December 9, 2011

Customized Classes for Ezzin

Here's an excerpt from the character creation document I'll be giving to my players.

Pick a Class: Any Character can be any of the human classes (Fighter, Cleric, Thief, Magic-User) without restriction. Having an ability score below 9 allows the option to play as one of the non-human classes. 

Ability Score 8 or less ----  Available Class
Strength  --------------------------  Halfling
Intelligence -----------------------  Nagual
Wisdom ---------------------------  Dwarf or Gnome
Dexterity -------------------------  Cyclops
Constitution ----------------------  Elf
Charisma -------------------------  Haniver 

An ability score of 4 or 5 also allows you the choice to play as a beast man, any sort of human/animal hybrid, a fey creature, an intelligent dire animal, or somesuch thing. Your choice. Just make sure it fits with the low score you rolled. Strength 4 fits with a Pixie, Frogling, or Ratling. A talking Dire Wolf or Minotaur fits better with a low Int, Wis, or Cha. This is your chance to play a goblin, patherman, fairy, serpentaur, spiderfreak, or whatever. No Dragons, Djinn, Divine or Demonic beings. Email me with your choice and any ideas you have about culture, skills, and background. I’ll make the custom class and XP chart for you and send back a link to the new class document.

If you roll a 3 for any of your six ability scores, you may play a dragon. The life of a young dragon is no picnic. Email me, we’ll roll on the dragon charts and see what you get.

So instead of giving myself just a handful of custom classes to create and balance, I might also need to create a new class whenever a player rolls a crappy Ability Score.  I enjoy a challenge.  The easiest road would be to just make up classes/races on the fly and build xp tables with my gut, but I second guess myself far too much for that.  What I needed was a system, a class creation formula, so I set about looking for it.

Paul Crabaugh's excellent "Customized Classes" from Dragon #109 was almost exactly what I was looking for.  The only thing was that I wanted the xp charts for the original seven classes to remain unchanged.  Not that I disagree with Crabaugh's results.  I just don't want to have to justify those results to others.  I seems to me that if the customized class formula could recreate the xp tables of the seven canonical classes, then it somehow lends an air of authenticity to any newly created classes.  I want to be able to sidestep the "Why does my Wizardly Wolf-Man need 5000xp for level 2?" discussions by simply pointing at the B/X book and saying "it's based on those xp tables".  Somehow it just feels more fair if the xp tables are already in print, I dunno why.

So I set about tweaking Crabaugh's system.  "It can't be that difficult" I said to myself.  Besides, reverse engineering the B/X classes seemed like it would be a fun mental exercise that might give me some insight about why those xp charts seem to vary so wildly.  Here is a summary of my process.

Step 1: Assume the xp tables in B/X are implicitly correct.
Step 2: Assume that all skills and abilities have values based upon their usefulness/fun
Step 3: Waste hours and hours of your free time struggling to find method in the madness
Step 4: Make your wife question your sanity by mumbling gibberish mixed with numbers... for days
Step 5: Nail down all the numbers and share the whole thing on your blog
Step 6: Sit in the rocking chair and sip a brandy while feelings of smug satisfaction wash over you

I'm on Step 5 now.  My next post will be just the raw tables and numbers without any detailed instructions or explanation.  Sorry, but I want to hurry along to step 6.

Basically you just start with 100%, then add all the percentages for the skills, abilities, and equipment you want the class to have access to.  That's your multiplier for the appropriate base xp chart (the first table), those results are your customized xp table.

It's not perfect.  I know that.  Heck, I don't even own any B/X books anymore due to a fit of generosity a few years back.  A lot of this is from bits and pieces I found on the web and memory, so buyer beware.  I think it turned out pretty well though, especially if you're willing to do a little rounding for the Dwarves and look the other way when Elves get to level 7 and 8. 

Later on I might write a post about each of the tables, discuss how I came to the numbers and other such minutia.  For now though I'm just excited to set it all aside for a couple of days.  Someone else can play and tinker with it if they like while I enjoy my drink.

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