Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Classes: Fighters

Masters of War

To a smith, the sound of the forge is the pleasant song of honest labor. To a fighter, it is the stirring anthem of war itself. It is the promise that an empty hand will soon be filled with some tool of their trade- an axe, a sword, or a shield. Usually stoic in the face of those who mock them as unsophisticated or crude, the fighter can’t help but shake their head and smile when battle is joined and their detractors are left shaking in their boots with soiled smallclothes- if they survive at all. There will always be situations where grim steel is preferable to fickle diplomacy, and in those situations it is the fighter who is the first to step forward.

The life of a professional swordsman, elite mercenary, private bodyguard, or whatever title a fighter chooses to go by is dangerous but simple, and likewise calls to rough men and women who enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Some revel in creature comforts like fine wine and glittering jewels, others take satisfaction in the quiet assurance that they can choose any seat in any tavern. Perhaps it is because they are so doggedly uncomplicated that fighters are often sterling examples of both the best and worse their people have to offer. Dwarven fighters- who are renowned for their numbers just as much as their skill- are at once noble and avaricious, elven fighters graceful and arrogant, halfling fighters cheerful and vigilant to the point of paranoia, half elven fighters adaptable and cruel, half dragons and half orcs proud and brutal, and human specimens open-minded yet prone to acts of almost casual violence. It is here that a fighter’s personal ethos steps in to determine where they fall between these two extremes and define them as individuals. Evil fighters believe their abilities naturally put them in a position of authority over those weaker than themselves; chaotic evil fighters feel that they are doing others a favor by suffering their existence at all. Good characters are not so much concerned with controlling others as they are with protecting them, although they may take on the responsibility of leadership if they feel their goals can be met more rapidly by doing so, particularly if they are lawful. Neutral fighters most readily fulfill their racial stereotypes, although chaotic neutral specimens zealously resist anything that even smacks of predictability.

Iconoclasts aside, to those outside of their fraternity one rank and file warrior very much resembles another- heavily armed, heavily armored, and usually heavy-handed in social situations. ‘Loins of steel, head of lead’, as the halfling rhyme goes. While there are unfortunates whose swords are sharper than their wit will ever be, most fighters are as cunning as any of their peers, and there are a few who convincingly play the role of the dumb brute until it is time to reveal their skill. After all, monks and wizards are not the only ones with trade secrets, and fighters have an edge over their contemporaries in that many of their techniques are so quietly widespread that an opponent may not realize they are facing a master at arms until it is too late. A humble caravan guard honing an arrowhead against an oilstone could be a drudge or an expert marksman keeping a low profile. A traveler enjoying ale at a tavern with a great axe slung across their back could be a wandering champion or a clumsy novice. The sleepy wanderer bedding down in a clearing with naught but their short sword and buckler for company is either waiting to join the local food chain or has taken their place at its top. Since there is no way to tell by sight alone and so few are willing to test their mettle, the average person treats a fighter with the same amount of fear and respect that they would any obvious magic user.

Fighters see more toe-to-toe combat than anyone else in an adventuring party, and often serve as party leader by din of the hazards they face. While they can be convinced to take on other roles in the party, they prefer leadership to be in the hands of classes that put as much importance on physical combat as they do. Barbarians, monks and paladins receive the bulk of the fighter’s respect in this, although they can also be viewed askance when their respective quirks come into conflict with the fighter’s straightforward nature. Fighters prefer to keep those who rely on magic out of any major party decisions. While they are certainly useful or even vital to the party’s well-being- especially if they can provide healing or create magical weapons- their place in the rear lines of combat means that they are ill-suited to lead anything other than debates on arcane or divine theory. The average fighter saves the bulk of their scorn for those who lack the stomach for direct confrontation, which means rogues and others who rely exclusively on misdirection or stealth are kept at sword’s length.

Fighter Traits:

As stated in the SRD.

