OSR: The Iron Gates - Merchants, Hunters, and Knights

Here are the first 3 classes for my Alexandrian Dark Souls / Iron Gates pointcrawl and setting. You can read some notes on the other classes here. Some ideas for these classes were taken from Arnold K and Lungfungus.

Classes are written for the GLOG system, for my homebrew here. They won't be included in the book. All classes also start with an item from the Dark Souls Trinket Table (not yet written). Only the Knight class has been playtested.

Ahmed Rawi


Starting Items: Iron dagger, traveling robes, 10gp. (1 Iron)
Starting Skill: 1. Mythology, 2. Sailor, 3. Diplomat

A: Evaluate, Market Protection
B: Flighty, Prominence
C: Bargain, Winning Smile
D: Forge

You gain +1 Inventory Slot for each Merchant template you possess.

Evaluate: You know the market value of any mundane item. Unique items may require an intelligence test to evaluate.

Market Protection: You are immune to the effects of any cursed, Iron, or supernatural items you carry as long as you intend to sell them. If you use the item or gain any benefit from it, you suffer the negative effects.

Flighty: If you choose not to attack in a round your armour counts as Plate. This only applies if you can see your enemies.

Once per round, you can choose to be the most prominent person in a group or the least prominent person in a group. This does not give you any bonuses to stealth.

Bargain: Anything you purchase gets a 20% discount.

Winning Smile: As long as no bloodshed has taken place, you get a +1 bonus to all reaction rolls as long as you are the one doing the talking.

Forge: You can spend 10gp to create a replica of any item smaller than a horse. If the item is mundane, it will pass inspection for 1d6 hours. If the item is supernatural,  your forgery will only pass inspection for 1d6 minutes.

Mechanical Notes on the Merchant
In combat, the Merchant's main ability is to attract attention and survive damage. Two Merchants can work together to keep an enemy distracted, changing who is the most prominent each round. They start with a dagger, but their main role will be running around doing stuff while the fight is taking place. In the boss fights I'm designing there will always be something to do.

Out of combat, the Merchant has many tools to assist a group with their schemes. Forgeries are useful. Being the most prominent person could allow another PC to sneak by a guard. Being the least prominent person can allow you - and your sacks of gold, cursed items, etc. - to be overlooked. Most games don't have items that are difficult to carry, but this one will. Oh my yes.


Starting Items: Bow, 40 iron-tipped arrows, iron dagger, leather armour, 1gp. (3 Iron)
Starting Skill: 1. Trapper, 2. Assassin, 3. Soldier

A: Wilderness Sense
B: Crippling Shot
C: +1 Attack per Round, True Caution
D: Impossible Shot

You gain +1 Stealth for each Hunter template you possess.

Wilderness Sense: After a GM gives you the Omen for an encounter, you can choose to reroll the encounter and get a different Omen. You must accept the new result.

Crippling Shot: If you hit an enemy with your bow, you can choose to deal 1 damage instead of rolling for damage. The next attack made by the enemy deals 1/2 normal damage.

True Caution: After the GM gives you the Omen for an encounter, you can choose to reroll the encounter and get a different Omen. You can choose between the two Omens and Encounters.

Impossible Shot: Once per combat, you can make an impossible shot with your bow. The arrow can strike a target around a corner, cut a falling coin in half, or ricochet half a dozen times before parting the hair on a hostage's head. The arrow automatically hits. Roll for damage normally.

Mechanical Notes on the Hunter
You can see some "Omen+Encounter"-based tables here, for the Veinscrawl. The Hunter is associated with water: scrying, seeing things as they are, and change. In combat, they can deal decent damage at range. Enchanted bows and arrows will give them several unusual combat options.
Bogdan Rezunenko


Starting Items: Iron chain armour, iron shield, sword, 1gp. (3 Iron)
Starting Skill: 1. Courtesy, 2. Duelist, 3. Soldier

You get +1 HP and Save vs Fear for every Knight template you possess.

A: Parry, Vows
B: Bodyguard, +1 Attack per Round
C: Aura of Courage, Tough
D: Dragon Slayer

Parry: Once per day you can reduce incoming damage by 1d12 points. If you also choose to sunder your shield, you can reduce the damage by 12 points instead of 1d12.

