Master Class, Hybrid Classes (Pt. 2)

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 Two

So we already looked at the reason for building a bombardier, and selected the “above the fold” information we were borrowing to help define things like hit dice and skill points, back in Part One.

While we decided on our base attack bonus progression in Part One (since base attack and hit die are connected, even though that’s not always obvious), I want to revisit that decision just a bit. A character’s base attack bonus tells a player a lot about what a class is intended to be good at and it also absorbs a lot of potential power from a class. A full attack bonus (beginning at +1 and increasing by 1` at every level) is restricted to combat-focused characters, and is never combined with spellcasting better than weak (no spells at 1st level, and a maximum of 4th level spells, like paladins and rangers). A moderate attack bonus (beginning with +1 at 2nd level, and increasing by +3 every 4 levels) gives us the greatest flexibility, and can be combined with moderate spellcasting (up to 6 levels of spells over 20 character levels) or even strong spellcasting (up to 9th level spells) with a spell list that doesn’t focus on offensive magics. A weak attack bonus (beginning at +1 at 2nd level, and increasing by +1 every 2 levels) removes direct combat as a function of the character, and is almost always pared with strong spellcasting with a spell list with many offensive abilities.

When designing a hybrid class that combines two classes with different base attack bonus progressions, such as alchemist and gunslinger, this is a crucial decision. Hybrid classes that go for the lesser of the two attack progressions (such as the hunter, skald, and warpriest) leave more room for special abilities to make the class more interesting, and can easily draw on 6 levels worth of spells. Classes that go with the higher base attack bonus progression (such as the bloodrager, brawler, and slayer) have much more limited options about magical powers.

These are both legitimate design choices. So for our bombardier, we had to decide if we want to build a alchemy-and-guns combatant focused on kicking ass and taking names, or a martial-themed effects and magic class with a broader range of options but less direct combat ability and resilience. I’m sticking with the decision from part One and going with a moderate base attack bonus progression, but that will impact the next few decisions.

The next step is to do a rough listing of what features we are going to borrow from the parent classes, and what levels we plan to get them at. We can “pencil in” that information to form a rough skeleton of a class. His will show us what is already designed that we can use (or modify), give us a sense of what the class is lacking, and show us where we need to add something interesting to avoid “dead levels.”

An aside – For those not familiar with the term, a dead level is a character class level that doesn’t give the player something new and exciting. It sucks when you gain a new level, and discover all it does is give you more hit points and some attack or saving throw increase. A player works hard to earn new character levels, and we want to reward them. Sometimes a new level of spells can count (especially for good spell lists with lots of options), and other times we really want a new ability listed under “special” for the class.

So, looking at the gunslinger we can see we need the gunsmith feature, or something a lot like it. If the character class is going to feel like it can bombard things (and if it can’t, it shouldn’t be a bombardier), it needs some kind of bombard. We may play with what firearm you can get or exactly how it works later, but for our “pencil in” stage, we should mark the gunsmith ability for 1st level. Since the bombardier has less hit points and a lower base attack bonus than a gunslinger, we have room to collect at least a few gunslinger abilities without being overpowered. The other things the gunslinger gets are deeds, nimble bonuses, and grit. We going to want some of that, but it may not all happen at the same levels gunslingers get it. Let’s look at the alchemist.

The alchemist gets bombs at 1st level, and clearly a bombardier needs bombs. We’ll likely need to make some adjustment to the ability to have it work with the firearm somehow, but that’s a problem for later. Like our firearm, the bombs seem crucial to the core idea, so we need to get them at 1st level.

The alchemist also gets alchemy, brew potion, discoveries, mutagen, poison resistance, and poison use. We clearly can’t take all of that, or we end up with an alchemist who also gets a gun. So we need to decide what from that list doesn’t fit our vision.

Certainly bombardiers don’t need poison use, at least automatically. Poison bombs could easily be a thing, but we can make that an option a character chooses if desired. Similarly mutagens have nothing to do with bombs, and are a major ability for alchemists, so cutting them gives us some breathing room for the things being added from gunslinger. We want discoveries, to make neat bombs, and likely some kind of bonus that takes the place of poison resistance, which we may tie to nimble from gunslinger.

