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Mental Exercise... [gaming geekery]

So, suppose for the sake of discussion you were going to build a mystery/horror game using SWSE's d20 implementation as a basis, albeit a very loose one. What would you do for classes? d20 Modern's "Strong Hero/Fast Hero/Smart Hero (etc.)" method, while flexible, has all the flavor of a cardboard tube, and Cthulhu d20's two class options ("Offensive/Defensive") are even duller.

Forgoing for the moment the exact talent trees associated with the specific classes, here are some archetypes that might work. What do you think?

  • Adventurer: Action-oriented heroes, whether acrobatic and quick-witted, or your big, brawny, bruiser type. Not much use against the Colour From Space, but good for roughing up stoolies and blasting zombies with a shotgun.
  • Scholar: Antiquarians, professors, psychiatrists — the brainy character who knows that the cultists come from the last outpost of Hyperborea and can decipher the runes that will send the gibbering horror back to its home plane.
  • Shadow: Sneaks, rogues, private investigators, secret agents, thieves. Anyone who specializes in operating unseen and undetected, for good or ill.
  • Socialite: Celebrities, wealthy dilettantes, big-name authors. People with connections who can get you into the opening night at the museum, charm the surly steamboat captain into continuing down the forbidden river, or at the very least finance the journey.
  • Visionary: Psychics, bohemian artists with uncanny powers of perception, mysterious fortune-tellers.

Have I missed any likely suspects? Multiclassing would be free and easy, enabling the combination of classes to create other archetypes. A "psychic investigator" would be Shadow/Visionary for instance, while somebody like Indiana Jones would be Adventurer/Scholar.

Or are these too many? I could fold "Scholar" and "Visionary" into a single class, for instance, probably as well as "Adventurer" and "Shadow" without too much difficulty. But the idea is to provide a fairly broad selection of choices.

-The Gneech


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 12th, 2008 03:38 pm (UTC)
I like those divisions a lot.

They ALMOST correspond to the d20 Modern Stat-Based Classes, with the natural merger of Strong and Tough Heroes into Adventurer -- save that Adventurer also encompasses the Active, Acrobatic flavor of Fast Hero.
Jun. 12th, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :) I figure that in a mystery/horror type of game, there's not a lot of need for multiple "brute force" types. They're just going to get eaten first anyway. ;)

Jun. 12th, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC)
Mmmm, beefy!
See Brad Hicks's comparison of Conan, Lensman, and Yog-Sotherery.

(I know you don't share Hicks's disdain for the Cimmerian, but the last bit, where he speculates on how protagonists from each setting would handle themselves in the others is your "eaten first" comment to a "T".)
Jun. 12th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Mmmm, beefy!
Disdain hardly covers it! I think "contempt" is closer. He also has the actual Conan confused with the big dumb guy in the fur diaper. Unfortunately, that's what's filtered through thanks to all the bad pastiches.

He does have a valid point about Conan's tendency to skewer monsters, but that was a deliberate thematic element re: mankind's ability to survive in a hostile universe.

None of which is germane to your point, I realize, but what can I say, I'm a Conan fan!


Edited at 2008-06-12 11:41 pm (UTC)
Jun. 12th, 2008 03:54 pm (UTC)
damn that is a trippy icon
Jun. 12th, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC)
you will have to be careful to avoid tank-mages (hard to kill and do insane amounts of damage)... but that can likely be done in the talent system
Jun. 12th, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)
I doubt there'd be anyone who really qualified as a "mage" in this kind of a system. What spells there are probably take hours (or days) to cast, drain the character's HP or Wis, and do things like summon slimy things from the moons of Neptune. An Adventurer with a shotgun is likely to be more dangerous in a fight than a Scholar with a scroll. At least until the Things From Beyond show up.

Jun. 12th, 2008 06:29 pm (UTC)
sorry, "tank-mage" is a MMORPG term... "mage" does not really refer specifically to magic, but just any char that can do insane amounts of damage... be that with a spell, dagger, or BFG.
Jun. 12th, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC)
Ah. :) Well I don't think it's likely to be a problem. Most foes in mystery/horror games are either pushovers or obvious TPKs, with very little in-between. So pouring too many character resources into combat ability is a wasted effort.

