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Stay Classy, RPGers!

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So, reading various forum posts on Temple of the Abyssal Winds, people just trying out the game, I see that one of the first things they talk about is the character creation. No surprise, in an RPG with a fairly deep system, like TotAW, character creation is moderately involved, and pretty fun. Tweaking your character in just the right way, getting just the type of avatar that you have in mind. Let's be honest, a lot of us will take part in a little min-maxing, as well, trying to get an optimally powerful character.

The character creation posts mention, "You have the choice of three classes, fighter, adventurer, and spellcaster, and a number of skills to select." Now, this is a very deliberate decision on my part. The balance between class and skills (or feats, abilities, or whatever a particular system calls them) is of vital importance. My goal is to find the right balance between flexibility in creating a character, and maintaining the relative power levels of characters.

The RPG system that TotAW takes the most from is Dungeons and Dragons, specifically 3rd edition (or possibly its spiritual successor Pathfinder). However, while Dungeons and Dragons has about 10 basic classes, I trimmed the list to 3. I find the long list of D&D classes to be somewhat limiting and contradictory. Deciding whether a character is a sorceror or wizard, for instance. Or maybe my version of a spellcaster has a little of each... then what?

D&D corrects this with multi-classing rules and prestige classes, which allow a myriad of options. The cynic in me thinks that maybe some of this is to be able to sell supplements with lots of new prestige classes (and even basic classes), but I can't complain too much about the result... the player is given a vast array of options for his character. Even if it is hard to say whether my character should be a paladin, or a fighter with a few levels of cleric thrown in.

However, in designing the RPG behind TotAW, I needed to trim this down. I don't have the resources to add dozens of classes. Allowing multi-classing opens up a vast array of combinations that need to be tested together, balanced against each other, et al. My design was to simplify down to 3 classes for the 3 archetypes of characters, and then use skills to fill in the details. Want your priest to be feeble but strong in magic? Make his class spellcaster, and pour all of his skills into magic skills. Want him to be more of a battle-priest? Maybe his class should be adventurer, and split the skills between combat and magic.

I'm pretty happy with how the system works. I don't think any particular character type is overpowered. It is possible to make a gimped character, but if the player is careful in putting his class, skills, and attributes in order, most character types should be reasonably useful. I'm sure I still have some work to do, and fully intend to keep updating the system as I discover more how it works in practice.
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