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shadow_archmagi
2011-04-04, 08:26 AM
So, recently, I was playing through Gothic, and I realized that certain things were out of reach until certain points in the campaign.

Everyone starts out with no skills and no magic, and then spends some time beating chickens with a rusty pickaxe before they can become tough enough to survive a bee sting.

You still don't get to learn magic until you've successfully gained access to a wizard, which is quite a few hours in.

This seems pretty common in older games. Quest for Glory made you seek out magic shops and random wizards to learn spells, and then casting those spells over and over made you better at magic.

I was wondering whether it would be a good idea to run a D&D campaign where the players had restricted classes at first, and then got opportunities to unlock new ones as the game went on. "Oh, hey, that idiot you saved from the Roc's nest is in town, and he offers to teach you how to be a Ninja."

Tael
2011-04-04, 08:57 AM
So, recently, I was playing through Gothic, and I realized that certain things were out of reach until certain points in the campaign.

Everyone starts out with no skills and no magic, and then spends some time beating chickens with a rusty pickaxe before they can become tough enough to survive a bee sting.

You still don't get to learn magic until you've successfully gained access to a wizard, which is quite a few hours in.

This seems pretty common in older games. Quest for Glory made you seek out magic shops and random wizards to learn spells, and then casting those spells over and over made you better at magic.

I was wondering whether it would be a good idea to run a D&D campaign where the players had restricted classes at first, and then got opportunities to unlock new ones as the game went on. "Oh, hey, that idiot you saved from the Roc's nest is in town, and he offers to teach you how to be a Ninja."

As long as you let people re-train classes, it wouldn't be a terrible idea. I personally detest the idea, but if your players like it, it wouldn't be a game shattering change.

shadow_archmagi
2011-04-04, 09:37 AM
As long as you let people re-train classes, it wouldn't be a terrible idea. I personally detest the idea, but if your players like it, it wouldn't be a game shattering change.

Out of curiosity, what do you dislike about it? My goal here is to recreate the sensation of 'clawing your way up from the bottom' that old school RPGs really focus on, rather than the "EXPLODE EVERYTHING" that more modern games seem geared towards.

PersonMan
2011-04-04, 09:43 AM
Out of curiosity, what do you dislike about it? My goal here is to recreate the sensation of 'clawing your way up from the bottom' that old school RPGs really focus on, rather than the "EXPLODE EVERYTHING" that more modern games seem geared towards.

If someone doesn't want to claw their way up from the bottom it won't be good to make them do so.

Besides, isn't that already the case? You go from "can die from a lucky crit from a cat" to "nations fall before you". I'd call that "clawing your way up from the bottom".

...Although, I just realized that a cross-game game could do this in an odd way. Start with a fairly realistic/gritty system, like GURPS, for example. Once they get to a certain level/point value, switch to say, mid-level DnD. At higher levels they become Exalted.

I might try it, actually-one of my groups plays both GURPS and DnD, so I'd only have to teach them Exalted for it to work...

Tael
2011-04-04, 10:04 AM
Out of curiosity, what do you dislike about it? My goal here is to recreate the sensation of 'clawing your way up from the bottom' that old school RPGs really focus on, rather than the "EXPLODE EVERYTHING" that more modern games seem geared towards.

That is already represented in low level D&D. What I don't like is that fact that I can't choose what I want to be, and that fact that you are enforcing classes as professions. Classes are meta-game constructs used to represent a character idea. If I have 10 levels of Factotum, why can't I call myself a rogue with a bunch of magical trinkets? Why does my Warlock have to be descended from dark pacts instead of just being a sorcerer with different mechanics? Warblade vs Fighter, etc.

shadow_archmagi
2011-04-04, 10:10 AM
Besides, isn't that already the case? You go from "can die from a lucky crit from a cat" to "nations fall before you". I'd call that "clawing your way up from the bottom"

I guess that's true, but there isn't really a clawing going on. You work your way up from the bottom, but there's no sense of desperately needing to take opportunities. Your wizard will become a better wizard no matter what, as long as the XP is coming in.

Whenever *I* play a low level character, my thought isn't

"How can I raise my standing in the world? I need allies if I'm going to last long enough to become competent. I need someone to teach me better punching."

But rather

"Ugh, level 1. I can't wait until I'm level 5, and don't have to watch my HP so closely."

valadil
2011-04-04, 10:35 AM
I think that's already in the game. Check out the roleplaying prerequisites on your favorite prestige class. Around here, most GMs handwave those away, either letting the PC deal with it in his backstory or throwing a 30 minute sidequest into the game. All you have to do is treat the prereqs as something serious and attach a roleplaying prereq to PrCs that lack them.

