GLOSS #3: The Wordsmith

#3: The Wordsmith

For this latest installment of our GLOSS series, we are looking at another new class for DCC: the Wordsmith, which is a slightly different interpretation of a Bard class. Historically in fantasy RPGs, the Bard has been a troubadour or wandering musician, playing instruments and using music to produce magical effects. These characters tend to be charismatic and outgoing, willing and able to use their wits and charm to get themselves into – and out of –  many a perilous situation. They have magical ability, originally a handful of spells learned at random and later morphing into a full-blown spellcaster, aren’t the worst at using a sword or bow, and also have a handful of thief skills, representing their ability to sneak about and deal with the underside of the world.

Fundamentally, the idea of a sneaky character with some mild magical ability is a compelling one, and lends itself to many an application. However, the focus on music has always been a sticking point for many of us – we envision a character more like a John Constantine or the Grey Mouser. The bones of a Bard character support that approach, but the music mechanics simply don’t. To bridge this gap, we present the Wordsmith, a class that’s a hybrid of a Thief and a Wizard, with a slightly different approach to magic. We call it the Wordsmith, since at its core the class uses vocalizations to alter reality – e.g., cast spells.

The class is presented in the same manner as the classes in the DCC Core Rulebook.

You can find GLOSS #1 here: and GLOSS #2 here:

The Wordsmith

Poet. Truthsayer. Bard. Kalimat. They call you many things, but the words they use mean little.

The words you use mean everything.

The rules that govern the multiverse are known to more than just clerics and other followers of gods and powers. Those who study these rules can master them, as proved by wizards and elves for millennia. And while the rules can be understood – and even broken – by any willing to dedicate the time and energy to master them, it is given you to know that true power lies in understanding the language that defines the fabric of reality.

So have you learned, and such you practice. As a wordsmith, you are a student and disciple of these words of power, and you understand how the language of the cosmos can be manipulated to your whim. You travel to hone your craft and to learn more about it. You may belong to an order dedicated to a specific cause, and you may adventure purely for your own development and satisfaction. Regardless of your reasons, you travel and you seek and you learn, and few who encounter you walk away unchanged.   

Hit Points: A wordsmith gains 1d6 hit points at each level.

Weapon Training: A wordsmith is trained in the use of these weapons: battleaxe, club, dagger, handaxe, longsword, mace, short sword, spear, two handed sword, and warhammer. A wordsmith is also trained in these missile fire weapons: crossbow, javelin, shortbow, and sling. A wordsmith is trained in wearing Padded, Leather, Studded Leather, Hide, Scale Mail, and Chainmail, though armor affects their spellcasting as normal.

Alignment: wordsmith normally operates outside the formal laws of the land but can be of any alignment. Most wordsmiths strive to be as objective as possible, however, and so most are Neutral. A wordsmith’s alignment determines their interests, and those interests determine the rate of advancement in the various skills. In addition, wordsmiths of each alignment gain access to one skill unavailable to wordsmiths of the other alignments.  

Caster Level: Caster level is a measurement of a wordsmith’s power in using their words to affect the world. A wordsmith’s caster level is usually their level as a wordsmith. For example, a 2nd-level wordsmith usually has a caster level of 2.

Magic: The magic a wordsmith taps is the same as that used by Wizards, but while a Wizard can access that power by the use of strange rituals, a wordsmith merely utters the necessary commands and the universe obeys. 

In practice, that means that a wordsmith’s spells do not misfire and never lead to corruption, but also means the wordsmith learns them at a far slower rate and will never command the same level of power as a dedicated wizard or cleric.   

At 1st level a wordsmith determines 1 spell that they know, representing their experience prior to that point. As the wordsmith adventures, they may learn more spells of progressively higher levels. A wordsmith knows a number of spells as shown on table 1, below, modified by their Intelligence score.

Known spells are determined randomly (see Chapter 5: Magic in the DCC Core Rulebook). They may be of any level for which the wordsmith is eligible, as shown by the max spell level column. The wordsmith chooses the level before making his die roll. Higher-level spells are more powerful but harder to cast.

