Friday, April 30, 2010

Worldbuilding: Classes



That's right. Two days, two posts. I went there.

Here is a guy telling his trained pigeon to stop slacking off and get to work.

As far as classes go, I already know I don't want major changes. First, if this is to be a setting where I can throw in stuff from any book I feel like, I probably shouldn't screw with the base classes. Second, I am definitely not qualified to tinker with the game balance, even if this is 3.5 D&D where some classes get save-or-die spells while others get bonus feats. Third, I'm lazy.

That leaves us with "flavor" changes, which I much prefer anyway. I will probably come back and add more later, but whatever, that's fine. I actually find that most of the mechanical flavours of the setting get sorted out later, anyway. We're just setting a baseline.

So, in alphabetical order because why not:

Barbarian

Most of the campaigns I run in this setting tend to be more... political, I suppose. They do not necessarily hinge on roleplaying, but generally the adventuring the PCs do is either in or on the fringes of a large civilisation where, I would assume, you see less barbarians. Still, I won't stop anyone from playing them, and I can't see why they wouldn't be around.

Maybe I should make room for barbarians, somewhere. It would be a nice change of pace from the rest of the setting. Also, back when I drew a crappy map of one continent of the setting I left a big blank area and wrote "UM" in it because I had nothing, so my PCs decided for me that this was the domain of the Um barbarian horde. I kind of like the Unearthed Arcana totem barbarians and this could be a good place to use them. I'll make a note of it.

Also, when I think of barbarians I always think of Diablo II, and I always had a soft spot for my barbarian with his leaping attacks and giant axe, even if I mostly played with friends who hoovered up all the gems and armor while I died to protect them.

Oh, and: No more frenzied berserkers.

Bard

Bards are awesome.

That doens't help, though. Thinking about it, the bards in my games tend to be less "wandering performers" and more like adventurers and diplomats (because everybody loves diplomancers). I know Eberron handles them like that, at least partly, and puts a bit more focus on their magical power being connected to music; that's a good idea, but I should probably do something more related to the diplomacy thing.

I know bards get Knowledge, so spinning an idea from the top of my head: Bardic traditions (in this setting) started out in whatever they call "the past" as a religious and philosophical movement in magical circles which revolved around music, musica universalis, whatever. Nowadays the philosophy behind it isn't as important, it's just another kind of magic, but there are still Bardic Schools, institutions that focus on cerebral pursuits like recording history, acting as diplomats to bring peace to the world, studying the arcane and rocking out. I could probably make up some feats for them or something.

Believing in some kind of divine music could make for interesting religious bards. Some of the races in this setting tend to be very religious, so it might be worth looking into. Maybe I could let them have a domain or something.

There are Unearthed Arcana class variants that I could look into as well. They'd definitely fit for some of the bardic schools, at least.

Cleric

Eat a butt, cleric. You're good enough already!

I'm going to put a minor smackdown on what you can and can't worship as a cleric, though. No wishy-washy "I worship an abstract concept or something dumb, like a tree, and pretty much act like a wizard with divine spells!" rubbish. To quote Isaac Asimov, aw hell naw. If your cleric worships the abstract concept of goodness or, all right, a tree, you better believe in it really hard. Strive to be the epitome of treeness like no man has ever strived before.

Also, clerics seem like they would be very interested in religion and whatnot, so why do they only get 2 skill points a level? Maybe it's just me, but I feel that most clerics would at least have a smattering of religious knowledge, but that doesn't leave many points for other things. Maybe I could add a class ability that grants extra skill points specifically for Knowledge skills.

Other than that, they're fine as they are. Most of the cleric tweaking I'll be doing is expanding the deities they can take later, and I encourage PCs to come up with minor gods if they wish - I always liked the idea of pantheons picking up a string of forgotten demigods and extremely minor deities through the ages, like barnacles on a whale's arse, so you can have people worshipping the god of Ornate Doors or something.

