View Full Version : [PEACH] Making Fighter's Better: Spells By Skill Rank

2009-09-07, 03:26 PM
Evening, y'all.

I'd like to point out first off all that I'm not a savvy D&D player. However, I've been hanging around the GitP forums quite a lot, and I've read the rules thoroughly, and I believe I have a basic idea what it's about.

I've also read the Exalted 2e core book, and it will be from this system that I take some inspiration for what I'm about to propose.

A brief summary

It seems that a big problem with D&D, at least when it comes to experienced players, is that casters grow in power in a way that is simply not in proportion with how the melee focused characters advance. This seems to be mostly a utilitarian problem, at it's core: a blaster wizard is about on par with a fighter when it comes to raw dps, but the problem is that a wizard can also fly, teleport, outright destroy magical equipment, summon frikkin' angels and do all kinds of stuff that a fighter can't do anything against.

The core of the problem seem to be in the spells. The fact that magic accounts for nearly all the utility in the game (at least as for as I've understood) makes it impossible for a class without magic to compete with a caster class. The only way to even this out, as I see it, is to make it so that both casters and melee have access to the most utilitarian spells.

How to achieve this? Well, one way would be to simply make every class a caster class, but this seemed a bit broken. If so, suddenly the fighter would become the only option, with broadswords, full plate AND arcane casting. It didn't seem feasible.

Instead, I made a connection to the Exalted system and its charms. Solar charms require you to have a value in an associated skill to be able to use it. I thought that this might be something to build on, and so, here is a basic that I came up with a few days ago. I will first explain the idea of the system with a few preliminary examples, and then go on to discuss the problems with the system.

Skills and their relevance

Skills are something that every class has. It is an integral part of every character, and it is something that improves as the character grows in level. The fact that skills have a maximum rank at every given level made them a nice mechanic to base this new system off.

In essence, improving a skill beyond a certain rank grants the character the ability to use his mastery over the skill to perform a feat of extraordinary magnitude, a so called Perfection Effect. The Perfection effect is simply a spell that has been assigned to the skill, and is made available by simply reaching the rank in question.

Spells and Perfection Effects

The first step would be to assign two descriptors to every spell: [Spell] and [Perfection Effect]. After the sorting, a spell would be anything that a caster class could cast as normal, spontaneously or by preparing it. A Perfection Effect would be a spell-like ability that a character would gain access to after reaching a certain rank in the associated skill.

There will be three groups in the list of effects available: those only castable as a Spell, those only castable as a Perfection Effect, and those castable as both Spells and Perfection Effects.

My balancing concept is that the more powerful spells, as well as those that give casters a significant advantage that melee classes have a hard time emulating, would become pure Perfection Effects. That is to say, Fly, Grease and Hold Person would all be available to every character.

In order to not make fighters magically enhanced Terminators, all damage dealing spells (except possibly the absolutely weakest ones) as well as the defensive spells that grant AC and miss chance, will remain castable only as Spells. So, no Fireball for rogues, no Disintegrate for fighter, and no Displacement for Monks.

The rest of the magic effects could be Spells, Perfection Effects, or both, as seen appropriate.

Learning Spells and Perfection Effects

Learning a spell works just like it does normally for a caster. He can either write it into a spell book, or just learn it naturally, depending on how his casting mechanic work.

To learn a Perfection Effect, you'd have to reach the required skill rank in the associated skill. Also, you must spend some time developing your effect. This must be done for an amount of time proportional to the level of the Perfection Effect, and in a way suitable for the individual effect. It is always practical, however, even for effects based off purely intellectual skills, such as Knowledge or Spellcraft.

Casting Spells and Perfection Effects

This caused me some problem. I didn't want to use the standard casts/day system, as that would probably make the melee characters way overpowered. Instead, I came up with a system that reconnected to skill use. I'm not sure how sound it is, however, so comments on this part in particular would be appreciated.

Every skill that you have a Perfection Effect in will also gain a pool of Potential points. Every time you succeed on a skill check in one skill, you add a Potential point to that skill's Potential Pool. Every Perfection Effect has a Potential cost that must be spent to cast it. When you have made a sufficient amount of successful skill checks, you may draw on your Potential to produce a Perfection Effect.

The idea is that Perfection Effects will be much less readily available than Spells, so that the strongest magical effects aren't always reliably usable. However, of course the costs must be balanced as to allow usage relatively frequently, or it wouldn't be fun.

Since every character can theoretically gain the magical effects that are commonly considered the worst game breakers, and these effects cannot be guaranteed to be castable as frequently as Spells, I believe that the game would turn out significantly more balanced.


There are, of course, loads of problems with this idea. The spells in the game today was in no way intended to be used this way, and it will take a lot of work to make it usable in practice. Here are some of the most glaring problems, but I'm sure there are more. Both new problems and suggestions for solutions are welcome.

The loss of melee feeling
This is what struck me first. I am personally a fan of melee characters, and I know that if Wizards introduced a system that would essentially make it impossible to have a clean fighter, I'd be sorely vexed.

