I've been reading some old issues of Dragon magazine lately - Dragon #96 from April 1985 in this case.
It's basically the "April Fools" issue, and is filled with some great goofy articles, including this gem, Rules to lose by - The Hopeless character class from an idea by Roger Koppy.
I guess I should have waited for April Fools' Day to roll around to post this, but I tend to forget about things pretty quickly, so before I do, here it is for your enjoyment:
Rules to lose by The Hopeless character class From an idea by Roger Koppy Almost every gamer has had his bad days with the dice when creating a new character for AD&D® gaming. I’ve had my share of them and have decided to do something about it. Instead of rolling and rerolling and re-rerolling and re-re-rerolling the dice to get an acceptable character that the DM’s going to kill off in five minutes anyhow, why not just generate a thoroughly lousy character and give it a class of its own?
Thus was born the Hopeless character class. In order to qualify as a Hopeless character, a character must have all ability scores rolled as d4 + 2, giving a range of 3-6 for all major characteristics (strength, intelligence, etc.). A Hopeless character will suffer some sort of penalty for each such characteristic, as given in the Players Handbook. Not to worry. After all, this IS supposed to be a hopeless character. Race: All Hopeless characters are human, since the racial ability limits are too high for this class to qualify as anything other than human. Besides, humans are boring compared to things like elves, dwarves, and the like, and this just adds insult to injury for Hopeless characters. Hit dice: Hopeless characters get only one roll for hit points, regardless of their level, and they don’t even get to use regular dice at that. At 1st level, a Hopeless character receives 1-2 hp (flip a coin, with heads being 2 hp and tails being 1 hp). This coin toss is reflipped at every level, and all former hit points are dropped and forgotten. A 1st-level Hopeless character could have 2 hp, then have 1 hp at 2nd level, then 2 hp at 3rd level, then back to 1 hp at 4th level, etc. You get the idea. Life ain’t fair, man. Armor: Any protection other than padded armor would be foreign and useless in the hands of a Hopeless character. None of them know how to put on anything more complicated than an old quilt. And shields? Shields are too cumbersome and Hopeless characters are needlessly burdened by them. Shields do make nice dinner trays and wall hangings, however. Weapons: To their credit, Hopeless characters may use any sort of weapon that has no moving parts to confuse them, sharp edges to cut themselves on, or any other dangerous parts. This eliminates all of the useless things like the spetum and the glaive-guisarme, which no one can pronounce, much less use anyway, and leaves just the simplest and most efficient of all weapons: the club. No hurled or projected missiles may be used, as these always backfire in the hands of a true Hopeless character, causing serious injury to either the thrower or the nearest ally. This rule also applies to sharp weapons and those with moving parts. Oil and poison: C’mon, get serious. Oil? Poison? Hopeless characters avoid these for their own good, being too clumsy to even think about using them. I mean, really now. Number of attacks per round: Just one. No more. Also, as long as we’re on the topic, Hopeless characters don’t have to worry about gaining any new weapons as they rise in levels or anything; read the paragraph above on weapons if you can’t figure out why. Alignment: As if it made any difference, Hopeless characters may be of any alignment that will have them. Strongholds: A Hopeless character will never settle down to construct a stronghold for the following reasons:
1. He wouldn’t have any idea of how to get such a project started;
2. If he received any help on getting the project started, he wouldn’t have the faintest notion of how to govern a castle complex, its inhabitants, or his retainers, servants, hirelings, henchmen, maids, or the persons who live in his realm; and,
3. If, by some major miracle or gift of the DM, the Hopeless character accomplished both of the above objectives, those people who are supposed to be under his rulership would immediately realize they were under the command of an incompetent and would overthrow the character. If a Hopeless character is lucky, he might be able to settle down at some point and construct a straw or sod hut. Then the character can govern as many chickens and pigs he wishes, until such time as they overthrow him. Henchmen and hirelings: Not a chance. Would you work for a guy like this? Special abilities
All Hopeless characters attack as 0-level humans and make saving throws as 0-level humans. This is special because no one else is treated in this manner. Anytime a Hopeless character rolls a 1 for a saving throw, he immediately takes the maximum possible amount of damage from the attack. If a Hopeless character rolls a 1 on a “to hit” roll, he automatically hits himself for normal damage (or, optionally, his nearest ally for maximum damage).
All enemies of a Hopeless character immediately gain a +10% to all morale checks, regardless of the company that the Hopeless character has at the time. Six devas and an army of phase doppleganger elf-trolls could be backing the Hopeless character up, and the opposition will still feel good. Conversely, all allies of a Hopeless character take a -10% penalty on morale checks so long as they believe the Hopeless character is attempting to support them.
Any Hopeless character who survives beyond 1st level immediately gains the power to cast fumble on himself once per day per level of experience thereafter. A Hopeless character who actually makes it to 4th level gains the power to cause confusion in any intelligent character who attempts to hold a conversation with him, a power usable once per round. This confusion is similar to the druid spell of the same name, only no saving throw is given and the confusion lasts for 1-4 days. Any Hopeless character who, ahem, makes it to 9th level will immediately gain the power to feeblemind an opponent by touch, to an unlimited extent (this power limited only to one use per round). This will cause the Hopeless character to be declared dangerous and harmful to the public welfare, and he will be hunted down by the armed forces of any nation he passes through.
Hopeless characters, by their nature, have saving throws of 40 vs. illusion/phantasm spells or enchantment/charm spells. Uses of a Hopeless character A Hopeless character is useful if you don’t want to waste a better character in a dangerous scenario. They also make amusing attractions in sideshows if one doesn’t approach them too closely.
Ok, so I've played a few of these in my past (who hasn't?), but never on purpose. d4+2 for each stat? Yow! Flip a coin for your hit points each level? (assuming that you make it to level-up)...Yikes! The chance of your own chicken and pigs overthrowing you?...Dang!
It would be sweet to reach the level 8 title of "Public Hazard" though, right?
Some major critical-misses built in there too. Hitting your nearest ally for max damage?...Just plain rude! Then again, max damage from a hopeless character (with a pitiful STR mod) should be pretty darn pathetic, so maybe not too bad there. Of course a blade is a blade.
"Six devas and an army of phase doppleganger elf-trolls could be backing the Hopeless character up, and the opposition will still feel good." ...Pure awesome!
Anyway, hopeless characters can certainly be fun, if you're cool with the fact that they are hopeless. You find yourself taking more risks and just plain doing things that you might not do with a hopeful character. Try one next time. You just might find your new favorite class. How bad can it be?