Wordsmiths cast spells by making a spell check. A wordsmith’s spell check is usually 1d16 + Intelligence modifier + caster level. Due to their use of the fundamentals of creation, wordsmiths are not subject to Mercurial Magic.

Variant: Personality Modifier

As conceived, the Wordsmith’s abilities are keyed off the character’s Intelligence score. However, given the class’s background, it works just as well to use the character’s Personality score instead.

Supernatural Patrons: a wordsmith’s abilities stem from their mastery over the fundamentals of creation, not from bargaining with demons and outsiders. As such, wordsmiths do not consult or consort with supernatural patrons and cannot learn the invoke patron or patron bond spells. A player who gets either result when rolling for new spells should reroll.

Familiars: Like wizards, wordsmiths may enjoy the company of a familiar, per the find familiar spell.

Luck: Unlike a wizard, a wordsmith’s Luck modifier does not apply to corruption rolls, and wordsmiths are not subject to mercurial magic.

Action dice: A wordsmith rolls d20s for attacks and skill checks, but their more limited spellcasting flexibility means they make spell checks using a die one lower on the dice chain. A wordsmith’s first action die can be used for attacks or spell checks, but their second action die can only be used for spell checks. At 5th level, a wordsmith can cast two spells in a single round, the first at one step down on the dice chain and the second at two steps down. 

Special Abilities: Similarly to a thief, a wordsmith learns certain skills pursuant to their goals and interests. A wordsmith can climb sheer surfaces, forge documents, hide in shadows, read languages, and cast spells from scrolls, A Lawful wordsmith also learns Disguise Self, a Neutral wordsmith learns Sneak Silently, and a Chaotic wordsmith learns Handle Poison.   

The wordsmith receives a bonus to their skills based on level and alignment, as shown on table 2 below. 

To use a skill, the player rolls d20 and adds his modifier. They must beat a DC assigned to the task at hand. An easy task is DC 5, while an extremely difficult task is DC 20. In some cases, the judge may make the roll for the character, and the result will not be known until some trigger event occurs (e.g., a forged document may not be truly tested until presented to the king’s commissary).

A wordsmith needs tools to climb sheer surfaces, forge documents, and handle poisons. A 1st-level wordsmith must purchase a set of thieves’ tools that allows them to use these skills.

Success when using a thief’s skill means the following:

Cast spell from a scroll: Provided a spell is written on a scroll, a wordsmith can attempt to read the scroll and cast the magical spell. The spell check DC is as standard, but the wordsmith rolls the indicated type of die to attempt to beat that DC. The wordsmith may not attempt spellburn.

Climb Sheer Surfaces: As one would expect. DC 20 is a perfectly smooth surface with no visible handholds. A normal stone wall is DC 10.

Disguise Self: The degree of change determines the DC. The wordsmith can transform themself to resemble someone of the same basic race and physical dimensions with a DC 5 check. Changing significant facial features requires a DC 10 check. Changing physical traits, like mannerisms and height, requires a DC 15 check. Fooling someone close to the target (such as a parent or spouse) requires a minimum DC 20 check.

Forge Document: The DC varies with the complexity and originality of the source document, ranging from DC 5 to DC 20.

Handle Poison: Any time a wordsmith uses poison they must make a DC 10 safety check. On a failure, they accidentally poison themself! This check is made each time poison is applied to a blade or other surface. Additionally, on a natural 1 on any attack roll with a poisoned blade, the wordsmith automatically poisons themself, in addition to any fumble results.

Hide in shadows: A successful hide in shadows check means the wordsmith cannot be seen. This check is never opposed; that is, the check is never made against the target’s attempt to perceive the wordsmith. The wordsmith rolls against a hard DC, as noted below, and success means the wordsmith did indeed hide in shadows. The wordsmith can attempt to hide in broad daylight should they be so bold! The base DC for sneaking down a hallway with moderate cover (chairs, bookcases, crevasses, nooks and crannies, alcoves, etc.) is DC 10. Hiding at night or in a shaded or dimly lit area is DC 5; hiding under a full moon is DC 10; hiding in daylight but in a dark shadow or behind a solid object is DC 15; and hiding in broad daylight with minimal obstruction is DC 20. 

