ACKS + E6 with Generic Classes for historical games

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Kiero
Domains At War Backer
Joined: 2013-04-26 07:13
ACKS + E6 with Generic Classes for historical games

The title is the best summary I could figure for my collected "heresy" that takes significant liberties with ACKS as my starting point and base. I've used ACKS for historical games before, with some significant hacking and I keep coming back to the same thing: the core system is perfect for the level of pace and detail I want in an RPG for a historical game. The fact that it also easily plugs into Domains@War is an added bonus.

I started with a game set in antiquity (circa 300BC), but I've also got in mind 18th or 19th century shenanigans (with Guns of War). The latter period makes armour mostly irrelevant, but adds guns. However, I see no reason why this couldn't work equally well for a medieval/Renaissance setting more akin to regular D&D's assumptions.

I should preface this by listing my heresies, so that the objective is clearer:

  • There's no magic or monsters, this is for straight historical games. The closest to magic is retaining the prophecy-related Proficiencies, because that's always a source of amusement.
  • No XP. There's no giving or tracking it, characters level whenever is deemed appropriate. As such, all classes need to be balanced for the same XP progression.
  • Chargen is non-random; you pick from either a Standard Array (14, 13, 12, 10, 8, 7) or Elite Array (16, 15, 14, 13, 11, 8), assign as you like, then add 2 points.
  • All characters are assumed to "start" as a Normal Man, with a class level being an advancement on that. 1st level characters are more capable as a result. It also means there is the option to start a campaign at "0th level" and have the PCs choose their proper class later. I'm assuming three potential starting points for characters: 0th level, 1st level or 3rd level.
  • Level progression caps at 5th or 6th level (undecided which so far). There are no more levels after that point, so that even the most experienced character is not wildly divergent from a normal person. I'm musing on capping hit dice progression at 3rd level, so it's only +1/+2 hit points for the remaining ones (especially given level-based hit dice are in addition to the d6 from 0th level).
  • Instead of the proliferation of classes, where everyone picks just one for that character forever, there are only three: Warrior, Expert and Scholar, which are modular.
  • Multiclassing is available, I've got a good notion of how that will work from the way later editions do it. This is where the customisation comes, instead of choosing a class, you build your own as you go. You won't get all the features of a new class just by "dipping" a single level. Obviously this creates the Character Level/Class Level distinction.
  • Proficiencies drive a lot of the customisation, my list is revised. 0th level characters get 4 General or 2 General and 1 Class Proficiency - remember everyone starts at 0th level. Progression is also altered (in short odd numbered character levels give Class Proficiencies, even numbered give General). INT bonus applies to additional General Proficiencies at the start. Essentially, characters get a lot more of them.
  • Furthermore, thief skills are all codified as Proficiencies, either by expanding existing ones like Alertness (+Near Noise), Climbing (+Climb Walls), Skulking (+Hide in Shadows/Move Silently) or adding new ones for Pick Pockets and Disable Device (Open Locks/Find Traps/Remove Traps).
  • I'll need to rework Fighting Style Proficiencies somewhat, to make them broader, but also add some gunpowder-appropriate ones (things like Fusilier and Skirmisher). They're going to be the basis of my Feat-equivalents, though there won't be more than about ten in total.
  • I'm thinking Languages will be a General Proficiency with levels. First level gives one additional language, second gives three, third gives five, fourth (?) gives eight.
  • I'm using the 3.x-onward schema of saving throws - Fortitude, Reflex and Will, rather than the traditional five.
  • Gaining followers happens at 5th level, rather than 9th.

 

OK, so on to the meat of this. My primary concern is around how to construct those three classes. They are basically thus:

  • Warrior is the Fighter, that one's easy. Go-to for soldiers, marines, barbarians and so on.
  • Expert is a revised Thief, they lose all the thief skills, but get a host of Class and General Proficiencies which allow you to build a Thief or any skilled tradesman. It should be the go-to class if you want to play an engineer, criminal, sailor or artillerist; most NPCs who have a class level will be Experts.
  • Scholar is the wreckage of the Wizard, without any magic. They get Literacy, the option of taking the Thief skill Read Languages and Proficiencies related to learned professions. It's the class for lawyers, priests or scientists.

The issue is around balance. My difficulty is that the absence of magic and the weirder custom abilities makes it harder to make them equal, especially the Scholar. What do they get for even lower hit points and worse weapon and armour selection than the Expert?

Here's my mechanical musings on how each one is structured, which should help illustrate things (I've taken some license with the standard parameters in the Companion).

