Monday, March 29, 2010

The Base Classes

OK, the first thing needed to establish my game is to work on the base classes. Classes, races , and feats define the d20 system, so changes to that system are the most important to the manner in which the game functions.

So let's look at my design principles behind the core classes:

- The classes need to be flavorful and draw the power level of the classes together. The fighting classes need to have their power level increased to match the power of the spellcasting classes. As it stands, there is almost no reason to play a fighting class for all 20 levels. This should change.

- Each class should feel unique from each other, and add to the flavor of my campaign world. The Wizard and the Sorcerer are too similar to count in my world. Each class should have its own play strategy, not just be a variation on an existing theme. Variations may be included in regional sections (each area of my world will have additional classes unique to the culture), but when it comes to the core classes, each one needs to play differently and well.

- There should be no more than 11 core classes. That's about all I think the game needs. More than that, and it becomes confusing, less than that, and the important variety is gone. I could go as low as eight, but I will not go over 11. We'll see what we come up with.

- The classes should be divided up evenly. There are basically three class variants in D&D; fighting classes, magic-using classes, and classes that do a little of each (hybrid classes). I want no more than 4 fighting and magic-using classes, with three hybrids to round it out. This should allow for enough variety of play that every player can enjoy some style, without making the game too focused on any one aspect (magic, mundane combat etc..).

- Lastly, the classes need to evoke the character of my world. I know it seems strange, but Galadran has a specific feel that I want to evoke, and every aspect of the game should help reflect that feel. This is one of the things that World of Darkness did very will in its original run - every aspect of each game contributed to the overall feel of the game. D&D was/is attempting a more generic style of play, but my world is unrestricted by such concerns. If you are playing in Galadran, you are playing IN GALADRAN, and the game needs to make the ambiance and prevailing themes clear from the beginning. That starts with these base classes, races, and feats.

So here are the finalists.

The Four Fighting Classes

Fighter (heavily modified): The fighter redux for Galadran is based on two principles. The first is that this is a person that learned fighting from experience on the field, rather than in an academy or dojo (that's what the warrior class is for). Secondly, that he will evolve into a military commander, in the manner of Achilles or King Arthur. The fighter gains auras that improve his allies' fighting abilities when they are nearby him (he is a presence on the field), and after a certain point, he begins to attract followers, who want to learn from and assist him.

The Barbarian (Pathfinder variant): Pathfinder did this right. This is the fighting class that relies on natural talent over training. There's not much more to say - this is a very good and flexible class with many options and tactical subtlety. In it goes.

The Warrior (Tome of Battle variant fighter): The master of personal combat, who has learned the art of personal combat at the feet of some legendary master or under the strict eye of a tutor or academy. This class was taken wholesale from this site, with one change made for the sake of variety. I have collected more than thirty different martial disciplines, and want to use this class as a starting point for all specially trained master warriors. Like domains for clerics, I want each kingdom to have one or more academies dedicated to personal combat, each offering around three disciplines to those who learn the trade from there. This should allow for near infinite combinations, to say nothing of what the prestige classes can offer, without forcing the player to scour through all of the disciplines and pick the ones he wants. For people less interested in the "fluff" of the schools, I will offer them three disciplines in the class description, representing the "generic" fighting school.

The rogue: Straight from the book, with additional rogue abilities taken from Dragon magazine or other d20 supplements for additional options. No other changes - this guy was about perfect out of the box.

The Four Spellcasting Classes:

The Cleric: No changes. This class is flexible and powerful. In it goes.

The Druid: No changes. Same reason as above.

The Shadowcaster (heavily modified, from Tome of Magic): This is the first real change to the spellcasters in this book. The Wizard is out as a core class (I have my reasons - he should be a regional option, in my opinion) and in his place is the Shadowcaster. I like the feeling of menace and weird supernaturality of the shadowcaster, and it fits well with the overall theme of my world much better than the typical wizard. Magic in Galadran is a dangerous force, and it should feel dangerous and creepy. At the same time, I imagined this type of spellcasting to be the first kind of arcane magic practiced in the world, so it goes in for that reason as well. The modifications are taken in to give the class a little more staying power in a fight. They may regain one of their supernatural abilities as a standard action, or all of them as a full-round action, in the manner of a ToB class. This should keep them in the fight longer, and make them a more viable option than they used to be for play.

The Thaumaturgist (taken from Iron Kingdoms' Mortithurge, modified slightly): This class in effect replaces the Sorcerer in my book. He represents a stutter-step between the old casting of the Shadowcasters, and the "new" classic vancian system that is prevalent in my "European" civilization. Basically, it fights a little bit (proficiency with martial and simple weapons, and light armor, and has the armored spellcater ability), but utilizes a spellbook and memorizes like a wizard (with a restricted spell list, and many fewer spells per day). I don't consider this a hybrid class, because the combat ability is very secondary to the class. The class abilities allow the cater to hurt himself (and later, others) to power or reuse spells. This fits with the "magic is dangerous" theme of my world, and so in it goes.

The Three Hybrid Classes:

The Ranger (heavily modified): The ranger is really the scout from the Heroes of battle book. The animal companion has been replaced with an ability to flank at range, and the ranger spells have been added to class. This helps both classes (who suffered from one-hit-wonderdom) by allowing them to function as a ranged harasser class and a scout, while still keeping that supernatural attachment to nature that the class enjoyed (sort of like a paladin for outdoorsmen).

The Hexbalde (modified): The hexblade is really, really, cool - but WAY too weak to be effective. the idea is so good, and the implementation is so bad. It is perfect for Galadran, but needs to be brought up to speed.

The changes are from Mike Mearls' suggestions:

* Good Fortitude save
* Curse ability usable 1 + the hexblade's Cha modifier per day
* Curse ability usable as a swift action
* Curse ability does not count as used if the target makes his saving throw
* Ability to cast in light or medium armor and while carrying a light shield or buckler
* At 6th level, the hexblade can cast one hexblade spell per day as a swift action, as long as its original casting time is a standard action or faster. He gains an additional use of this power at levels 8, 11, 14, and 18.

I've also expanded the curse effects, allowing the power to "scale," as an incentive to keep with the class. This is the paladin replacement.

The Beastmaster (from the Iron Kingdoms Paingiver): This class was presented as a torturer class, but really, it trains animals and herds them into battle. The idea was so cool, I wondered why it was not really mentioned in the class other than to give it the abilities it needs. Screw being able to torture - I love the idea of being able to train and herd semi-tame monsters into battle as "allies." And I think that also fits with the more gritty theme of my world - more so than a bard. In it goes.

One modification, though. Instead of a +3 to Knowledge (torture) at 2nd level, I'm going to go with Animal Handling. Works better.

That's all for now, my friends. Talk to you later.