Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Symmetry and Organic Elegance

 Now that I've got the revised races for my update of TSR done (if these things are ever truly done), I'm working on the classes. 

My love of symmetry and structural elegance had me thinking that I would have the four basic classes: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Thief. Then I'd have six "advanced" classes that serve multiclass functions the way the BX/BECMI Elf class does. I think I mentioned this before. 

So, I've got a Cleric-Fighter (Paladin), Cleric-Magic-user (Bard), Cleric-Thief (see below), a Fighter-Magic-User (Lark - taking the name from Ultima 2 but it's basically the Elf), Fighter-Thief (also see below), and Magic-User-Thief (Warlock). 

 Base classes go to level 15. Advanced only to level 10, but cost more XP so end up maxing out around the same place in the end game.

Some of the advanced classes obviously have easy concepts to map to existing D&D classes. Some have no easy analog or else several fit the bill.

The cleric-thief is sort of this odd fish. In AD&D Half-Orcs and Half-Elves (I misremembered) can have that multiclass combo, and it has some interesting abilities, but it's not really a strong archetype on its own. I've got an idea for a Van Helsing/Belmont style vampire hunter, or a monk (but without martial arts and mystical special abilities it's far from the standard monk archetype). 

The Fighter-Thief is the opposite. It could be a Ranger. An Assassin. A Monk. Which should it be? 

Making exactly 10 classes, 4 basic and 6 advanced that evenly combine the base 4 isn't quite working out. Should I abandon the symmetrical elegance for organic elegance of typical D&D editions?


  1. The original monk was very much a “cleric-thief,” trading clerical spells for HTH abilities and adding thief skills. In OD&D it was even a subclass of cleric (that changed with 1E).

    I don’t recall half-elves being allowed to play Cleric-Thieves in 1E...maybe that was a UA addition? Regardless, it seems ripe for some cult that worships a “god of thieves” (Hermès, for example).

    “Ranger” gets my vote for fighter-thief, though I admit that’s odd considering the original ranger’s “outdoorsy” nature and the thief’s more urban inclinations. I suppose “assassin” would be a better fit (considering the restriction in armor, the reduced hit dice, and the proliferation of available actual thief skills). Yeah, on second pass I’d go assassin...Ranger is definitely its own thing.

  2. I just looked it up (and double checked UA), and you're right, JB. Not surprising since you're actually playing 1E with your kids right now.

    Only the Half-Orc gets to be a multiclass Cleric/Thief. I was probably half remembering the Half-Elf Cleric/Ranger and conflating it with Cleric/Thief.

    I'm also leaning towards Assassin as the Fighter/Thief. Rangers are a little bit Fighter, a little bit Thief, a little bit Druid, a little bit Magic-User. Such an iconic class, but so mixed up.

    Right now, I'm thinking the advanced classes will be:
    Assassin (Fighter/Thief)
    Bard (Cleric/Magic-User)
    Darkstalker (Cleric/Thief, Van Helsing-ish)
    Lark (Fighter/Magic-User)
    Paladin (Cleric/Fighter)
    Warlock (Magic-User/Thief)

    That leaves me without a Monk and a Ranger, though, unless I make those sub-classes of some other base class. Ranger sans spells could easily be a Fighter subclass. With spells, an alternate version of the Paladin (Druid spells instead of cleric). Monks... I definitely want a class like this, since I'm trying to combine Euro and Asian fantasy in one rule set. Gotta think about it more, I guess.

    1. Kind of funny that there's no monk class in a game incorporating "Asian fantasy."
      ; )

    2. That's the dilemma! Organic elegance (giving the players what they expect) requires it. It's a traditional class in the game, if an odd fit. Symmetrical elegance doesn't have a place for it.

      Anyway, last night I thought about something I've considered before, that the Barbarian and Ranger are basically the same niche: fighty guy with wilderness skill. So I rewrote the Barbarian subclass of Fighter to be the Ranger. And the Fighter/Thief can be the Assassin.

      Now I just need to fit in that Monk! Maybe it should just have its own rules and not be like everything else.