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- May 2009
[d20 Modern] D&D classes as d20 Modern builds: a re-re-envisioning
So, between my bouts of boredom, my unexpected delve into the d20 Modern rules (and particularly the Urban Arcana campaign setting), the itch to create well-explained builds like Tempest Stormwind and the Iron Chefs of Optimization, and puzzled at some of the choices done by the developers of UA, I decided to, as a thought experiment, make some builds that reflected the traits of the base D&D classes (and even some base classes out of the PHB) but using only official d20 Modern content (that includes the Core book, UA, Past, Future, Apocalypse and Dark*Matter).
I was partially inspired by this blog post, which shared this concern: some of the class mixes are somewhat unusual (read: illogical) to get closer in flavor to the original classes. Some classes got a boost through the builds, others were pre-emptively nerfed (everything that casts spells or manifests powers, BTW) and others miss some key abilities that, simply put, can't be replicated.
So, I'd like to hear your opinion on the following, and see if they're as close as possible:
Dev's suggestion: Tough Hero/Thrasher
Blogger's suggestion: the same. For a more Conan archetype, add Strong Hero and Archaic Weaponmaster
My suggestion: Strong Hero 3/Fast Hero 1/Thrasher 8/Tough Hero 3/Dreadnought 3
SpoilerI think we can all agree that Thrasher is meant to be the "urban Barbarian", as it has many of the class features: Ability Surge replacing Rage, Uncanny Dodge, damage reduction... The only thing that's missing is Fast Movement, which a dip in Fast Hero provides. Dreadnaught may seem a strange capstone, but it has the Barbarian's HD (d12), another form of Ability Surge (and this one is almost a carbon copy of Mighty Rage, what with the +8 bonus to Strength and the subsequent fatigue), plus its first 2 levels are nice. The build ends up with a huge bonus to Defense/AC (+12!), though it sacrifices BAB (14, if only because all other classes other than Strong Hero are medium BAB).
Dev's suggestion: Charismatic Hero/Negotiator or Charismatic Hero/Personality
Blogger's suggestion: Charismatic Hero/Glamourist/Mystic
My suggestion: Charismatic Hero/Telepath/Glamourist
Well, d20 Modern made a clear distinction between the powers granted to mages and psychics, and decided that the bulk of the Enchantment school would be the sole domain of the Telepath. Coincidentally, while the Bard has some attack spells and healing/buffing magic, the bulk of its spellcasting is mostly Enchantments and Illusions, so making the Bard a Mystic is just plain wrong (particularly as the one thing Bards and divine spellcasters share, the Cure spells, are inaccessible to Bards).
Strangely enough, Telepaths have a very close variety of powers that can easily replicate most Bard spells: most enchantments are there, a few attack powers that could be refluffed into sound-based powers (though dealing mental, not sonic, damage), a self-healing option and even one or two buffs. The rest is mostly worked through Charismatic Hero talents (the Inspiration talent line almost perfectly replicates Inspire Courage, and Glamourist helps you stack that) and the Glamourist's abilities.
Sadly, the Bard is one of the most complex classes to "port" into a build, if only because you'll have to sacrifice something.
Dev's suggestion: Dedicated Hero/Acolyte/Ecclesiarch
Blogger's suggestion: Dedicated Hero/Acolyte/Ecclesiarch
My suggestion: Dedicated Hero/Acolyte/Ecclesiarch
SpoilerYeah, anyone can easily see that's the path.
Acolyte requires some skills (like Listen...for some reason) that are available only on the Dedicated Hero skill list (unless you've arranged for them through your starting occupation). The Dedicated Hero also has many skills that are favorable for Acolytes, such as Faith and Healing Touch/Healing Knack 1 & 2. The Acolyte is your Cleric, except it's limited to 5th level spells (no 9th level spells) and it can turn more creatures than just undead. Ecclesiarch basically grants you more spell slots, lets you get CL 20th and turn as a 20th level Cleric, and a few moderate benefits; basically, it's the equivalent of taking the Hierophant PrC.
Dev's suggestion: Charismatic Hero/Strong Hero/Wildlord/Mystic
Blogger's suggestion: Charismatic Hero/Strong Hero/Wildlord/Mystic/Shapeshifter (Urban Arcana web enhancement)
My suggestion: Dedicated Hero 5/Shaman 10 (d20 Past)/Shapeshifter 5
SpoilerThis is a strange development, considering the linked blogger posted his suggestions by 2010...long after d20 Past was released. The developers had reasons why to work it this way: they hadn't released d20 Past (or the Web Enhancement for UA) yet, so they tried their best, and figured that they needed an Animal Companion and the ability to cast Divine Spells. It's still baffling why they didn't went for Acolyte (rather than Mystic), but...
