Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Professional (Fighters=Specialists) - A Class Idea for LotFP

This is a follow-up of sorts to my Fighters=Thieves post, in which I suggested combining Fighters and Thieves into one class.

It would be simple in Lamentations of the Flame Princess to just give Fighters the skill points of Specialists and otherwise keep them the same. However, classes in LotFP are more specialized in terms of their class abilities than in most versions/spin-offs of D&D. For example, the Fighter is the only class in RAW LotFP that gets a base attack bonus higher than +1, whereas most versions of D&D will give most or all classes some increase to their base attack bonus beyond first level. Because of this kind of extreme niche protection, I suspect that giving too many additional features to one class without giving roughly equivalent features to the other classes creates a risk of damaging class balance enough to make one class much more universally desirable than the others.

In the case of combining Specialists and Fighters into one class, an easy way to do this might be to just combine every class with the Specialist by giving every class the Specialist's skill points and leaving them otherwise unaltered. Considering that many LotFP campaigns don't use demihuman characters, I already proposed this idea in a way. Theoretically, giving the same ability or advantage to everybody would keep each class as balanced against the others as it already is. I'm personally okay with this idea, but I should make note of some possible objections.

Retaining class balance in this way could still damage the balance of the game itself by making all adventurers more powerful than they should be at their level. If you gave every character class one free casting of Disintegrate per day at level one, the game would become much easier and would arguably be unbalanced in terms of difficulty, even though class balance would be maintained.

Another argument one could pose against the "give everyone the same thing" method of class balance is that the "same thing" might not really be the same across the board because that "same thing" could interact or synergize with some class abilities better than others. For example, the Sneak Attack skill in LotFP would probably be deadlier in the hands of the typical Fighter than the typical Magic-User because the former has a higher to-hit bonus, and thus a higher probability of actually landing any given Sneak Attack. If you're using the "spellbooks are written in obscure languages" rule from the LotFP Playtest Document, the Language skill would probably be more powerful for a Magic-User than a Fighter because the Magic-User could use it to gain new spells from stolen spellbooks. What appears to be equal for all classes might not be.

There's also the issue of NPCs. If every class got skill points, that would mean either figuring out the skills of every NPC (or at least every human NPC of at least first level) ahead of time, making up NPC stats on the spot while playing if they become relevant, or just declaring that adventurers are special and get skill points that NPCs don't. Some DMs might be fine with at least one of those options, and others might not.

Finally, if you are of the opinion that the classes are not already balanced to your satisfaction, giving an additional, equal advantage to every class will probably not do anything to address your initial complaint. As I noted in the Fighters=Thieves post, some people feel that Fighters and/or Thieves are weaker or less useful in various versions of D&D than other classes. I commonly hear them compared to Paladins, Rangers, Clerics, and Magic-Users and found wanting. I've probably heard unfavorable comparisons to just about every common class at some point. As for my opinion of the default class balance in LotFP, I think that it's probably fine at first level because everybody pretty much sucks at first level, no matter what class they pick, but when it comes to higher levels I have a quibble or two.

In LotFP, both the rules and the published adventures/settings tend to make combat very risky, which is certainly a good thing for this kind of horror game to do. If your character can wade through 1,000 men in battle armed only with a jawbone and wearing nothing but nipple pasties, you're probably not going to be prone to terror. If, on the other hand, a child with a knife is likely to take you out, you're better off avoiding combat, whether through stealth or negotiation or magic or what have you. And that's great! But the thing is, a game system featuring both super-risky combat and much less risky non-combat methods of success makes engaging in combat at all a sort of failure in most cases. When you fight a monster in (the default flavor of) LotFP, you've already fucked up. You're not fighting to succeed so much as to minimize your failure.

That's all fine and dandy, except that I think it makes the Fighter far less valuable in a game with such strong niche protection for each class. Sure, if things go wrong it can be helpful to have a Fighter on your side, but when things aren't going wrong, isn't the Fighter pretty useless compared to everyone else? The spell lists for both Magic-Users and Clerics include spells that are useful both in and out of combat, and while most Specialist skills seem to be geared for use outside of battle, it could be incredibly helpful to be able to hide or climb up a sheer wall when some eldritch abomination is attacking - plus Sneak Attack is specifically meant for combat, since it's a damage multiplier in LotFP. But in terms of class abilities, what does a Fighter get outside of combat that no one else gets? Not much - maybe some extra HP and slightly better saving throws in case a trap goes off. Most of the game is probably not going to be combat, so I would be pretty sympathetic to any players who roll up Fighters in LotFP and then find themselves unexpectedly bored by their own characters' capabilities. To my mind, the simplest solution would be to give Fighters a bit more utility outside of direct violence.

