... now with 35% more arrogance!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Class Building

I don't like an overabundance of classes. Mostly because it increases the time it takes to make a character, in the same way that a skill system with an abundance of skills slows it down. Also, new classes frequently stomp on the idea of making a generic class, like a Fighter, into something more unique, like a gladiator, huntsman, or knight.

This may sound surprising, given the plethora of classes I posted in the last couple weeks. But those classes were meant more as examples of customizing existing classes. I have a certain system, as I'm sure everyone noticed.

First, there's the experience/hit dice model. The four core classes provide this:

Base ClassBase ExperienceHit Dice
Combat (Fighter)2,0001
Support (Thief)x1/2 + 1/8+1/2
Magic (M-U)+1/4+1/2
Hybrid (Cleric)x1/2 +1/4x3/4
Combat+Turningas Clericas Cleric
Support+Turningas Clericas Magic-User
Magic+Turningas Magic-Useras Magic-User
Combat+Supportas Magic-Useras Cleric

I've written these to show how the other classes are modifications of the Fighter class. A Thief isn't as effective in combat as a Fighter, so Thieves only get half a hit die when they advance and only need half as much experience, plus a bonus for their unique abilities. Magic-Users likewise only get half a hit die, but magic is so useful, they need just as much xp as a Fighter, plus a fourth as much. Clerics are half-way between Fighter and Magic-User, effectively making them three-quarters of a Fighter for both experience and hit dice.

The combos represent mixing part of one class with magical powers based on Turn Undead. The "Combat+Turning" combo represents the Beast-Master or fighter-ly Bard: effective as a Fighter, but able to use a small list of themed supernatural powers repeatedly. As you can see, it's just a standard Cleric as far as XP or HD go. "Support+Turning" represents the thief-ly Bard, who doesn't have all the thief abilities, but has powers bordering on the clerical. In either case, we drop or reduce one of the abilities of the base class (Fighter or Thief) and change the theme of what the turning mechanic affects (charming animals: Beast-Master; charming people: Bard; charming weather spirits: Weather-Worker.)

"Magic+Turning" represents specialist magicians like the Conjurer, the Mesmerist, or the Necromancer, who use the Turn Undead mechanic, but can also research spells to use in scrolls (but can't memorize spells.) We could upgrade some of the other combos to this, to give spell scrolls to Weather-Workers (turning them into Weather-Wizards or Storm-Lords, whatever you feel like calling them.) Magic+Turning classes are customized by changing the theme of the turning mechanic.

I've added a hypothetical combo that I haven't discussed yet: a Fighter with a couple Thief-like support abilities added. They use M-U experience and Cleric hit dice. It's probably better to use the changing class rules for this, though.

Aside from changing themes for the "X+Turning" combos, we can also change the theme or target of support abilities in the Thief class, to make Tinkerers, Dwarf Smiths, or Dwarf Miners, for example. Similarly, we can change the spell list or spell prep of the Magic-User: substitute Cleric spells for Magic-User spells to get White Magicians and Black Magicians, substitute cheap potion creation for memorization to get Alchemists, swap familiars for spell books to turn Alchemists into Witches. And anything you can do to the base class can be done to the combos as well.


  1. I like the idea of modular classes. Shouldn't Wizard and Thief HD be x 1/2 though?

    1. Nope, because they start with a full hit die and go to 1+1 at 2nd level. It is actually wordier to explain their hit dice if you go with x 1/2, because then you have talk about adding a +1 on levels where the hit dice are the same as the previous level.

      Cleric, though, you can get away with x 3/4, add +1 point if the fractional dice are + 1/2 or more.

  2. Hey, dude! Longtime fan here, just popping by with a plea. I love your formula-based approach to class generation, and was wondering if (despite your personal preference for only a handful of classes per game) you would consider putting up a table for us to roll on that contains all the permutations of this that you can come up with? We have been really digging the DCC RPG lately and its completely randomized approach to character generation, and I think the plethora of outcomes offered by your recipe would be a hoot!

    1. Hmm, I'll have to see what I can do in the short-term. I might be able to adapt Quickie Dice Tool rolls to the task in some way.

      Several years ago, I came up with an idea for an entire book devoted to random class/character generation, but that's a major project. I'm not sure when I can complete it.

  3. I really like this summary - a fair and easy principle, which really solves the "problem" of being encouraged by the book to play whatever you'd like to.

    One mathematical issue, though: "x1/2 +1/4" is not appropriate for the Cleric, as it yields 1250 base XP (similarly, the XP given for the Thief yields 1125. They should read "x1/2 +1/2" and "x1/2 +1/4", respectively. Actually "x3/4" and "x5/8" is even better as it avoids this problem of sequence altogether).

    1. I should clarify that the fractions are relative to the Fighter in every case. So, "x1/2" is 1,000, "+1/4" is +500, "+1/8" is +250 (or +200 in the original, because they only use two digits of precision.)

      Of course, the original reason for expressing it that way was so that the Cleric, Magic-User, or Thief abilities could be added to full classes as well as half-classes. Thus, you could theoretically have a *full* Fighter + some Thief abilities for 2,200. That's a lot like some class customization articles in The Dragon, but I decided I don't really like that approach; it's best to keep everything close to the core classes.

  4. I see, your reasoning makes it clear why you did that way.