Tuesday, August 19, 2014

D&D 5e New Class - Old School Fighter

I want to take a stab at something I feel is lacking in 5e.  I love the design decision to allow completely different mechanics from class to class, but despite all the options there really isn't a completely basic fighter for those people who really just want to play an old school fighter. In the older editions of D&D if you chose the fighter class your character build choices were extremely simple (determine ability scores, HP, weapons and armor).  Your special powers were pretty much limited to having more HP and being better at attacking than other classes.  All you had to know how to do was get in a fight and roll d20s.  This is my stab at a similar "old school" Fighter class for 5e that is balanced for play alongside other 5e classes.

Why do I feel 5e has not provided such a character option?  Even the basic fighter class features will raise some old school players' hackles.  Second Wind is the first example - every fighter has a "limited well of stamina" that restores 1d10+fighter level HP.  Second wind can be used once between rests.  Next, fighting style - at 1st level every fighter also has to choose a fighting style.  There are six options here, ranging from Archery (+2 to ranged attacks) to Protection (Tank anyone? 5e allows one "reaction" per round, and Protection allows the fighter to impose disadvantage on any creature that attacks a target within five feet of the fighter as a reaction provided the fighter is wielding a shield).  At second level, all fighters gain a new ability called action surge - once between rests the fighter can take an extra action. At 9th level fighters can reroll a missed save (once between long rests at 9th level, twice at 13th and three times at 17th level). And of course one feature of all 5e classes is regular ability score increases.  In the case of the fighter, seven times total, between 4th and 19th level, one ability score is raised by 2 or two ability scores are raised by 1.  No ability score can be raised above 20 in this fashion.  And that just covers the basic class features.

Every 5e fighter has to choose a martial archetype at third level. The closest 5e comes to an old school fighter is the "Champion" martial archetype fighter. The champion archetype scores critical hits on a 19-20, at 7th level grants 1/2 proficiency bonus to any STR, DEX or CON check that does not already use the fighter's proficiency bonus, at 10th level chooses a second fighting style from the first level list, at 15th level crits on 18-20, and at 18th level a 4e-ism creeps in.  In 4e any creature is bloodied when it is reduced to half it's original HP or less.  The 18th level class feature of the champion archetype  allows the fighter to regenerate 5+CON mod HP per round while bloodied but not dead.  (to be clear 5e does not name this condition, but it is the bloodied condition from 4e)

So that doesn't sound very old school, right?  The other two martial archetypes are even less so.  The "Battle Master" martial archetype gets special dice called superiority dice which are used to perform special combat maneuvers (there are 16 different combat maneuvers to choose from here!).  The "Eldritch Knight" martial archetype casts spells (from the schools of abjuration and evocation only).  Need I say more?  

New Class:

 Old School 5e Fighter

 (all design decisions explained below)

 Hit Dice: 1d12 per fighter level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 15 + CON mod*
Hit Points at Higher Level: 1d12 (or 7) + CON mod per level after 1st **
Proficiencies: All armor, shields, simple weapons, martial weapons, Strength and Constitution Saving Throws (at 11th level add 1/2 proficiency bonus to DEX, INT, WIS and CHA Saving Throws as well)***
Skills:  Athletics and all other Strength based skill checks****

Old School 5e Fighter progression chart*****



Level
Proficiency Bonus******
AC Bonus*******
Damage Bonus********
Number of Attacks*********
1
+2
+1
-
1
2
+2
+1
-
1
3
+2
+1
+1
1
4
+3
+1
+2
1
5
+4
+1
+2
2
6
+4
+1
+3
2
7
+4
+1
+3
2
8
+4
+2
+4
2
9
+5
+2
+4
2
10
+5
+2
+5
2
11
+6
+2
+5
3
12
+6
+2
+5
3
13
+7
+2
+5
3
14
+7
+2
+5
3
15
+8
+2
+6
3
16
+8
+2
+6
3
17
+8
+2
+6
3
18
+9
+3
+6
3
19
+9
+3
+6
3
20
+9
+3
+6
4

[I had to make some hard decisions (e.g. including baked in AC and damage bonuses) but my main criterion was simplicity of mechanics in play.  A level based bonus to damage or AC is definitely not old school, but in play the bonus is just recorded on the character sheet and no further action is needed.  The player does not need to learn a new mechanic.  I tried to balance each point of variance from the standard 5e fighter as detailed below.]

