Monday, June 27, 2011

Sword & Planet: Thoughts on Classes...

Good Morning, All:

When regarding character classes for a Planetary Romance setting, it quickly becomes obvious that the usual Fighter/Cleric/Magic-User/Thief selections detract from the setting and generally do not make sense when considering the source material and common characteristics of the genre. This puts us in the position of having to come at character classes from a different perspective. My personal favorite, in regards to character archetypes, are those espoused by the Generic Classes from WOTC's Unearthed Arcana. For purposes of discussion here, I'm going to call them Warrior, Expert and Mystic.

The Warrior
The Warrior is essentially the basic combatant of the trio of generic classes. Based on his selection of skills and profession, he can represent any of a number of diverse character concepts such as a crusader, a duelist, a hunter, a soldier or a tribesman. He prefers to address challenges through physical confrontation. His Prime Requisites are Constitution and Strength.

The Expert
The Expert can be a jack-of-all-trades or a master of a limited area of expertise. Based on his selection of skills and profession, he can focus on diplomatic matters, stealth, combat, wilderness survival, thievery, or any of a number of critical tasks. He prefers to address challenges through the application of skill and agility. His Prime Requisites are Dexterity and Intelligence.

The Mystic
The Mystic is a practitioner of mentalism and mysticism, and has an array of magical powers at her beck and call. Based on his selection of skills and profession, he can be a healer or an enchanter, a shaman or a cultist. He prefers to address challenges through magical means. His Prime Requisites are Charisma and Wisdom.

Before I go into any great depth regarding these three classes, I wanted to capture some of my thoughts on the character creation process, and the rules system in general.

At its core, the system that I would propose using is heavily inspired by various retro-clones, with a number of innovations as required to meet the needs of the genre. Many of the underlying suggestions for changes and such that I'm going to present may appear fairly radical. That's simply because they are. Very little of what I'm going to suggest will be new. However, these suggestions will often be fairly common variants in terms of rules or approaches that may lead people into areas they are not comfortable with, rules-wise. Let me state up front that I understand discomfort may happen, and there's no compelling reason that you have to do things the way I'm going to present them. You can always take what you like from the suggestions I am offering, and leave the rest behind. After all, for this mini-project, that's what I'm doing. Now, with that said, it's time to delve into character creation a little.

My overall concept of character creation is simple:

Character Creation Steps
  1. Generate Ability Scores: Roll 3d6 six times and record them in order: Charisma, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Strength, Wisdom. (Or whatever order you want to arrange the stats in; I just went alphabetical for a change of pace.)
  2. Choose Race: Select your character's race from those offered by the setting.
  3. Choose Character Class: Decide if you are playing a Warrior, an Expert or a Mystic.
  4. Choose Profession: Choose your character's profession. (This was inspired by FantasyCraft and Stars Without Number.)
  5. Choose Skills: Choose your character's skills.
  6. Choose Powers (Mystics only): Choose your character's starting powers from the Mystic power list.
  7. Choose Equipment: Choose your character's equipment.
  8. Determine Basic Stats: Determine your character's basic stats, like height, weight, personality, saves, etc.
  9. Choose A Name: Name your character something appropriate to the setting.
  10. Begin Play: Go forth, save a princess, adventure and earn some experience.

The concept of Professions was intended to replace subclasses, character kits, variant class features, 3E feats, prestige classes, paragon paths, what-have-you. In essence, you choose a Profession, which determines one of your skill selections and grants you a special class feature. That way, characters of the same class could still have slightly different abilities, but you don't have to spend a lot of time during character creation making a ton of different choices for your character (unless, of course, you have to choose powers as a Mystic.) I really don't want more than five or six different Professions per class, and will likely take my cue from the characters in various Planetary Romance novels I've read. The goal here is to give some diversity without burdening the player with too many options, thus avoiding "option paralysis" and spending an entire gaming session building a character.

So, what do you think of what you've heard so far? Do you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions you'd like to offer at this time? Before we can get too much further in character creation, though, I do want to take a few minutes to go over some combat system changes first. That, however, can wait until my next post.


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