You may make one Vow for each Knight template you possess. Vows are short, specific, personal statements that you will not forget. You must Save to break them for one round, no matter the circumstances. Example Vows:

  • I will protect my friend Aloise.
  • I will obey the commands of the Lady of Meridia.
  • I will never harm an unarmed person.
  • I will reach the Iron Gates.
If you forget everything else from Iron's corrupting power, you will still remember and obey your vows. You might have heraldry, a homeland, a family, but chances are good that in the end you will only remember your Vows.

If an adjacent ally would take damage from a physical attack, you can choose to take the damage for them. This ability has a 4-in-6 chance of succeeding.

Aura of Courage:
Adjacent allies can use your Save vs Fear in place of their own. This ability has no effect if you are currently afraid.

Tough: Reduce all incoming damage by 2.

Dragon Slayer:
Once per day, you can cause one of your physical attacks to deal +X damage, where X is equal to the HD of the highest level monster your party has ever killed. You must keep track of this. If you miss, this ability is not expended.

Mechanical Notes on the Knight
The Knight starts off with a heavy Iron load, but they have an unparalleled ability to tank damage. They are a tragic class, easily corrupted by Iron. They are best roleplayed by melancholy players willing to run a knight who slowly... fades, to nothing but their vows.
Matias Trabold Rehren


Iron must be quenched in blood.
  • Iron daggers, swords, chain armour, and shields count as 1 Iron.
  • 20 iron arrows count as 1 Iron.
  • Giant hammers, giant shields, etc. count as 2 Iron.
  • Iron-infused spells count as 1 Iron.
  • Nails, wire, hinges, and iron items not related to violence count as 1 Iron, no matter how many a character carries.
Iron Capacity: 1+[Core stat bonus].

At character creation, select 1 Stat. This stat is your "core" stat. It is how you resist Iron's siren call of blood. You do not have to select your highest stat.

  • Strength: You overcome it by fighting yourself. You force your sword back into its scabbard. Your neck bulges, your teeth grind.
  • Dexterity: You overcome it by moving, distracting yourself. You tap your foot and twitch and make endless repetitive gestures.
  • Constitution: You overcome it by burying it, swallowing hot bile and forcing yourself to look away, forcing yourself to calm your hammering heart.
  • Intelligence: You overcome it by rationalization, by desperately thinking your way out of the red mist, by remembering you are human and not a beast. You mutter and squint.
  • Wisdom: You overcome it by meditation, by centering yourself, by drawing up  your own soul. You stop moving, close your eyes. Your breathing slows.
  • Charisma: You overcome it by laughter and joy, brushing aside the bloodlust with a wry smile. Such is the way of the world.

Capacity Effect Attack Bonus
At or Below No effect.  -
1 over If you kill an enemy in a particularly bloody fashion, Save or recklessly attack the next adjacent enemy. +1
2 over You cannot write. If you kill an enemy, Save or attack the nearest target, friend or foe. You can Save each round to regain control. +2
3 over You cannot read or write. You forget almost everything. If you kill an enemy, Save or attack the nearest target, friend or foe. You regain control when combat ends. +3
4+ over You become a mindless husk driven by bloodlust. This is irreversible. You gain +10 HP and reduce all incoming damage by 2. +#

Some classes have ways to reduce Iron's call. The Merchant can carry an unlimited number of Iron items without penalty as long as they intend to sell them. The Knight can take Vows, unbreakable sentences they will never forget. The Berserker can use the call of iron deliberately to great destructive effect.

You can't accidentally go over your Iron capacity. Someone can't toss you an iron sword and go "hah, you're mindless now". The change is slow. It takes at least an hour. Stat-draining effects, however, can reduce your Core stat and cause issues. Certain spells, curses, or items can increase or decrease your iron capacity temporarily or permanently.

"Attack Bonus" is your bonus to hit an enemy.


  1. Love them! But how do the starting items of the Knight add up to 4 iron? Is the shield/sword giant?

  2. 1. You have parry listed twice in the Knight abilities.
    2. How often do you have player rolls save vs fear that the knight class gets a bonus against it?

    1. 1. Fixed.
      2. Often enough, I suppose? It helps their "Aura of Courage" ability. I often use a Save vs Fear as a stun effect.

  3. If/when you compile and publish this, I'd love for the chance to buy a physical copy!

  4. I love setting specific classes and these are by far the most evocative I've seem for quite some time. Your Iron Gates posts keep getting better and better.

