Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

12 November, 2011

Weekend Design Challenge: To the points
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 3:59 PM
(This post has been viewed 1738 times.)

Last challenge, we were looking at the problems with using feats for making a classless d20 system. This week, we'll look at some solutions.

Notes from last time

The major decision made was to use feats for all class abilities. I also picked 4 feats at first level, 2 feats every level after that as the initial allocation of feats.

Note that I'm still "eyeballing" the figures here. We'll want to balance things out, but let's focus on that later once we have the foundation of a potentially interesting system in place.

Generic classes

One possible option to help resolve the problems we're having is to introduce a sort of generic class base to work from. This is similar to the generic classes variant in the d20 SRD. You pick a generic class then add abilities on top of that.

We'd probably add lesser arcane/divine spellcasting (Rangers, Paladins, Bards) as a feat so that a Warrior or Specialist type could cast spells to build the hybrid casters.

However, this doesn't allow quite as much flexibility as I'd like, so let's look at an alternative.

Introducing points

Feats seem to not quite be granular enough, so let's introduce a points system we'll call "character points". We'll keep feats around, but we'll introduce a conversion of feats to character points.

What do points do? They allow you to buy things that aren't quite worth a whole feat. Let's take a look at the areas that weren't quite working out last time:

Weapon Proficiencies

A character is assumed to be proficient with basic weapons: club, dagger, heavy crossbow, light crossbow, and quarterstaff. (Note that these are the weapons Wizards are trained in.) Characters can take the Simple Weapon Proficiency feat if they want all simple weapons.

The complication here is for warrior types that are assumed to have proficiency with martial weapons. The feat to take a martial weapon proficiency requires one feat per weapon. Ouch! So, let's add a new feat:

Martial Weapon Training [General]

Prerequisites
Simple Weapon Proficiency feat, base attack bonus +1, can only be taken at 1st level.

Benefit
You gain proficiency with 10 martial weapons. You can take proficiency with racial exotic weapons (Dwarven Waraxe for Dwarves, etc.) as if it were a martial weapon.

Normal
When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.

Special
You can learn one more martial weapon proficiency for one character point.

The 10 weapons is a rough number. We can change that later when balancing things out. But, this allows us to create a more fighter-focused character initially if we want.

For exotic weapons, we can keep the existing rules where it takes one feat to learn one exotic weapon. This makes Monks a bit more difficult to recreate, though, and seems brutal to force a Monk to spend a whole feat to get something as relatively lame like Shuriken. Maybe we can add another feat:

Martial Artist Weapon Training [General]

Benefit
You gain proficiency with handaxe, javelin, kama, nunchaku, sai, shuriken, siangham, and sling.

Normal
When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.

Special
You cannot take both the Martial Weapon Training feat and this feat.

I've debated if this feat should preclude you from learning other weapon proficiencies. That might be a reasonable restriction if want to keep the flavor of the monk class and avoid some potential abuse.

I'm also not happy with the name. Too close to "Martial Weapon Training". "Monk Weapon Training" would be better, but it refers to a class we're trying to move away from. :)

Yet another option would be to use the Weapon Group Feats variant rule, where one feat gives access to a weapon group.

Armor proficiencies

Toldain made a great comment pointing out that a warrior gets the ability to wear heavy armor before he or she has the means to wear such armor in most cases. So, we can use the existing weapon proficiencies and take that into consideration. Plus, it gives medium armor a use besides, "Oh, I guess this +5 chain mail is better than my +1 Full Plate."

Shield proficiencies could work the same way. No need for character points here.

Attack Bonus

Adding another feat:

Base Attack Bonus [General]

Benefit
You gain +1 base attack bonus.

Special
Your maximum base attack bonus cannot exceed your character level. You gain an additional attack per round every 5 points of base attack bonus you have.

Again, no need for character points.

Note that if you wanted to be a bit more strict, you might restrict the Attack Bonus feat to once per level. But, I think this restriction adds more flexibility and allows for more varied characters, such as one that might start out more magic-focused, but then gain more martial prowess later.

Savings Throws

If we didn't want to use character points, we could have it so that every character gets one "good" save and having an additional "good" save requires one feat per level. The rules would get complicated since your saves don't advance every level.

