- Four pure classes (Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, Cleric)
- Three "semi-pure" classes (Fighter, Magic-User, or Thief plus Turning)
- Three mixed classes (Combat+Magical, Combat+Support, Magical+Support)
As I explained, I'm avoiding variants of the Fighter class because I haven't found any conceptual variants I liked. But each of the other three pure classes, and the combinatorial forms of the classes, has variants:
- Combat: Drop two weapons OR drop one weapon and add one weapon or armor restriction
- Magic-User: Swap spell list, prep method, and/or casting method
- Magical: As Magic-User but halve prep/casting ability OR drop prep/casting and pick one consumable item
- Thief: Swap stealthy and/or clever for another set of non-combat talents AND/OR replace surprise attack damage with another ability scaled to level
- Support: As Thief, but drop one of the three abilities
- Turning: Change target and theme of what can be turned
(Turning should probably be renamed to Persuasion.)
So, the number of possible variants depends on what can be varied in each main type. For Combat, for example, I listed four broad weapon types (1-hand melée, 2-hand melée, pole, ranged.) That gives 12 variants for the "drop two weapons" option, four variants for "drop one weapon, restrict armor", and who knows how many for "drop one weapon, add one weapon restriction". Should there be a set list of possible weapon restrictions? Something like "blunt, non-metal, non-ferrous, other", which would give us another 16 variants (technically, more, since "other" is an open-ended, GM-approved restriction.) Should I add an "drop two weapons and add other weapon" to the possibilities, so that particular campaigns could add "psychic weapons" or "mechs" or "explosives" as other possibilities? Should "siege weapons" be counted as one of the standard weapon types for Fighters, or as an "other" weapon to add in variants?
Similarly, Magical variants can pick a spell list from these four: Magic-User, Cleric, Druid, Other, with "Other" as a stand-in for one or more GM-approved spell lists from whatever sources desired. For prep methods, I've only mentioned Book and Familiar, and maybe hinted at Location as another possibility. I'm not sure whether I should leave the possibilities as "Book, Familiar, Location, Other" or add a few more (Artifact? Sacrifice?) Perhaps "Book" should be broadened to "Object" (Book or Artifact) and "Familiar" to "Creature" (Familiar or Sacrifice,) to keep the list short. For casting, I've only given two examples: Incantation (standard) and Consumable (scroll or potion.) I can't think of any others off the top of my head, except for the idea of improving casting ability in some way in exchange for a restriction on the spell list, like I did with the Mesmerist.
Support and Turning (Persuasion) are very sketchy, although clearly we could roll for the target of Persuasion or a damage target to replace Surprise Attack. This is the area where I'll probably have to do most of my thinking, to get something usable for a random table.
As you can see, this is going to produce a huge number of variants, even if I restrict the options to three or four (four weapon classes, three weapon restrictions, three or four spell lists, four spell preps, three casting preps...) It looks like there are possibly 48 pure Magic-User variants, for example, plus a huge number of Magical semi-pure and mixed variants. And that's not even including broad background professions as a concurrent option, perhaps with the background's theme altering the casting method or turning theme.
Are thousands of random character types enough?