Monday, March 31, 2008

Elysium Nebula: Class Concepts

The Elysium Nebula is a sci-fantasy setting; spaceships, jump gates, plasma rifles and conflicting interplanetary empires that happen to feature many staple elements of Dungeons and Dragons- elves, magic swords and fireballs- recontextualized to form an oddly coherent whole. And just to set something straight from the start: It's not mine. At all. The creator and I have been communicating online for a couple years now, chatting several times a week. These conversations began a few months after I joined a play-by-post game, run by him, which continues to this day. According to him, the diverse group of characters created for this game have gone on to become his central idea of what Elysium Nebula's player characters should be like.

One of our more recent conversations shifted to the topic of Elysium Nebula's classes and what the best rule system would be for the first published pdf of the setting. Up until now, the game has largely used the base rules for d20 Modern and Future, but in light of the upcoming 4th edition he's considering a large-scale revision. After discussing the topic for a while he asked me what my own approach to the setting's crunch would be. That question sparked this current endeavor of mine: Coming up with character creation options for EN using the d20 Rethought system. It's a chance for me to stress-test the hoped-for adaptability of the system by using a setting I had never before considered during design. Hit the link for the first thing I put together: An outline of the ten base classes the d20 Rethought version of Elysium Nebula would feature. So far I feel that the current base class concept is proving succesful, letting me create classes that have a strong, interesting feel while still allowing for a wide variety of distinct characters (and I mean within the scope of any single class, even before we look beyond the character's statistics).

Adepts are martial and mystic artists, training body and mind through exercise and meditiation. Though most draw on traditions that trace their roots to elven katas developed several millenia ago, in the modern day adepts can be anything from pacifist wilderness-dwelling mystics to cynical chain-smoking blades for hire. Crunch-wise, they're class-feature centric and the most low-key of the four spellcasting base classes, with abilities resembling a cross between a Crusader and a Monk. Outside of EN, an average Adept would fit best into the Wuxia genre of film.

Commanders are charismatic, determined leaders with nerves of steel. They can serve ably as facemen or team leaders, but the common trait they share is the sort of personal magnetism and determination that leaves others in awe- when they're set on a goal, the wise either follow or get out of the way. A balanced class, they have a place in a wide variety of genres, from the mob boss who fights on the front lines of a gang war to a starship captain who faces down overwhelming odds without batting an eye.

Grifters are keen individuals with a knack for picking up new skills. Their backgrounds are as widely varied as their abilities- a Grifter could be a private eye, hedge wizard, explorer, information broker, or all of the above. Class feature-centric, they tend to have a grittier feel to their abilities and thus would fit in best with genres like modern-day drama or noir.

Hotshots are quick-thinking, quick-acting and even-quicker-moving individuals capable of throwing themself into danger at a moment's notice and emerging on the other side with nary a scratch. They make amazing fighter pilots, gunslingers and stunt-prone daredevils of all types- a balanced class whose features emphasize speed and over-the-top action. An average Hotshot fits best into a Hollywood action film.

Operatives are highly trained and disciplined individuals with an unmatched capacity for infiltration, espionage and/or assassination. They can be martial artists whose intensive training has made them a living weapon, secret agents who can manipulate others with ease and doublethink well enough to fool a master telepath, or snipers who never seem to miss a shot. A feat-centric class, they fit best into the action-oriented breed of spy thriller (the type with lots of high-tech gadgets).

Practitioners study and practice the eldritch arts and traditions with a dedication that can border on obsession. The foremost authorities on all things magical, they wield magic with a degree of fine control most spellcasters believe to be impossible. A feat-centric spellcasting class, they can be thought of as the modern/future-day equivalent of the fantasy genre's wizard.

Psychics tend to be amongst the most low-key spellcasters, using their keen minds to harness the power of the ley lines in a far more subtle fashion than most. Some wield this power as openly as any mage, while others go to great lengths to keep their abilities secret and covertly use them to augment their natural skill for manipulating others. Psychics are a balanced class who thematically have a place in the genre of modern paranormal fiction.

Sorcerors may not be able to match the degree of finesse and complexity with which other spellcaster wield magic; but in terms of raw power they are without equal. Hailing from all walks of life, they capitalize on an instinctive knack for spellcasting. As a talent-centric class, a sorceror can cast potent spells from a wide variety of schools. Depending on individual temprament, many would be right at home in the action-oriented fantasy genre.

Techs are experts on all manner of subjects who apply their knowledge in a practical manner. Xenobiology field researchers, starship engineers, demolition experts and hacker prodigies are all viable examples of this balanced class. An average Tech would be right at home in a work of hard science fiction.

Warriors are no strangers to violence, whether they're hardened mercenaries, veteran commandos or just that rare breed of terrifyingly effective thug. Some have a firm grasp of tactics and a surprising capacity for stealth, while others use far more direct methods and are tough enough to handle the nastiest enemies head on. Removed from the Elysium Nebula, the members of this talent-centric class would have a place in many a war movie or more musclebound action film.

As always, feedback is welcome. Next up: How d20 Rethought handles the designer's concept of magic.

1 comment:

Skrittiblak said...

Very cool. The classes all have a very clear feel to them. I'm looking forward to see more details. :)