OSR: Class: Goliards

Hope for the best, expect the worst
Some drink champagne, some die of thirst
No way of knowing, 
which way it's going
Hope for the best, expect the worst! 
Hope for the best, expect the worst
The world's a stage, we're unrehearsed
Some reach the top, friends, while others drop, friends
Hope for the best, expect the worst! 
Hope for the best; expect the worst.
The rich are blessed; the poor are cursed
That is a fact, friends, the deck is stacked, friends
Hope for the best, expect the…
(Even with a good beginning, it's not certain that you're winning.
Even with the best of chances, they can kick you in the pantses)
Look out for the… Watch out for the worst!
-The Twelve Chairs, Mel Brooks
O Fortuna,
velut Luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis.

O Fortune
like the moon 
you wax 
or wane.
-O Fortuna, Carmina Burana
The Unsmiling Tsarevna, Viktor Vasnetsov

Class: Goliard

Gear: robes, walking stick (as quarterstaff), 3 wineskins full of cheap wine.

A: Provoke, Fortune's Wheel, Dissolute
B: A History of Seduction
C: Heartfelt Sorrow, A Square Meal
D: Friendly Face, Well-Practiced Seduction

You can read people and find their weaknesses and insecurities. As a full round action, target creature who can see, hear, and understand you must Save or be provoked by you. In combat, they will attack you. This ability cannot force an opponent to make major tactical errors or leap off cliffs. Out of combat, they must Save or act in anger (violence, shouting, writing poetry to defame you).

Fortune's Wheel
You are resigned to the whims of fate. Before combat begins, on the first round, before Initiative is rolled, you may roll a number of d20s equal to four times [the number of Goliard templates you have]. (4 at level 1, 16 at level 4). Write down the numbers that are rolled. You must then arrange them in a fixed order. Any time you would roll a d20 (for Initative, Attacks, Saves, etc.) use the top result from the list instead and cross it off. Once you use up all the results you listed, roll normally.

You can also use this ability in a stressful, multi-check situation such as a chase, a prolonged espionage attempt, etc. Ask the GM.


If you ever have more than 50gp on your person and are able to spend it, you must Save or spend it within 24hrs. Save a second time, and if you fail that, half the money you spend is lost and provides no benefit whatsoever. The second Save may not be required if your spending habits are sufficiently profligate already.

A History of Seduction
If left alone with a willing, interested, or corruptible person for 1d4 - [the number of Goliard templates you have] hours, to a minimum of 1 hour, you can seduce them. You need to be able to carry on a conversation without anyone overhearing. A soft horizontal surface also helps but is not required. Roll on the Seduction Side Effects table (not yet published). Targets who have taken vows or whose preferences do not match yours get a Save to have second thoughts. Targets are aware you are trying to seduce them and will act accordingly (including throwing you out, kicking you in the face, etc.). PCs are not affected unless they choose to be affected.

A Square Meal
Lunch heals you for 1d6 + [Level]x2 HP, rather than 1d6 + [Level], provided you have wine, beer, or liquor to go with your food.

Heartfelt Sorrow
If you roll a critical failure, you may reroll the result by dropping to 0 HP. If you were at negative HP, you instead heal to 0 HP.

Friendly Face
Whenever you hire or obtain a hireling or follower, you have a 1-in-6 chance of also getting a Camp Follower. You gain a +4 bonus to rolls made to evaluate hireling quality or obtain hirelings.

Practiced Seduction
Select one entry on the Seduction Side Effect table between 21 and 80. If you would roll on the table, there is a 5-in-6 chance that the listed effect occurs instead. You can always choose to roll.

Mechanical Notes on the Goliard

First, you're a decent fighter. Really! You start with a quarterstaff and you heal quickly. You can also set the order of your rolls in combat (probably putting all the good rolls first and hoping combat doesn't last long enough to get to the bad rolls). You've got social techniques too. The downside is that you are really good at annoying people. So good, in fact, that you're not likely to gain many benefits from medieval society.

Second, your social techniques - seduction and provocation - can be used to get all sorts of information, plot hooks, and actions out of people. If you need to handle and impossible social situation, a goliard is the class to do it.

What Are You Doing Here?

You are a wandering priest, a traveling entertainer, satirist, and protester. You live riotously and remarkably free of social conventions and stifling norms. You move through the world seeking education and adventure. In ordered times your might be suppressed, banned, or excommunicated, but these are disordered times, and you can flourish. Unlike troubadours, you don't sing of courtly love and chivalry ideals. You sing about sex, wine, and rock and roll.

