Friday, April 06, 2007

D20 Core Class Theory

My recent martial artist/ascetic musings have me thinking about the role of core classes. Recently, Wizards seems to have been developing very niche core classes (Dragon Shaman) and core classes that are more efficient mixes of archetypes (Duskblade) than you can normally get by multiclassing.

I wonder how much of this could be handled by designing core classes to be multiclassed more efficiently and evocatively. There has been a lot of complaints about how multiclassing is, generally, a bad idea with spellcasters. I suspect that if d20 were rewritten today, we'd see this improved somewhat through a multiclassing rule that set caster level equal to a character's levels in spellcasting classes plus one-half the character's level in non-spellcasting classes. That's pretty much how they handled things in the Book of Nine Swords. We've also seen a number of new feats (first in Complete Adventurer and, more recently, in Complete Scoundrel) that make multiclassing between certain classes more efficient.

Currently, most core classes seem to gain their multiclassability (oooh! new word?) through front-loading. A one to four level dip into most classes gives you access to their core abilities. Want to play a street-smart warrior who grew up as a cutpurse? Rogue 3/Fighter X will give you a +2d6 sneak attack, evasion, trapfinding, and a bunch of skills. That's not bad, mechanically speaking, but it leaves me a little cold.

Instead of the duskblade, could we have had a Fighter/Wizard with one of these feats? Not with the current Wizard class... but maybe with a differently-designed one. File this under projects for another day.

How does this all relate to the project for today? The ascetic and the martial artist will be designed to work together well. I've already said that, but what do I mean?

Combat-wise, the ascetic will deliver status effects (dazing, stunning, tripping, disarming, etc.) through unarmed attacks. I'm thinking that the attacks can be either melee touch attacks or unarmed strikes. A pure ascetic will rely on touch attacks. A multiclass character will take advantage of a martial artist's increased BAB and damage and, usually, use unarmed strikes - but will be able to deliver a touch attack in a pinch.

Both classes will use a martial focus-type mechanic. The martial artist learns to regain this focus quickly. The ascetic learns how to not lose it in the first place. A multiclass character learns enough of both to be effective.

I don't mind the idea of requiring a feat to efficiently multiclass when you are splitting your attention between two unrelated paths, but I see these two classes as blending together naturally.

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