Monday, January 23, 2017

Class Components:  Breaking Things Down Further     

Thus far, we have identified four components of the barbarian:  Berserker (a powerful and balanced component), Survivalist (a front-loaded component), Agile (a somewhat unbalanced component), and Tough (a balanced, but less powerful component).

Examining the barbarian archetypes reinforces these components.  Archetypes gain certain class abilities, while losing other, standard barbarian class abilities.  Looking over the various archetypes, we can see that when an archetype gives up fast movement, for example, they usually lose uncanny dodge and trap sense as well.  Berserker, as the primary component and the granter of the barbarian's rage powers, is rarely lost entirely  The other three, however, are often switched out as the player desires, to modify their barbarian and make it unique.

Because these components are not balanced against each other, they should not be treated in the same way.  However, instead of swapping components out one for one directly, and attempting to force them to become balanced when they are not, perhaps we can instead think about each component as having greater or lesser importance to the character concept.

For Barbarians, being a Berserker is of primary importance, and being Agile is less important.  But let's consider the other character classes that might have Agile as a component.

The Rogue's Agile Component

Certainly the rogue is the first class that comes to mind when we think about a character that is agile. The following class abilities granted by the Rogue fit within an Agile component:
  • Acrobatics, Climb, and Escape Artist class skills (1)
  • Increased Reflex save (all)
  • evasion (2)
  • uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge (4, 8)
  • trap sense (3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18)
In addition, a number of Rogue Talents fit into Agile, including Acrobatic Stunt, Climbing Stunt, Escaping Stunt, Expert Leaper, Fast Getaway, Improved Evasion, Ledge Walker, Nimble Climber, and others.

The Monk's Agile Component

Monks are also very agile, having many class abilities that fit within this component:
  • Acrobatics, Climb, Escape Artist, and Ride class skills (1)
  • Increased Reflex save (all)
  • evasion (2, 9)
  • fast movement (3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18)
  • slow fall (4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20)
  • high jump (5)

The Bard's Agile Component

Finally, the bard, while certainly not as focused on agility as the rogue or the monk, has certain class abilities that fit within this component.  The bard's Agile component would be fairly front-loaded, and might look something like this:
  • Acrobatics, Climb, and Escape Artist class skills (1)
  • Increased Reflex save (all)

Standardizing Components

There is a lot of overlap between the way that different character classes get these same kinds of skills and abilities.  And yet, three general levels of components start to make themselves clear:  front-loaded, lower-powered components, such as the bard's Agile (as well as the barbarian's Survivalist), mid-level components, such as the barbarian's Agile and Tough, and high level components, such as the rogue or the monk's Agile (or the barbarian's Berserker).

Would the game benefit if we standardized these into three distinct levels?  Well, consider the rules as written that the players need to keep track of:
  • Barbarians gain fast movement at level 1, which is a simple 10 foot bonus to their move.
  • Monks gain fast movement at level 3, but this is a different ability of the same name, and increases every three levels.
  • Monks and rogues both gain evasion at level 2, but Monks gain improved evasion automatically at level 9, while rogues have to take an advanced rogue talent in order to get improved evasion (which they cannot access until level 10).
  • Rogues get uncanny dodge at level 4 and improved uncanny dodge at level 8.
  • Barbarians get uncanny dodge at level 2 and improved uncanny dodge at level 5.
  • However!  If a rogue or barbarian already had uncanny dodge from the other class, then when they would get uncanny dodge, they instead get improved uncanny dodge.
  • Rogue and barbarian levels stack, somewhat, for purposes of when you can avoid sneak attacks, but the rules are complex, to say the least.
These rules are unreasonably, and unnecessarily, complex.  They do not add anything to the story.  Nor do they add that much to the game itself, since the only time you need to think about them, as a player, is when you are creating or leveling up a character.  In the meantime, the GM is the one who is likely to have to use them the most, and this becomes burdensome in terms of slowing down creation of NPCs and antagonists.

Next post I will try to set forth a version of a three-level Agile component that will easily fit into the four classes discussed, as well as being available in some form to other classes!

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