Ravens_cry
2011-04-04, 10:46 AM
I rather like the idea in Unearthed Arcana of the test based prestige class entry. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/campaigns/testBasedPrerequisites.htm)
You would need to come up with something yourself for none-core PrC, but it has a nice feeling of encouraging engagement and immersion, as well as adding contacts and allies for the PC that can make convenient plot hooks.

EccentricCircle
2011-04-04, 10:47 AM
I like the idea

it would be fun to do a long running game which starts out with everyone playing commoners or other NPC classes. then gradually introduces the PC classes as time goes on, with less common classes such as Tome of Battle stuff and varient magic being discovered and treated more like prestige classes with prerequisites. then have actual prestige classes be incredibly rare and awesome (which they are meant to be according to the 3.5 DMG but far too many people don't seem to realise that)

i've run a game which started in our world with no magic and then players learnt to use magic upon travling to a fantasy world with differnet laws of physics. but as it was a short game we didn't have time to mess about with levels so everyone started in the class they ultimately wanted to play, but didn't have access to any magic at first.

you would need a group of players who were happy to do a long rags to riches game with heavy restrictions. i'd personally do away with xp and make leveling up a roleplaying thing. or say that you level steadily in the class you already have but to take a new class you need to do something out of the usual, like seeking out the master wizard or traveling to the fighting school of the nine swords.

It can be difficult to make it work if lots of different players have wildly different prestige classes. in my current game there simply isn't time for everyone to get all of the training they need to advance into their prestige classes because they are too busy fighting the bad guys and getting on with plot. partly because they would all need to go to different places to talk to different people to get the training that they need.

Jarawara
2011-04-04, 10:51 AM
I respect what you are trying to do shadow, (I have tried the same thing).

I have two comments.

One, to echo what was said above, is that D&D already has this effect in play. 1st level characters are weak and frail. They become more powerful as the game continues. What I suspect you're seeing is that they don't *feel* weak, and even when they do, by the next week they're much more powerful.

So slow them down. Award one tenth the XP. Remove magic marts. Limit the acquisition of spells to what they can find or learn from NPC wizards they actually meet. Make them aware of dangers (which they don't have to fight, but *are* visibly present), of which they cannot handle until they go up a few levels... which at the reduced XP rate might take months to do.

Give them more time to feel that weakness, to live that fraility, and they'll learn to appreciate the power that higher levels offer them when they do finally get there. Oh, and consider E6, if the higher end stuff doesn't appeal to you.


Two, enforcing your idea (or mine!) on players is a bad idea. That doesn't mean you can't do it, though. What you need to do is present the idea to players, and see if they're interested. If so, you're good to go. If not, you're outta luck. Just never try to force the idea on players who don't want it. If they want to stick to traditional modern D&D, then provide that. Or if you don't want to, let someone else do it. Wait for the players who really want to play what you're offering.

What I did with my game is limited the class choices (no spellcasters, clerics were allowed *but didn't get any spells*), and they started in an extremely poor region (no starting money - no money at all as the coinage-based economy has collapsed long ago - no starting equipment except for what you can make or reasonably have your neighbor make, and no metal equipment. At all.) So what they had was fighters and rogues, wearing home-made armor and weilding sticks.

It was a blast, and it was the most memorable campaign I have ever run. (Just concluded, by the way, just this last saturday.)

But it took me *years* to find people interested in playing. Most people were so offended at the idea that they didn't ever want to game with me. One even yelled at me, several accused me of being a malicious DM... mind you, none of these people actually played with me, but they were sure I was a terrible guy just for having this idea. And then I found one player that thought the idea was facinating, and our little group began.

You too might find you have a long wait ahead of you before you find your players. I wish you well in your journey.

*~*

And.... I think I was Ninja'd. Oh well. :smallcool:

shadow_archmagi
2011-04-04, 11:26 AM
I rather like the idea in Unearthed Arcana of the test based prestige class entry. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/campaigns/testBasedPrerequisites.htm)
You would need to come up with something yourself for none-core PrC, but it has a nice feeling of encouraging engagement and immersion, as well as adding contacts and allies for the PC that can make convenient plot hooks.

Oh, right. Yes. This is exactly what I was thinking of.

It also wouldn't be too hard to find thematically similar, but mechanically different classes, so that PCs with different mechanical goals (IE: Caster, Fighter, Thief) can have a similar campaign goal. (IE: Say the players help, I dunno, an ancient elf, whose meditation rock is covered in spiders. The elf sage promises to help them unlock the full potential of their minds; the factotum, warblade, and psion classes are now available.)