So let's say you have the following objectives: You want to combine the Fighter and Specialist into a single class. You want that class to have more options, and thus more utility, than the default Fighter, but you don't want it to be too much more powerful because you don't want to have to adjust the other classes to maintain balance. You want the stats of PCs and human NPCs to follow the same rules, but you don't want to have to add a whole lot of extra detail to pre-written NPCs while prepping adventures. You want Fighter-type characters to have access to some more non-combat class abilities if they want them. Here's how I would do that:


HP as Specialist (d6 HD). Experience Table as Fighter. I'm not sure what to do about Saving Throws - maybe use those of the Myth Warrior? Any alignment is permitted.

The Professional starts with 4 Skill Points at first level, and gains 2 Skill Points at every level after that, like the Specialist. Skill Points can be spent in the following ways:

  • They can be invested in skills, as per the Specialist.
  • For two Skill Points, the Professional can buy the Fighter's full set of Combat Options: Press, Defensive Fighting, and the improved version of Parry.
  • For one Skill Point, the Professional can increase his or her Base Attack Bonus by 1. This can only be done once per level, and the Base Attack Bonus cannot exceed +10.
  • For one Skill Point, the Professional can increase his or her HP by 2. This can only be done once per level.
If firearms are available, any Professional who has either a Base Attack Bonus of +2 or the Fighter's Combat Options is treated as a Fighter when reloading a firearm (see pages 159 and 161 of the Rules & Magic book).

Optional ideas:

  • Instead of calling it a Professional or a Fighter/Specialist or something, just call it a Specialist and tell your players ahead of time that you're folding the role of the Fighter into the Specialist class. Specialist is a good name for a class, after all.
  • In RAW LotFP, the minimum starting HP for a Specialist is 4, and the minimum for a Fighter is 8. Perhaps the Professional could split the difference and have a minimum starting HP of 6.
  • Consider coming up with some other things that the Professional can "buy" with Skill Points, like the Dwarf's ability to carry 5 more items before gaining the first encumbrance point.
  • Instead of trying to balance the Professional's saving throw table, consider using a different system for saving throws, like the one in the Playtest Document.
  • If you want, you could reduce the HP that the Professional can buy from 2 to 1 beyond level 9. That way, the Professional wouldn't be able to get 1 more HP per level than the Fighter beyond level 9, which is how things currently stand since the Specialist gets 2 HP per level from 10 up. This might be confusing or unnecessarily nitpicky, though.


  1. I think when you go down that road you might as well go classless. Many people have recently be talking about the cleric class being really another case of weird D&Disms that doesn't really fit into other settings and in LotFP they seem particularly out of place. If you run a game where specialists also become fighters and clerics might only be marginal, then you end up with only two main character classes. And why not let the specialist also spend points to learn a few spells?

    I believe there's a flaw in calling the fighter useless outside of combat. He's not. He can still do all the things a normal person can do. All the things a low-level specialist can do into which the player has not invested points yet. And it's not as if a cleric has any special abilities besides healing spells and turning undead. If a fighter would be useless outside of fights, then a cleric would be reduced to a healbot outside of fights against undead.

    I think having special abilities for one specific situation is an entirely valid approach to class design. Giving specialists the same hit chance as mages and clerics doesn't seem like a flaw to me.

    1. You make a lot of great points, and I wouldn't really call the things I'm addressing "flaws" so much as personal preferences.

      A lot of people don't like the Cleric, and in the official LotFP rules the Cleric is supposedly going the way of the demihumans, so I see where you're coming from there. I guess where I differ is that 1) I've actually been kind of intrigued lately by the idea of having exactly two classes in a D&D campaign, the Fighter and Mage, because I'm a weirdo, and 2) I actually like the LotFP Cleric a lot and might actually houserule it back IN if it gets taken out (the new Cleric variations in England Upturn'd and some cool blog posts I've read about ideas for sprucing up the LotFP Cleric certainly don't hurt). These are things people will gladly disagree with me about, and that's fine.

      You're right that the Fighter isn't useless, because the Fighter can indeed do all the normal stuff a Level 0 nobody can do, and that stuff is actually super important. My complaint (or "preference," really) is that the Fighter's specific class abilities are useless most of the time, and only useful when the party has fucked up (because combat in baseline LotFP is kind of already a fail-state, like having to make a saving throw). And you're right, that's not necessarily a bad thing, and that is a legitimate way to design a class. It's just not to my personal taste, and several players in my group seem to agree with me, so I'm not entirely alone.

      But yeah, you're totally right in that LotFP is already designed in a perfectly legitimate way. I respect those who don't care for my idea here.

      It's funny you mention switching to a classless system. This house rule is actually an excerpt from a classless system for LotFP I was working on a while back (some notes in my notebook, really).

    2. Actually, now that I think about it, my annoyance with the Fighter in LotFP isn't that different from the annoyance that a lot of people have with the Cleric in D&D (and which you mentioned in your comment): Just as a lot of people wouldn't want to be the "healbot," I don't think I'd want to be the "fightbot" in a horror-oriented, combat-averse game.

      You've given me some important stuff to consider. Thanks! It wouldn't hurt for me to dig into WHY I prefer certainly things, after all. (Maybe I should write a post about what I actually like about the LotFP Cleric, for example.)