Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Building Character Classes: An Exercise in Balance

So I've continued working on my home brewed Dungeons and Dragons setting, Amadonia, for the last month or so, with mixed results. Most of it has been genuine progress regarding the lore of the world, such as the creation stories of each fantastic character races that I'm allowing, and has been difficult at times to tie in neatly, simply because I have no sure fire way yet of organizing the stories other than the wiki I've been slowly working on since this idea began to germinate in my head almost a year ago now. But that, in my opinion, seems like more writer's block than anything else. At any rate, that's not what this post is about.

One of  my players expressed a desire to play a class known as the Arcane Archer, a sort of magical Robin Hood type whose archery abilities are augmented with arcane magics. There arose an immediate problem with this that I found I had to rectify: The class he wanted to play that would allow him to use archery most  effectively was the Ranger, who does not have access to arcane magics. Rather, the Ranger class, as any Dungeons and Dragons veteran will tell you, specializes in DIVINE magics, that is magics that are granted as blessings from a patron god. To this end, I took it upon myself to, rather than simply deny his request, I took it upon myself to find a way to satisfy the class requirements of the rules, as well as his desire to play a spellslinging archer.

Delving into my creative mental recesses, I came up with the Divine Hunter, a class of warrior that not only can use divine magic the way an Arcane Archer uses the arcane variety, but also has a distinct set of abilities designed to battle such undead creatures as zombies, wights, ghouls, and other such horror movie fare.

It's been quite a challenge, but also a great exercise in my execution of the DnD rules. After I wrote this article explaining a rudimentary skill set and statistics block for the class, I enlisted the better half, my fiancee, to help me playtest it. So far I've run her through about six different solo adventure modules, with mixed results. At first there were no readily apparent kinks to work out, and I was partially believing that I'd succeeded in my task and wouldn't require any find tuning. I learned quickly that this was not the case.

Last session, I ran an adventure titled "The Silver Skeleton", and discovered that my desire not to overpower the class had actually resulted in it becoming UNDER powered, as even at midlevel (level 6-9) The class had almost no access to divine magical spells that would help her against any sort of adversary, undead or otherwise. The solution, of course, was to offer her wider spell selection and start the progression of her magical abilities at first level rather than at fourth, as had originally been the case.

The real test, of course, will be the upper levels. If I can keep her balanced enough to last until level 20, the absolute level cap for the class before going Epic, I'll know the class is ready for play.

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