yamanin


Thinking Out Loud

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Alternate Casting Attributes
yamanin

Since time immemorial (or, you know, at least the early 1980's), Dungeons & Dragons and its successors have handed down a framework for spellcasting that has remained largely unchanged.

The core casting classes are:

  • Wizards, who learn magic by studying books or other magical writings, run off of Intelligence.
  • Clerics, who get magic from the god(s) they worship, and Druids and Rangers, who get magic from their relationship with nature, all run off of Wisdom.
  • Bards, who get magic from their music, Paladins, who get magic from a Lawful and/or Good god, and Sorcerers, who get magic from having weird ancestors, all run off of Charisma.

To boil down the mechanics:

  • Intelligence correlates to more book learning, more languages, and more skill points (in the editions that use them). This offsets a wizard's low skill-points-per-level (all the pure casters have poor skill points) and tends to make them well-read on all subjects, not just magic.
  • Wisdom covers a grab bag of abilities like animal handling, wilderness survival, non-magical healing, and interpersonal and situational awareness. It also feeds into Will saves, which let you resist all sorts of mental attacks. Most pure casters have strong Will saves regardless, but clerics and druids get a double dose of incorruptibility.
  • Charisma covers the social skills, meaning that sorcerers often wind up as the face of the party, even though there's nothing else mechanical about the class that would suggest it otherwise. (Bards are stylistically a natural fit for 'face' role, and paladins can go either way.)

Okay, so what? Well, each of those attributes ties in with other game features and even character personality. This has led to baked-in stereotypes that don't necessarily make sense, and a lot of mechanical weirdness:

  • The wizard is probably better at boat-building, beer-brewing, and blacksmithing than anyone else in the party, even though she's spent most of her life in a library.
  • The sorcerer whose undead nature is so strong that even zombies think she's a zombie is probably more pleasant to be around than a cleric of sunshine and daisies.
  • An amoral druid is more resistant to temptation than a consecrated paladin.

The three mental attributes aren't equal in value, but there's nothing particularly game-breaking if we decided that a class' spellcasting ran off a different attribute. Let's explore a few alternatives:

  • The Intelligence Bard Bards already get Bardic Knowledge and ample skill points. Boosting it with high Intelligence makes them almost all-knowing, enough skill points to actually put them in all of their class skills, and languages get them in as ambassadors and translators. This is a bard more interested in memorizing all the lore than being at the center of a crowd, really a living library. Possibly OP, but perhaps less annoying than the bard that needs to be the center of attention all the time.
  • The Intelligence Cleric Clerics of more legalistic faiths might as well get their spells through Intelligence, exercising their faith in theological argument. They'd be slightly more prone to temptation and corruption because they're better able to see both sides of an issue. This is an urban and urbane cleric, cosmopolitan and erudite.
  • The Intelligence Ranger This is a little odd, but this ranger is less 'Lord of the Wilderness' and instead focuses on knowledge of favored enemies. This dovetails nicely with urban ranger archetypes, this is a guy who knows all his enemies' weaknesses, speaks their language, and uses their own nature against them.
  • The Wisdom Paladin This is a quieter, more introspective paladin. Not always out in front as the shining knight, a wisdom paladin manifests simple devotion and as a result is even more resistant to temptation. This paladin is more equipped to care for mounts, tend to the sick and needy, and live self-sufficiently, while still able to smite for righteousness.
  • The Wisdom Sorcerer A sorcerer's power comes from her bloodline - her magic comes from within. What if accessing that magic required a lot of meditation and introspection. This sorcerer has iron will and an eclectic set of knacks, and can be a wallflower if she wants to.
  • The Wisdom Wizard Obvious cognates aside, there's no particular reason a wizard would have a lot of skill points and be good at foreign languages. Maybe knowing magic is like knowing RPG rules: a whole lot of study to understand something with an internal logic but no cross-disciplinary application.
  • The Charisma Cleric This is the firebrand preacher with the silver tongue. This cleric can preach a sermon and unify a congregation. May be a little more vulnerable to temptation.

Other than the casting stat (and the assumption that the player will invest their highest stat roll into the casting stat), nothing has changed mechanically about these classes. I'm tempted to just let players pick a mental attribute to be their casting attribute for a given class (within reason - as Sporelord1079 put it, "I mean, a wizard can't charm more spells out of his book.".)

I'm also experimenting with swapping spell lists - though I'd be even more cautious with this than swapping casting attributes.

  • Cleric and druid spells are mostly comparable. Swap them, and you get a cleric that can transform into animals, or a druid that can channel energy.
  • Ranger and paladin spells are pretty comparable. I don't see a great advantage for the paladin, but a ranger with paladin spells becomes the ultimate demon hunter.

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