But, we can also our character points concept. One character point gives you a +1 to a savings throw, up to a maximum savings throw equal to 2 + (character level / 2), which is the "good savings throw" from the rules. At first level, everyone is assume to have a +2 in a single category.

In the core rules, having one "good" save means that you'll increase roughly 22 points over 20 levels. So, you'll need one character point per level to have roughly one "good" save and two "poor" ones, although you'll fall slightly behind where the core rules are.

Hit Dice

Assuming we want to give the player flexibility to take different size of hit die per level, hit die is tricky. Picking one hit die at 1st level would be easier, but we lose the flexibility. Requiring a whole feat to go from a d4 to a d6 seems steep.

So, let's have one character point increase the size of a hit die for the level. Everyone is assumed to have at least d4, so a fighter would have to spend 3 character points to go up to a d10.

Gaining Character Points

Every level, a character gets one free Character Point; this is intended to be spent on a savings throw. We'll also have a way to turn a feat into character points, as mentioned before. New feat time:

Character Points [General]

Benefit
You gain 4 additional character points.

Normal
You gain one character point per level.

Why 4? Thinking about a fighter, it'll take 3 character points to increase to d10 hit die, with one left over for an additional martial weapon proficiency. A Barbarian will use all 4 points to advance to a d12. It'll take 12 additional character points for a character to have all "good saves", requiring three extra feats over 20 levels. Again, we might need to balance this later.

Next steps

Okay, we've got some rough numbers to play with. Next week, we'll take a look at something I particularly relish: balancing!

This week, give me feedback! What do you think? Anything seem particularly strange to you? Anything I missed? Anything you thought should be done differently?

--


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6 Comments »

  1. I dunno, the "can only be taken at first level" restriction on Martial Weapon Proficiency seems pretty harsh, and doesn't seem to have good motivation. You would sort of like classless development to be independent of the order in which you took things. It simplifies audit a lot, for one thing, and doesn't give players the feeling of "Oh, I didn't think of that when I made the character and now I'm screwed forever." (That's also a complaint I have about how 3rd Edition handles skill points, by the way.)

    Not to mention that one reason that lots of people take a single level of fighter is for the weapon (and armor) proficiencies. Why rule that out?

    My thought is that the as-written feat to take a single martial weapon proficiency is the broken feat. So you could get rid of those and break martial proficiencies down into two feats: Martial Melee Weapon Proficiency and Martial Ranged Weapon Proficiency. Or you could break it down into categories a bit more: thrown vs projectile, and edged versus blunt versus polearms or something.

    Then the strict warrior-types could take the one(s) they were most interested in first, and take the other one at a later level.

    Comment by Toldain — 13 November, 2011 @ 3:31 PM

  2. Toldain wrote:
    ...the "can only be taken at first level" restriction on Martial Weapon Proficiency seems pretty harsh, and doesn't seem to have good motivation.

    That's probably my own bias coming to the forefront, where I see a level 1 character as having a lot of training before they go out into the world. That's the one thing I thought was a bit silly in 3rd edition (and in particular DDO), where taking a level of fighter suddenly gave you ability with a wide variety of weapons.

    So you could get rid of those and break martial proficiencies down into two feats: Martial Melee Weapon Proficiency and Martial Ranged Weapon Proficiency. Or you could break it down into categories a bit more: thrown vs projectile, and edged versus blunt versus polearms or something.

    Yeah, that's like the Weapon Group Feats variant rule I mentioned. That might work better.

    Thanks for your comment. :)

    Comment by Psychochild — 13 November, 2011 @ 5:01 PM

  3. Various musings, questions, and suggestions:
    Assuming the points rework, is there a reason to have both "feats" and points? Wny not simply cost everything out in points and be done? At a minimum, it offers greater flexibility in pricing the options, if one (former) feat seems more or less valuable than others, etc. (For example, I've always felt the cost of a full feat for a single additional martial weapon proficiency is far too high, especially if not "exotic".)

