Tuesday, December 17, 2013

D&D Next Custom Content: Legionnaire Fighter Subclass

So far, my experience with D&D Next has been overwhelmingly positive. Over the playtest's run, the vast majority of concerns I've had have been addressed, and i look forward to the final product.

That being said, the one big question that remains unadressed by the playtest documentation is the system's capacity for custom made content. The official D&D blogs have said that they perceive an unfortunate trend in 3e+ of DMs not creating as much custom content as was the norm for OD&D-2e, and plan on emphasizing at-least the creation of custom sub-classes within the DMG. This bodes well, and I can only hope for detailed guidelines for the creation of enemies, sub-classes, spells, etc. in the DMG, but there's always the niggling doubt that they'd prefer to sell you fish than to teach DMs how to do it themselves. I'll make my own content either way, but I'd prefer some clear guidelines for the community that both make it easier for everyone and help make custom content more portable between groups.

As an experiment, I tried my hand at putting together a Roman Legionnaire sub-class for the Fighter. It seemed appropriate as, in addition to the fact that many settings use Rome as a reference point, this would model professional soldiers (IE: NPCs) better than the adventurer focused ones in the playtest. Evank Elkins over at In Places Deep is also running a game at the moment which it could be useful for.

Overall, I found this a surprisingly easy task, completed within an hour's work. I simply identified the levels at which fighter gain sub-class abilities, stole abilities from other sub-classes (largely the Bard sub-class that focuses on being a military leader and the Ranger one that focuses-oddly enough, on 1v1 combat), and modified these abilities where necessary to emphasize supporting allies rather than fighting alone. In general, the strategy was that this character would be less powerful than a fighter of the same level designed for 1v1 combat, but outclass that same character if there were 2 of the same builds on either side of the fight. Explanations of such adjustments may be found below the actual rules.

However, if I'd wanted to do something that didn't have such obvious parallels throughout the playtest document, I may have had more trouble. I'll have to try again with something a bit more off the wall later.

Path of the Legionnaire 

Legionnaire Features
Level: Feature
  3: Additional Fighting Style (Protection)
  7: Discipline
10: Focused Attack
15: Testudo
19: Rally

Additional Fighting Style (Protection)
At 3rd level, you gain the Protection fighting style. If you already have it, take another of your choice instead.

Starting at 7th level, you have advantage on saving throws against being frightened/intimidated/or otherwise forced to retreat from battle. If you have proficiency with Charisma saves, the effects extended to allies within 5 feet of you.

Focused Attack
By 10th level, when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you cause the target disadvantage against the next weapon attack against it by any character other than yourself until the end of the target's next turn.

Beginning at 15th level, when you must make a dexterity saving throw to take only half damage from an effect, you may substitute a strength save instead. If you succeed on the saving throw, you instead take no damage and only half damage if you fail. You must be wielding a shield.

Rally the Troops
At 19th level, you may, as an action & once per long rest, rally allies. When you do so, any creatures of your choice that can hear you regain 6d8+20 hit points. This also ends the charmed, frightened, paralyzed, and stunned conditions on its targets. Each target can also use its reaction to stand up or move up to its speed. This ability has no effect upon targets immune to mind effecting abilities.


Additional Fighting Style (Protection)
Additional Fighting Styles have already been established as acceptable via the Path of the Warrior subclass. Protection simulates a shield wall effectively enough that I see no reason to create a new rule. It is placed first because it is is the single most essential element of a legionnaire's training, which every member of the unit needs for their tactics to function. If this is considered more powerful that its placement at Lv10 in the PAth of the Warrior, I believe that to be mitigated by the fact that the player isn't allowed their choice of style.

Mostly borrowing the Lv7 ability of the Colossus Slayer Ranger here, because discipline is a major advantage of the legions. The modification is because I find Steel Will to be flawed, as anyone who attains a proficiency in Charisma saves (I personally treat Wisdom primarily as perception, but that's another discussion. Suffice to say, if you would use Wisdom for fear, then the ability is made useless by the fact that Rangers are proficient in Wisdom already.) completely negates the feature. This simple change both keeps the ability useful, makes sense (the bravery of the more experienced soldiers is inspiring), and emphasizes the organized nature of this subclass.

Focused Attack
Essentially the Ranger's lv11 Staggering Attack, but designed to grant allies the advantage rather than yourself. Again, this is to emphasize the group element. When alone, it's useless to you, but this should be balanced out by the fact that, if two people with this ability are adjacent to one another, they not only grant it to one another but any others that may attack the enemy. IE: The front line can loosen up the enemy with gladii while the rear ranks takes advantage with reach and ranged weapons. I debated weather to simply use the Bard's Coordinate Allies for this, as it, at first, seems more powerful - being able to grant advantage to any ally you see on any enemy you see hit within a sizable range, but the ability to grant it to multiple attackers more than makes up for this lack of range and keeps the legionnaire as a front-line support fighter where he belongs.

 This is, again, is the Colossus Slayer ability for this level, but it serves as an accurate simulation of their defenses against ranged attacks. It also provides a fun, martial variant on the classic Uncanny Dodge that can reflect that classic image of a warrior crouching behind his shield to deflect Dragon's fire or absorb a hail of arrows. Requiring a shield is a thematic necessity, and the addition of the Strength substitution feature is meant to balance this.

Rally the Troops
As the Bard's Rally, but with the removal of the "as Mass Cure Wounds" aspect, as its extremely unlikely that a Lv19 Fighter can cast magic.  Instead, I treat it as the 7th lv+ version of MCW, due to the player's high level, while removing its 50ft range/25ft radius in exchange for a more thematic and simple audible range. Changed "undead and constructs" to mind affecting abilities due to flavor and edge cases, but they should almost always be identical.

Outside of the standard balance considerations, this seems fine to me, my only concern with this relates to Roman equipment, i.e., tower shields, pila, and gladii? In D&DN terms a gladii is a shortsword, which most "sword & board" fighters have no real use for. I suppose I could add a sidebar that lists the gladius as a new weapon (just a 1h piercing sword without the finesse & light of a shortsword or the versatility of a longsword - trading these special features for raw damage) but that seems like overstepping the bounds of this exercise. Still, they did move towards longer blades as history went on anyway, so it may not be a big deal in the first place.

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