Tael
2011-04-04, 11:40 AM
What classes would you allow from the start of a game?

Partysan
2011-04-04, 01:41 PM
I love this. But it wouldn't really work in D&D. Why? Because the classes in D&D aren't diverse enough in their design.
Why do we see countless specific homebrewed classes that focus on a very narrow way of fighting? Because the generic Fighter class which was supposed to represent any type of physical combatant from Blademaster to Warlord fails at its job. Then other classes were introduced, e.g. Swashbuckler. If the D&D classes would work as generic concepts then it'd be a blast. But since you have to be oddly specific in choosing classes if you want to represent your character concept mechanically and classes can only make sense as a metagame concept in this game, this concept of a game runs into problems.
It might work however, if you, say, let Fighters be trained into Warblades or similar. Anyone can block and strike. Technique is something that needs to be taught.
I'd play. Lovingly. But it's not a concept D&D is particularly well suited for.

shadow_archmagi
2011-04-04, 03:08 PM
I'd play. Lovingly. But it's not a concept D&D is particularly well suited for.

What game would you recommend?

Tyndmyr
2011-04-04, 03:39 PM
7th Sea. Don't allow secret society membership at character creation. Bam. Huge chunk of the game you have to work your way into, and up through, yet a wild amount of character archtypes available, so you need not all start as dirt farmers.

Oracle_Hunter
2011-04-04, 03:52 PM
Amusingly, 3.X Prestige Classes were clearly designed with this "late game entry" mechanic in mind. Look at the DMG Assassin Prestige Class, for example.

Of course, these restrictions appear to have proven unpopular :smallamused:

* * * *

Anyhow. Like people have said before, D&D is structured with this principle in mind. A LV 1 Wizard can't cast LV 3 spells, for example. Heck, back in 1st Edition the Bard was a late-game entry class!

The main reason, IMHO, that these sorts of restrictions faded is because they always required a tie into the fluff of your setting. For a game designed to be played with homebrew campaign settings, this can get awkward to deal with - what if your Druids don't want to have a "There Can Be Only One" style of advancement? If you tie your game to a specific setting, it is easier to design rules with this in mind.

erikun
2011-04-04, 07:24 PM
Out of curiosity, what do you dislike about it?
While I wouldn't mind playing 5 levels of commoner and 3 levels of fighter before becoming a wizard, the big problem is that my 9th level character with 1st level wizard spells will not be able to accomplish anything against anything remotely close to CR 9.


My goal here is to recreate the sensation of 'clawing your way up from the bottom' that old school RPGs really focus on, rather than the "EXPLODE EVERYTHING" that more modern games seem geared towards.
Hand out 1/10th the Experience rewards.

Do not allow character to freely multiclass - they must find the "guild master" of the appropriate class and seek training, either through rescuing them or going on a quest to find them.

Do not give access to higher level spells, without finding a spellcaster for tutelage. That is, a 4th level wizard has all his spell slots but can only write down 0th-level and 1st-level spells (including bonus ones from leveling up) until he finds another wizard that can cast 2nd-level wizard spells. The Cleric needs to find an accomplished priest to teach him how to cast higher level clerical magic, the bard needs to find a bard who knows new bardic music, an so on.

Do not allow automatic access to prestige classes - make them much like multiclassing, above, except likely more difficult.

Allow players to "bank" XP and avoid leveling up if they want to take a specific class but can't find the right tutor at the moment. You probably shouldn't give bonus XP for being a lower level, though.

And most importantly, tell your players you are going to do this. That way, they can plan their builds and aren't surprised when you don't let them take levels in Mindbender/Ur-Priest/Mystic Theurge at 6th/7th/8th level. As a bonus, you could also hand out extra abilities (such as new bardic music, or new rogue tricks) by finding the right teachers.

shadow_archmagi
2011-04-04, 07:47 PM
While I wouldn't mind playing 5 levels of commoner and 3 levels of fighter before becoming a wizard, the big problem is that my 9th level character with 1st level wizard spells will not be able to accomplish anything against anything remotely close to CR 9.