However, the Shaman from d20 Past is definitely a Druid in heart and soul. It has spells of up to 5th level, divine and prepared-casting, and with most of the Druid's gems. It has an Animal Companion, and it has Spiritmeld, which is a poor-man's Wild Shape. It's pretty obvious the Shaman's heritage is to allow the Druid on the generic d20 setting, which begs the question of why the blogger skipped it.
Thus, the definite conclusion is to build up for Shaman, and then top it off with Shapeshifter for actual Wild Shape. Thus, the Druid build has Wild Empathy (and with the Dedicated Hero's Empathy talent, it has a better method of dealing with animals and others than a core Druid), Druid spellcasting, Wild Shape (including and not limited to A Thousand Faces, though it lacks Elemental Wild Shaping), a pretty decent Animal Companion (almost full strength compared to a Druid's one), and even some benefits like free Brew Potion.
Did I mention they get to Command or Rebuke Magical Beasts? Imagine if the D&D Druid had that...
Dev's suggestion: Strong Hero/Archaic Weaponmaster
Blogger's suggestion: Strong Hero/Archaic Weaponmaster/Shadow Hunter or Shadow Slayer
My suggestion: Strong Hero 4/Soldier 8/Archaic Weaponmaster 8
SpoilerWhile the suggestion of the developers of Urban Arcana is fair enough, the Soldier seems to inherit most of the Fighter's baggage as the definite warrior counterpart. Mixing Archaic Weaponmaster (WF, WS, Quick Draw, treat your weapons as magic weapons, Imp. Critical, deal non-lethal damage with weapons) with Soldier (WF, WS, GWS, Imp. Crit, Tactical Aid, +2 to initiative) gives you a slightly better Fighter than the D&D Fighter, allowing you to specialize with 2 weapons (one archaic, one being whatever you like; ranged is fair), using the Soldier's free WF feat to qualify for Archaic Weaponmaster and applying some of the latter's benefits into the former... Now, there's one reason why Tactical Aid is bolded: it's a cool move that allows you to grant a bonus to attack rolls or defense equal to your Int modifier (minimum +1) for half of your levels in Soldier. That means you, with 8 levels of Soldier, can grant [Int mod.] bonus to attack rolls or Defense for up to 4 rounds, an excellent opening buff for your party. That alone makes this iteration of the Fighter strictly better than the original, even if it sacrifices BAB and feats for it (it still reaches BAB +16, the holy grail of physical combat).
Dev's suggestion: Strong Hero/Martial Artist
Blogger's suggestion: Strong Hero/Martial Artist/Martial Arts Master (Modern Player's Companion, a 3rd-party book) or Dedicated Hero/Gentle Warrior (Modern Player's Companion)/Martial Arts Master
My suggestion: Strong Hero 3/Fast Hero 3/Martial Artist 8/Shadow Slayer 4/??
SpoilerI read the Gentle Warrior, and sadly, it doesn't convince me. Martial Artist focuses mostly on the physical combat aspect of the Monk; if you've seen Shiba Protector, you can expect what to see from a Martial Artist (except no Wisdom modifier to damage). The levels in Fast Hero are there for the Evasion and Fast Movement, while the 8 levels of Martial Artist are there for the Flurry of Blows effect and dealing maximum damage with your fists.
However, the Monk needs some of its supernatural flair. I could have gone with Battle Mind if I wanted to, but I respectfully declined. Thus, I chose Shadow Slayer to add some additional benefits. First and foremost, any weapon held by the character can pretty much literally be turned into a magic weapon temporarily (specifically, with 4 levels of Shadow Slayer, into a +2 weapon for up to 4 rounds), including your fists. You also get a Detect Evil-esque ability to detect "creatures of Shadow" and DR/class level against the attacks of Shadow creatures. Considering Shadow Slayer is pretty much giving anyone Buffy's powers as a Slayer (pun intended), it makes for a decent bit.
As for the last two levels: you could complete Martial Artist for its capstone (not that good), or get into Shadow Slayer 6 and net some additional benefits ("enchant" your weapons into +3 weapons for 6 rounds, get Favored Enemy against 1 kind of creature). Likewise, if you miss Wholeness of Body, you could get into Tough Hero (for the Second Wind talent) or Battle Mind (the latter for the Lesser Body Adjustment power).
You miss a few of the upper-tier powers (immunities to poison and disease, Dim Door 1/day, Quivering Palm, Empty Body) but you still retain some of the low-level powers. If you want to have Stunning Fist, you can choose to get the Nerve Pinch feat from d20 Future, which works exactly the same but at-will...so as long as you're willing and capable of taking AND dodging an AoO. Also, no Wis to Defense/AC, but you get FULL BAB. I kid you not: if you take the last two levels in Martial Artist or Shadow Slayer, you're getting one of the few official builds in d20 Modern that has full BAB. Nor the Barbarian, nor the Fighter, nor the Paladin, nor the Ranger have full BAB; only the Monk expy.