+5 starting HP to balance out the 1d10 HP restored by Second Wind

** d12 for HP: Average increase of +1 HP per level to balance out the + fighter level HP restored by Second Wind

*** +1/2 Proficiency Bonus to DEX/INT/WIS/CHA saves at level 11 is intended to balance out two things: the Indomitable 5e fighter class feature (at 9th level reroll any failed save, usable once between rests, twice between rests at 13th level and three times between rests at 17th level); and one set of ability score increases in a non-STR/DEX/CON stat (level 19 increase) not accounted for in the AC, Damage and Proficiency bonus increases detailed below.  

**** Without houseruling out Skills altogether, I felt giving proficiency on all STR based skills was the closest to Old School I could get.  At lower levels this might outweigh the second skill choice of a regular 5e fighter, but at 7th level the Champion archetype fighter gets 1/2 proficiency bonus on any STR, DEX or CON check which probably outweighs the full proficiency bonus on just STR skills up through 10th level.  Close enough for me.  

***** Please note there are no ability score increases for this class.  What you start out with is what you end up with as far as ability scores if you play an Old School 5e Fighter.  I have attempted to bake in equivalent bonuses to the class progression chart to account for the ability score increases of the standard 5e fighter (as detailed below).

******Proficiency Bonus: Increased +3 over 20 levels compared to standard 5e fighter to roughly balance out stat increases (assuming standard array fighter at 1st level [STR15 CON14 DEX13 INT12 WIS10 CHA8]) - Standard 5e fighter's STR mod and CON mod would both go from +2 to +5 with STR increased to 20 max (by level 8) and CON increased to 20 max (by level 16), and I pretty much ignored the level 19 ability score increases (which would not directly impact combat anyway as STR and CON are maxed out and DEX at +2 mod after level 8 ability score increase is the highest mod allowed by medium armor anyway) 

******* AC Bonus:  +1 At 1st level to balance out the Fighting Style (rough equivalent to Defense fighting style which grants +1 bonus to AC while wearing armor); +1 at level 8 to account for DEX bonus increase from standard 5e fighter stat increases;  +1 at level 18 to balance out Champion archetype fighter's regeneration while bloodied ability.


******** Damage Bonus to all attacks:  +1 at 3rd level is intended as a rough balance to the critical on 19-20 of the Champion archetype fighter; +1 at 4th, 6th and 8th level balances out STR mod increases from regular fighter's stat increases; +1 at 10th level is intended as a rough balance to the second fighting style selection (roughly balanced with dueling, which grants +2 to damage while wielding only one weapon); at 15th level +1 to balance out crit on 18-20

********* Number of Attacks is unchanged from base 5e Fighter

11 comments:

  1. For a really old-school feel, he should also be allowed to only use weapons that do 1d6 damage.

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  2. I don't like (some of) your choices. But that is ok, good even. I do like that you've felt choices (different than the game's designers) can be made and 5e lends itself more towards customization.

    I really like how many choices are pushed to 2nd level. But they didn't do it consistently Fighters Style and Clerics Domain are two stand outs.

    btw my "classic 5e" take http://trollandflame.blogspot.com/2014/08/classic-5ed-classes.html

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  3. Hi Norman - I had a very specific design goal in mind. I was thinking about one of my friends who would most likely never play 5e because special maneuvers, class options that you have to choose as you level up and regular ability score increases up to 20 in multiple abilities are not what it means to play a D&D fighter to him. I challenged myself to create a class that was balanced mechanically against the Martial archetype fighter, but which didn't involve any character build choices or special combat abilities beyond a d20 attack. On top of that overriding design goal, I wanted to maintain a rough power balance when comparing the new class vs. the 5e Champion archetype fighter across all levels. That of course meant souping up the overall HP to balance out second wind, and the difficult decision to bake in AC and damage bonuses to balance out fighting style and ability score increases.

