Monday, August 26, 2013

Making Barbarians More Interesting

I was pretty critical of the Barbarian class in my high-level write-up.  Some of that is frustration, because it’s close to being really good.  All the pieces of something interesting are there – it’s just presented in a way doesn't do it justice.  Lots of potential.

This is how I’d do it:
Break the whole leveling set up into 2 discreet chunks:  Level 1-3 and everything else. I’ll talk about name-level thoughts in another post.

Next we identify what features are associated with those level ranges:

Levels 1-3:
+1 attack Bonus
+2 Rage damage bonus
Feral Instinct
Reckless Attack
1 Path/Path Feature

I’m OK with the concept that levels 1 through three are introductory levels, so I’m fine with keeping these 3 levels as-is.  You get to make quite a few interesting choices during character creation, 2nd level comes very quickly, and you get to make a major choice at 3rd level with your path.

However, I see no reason for the linear progression of the Path Features.  I’d allow players to pick a path feature from the list when they get a path feature.  The default progression (if you don’t want to make decisions) could still be as-written.

Path of the Berserker.  Fearless Rage and Mindless Rage should be automatic benefits to the path.  I would also give anyone that picked Path of the Berserker 1 additional use of rage right off the bat.  If they are berserkers, they should have more berserk in them.  I would also make Unlimited Rage a benefit of this only path at Lv 20.

Path of the Totem Warrior.  See – picking the totem spirit is EXACTLY the kind of interesting choice I like.  It is cool stuff, adds thematically to your character, all the benefits are neat and they AREN’T all combat benefits.  I like the idea of making Totem Spirit the default first choice here.  The rest, I'd just let the player pick which path feature they want when they get one.

For the rest of the levels, I would lay things out like so:
Feat/Ability Upgrade
2 Class Features
Path Feature, Class Feature
Class Feature
Class Feature
Feat/Ability Upgrade
Path Feature, Class Feature
Class Feature
2 Class Features
Path Feature, Class Feature
Class Feature
2 Class Features
Path Feature, Class Feature
Class Feature
Lv 20 Path Benefit

If you don’t want to make choices, take the Class and Path Features in order – giving you basically the current progression.

The Class Feature List would look like this.  You could take each option once.
Brutal Critical
Fast Movement
+1 Attack Bonus
1 Extra Rage
Feral Reflexes
Two Attacks
+1 Attack Bonus, +1 Rage Damage
Relentless Rage
Furious Resilience
1 Extra Rage
+1 Attack Bonus
1 Extra Rage
Simmering Rage
Incite Rage
1 Extra Rage, +1 Rage Damage
Primal Might
Death-Defying Rage

Realistically, I’d add about 5 more features so that nobody could ever get all of them.  Scarcity is interesting.  Keep the number of rages and +1 attack bonus' limited, though.  I'm OK with players getting those lower on the level scale if it means they are sacrificing other benefits to get them, but adding more of them means that you are potentially messing with the "bounded accuracy" business.

Another benefit to this structure is that it makes it really easy to expand on the class.  Paths are self-contained, so they are simple to build and add, and adding class features is also relatively easy, although you want to go carefully there – too many and we’re right back in 3e country.

But notice – no feat chains.  No stat or level pre-reqs.  So if I want an accurate rager, I can spend my early features on extra rages and hit bonuses.   I haven’t really added anything to the class structure, just formalized what it is already doing and added choices, albeit bounded ones, at each level.

You could also turn this into a d20 chart pretty easily, if you wanted to do random-feature advancement.  I know some people like that.

Anywhoo, that's how I'd do this.  Same pieces, organized differently, with a default progression for those who want a simpler system.

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