Can you believe that?
Dev's suggestion: Strong Hero/Archaic Weaponmaster/Holy Knight
Blogger's suggestion: Strong Hero/Archaic Weaponmaster/Holy Knight
My suggestion: Strong Hero 3/Field Officer 5/Holy Knight 5/Tough Hero 3/Dreadnought 2/??
SpoilerYou all know that the Paladin is my favorite class, so you might expect it to be decent, no? My surprise to see that the Paladin is one of the few Prestige Classes to exist in d20 Modern, as the Holy Knight! In 5 levels, you get the ability to Detect Evil, Smite Evil, Lay on Hands, Turn Undead, Divine Grace, and above all, spellcasting (up to 3rd level spells, which would be basically half-spellcasting), with full BAB and good Fort/Will.
Now, while Advanced Classes are designed to be easily accessible at 3rd level, Prestige Classes require you to take levels in both Basic and Advanced Classes, and the earliest point of access is at level 8. The given suggestion, simply put, will lead you nowhere. In fact, that was one of the questions asked to one of the developers (not sure if it was James Jacobs), and his answer was that you needed to take a specific Occupation (Law Enforcement) to achieve its bizarre requirements: Diplomacy and Gather Information?
What both the developer and the blogger neglected to mention was that, in the very same Urban Arcana sourcebook, there was one method to reach full BAB AND have Diplomacy and Gather Information as class skills by level 8, which is Street Warrior. However, the class features it offers don't really make for a good Paladin character.
Thus, I ended up with another option that offers full BAB, Diplomacy and Gather Information as class skills, good amount of skill points per level, AND doesn't necessarily force you to take Law Enforcement as an occupation: Field Officer, from d20 Future. The best part about this Advanced Class is that its class features are closer to what you'd expect a Paladin to be than the Street Warrior could ever hope for: Leadership lets you add your Charisma modifier or your Reputation bonus in place of aid another (and within distance, to boot; at 5th level, you add BOTH modifiers), Tactical Expertise grants allies the same bonus a Soldier grants, but using your Reputation bonus instead, and Uncanny Survival is a 1/day boost to Defense. And, since the Strong hero offers Knowledge (tactics) as a class skill, the only thing you need is a way to get Diplomacy as a class skill, of which you get several options through Occupations (Celebrity, Entrepreneur and White Collar on the Core rulebook; Novitiate in Urban Arcana).
As for the levels in Tough Hero and Dreadnaught? Well, Tough Hero nets you a few extra d10s, a few talents to improve your toughness (such as the effect of the Diehard feat, extra HP and/or damage reduction), and you need 2 talents to become a Dreadnaught, which grants you Fearless (a way to replicate half of your Aura of Courage). Tough Hero, Field Officer and Dreadnaught all grant access to the Armor Proficiency feats, so you can end up with proficiency in Heavy Armor (and if your GM goes wild, proficiency with POWERED Armor). The only thing you lose is the Special Mount, since there's no way to get one at all; I would have loved to have a motorcycle as a special mount, in fact. As for the final 2 levels...go wild. This build gets BAB 16 by 18th level, so it's basically whether you want more Tough Hero levels, more Dreadnaught levels or more Field Officer levels (or more Strong Hero levels, too).
BTW: I'm currently playing d20 Modern with one of my friends, and I'm trying to get my character into Holy Knight. He'll use a...very different method of entry (Tough Hero 3/Thrasher 3/Street Warrior 3/Holy Knight 5/Bodyguard 1/Thrasher 5+), which is why I mentioned Street Warrior in the first place.
Dev's suggestion: Strong Hero/Wildlord
Blogger's suggestion: Charismatic Hero/Tough Hero/Mystic/Survivalist (Modern Player's Companion)
My suggestion: Dedicated Hero 3/Shaman 6/Shadow Hunter 2/Tough Hero 1/Fast Hero 1/Tracer 1/Gunslinger 3/Frontier Marshal 3 (d20 Past)
SpoilerHaaaah! Yes, this chimeric monster is what I've figured works closer to a Ranger. I feel it could be done better.
The levels in Shaman are, obviously, to grant them some spellcasting ability and a reasonable animal companion, as while the Wildlord grants an animal companion, the two doesn't seem to stack. The level in Fast Hero is for Evasion, and the levels in Gunslinger are to get into Frontier Marshal, which leaves only the levels in Tough Hero, Tracer, Shadow Hunter and Frontier Marshal.
