Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Variety of Suggested Class Tweaks

Half caster level (Ranger, Paladin, etc) is no longer a thing. Such classes have a caster level equal to their class level. Their class level minus 3 is also acceptable, but such classes need nice things.

Barbarian
Does not gain a Constitution bonus when raging. Instead, gains +2 Fortitude, +2 to Constitution checks, and temporary hit points equal to 2 per hit die, which go away when the rage ends. These bonuses go up to 3 with Greater Rage and 4 with Mighty Rage. This eliminates "oops, my rage ended, now I'm dead" syndrome, and as a side-effect allows undead barbarians to be more effective.

Alternately, because Barbarian is a common dip for Con-focused builds that benefit in other ways from Con boosts, Barbarian keeps the Constitution bonus, all temporary Constitution bonuses that have durations (so Barbarian's Rage and Bear's Endurance but not Amulets of Health) grant temporary hit points (which expire when the Con bonus does) instead of real hit points.

Dragonfire Adept
Qualifies for metabreath feats without requiring Power Surge or other shenanigans to acquire a breath weapon with a timer.

Dragon Shaman
Add Knowledge(arcana) to class skills. It just makes sense for a class that worships dragons to have knowledge about dragons.

Druid
Add Knowledge(geography) to class skills. Makes sense for a druid to understand the lay of the land.

This, the most powerful class, also asks for a nerf. There are two decent (but probably mutually exclusive) nerfs you can try:

The less extreme nerf is to give Druid animal companion progression as a Ranger.

The more extreme nerf is to say "Spellcasting; Animal Companion; Wild Shape: Pick any two."

Favored Soul
Add Knowledge(religion) to class skills. On the one hand, you wouldn't necessarily expect a Favored Soul, granted power by a deity without asking for it, to actually know anything about deities. On the other hand, such Favored Souls can simply not put ranks in Knowledge(religion).

Fighter
Gains a fighter bonus feat every level, instead of 1st and every even level. This doesn't bump Fighter up a tier or anything, but at least now you don't have any dead levels on your way to Dungeoncrasher, and it's a "however many feats you want"-level dip instead of a 2-level dip.

Healer
Knows their entire spell list and casts spontaneously, like a Warmage or Beguiler. (I rejigger Healer a little more completely than this, but this is a solid start.)

Hexblade
Hexblade's Curse usable per encounter rather than per day.

Knight
Add Knowledge(history) to class skills.

Marshal
I personally nerf Leadership for everybody else, and then un-nerf it for Marshal. You could also consider giving Leadership to Marshal as a bonus feat.

Monk
Full BAB. Literally the least you can do for this sad, sad class.

Paladin
Smite Evil per encounter rather than per day. Consider giving this to everything with a Smite ability, such as Soulborn (see below) and Fiendish/Celestial creatures.

Remove Disease per day rather than per week.

When a character uses Smite Evil, the attack also counts as Good for the purpose of bypassing DR/Good. The same applies to all aligned Smites, e.g. Smite Good bypasses DR/Evil.

Ranger
Animal Companion progression at first level, progressing as druid, not as one-half druid.

Samurai
Gestalt the Samurai from Oriental Adventures with the one from Complete Warrior.

Sorcerer
Gain Eschew Materials as a bonus feat at level 1.

Wizards and Sorcerers may begin play with a familiar without having to pay the 100gp cost. Acquiring a familiar after play begins, replacing a familiar, or acquiring a familiar through the Obtain Familiar feat still costs 100gp. Many people don't realize this is a house rule, that Wizards and Sorcerers are supposed to either pony up 100gp when play begins or start without a familiar.

Any prestige class level that advances Wizard or Sorcerer spellcasting also advances familiar abilities as if it were a level of Wizard or Sorcerer. (This is as if all Wizards and Sorcerers took the Forlorn flaw and the Obtain Familiar feat.)

Soulborn
Smite Opposition per encounter rather than per day.

Swashbuckler
Proficient with bucklers. IT'S RIGHT THERE IN THE NAME, DAGNABIT.

Swordsage
Skill points: the usual x4 at 1st level, not x6. Obvious typo is obviously a typo.

Wizard
A Wizard specializing in Divination must choose two banned schools, as with every other school specialization, instead of one. Splatbooks give enough Divination options, and "Scry and Die" so favored a tactic, that it's no longer a trash school like it was thought to be in the early days of 3.5.