There was one thing I am considering - a while ago I made up a domain for a trickster god who encouraged his followers to infiltrate other churches and mess about, and I'm not sure how well it works any more. Here it is in its entirety, if anyone has suggestions:

TRICKSTER'S DOMAIN
Granted Power: Every morning, while preparing his spells, a cleric with this domain chooses another deity and a domain to prepare spells from. (He could, for example, choose Pelor and prepare spells from Pelor's Sun domain.) The cleric still cannot cast spells of an alignment opposed to his own.

A cleric with this domain also cannot use the highest-level domain slot he has access to. (If he had up to 3rd-level spells, for example, he can only prepare domain spells up to 2nd level.) A cleric who only has access to the 1st domain slot can use, it though.

Druid

You also don't get any more free stuff, druid. Screw you.

There's a druid country in the setting, though the lack of a name for it that I remember for more than a week will tell you everything you need to know about what I had planned for it. For all I know it could be a theocracy that worships the nature deity Codzilla, radioactive fish from the sea.

Still, I always acted like most druids - at least, human ones - tended to be part of a "circle", a sort of loose collection of druids that either watched over a specific territory or followed a specific philosophy of what I assume is called druidism. I don't think they'd have a specific unified purpose, except maybe in druid land.

Maybe I should come back to this later when I have more fluff set in stone.

Fighter

Bahahahahahahahahahaha.

Monk

I haven't seen many monks, though unlike the fighter it is probably for fluff reasons. Anyway, I don't think these guys need changing. Like the bards, I should probably focus on developing the monasteries they probably dwell in.

A lot of monks in this setting will be dwarves. I'll explain why in a post about races. I'm not sure if that's important, though. I do get the feeling I could do more for monks, but like I said, nobody's really used them and I'm not sure of their exact place yet - though I might give them Knowledge (history). This setting is starting to get a bit of a "lore and knowledge are awesome" focus.

Paladin

I saw a variant paladin I really liked on the Wizards boards, once. I saved it. No, I'm not uploading it. I might trade it for the "standard" paladin, though.

Anyway, they seem fine. I am once again considering a class ability to get some skill points for Knowledge, though. Maybe I just don't like having low skill points.

There's the code, of course, but that should be fine because I am running this setting and I'm not a complete dongrobot. See, I see the Code and I actually take note of the part that says a paladin has to "grossly violate" it to lose his powers. To me that says the paladin is only human and accepts that sometimes he might have no other choice, and his deity is willing to look the other way for a minute if it's only a minor infraction. But that's just my interpretation.

Maybe different Codes for different orders would be a good idea too, but that's also something for later.

Variant paladins also have my interest, but I don't want someone just being a paladin of freedom so they can do what they like. I'll have to think about it.

Ranger

Apparently the ranger is for people who want to be fighters but not Fighters. I tend to (sometimes unfairly, I'll admit) see things like CharOp and making "character builds" instead of characters a symptom of autism, but even I can see that the fighter is the lamesauce in the condiment tray of 3.5.

Urban rangers will probably find more of a use here, so if I prepare a setting booklet for my players at any point I should probably mention that. Or make the nature ranger a variant of the standard urban Ranger. Gasp!

Anyway, the ranger's role is actually pretty clear, even if it seems to be "a much better variant fighter for people who want to be a Tolkien character". Doesn't need much changing, but I should consider which regions, races and groups would have lots of rangers in them sometime.

Rogue

Rogues don't need much tweaking, really. The class covers so many different kinds of characters that there's no point, anyway. I like leaving it broad.

Sorcerer

I dropped the spellcasting requirement of Craft (alchemy) a long time ago, by the way. I heard it's a common house rule, but I could be wrong.

Anyway, sorcerers. Did you know that they're supposed to be feared, lonely people in D&D? Would you know that from looking at any PC sorcerer? In my experience, anyway, they tend to be charismatic wizards that don't need books.

So what the hell. Let's say sorcerers aren't feared and scorned, but rather viewed as a less "learned" mage. There's still some prejudice there, but it's manageable.

