Just The Rules: Expert Path Creation

Basic paths are just that: very generic paths, probably one per significant option (something like D&D 4e’s power sources: arcane, divine, martial, primal, psionic, and shadow). They will likely be somewhat similar to d20 Modern’s basic classes, granting some common abilities and allow selection of talents.

This is contrary to what I’d said in earlier posts, when I expected the basic paths would be very generic and characters would be very similar. As a character gained talents from a basic path, there will be some greater variation.

There are a few differences between basic path and basic classes. Unlike d20 Modern, you cannot ‘multipath’ basic paths: you get one, and only one. Characters are expected to gain other paths as they reach higher levels, but the paths do not have prerequisites and characters gain new paths at specific levels. Finally, where in d20 Modern a character might have only a few levels in a basic class before graduating to an advanced class, in this game a character will always have more levels in the basic path than any other path.

Expert Paths

That explains a bit more about basic paths… but this post is about expert paths.

Expert paths are going to be more like advanced classes in d20 Modern, except that I expect there will be one major choice, and possibly a series of minor choices.

Let’s take a look at the cavalier from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and see how it might be represented.

Among the abilities gained by the cavalier, I see:

  • Mount (animal companion) at level 1.
  • Challenge, usable 1/day at level 1, +1/day at levels 4, 7, and each three levels after that. At level 12 the cavalier gains demanding challenge
  • Order abilities at levels 2, 8, 15.
  • Charge at level 3, increasing at levels 11, 20.
  • Tactician at level 1, improving at levels 9, 17.
  • Banner at level 5, improving at level 14.
  • Assorted bonus feats.

As an expert path, the cavalier grants abilities at levels 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18. The cavalier path grants one choice (order). On first cut, I see:

  • Level 3: mount, cavalier’s charge, order, challenge usable 1/day, first order ability, tactician 1/day.
  • Level 6: banner +2/+1, challenge usable 2/day, tactician 2/day.
  • Level 9: banner +3/+2, challenge usable 3/day, second order ability, tactician 3/day.
  • Level 12: challenge usable 4/day, demanding challenge, mighty charge
  • Level 15: banner +4/+3, challenge usable 5/day, greater banner, third order ability, tactician 4/day.
  • Level 18: challenge usable 6/day, master tactician, supreme charge

This seems kind of heavy, but let’s see what the abilities do, and if we can trim them down. I’m actually not too concerned about front-loading, since characters are constrained in path choices and thus cannot readily dip multiple paths to take undue advantage.

  • Mount grants an animal companion.
  • Cavalier’s charge gives a +4 bonus to melee attacks while charging and the cavalier does not take a -2 penalty to AC after making a charge attack while mounted.
  • Order grants an order.
  • Challenge grants a bonus equal to the cavalier’s level to damage against a challenged opponent, usable 1/day + 1/day at levels 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19.
  • Tactician grants a bonus teamwork feat and allows the cavalier to share this teamwork feat with allies, usable 1/day + 1/day at levels 5, 10, 15, 20. Instead of uses/day, replace with commit effort for day.
  • Banner: nearby allies gain a +2 morale bonus to saves vs fear and a +1 morale bonus to attacks made as part of a charge. Bonuses improve by +1 at levels 10, 15, 20. I’m lazy: +1 morale bonus to saves and attacks made as part of a charge with the cavalier (not just charging, but with the cavalier taking part), increasing to +2 at level 12 and +3 at level 18.
  • Mighty charge: threat range doubled, can make bull rush, disarm, sunder, or trip.
  • Demanding challenge: target suffers -2 penalty to AC against attacks other than the cavalier.
  • Greater banner grants +2 bonus to saves against charm and compulsion spells and effects, and cavalier can spend an action to wave the banner and grant a second save against any one spell or effect targeting allies. An ally can only benefit from this once per day.
  • Master tactician grants another bonus teamwork feat, cavalier can share two teamwork feats, and it is now a swift action.
  • Supreme charge means all mounted charges do double damage (triple for a lance) and a critical hit means the target may be staggered.

I think this can be distilled quite a bit. First, ditch the uses per day limitations, replacing them with effort (commit for day, by default). All check modifiers need to be halved (+2 on 3d6 has about the same effect as +4 on 1d20).

  • Mount is basically unchanged.
  • Cavalier’s charge grants +2 bonus to melee attacks while charging, negate AC penalty.
  • Order is unchanged, but order abilities will be. Order ability levels tweaked to fit expert path levels.
  • Challenge, bonus damage is okay but uses/day needs to go. Commit effort for scene. Perhaps depends on order challenge effect.
  • Tactician, bonus feat and replace uses/day with commit effort for scene.
  • Banner: simplify: +1 bonus at level 6, +2 at level 12, +3 at level 18. Commit effort.
  • Mighty charge: successful hit while charging grants stunt points regardless of doubles.
  • Demanding challenge: hard for me to care, especially since I see challenge as a one-on-one thing and thus others should not be involved.
  • Greater banner expands banner effects to charms and compulsions, can commit for day (possibly expending effort committed) to grant second save.
  • Master tactician, bonus feat, can grant any two teamwork feats (not just those from tactician).
  • Supreme charge: damage while charging doubled, gain stunt points as might charge and again if doubles.

Normally abilities with uses per day might use ‘commit effort for day’, but neither of these abilities feels like it would have huge effect on the scene’s outcome. They’re nice to have, sure, but it’s probably enough to commit for scene.

I’m not entirely certain I’m going to keep feats (see tomorrow’s post to find out… so will I!), so let’s also get rid of tactician. This brings the cavalier abilities down to mount + charge, order + order abilities + challenge, banner. This feels pretty okay. I’m going to stretch things out a little, though.

So, down to:

  • Level 3: Mount, order, challenge, first order ability
  • Level 6: Banner (+1 allied melee attacks), charge
  • Level 9: Banner (+1 add allied saves vs fear), second order ability
  • Level 12: Banner (+2), mighty charge
  • Level 15: Banner (+2, add allied saves vs charm and compulsion; commit for day to grant second save or attack), third order ability
  • Level 18: Banner (+3), supreme charge

Banner requires the cavalier to commit effort (and commit for day to grant a second save or melee attack to allies; this can expend the committed effort and end the banner effect). Challenge requires the cavalier to commit for scene).

I would be willing to collapse the banner ability a little more, even.

  • Level 3: Mount, order, challenge, first order ability
  • Level 6: Banner (+1, attacks and fear), charge
  • Level 9: Second order ability
  • Level 12: Improved banner (+2, attacks and fear, charm, compulsion; commit for day to grant second save or attack), mighty charge
  • Level 15: Third order ability
  • Level 18: Greater banner (+3), supreme charge

… I like it. The previous iteration might be better pacing of the abilities, but this is actually getting appropriately simple.

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