... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Old School Super-Man

One thing I hope is clear in the posts comparing Magic-Users to Fighters and to Super-Fighters is that I'm not against an ability improving to super-heroic levels; I'm just opposed to all mundane abilities improving to such levels without any limits in a sandbox-style game. If you want super powers, you play a Magic-User. If you want a *fighter* with super-powers... you play a Magic-User, but reskinned as a fighter. You don't play a class designed to have no super powers and then complain about the lack of super powers.

Of course, the one-shot, highly adaptable super powers typical of Magic-Users might not fit your concept; they may need to be modified. In keeping with the previous posts, a true old-school implementation of a super-man would either need a limited number of at-will powers or a wider range of powers with some limitation on use. I've toyed with the latter approach before and may put up a revised version at some point... but here's a quick adaptation based on some ideas in the Cleric class.
  • You start with 1 HD and progress as a Cleric, but use M-U experience point totals.
  • You can use any weapons or armor, but magic swords won't work (treat them as normal swords.)
  • You get one primary power at 1st level; pick a spell from the 1st or 2nd level spell lists and make it usable at will. 
  • You get a second, weaker power at 3rd level.
  • Every odd level, either power can be upgraded (replaced) by an equivalent, higher level spell (Charm Person can become Charm Monster.) The primary power must always be a higher spell level than the secondary power.
  • You get a third, weaker power at 8th level; it must be weaker than the secondary power and does not upgrade.
(My first draft of this post had somewhat more limited powers, but I expanded them slightly.)


  1. You can use any weapons or armor, but magic swords won't work (treat them as normal swords.)

    I have been considering this for a general house rule. Only have fighters get the bonuses from magic weapons. They would function as magic (for purposes of monsters that can only be damaged by magic) for all classes, but would otherwise have no mechanical benefits.

    The idea is yet another way to reign in bonus inflation while not totally destroying the play incentive inherent in progression.

  2. There was something about this on rpg.net the other day, saying that fighters should have supernatural abilities like a bunch of heroes - nearly all of whom would qualify as demigods in older D&D. That, to me, is where the fundamental disconnect lies.

  3. I appreciate trying to tie in the spell lists, since that work is already done and written. I'd like to see a super-fighter with slightly better physical abilities every level rather than suddenly jumping, but that kinda requires a skill system.

    I'd make the list of Fighter-allowed abilities shorter than the spell list and possibly with special restrictions. I'd say the following:

    Super-Fighter (or whatever you wanna call it)
    XP as Fighter
    HD 1d8 to 9th then 3/lv after
    Saves as Fighter, Attacks as Cleric
    Armor: Any + Shield
    Weapons: Any (except Ego Weapons refuse to cooperate like with Cleric / M-U)

    Powers: At every odd level you get a power choice. You can choose the same power to be able to use it an extra time per (whatever period). You can choose your power from any of these lists below but your level has to be at least x2 the list level (so when you hit 5th you can choose from list 1 or 2, but you'd have to wait until 7th to get any level 3s).

    Power List Level 1:
    Spider Climb
    Feather Fall (self only, just removes falling damage)
    Protection from Evil (self only)
    Detect Magic
    Remove Fear (one target, by touch and voice)
    Resist Cold (self only)
    Cure Light Wounds (Self only)

    Power List Level 2:
    Detect Evil (must converse with and observe)
    Detect Invisibility
    Knock (one enclosure only, using lockpicks)
    Scare (screaming and shouting)
    Detect Charm (must converse with and observe)
    Find Traps
    Know Alignment (must converse with and observe)
    Resist Fire
    Slow Poison (self only)
    Speak With Animals (cooing and such)

    The progression should continue upward, if possible. You'll notice that my criteria were that the power should have no visible magical effect (ruling out Fireball and Wall of Stone) and might plausibly stem from the Fighter's superhuman abilities rather than a magic spell. The powers often re-create the Thief (spider climb, knock) which make the Thief pointless.

    At some point, these criteria will rule out most spells. For example, I can't see any 5th level spells that would fit. I think I'd just say the 4th level list is the end which you picked from at 9th level and after that such high-level Fighters would probably pick the most useful lower-level ones again and again.

    This lets you make a Thief, effectively, without creating any more rules besides the Fighter class changes. Or a Paladin (lots of Cure Disease to represent the immunity, Cure Light or Serious for Lay on Hands, Protection from Evil, etc.).

