Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More S&W Complete Fighters

On first blush I was pretty happy with the changes made to the Fighter class in Complete. Then I really gave it a good look.

This iteration of the Fighting Man has two new class features that are supposed to set him apart from the other classes. They are his ability to Parry and exclusive use of Strength bonuses on to-hit and damage rolls. He also has the ability to make one attack per level vs opponents of one HD or less.

One thing I find myself guilty of when designing something is considering the best-case as the baseline. I don't mean to, but it happens. Then, I start thinking some idea I've had is unbalancing or too powerful. That seems to be the case to me with this Fighter. A lot is made of being the only class able to take advantage of Strength bonuses, and those bonuses apply to missile fire, as well, making the Fighter a formidable and deadly archer. Such a Fighter can enjoy a bonus of +3 to-hit and damage with a missile weapon, if his stats are high enough.

That's a tall order, though, and for Fighters without such stats, there are essentially no class abilities. In order to enjoy the benefits of the Strength modifiers on to-hit and damage rolls, the character must have a Strength of at least 13. This would allow a +1 to-hit, no modifier to damage. When rolling straight 3d6 for stats there is a 26% chance the roll will be 13 or more. The damage bonus doesn't come in until the Strength score is at least 16, where the damage bonus is +1. A roll of 16 or better occurs only 5% of the time. The maximum benefit, +2 to-hit/+3 damage, comes with an 18 Strength, which happens less than .5% of the time. Those probabilities don't account for rolling in order. I'm no statistician, and I don't know if I have ever had to roll in order, so it isn't worth considering, really. Then, of course for the deadly archer mentioned, the Dexterity roll has to be 13+, as well. The Parry ability is dependent on a Dexterity of 14+, 16% of the time. I have no idea what the percentage is of getting a 13+ on Strength and 14+ on Dexterity with the same character, but I'm sure it's brutal.

Part of the attraction of the OSR, for me, is that I don't need to feel like characters with a highest stat of 13 and the rest between 9 and 11 are unplayable. Remember the quote from the AD&D? The one about characters needing at least 15s in at least 2 stats to be considered playable.

"Furthermore, it is usually essential to the character's survival to be exceptional (with a rating of 15 or above) in no fewer than two ability characteristics."
PHB, pg 9
I don't want that. Exceptional should, by definition, be the exception. If the entire party is sporting at least two stats of 15+, where's the "exceptional"? Oh, sure, compared to everyone else in the world, maybe. But only if they are NPCs, and NPCs that aren't retired adventurers, because they would have to possess such scores as well.

So, while those bonuses looked good on paper, they are too problematic for me. I believe that a Fighter's class abilities should be just that, class abilities, not stat abilities. They should scale with his level, just like all the other classes. Lastly, they should be exclusive to the class, not allowed to so-called "subclasses" like paladins and rangers. I think I'll be incorporating my personal Fighter class for my megadungeon. If I ever get a group to play it.


  1. I would change it back to what was in S&W Core and redo the Fighter's chart. Everybody would get the +1 on 13+ and the fighter would get something a little more such as from 16 to 17 a +2 and 18 a +3.

  2. I had that as a house rule at one time. I'll post my current thoughts tomorrow or the next day. They look much more potent than I believe they'll play. I want Fighters to have playable damage output at higher levels. There is something about a 1st level fighter and a 10th level fighter having the same damage range that rubs me the wrong way. I understand the 10th level guy has a better to-hit, and based on that will statistically do more damage due to greater frequency of hits. Still, there's nothing like throwing down with an 18 point damage roll . . .