As far as the source goes... well, this setting has had Eberron's approach to magic so far. Lots of low-level magic, not much high-level. In that kind of environment, a sorcerer's powers could conceivably be traced back to a mere mortal spellcaster in their background, or something. Maybe powerful casters produce sorcerer babies more often, or something.

Not that dragon heritage isn't a nice idea too, if it fits the character. I may as well make it multiple-choice since I think most people do anyway. Since this setting is probably demon-heavy, that could be another source! I could allow Spellcraft checks or research to determine the "origin" of a sorcerer's magic, but I'd have to think about that.

Wizard

Again, the wizard doesn't need much tweaking. Like the monk and the bard and so on, most of my "tweaking" will just be working out different organisations wizards could be a part of, and most of those will probably be represented by PrCs (though, as autistic people tell me, only ones with full spellcasting progression are worth it).

Well...

Okay. Wizards are learned sages and one of the few classes to be able to take all Knowledge skills, but they get hardly any points to spend on them? What the hell, let's give them more skill points for Knowledge as a class ability.

Psionics

I have used psions before - well, mostly allowed players to take psionic classes. I've rarely regretted it - the worst psionic character I ever saw was actually a druid that picked "Elan" as a race as part of an elaborate excuse to be able to wild shape into anything. Anyway, most of them picked soulknives.

I'm not sure what to do here, though. Psionics, with its (quasi-)scientific names for everything and its common use in soft sci-fi (like that sequel to Warhammer, Starcraft) always seemed a bit out-of-place in a fantasy setting. It's similar to magic, even related, but no amount of "spell resistance works against psionics for balance reasons!" will shake that feeling for me.

On the other hand, my setting has aliens, spaceshspelljammers and a higher level of tech than your standard medieval fantasy, so I suppose we could make some allowances. I'll have to think hard about it, though.

Tome of Battle Weeaboo Fitan Magic Battle

I have no problem with it. I hear mixed things (from "it makes fighters competitive!" to "it makes fighters wizards who get all their spells back every five minutes!"), but I have used it and it was pretty alright. I haven't used it enough to know maneuvers or anything from memory, but oh well, whatever.

Fighter-type classes are always easy to introduce. They're just dudes who hit other dudes with swords or, with the right feats, a third dude.

Weeaboo Classes

Samurai, ninja etc. can stay in the obligatory generic mix-and-match Asian person land with few exceptions.

Other Classes

Most base classes will be allowed. Which would be more common, though?

Like I said, the setting has a fair bit of low-level magic and "magitech" compared to other settings. Since Eberron was a setting designed for that sort of thing, I think it would be appropriate to allow Artificers.

I like archivists. I hear they are also OP or broken or something, but they're a spellcaster class in 3.5 so that is probably a given. They can be like paladins, except instead of being a physically stronger cleric they can be a nerdier one.

Binders I am already using, sort of. I think I mentioned this last post. Ancient magical traditions, coming back in one particular kingdom, blah blah.

I can do something with warlocks. They can get their powers from demons and whatnot. If I want to crib from 4th Edition I can also have them get their powers from fairies and Cthulhu and they can be in a glorified pen-and-paper MMO. Oh snap! Seriously though, that sounds fun. I don't think they'd be common, though.

Apart from that, nothing else needs its own fluff. I think. Some of them (I'm looking at you, Tome of Magic) are pretty... unique, but not common enough in the setting to need much detail. Not right now, at least.

I should start getting into the meat of the fluff now.

17 comments:

Mozai said...

Barbarian is a really weird class. They're supposed to be stone-age savages in a world that is iron-age or better. "Illiteracy" is a class feature, for chrissake. All the extra "fast movement" and "rageRAGEarglebargle" junk is tacked on just to create mechanical balance.

When you want Barbarians, think the Visigoths that sacked Rome, or the Zulu Nation under Shaka: primitive savages that overcome decadent civilized racist assholes just because they aren't lazy and they try harder.

Mozai said...