    What about the lame little dudes who are just F3 or something and you don't think they should have any special powers? Pick powers that are entirely passive like Resist Cold, or can be explained as physicality like Jump or Run.

    You could write a few new M-U spells to create combat maneuvers like Disarm, Parry, etc. and make those available to Fighters as power choices as well.

    As for frequency, I'd either let the Fighter use his powers once per day as a caster of his level, or once per 6 turns as a caster of half his level (but that would be in the class design, it wouldn't be a player choice, I just find either one a decent way to handle it).

  4. Oh by the way, I see no problem with just changing the Fighter by adding on the power thing and leaving everything else alone (HD, attacks, weapons). But if you have a Super-Fighter and a Regular Fighter class to choose from, how many players would choose a Regular Fighter if that were the only difference?

  5. The progression should continue upward, if possible. You'll notice that my criteria were that the power should have no visible magical effect (ruling out Fireball and Wall of Stone) and might plausibly stem from the Fighter's superhuman abilities rather than a magic spell. The powers often re-create the Thief (spider climb, knock) which make the Thief pointless.

    If the climb and knock fighter equivalents can only be used N per time period, then they don't make the thief pointless.

    The ACKS paladin might also be worth looking at if the super fighter is your thing, as it uses a fighter base but tones down several elements (d6 hit dice, for example) to account for the extra powers. They are pretty scrupulous about balancing the classes.

    You realize that we are slowly recreating the Fourth Edition fighter here, right? (Ducks.)

  6. Yep, and personally, I don't see the point, unless you are going to replace the fighter and thief with a super-fighter (reskinnable as a super-thief.) And beef up the magic-user. Which is a play style completely different from what I'm suggesting.

    The "old-school super-man" is an attempt to emulate a comic-book-style super hero in an old-school, you-can't-be-great-at-everything, approach. Thus, the super-man is essentially a really, really limited magic-user or cleric. Standard class powers are traded for super-style powers. There's no limitation on the kinds of spells usable as powers because that allows the widest flexibility, although it might be worth it to make players pick a spell type (Cleric, Magic-User, Druid, Illusionist) which has limitations specific to that type.

    The super-fighter, as presented above, doesn't have enough of a power-trade to fit in with old-school characters. It's a fighter with a slightly slower combat progression, the same xp requirements, and a bunch of bonus powers. Again, unless you were playing in a super-level campaign and replacing all classes with the Super-Fighter and Super-Mage, I can't see actually allowing something like that.

  7. See, how I saw it was giving Fighters some interesting powers to use like M-Us get, except a lot less of them and from a pretty restricted list. Basically like the 3E Fighter with feats, without creating any new rules for feats or giving them to anyone else. That was my main push: not a pile of new rules.

    In terms of power, I don't see a problem. You could do a F/M and get more variety in spells with a little less overall power (avg HP d7, but good saves). Fighter is already in the middle in XP progression between Cleric and M-U, and this Super-Fighter isn't as good as a full M-U. One spell per day per two levels? A 5th level M-U in 1E already has 4-2-1 (and probably over a dozen spells in his book) and our Super-Fighter would have 1-1-1 (and from the restricted list, at that).

    And I don't think it's especially outlandish in terms of super-style powers. Push = Bull Rush, Jump or Feather Fall = some acrobatics, Spider Climb = Thief Climb Walls but infrequently. If you think a 1E Paladin feels like a marvel superhero, I guess this would too.

    Where does the Fighter's d10 HP come in anyway? Monsters in 1E have d8 HP and that seems like the maximum. M-Us are weak at d4, Normal Men and Thieves have d6, Fighters and Clerics can have d8.

    I'd just tack on these powers on Fighters, drop HD to d8, remove multiple attacks per round (which are handled using a burst of speed as the 3rd level Haste spell on self only with no aging - if you choose that power!) and call it a day.

    Not trying to argue with you guys. But it doesn't look that crazy to me.

    1. This explains it: you're thinking from a late 1e or 2e perspective, with fighters who have d10 hit dice.

      I almost exclusively talk about OD&D without the Greyhawk modifications, so Fighters and M-Us both have d6 hit dice (M-Us get a full HD every other level.) Greyhawk switched to different die types for each class, and assigned the d4 to the M-U and the d8 to the Fighter. So, from my perspective, you took a standard fighter and gave him extra powers without dropping anything.