Friday, August 2, 2013
Playing the Specialists
The Dragon alchemist class has a number of fascinating new potions, and I recommend tracking down this class (which unfortunately isn't in the Best of the Dragon #1) mostly for its interesting new potions, such as flash pellets, which are thrown at the floor to blind opponents and come with the warning "Don't fall into a pit." This would be a fairly interesting character to have, although they really aren't much use until third level. An alchemist really fits best into a retinue-type campaign, where the character attaches themselves to other PCs at low levels and functions like a magic-user, and pays them back later with potions aplenty. It's also an interesting alternative to have an alchemist running around doing the healbot stuff, since they can create potions of healing at level 3 (3000 XP), rather than a cleric.
Spies are the very obvious class here that has a niche somewhere around the assassin and the thief. Indeed, for some kinds of action I would consider a spy to be almost more iconic than the thief or assassin as such. A spy class could be somewhere between a thief and assassin and the LotFP specialist - a jack of all trades, and someone really good at sneaking and finding hidden information. Like thieving and assassination, these are really things that just about anybody could do, but a spy class could really fill a couple of niches well in a dungeon. One is the sneaking and reconnaissance role that thieves often take part in. The other is disguise and infiltration of enemy groups; very useful if there is a bunch of brigands or bandits in the dungeon or wilderness.
Sages have an Arnesonian pedigree. It's not immediately clear what one will provide on a dungeon expedition, but in a true exploration game that might not be so irrelevant. If a sage is able to figure out the secrets of the dungeon and get the party to the treasure alive instead of falling to its horrible tricks and traps, he's worth his weight in gold. Particularly if you give a sage class a magic item use capability similar to magic-users for wands, rods, staves and so on (but no actual spells).
The rest are a stretch. Engineers could be interesting in a dungeon, but only if the referee is willing to tolerate a very nonstandard approach to exploration - reminding one of the story of digging around the traps in the Tomb of Horrors. Animal Trainer is explicitly limited to one type of animal, which precludes a Beastmaster type of character with all kinds of "pets" that do his work; probably good for those who are squeamish about animal death. Seamen and sea captains, outside a strictly nautical campaign where they'd probably just be fighting-men, are not useful at all.
But for these four - alchemist, sage, assassin and spy - I do think there's real potential for highly nonstandard PCs. Especially with the spy, who I think could be a better alternative to the thief if done properly.