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  1. #61
    Some scattered thoughts about various topics discussed here:

    *Depending on how deep you wanted to dive into the splat, 3.5 had a number of different "skill-monkey" classes that fit into different archetypes; it's just that most were given additional benefits (spell-casting or precision damage). Factotum from Dungeonscape was the purest option, given that its class skill list was: All. But Rogue worked perfectly well for the role and Scout was basically Nature-Rogue. Archivist was your Knowledge-skill monkey. But once again, each of these classes also fit a specific archetype, which brings me to:

    *Generic vs. "Baggage" classes. It really feels like the overriding trend in D&D over the editions (and especially in 5e) is the move away from "generic" classes or classes without "baggage." I think it was Chris Perkins who was lamenting the lack of a true identity for the Fighter. They had made the class too generic in their eyes. I personally believe you can point to a lack of clear and consistent identity is the reason why the Ranger is such a contentious class (and thus a bit of a mess conceptually in 5e).
    This is because D&D is emphatically not a generic fantasy role-playing system. D&D makes a number of basic assumptions about the nature of its fantasy worlds. Sure, some established settings have unique twists on those assumptions, and obviously there's no stopping home settings from tweaking those assumptions. There is no design space for an official "generic holy warrior" class in D&D because to be a holy warrior in D&D is to be a Paladin. Or, you know, a Cleric, or a Fighter with the proper background and/or feat(s).
    That's not to say that there isn't demand for that and other class archetypes you mention. I'd be interested to see homebrew attempts at a different kind of holy warrior, or a different kind of skill monkey class, or animist, etc. (I must admit to not understanding at all the desire for a non-adventurer adventurer class; and I've played multiple 3.5 PCs that were functionally useless in combat). I wouldn't personally be happy if those classes were generic but to each their own. But I think D&D, and especially 5e, has a very clear design principle regarding its own classes, and that is "not generic". Classes have flavor; they have character; they have a clear identity. They have, by design, "baggage".

    *D&D has, through much of its history, appeared to emphasize the combat pillar because its core design and rules emphasize combat. There are specific rules for combat that are basically universal to all D&D tables. In contrast, the rules for exploration and social interaction are much more abstract, mostly resolved through the game's most basic mechanics. I assure you that if 5e had rules for exploration that were as in-depth and unique to its sphere as the rules for combat, it would probably have just as important a role in the game (and class design and abilities would likely reflect that shift in emphasis). 4e attempted this with skill challenges, but it made two critical mistakes: the shell of the skill challenge mechanic was broken, and it tied into an aspect of character creation/development that the edition had deliberately simplified. A well-designed skill challenge system using 3.5's skill mechanic would likely have been much more successful; especially if the skill challenges had major differences based on challenge vs. environment (exploration) and vs. individuals (social interaction). But then you're starting to into rule bloat and being too complex. But simplifying rules for combat would be killing the sacred cow.
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  2. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by Satyrn View Post
    Okay, out of curiousity.

    I had assumed that you unblocked me a little while back, but now I'm wondering: Is it just a bug?
    Nah. I Unblocked everyone a couple of months ago, and I have only re-Blocked those who say nasty and tiresome things. You're fine.

  3. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    Above, Celebrim & I talked about Skill Challenges. They were such a framework, too, just a very skeletal one that needed a lot of DM fleshing-out to be really interesting...
    Yes. You mention chariot races as a good example of where the skill challenge framework could shine. And I agree, some of the best designed skill challenges I've seen involved chase scenes of some sort, where a certain number of successes before failures meant you had closed the distance between yourself and an opponent (literally or conceptually). I know you don't like this term, but that is a well associated mechanic. It makes sense that you could describe a race or a chase in those terms, and its easy to see how some advantage that someone on the team gained, meaningfully equated to more (or less) success in a way that was very obvious (you are less far behind, or you are further behind).

    But the thing is, we've seen that mechanic before in a 3e supplement - "Hot Pursuit: The Definitive Guide to D20 Chases". Only Hot Pursuit tried to build a robust framework around that mechanic, with maneuvers and challenges and on and on for making Evasion/Pursuit challenges just as exciting as combat.

    4e gave us a single shallow framework that was not easily associated with any given scenario. And I know you don't like the idea, but there is a point to associating mechanics. Better would have been a half-dozen broad frameworks for different classes of problems that come up in the game, a sort of 'how to guide' to building each sort of encounter.

