A Walk in the Dark A look in to the mind of an RPG designer


Class Acts

Who knew that designing an RPG was HARD?!?

In the past few days I've stepped away from documenting mutations, augments and other weird stuff and tried to decide exactly what classes were going to be in this thing.

This is, this is not a magical world, or at least not in the way you're familiar with. But I would like some sort of arcane-like option, so I've come up with a class I called a "channeler" which - through technology or innate power unlocked by mutation - can manipulate elemental forces. Apparently bright minds think alike because, without me knowing, that name is used in several other post-apocalyptic RPGs... So the name might change just so I don't look like I copied it. Who knows?

I also wanted something similar to a psion, who gains his power from technology's ability to increase the power of the mind. This power is mostly manifested in psychic attacks but can also affect the environment in such ways. This could open up the possibilities of things like telekinesis, clairvoyance, domination and fun things like that. For now he's called a "controller" but that will most definitely change.

That being said, these are the classes I'm currently planning:

  • Berserker: The stereotypical wasteland marauder, like all those guys in Mad Max. Right now it's functionally identical to the 13th Age barbarian.
  • Channeler: Able to manipulate elemental energy and bend the laws of physics around him. As close to a mage as you can get (probably closer to the 13th Age sorcerer than wizard).
  • Controller: Able to attack and control the minds of others, and also has some other options such as telekinesis. Basically a psion, although I have no intention of implementing power points or any complex stuff like that. My only problem with this class is that it becomes effectively useless against things without a brain, like robots. Logically that makes sense but mechanically it's no fun to be in an encounter and not able to participate in any way, so I need to come up with something they can do when they're fighting robots.
  • Engineer: The "tech savvy" class. I'm modeling this around a ranger but giving them a few tech options. For example, instead of an animal companion they can get either an autonomous robotic companion or a drone (which is the equivalent of a wizard's familiar). They aren't so hot in hand-to-hand combat, but they have a lot of tech support to back them up in a fight.
  • Scout: Like the veteran (see below), but much lighter and not so much a weapons expert. This would be somewhat of a hybrid between ranger and rogue.
  • Veteran: The "warrior" of the game, a mix of the paladin (without the religious aspects) and fighter. You've been around, and you've seen it all. A true weapon and combat expert.

I'm also debating a rogue-like "scoundrel" class, but that's still up in the air.


My intention with these classes is to make them basic and, especially in the case of the veteran, fairly generic. If you want to specialize your character, you can choose a Profession (which takes up a feat slot); for example, here are some of the Professions I have in mind:

  • Gladiator: The kind of guy you'd see in Thunderdome. Proficiency with melee weapons.
  • Soldier: Proficiency with guns (except sniper rifles)
  • Sniper: Proficiency with sniper rifles
  • Hacker: Able to infiltrate computer systems and robotics using a handheld "deck". This is the rogue of the tech world.
  • Wheelman: Expert driver. You even get your own car!
  • Field Medic: The closest thing to being a cleric. Basically the party healer.

These professions can be used in conjunction with any class. So, since there is no class that is the equivalent of a cleric, any character can take the Field Medic profession and become one. And if you want a channeler that can use a gun, you can choose the Weapons Expert profession and there you go.

More Than Rewording

Right now my primary issue is that things feel far too similar to 13th Age, but I'm not exactly sure if that's a good or a bad thing. For example, my implementation of the berserker is almost identical to the 13th Age barbarian. And the spells my channeler has are very similar to wizard or sorcerer spells, with some names changed... and some not (how many ways can you describe "fireball" anyway?).

Part of the benefit of using what's already given and re-fluffing it is that what's already in 13th Age has been tested for balance and playability. I don't have to reinvent the wheel and hold it's load bearing.

My hope is that the basics of the game remain the same, using the same mechanic that everyone is already familiar with, and adding more diversity through Professions and Mutations.Because of how many options there are going to be I'm debating increasing the number of feats you get at 1st level by one, but I'm not exactly sure what that's going to do to balance.

I also intend to have races have more of an impact than they do in 13th Age.

Lepus Sapiens

In the end, anyone can be anything they want. You pick the class and profession that's functionally what you want to be, then layer on mutations (small ones or big, feat-using ones) to make you appear like what you want to be.

For example, you want to be a giant rabbit with a gun?

  • Race: Humanoid. Get one extra feat and the Ready for Action ability (roll two d20s for initiative).
  • Class: Veteran. I haven't decided on the Class Talents yet, but you get three of them.
  • Profession (Feat): Soldier, which gives you the weapon of your choice that is considered your "signature weapon". You choose an assault rifle, like an M4. You get a +1 to attack rolls with your signature weapon and you also get the Quick Reload feat (reload as a quick action instead of a move action) for free.
  • Feat (2nd feat granted by race):  Nervous System I augment, which grants +2 to Dex skill checks and +1 to initiative. After all, you're supposed to be quick... You are a rabbit!

The fact that you're a rabbit is flavor text; it has no mechanical impact. Now, if you want to have a complex mutation just for being a rabbit, like being able to jump really far, you would replace the augment with it and come to a mutual understanding with your GM as to how and when that can be used. It doesn't have to be a highly detailed mechanic... If you're in combat and say "I want to jump", let the GM decide how to handle it right then and there.

Anyway, all this still requires a crapton of work and still may change drastically by the time I'm done. And I haven't even started to think about the 800 pound gorilla in the room: creating a crapton of monsters that won't get me sued.

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