I’m a long-time fan of Christian Mehrstam’s Whitehack (I started with the second edition, now, 3e is out), an interesting OSR game that’s built on OD&D idea’s, but very different in many aspects. The most striking difference: Whitehack doesn’t know classes, at least not the typical ones.
Instead, players choose one of three very broad categories, and then fill it with their personal interpretation. For instance: “The Wise” includes everyone working with arcane powers, or with technology that is super-advanced. So, a Wise might be a cultist, chemist, exorcist, meta-mathematician, or anything else you can imagine that fits the mold.
“The Deft” are the skillhounds, thieves, spies, marksmen, rangers, monks, and so on and so forth. A character who relies on skill and technique is a Deft.
And, of course, “The Strong”. Here, you’ll find the barbarians, knights, warriors, boxers, and so on.
The elegant thing now is that you get to specify your character further: by using groups. Every character starts out with two groups. A group is either a species, a vocation or an affiliation. And you write a group right next to an attribute, in brackets. Groups are giving you advantages on your rolls.
I have a Strong character, and I’m writing “The Secret Society of Circus Strongmen” next to his STR. Now, I know that he is a member of that society. As second group, I’m writing down “Circus Strongman”, also next to his STR. I have now a Strong Circus Strongman who is a member of the Secret Society of Circus Strongmen. Now comes the kicker: Whenever I have to make a STR save, I can roll with double advantage (because I have two groups linked to my STR); so I roll three times and take the best result.
That way, as a player, I co-create the world right from the start.
Whitehack is really cool, and it is even cooler (you know what’s coming, don’t you) when you play it FKR style… let’s do this.
No attribute is 15 or higher, so I don’t write any of them on my character sheet, but my STR is 5… so I write “weak” on my sheet.
I think I’ll pick a Wise.
Wise characters start with 1d6+1 hit points. I roll 2, so I get 3hp. Because we’re playing not very often (and at the moment, we’re not playing at all), I make a ruling: hp divided by 2 is the number of HITS a character can take before he’s dying. So, my Wise character has (3/2=) 1.5 or, rounded up, 2 HITS.
Like I said before, a group is either a species, a vocation or an affiliation. Starting Whitehack characters get two groups when they’re created. My first group is the vocation. This is totally freeform in Whitehack, so I think my vocation will be “Mathemagician”. I write down mathemagical formulas, any by transforming their variables, I change the world. “
Mathemagician” goes next to INT – my INT is not noteworthy, so I’ll simply write “Vocation: Mathemagician” to remind me that I still get to roll twice and pick the better result when I have to make an INT save.
My second group will be an affiliation, “The Crimson Church” (linked to my WIS)– what that is, I don’t know yet. I’ll come back to it during play.
The Wise, being the occult class in Whitehack, start with 1 Miracle slot. A miracle can be anything that does miraculous work: a spell, a potion, a word of power, whatever you like. 1 Miracle slot contains 2 miracles (one being active and thus, immediately available, the other being inactive, requiring a day of preparation to switch with the active miracle).
Miracle 1 is “Phonetz’s Pattern of Lingual Convolution”, and
Miracle 2 is “Berjanost’s Monstrous Brute”
(if you’d like to get really cool Vancian spell names, go to Chris Pound’s old-but-good page here)
What exactly are these spells?
And here’s another beautiful aspect of Whitehack: I don’t have to define. When the situation arises and I want to use a spell, I simply tell the referee what I want to accomplish. The ref then tells me the cost in hits. Yep, magic is not cheap in Whitehack. That’s what makes it so interesting. The further the intended effect is away from the wording of a spell or my vocation, the more it costs. So, playing a Wise character, I have always to decide if I want to have low cost spells (those that are precisely worded), or flexible, adaptable spells that cost more (those that are vaguely worded).
A table with different magnitudes of spell effects helps the ref decide on the costs.
I hate equipment shopping, so I start with 2d6 items, and lose 1d6 of them. I’ll probably grant each character an additional d6/3 gold.
(rolls dice) Six items to start with! I pick…
1) paper, ink and quill
2) bundle of books
5) sleeping bag
6) warm clothes
Now, I lose 1d6 of them: 5. Ooof.
I’ll keep the paper, ink and quill in case I need to calculate complex mathemagical formulas.
…and I’m done!
Odham Whittlebottom, level 1 Wise Mathemagician weak; Vocation: Mathemagician (roll INT w/advantage); member of The Crimson Church (roll WIS w/advantage); 2 hits; Miracles: Phonetz's Pattern of Lingual Convolution (active), Berjanost's Monstrous Brute (inactive); Common tongue, paper/ink/quills, 2g