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D&D 3E
Thinking of building a class. 
6th-Aug-2007 12:55 am
Man, I hate to bug y'all, but I'm thinking of building a class for my setting based off of the Casseline Brotherhood in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series. If you have read it, awesome, but I hadn't even heard of it until my girlfriend tossed the first book at me, so if you haven't, I bring you wikipedia articles for reference. This one is on the brotherhood itself. This one is the character who's in it, who is a total badass.

What I humbly ask for help on is figuring out how to start building it. They're priests, yes, but they're religious in the way a religious order of knights would be, so more pali than cleric. They are mostly two weapon fighters (daggers only, in the book, but I might allow short sword, too), but are amazingly good with a longsword. So ranger isn't precisely a good starting point, either, and I'm not decided yet on how I'd feel about them having magic. No heavy armor, though, and no shields, generally. They make up for it with heavy steel bracers (will add them to equipment, +1 AC--for the pair, not each--like a shield, feats and class abilities making it even more effective). I just can't figure out a starting point, you know?

At the same time, I realize that this might be better as a prestige. However, I'm in love with the whole idea of this class, and would like to import it more or less intact. They start the training at ten years old, so perhaps a prestige would cause a loss of flavor. I don't know. Just kind of brainstorming, I guess. Any input is, as always, greatly appreciated.
Comments 
6th-Aug-2007 08:39 am (UTC) - some ideas...
I don't know the books, but my advice would be to look at the other classes first to find a way to either fit this character concept into one of them or to find out, how you can make this class balanced.

If you go for a new class and you want it to have very good attack bonuses, saves and maybe even magic (think about this one first!):
- restrict the choice of weapons (only daggers and swords?)
- restrict the class further by a code of conduct, that makes them loose some of their special abilities, when they mess up
- give the class two-weapon fighting as a class feature, but restrict it to daggers
do NOT give them all of their 'badass' abilities at once, but
- give the class weapon focus (longsword) at second level and open up the possibility of taking further specializations as feats
in general, try not to outshine other classes with this one, but let the class grow into the whole concept
- you could also give them an AC Bonus, similar to the monk's (but granted by their deity/ powered by their faith)
- you could give the class a fighting style similar to those in the Complete Warrior
- and at a (much) later level you could also fit in the terminus, like the assassins death attack (of course, since the person who uses it, will die as well, it's not that powerful, but the possibility adds flavour and makes room for great roleplaying)

I don't know if this will help you... but in my opinion the way of making a class work is to look at the other classes and to try to balance it - for each special ability you give the class you have to find a way to restrict it and in the end, the real way of making a character badass is not class abilities, but the way you portray the character.
6th-Aug-2007 04:17 pm (UTC) - Re: some ideas...
Good, sound advice, and I thank you for it.

Most of what you said, I'm already looking to do, but you think I should go for an AC bonus like a monk? I could see it, although I was thinking something more like Two-Weapon Defense as a starting point, because a lot of the fighting style in the books involves using the daggers and bracers to deflect attacks.

Yeah, I still don't know what to do with the terminus. It's just so cool, and really jives with the bodygaurd flavor, you know? I mean, killing yourself is easy (I assume, anyway, that you could do it as a coup de gras); the hard part's killing your charge. I don't know, honestly. I might just not make it an ability at all.
6th-Aug-2007 11:40 am (UTC)
i gotta run to work so i don't really have time to read the articles right now. from what you posted here's a quick take:

take a paladin, drop the hit die to d8, lose the heavy armor and shield proficiency, add in the rangers dual weapon fighting abilities, weapon focus dagger at first level and weapon focus longsword at level three.
6th-Aug-2007 12:18 pm (UTC)
That looks good to me... also, come up with a spell tree that's appropriate to the source material, rather than straight Paladin or Ranger.
6th-Aug-2007 03:46 pm (UTC)
yeah, good one. and if they don't get spells bump the hit die back up to d10.
6th-Aug-2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
Sounds about like what I was thinking, just couldn't decide which class to use as my working base, you know? What I'm thinking here is something like:

-d10 HD (d8 if I get off my butt and work out a spell list, like colin says)
-BAB as fighter
-Good Reflex and Fort., poor Will
-Proficient with light and medium armor, no shields
-Proficient with simple and martial weapons
-Feats mixed in somewhere: Two Weapon Fighting (and its entire tree, icluding Two Weapon Defense), Weapon focus (Longsword) without specialization to keep the fighters special, and a few feats/abilities reflecting dualist type fighting, close combat fighting, and bodygaurd skill. Maybe shield other, maybe some form of evasion down the line.
-Skills as a paladin.

It seems like a lot, ability-wise, but I'm sure a fighter could absorb all of those feats pretty easily, too.

Once I get this built, it will be a culture specific class for one of the human races in the setting. Not that other races couldn't take it, but they'd have to have been trained by the main body that grants the class. Sound cool? I'm debating giving every race a special class of some sort, though for the others I'm thinking of just granting alternate versions of standard classes (Unearthed Arcana variants, substitution levels, that kind of thing) to add to flavor.
6th-Aug-2007 12:24 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, but that certainly seems like a Prestige Class. Yes, they may start training at the age of ten, but being a class wouldn't fit that either - you can always change what class you are, after all, so there wouldn't be a difference between it being a Prestige class or a Paladin switching to that class at level 7.

