View Full Version : Help - designing an NPC soldier class

2007-03-04, 04:54 PM
I'm not very experienced at designing custom classes, so wanted to get help from the people here.

After looking over the PC's versus army threads, my personal thought is that the fighter class does not fit your standard infantry soldiers very well. Primarily, fighters and their feat chains are primarily about individual enhancement. They do their thing by learning to kill monsters faster.

Fighters and most other PC classes fit in better with the nobility- they can afford the time for training, better equipment and its upkeep. This fits groups like medieval European knights, Japanese samurai. But both of those groups always had footmen and other infantry soldiers arround and supporting them on the battlefield. The footmen have less training, and a lot less armor to protect them. They are more concerned with just staying alive than winning honor and glory.

What I want to design is a class to represent your basic medium infantry soldier. A single soldier should pretty much always lose to a near-equal level fighter. But three soldiers should be able to defeat a fighter of the same level.

The primary inspiration is Roman legions and Greek phalanxes. Some of my idea is based on History channel and PBS shows, and others come from Harry Turtledove's Videssios novels. The basic combat focus should be on fighting defensively until enough friends join you to gang up on a single target.

Standard equipment should be a large tower shield, some form of stabbing weapon(short sword, spear, etc). Limiting myself for now to just core rules and classes, they should all have Expertise(take a penalty to attack to increase AC). Preffered action in combat should be 4 of them surrounding and flanking a single opponent, all fighting defensively. With flanking bonuses and the multiple attackers, they should start to quickly pick up lucky hits. Add in some AoO and feints, and things go faster.

I've seen some classes on here(city guards) that offer abilities for abilities that improve based on the number of people present with that ability. Probably take a reduced base attack progression for improved save progression?

The first idea that comes to mind is forming a shield wall- get minimum three allies together with large shields forming a physical barrier. They can still attack through the small gaps between shields, probably at some penalty. But the shield mates should be able to work together to block attacks on each other. Classical warfare is to disrupt or break through your opponents formations- if you can knock back or take out the guy in the middle, his neighbors suddenly become much more vulnerable. I'm not sure how to implement this in a balanced way.

Second, some way to represent fighting dirty? Few people are going to be the equal to an experienced soldier at dirty tricks. I can see something like an extension to basic feinting mechanisms- kick a clod of mud at his face. Then probably some sort of advantage to grappling or close range fighting- biting, gouging, strikes to vulnerable areas, things that they don't teach in polite circles.

Optional extra- formation fighting. Maybe treat as a feat? A phalanx is a shield wall with long spears/pikes, that moves together as a group. Anyone who comes within 10 feet gets an AoO from the outer line of spears. People within 5 feet would then get hit by the second row of spears. Those right against the shields may get a third row as well, depending on length of the spears. It would be horribly vulnerable to area effect spells though; maybe offer some sort of improved save based on the physical barrier of the massed shield wall? Would also need some sort of morale check to maintain formation, especially after taking damage/losses.

2007-03-04, 05:40 PM
Tower Shield does not equal Scutum. Tower Shields are not a very good mechanical representation.

Anywho, so you want to build some typical Infantry types?

Basically, you are going to be using the Warrior NPC Class. What I would recommend is then appending the necessary Feats as 'Bonuses' to build reasonable approximations.

So, in the case of one of Marius' Roman Soldiers. Don't use Point Buy or Elite Array or whatever, just assign stats as you feel appropriate. For my money that would be:

Strength 13
Dexterity 12
Consitution 12
Intelligence 10
Wisdom 10
Charisma 10

Representing physical conditioning during training.

Roman Legionary AB 1(3), AC 17, HP 5-9,
Str 13, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10,
Feats: Two Weapon Fighting (Bonus), Block Arrow (Bonus) Weapon Focus (Short Sword),
Skills: Climb 4(5), Jump 4(5), Swim 4(5),
Equipment: Mail Shirt, Heavy Shield, Short Sword, Dagger, Javelin (or Spear),

You could sub in Long Sword for Short Sword if you wanted, as blade length varied over time and by soldier. Other basic Feats, such as Combat Expertise and Power Attack are either unavailable or useless. Don't let that stop you, use Power Attack as it was written in 3.0 (i.e. applies to Light Weapons) and waive the 13 Int prerequisite for Combat Expertise. Improved Shield Bash should also be considered.
Also, consider making Weapon Focus apply to a group of weapons, as with Weapon Proficiency Groups. Try Weapon Proficiency (Roman Weapons) and Weapon Focus (Roman Weapons). It might be going a little far to allow Weapon Specialisation, however.

The long and short of it is that D&D does not model historical archetypes very well, primarily because of the way that Feats and Equipment interact with our conceptions of historical soldiery. Don't be afraid to go beyond the confines of the restrictions D&D RAW imposes, when it's something as trivial as a Dexterity 15 prerequisite for Two Weapon Fighting.

The Spear and Long Spear is going to a particular problem for trying to create Greek Hoplites; either create a special 'Hoplite Spear' or just admit that Spears and Long Spears should logically be useable in one hand, creating the appropriate Bonus Feat or just altering the rules.

2007-03-04, 07:20 PM
For Phalanx soldier builds, isn't there a feat from Complete Warrior designed specifically for shield-wielding groups?

