Sunday, March 2, 2008

d20 Rethought: Class Structure

This post isn’t about, say, the exciting class features to be had if you take levels in the d20 Rethought version of the Barbarian (which is not to say that there won’t be such a post in the future!). No, for this post I’ll be focusing on the nitty-gritty of what a class in d20 Rethought is, starting from a crunch perspective.

Not counting the unique package of bonus skills at first level (I'm still not 100% sure how skill selection's going to work), your choice of class in d20 rethought determines:
-Whether you receive d4, d6 or d8 vitality points at each level.
-Same for resolve points.
-Your class features. Which are what this post is really about.

See, your class features are divided into three separate categories: Talents, Feats, and Unique Class Features. This is the real focus of this post, so have another list explaining how these work:

-Talents: From a crunch perspective, talents come in chains (Quick Study I is the only prerequisite for Quick Study II is the only prerequisite for Quick Study III. . .) and tend to grant passive bonuses. Their general aim is to make your character damn good at something- lying, absorbing physical punishment, swinging a huge sword, etc. The class features that in D&D are possessed by multiple classes and can't be acquired through feats (evasion and uncanny dodge are the common examples) will generally be available as talents.

From a fluff perspective, talents are the natural abilities that we improve through use. If I'm always snarky and keep a constant watch for the chance to deliver a well-placed jibe, my witty banter's going to become top-notch as I become a full-fledged adventurer (okay, there might not be an actual talent for that but you get the idea).

-Feats: Talents tend to be more simple and passive; feats range towards the other end of the spectrum, being complex and active. To clarify, this doesn't mean a single gives you a 3/day ability with a two-paragraph crunch writeup; instead, it means alot more "tactical" feats like the ones introduced in the Complete series of supplements, giving you simple, specialized tricks and the like. (Book of Nine Swords-style tricks and stances are a big part of d20 Rethought combat, as mentioned before, and Feats are how you get them). At the moment, I'm thinking the arrangement will be like this: You get feats both from your class and just for leveling up, but talents (as mentioned before) only come from your class. There will be a feat that gives you any level one ("I") talent and lets you select further talents in that chain as though they were on the list of available class talents.

From a fluff perspective, Feats are separated from talents by being things you learn consciously- the tricks and maneuvers you pick up through education and deliberate practice. They can be taught, whereas talents are the sort of thing an instructor can only help you learn for yourself through personal experience.

-Unique Class Features will hopefully be just that: unique (to that class). Feats give you cool small-scale abilities and talents make you damn good at something, but with class features (which henceforth is the term for everything other than talents and bonus feats) you can go way out there and/or overlap in structure. Letting character pick from a list is fine (as long as they're all unusual), giving them supernatural powers is fine, and so on and so on. The important thing is for unique class features to be defining, distinctive and interesting- they should make you want to take levels in that class. Fluff-wise, there are no special restrictions here; your class features can come from training, inborn talents, or the latent effects of exposure to a radioactive meteorite.

Okay, now let's take a moment to talk about Class Structure. See, there are a total of four ways your class can hand out the goodies. It can either take a balanced approach (This means Level 1 Class Feature, Level 2 choose a Talent, Level 3 choose a Bonus Feat, repeat this structure for rest of class) or favor one of these three types of abilities by granting it every other level while the other two types are onyl received every fourth level. But! See, this actually interesting because of the aforementioned fluff aspects of each type of ability. A talent-centric class (Class Feature, Talent, Feat, Talent, repeat) is going to be the most simplistic option to play since everything's passive. If it's a warrior-type class then this is the sort of combatant who just trusts their instincts and charges in to cut down his enemies until none are left. By contrast, a feat-centric class (Class Feature, Feat, Talent, Feat) acquires a large number of options and and maneuvers that he can bring to bear while playing the game, and thus is naturally going to appeal to the tactically-minded player who likes to have a full arsenal of tricks up his sleeve and come up with complex plans of attack. In-game these are the sorts of characters that have often trained and had advanced levels of instruction. And lastly, the class feature-centric character gives you the chance for a more distinct type of class, one whose unique powers are a major portion of their total ability.

Now, these basic lessons will tie heavily into the ideas I've had for d20 rethought's magic system. Since I'd rather these posts stand better on their own, I'll just say this now: Sorcerors are the classic example of a talent-focused class, while Wizards are the classic example of a feat-focused one.

1 comment:

Consonant Dude said...

Hey Dagda!

I like that you are breaking down what a class consists of. Could you elaborate further on the difference between Talents and Feats? Particularly feats, because I am not familiar with Book of Nine Swords and you seem to be going that direction.

BTW, I am greatly impressed by the depth of each entry, how you are really thinking about each design feature logically. I predict a kick-butt d20 game is coming! :)