  4. #64
    Quote Originally Posted by Hemlock View Post
    You're fine.
    Nonsense. I'm awesome.
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  5. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krachek View Post
    The classes will keep their identity
    Keep? Have the Ranger & Fighter gotten their identity yet? The Sorcerer? I'm not so sure. ;P

    and MC will stay the favored way to get features from other classes.
    I don't think it was /the/ favored way in the PH. Say you want to be a little bit fighter using the PH? Sure, /if/ the DM is using the optional MCing rules, you can sacrifice a level of your class to get 1st-level generic fighter goodies. But, /if/ the DM is using the optional Feats, you can take Martial Adept and jump in with some Battlemaster stuff. And, if he's not using optional rules? Well, you can play a Paladin or Ranger or Barbarian because they're each more than a little fighter-y, or a Valor Bard or War Cleric, for that matter. Or you could just take the Soldier background.

    They wont touch the core of the 5 ed.
    The core of 5e was prettymuch set in stone the moment the PH hit the shelves. Save for a little bit of errata chipping away at it here or there, I don't see it changing for a long while.

    I think they will presents all the material in the book as optional material.
    Absolutely agree.
    As it should be.

    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    Yes. You mention chariot races as a good example of where the skill challenge framework could shine. And I agree, some of the best designed skill challenges I've seen involved chase scenes of some sort, where a certain number of successes before failures meant you had closed the distance between yourself and an opponent (literally or conceptually).
    Nod. It was really more the additions that I was talking about. Not just that you were closing distance, but that we had a visual aid to track it. The addition of an extra random factor beyond the skill check, itself that tied back to the setting (an ancient Arkhosian arena). That even if we completed the challenge successfully, there was still the question of which of us won - and trying to win, yourself, could mean slightly different decisions than trying to assure that any one PC team won).

    The point was, SCs were good when the DM liberally added to them.

    I know you don't like this term, but that is a well associated mechanic.
    [Voice="John Wayne"]Y'picked up on that, huh? And here I thought I was being subtle.[/Voice]

    But, seriously, "dissociated mechanics" is the edition-war fighting words.

    But the thing is, we've seen that mechanic before in a 3e supplement - "Hot Pursuit: The Definitive Guide to D20 Chases"
    Well, you've seen it. I'd never heard of that one.

    Prior to the odd Skill-Challenge-plus like that chariot race, chase scenes in my D&D experience, had always been utterly dismal, mostly forgone conclusions. There's some comparing movement, and you're hosed. Maybe you drop something the pursuer wants more than it wants you - that was the height of 1e AD&D "Pursuit & Evasion of Pursuit."

    And I know you don't like the idea, but there is a point to associating mechanics.
    I don't like the "dissociated mechanics" complaint, because it's effing nonsense...

    In the active or positive sense, though, /associating/ a mechanic is just an act of imagination. Hp damage, for instance, means basically nothing unless it takes you to 0, there's no consequence or effect of any kind. Associating that with something in the fiction (dodging the lethal blow so you're barely nicked, dashing through the wall of fire, whatever) is exercising your imagination, and that's just fine.

    Pretending you can't and that it's the fault of a mechanic? Not so much.

    Better would have been a half-dozen broad frameworks for different classes of problems that come up in the game, a sort of 'how to guide' to building each sort of encounter.
    That'd've introduced quite a bit of complexity.
    There's something to be said for a single framework, but there could certainly have been a lot more made available to hang on that framework.
    Last edited by Tony Vargas; Friday, 27th January, 2017 at 12:28 AM.
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  6. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbwjm View Post
    I do agree that combat encounters can be uninteresting and non-combat encounters can be interesting. The thing is, I feel that combat encounters tend to be more interesting due to the heightened risk of combat, you have all these options to consider during a battle. You can create interesting exploration or social encounters, however, if you're constantly running into crazy puzzles and traps when out exploring then you're going to end up asking questions as to why you keep running into them.
    IMC, that's why I created Trap Gremlins. Their one purpose in life is to create nasty-but-theoretically-solvable traps exactly like the ones which amuse evil DMs everywhere; more powerful Trap Gremlins create more creative and more deadly traps; various rituals can attract or even summon Trap Gremlins of varying strength, e.g. leaving junk food out after midnight may attract a few weak Trap Gremlins into your kitchen, but leaving a gigantic golden idol unattended in a stone chamber is almost guaranteed to attract a powerful Trap Gremlin, especially if you trace a pentagram around the idol made out of honey mixed with your own blood.