Jun. 12th, 2008 06:44 pm (UTC)
gottcha... I run most of my D&D that way too... there is very little combat in my games, but you can NEVER have too much listen, spot and search :)
Jun. 12th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
and do things like summon slimy things from the moons of Neptune.

My elder god can beat up your elder god.
Jun. 12th, 2008 04:04 pm (UTC)
Scholar and visionary feel distinct to me. Scholars would have intelligence-based skills while visionaries would get charisma or wisdom-based skills.

You have the right idea for checking the right number of classes- take a bunch of iconic characters from the genre and see how well they fit. My only other thought is that a class might be unnecessary if you can't find any single-class examples for it.
Jun. 12th, 2008 06:35 pm (UTC)
So far, most of the characters I've thought of or remembered were easily described in these classes. The only ones who don't, really, have been sort of "spear carrier" characters meant to be devoured early on (the assistant carrying the bags, the ordinary person in the wrong place at the wrong time). It seems to me there ought to be a class for fairly ordinary people who get sucked into things and have to survive on sheer gumption — but even their skills probably fall under the headings of at least one of these classes.

Jun. 12th, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
Sounds like "Sheer Gumption" in an NPC class.
Jun. 12th, 2008 08:25 pm (UTC)
You mean bait Shaggy?
Jun. 12th, 2008 08:29 pm (UTC)
Actually, I was thinking of a variety of characters played by Jamie Lee Curtis and her analogues. (Think "single mother with a shotgun.") Shaggy survives because the monsters he faces are about as threatening as a Marshmallow Peep. ;P

Jun. 13th, 2008 01:49 am (UTC)
Would calling them "scrappers" work?
Jun. 12th, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC)
I thought the classes should be more like Victim, Educated Victim, Insane Victim, Dead Victim, and Victim-in-Training, but maybe those are just Prestige classes.
Jun. 12th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
Heeheehee! You may be on to something there. ;)

Jun. 12th, 2008 04:22 pm (UTC)
I like those classes. I agree that visionary and scholar should be seperate classes. I would play that game.
Jun. 12th, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC)
Cool, thanks. :)

(Deleted comment)
Jun. 12th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC)
Heh! Thanks. :*)

re: priests, I imagine it would depend on the individual, but most would probably be Scholars, or possibly Scholar/Visionaries.

In terms of a Con-based class, it's not really an archetype that comes up that much in mystery/horror, and when it does it probably comes under the heading of Adventurer anyway. Most physically-oriented stuff would, I'd think.

Jun. 12th, 2008 08:28 pm (UTC)
Now, I see a pure scholar as someone like Egon Spengler rather than a priest
Jun. 12th, 2008 08:36 pm (UTC)
Don't get too hung up on the class names — "scholar" is just a handy label for a set of skills that includes a lot of lore knowledge, research ability, etc. Egon could be a Scholar, but so could Van Helsing (the original, not the Hugh Jackman one).

Really, it depends on the skillset of the priest in question. If they sit around reading old tomes all day, they're probably a Scholar. If they bash monsters over the head with holy symbols while shouting "The power of cheese compels you!" they could easily be Visionaries or even Adventurers.

Jun. 12th, 2008 11:48 pm (UTC)
Behold the power of cheese.
Jun. 12th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)
It's funny that as atheistic as i am, my first question was "where would a priest/shaman or other holy guru fit?" Possibly under visionary. From what i remember of older CoC games, having somebody around who can shout "YAY GOD!" at the nasty things and *mean it* is often a huge advantage.
Jun. 12th, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
"yay god!" lol, I so need to make a version of that for my shammy in WoW :)

maybe: "Go Earthmother, it's your birthday!"
Jun. 12th, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC)
n_n it just came to me as i tried to consider the absolute most basic distillation of "what a holy person would do" in an RPG setting, when faced with vile horrors from beyond, and suchlike, without getting denominational. It all seemed to boil down to that.
Jun. 12th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
I have to agree with D20 Modern, I hated the generic Strong Hero, Tough Hero, Fast Hero, Smart Hero, Dedicated Hero and Charismatic Hero. That's one of the reasons I preferred AEG/Crafty Games Spycraft system, there's at least real classes in them. Though if I ever did run Modern, I'd probably just take and modernize the classes from 3/3.5. Ranger, gets a hunting rifle, warrior, uzi, spell caster, they might carry a hold out pistol as a back up, and so on.
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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