0th level

Hit Dice Value: d6

Attack Throws: 19

Weapon Selection: Narrow

Armour Selection: Narrow

Damage Bonus: None

Cleaves: None

Saving Throw progression: Starting save values (18+),  modified by attributes

Additional Features: 4 General or 2 General + 1 Class Proficiency (any) + INT in additional General Proficiencies

 

Just to be clear, every character starts at 0th level, even if the game is starting 1st, so the features of the classes below are additional to 0th level, not instead.

 

Warrior

Hit Dice Value: d8 on odd/+2 on even levels

Attack Throws: +1 per level

Weapon Selection: Unrestricted

Armour Selection: Unrestricted

Damage Bonus: +1 on each odd level

Cleaves: 1 per level

Saving Throw progression: +1 to one save per level

Additional Features: Seasoned Campaigner, one Class Proficiency and one Fighting Style Proficiency as bonuses at 1st level. Battlefield Prowess at 3rd level.

Gain an additional Class Proficiency at every even-numbered level.

 

Expert

Hit Dice Value: d6 on odd/+1 on even levels

Attack Throws: +2 per 3 levels

Weapon Selection: Broad

Armour Selection: Broad

Damage Bonus: None

Cleaves: 1 per 2 levels

Saving Throw progression: +2 on saves per level

Additional Features: Experts are well-versed in a particular area of craft. They may choose any one of Animal Husbandry, Art, Craft, Engineering, Healing, Manual of Arms or Performance to represent this area of expertise, which begins at two ranks. Alternatively, they may choose a Thief skill.

Experts facility with their chosen area of expertise gives them a bonus to all Proficiency checks relating to that topic of +1 at first level. This increases by an additional +1 at 3rd and 5th level.

They add another 4 points of Proficiencies, which can be bought at the rate of 1 point per General and 2 points per Class. Their Class Proficiencies include the former Thief skills.

At every even-numbered level, gain an additional General Proficiency, on top of the normal progression.

Whenever you gain a Class Proficiency at odd-numbered levels, you may instead opt to take two General Proficiencies.

 

Scholar


Hit Dice Value: d4 on odd levels

Attack Throws: +1 per 3 levels

Weapon Selection: Narrow

Armour Selection: Narrow

Damage Bonus: None

Cleaves: None

Saving Throw progression: +1 to one save per level

Additional Features: All experts are literate and well-versed in a particular area of knowledge. They may choose any one of Art, Healing, Knowledge, Performance or Profession to represent this area of learning, which begins at two ranks. They start with the Literacy and Language Proficiencies for free.

Scholars facility with their chosen area of expertise gives them a bonus to all Proficiency checks relating to that topic of +1 at first level. This increases by an additional +1 at 3rd and 5th level. Furthermore, as their knowledge base grows, they gain a +1 bonus to another area of specialism at 3rd level, with an additional bonus to that at 5th level. Lastly, at 5th level they may add a third area of expertise, to which they gain a +1 bonus.

They add another 6 points of Proficiencies, which can be bought at the rate of 1 point per General and 2 points per Class.

Because of their study of ancient texts and contact with other specialists, Scholars possess loremastery. This knowledge allows them to decipher occult runes, remember ancient history, identify historic artifacts, and similar tasks. At 1st level, an expert must make a proficiency throw of 18+ on 1d20 to succeed in these tasks. The proficiency throw required reduces by 2 per level.

Upon attaining 3rd level, the Scholar gains the ability to read languages, including ciphers, treasure maps, and dead languages, but not magical writings. A proficiency throw of 5+ on 1d20 is required. If the roll does not succeed, the expert may not try to read that particular piece of writing until he reaches a higher level of experience.

At every level, gain an additional General Proficiency, on top of the normal progression.

Whenever you gain a Class Proficiency at odd-numbered levels, you may instead opt to take two General Proficiencies.

At 1st level, Scholars start with double the normal wealth value, and are assumed to be at least of middle/mercantile class.

 

Is the Scholar an artifical distinction from the Expert? Would they be better off being one class, with the option to trade down hit dice, attack throws, Cleaves and armour/weapon selections for additional Proficiencies and area of expertise bonuses? Or does that overcomplicate the Expert? I do like having the option of a genuinely non-combatant class.

 

Multliclassing is the other consideration. As above, you don't simply get all the facets of the new class by taking it on. So for example a Scholar picking up Warrior doesn't suddenly gain full access to all armour and weapons, and Cleaves equal to Character Level, and bonus Class Proficiencies all in one go. I'm thinking something like two of those features per Class Level. Yes, this is all more complex than standard ACKS, but still much simpler than 3.x onwards.

 

I'm also conscious that I haven't yet given much thought to what the level-demography looks like in this new system. While I don't subscribe to the "kings must be high level" idea in the original table, I do still think it's useful to consider.

0th level: 75%

1st level: 15%

2nd level: 5%

3rd level: 2%

4th level: 1.5%

5th level: 1%

6th level: 0.5%

 

I'm about done for now, but I'll come back to this. Initial thoughts?

