Saturday, November 14, 2009

1E - Weapon Specialization

This DF thread made me think about weapon spec for the first time in awhile. The general contention of WS fans is that fighters need a boost to keep up with their peers in effectiveness, so we need to give them bonuses to hit and damage and extra attacks.

ISSUE #1: DO FIGHTERS NEED A BOOST?

I contend that fighters are first and foremost the primary leaders of the party. They have the cash and the spare time (OOC) to hire and manage followers. Even a first level fighter can use his starting cash to recruit a few men-at-arms. Fighters tend to be the first ones to start up strongholds and receive the best benefits for doing so. Sure, a fighter side-by-side with, say, a cleric is not a favorable comparison. The cleric gets equivalent armor, similar THAC0, access to shields and good weapons vs. heavily armed foes, and spells to boot! The only thing the poor fighter gets is access to good ranged weapons and swords (better magic, and better damage vs. large creatures). However, give that fighter an entourage and things look a lot different. Same thing for comparisons with rangers or paladins.

If the campaign does not allow for hirelings/henchmen, or the DM is prejudiced against red-shirts (making them exorbiantly expensive and so troublesome as to be effectively unusable) then yes, fighters will be significantly underpowered. Additionally, if reasonably high ability scores are unavailable, fighters will be weak -- one of their major class benefits is 18/xx extraordinary STR and the extra HP from 17+ CON. If you are playing largely BTB then these issue will not be present.

ISSUE #2: WHY NOT WS?

Let's accept that we need to boost fighters as a given, despite the reasoning above. The problem with WS is that it denies fighters valid tactical choices.

Without WS, a fighter can make important tactical choices. For example, if he's proficient in the spear, mace, long sword, and longbow, he needs to decide whether he wants reach/hurled/anti-charge capabilities (spear), armor penetration (mace), good damage vs. large critters (sword), or ranged (bow) capabilities. Every encounter is an important choice, and the weapon selection may change from round to round in an encounter based on the situation and opponent.

If he gets +1 to hit/+2 damage with the longsword, then the mace ceases being a viable option; the long sword is strictly better in just about every situation. The spear also loses much of its luster; after all, +1 to hit 1d8 + 2 damage is strictly better than 2d6 double damage vs. charge, even! The only time the spear is a valid choice is if he needs reach or a hurled option (pretty situational). Pretty much the only choice the fighter's player makes now is, "Do I use my ranged option (bow) or my melee option (sword)? Or, do I want to Choose to Suck by using a sub-optimal choice (anything else)?"

Additionally, there is the risk that the player will select specialization in a seriously sub-optimal weapon like the crossbow or club. This gives the player a major chance to suck that will drastically impact their effectiveness compared to someone who specializes in, say, the long sword or long bow or dual-wielding specialized hand axes or something. I don't like giving people the choice to suck, as it punishes newbies who don't understand all the implications of their choices as well as roleplayers who are trying to make fun choices and don't care about the mechanical implications.

Thus, my argument that any "fix" to the fighter class' overall power should NOT affect just a single weapon. It removes one of the fighter's few choices. If you need to fix the fighter he probably doesn't have hirelings to command and control. He doesn't have any spells. So the only thing he DOES have is weapon selection. Don't take even that away from him.

SO, WHAT TO DO?

Fighters are likely to need a boost if (A) they don't have followers and (B) they don't have 18/xx STR or 17+ CON. The tactical effect of these factors is to give them higher damage per round (high STR, or lots of hirelings all piling in at once), greater endurance (more HP, or a henchman cleric to provide healing/buffs, or hirelings to take hits and then retreat after soaking damage), or greater versatility (the specialized features provided by hirelings/henchmen).

Thus, I would create a fighter variant. Here's a rough hack. This variant is intended ONLY for single-classed fighters. No dual-class or multiclassing is possible. As you will see, this basically creates VERY mild multiclasses anyways to give the fighter additional choices and/or durability/burst damage.

PROHIBITIONS: The variant fighter selects from the following prohibitions at character creation. At DM's option, additional prohibitions may be taken later.
- No extraordinary strength (+1). The fighter loses their entitlement to extraordinary strength. Even if their STR is later raised to 18 by magic or aging, they do not gain the extraordinary strength roll.
- No extraordinary con (+1). The fighter loses the bonus HP gained by 17+ CON. Even if their CON is later raised to 17+ by magic or aging, they do not gain the bonus HP.
- Follower Restrictions (+1; prereq - CHA 9 or higher). The fighter may not employ followers more than 1 alignment place seperate from themselves. Moreover, the number of henchmen they can have is restricted by level as follows: Lvl 1-4 (0), Lvl 5-8 (1), Lvl 9-12 (2), Lvl 13+ (3). Any hirelings or retainers take a -50% morale modifier.
- Lone Wolf (+2; prereq - CHA 9 or higher). This may not be taken with Follower Restrictions; only one or the other may be taken. Any followers must be exactly the same alignment as the fighter. The fighter may not employ any hirelings or henchmen until level 4. At level 5, 1 fighter henchman or non-combat retainers may be hired. At level 9, a second fighter henchman may be hired. if establishing a stronghold, 1/2 the normal followers are attracted.

