Knave

I’ve been running Maze Rats at my 5th grade after-school club for a while now, but the main problem is that it’s not very compatible with OSR monsters, spells, and mechanics in general. So what I’m looking at now is a way to make something as fast, simple and intuitive as Maze Rats that will work pretty seamlessly with my gaming bookshelf. I’m calling it Knave until I think of something better.

The first problem: how to make it classless? It needs to be classless because I don’t have time to teach each kid how a different class works every week. Things need to be as obvious as possible. My solution right now is to tie everything into encumbrance slots. You have as many slots as you have Strength, but everything that might make you more martial or more arcane are just items. (All classes lie on the martial/arcane spectrum, and don’t tell me I’ve forgotten rogues, all adventurers are rogues).

Art by Stepan Alekseev

So if you want to be more of a fighter, you pick up more fighty things: better armor and weapons. Armor runs from AC 12 to 16, and takes up 1-5 encumbrance slots. Shields and helmets (+1 AC each) also take up a slot. Weapons deal d6, d8 or d10 damage and take up 1, 2 or 3 slots. So a fighter that’s really decked out for war can easily fill 8-12 slots, especially if they’re hauling around a few spare weapons.

I’ve solved the wizard problem by just making encumbrance slots the same thing as spell slots. Each spell is now a spell book that can be cast once per day, and which takes up 1 encumbrance slot. PCs can only cast spells of their level or lower (it’s always bugged the hell out of me how these don’t align in normal D&D), and PC level only goes up to 10. You never get new spell books as a result of leveling up; you have to find them like any other item, and the high level ones are incredibly rare. PCs are flatly incapable of creating or copying the spells in spell books. It’s a lost art. This way magic users have to claw their way to every scrap of magic they have, be constantly on the lookout for people trying to steal their grimoires, and have to wade into battle flipping through the mobile library they have hanging off them.

An early draft of Knave is out now for my supporters over on Patreon.

5 thoughts on “Knave”

  1. This sounds pretty cool! I’d love to hear more updates as your project goes on. Are you aware of The Retired Adventurer’s Into the Depths? It’s a class-less D&D-looking/feeling game with inspirations from Into the Odd and no doubt your own game while being directly compatible with anything AD&D or OD&D.

  2. Love this idea. Really simple and elegant way of keeping the game “classless”. Looking forward to seeing more of knave!

  3. I’d love a classless rules light osr compatible game. I also run games at a club and although my players aren’t that young these kind of games are ideal for new players, but something I usually find is that players feel quiet disappointed when they see that there are two other players that have virtually the same character. Your take on randomized character creation was especially refreshing. Something I’d love to see would be a more horizontal power growth rather than vertical. Dungeon World has something of this, but lacks the support for indefinite different characters. What I mean is something that gives players more varied and exotic options, especially for martial players (things like making a character who uses a whip be able to steal things from other people hands or being able to extract a random essence from a dead monster) as they level up rather than more powerful versions of things they can already do, like more hp or damage. That would also help with balancing characters in games where players come and go. Also, something cool to see would be weapons durability so martial characters can lose their source of power in a similar way as the magic users. I’m really interested in this proyect since it sound like made for my needs. I also struggle finding games that meet my needs but remain compatible with osr products so I can run published adventures, the black hack being the closest thing to what I want but still lacking many things I look for. If you need any feedback I’d love to help you with this one.

    1. Knave is going to have randomized chargen just like Maze Rats, although it’s not going to have any special abilities apart from spells. Those sorts of things I leave up to the referee. It’s probably going to have a system for stunts though, so if players roll high enough on a whip attack they can whip things out of someone’s hands.

  4. This looks like it could be my next newbie system. I’m using Maze Rats (newbies) and GLOG (special newbies and everyone else) right now, with an interest in Troika and Into the Odd.

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