Bards and Clerics:

The reason why Clerics don't get many skill points is because they're warriors first, and priests second. They don't have time to transcribe and illuminate books with gold leaf because they're busy doing drills out back behind the graveyard. I never understood why Paladin and Cleric are seperate classes, except maybe Paladins can use swords and Clerics are supposed to always use blunt weapons (or am I thinking 1st Ed?)

Bards either come from the Celtic tradition (where they have spells and read languages and Legend Lore) or they come from street performers singing for their supper. The missing bit from the Celtic bard was their main purpose in a village: to teach the kids. In an oral (pre-literacy) culture, songs are how you record history; people remember music better than just facts.

Make the Bards the priest-types, deacons of the church, leading the congregation in singing hymns(*), and the clerics are the missionaries and church militia.

(*: OOOooo! The Bard buffing the party for singing only works if the party members SING ALONG, choir, hymns, that kinda junk. And you can point and laugh at your players around the table as you insist they have to have a sing-song-along for their characters to get the enchantments/abjurations.)

Mozai said...

Paladins:
One Code for every paladin is dumb, just like "Clerics can't use bladed weapons because that will spill blood" even if you worship Nur'zhul The BloodDrinker. The Paladin as written in the books is supposed to be the poster-boy for a religion, somewhat brainwashed with that Jonestown-flavoured kool-aid and showing people how awesome their god is. A paladin's Code of Honor should be a burden to the paladin and a benefit to the church they're in -- and there is NO SUCH THING as a paladin without the support of an organization. Either it's the church, in which case the paladin has a boss with missions, or it's the god and cohorts, in which case they get their missions in prayer or the 40 days in the wilderness. Either way, the organization gets the paladin their snazzy armor & weapons and divine spells, in return for the paladin doing good PR for the god's organization, getting some converts (either by setting a good example or at swordpoint (think Jesuits)).

Paladin of freedom? Fine, but if you're in town where there's a prison or stocks, you're in trouble if you don't at least attempt to talk the town elders out of abolishing it (either a parole program if you're a good paladin, or capital punishment if you're an evil paladin, but EITHER is better than letting is slide).

Fighters: yeah. They're infantry -- what soldiers do when they can't do anything else. Only NPCs should be taking this. The "special and unique snowflake" of fighters is making them into gladiators, which is more about pit-fighting than being part of a team.

Rangers: If Fighters are infantry, Rangers are commandos and special-ops. Navy Seals are the aquatic-elf version of ranger. Solid Snake is a ranger. They're built to be fighting monsters, with some magic for utility, but they don't bring much to the team.

Sorcerers: Witches and Warlocks, man. They don't have to do the work for their magic, because they made a pact with extra-planar or draconic powers. THAT'S how you make them feared and lonely. Oh, and just like paladins, they get missions from their inhuman patrons.

Psionics: Brain Sorcerers. Srsly. Instead of a pact with inhuman powers, these guys are part alien, complete with quirks of biology that squick "normal" people. I can never get rid of the association that Psionics == Magic anyways.

Ettin said...

Oh hey! The more posts I make, the more awesome the comments get.

That is exactly why I find the barbarian strange. I can see why it's there - very few settings have the same tech level everywhere, so I can see why barbarians would be around. Still, though. On the upside, gnome barbarians are awesome.

As for clerics, I think they always just seemed to be the paladin's squisher cousin to me because the paladin is already a warrior class while clerics get full spellcasting.

Maybe I should set the archivist up with them as some kind of religious trio. The archivist is bookish, the paladin is a warrior, and the cleric is somewhere in between.

As for bards, a while ago I made a more "steampunk" setting to experiment with some /tg/ pals. In it I decided that bards and druids were like the original wizards and clerics from Older Times; bards were lore-keepers and scribes, while druids were religious leaders and magistrates. I don't want to steal directly from that, but I'm not sure anyone can complain if I steal from myself, so...

Ettin said...

3.5 clerics can use bladed weapons, by the way. They are proficient in all simple weapons - granted, most of those are blunt, but if you can take the War domain you get free proficiency in your deity's favourite weapon, which can be a sword.