    Small formatting issue with "True Caution:" not being spaced and bolded properly.

  5. So, if you are a knight who has taken the right vows, could you continue as a speechless PC after you reach 4+ iron?

    Bty loving the series.

    1. It depends on the Vows, but it's possible. Not for very long though I'd expect. You'd basically be playing a very dangerous and violent person obsessed with three or four sentences.
      If you vowed to "Protect your friends" you could a) forget who your friends are, b)attack innocent people indiscriminately, and/or c) charge in a hopeless situation.

  6. So I gotta ask, where does Bronze fit into this? A way of war untainted by iron, but unable to actually stand up to Iron on a army vs army logistic scale and so abandoned? Something something Late Bronze Age Collapse? Bronze as a special form of ancient loot?

    1. Bronze was the killing metal of the last age, the age overturned by the Barbarians who - eventually - became Iskandar's people. A few ancient weapons might be made of bronze, but it'll mostly be used for ancient statues, the god of war's avatars, etc. There won't be many bronze inventory items. Iron is the metal of choice now.

    2. But to be more specific, if I wanna load up on metal gear but don't want to become a raving murderbeast, can I stroll around in a bronze breastplate with a bronze maul along with a dozen bronze daggers and so on and not have to worry about losing my mind? Pillaging ancient tombs for bronze armaments isn't viable for civilization at large, but for a small group of adventurers, that could be a worthy quest to find out if bronze is curse free.

    3. That actually makes me think the DM could make bronze items rare, expensive, and/or prone to breaking. Players could use bronze equipment, and it would prevent the madness of iron, but it also wouldn't work as well in general.

    4. Bronze actually wasn't physically worse than iron in the ancient world; they had similar hardness, strength, and ability to hold an edge. Iron was actually MORE DIFFICULT to work (required higher temperatures to smelt and smith), despite being more geologically common. What spurred the end of the Bronze Age was a combination of improvement in smelting technology to work abundant iron, and the disruption of most of the trade routes that brought copper and tin (the ingredients of bronze) together. So, in this setting, I assume bronze would be a rarity, but a treasure, given its similar mechanical properties without the corruption of iron.
      (Steel, on the other hand, is definitely better than both bronze and wrought iron, but was difficult to make due to the precise quantity of carbon required in the alloy and was thus uncommon even in the time of the Romans.)

    5. If the metal changes every age then that implies a progress from one cycle to the next. Does it follow history's metal "ages"? Would steel be next? Would titanium, uranium and silicon be candidates in the future? Does that imply that mankind gradually advances over the cycles of civilization, or that one day all metal will be corrupted and the spiral leads downward?
      Uranium making people bloodthirsty is a terrifying, if not particularly gameable thought.

  7. I know I'm way late to this, but I've been thinking about mechanics for bloodlust and insanity in my game tied to violence and magic respectively. I keep circling back to this iron mechanic. The more violence you spread, the better you get at it and the harder it is to stop. The more magic you learn/wield, the line between reality and your will become blurred, the harder it is to tell them apart.

    That said, iron is strictly opt in. Assuming you have a +2 stat (which is not guaranteed) then you can wield a comfortable amount of gear with no penalty at all. There's not much of a temptation to the player to engage in the power of iron beyond that. Maybe if plate is 2 iron, large shield 2 iron, anime/dark souls sized weapon 2 iron you could lose yourself to the call. Those items would have to be awfully valuable to properly temp your player to opt into the consequences. Would it be worth increasing the temptation in a game such as the iron gates? Vows are good for decreasing the penalty, but what about upping the allure?

    Give the knight the ability to bypass the typical penalties associated with large/heavy equipment (they take up less inventory, they are available cheaply, parry is usable twice a day if they have a large shield, etc.)

    Magical weapons and armor are universally large iron artifacts. 2 iron minimum

    OR increase the difficulty of losing iron. The call of iron doesn't go away just because you dropped the sword.

    The alternative to this iron thing is to tie the increasingly violent nature not to the gear wielded, but to enemies killed. Like you fighter's weapon mechanic. Kill 10 enemies, get a bonus to killing, kill 20 even better, kill 30 and you start to like it, kill 50 and its hard to stop, kill 100 and you're afraid to even pick up a sword again etc.

    I can't decide. any help you glogers?