With the impending release of the PHB2, and the general notion of what will be included, it occurred to me that even with these classes there seem to be some fairly reasonable character concepts that just don’t seem to mesh well with D&D. This article will identify those concepts, identify where I perceive the shortcoming in bringing the concept to fruition, and take a stab at how to solve this problem.
PIRATE (Naval/Airship characters in general)
Problem: Although not limited to Pirates, we all know that when we talk about the problems with nautical characters we’re all thinking pirates! In my mind I see the problem as two-fold. First, if you make yourself adept at ship-oriented things (including making up skills), it tends to make you bad in other respects (i.e. plowing through Dungeons, fighting Dragons). Secondly, there are no real powers/feats or much anything that manage to help this concept out anyway. So, here you are, wanting to be a pirate, but without any real rules to support your plundering anyway and with the few small things you can do just making you a bit of clunker off the boat. Overall, I view this as a crunch deficiency.
Solution: First, if your PCs really want to be pirates, figure out a way to set up some standard pirate ship skill challenges using non-obvious skills that are not perfect fits. For instance, you could let the PCs use their skills to help the pilot: use Endurance to help work the sails during a storm (keeping up at the task) or Nature to help figure out what to expect from the storm. Secondly, I would suggest that should a class be made, or powers be made available along the lines of the Spell Scarred, and that they should simply receive ‘bonus text’ in the nautical setting along the lines of the benefits fighters gain when using hammers with certain powers.
Problem: The hard boiled investigator just seems to be without a home in D&D. Sure, there is not a ‘detective’ class, but it seems like you can replicate a great deal of this through the Rogue. Now, perhaps the focus on backstab is a bit inappropriate, but the skill set and attribute focuses are decent approximation. To me, its not the lack of private eye/investigator rules that shoots this concept in the foot, but the inherited assumptions of most D&D games. Simply put, most DMs don’t run games to accommodate a mystery solving sleuth.
Solution: With the proper heads up you can probably keep some mysteries running through the game. You can also incorporate them into an overaching plot so that one PC’s constantly nattering about clues doesn’t bug the other characters too much.
Problem: Dudes fighting on horseback is a mainstay in fantasy, yet it always seems like a clunky afterthought in D&D. Sure, Paladins used to get warhorses, but they always got in the way and their solution to the problem was having the horse be summonable (nice hand wave, guys). In 4E they have lifted that portion of the paladin concept, but we have no real viable solution for a PC that loves riding horses. The rules have always felt inorganic and tacked on… plus it’s just annoying to have the dude that leads his horse through a dungeon, and equally problematic having the old school horses that would be more formidable than low level characters! Right now, again, I see a crunch problem.
Solution: To me, this is actually an easy one. The ‘pets’ from prior D&D editions felt extraneous to me as well, or ridiculous. Now, the 4.0 Beast Ranger has addressed that problem. I was impressed with its simplicity and effectiveness. I would hope that in the Divine Power book they reintroduce the Paladin Mount with a similar rules set.
Problem: The noble comes in many guises, but amongst the general notion resides some of my favorite concepts (such as the “Lord without a Throne” aka Lan from Wheel of Time or Paul from Dune). However, the mainline D&D product does virtually nothing to support it, despite its prevalence in non-D&D d20 products (Star Wars, Wheel of Time, etc). As simple as it is to make it part of your own character’s fluff, the concept is prevalent enough that there should be some meat to the idea. We have reviewed products that use multi-classing as a fix, but this does not deal with the idea of possessing land, title, or the background skills that would be logical for your upbringing. I view these problems as a lack of crunch.
Solution: The idea of the multiclass noble is interesting, but only gets at part of the problem. I think the idea of having feats that reflect a noble background (with the skills, lands, wealth, titles) and some just general use powers open to people that take that feat make sense. A full blown noble class would inevitably be a leader, but I am not sure that if there is enough inherent to the concept that involves combat to be a fully fleshed-out 4E class. Alternatively, the noble could be a class that features ‘advance multi-classing’ where you have to choose a class to supplement your power selection.