03 October 2011

Orders and Advanced Classes

I'm still messing around a bit with the format, but I think that the Advanced Classes are going to work like this:

  1. Accomplish something unusual. This could be a lot of things, and I plan on making an easy-to-use index at the back, so when you do something weird you can look over the Advanced Classes thing and see where that fits in.
  2. Join an Order. Orders are always looking for Heroes (after the Greek tradition, don't worry- no knights in shining armor connotations here. That's why I make sure to capitalize it, actually), and you can probably join. Orders are the big movers and shakers of the world and are ideal for adventurers because they're generally not interested in the status quo the same way kingdoms and baronies are, and they're generally pretty lenient as far as dues/attendance goes.
  3. Train under a Mentor and gain an advanced class,depending on what you've done.
  4. Do something else extraordinary, and get further advanced classes as you level.

One of my biggest personal pet peeves is where 'adventurers' fit into a campaign world, and exactly how scuzzy that adventurers really are. I mean, you give these guys a bunch of hit dice and armor and stuff, and then thrust them into a campaign world full of kings and dragons and stuff and either a) expect them to go find something, or b) straight up tell them what to do.

I know, I know, that sounds like a campaign world problem, but hear me out. The problem is that during character creation, you're relying on the whimsical ethers of the players' minds to decide what sort of organizations are out there, and that can be rough when the players don't know what to pick. Orders give a little bit of structure to it, and are kind of like a GM Guarantee that not only is that archetype totally permitted and you should go for it.

But more importantly, it lets you have a very firm tie into the game world. You're not just a first level Fighter, you're a first level Armsman of the Freeriders of Xalt. You're a third level Ascendant-Brother of the Sons of Dragda. You're a fifth level Priest-Militant of the Order of the Silver Spear. You have a place in the world, as rigid or as flexible as you want it. You can even choose to be totally unaligned, if you like, and rock it old-school; but the default assumption for your characters shouldn't be footloose vagabonds. That's not really how the world works, you know?

Of course, it's important to leave the option in there for people who really don't want to have that connection, because that's a valid place in the world, too.


  1. Absolutely. I've been trying to put something together in this vein myself, but not happy with my products - I'm eager to see how you do.

    4e actually has a couple of interesting approaches to this. In the new Neverwinter campaign, all of the character "starting themes" (1) give the character a connection to a pre-existing power block with interests in the region and (2) give them some optional powers that they can take at mid-levels to reflect their connection to the power source. To me it underscores the importance of your conclusion, since they stress how important it is to *make* the players choose a theme so that they can be hooked into the setting, but their 17 themes only seem to cover about half the character concept space my players want.

    Your earlier thoughts also reminded me of the DMG2 system that proposes replacing expected-magic-items-at-a-certain-level with opportunities to train with sages/grandmasters/heroes - mechanically similar (your character now gets this additional power once per day), but much more palatable to me.

    (Verification word: screebed - the rough place I'm stuck since I showed my players 4e instead of only exposing them to OSR.)

  2. I never knew about the Neverwinter thing- my fingers aren't exactly on the pulse of D&D (any edition)- but it does sound a lot like what I'm going for. Except that instead of "starting themes", it's "where did you learn that?" and you can go from there. I think it's more useful because an organization has overtones and power blocs, but your player is still directly under your control. You can be a hardline Acolyte of the Silver Spear, or maybe you're a bit of a heretic, or perhaps you blend a bit of the philosophy of the Freeriders of Xalt in there as well...

    Also, in case you didn't know, I'm a low-fantasy enthusiast, and I'm delighted to know that there's already a system that helps to phase out large magical items with, basically, special training. If you remember what it was called, I'd absolutely love to give it a readover. It sounds right up my alley.

    Thanks for the comment, by the way, it's given me a lot of good stuff to think about!