under the BECMI/RC rules.
This article presents a revised forester class, one that allows progression up to 36th level, and adjusts the experience point requirements for the earlier levels. The expanded level progression grants foresters hit point increases from 11th to 36th level, additional general skill slots as they advance, and weapon mastery slots equal to the fighter class. The revision also replaces the forester’s attack rolls and saving throws from the elf class to those of a fighter of equivalent level. The end result is a logically and mechanically balanced forester class; one that is unique from the elf class, yet which falls in line with the other human character classes as presented within the BECMI/RC rules.
Eight hundred years ago2 the then Empress Irene3 of Thyatis made a pact with the Vyalia elves to teach their magics to humans who had the aptitude to understand them. These select humans would learn the ways of the elves and become foresters, woodland warriors capable of wielding magic as the elves do.
Foresters typically originate in Greenheight, the largest town of Vyalia elves in Thyatis, and the center for forester studies. At any given time, one-hundred and sixty or more humans (trainees to the class of forester, but normal men and women) are living there, being taught by elven families willing to adopt them as honorary Vyalia elves.
When a forester trainee is ready to become a forester formally (i.e., the clan sponsoring him is convinced that he is worthy, honorable, and of Lawful alignment), he is taken to the Tree of Life of the sponsoring clan. There, in a special ceremony, he is formally adopted by the clan and visited by a ghostly presence called an “Arm of Ilsundal”, which fills him with energies which allow him to learn magic as elves do. Ilsundal will not visit a character who is not Lawful or who has ill intentions toward the elves or foresters in this way, and can even reclaim those energies – and the forester’s magic powers with them – if the forester ever betrays his clan.
Once the ceremony is completed, the trainee becomes a full-fledged forester of 1st level, able to learn and cast magical spells. The forester also gains the innate ability to wield this magic unhindered while outfitted in armor in the same manner as elves.
Foresters are few in number; there are only a few hundred of them. But because they combine magic-use and fighting in ways that no other humans can, yet do not appear different from other humans, they are effective as adventurers, scouts, and spies.
Forester Class Details
Prime Requisites: Strength and Intelligence.
Other Requirements: Strength and Intelligence scores of 12 or more.
Experience Bonus: 5% for Strength of 13 or better and Intelligence of 13-15, 10% for Strength of 13 or better and Intelligence of 16-18.
Hit Dice: 1d6 per level up to 9th level. Starting with 10th level, +2 hit points per level, and Constitution adjustments no longer apply.
Maximum Level: 36th
Saving Throws: As Fighter of equal level.
THACO: As Fighter of equal level.
Armor: All; shields permitted.
Special Abilities: Magical spells; Fighter Maneuvers (Lance Attack, Set Spear vs. Charge); at 12th level Fighter Combat Options; extra language (elven); 1 in 3 chance to detect secret and hidden doors.
Weapon Mastery: Four weapon choices at 1st level, then an additional choice at levels 3, 6, 9, 11, 15, 19, 23, 27, 30, 33, and 36. One additional choice earned for each 200,000 XP earned after 36th level.
Skills: Alertness and Tracking required at 1st level. Recommended Danger Sense, Riding, Signaling (Elf/Forester), and Survival (Forest).
Foresters can cast magical spells just as elves can4, and the wearing of armor does not interfere with their spellcasting ability. They require a spellbook to memorize their spells each morning just as a regular spellcasting elf does.
Once Ilsundal has chosen to imbue a forester with the ability to wield magic as the elves do, the human is then instructed in elven magic by the clan’s Treekeepers. Elven magic5 is similar to that of human magic-users, but due to the elves’ connection with the Immortal Ilsundal and the Trees of Life, it partakes quite a bit of druidic magic. The forester may learn any of the elven magic spells save for those reserved specifically for Treekeepers.
Foresters are also able to research and learn spells from the standard magic-user spell list, just as a an elf can.
As with normal elves, foresters are limited to 10th level in their spellcasting ability.
Beginning foresters can utilize the fighter’s Set Spear vs. Charge and Lance Attack maneuvers.
Fighter Combat Options
When the forester reaches 12th level, the character gains the ability to use Fighter Combat Options (disarm, smash, and parry). Multiple attacks are also gained at 12th level, which grants the forester two attacks per round. Three attacks are possible at 24th level, and four attacks at 36th level.
All foresters can speak Thyatian, their Alignment tongue, and the elven language (Vyalia dialect). They may speak other languages as Intelligence bonuses dictate.
All foresters are trained by the elves to have a keen eye. Thus they can detect secret and hidden doors on a roll of a 1 or 2 on a 1d6.
Forester characters are required to take the Alertness and Tracking skills at 1st level. Additional recommended skills include Danger Sense, Riding, Signaling (Elf/Forester), and Survival (Forest).
Foresters can use any magic item that elves and magic-users can use, including wands, staves, and magic-user scrolls.
Higher Experience Levels
When foresters reach Name (9th) level, they are often referred to as lord forester (if male) or lady forester (if female).
Foresters may build a special kind of stronghold deep in the forest just as normal elves may do6. The character will also develop a friendship with all normal animals within a five mile radius of the stronghold once it is completed.
Traveling foresters may not become avengers, druidic knights, knights, or paladins as a normal elf may7, and rarely become merchant-princes8. However, both traveling and land-owing foresters may train in any of the seven secret crafts9 (alchemist, cryptomancer, dragonologist, elementalist, illusionist, necromancer, and witch) taught in the Principalities of Glantri.
1BECMI stands for the D&D Basic, Expert, Companion, and Master rule sets by Frank Mentzer, which were later edited together into one volume known as the D&D Rules Cyclopedia by Aaron Allston.
2The Dawn of the Emperors boxed set gives conflicting information on when the Vyalia elves began training foresters. Count Yldysyl Greenheight first agreed to sponsor the Foresters some eight hundred years ago (page 13 of Book One), while the description of the forester class indicates the forester, as a class, has existed for only 500 years (page 18 of Book Two). I’ve chosen to go with the Count’s version of history.
4Foresters use the elven spell progression chart as detailed on Table 1 in the Appendix of this article.
5Full details on elven magic spells can be found in GAZ5 The Elves of Alfheim, pages 63-68.
6See page 26 of the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia for more information on elven strongholds.
7See the Elves of Mystara article in Threshold issue #10 for details on these elven sub-classes.
8The merchant-prince class is detailed in GAZ9 The Minrothad Guilds, Dungeon Master’s Booklet, pages 16-22.
9The Seven Secret Crafts are detailed in GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri, pages 69-76.