Tuesday, November 22, 2011

4EMOD: V-Classes

For those of you who don't know what V-Classes are, I'll explain. Most classes have one attack stat, with two (possibly three) secondary stats its based off. These are called A-Classes (one attack, two secondary). Most classes in 4th edition use this set up, especially the most successful: fighter, rogue, etc. And it's considered good design, for good reason! It works. But there are four classes with a different class set-up: Cleric, Paladin, Ranger, and Warlock. These classes are known as V-Classes because they have two attack stats and one secondary stat. And I have to ask why. I really must. Why the designers thought this was a good idea I don't know, but it made these classes some of the hardest to play in the game effectively. If you want to make your attack powers more effective, you have to upgrade both stats. But if you want your effects to be better you have to ignore one of these two attack stats and upgrade your secondary stat.

Part of the problem has to do with stat generation in standard 4th edition. You can only really get one 18 in a "main stat", on average, and that's assuming that you only play race to match with class, or if you decide you'll take the hit on overall effectiveness later on and go with 16's. As At-Will and several other char-op boards have noted, having an 18 in your main stat is vital. These were my reasons for modifying the classes in the first place, but something changed after I made these house rules.

I removed ascending math from my game, and these classes became more effective at their jobs, because they're not having to keep up with the ridiculous moving-but-not pace of standard 4th. These classes can breathe and relax, and be themselves. That should solve everything, right? Wrong. There's one last problem. These classes have a split in them thanks to the V formation. While further books have cut down on the problem, the fact is that each of these classes is essentially two halves of a class. None of the other classes have this joyful burden. I see no point in continuing this love fest. 

This is one of those classes that works really well before you modify it, and it becomes so much better after, because you're able to mix and match tactics as you wish. You can stay out of battle and buff your allies, and then switch it up and wade into battle to kick ass righteously and hand out buffs and debuffs as you wish. You don't have to do that, of course. You can play a straight ranged or straight melee cleric. But with this mod it becomes a choice, not a restriction.

Rules: Powers
All powers are now Wisdom powers. Change all Strength attack and damage lines to Wisdom. All abilities that rely upon a secondary stat in Strength powers become Constitution to bring it more into line with Essentials and to deal with the fact that clerics don't have the absolute best armor. Leave the secondary stat of Wisdom powers at Charisma.

Rules: Divine Domains
Give yourself a domain feat from Divine Power for your deity as a bonus feat. You should have this anyway, you're a cleric! 

It's no secret that paladin is my favorite class in the game. I like paladin because I get to zealously play out a religious person and be a tough-as-nail warrior, someone who genuinely believes, a symbol  of incorruptibility. Changing this class allows you to mix and match the more defender-y and striker-like aspects of this class freely. I'm also going to put in a few rules that better reflect the flavor of the paladin, without (hopefully) changing game balance that much.

Rules: Powers
All powers become Strength powers. Change the Strength power's secondary stat from Wisdom to Charisma. Leave the Charisma powers alone. 

Rules: Divine Challenge
This is probably the biggest rules change for the paladin, honestly. Change the punishment damage in Divine Challenge from Charisma+3(+6/+9) to Strength+Charisma or Wisdom+3(+6/+9). Ban Mighty Challenge in Divine Power. Change all references in all paladin powers from "marked" or "divine sanction" to "Divine Challenge". This unifies all the Paladin's marking mechanics, and makes sure that if you want to maintain those marks you make you can.

 Rules: Channel Divinity
Give yourself your Deity's Channel Divinity as a bonus feat.

Rules: Fearless
You get a +2 bonus to all defenses and saving throws against fear and charm effects.

Rules: Weapon of Faith
You may use your weapon as your holy symbol. Use all the normal rules for using a weapon as an implement.

This makes the paladin a truly formidable warrior, free to smite the enemies of his god with an abandon that should make fighters shake in their boots. To those of you who are looking at the changes and think that they're broken, please remember that most of the work done on this blog post is correcting mistakes that the game designers tried to fix in Essentials. This paladin looks broken in comparison to the old paladin, sure. But is it broken? Not really, no. When you make the comparison to the Fighter, the unabashed best defender in the game, you'll see that the paladin still doesn't do what the fighter does.