Well, lets face it, the CR system was never a hard and fast rule, and required a lot of estimation anyway.

erikun
2011-04-04, 07:55 PM
Well, lets face it, the CR system was never a hard and fast rule, and required a lot of estimation anyway.
Good luck finding even a CR 5 opponent that is threatened by two casting of Magic Missile. :smalltongue:

Also, since I forgot earlier: If you want to give another system a try, look for Burning Wheel. Characters start out fairly bare-bones (and can begin even moreso) and they "level up" by actually using their skills, rather than spontaneously gaining abilities through leveling.

erikun
2011-04-04, 10:03 PM
Hand out 1/10th the Experience rewards.
Ah yes, one more thing regarding this. If you cut experience rewards, you'll want to make magic items rarer as well. Not necessarily make treasure rarer, although giving out 1/10th the monetary value would work well enough. However, if all magical equipment is five times rarer - and any you can find for sale five times as expensive - then the players have a bunch more gold for buying stuff, from extra weapons to town halls to training sessions, but don't have a disproportionate amount of +1 swords lying around.

Crafting should reflect the increased cost, as well. So should the market: while a 2000-gold sword might be a "fair" price compared to a masterwork one, a 10000-gold sword that hits just as well as a 300-gold masterwork sword is not something most town vendors, or even merchant guilds, will want to buy.

NichG
2011-04-05, 12:28 AM
There are a couple things a low level caster can do that are always useful. Grease is good against anything ground-bound with abysmal Dex and no ranks in Balance (and even against things that can make the Balance check, its a good way to set up denied-Dex for your rogue buddy). Ray of Enfeeblement is pretty generally nasty. True Strike is situational but is a useful thing to have access to.

Moving up to 2nd level spells is where the gold is at any level. Invisibility, Wraithstrike, Knock, Rope Trick, Web.

Given the Tier system, I wonder what mandated level difference would be sufficient to drop it two tiers. If you're a Wizard five levels behind, are you the roughly equivalent of the party Swordsage?

What if the point at which you introduce classes was something like level 1 for Tier 4-6, level 3 for Tier 3, level 5 for Tier 2, level 7 for Tier 1?

Partysan
2011-04-05, 03:30 AM
What game would you recommend?

Burning Wheel comes to mind for using a learning-by-doing system that actually works, which of course is well suited to represent progress by training and exercise. (RuneQuest has this as well, but I have never played it so no idea how well it is implemented there.)
After that any skill-based system. GURPS is notable for having every spell as a single skill and higher level spells requiring the lower level spells they consist of (like needing create fire and control fire on a certain level to learn fireball) and for having combat maneuvers that can be trained as well. This is generally nicer than just training a generic skill. The Dark Eye could work as well but the system, while lovingly designed, is a bit clunky.
Using D&D might be possible if you use generic classes like in UA, working in ToB ans stuff or course, and then have your players gain empty levels (only BAB, saves and HP) and accumulate the points they save for their class features, so they can spend them when there's the opportunity to learn. You could even give discounts for better techings or allow self-teaching by books for a higher cost.

EccentricCircle
2011-04-05, 06:11 AM
thinking on this I wonder if you are better off trying to change the feel of the story rather than of the mechanics.
resticting classes can work, and I thought it was a great idea when i wrote my last post, but I reckon that a lot of the play style under discussion could be invoked by keeping the system mostly as it is. but giving the players less access to powerful magic items and such.
it has been mentioned that class is a metagame concept. you can easily play a commoner with five levels of monk, so long as you keep the mindset of the character consistent, don't always rush into a fight and roleplay the reluctant hero.

have each PC choose a profession, only train skills relevant to it and introduce magic sparingly as outlined a few times in this thread. level up as normall, but only allow skills that have been used or trained ingame to be increased.

the game would have less focus on the mechanical side of things and be more roleplaying heavy.

the players won't look at a dragon and think "ah its large, so that makes its CR9 therefore we can kill it lets go!" they will be thinking "oh my god its a dragon, its breathing fire and everything run for the hills!"
if they stand and fight they probably will be able to kill it. but they don't know that. the story lies in them realising that in order for their brother and his small children to get to safety someone is going to have to hold the dragon off.
willing to sacrifice their lives so the rest of the village can escape they stand and fight and if they win it is all the more epic for having been a struggle.

Mark Hall
2011-04-05, 10:31 AM
If I were to do something like this, I'd be more inclined to use d20 Modern or a skill/points system, rather than 3.5 or a similar system.

With d20 modern, you have people divided into archetypes of basic classes (the Tough guy, the Strong Guy, the Smart guy). When you want them to be able to do something new, you make a prestige class available.

With a points based system, you just give them occasional gobs of bonus points for specific things. "Ok, you get X bonus points, but they have to be spent on something related to Y." Your "I-want-to-be-a-wizard" might spend them on learning the spellcasting skill from the friendly wizard they just saved. Your fighter type might spend them on a magical sword the wizard gave him.

Tavar
2011-04-05, 10:49 AM
Yeah, a point based system would work much better than a level system for what you're describing.