Friday, March 19, 2021

Race-as-Class: Normal Human for Old School.

Jennifer Connelly as Sarah in Labyrinth (1986).
Same as illustrates the original Noncombatant class.

This class owes a massive debt to the Noncombatant BX character class at Against the Wicked City, of which it's largely a recapitulation, with some adjustments. Theirs fits on a page, mine spills over the edges and slops onto the floor.

The Normal Human only exists in opposition/relation to The Adventure and the adventuring classes, and their special abilities will sometimes be neutralised by genre conventions and/or in-game realism.

I've tagged this as 'survival horror' because it's part of a process, but as presented this class might be lighter-hearted than the genre demands. Cut off anything that offends you herein.

Description: A Normal Human, about to cross from the mundane world to the extraordinary. 

Hopefully this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and you'll make it home. Or you might die.

Attacks: As Normal Human.

Hit Dice: If Strength and Constitution are both 13+, use a d8; if both are 6 or less, use d4. Otherwise, use d6.

Child characters always use d4, no matter how high or low their Ability Scores are. A child character can be up to three individuals, run by the same player - they each get their own HD.

You count as having a full HD against a Fighter's multiple attacks vs. low-level monsters.

Saving Throws: As Normal Human.

XP: As a Thief n/a, you're a Normal Human.

Prime Requisite: Intelligence or Charisma, but you have to randomise - life is unfair. n/a

Armour: Any, but all the Ability Score and encumbrance restrictions, penalties for bulk/weight and fatigue rules for wearing armour that you normally handwave in your game should be applied rigorously. Introduce some if there aren't any, or don't worry about it.

Weapons: Any. You could even be skilled or specialised.

Alignment Restrictions: None.

Special Abilities.

Aging: Between adventures/experiences, your character can Age. They can skip ahead, but not back. 

Children - friends or siblings - can grow apart or remain together, but once they reach adulthood must become characters in their own right.

Adjust Ability Scores (and possibly HD) as appropriate.

Implied Abilities: Roll checks at advantage/with a bonus if they relate to your personal expertise/ experience, and you don't need to roll if it's a routine task.

Really, all characters have these, not just Normal Humans - character class is not necessarily your job, your living, or even your dream. 

Select or randomly generate a suite of possibilities based on failed/previous careers, education, background/backstory, culture, social standing and personal interests. 

Luck: If not already being used as a supplemental Ability Score, Normal Humans possess Luck as a class ability - it can only be used during adventures and has no impact on their mundane life.

Misery/Morale: If you're using this subsystem (or similar), Normal Humans start out with 0 Misery.

Normal Humans can start with 2 Misery if this is appropriate to the character, but it's not mechanically advantageous.

Once per adventure/day, you can choose to reroll a failed Misery/Morale check (or fear save or SAN roll); if you prefer, you can choose to reroll a failed death or mind-control save instead.

Arthur Dent - Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
It's funny because his homeworld was destroyed and it turned out it was just an island of ignorance anyway.

Mostly Harmless/ Not A Threat: As long as you have caused no damage, you are not considered a credible threat and enemies will attack your companions for preference - you are still vulnerable to indirect and area of effect attacks.

You get +4 to your attack and damage rolls, but once you inflict damage you become a credible threat and lose the bonus.

Assist: Narratively, you make a vital (though possibly accidental) contribution to an ally’s attack; mechanically, you roll an extra attack for your ally at +2 to Hit/damage (or with advantage, if you prefer).

This will not make you seem a credible threat, and can be used once per adventure/day.

Duck For Cover: Once per adventure/day, you can turn a hit against you into a miss. You can decide after the roll is made, but before damage is determined.

Joseph Mazello as Tim in Jurassic Park (1993).

Hiding/ Inconspicuous: By staying put and keeping quiet, you are able to hide from pursuit/ avoid discovery. Roll d6, on a 1-2 you avoided the immediate danger and can attempt to move to a new hiding place - otherwise, stay put and put your trust in the dice and the narrative.

Roll again if the searchers persist or attempt to trick you. Three successes in a row means they move on, believing you have escaped or that there was nothing there in the first place. 

Three 'fails' in a row means that they have closed in and have you right where they want you.

Knock Out: Usually done with an improvised weapon close at hand - vase of flowers, bottle of wine, decorative lamp, pot plant, skull, Mother's ashes - which breaks in the process, but can be a weapon or bare hands.

You attack from behind - your target must save or be KO'd for d6 rounds. Ignores helmets, unless that helmet is plot armour.

Can be done because you are stealthy, or because you are Mostly Harmless/ Not A Threat. Normally only possible once per encounter, if you are spotted.

Ashley Laurence as Kirsty in Hellraiser (1987).

Whoa!/ Listen!/ Wait!: +1 Reaction Roll as long as no blood has been shed - not being perceived as a credible threat (so it doesn't work if you are) means you have a better chance of defusing tense situations. Stacks with Charisma.

Works across language and species barriers, but doesn't allow more than very basic communication in this case. Doesn't work on other Normal Humans.

Hold It!: A non-magical command or mass command effect that pauses the actors on the stage long enough to get a dia/monologue going. While it will halt proceedings for a minimum of 1 round, it cannot really be used for anything other than opening communications.