    Therefore, a relatively cheap and easy way to create defenses is to perform rituals which summon powerful Trap Gremlins. True, it is less effective than setting a genuine, secure, deadly trap like dozens of Symbol of Death spells layered on top of each other... but it's also cheaper, quicker, and easier. Besides, you can always use both kinds of traps for really important stuff.

    A Trap Gremlin can transform into the shape of an inanimate object, and when you fall victim to a trap, you may often hear a high-pitched giggling. However, disarming a gremlin's trap causes the gremlin to explode as if it were a soda can full of ugly green goop being squashed by a giant hammer, no matter what shape the gremlin is currently in, so if you solve a puzzle guarding a door and the barrel next to the door explodes into green slime, you have probably just slain a Trap Gremlin. (This is also why disarming traps often grants kill XP.)

    TL;DR I invented a monster to explain why dungeons are full of traps that are amusing (to the DM) instead of lethal.
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  7. #67
    Quote Originally Posted by Hemlock View Post
    TL;DR I invented a monster to explain why dungeons are full of traps that are amusing (to the DM) instead of lethal.
    I clicked laugh, but I also wanted to click XP.

    We need more ratings!
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  8. #68
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    So a bit on the Thief's evolution into more of a "striker" class than more of a skill monkey class, since I've somehow been dragged down that rabbit hole.

    Up until 2e, you could have the idea that the thief was evolving into a skill monkey class. It just never got there. But one thing is certain, in the AD&D era it wasn't a combat class. It was "exploration" focused. It just, in my opinion, was never actually good enough at that to be considered a well balanced class. Certainly, the designers recognized just how weak the class was, because it required the least XP of any class to level up. But it's advantage over other classes in this regard was seldom 'telling'. At 1200 XP, you had a second HD compared to the still 1st level fighter, but then the fighter catches up at 2000 XP. If you look at the advantage you hold in level, it's not large and not large enough to in and of itself make up the difference.

    If you look at the rest, well...

    a) You have basically the same 'to hit' progression of 3e era Wizard - +2 per four levels gained. You also never get iterative attacks. You also can't have high strength bonuses, high constitution bonuses, or weapon specialization like a fighter. Your only combat progression is in 'backstab' which required surprise and with facing literally the back of the creature. It was never reliable, and even if you got backstab you only managed to do about as much damage as a fighter of the same level could do every round. You'll never matter in combat. Imagine if you would and can playing a class that at 10th or 15th level, was still basically getting 1 attack for 1 dice of damage. That was the AD&D era thief.

    b) With few exceptions, even with the faster leveling, you'll end up with the worst saves in the party. Your initial saves at 1st level are respectable. But they get better so slowly, that soon the fighter will be racing past you in basically every category even though he's lower level than you.

    c) You have the second worst hit points of any class. And no bonuses for high constitution. And you have none of the defensive special abilities seen in later editions.

    Now you would think being the worst combatant in the game would make you awesome out of combat, but not so much. While 2e's ability to specialize as a thief in certain areas helped at low levels, fundamentally your skills were weak and unreliable and not broad (even if they had high for the time chances of success like '90%'). To make the thief actually viable as a skill monkey such that character skill really mattered, you'd probably need a real skill system, which 2e lacked, but if you tried to leverage it anyway it would look something like.

    a) Gain the most NWP's of any class at first level. This wasn't true. You didn't. Even counting your 7-9 'thief skills' as NWP equivalents doesn't balance this out, because as people have helpfully pointed out, at first level you only had enough points to be even semi-reliable in a few of them.
    b) Gain NWP's faster than other classes. This wasn't true. You didn't. IIRC, you actually gained them slower. Really, that's kind of the heart of it. No one had a coherent vision that the thief should be more skillful and more broadly skillful than other classes.
    c) As a special class ability, be able to improve one of your NWPs for an additional +1 bonus every level, sort of the way your thief skills get better. This in addition to all of your thief skills getting better. But, you didn't. Your thief skills got better, which was good, but they didn't get broader which was bad. You didn't have "find" as a skill, just "find traps". And you didn't have a way to fix that.
    d) At some point, your skills would have to be reliable. But, in 2e skills were never reliable. There wasn't a consistent idea of difficulty class the way there was an armor class for attack rolls, and you could never treat some difficulty as trivial because there was no way to define what that some difficulty was.
    e) Be able to improve your Dex (your key ability) in sort of the same way that the Cavalier improved Str, Dex, and Con. If someone had thought you should have also been training Int and Chr as well as Dex, that would have been visionary.

