Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Separate Race and Class in LotFP

UPDATE ON 1/16/17: Version 2.0 is HERE, although this post might still be useful for context.

Today's post is a riff on THIS POST from a cool blog called The Eye of Joyful Sitting Amongst Friends. There is also a useful comment from Jeff Wike on the aforementioned post in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Google+ group. Credit where credit is due.

I'm honestly not a big fan of the race-as-class concept. I cut my teeth on D&D 3.5 (and computer games based on AD&D 1E and 2E), so maybe I'm biased, but even though I'm coming to prefer the B/X and/or BECMI way of running D&D in almost every respect, there are a few things I prefer from the Advanced branch of the game, and separating race and class is one of them. I think it can give players a few more character creation options without totally overcomplicating the process or making it much longer. Can being the operative word.

Here are my suggestions for separating race and class in Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

At character creation, the player chooses both a race and a class. Available races are Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, and Humans. Available classes are the Fighter, the Cleric, and the Magic-User.

Elves must be Chaotic, and they can only be Fighters or Magic-Users. All Elves use the HP, Saving Throw, and Experience progression table of the Elf class from LotFP (for example, they use a d6 for Hit Dice). At character creation, Elven characters gain one extra point of Intelligence. Elves progress in the Search skill like the Elf class in LotFP. Elves are only surprised on a 1 in 6 chance.  Elves are immune to Sleep, Charm, and Hold Person spells, and are otherwise affected by certain spells differently than other characters; see Rules & Magic for details. Elves are damaged by holy water like other innately magical beings. Magic-Users who are Elves can cast spells with one hand and can cast spells when up to heavily encumbered, and they begin play at first level with the same starting spells as Human Magic-Users. Fighters who are Elves can cast Magic-User spells from wands and staves as a first-level Magic-User if they make a successful Save vs. Device; failure means the spell is not cast, but the appropriate charges are lost as if the spell were cast.

Dwarves must be Lawful, and they can only be Fighters or Clerics. All Dwarves use the HP, Saving Throw, and Experience progression table of the Dwarf class from LotFP (for example, they use a d10 for Hit Dice). At character creation, Dwarven characters gain one extra point of Constitution. Dwarves progress in the Architecture skill like the Dwarf class in LotFP. It takes 5 additional items for a Dwarf to gain their first point of encumbrance. Dwarven characters continue to add their Constitution modifier to their hit points after Level 9.

Halflings must be Neutral, and they can only be Fighters. All Halflings use the HP, Saving Throw, and Experience progression table of the Halfling class from LotFP (for example, they use a d6 for Hit Dice). At character creation, Halfling characters gain one extra point of Dexterity. Halflings progress in the Bushcraft skill like the Halfling class in LotFP. Halflings also begin play with a 5 in 6 Stealth skill. Halflings receive a 1-point bonus to AC when not surprised. Due to their size, Halflings cannot use large weapons, and must use medium weapons two-handed.

Humans can be Fighters, Clerics, or Magic-Users. Clerics must be Lawful and Magic-Users must be Chaotic, but Human Fighters can choose any of the three alignments. All Humans use the HP progression table of the Fighter (so they use a d8 for Hit Dice), and they use the Experience progression table corresponding to their class in LotFP.
All Humans start with a Saving Throw of 14 in every category. At first level and every level thereafter, Humans can choose to either improve four different Saving Throws by 1 point each, improve two different Saving Throws by 2 points each, or improve one Saving Throw by 2 points and two other Saving Throws by 1 point each. The minimum Saving Throw for a Human in any category is 2.
At character creation, Human characters gain one extra point in either Charisma, Strength, or Wisdom, as they see fit. All Humans gain Skill Points and distribute them among their skills like the Specialist class in LotFP.

EDIT ON JAN. 2, 2017: If you want a slightly less radical take on humans as a race, here's a simpler possibility.
Humans can be Fighters, Clerics, or Magic-Users. Clerics must be Lawful and Magic-Users must be Chaotic, but Human Fighters can choose any of the three alignments. All Humans use the HP progression table of the Fighter (so they use a d8 for Hit Dice), and they use the Saving Throw and Experience progression table corresponding to their class in LotFP. At character creation, Human characters gain one extra point of Charisma. All Humans gain Skill Points and distribute them among their skills like the Specialist class in LotFP.