Air Max
Aryxymaraki
Aryxymaraki's picture
Patreon SupporterDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters BackerBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu ContributorACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Contributor
Joined: 2014-01-04 02:20

Initial thoughts on Scholar:  If you want there to be a genuinely non-combatant class, then they need to be absolutely the best at non-combat tasks.

I don't think there's a useful design space for both Expert and Scholar the way they're currently set up.  I think either Expert needs to focus more on combat, or Scholar needs to have more unique out-of-combat strengths, because as it is why would anyone play a Scholar?

Kiero
Domains At War Backer
Joined: 2013-04-26 07:13

I'm thinking of removing the Expert's "trade combat features down for more skills", because that definitely steps on the Scholar's toes.

I think playing a Scholar is a situational thing. In certain kinds of games, the Scholar might be the character with the most clout, connections and wealth. They might be the brilliant surgeon who commands a large fee every time they operate and draws crowds of admirers to his procedures.

Obviously in a more combat-oriented game, that is less useful.

One other thing to consider - there's no problem with it being a class that mostly sees use as NPCs including henchmen. I give NPCs classes and stat them out the same way a player would, if they're important enough, and that's a class that could definitely be used there. So if it's one rarely used by players, that's fine.

Also don't forget multi-classing. You might not want to go all-Scholar, but for an Indiana Jones type character, a couple of levels of Scholar might seem appropriate (I could see him being a 6th level character with two levels of each class).

Chimera_Prime
Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu ContributorACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Contributor
Joined: 2018-04-10 02:50

Ok, scholar seems an issue, in that you say you want them on equal footing in terms of XP.

Using companion, and ignoring points to categories.

Warrior seems around the HP 2, FTR3, THF1 = 6 points  = for 2700

Expert seems HP1, FTR 2 (-5), THF2 key = 5 points (5 fighter tradeoffs) = 2650

Scholar is HP0, FTR1 (cleric, -1), THF4 roughly = 5 points = 1600

The problem is the weighting to XP on the combat ability side of things...

I'm not sure how to buy off cleave either...

Solutions... you almost need to overclock the powers, double what they have, like a thief 8 for 2200 points plus 500 for combat to get them to 2700.

 

Kiero
Domains At War Backer
Joined: 2013-04-26 07:13

Hmmm, as Aryxymaraki says, the Scholar is definitely a non-combatant class. Their area of expertise is already slightly overclocked compared to the Experts, gaining another strand - perhaps it needs to be revised thus?

Scholars facility with their chosen area of expertise gives them a bonus to all Proficiency checks relating to that topic of +1 at first level. This increases by an additional +1 at 3rd and 5th level. Furthermore, as their knowledge base grows, they gain a +1 bonus to another area of specialism at 3rd level, with an additional bonus to that at 5th level. Lastly, at 5th level they may add a third area of expertise, to which they gain a +1 bonus.

Double the level progression bonus on the deciphering languages power?

Because of their study of ancient texts and contact with other specialists, Scholars possess loremastery. This knowledge allows them to decipher occult runes, remember ancient history, identify historic artifacts, and similar tasks. At 1st level, a Scholar must make a proficiency throw of 18+ on 1d20 to succeed in these tasks. The proficiency throw required reduces by 2 per level.

 

Then I definitely think some new scholar-only powers are needed.

 

EDIT: I've updated the original post - how does double starting money and a higher social class by default and an additional General Proficiency at every level impact the calculations, along with doubling the two powers above?

Kiero
Domains At War Backer
Joined: 2013-04-26 07:13

The Scholar is filling out nicely, though it probably needs some more features to balance it against the other two. Meanwhile I'm thinking about multiclassing and Proficiencies.


Multiclassing

An unfortunate additional complication it brings is having to disinguish between character level (the sum total of all levels - for overall progression and Proficiencies) and class level (the number of levels you have in any one class - for class-specific progression and hit dice). There are two elements to multiclassing: universal features and those specific to the class.

Universal
Hit Dice Value: Progresses as per class level
Attack Throws: Progresses as per class level
Damage Bonus: Progresses as per class level
Cleaves: Progresses as per class level
Saving Throw progression: Progresses as per class level
Class Proficiencies: When you gain Class Proficiencies as a result of character level, they may come from the lists of any class you have levels in.

Features specific to the class

Warrior
1st class level:
Weapon Selection: Upgrade one step (Narrow > Broad, Broad > Unlimited)
Armour Selection: Upgrade one step (Narrow > Broad, Broad > Unlimited)
Additional features: Gain Seasoned Campaigner and one Fighting Style Proficiency.