Idea for solution: Fluff the Perfection Effects as something else than spells. I had an idea about having them as spell-like abilities (sp) at the start, and then create two feats that turned them into supernatural abilities (su) and extraordinary abilities (ex). Every stage would have different fluff; Fly (sp) would simply be the magical ability to defy gravity, while Fly (su) might be a shimmering force that lifted you, or the ability to run on air (or something else that fit your character) and Fly (ex) could be that you simply grow real, physical wings and casting the Perfection Effect just denotes you using them.

Either that, or just leave the fluff up to every individual character.

Matching Perfection Effects with skills
This is another huge one, and might be what will break the idea. The spells aren't made to fit neatly into the categories presented by the skills. The problem will have two faces: skills that gain an abundance of Perfection Effects, and magical effects that are too powerful to leave as caster-only Spells, but doesn't thematically fit with any skill (off the top of my head, the shape shifting spells, Wish, Miracle, Gate...).

Idea for solution: I've no idea. I must say I haven't yet looked at any formal division, since the sheer amount of spells overwhelm me. Also, I'd like your first impression first ^^

Core mechanics change
The system will of course bring about many secondary effects. For example, skill points will gain a lot of importance for every one, and the distribution of class skills and skill points per level might have to be looked at. Skill monkeys will gain a lot, but the solution might not be as simple as nerfing their skill points per level, since the idea is that the Perfection Effects won't be very frequent and they still need to make their regular skill checks.

Intelligence might also become more hotly coveted.

Idea for solution: Investigating this problem will require some playtesting, which is very far away from where the idea is now. My first thought is to adjust skill points per level, but it will have to wait until later.

Some skills become blatantly better than others
If one skill has an extremely powerful Perfection Effect at a high rank requirement, it's a risk that everyone tries to obtain it, and forsake other skills with minor effects (or none).

Idea for solution: Make some Perfection Effects associated with several skills, and make sure that skills' base effects remain relevant in daily play.

Disclaimer and conclusion

This is only an idea that popped into my head a few days ago, and that I thought might be worth suggesting. I freely admit that it is very Exalted-inspired, but it's meant to be a solution for a D&D problem, and not some kind of poor man's Exalted, available if you don't want to pay for the books. I hope there might be some sanity in my reasoning here; if not, be sure to point it out.

Please don't be afraid to say your heart's feeling, I love critique, both good and bad, and since I myself am pretty inexperienced, I have to have professional opinions from long time players for this to be workable (not promising anything, by the way; I have quite a lot of school work to do as well :/).

Let 'er rip!

2009-09-07, 04:16 PM
Seriously! This system sounds great! Okay now I've calmed down, you might be on to something good here.

If a skill or rather an ability turn out being too coveted by all players and not really thematically fitting, you could turn to adding a requirement in base stats along with the original skill requirement. Like if you want to have (ex) Flight(with your example of the wings) you might also have to have the bodily fitness and training to produce them and enough muscle control to actually control them adequately.

Glad to see there are other homebrewers in Sweden though!

2009-09-07, 05:20 PM
This is similar to a thought that I've had but never really been able to come up with a way to make it work without being to complicated. What I was thinking of was trying to add the idea of "Limit Breaks" (from the Final Fantasy series). This doesn't seem to be quit what you're talking about but the ideas are not so dis-similar. Actually, now that I think about it, depending on how you word the fluff, your idea would achieve what I'm thinking of.:cool:

2009-09-08, 11:09 AM
Thanks for your comment ^^ it seems the idea isn't completely hopeless, at least. I'll try to produce some actual material that can be properly critiqued, and see where it goes from there.

2009-09-08, 12:18 PM
This is truely fantastic. I've been trying to get some way of making all of the classes slightly magical in nature, and this is it! Also, for shapeshifting, what about knowledge (nature)? I'd really love to get involved with this.

2009-09-08, 01:52 PM
Potential issues:

1.Fighters don't benefit from this. Seriously, a fighter has between 1 and 5 skill points per level, typically. He's already on the short-stick, skill-wise, and you're making a system where that punishes him further.

2.Wizards benefit from this. Again, a normal wizard will have at least 5 skill points per level, and mine? He's going to average 10 or more per level by level 10(a daggerspell mage).

Now, I'm not saying these are unavoidable or anything, just something to be very aware of when you're developing the system. If you do it the wrong way, you'll just make wizards more powerful and fighters will still get a shaft. I think that's why the good fighter feats have heavy feat pre-requisites, since a fighter can afford to pay for them but no one else can, really. I also like d20r Rebirth system, where there's a new point system introduced, that fighters get a lot of, prowess.

2009-09-11, 04:38 PM
So, I sat down and tried to do a bit of this, and after 30 minutes I reached a conclusion: it's a butt-load of work.

I realize now I won't ave time to finish this, and so, I won't waste my time to even start. I still think it's a good idea, however, so maybe someone else can pick it up, if they like?