BENEFITS
Count up the total above. For example, a fighter who selects Lone Wolf, no EX STR, and no EX CON gains +4 points. A fighter who only selects no EX CON gains +1. At level 1, and each time a weapon proficiency is gained, the fighter may spend a benefit point on one of the following perks.

Hedge Magician (Prereq: 13 INT). The fighter has mastered some simple magic tricks. Roll twice on the DMG's list of Utility and Defensive spells for new Magic-Users. The player may then select one spell from each list to learn. These spells can be cast at any time and no memorization is required. After casting one of their spells, the Fighter must make a save vs. Spell; if the fighter has 15+ INT, a +1 bonus is gained, if the fighter has 18+ INT, a +2 bonus is gained. No other bonuses can be gained to this save. If succesful, then the fighter may continue to cast. If the save is failed, then any additional castings inflict 2d10 damage. It takes 4+ hours of rest, just like a MU, to recover spell capability after a failed save.

Moreover, the fighter may read magical scrolls as a thief.

The fighter's effective caster level is equal to 1/2 his fighter level.

- This Perk may be taken multiple times. Each time it is taken, roll twice on the defensive and utility spell lists again and select another spell from each list. The fighter may fail one extra save before accruing damage. For example, a fighter who takes this perk three times will know 6 spells (3 defensive and 3 utility). He can cast freely until he has failed three spell saves; then he he will begin to take damage for each additional casting.

Devoted Warrior (Prereq: 13 WIS). The fighter has gained some minor clerical abilities. Each day, the fighter may pray for and memorize two level I clerical spells. These spells may be spontaneusly cast as often as desired, but after each casting, the character must roll a save vs. RSW applying a bonus (if applicable) for high wisdom; no other bonuses apply. Once failed, no more casting is possible. The effective caster level is 1/2 fighter level.

Once reaching level 4, the character may also Turn Undead as a cleric of their level -3, but must immediately roll the above save as if casting a spell. Failure indicates no more spell casting or Undead Turning is possible that day.

If this perk is taken additional times spell capability improves as follows:
Twice: Select 4 / Fail 2 saves
Thrice: Select 5 / Fail 3 saves. Level II spells may now be selected by swapping out three Level I slots. The save is made at -4.
Four Times: Select 6 / Fail 4 saves

Inspiring Warrior (Prereq: CHA 12). Each day, fighter may use the Bard's Inspire Courage ability once for each time they take this perk. Each usage lasts for a turn. Alternatively, the character may make a legend lore check; their effective level is equal to a bard's. Each time this perk is taken, the ability may be used one extra time per day.

Nature's Ally (Prereq: CHA 12 & WIS 12). The fighter may gain an animal companion as a druid using the Animal Friendship spell; the animal may have 1 HD for every 1 HD the fighter gains. Additionally, they may select 2 level I druid spells/day. Either spell may be freely cast but the fighter must roll a save vs. Spell afterwards, with a modifier for high wisdom (and no other modifiers allowed). Failure indicates no further spells may be cast that day. Caster level is equal to 1/2 character level.

If this perk is taken additional times spell capability improves as follows:
Twice: Select 3 / Fail 2 saves
Thrice: Select 4 / Fail 3 saves. Level II spells may now be selected by swapping out three Level I slots. The save is made at -4.
Four Times: Select 5 / Fail 4 saves

This perk may not be selected if "Devoted Warrior" has already been taken.

Nimble Fingers (Prereq: DEX 12). The fighter may perform Pick Pockets, Open Locks, and Remove Traps functions as a thief of their level -3. If this perk is taken again, they may hide in shadows and climb walls as well. These skills may be limited by worn armor. Each time this perk is taken, the fighter gains +1 to AC against attacks on their rear AC provoked by hastily leaving a melee combat.

Durable Warrior (Prereq: CON 12). Each day, the fighter may take 1 turn to recover 1d6 x level HP. Alternatively, they may take 1 combat round to recover 1 x level HP. If this perk is taken multiple times, then they may use this self healing one extra time per day.

Brutal Warrior (Prereq: STR 12). Each day, the fighter may add 1d6 x 1/2 level damage to a succesful melee hit. This extra damage is added after the roll-to hit (so it is never wasted on a miss). 1d4 x 1/2 level may be added to a ranged attack. Alternatively, the fighter may reroll a bend bars or open doors check or any other check related to STR. If this perk is taken multiple times, this extra damage (or reroll) may be used one extra time per day.

Raging Warrior (Prereq: STR 12 & CON 12). The fighter may choose to go into a rage. This rage incurs a -4 AC and saving throw penalty, but the fighter deals +4 damage on hits with melee or hurled weapons. The fighter also gains reduces all damage taken from attacks by 1 and gains +3" to speed. The rage lasts for 1 turn. If this perk is taken multiple times, this rage may be used one additional time per day each time.

Ascetic Warrior (Prereq: STR 12, CON 12, WIS 12). The fighter gains all the benefits of a level 1 monk including unarmed strike damage, unarmored AC, unarmored movement speed, etc. Each additional time this perk is taken the fighter gains the benefits of a monk of one level higher.

Versatile Warrior. The fighter gains proficiency in an extra allowed weapon. They also gain an additional secondary skill. Finally, they may learn one extra language.

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