    Me personally, I have absolutely no problem with special abilities and multiple choices in character build and leveling up - so I actually don't "like" my end result, but I think I pretty much accomplished what I set out to do. This was more of a mental exercise for me than something I would ever play myself

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  4. Remember that second wind is out of combat. I would say hitpoints in combat are more powerful. AC increases is probably the thing that worries me the most because of the bonded accuracy. By default do all classes not get the ability advancement? Its probably close enough in DPR (more probably) that I dont think anyone would notice. But, magic items might cause issues since you can increase Str to 19 to get +4 more to hit and damage. If you want to go old school you should add in henchmen as the fighter levels otherwise its a fail. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. What makes you say that second wind is out of combat? That is not how I read it. It is a fighter class feature - Second Wind - page 72 - "On your turn, you can use a bonus action to regain hit points equal to 1d10 + your fighter level." Usable once between short or long rests. Granting the hit points to begin with vs. restoring them as a bonus action is slightly more powerful, but I didn't add quite as many HP as Second Wind restores (second wind at first level averages 6.5 HP restore and I added 5 HP to starting HP)

    I agree AC increases are potentially problematic given the extremely compressed math of this system. Two of the AC bonuses on the chart could be received by a by the book 5e fighter at the levels I assigned them (from first level fighting style - Defense and increasing DEX mod by +1, assuming medium armor) The third +1 to AC at 18th level should be considered against the "Survivor" 18th level ability of the Champion archetype fighter which grants regeneration 5 + CON mod while bloodied.

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  6. Good point about the henchmen! Maybe I can roll that into a custom background

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  7. Interesting concept. I think the decision to remove ability score increases is a mistake. Even in 'old-school' D&D, there are things like ability score damage and magic items that change ability score. (Moldvay Basic has the Gauntlets of Ogre Power, which makes your strength score 18). Changing your ability score and seeing it improve is _exciting_, and it's one of the biggest fun parts of seeing your character level up.

    What's more, pulling out the ability scores entirely makes it completely incompatible with both bounded accuracy and feats. I understand your guy wouldn't take feats, but the bounded accuracy stuff seems broken.

    Considering you're going old school, what happens when your fighter guy rolls an 18 strength and an 18 dex? Suddenly, they're the best of the best, bar none, when it comes to attacks. Now, this isn't a likely scenario, but it's one that's possible. The damage bonus is less problematic, but you might want to do the math to make sure it's not too bad or too good.

    All said, I think you could serve your concept by simply reducing choice to minimums as opposed to futzing around with the math.

    Some proposals:
    * Keep the standard proficiency bonus progression.
    * Keep the fighter's ability score increases. Seriously, this is not even a choice for most fighters. (Just bump your strength to max, then your con to max). You have more complex choices at character creation. OR
    * (crazy idea) Determine which ability scores become what at what levels. Like, you could say at level 4, your strength score becomes 17. At level 6, your con score becomes 17. At level 8, your dex score becomes 17. At 12/14/16, your scores become 19 str/19 dex/19 con. This removes choice (your goal) while also providing exciting, meaningful power progression. You could even make the level 20 capstone that all three turn to level 20.
    * You might say this is unbalanced, as someone could just dump their str/dex/con knowing that it will become stronger as they go along, to which I say: how are you suriving so many levels with a seriously underpowered character, and if you are, then shouldn't you be rewarded with something? Especially given how tremendously simple the class is anyway. (Remember: wizards get to cast wish).
    * And if someone already has a 17 or higher, oh well!
    * I think you can probably just grant the 19-20 crit bonus at level 3. Criting more often is _exciting_. Similar, grant the 18-20 at level 15.
    * I think you could accomplish both the damage bonus and proficiency bonus by simply allowing the Uber Fighter two attacks right at level one and having them progress up to five attacks. Alternatively, having them reach multiple attacks sooner. Attacking multiple times is _exciting_, and an easy way to bake in both higher proficiency bonus and damage bonus and relative power to the class.
    * I like the scaling AC bonus, although I don't know how and where to put each bit.

