Saturday, March 31, 2012

Converting 4E Classes to AD&D: The Ardent

It seems a lot of people are critical of the 4E 'grid system' for character classes. The grid system basically consists of the idea that each character has a power source (Martial, Divine, Arcane, Primal, etc.) and a combat role (Defender, Leader, Striker, Controller). Though it's impossible to say for sure, it seems like part of WotC's design process for new classes is to look at this grid and try to fill in the blanks. For example, the Barbarian and Druid filled up the places of Primal Striker and Primal Controller, respectively, but the new classes of Shaman and Warden were created to fill the role of Primal Leader and Primal Defender.

I actually like this process, because it brings out a lot of new and interesting character concepts. The Shaman, for example, may have started off as nothing but 'Primal Leader', but the final concept (which is based around communing with animist nature-spirits) is more than the sum of its parts. On the other hand, these interesting core concepts can kind of get buried under all the At-Will/Encounter/Daily powers and the rigid adherence to the character's combat role. So I thought I'd make a project of converting some of my favourite 4E classes into AD&D-style format, in order to distill their essence as it were. I'll start with one of 4E's most obscure and sometimes ridiculed classes: the Ardent.

Well, let's face it: the Ardent as a character concept is kind of a mess. In 3rd edition they were apparently a type of psion that draws their power from philosophical concepts, which sounds more like a webcomic joke than a real class. I do like the idea of a D&D character using the power of Platonic Idealism to blow up a minotaur, but I don't think I'd want to play them for an extended period of time. In 4th edition, the Ardent is presented as an empathic, emotional counterpart to the cool logical Psion. The id instead of the superego, if you will. The central idea of the Ardent here is the ability to control emotions, but it's pretty vague: sometimes you can manipulate emotions (i.e. instil fear in your enemies) and sometimes you can use your own emotions as a fuel source for... powers and stuff... and it all boils down to 'you buff your allies and debuff your enemies' because that's what Leader-roles have got to do.

I think the 'manipulate emotions' part of the concept is the most interesting, so that's what my version of the Ardent focuses on. Some people have also pointed out that the name 'Ardent' is pretty meaningless, so I've changed it to the more descriptive 'Empath'.


The Empath is a psionic class with the power to control emotions. While the Psion commands the mental powers of logic and rationality, the Empath has mastery over the human passions. 

Power Points: The Empath’s psionic powers use a system of Power Points. One Power Point may be expended to use the Empath’s powers once. Power Points may be restored by making contact with the unconscious through deep sleep. For every 2 hours that the Empath sleeps, one Power Point will be replenished, up to the character’s maximum PP value.

Emotional Domain: At 1st level, the Empath must choose an emotional domain to exert control over. At each subsequent level, the character chooses another domain, until at 4th level all the domains have been acquired. Each domain consists of two emotional poles with a neutral state between them. The domains are as follows:

Hatred --- Neutral --- Love
Fear --- Neutral --- Courage
Sadness --- Neutral --- Bliss
Anger --- Neutral --- Calm

Influence Emotion: By expending 1 PP, the Empath may attempt to exert influence over the emotions of allies or enemies. The player chooses which domain shall be influenced and in which direction (positive or negative). The effective range of the power is as follows:
Range: 20ft. per level of caster
No. affected: see table below
Duration: 3 minutes per level of the caster
Saving throw: vs. Spell (willing targets may forego their saving throw)

Those affected are shifted one space along the emotional continuum outlined above: that is, from a neutral state to a pole, or from a pole to a neutral state. In simple terms, an Empath wielding influence over the domain of Fear/Courage could inspire courage in their targets or alternately inspire fear. If the targets were already fearful, then the Empath would only be able to bring them back to a neutral state.
In general, all creatures and characters may be considered by default to exist in a neutral state with regard to all four emotional domains. The Dungeon Master may decide that in some circumstances a character or monster may already be affected by an emotion. However, it should be borne in mind that the emotional poles represent extreme, almost unnatural forms of emotion. Furthermore, the ‘neutral’ state is always the baseline, so an habitually angry creature like an orc would not qualify as being psionically angered simply due to regular bad-temperedness, but only due to some specific circumstances.
The Empath’s emotional manipulation is not mind control. It cannot force the subject to follow a particular course of action, but it may influence them to take a course that they would otherwise have avoided.

The full implications of a particular emotional state are highly contextual and are left to the players and the Dungeon Master to determine between them. However, there are some common mechanical effects of each emotion:
Love: As the Spartans knew, those feeling love for their comrades in arms will fight better in ranks. While grouped in a tight formation of 3 or more, the loving comrades will grant each other a +1 bonus to AC. (Note: the emotion of love may extend to brotherly/sisterly or companionable love as well as romantic affection.) On the other hand, an enemy in love with the caster may be considered to be under the influence of a charm spell.
Hatred: Those feeling hatred for their enemies will attack more savagely, dealing +2 damage with melee attacks.
Courage: Those instilled with courage will rarely, if ever, fail a morale check.
Fear: Those instilled with fear will almost certainly attempt to flee from any danger. (Note: The effects of these emotions are intentionally left vague due to the diversity of systems available for morale. The Dungeon Master must decide the exact effect for the morale system of their choice.)
Joy: Those feeling great joy will generally be apathetic towards other interests, though they will still act to defend themselves and their property against immediate harm. Basking in joy for the full duration of the effect will allow the subject/s to regenerate 1d4 hit points.
Sadness: Those feeling great sadness will fight without enthusiasm, taking a -1 penalty to all attack rolls.
Calm: Those who are perfectly calm will fight with precision, gaining a +1 bonus to all attack rolls.
Anger: Those overcome by anger will attack with vigour, gaining a +2 bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls. However, they will move relentlessly to attack and pursue their targets until the anger comes to an end.

Permanent Emotion: At 5th level, the Empath gains the ability to make their emotional influence permanent - creating an enduring bond of love, a bottomless hatred, an endless feeling of grief and so forth. This ability is used in conjunction with Influence Emotion above, but is further restricted in being able to affect only a single target. Using Permanent Emotion expends all the Empath's remaning Power Points.

The Empath’s other statistics are as follows:
Hit die: d6
Armour Useable: Leather
Weapons Useable: As Thief
Attack rolls: As Thief/Assassin

Experience Points
Max. PP
Hit dice
HD affected
10d6 + 1
 300,000 experience points per level for each additional level beyond the 11th.

Like most psionic classes, the Empath doesn't really fit very well into your standard D&D fantasy setting. I think it would go better in a steampunk or pulp setting, something like Eberron or Weird Adventures. It would also fare better in a game with more social interaction than pure dungeoncrawling. Although you could use the Empath's powers to distract or avoid enemies in a dungeon, I think it would be most fun to play around with them in a social situation.

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