DM’s Option: Offense Vs. Defense

Monks have the fighting styles offered by their Tradition. Rangers have fighting styles based on a chosen weapon: spells, twin weapons, animal companions, bow and arrow. Fighters do not bother with anything so fancy, simply making a choice between offense and defense. Once a choice is made, it is permanent.

Offense Option: Improved Feats

When taking one of the following feats as a bonus feat, Fighters enjoy the following secondary benefits. A player should mark these feats with an asterisk on their character sheet to differentiate them from their other feats.

Blind Fight- You treat targets that are the subject of a blink spell as if they had concealment (20% miss chance).

Cleave- You can take a 5 foot step between cleave attempts.

Combat Expertise- You can exceed your base attack bonus when using this feat.

Combat Reflexes- You gain one extra attack of opportunity attempt when using this feat.

Deflect Arrows- You can deflect arrows even if you have both hands full.

Dodge- You can increase your AC even when the subject of an attack you are not aware of (i.e. surprise attacks). You can still only increase your AC against one attacker, and in the event of surprise attacks from multiple attackers, this only activates against the first attack.

Exotic Weapon Proficiency- You can ignore any ability score requirements for wielding said weapon.

Far Shot- You gain a +1 bonus to hit and damage on attacks that need this feat to hit. This feat stacks with other Shot feats, if applicable.

Great Cleave- You can move up to 10 feet between Cleave attempts.

Greater Two Weapon Fighting- You gain a +3 bonus to your AC when wielding two weapons. This replaces the benefit from Improved Two Weapon Fighting.

Greater Weapon Focus- You gain a +3 bonus to hit, damage, and initiative modifiers when using this weapon. This replaces the benefit from Weapon Focus. This bonus does not stack if wielding more than one of the same weapon.

Greater Weapon Specialization- You gain a +4 bonus to hit, damage, and initiative modifiers when using this weapon. This replaces the benefit of Greater Weapon Focus. This bonus does not stack if wielding more than one of the same weapon.

Improved Bull Rush- If successful, you move the opponent back 10 ft.

Improved Critical- You do not have to re-roll to confirm a critical hit if you roll a 19 or 20.

Improved Disarm- The weapon is 5 feet away from the opponent in a randomly determined square.

Improved Feint- You gain a +2 bonus on all Feint attempts.

Improved Grapple- You can deal 1d6 lethal damage in a grapple if you are a medium-sized creature, or 1d4 lethal damage if you are a small-sized creature.

Improved Initiative- You gain a +1 bonus on Reflex saves.

Improved Overrun- If successful, the opponent is knocked 5 feet away in a randomly determined adjacent square.

Improved Precise Shot- You gain a +1 bonus on rolls to confirm a critical hit when using this feat. This feat stacks with other Shot feats when applicable.

Improved Shield Bash- When using a Power Attack with a shield bash, you can increase your AC by half the amount used in the Power Attack.

Improved Sunder- If the item is sundered (destroyed), the target takes damage beyond what was needed to sunder the object.

Improved Trip- You are considered one size category larger than you are with respect to trip attempts.

Improved Two Weapon Fighting- You gain a +2 bonus to AC when fighting with two weapons. This replaces the benefit of Two Weapon Fighting.

Improved Unarmed Strike- Your critical threat on unarmed strikes is 19-20.

Manyshot- Any critical hits made with this feat apply to all attacks made.

Mobility- You gain a +2 bonus to hit and damage opponents using this feat against you.

Mounted Archery- You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage with this feat. It does not negate the penalties associated with mounted archery (see the feat description), but is does stack with all Shot feats.

Mounted Combat- You enjoy a +2 modifier to all Ride checks made using this feat.

Point Blank Shot- Your enjoy a +1 bonus on attempts to confirm a critical hit when using this feat.

Power Attack- You can use this feat with light weapons.

Precise Shot- You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage on attacks using this feat. This stacks with other Shot feats where applicable.

Quick Draw- You can draw a hidden weapon as a free action.

Rapid Reload- You can reload a heavy crossbow as a free action.

Rapid Shot- You gain a +1 bonus to hit and damage when using this feat. This stacks with other Shot feats.