Completely optional because some people have strong opinions about this kind of 4th wall-breaking metagame genre awareness.

In-game characters like Deadpool (ffs) and (my version of) Anthraxus the Decayed are the only ones that will recognise that this is anything other than a natural lull in the action, but it affects them just the same. 

Once per adventure, specifically.

Take The Bullet: Once per encounter, a companion can 'take the bullet' to save you, though they aren't compelled to.

If an attack or effect will take you to 0 hp or less, a companion can suffer the damage instead.

Taken Prisoner/ Left for Dead: If you surrender, you will be taken prisoner by enemies, but your bonds will be loose enough that you can wriggle free in d6 hours.

If taken to 0 hp or otherwise knocked out of combat, you will be left for dead without further confirmation and will come to d6 hours later. 

One or the other, once per adventure, and no guarantee your adventurer companions are treated the same.


You're not an adventurer - you're a Normal Human who's stumbled into another world you did not know existed/ did not acknowledge. You're frequently the only one of your type in an adventuring party, though you may be the figure the party has formed around. 

Most of your special abilities only exist in relation to The Adventure (however that is defined), so cannot be used in your mundane life, and your lack of an advancement scheme means that all you take from an adventure is memories and all you bring is yourself.

When more than one Normal Human PC is involved in an adventure, they must share special abilities. They can cooperate to use them as a unit (if that makes sense in-game), or using an ability closes it off to the other(s) until it refreshes - roll dice, draw cards or rock-paper-scissors for dominance if there's a disagreement. 

  • Luck: shared as a single Ability Score between multiple Normal Humans in a party, but the individuals can use it as they wish - it is only the 'stock' that is communal.
  • Implied Abilities: always belong to the individual.
  • Mostly Harmless/ Not A Threat: the group benefits, but only needs one of them to all lose it. Exception: treat multiple child characters as individuals, even if run as a single character.
  • Take the Bullet: Normal Humans can do this for each other, if they like.
  • Taken Prisoner/ Left For Dead: what happens to one, happens to the others.

Advancement/ Experience.

Normal Humans aren't really meant to advance - to do so would mean they were adventurers in the proper sense - as they're usually just happy to get back home alive.

The original Noncombatant class advances with XP, and gets more uses of certain special abilities, as well as the usual advances for saves, hit points and attacks.

Something like the X System (which also features as the advance system in PARIAH) should work, as it allows for some mechanical growth without making the character too strongly smell of a class. It's a way of advancing like in Call of Cthulhu but without using percentiles.

Or use XP as a kind of currency (my unoriginal suggestion for Basic 1), so the Normal Human can come to a second adventure a little better prepared.


The Everyman/woman and True Innocent classes from Ghastly Affair would also suffice for Normal Human characters, and there wouldn't need to be any competition over special ability use. Strictly speaking, though, they wouldn't be Normal Humans (especially if they are able to gain levels).

The True Innocent, being an archetype from Gothic fiction, is closer in spirit to the Normal Human than the Everyman/woman or Tradesperson (below).

AD&D 2e Ravenloft supplement, The Masque of the Red Death, includes classes as approximations of the Cleric, Fighter, Magic User and Thief for 19th-century Gothic horror adventures. 

The Tradesperson (Thief) class is closest to a Normal Human - again, allowing them to gain levels makes them something other. As an option, all character kits in the ruleset could be options for the Tradesperson - it's not going to upset things significantly.


You probably already get where I'm coming from, but let's hammer it a bit more. These are the kind of people I'm thinking of when I think of Normal Humans. Some of these are more adventurous than the others, and some are going through a funnel*:

  • Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, Poirot (it might actually be their irregular sidekicks who are the Normal Humans, not them).
  • Sarah Williams.
  • Kirsty Cotton, Nancy Thompson, Laurie Strode, Sidney Prescott (not all Final Girls are Normal Humans, and sometimes they're going through a funnel anyway). 
  • Lex and Tim Murphy, the Baudelaire siblings, Newt.
  • Peter aka Sugarbear. 
  • Bilbo and the LOTR Hobbits, though they're going through a funnel to become... Halflings (Sam's a Cleric).
  • Jonathan Harker.
  • Mina Murray/Harker (in Dracula and the earlier League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics - not the film!)
  • Xander Harris, Cordelia Chase, The Wishverse White Hats.
  • Ferdinand Lyle (Penny Dreadful - Sir Malcolm and Victor Frankenstein are edge cases, but could at least be Tradespersons with the Explorer and Physician kit, respectively - or straight Ghastly Affair characters).
  • Mystery Incorporated (Velma and Daphne in particular are edge cases, depending on the iteration).
  • Arthur Dent, most of Dr. Who's Companions.
  • Sarah Connor, Ellen Ripley (definitely going through a funnel).
  • Abbot and Costello (I've got an idea that I've seen something like a Bumbling Comedy Duo class somewhere...)
  • Billy Peltzer, Marty McFly.
  • All versions of the Ghostbusters, film and cartoon (though they don't have a mundane life to go back to, unless they quit).
  • The Goonies.
  • Harry Mason, James Sutherland, Heather Mason.
  • You. Me.
*I've not played or read DCC, so hope I'm using this in a way that makes sense.

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