08 March 2012

Character Class Overview

Classes in Barael's Europe take one of five flavours: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Thief, or Normal Man. I'm going to provide an overview here, which may seem like unfocused thoughts, but I assure you—clarity is nigh, and I'll be following up with class-specific posts to explain the details.

Initial Thoughts

First off, you should know that none of the classes exists exactly as it appears in the S&W Core. This is in large part a result of setting specifics. You can't have a Christian campaign without talking about what it really means to be a cleric, and that's naturally going to impact class description and certain game mechanics.

Second, I had been thinking of "sub-classes," like the ranger (Fighter), the scout (Thief), the astrologer (Magic-user), and others. Initially, I checked the S&W Complete rulebook, which contains certain of these specialists. However, they didn't really fit well—as described—into the campaign I envisioned, plus there were gaps that S&W Complete didn't fill.

Career Paths

My solution is to create "career paths" by taking a page from FrDave's Old School equivalent of prestige classes. The primary advantage is not having to create whole new classes, XP tables, spell matrices, etc. Simply take an existing class, bolt on specialised abilities, balance with some restrictions, and you have your sub-class. Level progression, hit dice, saves, and level limits remain intact—everything else is a matter of what feels right.

I want to stress this last bit. My natural inclination is to figure out some point value for each new ability and disadvantage, apply them so that they zero out, and declare that I have created a "balanced" sub-class. But I don't think that's the right approach.

Both Brendan and Reese correctly point out that a given prestige class really only makes sense when it's attached to a particular setting. That's not only true in terms of which sub-classes the setting supports, but also what those sub-classes can do. In other words, class should be defined by the setting, not the rulebook. If I used some point-value system to balance my career paths, it'd be the same as me telling you how to define a Druid or an Assassin in your campaign.

Instead, I'll just share my thoughts, and you can decide if it's too beaucoup for your campaign (or, just maybe, not enough beaucoup).

Something else about career paths that I should make clear: They aren't available during character generation. Again, I'm taking FrDave's suggestion and stating that PCs don't choose a career path until reaching 4th-level. I like the notion that levels 1-3 represent "apprenticeship" for the fledgling character. In setting-specific terms, ascending to 4th-level is the equivalent of attaining journeyman rank, and thus possessing sufficient "general" knowledge of one's field to specialise in one aspect of it. In game terms, this makes it easier to roll up new characters, because you're not bogging down char-gen with a lot of "prestige class" details.


Pretty much all human, all the time, at least as PCs go. Which brings up two caveats:
  1. Demi-humans may show up, but as monsters, and in the Norse Mythology style. So you might encounter dwarfs who turn themselves into a pike and hide out in deep pools, or elves in the light, dark, and swart variety (which may be dwarfs as well, depending on the translation?).
  2. There may be human variants that can mimic demi-human abilities (e.g., a dwarf's find stone traps or an elf's find secret doors). I won't necessarily map demi-human abilities to human sub-races, but there will be specialised mannish folk.
I'm prepared to omit halflings—I just can't find a place for them yet (though that could change if anyone can point out a period reference to a realm inhabited by little folk). Gnomes, I hasten to say, are right out.

Next Up, Christian Clerics
Listening To: Orange Goblin, Frequencies From Planet Ten

01 March 2012

Unfocused Thoughts on Religion

While I like to present organised and cogent statements, I find them time-consuming and difficult. Consequently, I save that kind of energy for my day job, and anyway figure they're less important to gamers, who largely decide to go where their imaginations lead them.

In planning out The Bastard's Blade, It seems to me that the fundamental aspect of the campaign is religion. Or rather, the influence religious belief has on the setting's peoples and how it motivates their behaviour. With that starting point, here are some unfocused thoughts on religion in Barael's Europe: [1]
  • Christianity represents Law, civilisation, and order. 
  • Though historically significant, the specific differences between Arian and Trinitarian Christianity are likely to be glossed over in the campaign. I anticipate that efforts to distinguish the two as separate flavours of Law will be confusing (or, more accurately, that I won't do a good job of explaining the difference).
  • That said, I can still represent the conflict between East and West: As the last man standing, the East Roman Empire sees itself as the "true" Christian authority, unspoilt (as it is) by the barbarian influence that toppled the West. Meanwhile, the Christian states in the West struggle to recover from Rome's fall, and some doctrinal details are bound to suffer for the greater good: You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.
  • Paganism represents Neutrality and teaches self-reliance for the benefit of the community.
  • I'm thinking specifically of Germanic Paganism, and I'm applying a broad brush to include any non-Christian state. [2] In the interest of simplicity, I'll probably include about 6-10 deities, but without distinguishing between the Germanic, Norse, or Anglo-Saxon aspects of each.
  • For now, I'm not touching Celtic Paganism. As the Celts begin converting to Christianity in the 5th century, I think it makes sense to depict Celtic culture as a mix of western Christians and Germanic pagans (via the Anglo-Saxons). I'm picking nits, but I think it's good enough for government work. If I want druids, I'll flaunt historical accuracy and make them cultists who worship demon lords.
  • Who, by the way, represents Chaos and the rise of the individual to attain power over others. The roster includes Baal, Pazuzu, Dagon, Demogorgon, and perhaps a few others drawn from Babylonian, Mesopotamian, or Phoenician myth.
  • Numerous cults venerate the demon lords (or aspects thereof); each focuses on different aspects—destruction, sadism, power, spider-worship, father-raping, essentially any value that promotes self at the expense of others. Or, perhaps more accurately, cultists are evil folks who worship demons to rationalise their depravity by associating it with a higher power.
  • The demon lords are responsible for The Darkness, a pervasive evil force that covers all the white areas of the Shepherd Map. The Darkness spreads slowly west, subverting nature along the way. This is my rationale for monsters and arcane magic (and, by extension, non-clerical magic items).
  • While all demon lords believe in spreading evil, they don't always agree on how to go about it. Thus, there are shifting demon alliances as they play politics and curry favour. Like, I'm sure Pazuzu would love to sink his talons into the Eastern Pope, but the other demon lords might have different mischief on their to-do lists, and struggles for priority amongst the demons occur as a result.
  • All this brings up some spell-caster stuff: Christian clerics are Lawful, Pagan clerics are Neutral (and have access to reversible cleric spells). Demon lords have no clerics, but they are the source of arcane power, so all magic-users are Chaotic demon worshipers who pay for spells with their souls.
  • In this light, I see Christian clerics from the west getting along with Germanic pagan clerics (after all, the pagan isn't a demon worshiper, and who knows—he might stand conversion?). At least they can probably work together in the same party. The same can't be said for clerics and magic-users—no cleric will be happy about hanging with a demon supplicant.
Next Up, Character class overview
Listening To: The Police, Synchronicity
  1. Thanks to Evan for endorsing this format—turns out that it's pretty useful. Credit where credit is due.
  2. Emphasis on "state;" this excludes barbarian territories.