za3k > archive > rich burlew's articles > the new world, part 2: class decisions

The New World, Part 2: Class Decisions

by Rich Burlew - originally from

I left off last time after coming up with some of the major themes I want to inject into the world. To recap, so far I have a world with a dualistic religion that influences all aspects of the world, based on a Sun Goddess and a Moon God. I have some ideas about arcane magic not being so different from divine magic as well.

Looking at the last article again, I think clearly the "supernatural agent" I discussed as a source for arcane powers needs to stay tied in to the Sun/Moon theme. Perhaps all magic of any kind flows from the Sun or Moon, though that turns wizards and sorcerers into clerics, thematically. Unless, as I suggested, the Sun and Moon are indifferent to their worshippers; they simply exist as a source of power, to be tapped in whatever way the caster can. If every mortal is born under the sign of one of the two, the power of arcane magic may flow as much from the caster as the Sun or Moon. But then, that slips back into arcane magic being impersonal.

OK, let's look at this from a game point of view. There are three types of casters: Intelligence-based preparatory, Wisdom-based preparatory, and Charisma-based spontaneous. Traditionally, Wisdom-based preparatory is the only type of spellcasting that requires an in-game relationship with a god. One type allows armor to be worn, the other two do not. Now, I'm thinking of eliminating the concepts of arcane and divine magic; the obvious replacement would be Sun Magic and Moon Magic. That sounds nice, but it already doesn't fit exactly; divine magic allows armor, and there are two primary arcane caster methods (Intelligence and Charisma) but only one divine caster method (Wisdom). Plus, it severely hampers the creativity of players. Not everyone who plays a cleric is going to want to be Sun, for example, if each deity has the kind of connotations that I briefly touched on earlier.

So rather than having Sun Magic be a cipher for divine and Moon a cipher for arcane, what if both Sun and Moon Magic contained casters of all three kinds: Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma-based? That starts to sound better; that would give us six possible primary spellcaster types. It also begins to suggest some ideas for altering classes; removing wizard specialists in favor of Sun Wizards and Moon Wizards, for starters. But I am still hung up on how to differentiate, in-game, between Sun Clerics and Sun Wizards. If the power all flows from the same source, why can one class wear armor and one can't? Why can one class heal and the other can't?

One solution would be to alter the classes so significantly that you have wizards who can heal and clerics who can cast fireball, but I don't think that's a good idea here. This is a setting, not a new RPG, and the more fundamentally I change the classes, the less usable material from other sources will be in a campaign run in this world. So I want to keep the classes similar to their existing nature, but just tweak the story behind their powers.

I'm thinking now of the wizardry being more of a secret cult rather than a science. Wizardry involves the summoning and binding of spirits associated with the Sun and Moon, and then using words of power to extract magic. It's not as harsh as it first sounds, though, because the Sun and Moon ultimately created the spirits for that purpose. The wizards may worship their benefactor, but ultimately their spellcasting is essentially a craft, not a religious experience. In fact, what if the familiar was replaced with a Sun or Moon spirit made flesh, that was a literal sign of the wizard's bargain? I kind of like that, it has an old medieval feel to it. Since most citizens of the world worship the Sun or Moon, the idea of binding their servants is unpalatable, resulting in a need for secrecy about the wizards' means and identities. Wizardry might even be a capital offense in some nations, depending on local customs.

That leaves us with divine magic as more or less unchanged from the standard model: servants of a god that draw magic from their worship. Sun Clerics and Moon Clerics can basically divide up all the existing domains, and the idea of Sun Druids and Moon Druids is a very cool one. Moon Druids might only take on nocturnal animal companions, for example, and be more into shapeshifting. Heck, that might lead to a whole variant druid class for the Sun Druid.

Now what about the sorcerer? I don't want to leave him as the wizard's poor cousin; I think he needs a major overhaul, conceptually. Forget dragon heritage, or the idea that the sorcerers just have a "knack" for arcane casting; I want their magic to have a unique power source. Let's look at this logically: wizards take their power from the gods, clerics ask for their power from the gods. What does that leave for the sorcerer? How about they are given their powers by the gods-without being asked first? A sorcerer is someone who has been "blessed" with magic that they cannot necessarily control. As the gods do not reveal their intention, the sorcerer is left to figure out what purpose he is expected to fulfill. They are always respected, even revered, by the populace as holy men, but they don't really know how to react. I like this idea because it is an about-face from the "sorcerers are hated and feared" stance of the standard rules.

Ultimately, this take on the sorcerer may require a complete redesign of the class. I wouldn't mind giving them their own spell lists, with a mixture of arcane and divine spells, to emphasize the dissolution of the old division.

What about the rest of the classes? Well, fighter and rogue are so generic I can't imagine altering them significantly. I imagine there will be barbarians and monks as well; I like that there may be Sun Monks and Moon Monks, too, so maybe I will look into adding a bit of customization to that class. Rangers are a bit tricky, but if there are Sun and Moon Druids, I can apply the same logic to rangers. Maybe I can use the Combat Style as a dividing point between the two.

Then there is the paladin and the bard. As I have defined it, the paladin is soooo Sun and the bard is completely Moon. Maybe that's OK; make both classes only available to followers of the appropriate deity. Then toss the alignment restrictions on both; turn them each into ideals of their particular deity, a kind of personification of that god's priorities. If I do that, though, I'll tweak each class a bit. Probably give them a very specific place in the cultures of each nation.

Well, the class choices for players are shaping up pretty well, as is the definition of magic in this world: magic is the way you access and use the power of the Sun and Moon. There can be no magic without the Sun or the Moon, which makes the choice of which to serve very important. Players will not be able to multiclass between Sun and Moon classes, so if you are a Moon Wizard, and want to multiclass to cleric, you must be a Moon Cleric too. Of course, while the two camps are mutually exclusive, they are not violently opposed. An adventuring party might include a Moon Wizard, a Sun Cleric, a Sun Monk, a fighter without any strong affiliation, and a rogue/Moon Bard.

Looking back at this, I realize I am making some strong changes to the class system that goes a bit beyond the level of mere campaign setting. But if I'm careful, I won't completely invalidate existing material while creating a class system where there is a lot of room for customization.

Also, notice how I used the needs of the game experience to help me define the fictional reality of the world. This is an important concept that I can't stress enough when creating a world: don't fall into the trap of making a decision for your world that hampers actual gameplay. First and foremost, your world needs to be usable in a real game with real players, all of whom want different characters and have different ideas about what they like about D&D.; Every time you change a rule to conform to your setting, you run the risk of alienating a player, so carefully consider each alteration.