Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Mucking About With Classes

One of my little pet projects is a complete overhaul of the D&D class system to divorce it entirely from race. Basically, I want an alternative character creation process whereby race becomes a purely cosmetic 'role-playing' choice. You want to play an elf? Okay, be an elf, but don't expect the game to help you out with juicy free bonuses. You can be good at archery and sneaking about in forests if you want, but you're going to have to do it the same way everybody else does - by creating a character who is good at archery and sneaking about in forests. Why do I want to do this? Mainly because I've played a lot of D&D and I'm bored with things as they are. But also because I want character personality to play a bigger part in the game - I want to put a stop to "I'm playing an elven fighter/mage (zzzz....)" and encourage "I'm playing an angry elf who's really into wind chimes" (or whatever). More individualism is what the game needs!

What would characters be like in this brave new world of racial equality?

I'd like to base them on adventuring archetypes. Archetypes already exist in D&D, of course - each of the 2nd edition brown Complete series has lists of them for the relevant class, and some of the campaign sourcebooks have them too. (My favourite, needless to say, is Monte Cook's list of Planewalker Archetypes in The Planewalker's Handbook.) But they've never really meant anything before; I think they were supposed to be role-playing aids - ways to give a more concrete personality to a character - but I don't think I've ever seen them being used.

This is because they don't have any mechanical benefits. I'm going to change that. Let's take one example, cribbed from The Planewalker's Handbook:

A Spiv is a character who is always on the make. Maybe he's just lazy and doesn't want to work for his bread; maybe he thinks the world owes him a living; maybe he hates other people bossing him around and telling him what to do. Either way, he's a plain wide-boy, permanently on the look out for a way to make a quick and easy gold piece - and so long as it's quick and easy he never gives a second thought to how he gets it. One week he's selling his sword on a simple job guarding a caravan through settled lands to the next city, the next he's an enforcer beating up drunks for an inner-city money-lender, the one after that he's trying to hawk a hundred silk scarves a friend stole from a countess's chambermaid the week before last. if there's money to be had, he's there with a wink and a nudge and an "I'm the man for you" - provided of course he doesn't have to work too hard. That would never do.

Archetype Bonuses

Spivs gain a +2 to their Reaction Adjustment, from their skills in fast-talking. They are also expert judges of character from their constant wheeler-dealing. At Level 1 they can Detect Alignment with 50% probability, and have a 25% chance to Detect Lie. These probabilities rise by 3% per level.

Archetype Penalties

Spivs are fundamentally lazy. They are unwilling to work unless there is easy money to be made. If ever a Spiv does any sort of physical activity (including spellcasting) for which he isn't being directly paid or isn't guaranteed payment in the future, he has to make a saving throw vs. death magic. Failure means that he falls into a sulk for the rest of the day and does nothing.
More to come, if I'm not feeling Spivvish and lazy.


  1. So no more to come then?

    (sorry, couldn't resist!)

  2. I completely agree with you concerning the idea that race shouldn't give bonuses. It also leads to the problem of "I want to be a good Xer, therefore I must play a member of race Y, because they are the best Xers", when race should be a roleplaying descision, not a game mechanics decision. I was thinking of posting rant on about why I hate demi-humans, of which that was one of the points.

  3. Anonymous: As a fan of a good rant, I encourage you to go ahead and post it.

    But yeah, that tendency has always annoyed me. "I want to be a fighter, so I'm going to be a dwarf and get that nice +1 CON bonus..."