dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
On my drive yesterday, I got thinking about paladins and oaths. I experimented with a character, almost immediately running into issues of morality and oaths and what it means to be a paladin.

"Fight evil" immediately became a problem. If you swear an oath to fight evil, then the character is forced down a single path where she must fight. She has no other options or tools. The results of her actions could increase the misery of those around her.  Even if she accomplishes evil herself, she must go there because there is the only place that she can go.

Looking at oaths in general, paladins usually swear to do multiple things. All parts of the oath must be kept or she loses her status. So she lives in a world where all things are artificially made equal.

What's really missing from most paladins is a mechanism to handle internal, moral conflict. That seems odd as paladins are people of rules and laws, yet that is the case.

So here, I'll sketch out my basic moral toolbox for resolving paladinish conundrums.

1. Increasing good trumps opposing evil. As the universe is inherently evil, there are an infinite number of evils to oppose. Evil is cheap. In contrast, opportunities to increase good are few and precious. It is better to labor for gold than dirt.

2. Immediacy trumps possibility. The problems of there here and now need solving over the problems of later or far away.

3. Large impacts trump small impacts. Not all problems are equal. Paladins don't have the luxury of being able to pick how and when trouble appears, but they can decide which problems they will engage.

4. Diplomacy trumps violence. Violence triggers cycles of vengeance. A paladin seeks to end those cycles.

5. The present trumps the future. You'll eventually die. You must trust the future to look after itself. Someone will be there when the time comes.

6. The least bad trumps the worse. In this world, you don't always get easy options. In a moment of crisis, you will make the best possible decision that you can be made. Someone else may make the decision.

So, let's use these principals to talk about orc babies. This particular problem is the most famous paladin-screwing scenario. So, let's examine the case with the principals above. You just killed an orc tribe. There are some orc babies. What do you do? This is where the so-called "fun" debate begins.

  • If orc babies are killed, the overall increase in good will be negligible. You've already killed all the grown-up orcs. The babies could grow up to attack again, but that's tomorrow's problem. The immediate problem is whether to slaughter non-combatants.

  • If orc babies are killed, the overall lessening of evil will be negligible. In twenty years, nobody's going to notice or care about a handful of orcs.

  • If the orc babies are taken to an orphanage, they will likely get smothered in their sleep or get raised in a society which hates them. Not only that, if they escape to orc society, they won't fit in there either. If not outright evil, it's certainly a horrid thing to do.

  • If the orc babies are ignored, you've shown mercy, which increases the good in the world. They may still grow up to kill people, but that's tomorrow's problem.

As you can see, the only option which produces any good is to ignore the orc babies. However, if there are no caretakers left living, leaving them to starve would be pretty horrid, so it would be more merciful to kill them outright.

And if your party outvotes you and decides to kill those babies? The least bad trumps the worse. You worked toward your goal but you lost the argument. You're now in least bad territory. Have the decency to kill the orc babies swiftly and then bury them properly. You should even volunteer to do the deed, as you won't be killing in anger or hate. 
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)

For those who know D&D 3rd Edition, the system has more issues than an insane asylum, with the biggest being the huge disparity in the power and utility of the classes. How to fix that?

In First and Second edition, each class had its own leveling table. As a character tended to only be one class at a time, the power of the class could be taxed through the leveling process. More powerful classes advanced slower than less powerful classes.

Can the same be done for Third Edition?

The short answer is HELL NO, because Third is such the incestuous system. You can't touch one rule without bumping into its entire family.

For example, we could just give each class its own advancement table, but that messes with the system for the freeform mixing and matching of classes. The math to track all the hopping back and forth becomes rather muddled rather quickly. You could write a system for that, and the system would work, but nobody would like it. The system would feel justifiably awkward. Add in the plethora of prestige classes, some of which are lousy, and others of which are lousy unless they're paired with the correct build, in which case they are way powerful. How do you even price something like that? The only way to make that sort of system work is by killing all multiclassing and all prestige classes. And all that is without spending XP on item creation.

The whole case seems hopeless, yet remains as the most powerful tool to rebalancing the game without having to redesign every class. Similar XP should yield similar power, and mucking about with the leveling cost can go boatloads to equalling the field.

As a rough trial o the idea, Tier 1 would be +100% cost, Tier 2 +50%, Tier 3 +0%, Tier 4 -20%, Tier 5 -40%, and Tier 6 -50%.

Glancing down the table, I see that increased cost would add quite the delay to the top spellcasters. Good, that's what we what. However, lower tier discounts just don't matter that much. So although this helps bring the top tiers down, it does little to bring the bottom tiers up.

A second idea that I have is to attach a level penalty to any class level that provides spells. As a guestimate, (sum spell levels) x 1000. So getting 2nd level spells would require a (1+2)x1000 or 3000 XP premium to unlock that spell level, where getting to 3rd level (1+2+3)x1000 would be 6,000. That should provide a brake to the overly rapid advancement of spellcasters. The advantage of this technique is that this is prestige class neutral. As for druids, any new form should cost the sum of the CRs of all his other forms. That makes shapechanging into anything that you want quite the dicey proposition. The more forms that you want, the cheaper in CR that they should be. Tier 2 would only pay 500 xp, and Tier 3 only 100 xp. Lower than Tier 3 would pay nothing for spell levels.

For those bottom tiered classes, I would just put in a first level bonus. Those classes would start at 2nd, 3rd, or 4th level, depending on how far down they began. Essentially, 1st level fighter would begin at the 3rd level fighter line. Curiously, this solves many of the fighter's power woes. The fighter wins for early advantages, such as massive hit points, than slowly go away.

This doesn't begin to fix all the issues, but the utility of fighters should get extended up a few levels, while the utilty of spellcasters should get restricted down a few levels. High levels are still borked, but I don't care about high-level play. That's just broken beyond measure.

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