Master Class, Hybrid Classes (Pt 1)

Master Class are posts where I talk a bit about design choices, how I make them, and what guides these decisions. They’ll likely be pretty rare.

Building the Bombardier (Hybrid Alchemist/Gunslinger), Part One

So, let’s say we wanted to make a hybrid alchemist gunslinger. Thematically this makes a lot of sense – only two official classes are built on technology, so combining them should work well. And I’ve never seen a campaign that allowed gunslingers but not alchemists (though yes, I am sure they exist), so we’re not likely to create something less likely than its parents to be allowed into a GM’s game.

Hybrid classes generally borrow features from both parent classes, then add a brand-new class feature designed to synergize them. But how that’s done depends a lot on early design choices.

Role: It’s worth writing a little about your hybrid class’s role early in your design process. You may want to modify this once you are done to reflect the final reality, but even early on it’s useful to have some idea what you are trying to build as a design guideline.

Alchemist and gunslinger both talk in terms of dealing damage, taking risks, and being useful in battle. Our bombardier is quickly sounding like a daredevil experimenter who loved cooking up dangerous devices, and willing to test them from the front line. Both alchemist and gunslinger talk about dual possible builds, which we may or may not want to copy over for the hybrid class… let’s decide that later.

Hit Die: d8.

Basically, if a class is designed to ever be close to fighting, it gets at least a d8 hit die. And if it doesn’t have a full +1/level base attack bonus (BAB), it doesn’t get a d10 or more. That first rule is important, and breaking it is very likely to make a class too fragile to survive its primary role. The second rule is more flexible, and if you have a good reason to make a non-full BAB class have a bigger hit die than d8, that’s fine. I did it myself with the armiger (Genius Guide to the Armiger), a defensive utility class I wanted to be able to survive constant front-line fighting despite having a moderate BAB progression.

For our bombardier, I don’t think we can afford a full BAB. We want to give the class a firearm as a class feature at 1st level, like the gunslinger, and it’ll ALSO need some form of bombs and/or extracts in order to draw on its alchemist heritage. That’s already a lot of power, and using the alchemist BAB gives us more leeway. And, practically speaking, if it’s using firearms and explosives it can likely do fine in combat without a full BAB, and while staying a bit back from the front line.

Now we COULD have made different choices here, which is one reason I recommend having a role sketched out early in the design process. If we had decided we wanted a different alchemist/gunslinger hybrid, perhaps one that focused on mutagens and grit called a juicer or madserum, we might have opted to forgo the firearm entirely and prefer a full BAB and d10 or even d12 HD. But that’s not the direction we’re going here.

Starting Wealth: 4d6 x 10 gp (average 140 gp)

Starting wealth only matters for 1st level characters, but you can’t make a new character without it. Basically, this is how you tell players and GMs how much gear you expect the character to need to start. Both alchemists and gunslingers have a fair amount of stuff assumed in their class, from firearms to alchemical components, so neither has particularly demanding money needs, though ammunition and alchemical weapons can add up as consumables. In this case we split the difference between the two, which seems fine.

Class Skills: Appraise (Int), Craft (any) (Int), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Knowledge (engineering) (Int), Knowledge (local) (Int), Knowledge (nature) (Int), Perception (Wis), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Spellcraft (Int), Use Magic Device (Cha).

Skill Points per Level: 4 + Int modifier

Not being as deeply tinker-based as the alchemist, Disable Device, Fly, Heal, Sleight of hand, and Survival can go. Not being as dashing and swashbuckler-y as the gunslinger, Acrobatics, Bluff, Handle Animal, Heal, Ride, Sleight of Hand, and Survival can be discarded. Interestingly that means several of the skills both classes have – Heal, Sleight of Hand, and Survival, aren’t part of our final class.

Also, having cut a lot of Charisma options, we may be leaning toward having our Bombardier be an Int-based class, though that has strong tonal implications. We’re not set on that course, but we’ve taken a step that direction.

Since both parent classes get 4 skill points/level, we’ll go for that too.

Base Saving Throws: Both parent classes have good Fort and Ref, and poor Will. Unless we discover a good reason to change that, we’ll stick with it.

And that’s it for Part One! The current plan is to look at what we want to salvage from the parent classes in Part Two in 1-2 weeks, and then fill in conceptual and mechanical gaps with new class features in Part Three a bit after that!

About okcstephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the publisher and lead genius of Rogue Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps.

Posted on September 14, 2016, in Game Design, Pathfinder Development and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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