    That you could have done all those things, and not made the thief a power gamers dream or invalidated any other class is I think telling.

    3e could have addressed that by fixing the rogue up as the consummate skill monkey, using similar logic that I outlined above and applying it to the 3e framework. And superficially, as the best skill monkey in the core, you might think it did. But what it really had done was just take the first step to creating a system where you could have a skill monkey class. In terms of the portion of the rogues abilities devoted to skills, the rogue was actually less skill focused than the thief was. The 7-9 thief skills became the 8 skill points you gain per level. And unfortunately, the skill system was tentative. They had for example a healing skill, but it had almost no impact on actual healing. It wasn't just inferior to 'cure light wounds' - it wasn't even competing with it. Even feats didn't open up territory much in the skill space - they just improved your chance of success (and not by much). How unimportant the designers considered skills can be proven by how unimportant they considered magic items that granted skills compared to ones that granted to hit and damage, and how little valued such items tended to be even then despite how cheap they were. You can also see the same thing in how vast are the bonuses spells grant to skill use. Or for example, look at how high the target DC's in the Epic Handbook for doing something with skills that spellcasters could do with low level spells or cheap magic items.

    They didn't try to fix the class by making the rogue more the skill monkey class. They tried to fix it almost entirely by upping its combat ability. You got improved attack progression (equal to the cleric). You got scalable combat damage in the 'sneak attack' and you had far more reliable means of bringing it into play and most importantly bringing it in play in combat - flanking, feinting, synergy with conditions that caused the target to lose their Dex bonus, etc. It was still somewhat situational, but it was massively more important than 'backstab' ever was and it scaled up fast. You got iterative attacks. And you a got a host of special defensive advantages like evasion and uncanny dodge that meant you were more durable than your hit points might suggest. And like everyone else, you got bonuses for high Con and Str previously available only to fighters, and you had at least one good thematic saving throw. In short, your class had about the same amount of skillfulness as before, with some improvement in that skills were now broad and potentially reliable, but the most notable changes in the class were all combat related.

    4e continued that progression. Being skillful in and of itself largely stopped being a thing. Every class skilled up and every class had a few silo skills it was good at. The rogue was only marginally more skillful than most other classes and no class could really manage to be a lot more skillful than any other class as its special thing. Every class likewise got a balanced combat focus. The rogue became a "striker".

    I rather like the return to the thief as skillful in 5e, albeit I don't think that the skill system itself is any more bold than it was in 3e. And the thief is still in a silo, though 5e's archetypes and variants might solve that problem.

    This means that there is a "skill monkey" design space that D&D has never really tapped into. Part of that is that the skill system is still not treated as central to the game and still seems peripheral to the design at times and still seems like something that the designers are scared of and want to be very cautious about it having a large effect on the game.
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  9. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
    Depending on how deep you wanted to dive into the splat, 3.5 had a number of different "skill-monkey" classes that fit into different archetypes; it's just that most were given additional benefits (spell-casting or precision damage). Factotum from Dungeonscape was the purest option, given that its class skill list was: All. But Rogue worked perfectly well for the role and Scout was basically Nature-Rogue. Archivist was your Knowledge-skill monkey.
    Factotum is really interesting in some ways and very disappointing in others. On the one hand, it is an attempt at a skill monkey class, and one of the better ones of the 3e era. But on the other hand, so far as I can tell, most people didn't take Factotum for that, but for the ability to use ability bonuses not associated with combat in combat.