    Another general note: I would try extremely hard to incorporate some advancement/feature at every level, which mirrors 5e design. Yes, your OD&D fighter just got hp, but we can be better than that.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Adam -

    RE having some advancement/feature at every level - not really a design goal for what I was trying to do, but I probably should have put some kind of increase at level 2 at the very least. I hadn't figured out how I was going to account for the extra action that fighters get at level 2 so I set that aside and then I completely forgot to account for it. I think I would take your suggestion of getting the second attack sooner, but put it at level 2 instead of level 1 to give an improvement at level 2 and also more than make up for the lack of action surge. Other than that most of the levels without improvement are higher levels and an old school fighter would have long since stopped improving :)

    Interesting idea with the ability score bumps to set points at certain levels. I kind of like it.
    Really though, I pretty much did keep the ability score increases, assuming bumping str to max and con to max. I just added in nearly the equivalent bonuses rather than raising the stats. Since the fighter class saves are str and con, raising the proficiency bonus and adding a damage bonus is extremely close to the exact same thing as raising the CON and STR mods. I assumed standard array with STR highest (15) and CON next (14), but I did not take into account any racial modifiers. So my base math starts with the assumption that the standard 5e fighter goes from +2 STR and CON mod to +5 mod STR and CON mod over 19 levels which is a +3 bonus to hit and damage in melee, +3 bonus to STR and CON skills and saves, and some extra HP. To balance that out I added a total of +3 extra in proficiency bonus (balances out the +3 to hit and the +3 bonus on STR and CON saves, and the +3 bonus on STR skills since I made proficiency in all STR skills a class feature), and +3 in extra damage (I also added some more extra damage on top to balance out the high crit features at level 3 and 15, but three of the extra damage was to simulate STR mod increases). I didn't add anything in to balance out the extra HP from the CON increase, and luckily there are no CON based skills. The missing HP at higher levels may not matter in play because racial ability modifiers would in all likelihood mean that at least one if not both STR and CON mods would only raise +2 over play instead of +3, meaning the new class gets a little more bonuses from proficiency and damage increases to balance out the missing HP (a Mountain Dwarf with +2 to STR and +2 to CON, for example, starts with +3 mod in both STR and CON and could still only go to +5 mod max).

    I did wrestle with just keeping the high crit property. I wasn't really designing this class as I would want to play it but more as a mental exercise to try and create something balanced against 5e classes but that had no special abilities - I made the decision that high crit was a special ability. It is borderline :)

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  9. Barbarian got D12 for hit dice, fighter has always been D10. Not sure what you're thinking, but read the player's handbook a little closer next time.

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  10. Is this purely a thought experiment, or do you personally know real life human beings that ENJOY being a Core 0-1-2E fighter? "I attack." "I attack." "I attack." "I attack." "I attack." "I attack." "I attack." "I attack." "I attack."

    Every player I knew back in the day got bored with that. TSR recognized the need for more with the Complete Fighter's Handbook.

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  11. Oh, cool! I like the 5e options a lot, but I want to make some simple classes like this (for new players, for old-school players, for players who are very young, or distracted, or want to concentrate on roleplay).

    I think your results sound nearly perfect, although as with some other commenters, I'd keep the ability score increments -- you can always give the same chart for "this is what your effective attack/ac will be at each level", but if it's using ability score increases rather than extra bonuses under the hood, it'd fit a lot better with 5e, and remove whining from players who want the same for _their_class _as well_ as ability score increments.

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