Recently Gavin wrote a blog post called Doing without the cleric class: Blessings & pacts (the same Gavin who tirelessly tagged so many monsters in the Old School Monster Wiki). He was wondering how to do healing or turning of undead in a campaign without clerics. In my comment I described how I’m planning to implement classes not available in the Labyrinth Lord rules such as monks and paladins.
My game features a reputation system. You can increase your reputation for each patron by doing stuff that pleases them, but the greatness of the deed limits how far it can rise. Returning objects has a max reputation of 1, saving lives has a max reputation of 2, saving villages has a max reputation of 4, performing quests for your patron (usually involving angels and devils showing up) has a max reputation of 8. I use this reputation in various ways. It’s the percentage chance for divine intervention when you call upon your patron. It’s the maximum spell level granted to you by your patron. And I use it for paladins.
There is no paladin class per se, but every body can be a paladin of a particular patron. In order to do that, you must perform a ritual, swear a binding oath, be blessed by a priest, perform an appropriate feat or something along these lines. The paladins then get to pick special abilities appropriate to the patron, but the abilities available to them depend on their reputation. This is what I’m using for paladins of Mitra: light a fire requires a reputation of 1, a halo at will requires a reputation of 2, the detecting the presence of liars requires a reputation of 3, to prevent lies from being uttered requires a reputation of 3, to take binding oaths requires a reputation of 4.
Thus, being a paladin of Mitra adds extra challenges (reputation, absolute honesty) and grants special abilities. I will add more variants as players express interest in particular patrons.
Monks work much like this, based on A Bevy of Bujin by Matt. Anybody can be a monk. The monks of Taipur, for example, face extra challenges (fighting without armor, abstinence) and are granted special abilities like the catching of arrows and iron fists. If that turns all magic users and thieves into ninjas, we will rethink it. Until then, I think I like it.
And – just as as Jeff says in thinking about magic again – I’m trying to explore “anything goes” territory with my evil dudes. The evil sorcerer in the palace of Saithor, for example, knows how to summon devils and party with succubi. The party partook in such festivities in order to blow some gold for experience points. I don’t think I’d mind them learning about the ritual to contact the particular named devil that can open this gate and broker these deals. In fact, I’m sure it would result in some interesting adventures!