Creating a Prestige Class is far more simple than creating a base class - especially since the two classes most similar to this are very front heavy to begin with and that's EXACTLY the type of thing one should avoid in a base class.
6th-Aug-2007 04:34 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I see what you mean, and that's kind of what I was thinking, too. Plus, prestige classes are more flavor-heavy and can grant abilities like crazy as long as the reqs are right.

I think the kind of thing one should avoid when making a class is better summed up in monks, who are, I think, simply ridiculous with all of their abilities and bonuses. Rangers and Paladins have problems, yeah, but monks just seem silly.
6th-Aug-2007 05:52 pm (UTC)
I'm standing by my assertion that this CANNOT be a prestige class if you ever want it to make sense for a character (unless of course you beat out all the resemblance to Carey's books, in which case do as you will). The whole basis for the Cassilines is that they are expert fighters with amazing reflexes precisely because they have been trained since they were ten. Unless you want to pull an Alia here and have a character absorbing levels before he/she is born, there's just no way you could feasibly have a character entering this as a prestige class.
6th-Aug-2007 03:18 pm (UTC)
Don't do it.

Seriously, don't even try. You can't encapsulate the class abilities in a fair way at low character level.

At the beginning of the book, Jocelin is a _VERY_ compentent fighter, well beyond that of the city guard, yet is first level. To put it mechanically, in DnD terms, a 1st level Casseline Brother would out-pace a 5th levle Warrior with ease, and that just doesn't make sense in-world.

If you insist, I'd use the Swordsage class as a base, and fix its problems. (It should have a decent recovery method -- Crusaders auto-refresh, and Warblades recover with a swift action in a round they use no maneuvers (but can still attack). Swordsages should recover, IMO, with a Move action.)

Focus on Tiger Claw (daggers) and something reasonable for the the sword use. (and, quite frankly, the BS about Casselines never drawing their sword but to kill makes no sense. HOW DO THEY TRAIN?)

Consider taking some of the Class abilities from d20 Modern's Bodyguard advanced class ( http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=d20/article/msrd ) as a feat (like Harm's Way), and that should work.


---

Paladium's Heroes Unlimited TRIED to do something like this -- they had a hero class called the Ancient Master, who essentially started as a normal character who got the full martial advancement of a max-level character at first level (which is what Casseline's essentially get, storywise). The character design is exceedingly buff at first level, but it equalized as levels increased. It didn't really work, as the character either was overpowering at low level, or not particularly special (as they didn't get much else) as other character types improved significantly with level.
6th-Aug-2007 04:48 pm (UTC)
Well, yeah, that was the problem I raised when I had the conversation with my girlfriend, who then gave me this as a challenge (this one seemed easier than trying to make a decent Night Court class or prestige, honestly).

Trying to translate Josceline into D&D terms, though, he is a) a PC, basically, and thus better at things than NPCs, including the idea that most people in the books would be NPC classed (including Melisande, although you could steal the Aristocrat class from Wheel of Time for her), b) has been training more than ten years and probably is higher level than 1, anyway, and c) has pretty good ability scores, more than likely.

I'm thinking that most of the Casseline awesomeness should be spaced out over more levels, so yeah, they won't be quite as powerful so young, but will be with levels and experience. I'm really trying not to frontload the class, and since this isn't a Terre D'Ange setting I'm writing, I've got to worry more about adapting the Brotherhood to D&D than working the system around the Brotherhood. I mean, yeah, it's a hell of a task, but I think it's doable. Thanks for the advice and tips for ability theivery, though. It'll save me a lot of time pouring over texts.

Honestly, I agree with you on the sword thing, and I think they might all have been lying. Josceline is too badass with a sword to have never drawn it before. I mean, unless they train intensively with wooden swords or something, but they never mention it. Odd folks, these Casselines.
6th-Aug-2007 05:56 pm (UTC)
I believe the idea is that they never draw their swords once they've left the Brotherhood and been assigned.

Joscelin's abilities make perfect sense if you treat practice bouts as actual combat. Doesn't exp kinda operate on the idea that doing something makes you better at it, especially if your life depends on you doing it right? Practice bouts, then, would yield less exp than actual combat, but more than just, say, sleeping all day. So Joscelin would be higher than level 1. Plus, he gets outmaneuvered the first time he's out with Phedre (Childric d'Essoms, remember?), and he obviously improves as the story progresses.

</fangirl>
6th-Aug-2007 11:35 pm (UTC)
I've not read the actual stuff, but from the comments the problem appears to be similar to that seen in other material.
The only way I could really see something that is supposed to be that good at first level is to give it an equivalent of racial traits-making it a +X level "race"; then have the class which develops from it have a restriction of being that race only.
As an interesting side someone could potentially be taught techniques from the group, ie taking levels in the class, but without that training-from-birth stuff would never reach the same place as someone of the "race". Although that should probably be only available as part of a story (whether due to player interactions or "plot").
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