Saturday, July 11, 2009

d20 with no class?

Yes, my headline does lend itself to many obvious slams, but this isn't another e-skirmish in the Edition Wars.

I've been thinking about my campaign idea I call "The Sundered Veil" or Sundered for short. In a nutshell a science experiment run amok punches a hole between this world and the one that the beings of myth and lore retreated to after the Milesian Accords. This breaks the accords, allowing these beings and magic to enter the world. For some reason when they enter a large chunk of mankind vanishes. Oh, and did I mention there was a global EMP when the rupture occurred? Bye bye digital age.

A quick comparison would be a cross between the various urban fantasy novels of Charles de Lint and Ariel - A Book of the Change. My mental vision for this is a nomadic druid on an antiquated Harley with a sword and a shotgun riding through a foggy countryside.

With my recent experimentation (and so far success) with my a la carte adaptations of 4e and Star Wars Saga, I've been mulling a Modern d20 adaptation, taking good math from 4e and the basics of Md20 and combining them. As I contemplated this, it occurred to me the system might be ideal for Sundered.

When I tackle a game system, I tend to think about character generation first. Even though I liked the Md20 classes, each based on a Characteristic, I realized I could entirely eliminate classes and just keep the Characteristic associated talent trees. By maintaining prerequisites in the talent trees I could mitigate cherry-picking. The hardest part of an a la carte system versus the level framework is balance. I saw that when my players converted their Star Wars characters and heavily invested where they could get the most bang for the buck. A good GM rule is that if players really want something you've ruled against, odds are you did the right thing.

In my other a la carte conversions I still kept classes for character creation purposes. Players built a first level character, using the changes I had put in like having separate skill ranks instead of universal skill progression and having weapon skills instead of attack bonuses. Then they advanced the characters in the new a la carte advancement until they ran out of xp to spend.

In Sundered, I can just give the players the numbers for starting stats, skills, feats and talents and go from there. Seeing as the characters are the "new heroes" of the new age, or at least will be eventually, I can be as generous as 4e in attributes and make sure they have enough hit points that the first goblin with a pointy stick doesn't end their heroic careers. The trickiest part will be magic, which I'm thinking I will do as a self-contained module so that the new core system is easily ported to different settings.

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