 Some ways I think these rules might affect the game:
  1. All PCs would be more powerful across the board, but hopefully not by too much. I wouldn't recommend pulling too many punches if you use this race/class system for LotFP. On the other hand, if you want to run AD&D or more "modern" D&D modules with the LotFP rules, these house rule ideas might help address the possible issue of your typical LotFP characters being too weak to have a decent fighting chance at surviving or succeeding. Whether or not any issues of characters being weaker or stronger than "intended" even matter is in the eye of the beholder, of course.
  2. Magic-Users, in particular, would be a lot beefier. I personally see this as a good thing, since it encourages Magic-Users to take advantage of the lack of weapon and armor restrictions in LotFP, thus tempting them to take more stupid risks in combat and die gruesomely instead of letting the Fighters handle such messy matters. Players might also be less frustrated when playing low-level Magic-Users when they don't have to deal with the usual problem of supposedly becoming "useless" for the rest of the day once their few spells are cast, and thus less likely to want to throw dice at the DM or go play World of Darkness or something. If the idea of bending to the complaints of your players is entirely beneath you, that's fine, but I think that sometimes the players have a point.
  3. Players who want a lot of control over how their characters progress or want to be the most powerful (insofar as a diversity of skills/options in any given situation is a form of power) in the long run would probably play humans, while players who would rather have a prepackaged starting advantage (despite diminishing returns at later levels) would be more likely to play demihumans. Of course, there are other factors to consider. The most likely exception would be players who just want to have massive amounts of HP, since they would probably go for Dwarves. Anyone who wants Sneak Attack is going to need a Human. The ability of an Elven Magic-User to cast while heavily encumbered can come in handy at any level. Etc.
  4. Considering how long it takes to level up in LotFP, and again, how deadly LotFP tends to be, the majority of players might even gravitate toward playing demihuman characters because of their initial advantages. That's fine. Remember that humans dominate society, demihumans are rare, and non-humans are usually going to be treated as freaks and curiosities at best or targets for superstitious mobs and witch-hunters at worst.
  5. Of course, I might be completely wrong about all of my expected results. Maybe I'm way off-base with my predictions about "initial advantages vs. long-term power" being the main difference between demihumans and humans. Maybe if this is something worth actually aiming for, I should make some more radical tweeks to the system. Playtesting would be needed to see what would actually happen. I would love to hear predictions from more experienced D&D players, as well!
Additional notes:
I changed the Dwarf's bonus to Constitution and the Halfling's bonues to Dexterity from a bonus to the modifier to a bonus to the initial Ability Score itself because the former approach (from LotFP RAW) complicates the way Ability Scores work a bit too much for my taste. Like everything else, please feel free to ignore my opinion on this. EDIT: Brett Slocum convinced me in a discussion on the LotFP Google+ group that it would be better to just use modifier bonus like in the LotFP rules as written. It's more useful to the players if they do it that way, and it's not that much more complicated.
I added the rule about Elven Fighters being able to use wands (shittily) because I thought that they were slightly outmatched by Human and Dwarven Fighters without some kind of little extra perk, and because I think it fits in with the magical nature of Elves.
The main idea I was going for here is that humans have more choice over their destinies than demihumans, and are less set in their ways. I think this matches a lot of fantasy fiction rather well, along with the fluff for the demihuman classes in LotFP and the depiction of the Dwarf race in Hammers of the God.
Looking back over these rules, I kind of feel like Elves suck in general compared to Humans, Dwarves, and Halflings. This could be a false impression. Playtesting would help confirm or deny it. Insert whining about how hard game design is here.


  1. Rob (a player in our campaign) tried to post this and said it didn't work. He told me I could post his comment if I wished, so here it is.
    PART 1

    "For some reason, I am unable to post any kind of reply on your blog, so I post this here, instead.
    Re: Race/Class Combos
    Personally, I really don't like the race-as-class thing, either. It pigeon-holes every race into being a stereotypical set of mass-produced clones. Why are humans the only race that have any form of individuality and choice?
    Separating race and class gives the players a lot more options. I don't see it as adding any complexity to the character creation process. It's a simple choice, and results in you writing down a couple numbers on your character sheet. With your proposal that humans get racial modifiers, there really is no difference in effort.
    In regards to the racial class restrictions, this is usually framed as a "balance" issue. Somehow people think that if they let a player mix Race A with Class Z, the resulting character will be more powerful than another player's character. Or that the result is so powerful that the mere presence of that one character will destroy the entire game. In my experience this is largely an overblown fear. Some player reads the rule book and thinks that if you combine Race A's extra dice attack with Class B's triple damage rule, then add the spell from Class C which causes your die rolls to have the highest possible result, then you can end up doing so much damage that you could kill a god with every swing of that bent fork you found alongside the road. An inexperienced or overly-literal DM lets an aggressive rules lawyer player get away with it. It ruins a carefully planned encounter, and they declare that from this point forward, Race A can't be Class B, because "zOMG! it's broken!"
    In actual play, the situation above should never be allowed to happen. The DM should implement controls on the fly to prevent it. For example: Disallow the multiplier combination effect, allowing the player to only get the benefit of the largest multiplier. Disallow the max-die-result effect when damage multipliers are active. Declare that the insanely multiplied power tears apart the delicate structure of the spell, perverting its effects so it will raise 1s to 2s, but drop 6s to 5s. Give the target of the attack a magic-nullifying effect. (The players don't need to know that this was added on the spur of the moment.) For some drama and future stage-setting: the intensely concentrated power tears a hole in reality, casting the target through to another dimension. (Who in best serial melodrama fashion comes back to challenge the PCs at a later crucial juncture in time, and is much more powerful as a result of the experience!)"