Anyway, 3.5 strikes again. Apparently "a paladin need not devote herself to a single deity - devotion to righteousness is enough." You need to have faith in something, but paladins no longer need to be part of a church or another organisation. I think that's why their code is so vague. To be fair, though, most of them probably are part of an organisation.

I'd prefer the paladin's code to be a roleplaying aid, not a burden. The standard one is nice as a sort of vague, general Code, but I'm sure specific gods would have specific codes.

I'm also not sure if a paladin of freedom should be going around telling people to abolish prisons. That seems like the wrong place to encourage liberty and freedom. Also, paladins of freedom are CG only. The variant CE paladin is the paladin of slaughter and he is more likely to try and break the violent criminals out and try to kill the town elders.

Fighters aren't special; it's just a catch-all class for all kinds of characters who focus on armed combat. The problem is, it's also underpowered and there are other, better classes in splat books for any role the fighter can fill. They're easy to make NPCs out of, though.

I guess my thing with the ranger is similar to the barbarian: his fluff and abilities are based around a very specific role, in this case prancing around the forest going tra-la-la and talking to hobbits. Good for the old style of settings where you would probably be trekking through the woods between dungeons and towns, not so much in more urban settings like this one.

As far as sorcs go, that is a pretty good idea but I find it easier to just avoid the whole "peasants fear sorcerers" thing.

Wow that is a lot of typing;.

Disgruntled said...

Paladins aren't supposed to be 'poster-boys' for their religion anyway; they're warriors. If your knights of the round table are being Jehovah's Witnesses instead of slaying dragons, *you're doing it wrong*.

Clerics on the other hand are the poster-boys, they're just not afraid of a fight. If they were in a modern setting they'd be like... I dunno, the preacher with a shotgun in a zombie movie.

Kyle said...

Regarding clerics, the cloistered cleric is more of a caster-type to be meta, and to be fluffy about it, cloistered cleric fits the view of more traditional cleric/priest types. No heavy or medium armor, far less hitpoints, no martial weapons, but they gain more skill points and have all knowledges as class skills.

The big problem rangers have had throughout third edition is that they're just terrible, mechanically speaking. It would be cool to be a wilderness warrior ranger type, but the ranger is so BAD at being, well, itself. The scout does the whole "wilderness warrior" thing much better, so ranger more or less just exists to help the scout out. To be fair, that same problem hits paladins. Paladins lose their place when clerics are better at fighting then they are :\

One reason I like WEEABOO FIGHTAN MAGIC so much is because it takes fighters and says "Know what? Fuck the infantry footsoldier. That's NPC shit. PC fighting types should be kicking rad." Warblade and swordsage can both be used to cover such a wide swath of legendary heroes both in fiction and real world mythology, I'm honestly hard pressed to not use it when I want to make a martial type character. Both warblade and swordsage stand out to me as classes where the mechanics actively encourage some awesome fluff.

Lastly, archivist fluff I think can be more or less tied to their mechanics - they're divine wizards. This implies a few things, though - and none of them involve big hats and robes. Consider - the archivist needs to actually learn spells for his prayerbook. If paladins are righteous crusaders of "good," clerics are the strong arm of the faith, and cloistered clerics are the contemplatives and miracle workers, then archivists are the Indiana Jones. The others gain their spells from just praying, but the archivist actively goes out into the world for holy relics and divine interpretations, finding different religions and then tying it to his own. If the (cloistered)cleric/paladin are content in just praying to their god for divine energy, the archivist feels a drive to leave the church and discover new mysteries of faith.

The archivist then is, funny enough, the most similar to actual medieval monks and priests, who traveled the countryside, moving from monestary to monestary, scribing books they didn't have, and promising the monks there the same hospitality in return. This is more or less how knowledge was spread out in Europe back then - from the traveling priests. Picture an archivist who's a pilgrim, joining the group to walk the world over in search of new knowledge to bring back to his monastary. Pretty cool stuff.

Jintiuroh said...

