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Monday, January 5, 2015

Class Abilities, Thieves, and Talents

Finally, a continuation on the topic of the previous post, this time thinking about how class abilities would work and new thoughts about the Thief class.

Class Abilities

Changing abilities in general leads to changing class abilities as well. Some of the class abilities are binary, or nearly so: either you know how to cast 1st level spells, or not; either you know how to use a sword, or not. A few increase regularly with level: fighters can fight a number of lesser opponents equal to their level, and clerics can turn stronger and stronger undead with every level they advance. But skill-like class abilities, like Thief skills, would be easy to rewrite into the format presented in the ability and skill checks post, and again would have the benefit of eliminating many rolls.

When a class adds an ability:
  • Impossible actions related to that ability become risky (5+ on 1d6.)
  • If the target of an action has levels or hit dice less than/equal to the character's level, success is automatic.

Basically, having a class makes actions one step easier (impossible becomes 5+ on 1d6 roll, 1d6 roll becomes automatic.) Example: Climbing with ropes/spikes, or up a cliff with good handholds, is a risky action anyone can try. Thieves can climb without risk, or make otherwise impossible climbs with a roll (5+ on 1d6 means falling.) If you want variable difficulties, assign levels to different heights, say 1 level per 50 feet.

This can also modify the way the other classes work.

Magic: Casting spells is normally impossible. Magicians can cast spells of their level or lower automatically. They have a risk of miscasting spells higher than their level.

Turning: Ordinary characters might be able to turn undead or command spirits with the aid of holy water or a blessed holy symbol. Clerics can turn undead of their level or below.

The general rules for making new classes are now:
  • Fighters are the default class.
  • If a class has an impossible ability, halve the Fighter hit dice (use the Thief progression, in other words.)
  • If the impossible ability is a full spell list, use Magic-User experience table.
  • If using spells and an additional impossible ability, like "command spirits", halve the spell ability (fewer spells per level, limited spell types, delayed spell progression.)

The Talent Class

The Thief and other "skill" classes with essentially identical mechanics, like the Leech (healer) or Apothecary (drug/poison/explosive manufacture) or Tinker (trap/machine creation) can now all be mashed into one class, the Talent. As described in the previous post, professions are background abilities. We can define the Talent class abilities as "your background abilities are supernormal." Mundane uses of backgrounds almost never need a roll, unless used against something with a level. If a player tries something that is normally impossible, but obviously related to their background, they get a roll.

The pure Talent class has half the hit dice of a Fighter of the same level, and only needs half the experience points. Prime ability depends on the concept, but it's usually Intelligence or Dexterity. Perhaps Smiths and Miners would be Strength-based, though.

Lately, I have been thinking of making less "adventurous" classes like the Leech into add-ons to other classes, to make them seem more viable and allow delaying some class decisions until later; instead of wasting a lot of time with character build options, just have players pick Fighter or Magic-User, start playing, and add other stuff later.

One approach could be an XP surcharge for one set of abilities from another class. But that was messy. An easier way to do it is to use the prime ability score rules already in use. When you add a second class, use half the lowest prime ability score of your two classes as your prime ability for the purposes of adjusting experience.

Example: You are a fighter who wants to become a fighter/thief. Fighter prime ability is Strength, thief prime ability is Dexterity. Take the lowest of the two and halve it, which gives you a score from 1 to 9. Most fighter/thieves will have an XP penalty, but someone with 18 in both Strength and Dexterity would have no XP modification.

You always use the worst experience table and the worst hit dice advancement of your two classes. That's the price of adding a second class. You don't lose any hit dice you've already acquired, but you might not gain any more for a while.

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1 comment:

  1. So adding a second class is like gestalting but with a steep XP penalty? That seems workable. The lower the level, though, the more disproportionately powerful the class is- unless the XP penalty is nearly prohibitive.