2007-03-04, 08:05 PM
Yes, two: Phalanx Fighting and Formation Expert. There are also some other Shield Feats: Shield Charge and Shield Slam; the first is not too good, but the one it leads to is perfectly suited to a Roman Soldier Weapon and Shield style of fighting. There are also teamwork skills that can be found in Heroes of Battle.

2007-03-05, 02:48 AM
Well a shield wall would definitely work as cover. If you have 3 or more people with a certain size of shield (either tower or large, I dunno) they can group together and make a shield wall, so they have something like 20-50% cover to attacks coming from the front. Then you get like 100 of and shove spears through, a wizard fireballs it, and they all go up in a giant puff of 10d6 smoke.

2007-03-05, 03:28 AM
To model hoplites, like Matthew said, the simplest is to just let the spear & long spear be one-handed weapons. Alternatively, you could use a new sort of shield:

Hoplon: This large round shield, which extends out to the left of the wielder, is carried by heavy infantry who need both hands free for a spear or pike. A strap around the user's neck/shoulder carries most of the weight; the wielder's left arm is strapped to the shield, leaving the left hand free to support a long spear. The shield provides: +2 AC, -3 armor penalty, max dexterity +4; it also provides an additional +1 synergy bonus (stacks with other types) to AC for any ally occupying the square to the Hoplon-wielder's left.

In that same vein, here's a weapon & feat for late-medieval/renaissance pikemen:
Pike: This 12-18' weapon is essentially an extra-long spear, used by formations of infantry to great effect. It has extended reach of 15': a Pike-wielder can attack an enemy 3 squares away, but no closer. It requires 2 hands to wield at all. D6 damage, crit 19-20 x2. Deals extra damage when set to receive a charge.

Pikeman: The character is trained in the use of a longspear, pike or similar reach weapon. Prerequisite--weapon focus: Pike or Longspear. Benefit: The character may use a reach or extended reach weapon to attack through the squares in front of them if those squares are occupied by allies. Enemies threatened by such an attack take a -2 penalty to attack rolls. The character must either drop his weapon or use a full-round action to change his facing if using this feat.

2007-03-05, 11:52 AM
All good suggestions, thanks. I do like the hoplite shield, fits the flavor very well. To use a longer spear than normal in a single hand- maybe Monkey Grip fits the flavor? Or include a hook/spear rest into the design of the shield?

The later phalanx pretty much became the pike square- Alexandar the great switched his men to using longer spears and smaller shields. This made it a much more offensive formation. I think the Swiss mercenaries added bowmen in the third or fourth rank deep, to give them further combat ability.

The other advantage of pikemen, with thrusting weapons is you can pack a whole lot more spears together in a line than a group of individuals with other weapons. Each spear could still be used with a minimum of 2' horizontal room. Anyone who steps in front of there will be hit by a large number of AoO. But spellcasters shredding this sort of thing is a given.

Hmm, hide a couple of spellcasters in the middle of the tight formation? Three people with Invisibility 10' radius could cover a decent line of battle. And training at maintaining a constant marching pace should keep someone from stepping out of range of the spell. Could also just keep those spellcasters ready for counterspells?

Since area effect is the downfall of this formation, can it also be used advantageously? Cleric buff spells generally already have a fairly large range, so one casting of each should cover a large formation. I can't think of many off the top of my head, but there should be some barrier type spells as well, that could be kept a set distance from the caster. Perhaps design custom variants that effect more people than normal? Example: higher level version of Mirror Image that effects all allies within 10 feet at time of casting.

2007-03-05, 02:48 PM
Well, Monkey Grip probably isn't too great a solution, as all it will allow you to is have Characters use Large Short Spears One Handed with a -2 AB penalty. The way that the Spear family works in D&D makes things difficult to begin with and the 5' Square distribution makes close order formation even more problematic (as close order is more like a 3' Facing).

I have had a couple of goes at doing something about the Spear problem: Great Spear (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10996) and Simple Weapons (Alternative) (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=31637). Close Order Fighting and Close Quarter Fighting rules are also something I have been thinking about for D&D 3.x.

It is worth noting that we don't really know what Alexander's Phalanxes exactly looked like, whether they used Shields in combination with their Sarissas or exactly how long such weapons were. There is a lot of debate about whether it was in fact his father Philip II who introduced the reforms, but there is no agreement about what specifically they were.

I might be inclined to go with:

Greek Hoplite: Long Spear and Heavy Shield
Macedonian Pike Man: Great Spear and Buckler

Since the Home Brew Great Spear has 'Improved Reach' (15'), you could set it up like Polybius indicates, with three ranks levelling their spears (i.e. third rank threatens 5' in front of the Phalanx, second rank threatens 10' in front of the Phalanx, first rank threatens 15' in front of the Phalanx)

Putting them in close order would mean allowing two characters to occupy a 5' space; this might create versimillitude problems for assumptions about AC, but you could probably ignore them with little problem.

Magic, though, will screw up any attempt to represent historical troop formations; the best idea I can offer are the War Hammer type 'Magical Standards' that are warded against Fire Ball and Lightning Bolt type attacks. Friendly Spell Casters might also be useful for counter spelling, but it's not foolproof.