    "Most players won't try to find that perfect race/class choice. Players usually won't want to min/max a character in an attempt to break the game. (And if they do want to break your game, why are they still part of your game?) If any rule consistency issues arise with the choices, then work together to handle them in an intelligent way. It should be something that works within the IC framework of the game world. (I'll give some examples below.)
    If you feel that the rule set you've chosen to use is so broken that you just *have* to implement restrictions, then I think it is important that any restrictions you place upon the players' options need to work with the world concept, and make sense from an IC perspective.
    (And really, LotFP is so poorly written that I have no problem believing that some restrictions might be necessary.)
    Some sample rationales:
    1) Why can't dwarves be magic users? Dwarves love creating magical stuff. But maybe the reason is Dwarves are highly resistant to magic. That's why they get better saving throws vs. magic. (Maybe add a +2 to all saves involving magical effects.) However, this innate resistance means that they cannot exercise the fine control needed for spell casting. "Special snowflake" option for a PC: Allow a PC to play a dwarf that for some reason doesn't have this innate spell resistance, which allows him the ability to be a mage.
    2) Why can't elves be clerics? They have gods, don't they? Wouldn't the elven gods give out clerical spells like the other gods? Well, maybe the elven gods lost a war against the orcish gods, and were imprisoned in a pocket dimension. With no spiritual connection to the elven gods possible, anyone who worships them gets no spells, leaving them as a plain vanilla fighter. Possible plot hook: Free the elven gods from imprisonment, restoring the cleric class for the elves.
    3) Why do halflings have to be fighters, and not mages/clerics? ... I got nothin'. Why does this restriction even exist? Who thinks a halfling cleric would break the game?
    Arbitrary restrictions/explanations such as "there are elven clerics, but they wouldn't leave their sacred groves, so you could have NPC elven clerics, but not PC elven clerics" or "Dwarves just don't like magic users, so no dwarf would be one" go against the very nature of a PC in a heroic fantasy setting. PCs are, by their nature, "special snowflakes". The PCs *are* that super-rare dwarven mage, or the racially evil elf who really isn't evil. PCs should be special and larger-than-life. Even in game worlds where all the PCs are normal people, they should still be remarkable and special in some way that sets them apart from the norm.
    Arbitrary restrictions go against one of what I consider to be the main tenets of RPGs: Let the players do whatever they want. It's a DM's job to provide the players with a situation, let them decide what to do about it, then tell them what happens as a result of their actions. Restricting the players' choices, even in character creation, interferes with that process. It's railroading. For some players, it may be a big turn-off.
    This doesn't mean that you have to be a dick about letting players do stupid things, especially if they are doing it unintentionally. Provide some guidance about the consequences during character creation, especially with newer players. but if they insist on doing sub-optimal things, or making stupid choices, then let them."

  3. This was my reply to Rob on Facebook:
    "Yeah, you raise a good point. I had world-building/genre/tone reasons for the racial class restrictions (based on the default setting of LotFP), but I have no problems balance-wise or rules-wise with allowing a player to be a Dwarf Magic-User or an Elf Cleric or whatever. I figured Dwarves get all the magic they need from their gods, and they are basically a Call of Cthulhu-style servitor race to Lawfully-aligned gods (who are still horrible eldritch abominations, but opposed to the Chaotic eldritch abominations), so they would have no association with an always-Chaotic class like the Magic-User. Likewise, soulless Elves are servitors of Chaotic gods, etc. Halflings I imagined as some kind of mutant race that was rejected by both sides and forced into eternal Neutrality. BUT...I think you're right about the railroading thing. Just because the vast majority of Dwarves are Lawful and can't be Magic-Users doesn't mean a player couldn't play one of the only Dwarves in history to switch over to the other side and be a Magic-User, or one of the only Elves to try and find/ create their soul through the use of Cleric magic, or whatever. The DM could disallow NPCs from being Halfling Magic-Users or whatever, while still allowing players to create such characters. Of course, those characters would have to be careful around their own kind, so as not to be discovered to be "race" traitors..."