Ride By Attack- You can make one turn when using this feat, 45 degrees to the right or the left and five feet beyond the opponent struck by this attack.

Shot on the Run- You gain a +1 bonus to hit when using this feat. This stacks with other Shot feats where applicable.

Snatch Arrows- You gain a +1 bonus to hit and damage when using arrows captured by this feat if they are used within 3 rounds of being snatched. This feat stacks with Shot feats where applicable.

Spirited Charge- Your critical threat range increases by 1 when using this feat.

Spring Attack- You are not subject to attacks of opportunity from anyone when using this feat.

Stunning Fist- You can attempt a stunning fist attack up to two times in a single round.

Trample- Your mount counts as one size category larger when making trample attacks.

Two Weapon Defense- You gain a +4 bonus when fighting defensively. This replaces the +2 bonus normally provided by this feat.

Two Weapon Fighting- You gain a +1 bonus to AC when fighting with two weapons.

Weapon Finesse- You do not suffer any penalty when using a shield.

Weapon Focus- You add a +1 bonus to your initiative.

Weapon Specialization- You add a +2 bonus to your initiative. This replaces the benefit from Weapon Focus.

Whirlwind Attack- If successful, you move all opponents you strike 5 feet away from you in a randomly determined direction.

Offense Option: Modify Weapon

A fighter can choose to modify a weapon that they have the Weapon Focus and Weapon Specialization feats to increase its effectiveness when performing a critical hit or when it a special ability inherent to the weapon is being used. The fighter can choose to modify a weapon so that it:

Enjoys a +1 bonus when confirming critical hits;

Enjoys a +1 bonus to damage when performing a critical hit;

Enjoys a +1 bonus to resist or confirm disarm, sunder, or trip attempts (the latter only if the weapon can be used to perform trip attempts)

Increases its range increment by 5 feet if it is a thrown weapon;

Enjoys a +1 bonus to damage when being readied against a charge (if the weapon can be readied against a charge).

Enjoys a +1 bonus to damage if the weapon does double damage when being used in a charge (if the weapon does double damage when used on a charging mount).

Inflicts another type of condition upon a critical hit(if playing with the DM’s Option for masterwork weapons, this condition must be chosen from the list of conditions other masterwork weapons are capable of).

These modifications are applied to a weapon by the fighter’s player declaring that they are taking the Modify Weapon Offense Option instead of a bonus feat. A fighter must spend a number of weeks equal to the number of modifications they are applying to the weapon to modify it, and costs an amount of gold equal to the total number of modifications being made to a specific weapon x100 in materials. While a fighter can use as many of these modifications as the weapon qualifies for, a fighter CANNOT use the same one twice in a row. For example, a fighter could increase a flail’s ability to confirm a critical hit when taking their bonus feat at first level, and then increase their chance to confirm a trip attempt when using that same flail for their bonus feat at second level, but they could not increase their ability to confirm a critical hit at first level and then again at second level. If a fighter loses this weapon somehow, they can apply all of the options their original weapon had to another that meets the prerequisites provided they spend a length of time necessary to get it up to that level. The fighter can opt to have the weapon be modified with fewer bonuses if pressed for time. If a modified weapon is being wielded by a character other than the one that modified it, they can only use one of that weapons modifications in combat and even then only if they have both the Weapon Focus and Weapon Specialization feats for that weapon, although it is an modification of their choosing. A fighter cannot modify a magical weapon, and any bonuses placed upon an item through modification are lost should the weapon ever be ever enchanted.

Defense Option: Adrenaline

Fighters are so used to physical abuse that they recover quickly from the rigors of combat. They gain a specialized version of Fast Healing with a rating equal to one third their level. This ability does not function out of combat, nor can it restore hit points beyond what a fighter had at the start of a battle. A fighter cannot attack someone or go out seeking a fight simply to reap the benefits of this special ability- the DM and player are encouraged to work together to ensure this special ability does not cause the fighter to overshadow or ignore the contribution of other players. It does NOT function against subdual damage.