Subsequent levels:
Weapon Selection: Upgrade one step (Narrow > Broad, Broad > Unlimited)
Armour Selection: Upgrade one step (Narrow > Broad, Broad > Unlimited)
Additional features: Progresses as per class level

Expert
1st class level:
Additional features: Experts are well-versed in a particular area of craft. They may choose any one of Animal Husbandry, Art, Craft, Engineering, Healing, Manual of Arms or Performance to represent this area of expertise, which begins at two ranks. Alternatively, they may choose a Thief skill.

Experts facility with their chosen area of expertise gives them a bonus to all Proficiency checks relating to that topic of +1 at first level. This increases by an additional +1 at 3rd and 5th level.

Also gain one additional General Proficiency.

Subsequent levels: Progresses as per class level

Scholar
1st class level:
Additional features: All experts are literate and well-versed in a particular area of knowledge. They may choose any one of Art, Healing, Knowledge, Performance or Profession to represent this area of learning, which begins at two ranks. They start with the Literacy and Language Proficiencies for free.

Scholars facility with their chosen area of expertise gives them a bonus to all Proficiency checks relating to that topic of +1 at first level. This increases by an additional +1 at 3rd and 5th level. Furthermore, as their knowledge base grows, they gain a +1 bonus to another area of specialism at 3rd level, with an additional bonus to that at 5th level. Lastly, at 5th level they may add a third area of expertise, to which they gain a +1 bonus.

Also gain one additional General Proficiency.

Subsequent levels: Progresses as per class level


Proficiencies

There are a number of changes to the lists and ordering of things in terms of what is General and Class, along with sorting out the lists for each class.

Changes to the lists:
Alchemy upgraded to Class
Beast Friendship downgraded to General
Dungeon Bashing downgraded to General
Eavesdropping folded into Alertness
Land Surveying downgraded to General
Language - first level gives one additional language; second level gives three additional languages; third level gives five additional languages; fourth level gives eight additional languages; fifth level gives twelve additional languages.
Literacy - new General Proficiency
Lockpicking replaced by Disable Device, which is broader than just locks.
Martial Training removed
Mountaineering downgraded to General
Survival downgraded to General
Trap Finding also folded into by Disable Device
Wakefulness downgraded to General
Weapon Finesse removed - lighter, one-handed weapons may use STR or DEX for their attack/damage bonus

The following magical Proficiencies removed: Apostasy, Arcane Dabbling, Battle Magic, Black Lore of Zahar, Collegiate Wizardry, Contemplation, Divine Blessing, Divine Health, Elementalism, Elven Bloodline, Familiar, Goblin-Slaying, Illusion Resistance, Laying on Hands, Magical Engineering, Magical Music, Mystic Aura, Quiet Magic, Righteous Turning, Sensing Evil, Sensing Power, Transmogrification, Unflappable Casting.

These changes give us the following General Proficiency list: Animal Husbandry, Animal Training, Art, Bargaining, Caving, Craft, Diplomacy, Disguise, Endurance, Engineering, Gambling, Healing, Intimidation, Knowledge, Labor, Land Surveying, Language, Leadership, Lip Reading, Literacy, Manual of Arms, Mapping, Military Strategy, Mimicry, Mountaineering, Naturalism, Navigation, Performance, Profession, Riding, Seafaring, Seasoned Campaigner (Adventuring), Seduction, Siege Engineering, Signaling, Survival, Theology, Tracking, Trapping, Wakefulness.

Next the Class Proficiency lists. Given the wealth of available General Proficiencies, there's no reason for them to be in the Class lists - they will only comprise the ones that can't be accessed any other way.
Warrior: Acrobatics, Alertness, Ambushing, Blind Fighting, Combat Reflexes, Combat Trickery, Command, Fighting Style, Passing Without Trace, Precise Shooting, Running, Skirmishing, Sniping, Swashbuckling, Weapon Focus
Expert: Acrobatics, Alertness, Ambushing (T), Blind Fighting, Bribery, Cat Burglary (T), Climbing (T), Contortionism, Disable Device (T), Loremastery, Passing Without Trace, Pick Pockets (T), Precise Shooting, Prestidigitation, Prophecy, Running, Skirmishing, Skulking (T), Sniping, Soothsaying, Swashbuckling
Scholar: Alchemy, Alertness, Bribery, Prestidigitation, Prophecy, Soothsaying

An obvious issue above is the very short Scholar list. That's alleviated a little by their ability to convert to two General, many of which have several levels that all those points could be dumped in. High level Scholars would be polymaths, renowned experts in numerous fields of study.


Time-based progression

For 0th level and non-adventuring characters with class levels, they gain a General Proficiency every 5 years, or a Class Proficiency every 10 years. This assumes they are still moderately active within their skillset, not idling their time away. 6th level characters also progress in the same way.