And that's the point. If a fighter gets next to you there's no escape, period. A paladin will make you wish you were next to him. There is no other class in the game that is designed to take on large groups like the paladin and walk out alive. Is a fighter better at its job then a paladin? Hell yeah. But a paladin does its job better than a fighter. You'll find in all these posts where I "fix" things that I'm not plugging holes as much as pushing the class to do what its designed to do. The paladin is the best multi-marker there is. Let's remove all the crap that keeps it from doing that.

Most people don't think of ranger as a "problem class". It's one of the most effective strikers in the game, after all. But the V-Class formation, like all the others, has to go. Besides, dual weapon rangers have the issue of being constantly stretched between Strength and Dexterity. Archers have a natural advantage over dual-wielders in that regard. Time to get rid of that.

But what stat do we go with?  Strength is very important to a dual-wielding ranger, but we're not looking for what's important. We're looking for what's iconic. And the plain fact of the matter is rangers are known for their dexterity, even good ole Drizzt do Urden, a dual-wielder. Other dual-wielders in every single piece of fiction I've read or watched are more acrobatic than strong. So Dexterity is the main stat.

Rules: Powers
Change all powers to Dexterity. In Strength powers change the secondary modifier from Wisdom to Strength. Now comes the tricky part, the Utility Powers. I would suggest changing most of these powers to say Wisdom or Strength. Use your best judgment, and if your player can make a good argument for why they should be able to use Strength instead of Wisdom for a modifier I suggest giving it to them. I mean, why not? You're changing the rules either way.

Rules: Inner Compass
I know this sounds silly, but I like giving my rangers the ability to find true north. For free. While there's a slight increase to their overall effectiveness it just feels right to me, so I added it in. Feel free to ignore this rule as you see fit.

You'll notice that, as with the Cleric, the Ranger becomes less about filling a specified role than being a versatile player that can do high amounts of damage in close and ranged combat, depending on what the player wants at that point. Does it make the ranger better? Yup, it does. But I have difficulty seeing as to how that's a problem. Rangers have always had a versatility that other classes simply are not supposed to have. This fix allows for that.

Warlock is my second favorite class, and narrowly behind the paladin at that. It's easily the most flavorful of the Player's Handbook 1 classes, with a story that practically screams "Play me!" It's also the worst class of the first handbook. It barely fulfills its striker role, being more of a controller than the bloody wizard of the same book. Oy, what a mess. Well, fear not, there's a way to fix it!

Rules: Powers
All powers become Charisma powers. The following pacts use Intelligence as their secondary stat: fey, dark, and star. The following pacts use Constitution as their secondary stat: infernal, sorcerer-king, and vestige. Increase all damage dice by one step, as outlined in the equipment section of the Player's Handbook. This should do more than enough to make any warlock a competitive striker, on par with the sorcerer! It doesn't look like much, but those little bumps in damage will make the warlock a force to be reckoned with. 

Constitution-Secondary Warlocks
All pacts that use Constitution as their secondary stat may use their Constitution modifier in place of their Dexterity or Intelligence when calculating AC. This is because these warlocks are so proficient at channeling raw power that could destroy a less being through their bodies they can ignore hits that could kill a normal being. A Constitution Warlock does with his bare skin what a paladin or fighter does with heavy armor. He's that badass.

Give warlocks the dagger as an implement. Use the "normal" rules for weapons as implements.

Rules: Warlock At-Wills
You get your pact's at-will, eldritch blast, and one other at-will of your liking in the warlock class. For those of you who have the Eldritch Strike, limit it to the dagger, and add 1d8 to the damage.

So, give these rules a try, and let me know what you think. These rules are tested a bit, but I won't pretend that they're exhaustive. Comment below.

Next week I'll cover other random fixes in Player's Handbook 1. For now, Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the States!