Defense Option: Modify Armor

Similar to Offense Option: Modify Weapon shown above, this option applies to a specific suit of armor. It differentiates in that the fighter does not have to have Weapon Focus or Weapon Specialization for the armor but it takes 2 weeks to modify armor and costs 300 gold in materials per modification made. The fighter can choose to:

Increase their speed while using this armor by 5 feet (to a maximum of the fighter’s unarmored speed);

Increase their Initiative modifier while wearing this armor by 1(to a maximum of their unarmored initiative modifier, and only if the armor affects their initiative modifier).

Sleep in the armor without being fatigued;

Halve the armor check penalty that is associated with a certain action;

Decrease the arcane spell failure chance of the armor by 5%.

Alter the type of DR offered by the armor (if the DM’s Option regarding masterwork armor is being used).

If the armor is ever lost, the fighter can modify another set of armor using the rules described under Offense Option: Modify Weapon. If another character wishes to use armor that has been modified by a fighter, they must have the proficiency for that armor and even then they can only enjoy one particular modification of their choosing. This option does not work with magical armors and all bonuses from the armor being modified are lost if the armor is ever enchanted.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Classes: Druids

Hands of the Yggdrasil

The Yggdrasil lives. Its vibrant but forbidding landscape is intimidating to all but the most accomplished yeoman, and even they avoid it save but for the most dire of circumstances. There are some, however, who feel an inexplicable connection to the Great Forest. Haunted by vivid dreams that begin sometime during puberty and rarely meshing well with their original societies to begin with, these misfits eventually succumb to wanderlust, leaving everything they have and everyone they know behind as they make their way to their new home. It is not an easy journey, and some perish without ever setting their eyes upon the Yggdrasil. In the end, only the strongest survive to attain the title of druid.

The vast majority of druids on Wune are true elves, and to them the connection with the Yggdrasil is neither unusual nor unwelcome- it is expected. They are the true children of the Yggdrasil, borne directly from it ages upon ages ago, and enjoy its blessings more so than any other people. Obviously, there is no long trek from faraway lands far to a new and alien home, but many trials await the neophyte druid nonetheless. Among the Shuu, druids are healers, protectors, magistrates and spiritual leaders; an initiate is given no latitude in shouldering these duties. Neither fools nor tyrants are suffered for long, but those who lack the capacity or drive to undertake the role permanently are never marginalized or mocked. In fact, their respect for both the office and the Yggdrasil itself often grow, and they continue upon another life path with no loss in zeal.

Even the Shuu do not claim to understand why the Yggdrasil has chosen others not of its womb to serve it as they do, though all but the most bigoted bow to her will and view those she has chosen in the same way they would view themselves. Still, this is cold comfort for half-elven druids, who are often shoehorned into becoming conduits between the two very different worlds of their parents. Those born into Shuu society are at first overjoyed to be treated as a person as opposed to an embarrassment, but are eventually dismayed to discover that their place is once again on the periphery of society, to be called upon only on the rare occasions that peaceful overtures need to be made to humans or some other creation of the Interlopers; those of Shuu blood being raised among humans (and that choose to return to human society to seek their fortune) are tolerated only so long as they keep their savage cousins at bay. Life is no easier for half-elves born of common elf stock, especially if they are being raised among said race, which has not produced a druid in generations. They often become intermediaries between not two but three very disparate worlds and the strain is enough to drive all but the most patient mad. It is no surprise then that the majority of half-elven druids to spend the majority of their time in wild shape, preferring to spend their time in the company of animals or druids who share their level of dedication.

The remaining Third Races are among the most well-adjusted non-Shuu druids. Both half-dragons and half-orcs have little trouble leaving their original worlds behind for the one offered by the Yggdrasil, and both enjoy embodying/personifying the savage side of nature. The only difference seems to be that the average half dragon eschews the use of wild shape, believing their natural form to be superior to all others, while half orcs enjoy being able to change shape when necessary, whether to avoid prejudice or to increase their options in combat.