    But once again, each of these classes also fit a specific archetype, which brings me to:

    *Generic vs. "Baggage" classes.
    To begin with, there is no right answer here. You can have a few generic classes - maybe even just three. Or you can have many very flavorful ones specifically crafted for narrow archetypes - say 20 or 30. To a large extent, I think that's mostly personal preference and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

    But I think that while there is no right answer, there are wrong answers. The wrong answer is to proliferate a bunch of classes and create rules bloat, while still leaving many players frustrated that none of the available options seems right for their character concept. In particular, I detest when classes proliferate but basic archetypes that cover a broad generic idea you might find in any fantasy story, aren't covered in favor of very narrow setting specific classes that are oddly not tied to any specific setting but part of a very generic splat book. That frustrates the heck out of me.

    Equally wrong IMO is the BECMI approach of a tiny number of highly specific classes and then trying to pretend that everyone fits into those very narrow boxes. Actually, in all fairness, BECMI didn't do that, and created another really narrow highly specific class with practically every splat book - so many (and so unmemorable) you'd be hard pressed to name them. But again, that's just rules bloat.

    My own game is 3e based and likely to stay that way for at least 4-6 more years to let the current campaign play out. My core generic classes that I think would fit in almost any fantasy setting are: champion, cleric, explorer, fanatic, fighter, hunter, rogue, shaman, sorcerer, wizard. I would like to add two others - paragon and professional - but I haven't fully created the flesh I need for those two classes. That list is nearly space filling and it lacks the odd holes that stock 3e has. To that I have a few classes that are setting specific - akashic, bard, and feyborne - that I think are a bit narrow and baggage-y, but fit so very well with aspects of the setting that I think they are justified.

    That's 15 classes (once my house rules are finished). I can imagine additional classes with lots of baggage that no existing class does as well as a specialized class would, but they are very specific to a setting with no clear real world or popular fantasy parallels. Anything beyond what I have in core would be mechanical variation for its own sake.

    5e to me doesn't have particularly broad classes, but has room for filling out the space using its very flexible character creation rules and the idea of archetypes. There is a lot of room for making minor class variants using the existing frame work. The idea seems to be a good compromise - everyone has baggage, but you can swap it out for different baggage.

    This is because D&D is emphatically not a generic fantasy role-playing system.
    I very much disagree. D&D never has had a lot of heavy setting baggage or any sort of setting other than what is now called 'generic fantasy'.

    There is no design space for an official "generic holy warrior" class in D&D because to be a holy warrior in D&D is to be a Paladin.
    And yet, it wouldn't be hard to find 20 or more attempts at non-Paladin 'Holy Warriors' and 'Unholy Warriors'. You had anti-paladins and blackguards and several different attempts to create paladins for every alignment. So the reality of D&D seems to argue against your assertion of a lack of design space.

    But I think D&D, and especially 5e, has a very clear design principle regarding its own classes, and that is "not generic". Classes have flavor; they have character; they have a clear identity. They have, by design, "baggage".
    I think D&D has never really settled on what a class is. Some are generic. Some are specific. Some are professions. No one has really ever created a coherent idea of what a class is.
    Last edited by Celebrim; Friday, 27th January, 2017 at 02:23 AM.
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  10. #70
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    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    My core generic classes that I think would fit in almost any fantasy setting are: champion, cleric, explorer, fanatic, fighter, hunter, rogue, shaman, sorcerer, wizard.
    OK that's interesting. Deserving of a thread, of it's own, just not sure in what forum. ...
    I would like to add two others - paragon and professional - but I haven't fully created the flesh I need for those two classes.
    That reminds me. Back in the early 2e days, I'd translated my heavily modded 1e AD&D game to 2e, and part of that was creating an 'Adventurer' and a 'Professional' class, both of which were just low-exp platforms for accumulating skills. The Adventurer barely viable (the Thief looked tough by comparison), the Professional not at all.

    I very much disagree. D&D never has had a lot of heavy setting baggage or any sort of setting other than what is now called 'generic fantasy'.
    I think the point was that D&D has defined it's own genre. You hear that sometimes, in defense of D&D's abject failure to model any fantasy sub-genre. Well, it's defined it's own sub-genre of fantasy, which it emulates perfectly. Except when it doesn't, because the game (and, in the TSR days, how people played it) has varied so much one version might very well fail to model another...


    I think D&D has never really settled on what a class is. Some are generic. Some are specific. Some are professions. No one has really ever created a coherent idea of what a class is.
    Excellent point, there. Discouraging, but excellent.
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