Read Languages: Interpreting simple meaning requires a DC 10 check. Interpreting anything more detailed is DC 15.

Sneak Silently: A wordsmith never makes an opposed check to sneak silently; that is, the check is never made against the target’s attempt to listen. The thief rolls against a hard DC, as noted below, and success means the wordsmith did indeed sneak silently. With the exception of demi-gods and extraordinary magic, the wordsmith’s movement cannot be heard. The base DC for moving across stone surfaces is DC 10. Cushioned surfaces, such as grass or carpet are DC 5; moderately noisy surfaces, such as creaking wooden boards are DC 15; and extremely noisy surfaces, like crackling leaves, still water, or crunchy gravel are DC 20. 

In addition to the abilities above, a wordsmith has a handful of special skills unique to them. These abilities circle around the wordsmith’s artistry in shaping the perceptions and reactions of those around them. 

Influence Reactions: The wordsmith can try to alter the mood of an audience, or anyone who can perceive them. The wordsmith can try to soften the mood or make it uglier. The method can be whatever is most suitable to the situation at the moment—a fiery speech, collection of jokes, a sad tale, a fine tune played on a fiddle, a haunting lute melody, or a heroic song from the old homeland. Everyone in the group listening must roll a Will saving throw with a DC equal to 10+ the wordsmith’s level. If the saving throw fails, the group’s attitude shifts to become either friendlier or more hostile, at the player’s option. Those who succeed on the saving throw have their attitude shift the opposite way.

This ability cannot affect people in the midst of a battle. In addition, the audience must be able to understand the wordsmith and the wordsmith’s intentions – humming a soothing melody might calm a nervous bear, but serpentmen will only understand jokes told in a language they speak.

Inspirational Words: A wordsmith knows how to use words, and a wordsmith’s words have power. A wordsmith who is aware of an imminent threat can spend three rounds inspiring their companions, providing a +1 bonus on attack rolls or saving throws for the upcoming task. This effect lasts one round per the wordsmith’s level and affects any allies of the wordsmith within 10’ of them.    

Countermagic: The wordsmith’s words have the power to disrupt and counteract magical charm, domination, and illusion effects. If the wordsmith spends their action chanting, singing, or otherwise vocalizing, the wordsmith can make a spell check. If the result of the check is greater than the DC needed to overcome the effect, the effect fails. In essence, the wordsmith makes the saving throw using their spell check modifier instead of their normal save bonus.

This countermagic protects the wordsmith plus one additional character of the wordsmith’s choice per wordsmith level. Characters must be within 30’ of the wordsmith in order to be protected.     

Table 1: Wordsmith
LevelAttackCrit Die/TableAction DiceScrolUseSpells KnownMax Spell LevelRefFortWill
Table 2: Skills by Level and Alignment 
SkillBonus for LAWFUL Wordsmiths
Climb sheer surfaces*+1+3+5+7+8+9+10+11+12+13
Forge document*+0+0+1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8
Hide in shadows*+3+5+7+8+9+11+12+13+14+15
Read languages✝+1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10
Cast spells from scrolls✝d12d14d16d16d20d20d20d20d20d24
Disguise self⚔+3+5+7+8+9+11+12+13+14+15
SkillBonus for CHAOTIC Wordsmiths
Climb sheer surfaces*+3+5+7+8+9+11+12+13+14+15
Forge document*+1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10
Hide in shadows*+1+3+5+7+8+9+10+11+12+13
Read languages✝+0+0+1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8
Cast spells from scrolls✝d10d12d12d14d14d16d16d20d20d20
Handle Poison+3+5+7+8+9+11+12+13+14+15
SkillBonus for NEUTRAL Wordsmiths
Climb sheer surfaces*+0+0+1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8
Forge document*+1+3+5+7+8+9+10+11+12+13
Hide in shadows*+1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10
Read languages✝+3+5+7+8+9+11+12+13+14+15
Cast spells from scrolls✝d12d12d14d14d16d16d20d20d20d20
Sneak Silently*+3+5+7+8+9+11+12+13+14+15