Monday, January 30, 2023

2d10 Classes

Classes are an important part of Dungeons and Dragons. There are four basic classes, which have been around a while: cleric, magic-user, thief, and fighting man. Nowadays, we call them cleric, wizard, rogue, and fighter. But part of what makes recent editions of D&D fun are the wide variety of classes (12 from the PHB + 1 from Tasha's), and the subclasses, of which there are over 100 official ones, and thousands homebrewed ones.

Classes and subclasses are the main way that players try to capture the archetype they want to play. Building the character you want involves selecting the right base classes and subclasses, and often times multiclassing to get two or more classes, and sometimes additional subclasses.

There are a number of games that try to do away with classes altogether. GURPS and Mutants and Masterminds, for example, rely on point systems that allow you to build, in theory, any character you want. The problem is that point systems tend to be really complicated, and building a character that way can take an excruciatingly long time. There's software to help, and you'll probably need it.

I think for my 2d10 non-OGL game, I want to keep the idea of classes and subclasses, but simplify things a little. Many games boil down the game to three classes: Warriors, who do the fighting, Experts, who have a lot of capability with various skills, and Mages, who cast magic. That is, in fact, what D&D does for sidekicks--NPC party members who have a stripped down character classes. In this approach, Warriors stand in for Fighters, Experts replace Rogues, and Mages replace both Clerics and Wizards, depending on which spells they have. But this isn't the only game that does three basic classes. There's also Fantasy AGE, True20, Worlds Without Number (which also adds Adventurer, which functions as a hybrid of any two of the three main classes), and Cypher, which all divide classes this way, though often with different names.

I think I want to start with the simplified three classes, but also introduce three hybrid classes, and then add 5e's concept of subclasses. In this system, each class in D&D can be represented by a subclass in the 2d10 system.

Three of the classes are the same as used elsewhere: the Warrior, the Expert, and the Magus*. But the other three are hybrid classes: there's a Warrior-Expert hybrid (let's call that a Skirmisher), a Warrior-Magus hybrid (Champion), and an Expert-Magus hybrid (Adept). Each of these helps to fulfill an archetype, and the subclasses make those more explicit. For example, Clerics and Wizards fit under the Magus class, Paladins and Rangers subclasses can fit under Champion (or possibly Adept for Ranger), Bards are an Adept subclass, and Monks are a Skirmisher subclass.

One thing I want to do is allow the hybrid spellcasters not to feel underpowered compared to the Magus, while making the Magus the best spellcaster. To that end, I think that the Champion and Adept will get access to fewer spell schools, but some of them will be unique to their classes (or subclasses), fewer spell points, and have their spell points recharge more slowly. But they'll still be able to cast spells up to the 20th level, and if they invest in Will, will still have more than enough spell points to make it work. The spell point recharging will be part of the class table, so to determine the total amount, you can just add them together. Champion and Adept will recharge their spell points at a rate of one-quarter their level per hour, rounded to the nearest whole number. So at level 1 they won't recharge at all unless resting. Magus will recharge his spell points at one-half his level, rounded up. Finally, the Magus will have a feature that will allow him to meditate to recharge all the spell points he would receive in the next hour in five minutes, but at a cost. Possibly a point of fatigue, but I'm actually thinking that reducing his max spell points by the same amount until he rests might work better.

So here's a rough sketch of classes and subclasses:

  • Warrior - This class will get a scaling bonus to damage. It is also one of the simpler classes, needing only Fortitude and Agility.
    • Berserker - Like the Barbarian.
    • Archer - Basic, non-magic archery
    • Soldier - The basic fighter.
  • Expert - Aside from getting more skill training and specialization, they also get a precision strike (like sneak attack), that increases the degree of success on attacks in certain situations, but only on a hit. Since damage is a base amount times degrees of success, this can be a significant bonus to damage.
    • Thief - I'm considering giving them a feature that lets them "steal" from the party. Basically, if they're in a situation when it would be handy to have something another player has (like a potion or scroll), then can search their pockets, and other players can offer up items. 
    • Alchemist - I haven't fully decided how this works, but a non-magical maker of dangerous items could be fun.
    • Investigator - I want an Expert that's less Thief and more Investigator, able to find secrets and put together clues. 
  • Magus - The primary spellcasters get more spell points, more spell schools, and they recharge spell points quicker. They can also ritually cast spells, which allow them to spend more spell points than they actually have.
    • Wizard - They have spell schools that emphasize not just damage but also the manipulation of magic.
    • Priest - The priest has spell schools that heal and buff.
    • Druid - The nature priest. I think I'd like to add shapeshifting, but I'm not 100% sure that I want to make that specific to the druid. They have unique nature spell schools, plus a mix of healing and damage, but not the buffing or magic manipulation.
  • Skirmisher (Warrior-Expert) - As a cross between Warrior and Expert they get some of both. The scaling to both damage and precision strike is slower, and they get fewer skills and specializations than Experts but more than Warriors.
    • Scout - Their job is to sneak in and observe. Is a ranged attack specialist, with high stealth.
    • Swashbuckler - Like the rogue subclass, they get proficiency in rapiers and bucklers, and are particularly good at Acrobatics (Stunts)
    • Martial Artist - The basic monk, but with less emphasis on the mystic, more emphasis on cool moves and traversal.
  • Champion (Warrior-Magus) - This is a cross between Warrior and Magus. One of their key features will be Empowered Strike, which allows them to use Will instead of Fortitude for damage with weapons. While they get fewer spell schools and spell points than Magus and their spell points recharge slower, they will also get some unique spell schools based on their subclass.
    • Arcane Archer - Their spell schools empower their arrows.
    • Holy Knight - The paladin. Their spell school(s) is particularly effective against undead and outsiders, though not useless otherwise.
    • Witch Knight - The gish.
  • Adept (Expert-Magus) - This is a cross between Expert and Magus. They will get Precision Strike but it scales more slowly than Expert, more skills and specializations than normal (maybe even as many experts, but I haven't decided yet), and spellcasting, which will be about equivalent to the Magus
    • Bard - Like the D&D class. They get at least one unique spell school of magical songs.
    • Shadow - Basically like the Way of Shadow Monk, Shadowdancer, Ninja, or Assassin. Their unique spell school(s) emphasizes shadows and stealth. 
    • Ranger - Like the D&D class, their emphasis is on nature, with access to spell schools that support that. They will be primarily ranged attackers.

In order for this to work, the subclasses will need to kick in at 1st level, so that features that define the subclass (like unarmed fighting for the Martial Artist) can be added at first level. Otherwise it'll be similar to subclasses in D&D 5e, with features that come in at regular intervals. Maybe not the same intervals as 5e: perhaps first, third, seventh, tenth, fourteenth, and seventeenth.

As well as these hybrid classes, I also intend to allow multiclassing. One of the fun things about D&D 5e is the ability to multiclass and get interesting features. The trick, though, is to make sure there's a price for doing that that's significant enough that people wouldn't be tempted unless they have a specific idea.

* I chose the term Magus partly because I like the word, and partly because it gets to the origins of the term magic. The Magi (it's the same term used in the Bible for the visitors of Jesus, but not necessarily the same people) were originally a priestly caste/clan in ancient Babylon and Persia. Their rituals were exoticized by the Greeks and became the origin of the idea of magic. It also speaks to the fact that in the ancient world, there wasn't really a distinction between magic and religion. Rituals that appealed to the gods and/or spirits to do what you wanted was religion when you did it and magic when foreigners did it.

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