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Free-ish-form Char Generation System

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
So, this idea began percolating around my third sip of coffee this morning. I'm not sure where it came from or why I'm having it...being so close to a completion of my own setting and corresponding rpg manual...

But I need to get this down before I lose it, so here goes. Discuss, point out the flaws or holes. Don't discuss. Whatever floats your boat.

You still have classes. You still have species. Different classes come with various assumptions of armor and weapons, baseline skills and features: Rogues are still going to be stealthy, Mages/Wizards will still use/accumulate Arcane magic spells, and so on. Assigned Hit Dice/starting HP.

You pick a species, gives you a few traits. You pick a class, gives you the baseline and, like, 1st level features: let's say for the purposes of discussion: 3 features. Defining, foundational features of a class/archetype.

After that, maybe there are some "milestone levels" where you get assigned features of particular -level appropriate- power (5th, 10th, 15th, etc... just for the sake of argument/off the top of my head).

But the bulk of your abilities, the level-by-level stuff, is COMPLETELY up to the player. Each class, or thematic grouping of classes, has a list of features that they can take/pull from, as the player wishes, per level. Most levels, you'd get one. Maybe some levels are more than one.

Basically, like: All "class features/abilities [and I could see it applied to species-specific stuff too] are (what we now think of as) "Feats."

I think, probably, for some consistency, there would be tiers of these feats: minimum levels at which you could choose this or that. But essentially, you really do "build" the types of character you want as you play and "create" the character organically. It's not a "build the PC through your feats added on" like 3.5/PF. It's make your fighter, the style of fighter (or specialist Mage or type of Rogue or Cleric -castery guy, paladiny guy, etc...) you want as you go.

Not just by occasional "add on" features ["feats"], but really much more "step by step."

No more arguing whether rangers need animal companions or spells or are "super-archers" or "sword & board" monster hunters. No more "sub-classes," really, as you have in 5e or AD&D. You just choose your class, and shape what you want your character to be able to do, from that class' list of features.

Is a "Second Wind" kind of mechanic feature useful to all Fighters? Sure. It could be useful to ANY adventuring creature or profession. Could you make a fighter that just hits better than anything you can imagine, or prefers to be so adept in armor and shield that a "Second Wind" is not really necessary...because they are so difficult to strike...so they don't lose HP that often...so they don't "need" a Second Wind. Same example but for a PC that chooses some "Defensive Stance" without the heavy armor, but their AC is still higher than most, and that saves them from being hit as often.

It becomes of game of extreme individuality of character, with a very simple "trade off" kind of mentality. What do you take from this list now? What do you want to grab later? What do you think this character really doesn't need at all?

We don't need a separate mechanic/feature for "Fighting Style" and a separate delivery for "Maneuvers," and a separate delivery mechanic for, I dunno, "Horsemanship" or "Indomitability" or "I"m a Duelist kinda Fighter. I'm a Cavalier kinda fighter. I'm a Valkyrie/shield-maiden kinda fighter," what have you.

It's all in the creator's quiver of "Fighter/Warrior" Features, just pick which arrows you want. Now, I do see this could become impossibly granular and possibly some option paralysis...but if kept to a reasonable/manageable amount of options (at least for initial roll out) like 20 or so per character archetypes, the number of various character types able to be created by unique combinations would be substantial.

So, here's what I'm currently imagining...something akin to....

Fighter: Here's you HD. Here's your weapon and armor allowances (any). Here's your initial skills (let's say 3), non-combat "Skills" with which a Fighter is proficient.
Level 1: Here's your Baseline Features 1, 2, 3... maybe where "3" is the first player's choice/option.
Following that, your class progression looks like: 1/2/1/1+milestone/1/2/1/2/1 + predetermined milestone/...
1 @ 2nd, 2 @ 3rd, 1 @ 4th, 1 & dictated "Milestone Feature" at 5th, 1 @ 6th, 2 @ 7th, and so forth.

There's an inkling of a thought that you could get extra ones commensurate with your Prime Ability bonus (or Proficiency Bonus, is it, in 5e? Your "BAB" in Pathfinder).

So, basically, it's still a class-based system. But they are much more individualized -and needn't a whole separate class for the guy that does X and Y, but not Z. Clearly there's a line, where class/archetype begins and ends. Clearly, that line is subjective within the system. But I feel like it might scratch more itches than it creates...or it might just be more confusing and difficult than I am imagining.

B'anywho. Thanks for letting me get it down. Good morning, all.
 

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aco175

Legend
Something like this was talked a bit a few months ago with discussions on class and race and A5e and most people fell into two groups. One was fine and felt this helps define characters and I can make whatever I can picture. The other thinks that this destroys 5e sacred cows and would never go for it. I'm not sure which camp I'm in on a wholescale freeform, but you seem to be describing something in between.

I could see tiered powers like second wind being a first tier power and extra attack being a second, and third tier, power. It has a feeling like 3e with so many feats and 4e with powers that are better than others being the only ones taken. 5e feats feel a bit more powerful but are only given out sparingly, so they may be a good fit. I might be more in favor of making feats 1/2 power and given out every other level.

I also like having classes where everyone has a role, but 5e did away with a lot of this with caster feats and backgrounds allowing you to open locks and such. A system like you are describing is close to needing only 3 classes- fighter, skill, and caster to make things work, sounds a bit like sidekicks. It might only need 2 with fighter and caster, or 1 with fighters being able to take spell levels when needed. I do not think it is bad, but may feel a ways away from "D&D".
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
That is why a fairly "traditional" class baseline, I would think, would be necessary. To try to keep as much "D&D feel" as possible.
 


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