Can't say I'm fond of alignment restrictions at all for classes like the paladin, bard, etc.

Why, for instance, does it seem like only GOOD gods are interested with concepts of freedom? It makes sense that an evil god would have it in it's best interests to bust a few criminals outta the hoosegow and why not assign the task to some dude in plate mail who, mechanically should be very good at breaking people outta places? Hence we get the CE paladin of freedom. 'Bout as far as I like to go in terms of alignment restrictions is such: if you want to play the follower of an evil god then go for it, but you better be justifiably behind your god's cause. No good paladins of "Varflorgath the Skull Rape-inator". Also no, I don't care how much you like that true neutral god, paladins can't be true neutral. They need to be able to get behind something, yanno?

Ettin said...

I think the phrase "Paladin of Freedom" was just a general name for the CG paladin variant. They don't have to call themselves that in-game or actually focus on going out and freeing people.

Just out of curiosity, what would you think of a TN paladin with a raging boner for Balance? Like the Planescape rilmani, only maybe less secretive.

You can even have people acting like petitioners from the Outlands ("I helped an old lady across the street! Now to slap an orphan, FOR BALANCE.") as an example of doing it wrong, like LG paladins and every other paladin or DM of a paladin in the universe.

Disgruntled said...

I thought a TN paladin was called a druid. =O

Jintiuroh said...

But what would a TN paladin be against? Everything? Paladins are specifically geared towards the rooting out and destruction of their opposite alignment, but TN has no opposite. It's right there in the middle.

Ettin said...

Pretty much. The "paladin of balance"'s opposite would just be extreme alignments.

The paladin opposes his opposite because he is a champion of his own alignment (e.g. regular good-aligned paladins and their smite evil). A hypothetical paladin who is a champion of true neutrality would seek a balance between good and evil and/or law and chaos.

The problem is mechanically the paladin is designed to fight evil and it would be a son of a bitch to work out. What does Smite Evil become, "smite everything"? Hell no. So what do you do instead? What spells does he get? etc.

I'm way too lazy to sort that out.

Fluffums said...

Druids were primarily politicians in the gaelic lands. They kept the warring tribes from wiping each other out and helped organize them against common enemies (for instance, the Romans). They also wrapped it up in mysticism, because everyone wants to believe that their rulers have a god (or some other divine power) behind them.

Bards and Druids tended to work together, with the bards keeping track of history and druids keeping track of what's going on, so between them the two could advise a king based on past similar events or how other tribes will respond.

Not sure if you can use all that tl;dr~

Anyway, as for monks: If mostly dwarves are being monks, couldn't you replace wisdom with constitution? Instead of training their "sixth sense" or whatever, they basically make their bodies rock hard. So "stunning fist" is basically "I punch you hard, IN THE FACE".

Cyndane said...

About TN paladins, why not turn Smite Evil into Smite Extremist? You know, let them smite LG, CG, LE, and CE. Sure it's one more alignment they can smite than traditional paladins, but there probably fewer of the extremist alignments than the neutral alignments, so it should balance out.

Ettin said...

Well, in most games you're only going to smite evil creatures, anyway.

I should try making this once I've finished this series.


... And I should totally finish it.

Jenx said...

Sooo, are there going to be more posts about this? I am enjoying the whole "Worldbuilding" series.

Mozai said...

I can't see a paladin without a patron deity, honestly. Where's the spells come from? Or any of the abilities above extraordinary (spell-like or supernatural)? Wizard types get it from studying arcane magic until they need glasses, and learning the gimmicks for "making the laws of physics shut up and sit down." Paladins, clerics and druids get their spells because someone who has the power to grant spells says "I like you kid; how's about you work for me?" Who can grant spells? Wizards can grant like, one or two of their own, but it takes something beyond epic levels to supply a church staff with spellcasting.

I always thought turn/rebuke undead wasn't so much radiation emitting from a holy symbol so much as the undead recognizing on some feral level "oh shit, this cleric has friends that will fuck me up if I get involved," and waving the holy symbol around was proof of membership in the god club.