Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What I Talk About When I Talk About Prestige Classes (Part 2)

So I've been writing some posts about prestige classes. This one is to develop the idea of campaign-specific classes that help to tie the PCs into the world. They're divided according to a range of half-formed campaign ideas I've been thinking about.

Classes for a campaign based on Norse mythology
Berserker: "When Hardbeen heard this, a demoniacal frenzy suddenly took him; he furiously bit and devoured the edges of his shield; he kept gulping down fiery coals; he snatched live embers in his mouth and let them pass down into his entrails; he rushed through the perils of crackling fires; and at last, when he had raved through every sort of madness, he turned his sword with raging hand against the hearts of six of his champions."
- Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum

Berserker Rooks from the Lewis Chessmen. Note the teeth chewing the shields.
When a warrior is violently wronged - his comrades slain, his hall burned, his village slaughtered - he may become a Berserker. Such a state lasts only so long as the character quests to revenge himself upon the perpetrator of the evil deed. When entering into a berserkergang (rage) the character will gain temporary hit points, a bonus to attack and damage, and immunity to fire. However he may struggle to tell the difference between friend and foe.
Völva: The völva are seeresses who practice the mysterious magic known as seid, which allows them to gaze into the future along the strands of fate, and at higher levels to weave the threads of fate themselves. Völva are wanderers, travelling from place to place where their services are needed but rarely welcome after their task is complete. If a völva is to take on an apprentice, she must first be convinced of the character's worth and wisdom. After becoming a völva, the character can never return home again.
Male practitioners of seid, known as seidmen, are even rarer. Because they practise women's magic, they are reviled in Viking society and executed if captured.
Hermit: Sometimes the violent life of a Viking becomes too much for even the stoutest of warriors. After witnessing the death of a boon companion, a character may choose to take the Hermit class. A Hermit does not own anything he cannot carry, nor can he use any items worked by human hand, including armour and weapons. The Hermit gains tracking abilities as a Ranger, and is able to travel and feed himself without fail in even the most dire of conditions. Mundane wild animals will not harm him, and those who once knew him will not recognise him any more. The Hermit can gain bonus XP by throwing treasure away into the wilderness.
The Hermit generally renounces his class after a period of mourning, after which he returns to civilisation more or less the same as he was before. (This class is derived from certain scenes in Arrow-Odd and also the Epic of Gilgamesh.)
Skald: A Skald is a wandering poet who describes tales of wonder and glory for the entertainment of his listeners. To become a Skald, a character requires both a high Charisma and a suitably epic story to tell about their adventures. The player must then compose a poem describing the adventure and perform it. The Skald's poetry grants him the adoration of the masses and a bonus to reaction rolls for large groups of normal humans. Additionally, many fae creatures, demons and even gods can be distracted or defeated by flyting, an act of ritualized poetic insults.

Classes for Batmania
Traveller: When different Aboriginal tribes wish to communicate or trade, there are complex laws and taboos that govern their interaction. The one invested with the power to navigate these laws is called the Traveller. Travellers essentially have 'diplomatic immunity' between tribes, though this depends on their comprehensive knowledge of the local customs. This diplomatic immunity extends even to the realm of the spirits, who must accept the Traveller and not harm them as long as they obey the spirits' traditions. The Traveller is also able to sing special songs that guide them along songlines, where each landmark in the journey is related to a specific verse of the song. Travelling on songlines is always easy and free of trouble. The powers of the Traveller remain only so long as they are charged with a specific journey by their own tribe.

Classes for Hogwarts
Animagus: An Animagus is a wizard* who can transform at will into a particular animal. The species of the animal is selected randomly. The process of becoming an Animagus includes both arduous training and beastly shamanic rituals to unlock the wizard's inner creature. If the ritual goes wrong, the Animagus may become permanently trapped in animal form, or turned into a horrifying human/animal hybrid.
Legilimens: A Legilimens is a wizard trained in the art of mind-reading, allowing them to delve into the thoughts of others. They are also able to use the opposite discipline, Occlumency, to protect themselves against Legilimency and other mental attacks. Legilimency requires strenous training and can only be learned from another, more experience Legilimens.
*Of course, in Hogwarts everyone is a wizard even if they are a Fighter or a Thief.

Classes for an Antediluvian setting
False Idol: False Idols are those who are worshipped as gods, in defiance of the one true God who created the heaven and the earth. The False Idol class is unusual in that anyone or anything can take levels in it - not just humans but also animals, spirits, inanimate objects or landmarks. Instead of gaining EXP, the Idol's level is related to the number of active worshippers. The False Idol gains the ability to spontaneously cast Cleric-type spells, and at higher levels to grant such spells to its own followers.

Bonus: Classes that can be granted by PCs or NPCs
Rolang wrote up a Paladin class in response to my post, where he specifies that the Paladin is created by a high-level Cleric with the spell Initiate Paladin. This got me thinking about other master-apprentice type relationships. The following classes can be taken by PCs when they are low level, and/or granted to their hirelings when they are high level.
Trusty Sidekick: A Fighter of 6th level or above may choose to appoint one of their Fighter henchmen as a Trusty Sidekick, but only if the henchman has saved the Fighter's life. The Sidekick now has hit points or hit dice equal to their master, will never fail morale checks and will always act to protect and serve their master. (If a PC, the Sidekick can still choose to abandon their master but will lose the prestige class immediately.)
NPCs who grant Sidekick status are typically retired or semi-retired adventurers, local lords, knights, and other such who will not be likely to join the actual PC party and thus overshadow everyone else.
If the bond of the Sidekick is broken, the two characters will become Mortal Enemies, destined for strife until only one survives.
If the Sidekick or the master dies, then the other must enter a period of mourning as a Hermit (if the death was natural or immediately avenged) or a Berserker (if the killer escapes unpunished).
As well as a PC-NPC interaction, the Sidekick system could also be used as a hacky way to let low-level PCs adventure alongside high levels.
Sorcerer's Apprentice: A Magic-User of 8th level of above may take on 1-3 Apprentices. The Apprentice must be a Magic-User henchman of lower level. To initiate them, the Magic-User must grant them one spell for each level of spell that they are able to cast. Wise or paranoid masters will also require a magical blood binding which compels the Apprentice to protect and obey their master at all times, an enchantment that is difficult to be rid of. 
If an Apprentice ever exceeds the level of their master, then the blood binding is reversed. Most Apprentices will definitely seek to exploit this in order to slay their master and steal their spells.

Not really sure about the rules for these two but the concept is solid. Basically the idea is that the Sidekick relationship is about being best buddies and crying when the other person gets killed. Apprentice is the opposite of that - it's a race to get more XPs so you can dick the other guy over.

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