The majority of the Second Races have trouble accepting the Great Forest’s will. None are more disquieted than halflings, who find it very hard to reconcile their religious traditions with a lifestyle that could be considered atheist. Most halfling druids prefer exile, continuing to wander on their own and returning to the Yggdrasil about once a season. Those that return to their people do their best to reconcile both sides of their life, tending to the dire animals and offering people hearth remedies when the clerics that usually do such things are unavailable. Dwarven druids do not attempt to find a happy medium between the Yggdrasil and a more mundane existence. Their inherent stoicism and stubbornness means that only those that are truly meant to become druids do so- all others list their way into an early grave, struggling in vain to force-fit themselves into regimented dwarven society. Those that become druids almost never return to their people, and rarely fair well even in the company of their fellow druids. Instead, they give themselves over body and soul to the Great Forest, meditating at a chosen spot for decades or even centuries until they physically merge with it as a woodbeard- a dwarven treant. Paradoxically, dwarven druids readily take to adventure, as their mental communion with the Yggdrasil means they are even faster than some true elves to take up arms in its preemptive defense.

Humans rarely become druids, but as with most vocations they pursue, once they decide to go ahead with it, they do so with reckless abandon. Almost every human returns to their people after their first pilgrimage to the Great Forest, and preaches its virtues with every bit of sincerity as a cleric preaches about their god (or godhood). Depending on the makeup and boorishness of the original community, said druid is either welcomed, tolerated as an alternative to a (or dismissed as another type of) cleric, or run out of town with the promise of execution should they return. This last scenario is common in areas that have suffered at the hands of true elves, where the average person assumes the druid “changeling” was kidnapped and ensorcelled by the savages at a young age.
In an adventuring party, only the ranger sees a druid as a true companion, the other classes mirror humanity’s outlook. Unless the party is entirely composed of Shuu, the druid will be a perpetual outsider, trusted by few. However, the ruthless practicality of the adventurer’s life will eventually change most of their attitudes for the better. Fighters and reavers enjoy the druid’s healing abilities and occasionally find their other magical abilities less ostentatious than those of wizards or sorcerers. Monks and paladins admire the informal code that druids live by, while the druid’s primal nature resonates positively with the barbarian. Bards, clerics, rogues, sorcerers and wizards usually lack common ground with the druid as a class and must find camaraderie with them as an individual. This is also the level upon which druids in turn see other classes, save for rangers and fellow druids. A lifetime spent seeing things through the lens of what is best for the Yggdrasil sometimes means the druid looks upon other classes as a farmer views new plant growth in his garden: beneficial entities are tolerated or even cultivated, while destructive ones are eliminated stem and root.

Druid Traits:

As the Druid entry in the SRD, save as follows.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Druids may not use any metal weapons or wear metal armor. Although they continue to be proficient with the club, dagger, dart, quarterstaff, scimitar, sickle, sling, spear and shortspear, these and any other weapons or armor the druid employs must be made out of materials other than metal. Wood is usually the medium of choice, and it is often treated with the ironwood spell to increase its effectiveness. Bone, stone, and other natural materials are also acceptable. A druid that wears a prohibited armor or wields a prohibited weapon or shield cannot cast any of their druid spells or use their druid supernatural or spell-like abilities while doing so and for 24 hours thereafter.

Evil, Good and Lawful Spells: A druid cannot cast spells of an alignment opposed to their own. The Yggdrasil’s alignment is considered neutral with respect to spellcasting.

Bonus Languages: Druidic is a special, non-verbal language that all druids automatically know. It is uses a combination of hand-signs and overall body language to converse. A druid cannot “speak” druidic if they are bound hand and foot, although they can understand it and respond verbally or through other forms of non-verbal speech (nods, shrugs, etc.).

Animal Companion: Much like wild shape, a druid can only choose an animal that they are familiar with as a companion. In game terms, they must choose an animal that appears on the list for random encounters for the region in which they live. Said animal must meet all the other requirements for an animal companion as listed for druids.