The Tracer and Frontier Marshal levels exist to grant the Ranger build its favored enemies. The Tracer has Target Species, which is Favored Enemy but with the added benefit of shifting the target species. You also get Urban Tracking, so a Ranger can choose to track on wilderness and urban settings. Frontier Marshal is there for its other Favored Enemy, which works exactly as its namesake but applying also to specific organizations or groups rather than species as a whole (and you can't change your Favored Enemy until you exterminate them all). The Tough Hero level is for Second Wind, which is another necessary requirement for entering Frontier Marshal. Finally, Shadow Hunter is there for the Swift Track benefit, and also because Target Bonus works somewhat like Favored Enemy, except for the reduced bonus (+1 instead of +2), the wider list of skills the bonus applies to, and that the bonus applies to attack rolls rather than damage rolls).
So yeah: extremely complex, not capable of reaching BAB +16 (pretty close, tho; BAB +13), but it has just about everything else.
Dev's suggestion: Fast Hero/Infiltrator
Blogger's suggestion: Fast Hero/Infiltrator/Unseen Hand (Modern Organizations: Crime and Punishment, another 3rd-party book)
My suggestion: Fast Hero 5/Gangster 10 (d20 Past)/Infiltrator 5
SpoilerAh, d20 Past; where I'd be without you? This book solved 3 of the builds pretty easily, and even helped on a fourth! This is exactly what happened with the Druid; d20 Past hadn't been released, the developers tried their best to fit the Rogue, the blogger pretty much ignored d20 Past and went straight for 3rd-party supplements to fill in. Now, I've never seen the Unseen Hand, but I figure it'd make a cool Ninja of sorts. Rogue, though? It ain't.
Which leads to, of all things, the Gangster. The Gangster is meant to be entered through the Tough hero basic class, but most of the class features are traditional Rogue mainstays: Opportunist, Crippling Strike, and last but not least, Sneak Attack. You only get 3 dice of Sneak Attack, but it's one of the few ways to actually get extra damage: d20 Modern is pretty stingy with it. Between the Gangster and the Fast Hero, you get most of the Rogue's nifty tools.
So, what with the Infiltrator? At first, the class features it offers by no means aid the Rogue build (aside from Improvised Implements, that is), but at 4th and 5th level you see some other Rogue mainstays, namely Imp. Evasion and Skill Mastery. Thus, with those last two, you only miss Trapfinding (which isn't necessary because Disable Device is actually awesome in d20 Modern) and Trap Sense. In fact, this build is the closest thing to the original build than you'll ever get! 2 points shy of BAB +15, but you get a MASSIVE bonus to Defense, which actually makes going to the front lines a viable choice.
Dev's suggestion: Smart Hero/Mage/Archmage
Blogger's suggestion: Charismatic Hero/Adept (Modern Player's Companion)
My suggestion: Charismatic Hero 5/Sorcerer 10 (d20 Past)/Archmage 5
SpoilerI tell you, d20 Past is a life-saver! The Adept class from MPC is pretty cool, and it has Charisma-based spontaneous spellcasting (IIRC, no familiar tho). That said, the Sorcerer ALSO gets it, and some nice stuff to boot!
The Sorcerer gets 5th level arcane spellcasting, but it also nets you some draconic powers, as while D&D is very vague with it, d20 Past RAN with the suggestion. In fact, one of the powers they get is the ability to breathe fire, not to mention drawing draconic wings. Archmage, as you'll see with the Wizard, boosts your spellcasting in the same way Ecclesiarch does with divine spellcasting, so you end up with more spells and full CL. Compared to the core Sorcerer, this one is far, far more powerful...though, admittedly, the equivalent of playing a Sorcerer 10/Dragon Disciple 10.
Dev's suggestion: Smart Hero/Mage/Archmage
Blogger's suggestion: Smart Hero/Mage/Archmage
My suggestion: Smart Hero 5/Mage 10/Archmage 5
SpoilerReally, it's as straightforward as you see. The Mage IS the D&D Wizard turned into a 10-level class, and the Archmage boosts the Mage's power in a way much like the Archmage PrC does to the Wizard. The Mage gets a familiar, free Combat Casting and some metamagic abilities, and even some free Item Creation abilities (Scribe Scroll and Brew Potion). They don't get 9th level spells, though, so breathe safely; that said, most 6th to 9th level spells are Incantations, and guess what they need the most? Something that Mages get easily, and that Archmage simplifies!
So, whaddya think? Are they fair enough, or could they be better? Note that the overall power of d20 Modern characters is weaker than that of D&D, though it all oddly balances out (particularly when you add modern weaponry such as rocket launchers, grenade launchers and actual grenades in play) melee and magic-using.
If I get some time, I'll post my suggestions for Artificer, Favored Soul, Lurk, Marshal, Psychic Warrior, Soulknife and Swashbuckler.