This class has no gender restrictions. If you are female, you might need to put on a beard if you're going to argue with the Bishop, but out in the world nobody really cares. The world is too disordered to investigate the affairs of the goliards and their  too closely. You could also be a roving or disgraced nun. If you're sick of the restrictions of medieval characters, this is the class for you. Conventions - from dress to sexuality to piety - are tossed out the window.

You are a member of the First Estate... in theory. You are also an Outlaw. You osculate between these two modes of life regularly. You start as a Deacon or an Initiate. You can read and write.

Starting Skill: 1. Music, 2. Literature, 3. Religon

1. Start with a cheap musical instrument (a lute, a pipe, etc.) worth 5sp. You can play it to seduce targets who don't speak your language.
2. You know hundreds of songs for all occasions. Start with a book of songs, filled with your own notes and rude drawings.
3. You are noted for your volume. Start with a nickname like "the Deep Bell" or "Thunderstorm" and 1d10cp.
4. You believe you are talented; others disagree. Your singing or playing automatically causes the Provoke effect (see above) against any musically inclined targets who can hear you.
5. You have traveled widely. Make up 1d6 ludicrous lies. You gain the "Foreign Parts" skill, but people from Around Here distrust you.
6. You can play any musical instrument provided you are very drunk. Start with a cheap musical instrument (a lute, a pipe, etc.) worth 5sp.

1. You love to read anything you can get your hands on. Start with 2 books. You must Save or read books you find in the dungeon (even if they've got eyeballs on the cover).
2. You can swear to love someone in 3 languages and just swear in another 10. Your vocabulary is limited but endearing. You can seduce targets who don't speak your language.
3. You have memorized hundreds of poems. You are secretly romantic. Start with a basket of flowers.
4. You read a very controversial piece of courtly literature. You either hate it completely and will denounce it at every opportunity, or you will defend it as a work of unrivaled genius and beauty. Either way,  you can make easily find common ground with people who share your view.
5. Start with a forbidden book. Its contents are scandalous. There are illustrations. You won't part with it for love or money.

6. You just robbed someone. Start with 1d10gp (in small change), a goose-down pillow, and a pair of good boots. 
1. Your impressions of authority figures are hilarious (and also felonious). You can mimic almost anyone's voice and mannerism after a few moments of study.
2. You have memorized the entire liturgy, including variants. You can perform a ceremony for any occasion; weddings, funerals, excommunications, etc.
3. Your conduct in your parish, monastery, or convent was scandalous. Start with a dagger and +2 Save vs Fear.
4. You knocked off a bishop's mitre and stole it. It's worth 2gp.

5. You have a specific weakness. You must Save to resist trying to seduce a category of person (priests, nuns, married men, married women, brunettes, men with beards and sturdy biceps, etc.). Start with a spare set of robes and good boots.
6. You can disguise yourself as a different gender. Start with a second set of robes and a small makeup kit worth 5sp.

Goliards are always criticizing people. Roll to see who you are criticizing today or in particular.

1d10 Targets of Criticism Options
1 Selling of Church Offices Mock any young, rich, or dubious appointments.
2 Unfit and Illiterate Priests Scourge and pester any incompetent priests you meet.
3 Selling Indulgences Sell false indulgences, burn existing ones, steal money.
4 Belief in Dubious Relics Sell false relics, sing songs about hilarious tricks and lies.
5 Lust for Gold Steal from rich priests, wear ridiculous costumes.
6 Hypocrites and Vow-Breakers Sing of cuckoldry, fidelity, chastity, and natural urges.
7 Contradictory Dogma and Doctrine Organize false services, sing rude songs to the tune of hymns.
8 The Authority of the Archpriest Pretend to read formal announcements, make up lies.
9 Acting Against Nature Mock chastity, temperance, abstinence, and social customs.
10 Suppression of Questions Ask difficult questions, pose paradoxes, poke holes in holy texts.


  1. Utterly fabulous. However, sixteen results for Fortune's Wheel, each and every combat... doesn't that seem a little excessive? Keen to hear your thinking.

  2. Remember, in GLOG combat, you're rolling 1d20 at the start of each round for Initative. Add on another 1 per round for an Attack roll and that's 8 rounds "pre-rolled" at level 4. But wait! Skill checks, Saves, etc. all also use d20s. Even a few of those cut down the total number of "pre-rolled" rounds.

  3. I love that you made goliards into a class--what an excellent idea! I made a travelling-man class for my B/X game to emulate a rambler-gambler, but the goliard idea might be an even better fit for my intents. Thanks for reminding me of the existence of these itinerant poet-clergy!