Friday, January 8, 2010

Messing Around With Dragon #109

Ok, kids...

Dragon 109 seems to get a lot of attention around Blogaria, mainly because of the article concerning customized character classes. I happen to have a copy of 109, purchased last spring from the LGS. Tonight I've been dickering around with the math to create some custom classes, and I must admit that I am on the fence regarding the numbers. I have produced a few classes:

The Sage
Hit Dice: d4 through level 9. Beginning at 10th level, the sage gains but one hit point every other level
Armor Allowed: None, no shield
Weapons Allowed: Dagger, Staff
Magic Items Allowed: Magical weapons (only those of the type they can usually wield), Potions, rings, misc. magic items, wands/staves/rods, protection scrolls, spell scrolls
Saving Throws: As a magic-user
Specialties: Sage
Hit Progression: As magic-user
Magic Spells: Table VI Cleric spells, Table VI Magic-user spells, Table V Druid Spells
Multiplier: 855%

Analysis: Here's a class that gets three spells a day at level 1, can use just about any spell in the game, and can do hardcore research for the party. He requires 3,420 experience to reach 2nd level, doubled each level after that. Is this class overpowered? I don't think so... at higher levels, the experience discrepancy between the Sage and other magic-using classes is going to widen significantly.
If I allowed this character in my game, I'd probably require Intelligence and Wisdom scores of no less than 13, granting bonus experience only if both scores were 16 or higher. I'd probably also require the sage to be neutral due to his access to druidic magic. (Oh, if only all scholars were neutral...) I wonder if the higher xp value really offsets all that this character can do. I would be tempted to actually allow this class in game to see how it works out. I might also level cap him at 12 or so, since a sage will eventually retire from adventuring in order to dedicate all his time to the pursuit of all things scholarly.

The Templar
Hit Die: d8 through 9th level, 2 hp/level afterwards
Armor: Any plus shield
Weapons: Swords only
Magic Items: Magic swords, armor, potions/rings, protection scrolls, clerical scrolls
Saves: As fighter
Hit Progression: As fighter
Spells: Cleric, Table II
Other: Turn undead
Multiplier: 515%

Analysis: These are basically warrior-clerics. The only weapons they use are swords, seen by their order as an honorable weapon that symbolizes justice. They have minor cleric spell ability and the ability to turn undead.
...I'm on the fence. This class is much better than a fighter, but requires only 60 more experience to attain 2nd level. They have spells and turning... the only compromise is that they are not allowed to use any weapon but a sword. I would also require the templar to be Lawful and to abide by a code of honor/ethics. I suppose some players might consider the alignment behavior restrictions to be balancing factors, but I consider the templar to be a mechanical failure of the custom class system.

The Archer
Hit Dice: d8 through level 9, +2/level after
Armor: Leather only
Weapons: Bows, sword, dagger, sling
Magic Items: Weapons, armor, potions/rings, misc., protection scrolls
Saving Throws: As Fighter
Hit Progression: As fighter for melee weapons, every 2 levels for ranged weapons (approximate value: 75)
Multiplier: 415%

Analysis: Okay, it's a fighter who has better hit progression with bows and has very limited selection of weapons and armor. He needs 1660 to advance to level 2. He advances faster than a fighter, but has little in the way of special abilities other than improved hit progression with a bow. I suppose I could add in some special abilities with the bow. I think the class is workable but I find myself unexcited about it. I would change prime requisite to Dexterity, of course.

Hit Dice: d10 through level 12, 3/level thereafter
Armor: Shield only
Weapons: Axes, Daggers, Swords, impact weapons
Magic Items: Weapons, shields, potions/rings
Saves: As Dwarf
Hit Progression: 2 levels
Multiplier: 550%

Analysis: Ok, he can't used ranged weapons or armor, but he has obscene hit points (for basic D&D) and hit progression. He levels about 10% slower than the traditional fighter. I'd probably forbid Lawful alignment and require a Constitution of 12. (Strength would remain the prime req, though)

Now, here's the part that disturbs me... the cossack requires more experience to level than the templar does. Which class would YOU play at 1st level?

I know that the system isn't perfect, and I think these classes show that the system needs a lot of TLC before it produces campaign ready classes. Case in point: on page 11-12 of Issue 109, the author recreates the basic character classes, and many of them require significantly less experience to advance.

...also, what's with catapult as a weapon choice?


  1. Your post demonstrates exactly why I've been trying to "fix" this system on and off for alomst a year. I certain there's a gem of a system in it, but it needs extensive cutting and polishing before it gleams enough to please my eye.

    And catapult weapon cost was one of the first things I jettisoned...

  2. Have you guys looked at the Design rules in UWoM?

  3. Sounds suspiciously like the class creation system in the second edition AD&D DMG. I prefer to just "roll my own" without reference to binding systems based on fairly wonky mathematics.

  4. Now, here's the part that disturbs me... the cossack requires more experience to level than the templar does. Which class would YOU play at 1st level?

    I know the answer you're after, but to be honest I'd rather play the cossack at first level. There is one overriding reason: d10 hit points.

  5. Holy cats, I totally forgot about this's been two and a half years!

    I'm not sure I'd consider d10 hit points to be's only, on average, 1 hit point more per level, and that cossack can't use any armor except a shield, so those hit points are going to go quickly.

    It retrospect, maybe I should have made him d12...especially considering the experience tables.

    I've actually never used Dragon 109 in the two and a half years since I posted this. I considered the system to be a great idea, but poorly executed.