Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Class format

I think it is time for a meaty update: the class format. (As always, hosted by google docs so formatting gets weird. Still looking for a simpler way to fix this).

My main complaint with 4e is that it feels like you pick your character. There is a lot to pick from and it is easy to have fun, but you are still picking. In 3e, it really felt like you built your character. I miss building.

Third edition had its own issues, though, in that it erroneously presumed that a level = a level. The low level sorcerer powers are worth more to a 5th level fighter than they are to a 15th level fighter, and so the window of effective multiclassing closes rather rapidly. To compensate, they had to make the first level of classes extra powerful, but this then encouraged crazy builds that dipped into a half-dozen classes.

The solution was to develop a simple multiclassing mechanic that acknowledges that a higher level character needs to have access to more robust powers even when first entering a new class. This class format does that. But, because we don't want to overly encourage class dipping, most powers scale with level, so you are encouraged to pursue a single class. Both routes are amply rewarded, but they also require substantial tradeoffs.

Only a single class is provided so you'll have to extrapolate in imagining how simple it is to multiclass; it plays out really smoothly. It is also intentionally parsed down to make it simpler to understand. There are three main things I'd like people to get from the class format and provide feedback on:
  1. Overall format and ability to multiclass. Pretty much what everything above has discussed so far.
  2. Ease with which new powers could be added. In 3e and 4e, options are tied to a specific level and so must be balanced against the rest of the class and other powers available at that level. Because powers in this format can be taken at any level so long as class score meets or exceeds the requisite level, there is a wider range in which they are applicable. If you want to change a powers level in 3e or 4e, you probably need to put something there to replace it because a dead level is a big deterrent. There are no dead levels under this system so you can change powers freely with minimal disruption to the rest of the class and game.
  3. Ability to customize experience. If a player wants a simple play experience, they can pick mostly static abilities and they'll be good at what they want to be good at. If a player wants a complex play experience, they can pick mostly situational abilities like Battle Roar, Ricochet, and Primal Fury. In this way, the simplicity of Essentials and the complexity of base 4e classes can be simulated under the same rule set. Moreover, it isn't a binary decision any more. The "essentials" player can add more complexity as they become comfortable or the complex player can reign it in.
What I'm not really looking for with regards to feedback just yet is balance or power. This is intended to be illustrative so that effort, while appreciated, should be reserved for a ways down the line.

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