    I would also suggest retiring the hit die concept in this case, and just allowing the purchase of hit points. Buying a d12, and then getting 2 or 3 hp, is going to create a lot of irritation and disappointment. Alternatively, another option might be to have a "potential" hit point score based on the hit dice selected/purchased, and then have in-game elements of play that allow non-level-associated advancement toward that potential: so the "barbarian" remix that has bought 3d12 over his first 3 levels, but has only 15 hit points as a result, can still work his way up to his potential of 36 by locating tribal totems, or visiting mana nodes, or completing quests, or some such element of play.

    I don't want to stray too far into the weeds, but if the concept of apprenticeship training is something that the design wishes to incorporate/accommodate, perhaps a set of such could be highlighted and offered as "first level only" options. These could be options restricted to selection at character creation (or special circumstances during play, potentially) offering options which favor certain types of development moving forward, without pigeon-holing the character completely. Of course, the issue would be to avoid recreating "class selection" in all but name, while not going so far as to become more of a Rolemaster- or Novus-inspired system than D20-based.

    Just as a thought experiment, assume points is expanded to 8 per original feat, as opposed to the proposed 4 (a doubling of any listed point costs in the original proposal is also assumed, of course). I would like to do this to allow for occasional "reduced" costs for what I would call "full specialization". The apprenticeship options related to combat then might look something like the following:

    -=-

    Apprenticeship: Militia Training (Cost: 4 points)

    Prerequisites
    Simple Weapon Proficiency feat, can only be taken at 1st level.

    Benefits
    You gain proficiency with 5 martial weapons.

    Normal
    When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.

    Special
    You can learn one more martial weapon proficiency for one character point.

    Apprenticeship: Advanced Militia Training (Cost: 4 points)

    Prerequisites
    Apprenticeship: Militia Training, can only be taken at 1st level.

    Benefits
    You gain proficiency with 5 martial weapons. You can take proficiency with racial exotic weapons (Dwarven Waraxe for Dwarves, etc.) as if it were a martial weapon.

    Normal
    When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.

    Special
    Additional feats of the Martial category purchased in the future cost 1 point less than normal.

    Busted into 2 essentially to allow recreation of the wizard/cleric+thief/fighter triad of capability, and to better accommodate "mixing" with similar options for spellcasting, etc. I know, probably more complicated than is desired for the current proposal, but there might be something of value in the idea. Figured I may as well mention it.

    -=-

    Just to cast my vote: I think the Weapon Group feats variant is the way to go.

    Curious to see how spell-casting gets worked into all this, now... that's going to be the gruesome part, IMO....

    Comment by DamianoV — 14 November, 2011 @ 5:34 AM

  4. I feel that feats are a concerted effort (eg. significant investment of time and energy) by the character to learn something. Proficiency in something USUALLY requires a significant investment of time and energy whether it be practicing every day with your sword or fighting bandits all day as a caravan guard. Perhaps the benefits of being proficient in a certain weapon need to be increased to match the time and energy expected to be put into a feat. The -4 penalty to attack rolls should do the trick.

    That isn't to say that one could not proficient in a few related or similar weapons, but the characters abilities need to evolve with use as well. Simply put the more you do something, the more proficient you become at it.

    An example of similar weapons is a character that is proficient in one-handed swords. This character should be able to pick up related items like daggers and do fairly well because of the similarities of fighting style, however perhaps with a -1/2 penalty to the attack roll instead of the full -4. However if this same character picked up a longsword the result should be a -4 penalty to attack because while it contains sword in the name, two-handed fighting is entirely different than fighting with a one-handed sword, or dual-wielding.

    Comment by silver0bullets — 14 November, 2011 @ 8:48 AM

  5. Weekend Design Challenge: Balancing with odds and ends

    [...] the d20 system into a classless system, we find ourselves with a question of balance. We've got a foundation laid, let's take the next steps toward our goal. I promised some talk about balancing, but we have [...]

    Pingback by Psychochild's Blog — 21 November, 2011 @ 6:46 PM

  6. DamianoV wrote:
    I would also suggest retiring the hit die concept in this case, and just allowing the purchase of hit points. Buying a d12, and then getting 2 or 3 hp, is going to create a lot of irritation and disappointment.

    I figure this is where house rules come into effect, or special rules for computer games. DDO has you gain the maximum number of hit points per level. A single-player game could either do that or let you save/reload endlessly, just like in the old school days. :)

    Comment by Psychochild — 21 November, 2011 @ 7:08 PM

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