So let’s sketch in a progression with bombs gunsmith, some kind of specializations (that will function as a mix of deeds and discoveries), and some kind of nimble bonus. We can define exactly how these thigns work later, we just want an idea how often they come up for now, and a rough progression to make sure we are avoiding dead levels.

 

Level      BAB        Fort        Ref         Will        Special

1             +0           +2           +2           +0           Bombs 1d6, gunsmith

2             +1           +3           +3           +0           Bombardier specialization, nimble +1

3             +2           +3           +3           +1           Bombs 2d6

4             +3           +4           +4           +1           Bombardier specialization

5             +3           +4           +4           +1           Bombs 3d6

6             +4           +5           +5           +2           Bombardier specialization, nimble +2

7             +5           +5           +5           +2           Bombs 4d6

8             +6           +6           +6           +2           Bombardier specialization

9             +6           +6           +6           +3           Bombs 5d6

10           +7           +7           +7           +3           Bombardier specialization, nimble +3

11           +8           +7           +7           +3           Bombs 6d6

12           +9           +8           +8           +4           Bombardier specialization

13           +9           +8           +8           +4           Bombs 7d6

14           +10        +9           +9           +4           Bombardier specialization, nimble +4

15           +11        +9           +9           +5           Bombs 8d6

16           +12        +10        +10        +5           Bombardier specialization

17           +12        +10        +10        +5           Bombs 9d6

18           +13        +11        +11        +6           Bombardier specialization, nimble +5

19           +14        +11        +11        +6           Bombs 10d6

20           +15        +12        +12        +6           Bombardier specialization

 

So, if we want alchemy, that’ll add a major boost to every level when the bombardier gains a new level of extracts (levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 14, and 18). Brew potion and isn’t huge, but it makes sense and we likely want it. Throw Anything we can likely skip, since our bombardier will be using a bombard of some kind. There’s not a lot of room left for grit, so we likely either ignore it or also make it a form of specialization, or somehow tie it to alchemy (perhaps you can burn extracts as liquid courage to do grit-like things). Gunslingers and alchemists both get a fair number of abilities at 1st level, and alchemists also get a lot at 2nd, so let’s see if we can fit in the stuff we want.

 

Level      BAB        Fort        Ref         Will        Special

1             +0           +2           +2           +0           Alchemy, bombs 1d6, gunsmith

2             +1           +3           +3           +0           Bombardier specialization, brew potion, nimble +1

3             +2           +3           +3           +1           Bombs 2d6

4             +3           +4           +4           +1           Alchemy, bombardier specialization

5             +3           +4           +4           +1           Bombs 3d6

6             +4           +5           +5           +2           Bombardier specialization, nimble +2

7             +5           +5           +5           +2           Alchemy, bombs 4d6

8             +6           +6           +6           +2           Bombardier specialization

9             +6           +6           +6           +3           Bombs 5d6

10           +7           +7           +7           +3           Alchemy, bombardier specialization, nimble +3

11           +8           +7           +7           +3           Bombs 6d6

12           +9           +8           +8           +4           Bombardier specialization

13           +9           +8           +8           +4           Bombs 7d6

14           +10        +9           +9           +4           Alchemy, bombardier specialization, nimble +4

15           +11        +9           +9           +5           Bombs 8d6

16           +12        +10        +10        +5           Bombardier specialization

17           +12        +10        +10        +5           Bombs 9d6

18           +13        +11        +11        +6           Alchemy, bombardier specialization, nimble +5

19           +14        +11        +11        +6           Bombs 10d6

20           +15        +12        +12        +6           Bombardier specialization

 

That’s not as crowded as it looks, given that alchemists have a similar set of heavily loaded levels. But it also doesn’t leave room for a lot of NEW abilities, which is an important part of a hybrid class. We can certainly make many new abilities specializations, but we need a core ability that is the bombardier’s alone, and that’s likely going to push something out. Also, we may want to tack on something like evasion, to help make the martial-bomb-user theme work, and that’s going to take up space. Compared to the alchemist, this looks reasonable. Compared to the rogue, it looks a bit too flexible.

But it’s a good START, which is all we were looking for. With the as a baseline we can design new unique class features, and shuffle things around, in Part Three!

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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 26, 2016, in Game Design, Pathfinder Development and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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