Also, see familiar stuff under Sorcerer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Do Familiars or Psicrystals Get Feats?

Druid/ranger animal companions and paladin special mounts gain hit dice as their master levels, and so gain all the benefits of hit dice, including feats at first and every third level and ability score increases at every fourth level. This did not occur to me until a player asked if this was so, and the answer turned out to be yes, obviously it is so.

The question is fuzzier when it comes to psicrystals and familiars. The consensus on the Rules As Written is that psicrystals do and familiars do not -- but this is naturally absurd, in the same vein as such other strict RAW weirdnesses as drown healing, death not preventing you from taking actions, and tower shields turning themselves (and their wielder) invisible when hidden behind.

Psicrystals and familiars are both treated as having their masters' hit dice and half their masters' hit points, so it should be obvious to anyone with eyes to see that the intention was that they are the same when it comes to hit dice and the benefits thereof. Where the confusion arises is a slight discrepancy in language between the two:

A familiar's hit dice are defined on the sorcerer/wizard entry as "For the purpose of effects related to number of Hit Dice, use the master’s character level or the familiar’s normal HD total, whichever is higher."

The corresponding psion entry makes no mention of a psicrystal's hit dice, so a psicrystal's hit dice are instead defined on the psicrystal creature entry as "Its Hit Dice are equal to its master’s Hit Dice (counting only levels in psion or wilder)".

This is taken by the masses to mean that psicrystals have hit dice, and therefore all the benefits that accrue with hit dice, and familiars are merely treated as having hit dice, and therefore gain no benefits of having hit dice. Despite being baldly preposterous, this interpretation is held by so many people that I feel like I've stepped through a portal into an alternate dimension where nothing makes sense and they spell it "Berenstain Bears" instead of "Berenstein Bears". (I jest.)

Are there any (other) creatures in the game that entirely lack hit dice? I can't think of any. Even animated objects gain hit dice when animated. As far as I know, the game features no creatures that don't have hit dice; everything with hit points and no hit dice is an object.

Hit points are obviously not to be treated as an effect of hit dice here, because HP is defined separately as half the master's HP in the same sections that define familiar and psicrystal HD as equal to the master's HD. Similarly, BAB, saves, and skills are treated separately in separate sections, and are thus probably not treated as effects of hit dice. However, it is perfectly plausible to argue that feats and ability score increases are "effects related to number of Hit Dice", and thus accrue to familiars even if you somehow maintain that familiars really don't actually have hit dice.

Moreover, the line under Familiar Basics that qualifies "For each skill in which either the master or the familiar has ranks" clearly indicates that familiars have skill ranks, which they couldn't have if they don't have hit dice. It goes on to say "use either the normal skill ranks for an animal of that type or the master’s skill ranks, whichever are better", which seems to indicate that a familiar doesn't gain skill ranks beyond what they start with, but it clearly still has them, which means a familiar must have at least its starting hit dice.

In any event, the Rules As Written and the Rules as Intended should always be subservient to what makes sense and what makes fun. The RAW, being vague on what an "effect related to number of Hit Dice" is, are not as clear as everybody thinks they are, the RAI are clearly in conflict with the common interpretation, and, though what makes more fun is unclear (casters don't really need nice things; much of the familiar section seems intended to simplify the familiar for ease of play but actually has quite the opposite effect), what makes sense is that the things that are the same should be the same. Either both psicrystals and familiars have feats, or neither does.

This steadfast adherence among the GITP forums (at least, every member of the GITP forums I've talked to about it) to this particular interpretation of RAW, in defiance of other interpretations of RAW and all the considerations that should be more important than any interpretation of RAW, is a prime example of their fetishization of the consensus interpretation of RAW, however nonsensical, above all the considerations that should be more important in actual play. (Which is why I'm posting this here, in this space safe from RAW fetishization, and not there.) Don't get me wrong, the GITP forums are a great place full of great people, but they can get pretty dogmatic about their assumptions sometimes.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Being a Steampunk Magitek Cyborg

I have written a brief handbook for the Renegade Mastermaker, a 3.5 Eberron prestige class that allows you to become a steampunk magitek cyborg. If that sounds like your cup of tea, or you just want to read something I've written, consider reading it over on the Giant in the Playground forums: Being a Steampunk Magitek Cyborg: A Renegade Mastermaker Handbook.