Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Continuing Thought on Uniform Progression

Continuing my thoughts from the original post, I had what at first seemed a crazy idea. I was looking at my Advancement Tables, seeing how best to massage them into uniformity, and something jumped out at me: Survivors should have the best Hit Dice.

Now, I know that my loyal if imaginary readers will gasp in horror at this obscene notion. It is akin to suggesting that, in AD&D, Fighters receive d6 Hit Dice and Thieves receive d10. Ridiculous, you say.

And so said I at first. But the more I thought on it, the more it makes sense. Slayers are good at killing things. They should have the best Attacks. But killing things is not exactly the same as avoiding injury, even if they do bleed over into each other from a practical perspective. Survivors, on the other hand are good at...surviving. And that seems to mean Hit Dice.

But I'm not content to rest upon the tawdry glories of making sense. Not while there is work in the real world to avoid. So, I thought some more. During my last attempt at producing an old-school Thief class that I would want to play, a poster named Yakk tossed off some very elegant ideas based upon the idea of the Thief being slippery. Although I don't want to use those ideas as such (good though they are), they bring up the excellent point of the Thief being hard to get. There are basically two ways to play that in Spellcraft & Swordplay: either give them the ability to penalize attacks on them (in other old-school games, that would be a bonus to Armour Class, but not in S&S) or increase Hit Points.

I could see either as a workable option. I play Hit Points as encompassing a whole bunch of things other than actual wounds, including dodging and luck. The "penalty to others" option (which has no name in S&S, but which I call Defense) treads much the same area. Indeed, there are times that I think about dropping Defense entirely and making the game that much more abstract: Hit Point would represent whatever the hell you want them to represent until you run out of them at which point it really doesn't matter because you are dead. Being tougher means more Hit Points, but being harder to hit also means more Hit Points. So does being luckier.

However, let's keep Defense for now. There is one real difference between Hit Points and Defense--the latter doesn't help you at all in Saving Throw situations, while the former often can. That is, when you fall into that classic pit trap, say, Defense is useless. But since it does Hit Point damage, having better Hit Points is useful here and can be narrated as abstractly as combat if you like ("you twist out of the way, but strain yourself" or even "you twist out of the way. It's exhausting, but you aren't spitted").

As written, Warriors possess Defense and are the only class to have it. I could easily see giving some version to Survivors. But given the above consideration, I'm thinking that better Hit Dice may be the way to go.

Still not satisfied, I made up a little spreadsheet, ranking the three classes and their relative strengths in the following categories: Hit Dice, Attacks, Arms Use, Armour Use, and a catch-all for Special Abilities. Having the best of something gives a "3"; the worst gives a "0".

Now, let's grant that this is not in any sense precise. Perhaps the better Special Abilities of the Survivor are relatively more better than the Hit Dice of the Slayer (yes: more better). Fine. But I noticed something interesting nevertheless: if we switch the Hit Dice to give Survivors the best (a "3"), the numbers change like this:

The Slayer and the Survivor are much better balanced (yes: balanced).

of course, Sorcerers aren't, but then they never are really. Sorcery is probably worth a 5 or something anyway, but I'm not going to worry about that.

Thus, exhausted, but proud, I come to this firm conclusion: I might give Survivors better Hit Dice than Slayers.


  1. Here's what I do in Gods & Monsters: everyone gets d10 "survival points" at odd levels; they get d10 "verve" at even levels. Survival are exactly like hit points. Verve are exactly like hit points *when doing something archetypal*. So warriors get to use verve for hit points when fighting. Thieves get to use verve for hit points when doing thief things (failing a climb walls roll, for example); for thieves all rolls against agility (dexterity) are "thief things". This means that thieves always get to use verve as hit points when they are trying to evade something.