Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Subclass Conundrum

I like the way in which the B/X system that I’ve mimicked creates unique race/class combinations that become classes. These are nifty, and allow for all manner of unique variations. I have two modifications to this in mind, and I’d like to explore them both a bit here…

The first is the minor class. I like the idea of minor classes (limited to six levels of advancement) that represent the secondary species of the game world. These don’t all necessarily start at ‘level 1’, but start with the basic hit die of the monster (or maybe one before) and then carry on for 6 levels. For example, a pixie leafkeeper advances from levels 1-6 (at d4 hit die), and has access to some nature magic and some arcane magic (a limited spell list to choose from). Conversely, a minotaur vigilant advances from level 5 (5d8 HD) to level 10 (10d8 HD). They get advanced combat abilities, and pick up a few talents. The minor classes would be unlikely to be used by player characters, but there’d be nothing to say they couldn’t be… it would be perfectly viable to run a campaign of pixie creatures each built on a different pixie minor class, and to develop these classes quickly. You could have a pixie healer (lighter armor, faith magic), a pixie ardent (no magic, better fighting ability) and a pixie tinker (kind of a thief with a smattering of magic) pretty quickly set up as minor classes with minimal sweat equity. In general, it would make sense that the numbers you might encounter cut in half with every level. 50% are level 1; 25% are level 2; 12% are level 3; 6% are level 4; 3% are level 5; about 1% get to level 6. You’d rarely see these more powerful examples. This is a very simple plug-in that allows for a great deal of customization, but which you can ignore altogether if that better suits you.

Subclasses, however, don’t allow themselves to be solved quite as simply.

I don’t like the idea of a proliferation of ‘core’ classes. The barbarian, ranger, knight, paladin, cavalier, and mercenary all have one purpose – to drown out the fighter. I like the idea of each of these being a sub-class (dare I use the word ‘kit’?) that layers over the core class. +Dyson Logos did a brilliant series on subclasses for B/X games, and I like a lot of things about his approach, although I’d want to tinker some… these have to be a little bigger than just a +1 or +2 modifier to a particular ability, but grant access to other abilities beyond what is afforded through the Talents system that’s already in place.

By taking a sub-class, you sacrifice 10% of your earned XP. You get all of the features of your basic class, but also get the benefits and bonus features of the sub-class. Sub-classes would not necessarily be limited to linkage to one core class, but could be layered over several. Here are some examples (in early drafty form):

By the way, Minor Magic means that you advance as a caster, although you always use your LM in place of your level. This means that your casting ability would cap out at level 11, granting you the effective casting of a level 6 primary caster. You’d get access to sphere 3 spells (starting at level 9, when your LM is 5), but no better.