So this update is long overdue. The reason for the delay is because I have been playing much more Age of Star Wars. This has changed somewhat, as I am a player in a Fantasy Age game and where most of the players made characters using the expanded classes. For now though, here are some findings, observations, and impressions from the playtest.
This is hands-down the most popular class. Swapping Willpower for Communication is not only thematic but the main draw for players and an easy way to differentiate the bard from mages. It is not without its problems though, especially in how certain features affect action economy.
Performer’s Tumble: Although it is meant to be a defensive option to in place of more offensive features, like arcane lance of pinpoint attack, however this capability is often forgotten. In Age of Star Wars, where it goes by the name ‘Evasion,’ we decided during one gaming session that it would negate potential damage when a spell or effect calls for Dexterity (Acrobatics). This has made it much more useful.
The swashbuckler has been a labor of love. A lot of roleplaying games make an exception in how melee combat works to allow for an agility-based combatant. The main problem with this are melee weapons that use Accuracy, since they all use 1d6.
Challenge: This was presented as an alternative to Pinpoint Attack and to overcome weapon choice limitations. Having to spend an Activate action to use it meant that this feature was used much less than intended. It is thematic and useful for when 2d6 is needed to overcome an opponent’s AR, but would have really liked to have it be a Free action while I was playing a swashbuckler.
Possible Solution? I debated the merits of being able to add Dexterity to damage vs. +d6 with melee Accuracy weapons for the Weapon Finesse feature. I settled on Dexterity, as it had been done with other RPGs and emphasized that this is a Dexterity-based fighter. Whereas a warrior focuses on a mix of Fighting, Strength, and Constitution; Accuracy, Dexterity, and Communication are among the primary abilities of a swashbuckler. As I played it, I would have appreciated an extra 1d6 damage, as I felt I was still playing catch-up to the two-hander warrior. Time (and play) will tell whether Weapon Finesse will do one, the other, or both.
Gish (gishes?) are always hard. Balancing the benefits of heavy armor, fighting ability, and spellcasting without being than a mage or warrior is a challenge while still remaining viable is a challenge. Using Willpower for damage turned out to be a good way of avoiding spreading out ability investment too thin, but the lack of magic points definitely affected the class’s functionality as a spellcaster.
Magic Points: Without strain mitigation that does not come until later levels meant that the character could cast one, maybe two spells before needing rest. Simply put, there just aren’t enough magic points.
Possible Solution? The bard seems to have it right. Although the extra 5 MP may be enough for one more spell, the features alleviating strain occur at higher levels and may be enough to keep the spellcasting element of the class viable. If not, they may need to be ramped up.
This is probably the archetype I was most pleased with. It just fell together so well. Unfortunately, this has not gone through playtest and there is nothing I would change at this point, so outside feedback is much appreciated.
Sadly, this has also not gone through playtest. I am a player in a Fantasy Age game currently and it was a choice between barbarian and ranger, so I chose ranger to test the controversy (see below). However, the lack of starting talents (which was intentional) was something that was a clear detraction for the players so it deserves revisiting. Also, Enrage is a stunt and was not happy with how it would have worked in play.
Possible Solution? The barbarian now has a choice between Carousing, Horsemanship, and the Unarmed Style talents at level 1. Barbarian rage will be replaced and so the barbarian will look something closer to this:
Ferocity: Whenever you roll a 6 on a damage roll, roll that die again and add both results to your total damage.
Tough Hide: While unarmored, you receive an Armor Rating equal to 2 + your Constitution.
Starting Talents: You become a Novice in one of the following talents: Carousing, Horsemanship, or Unarmed Style. This replaces warrior starting talents.
Powerful Blows: You receive a +1 bonus on all your damage rolls. This bonus increases to +2 if you are wielding a two-handed weapon. This replaces gaining a New Ability Focus.
Power Attack: When you take the All-Out Attack action, you gain +2 damage bonus while instead of the normal +1. This bonus increases to +3 if you are wielding a two-handed weapon. This replaces learning a New Weapon Group.
Break Armor: You can perform Break Armor, a special combat stunt, for 4 SP. Any target wearing armor must reduce its Armor Rating by half (rounded down and before damage is calculated). Armor remains damaged until repaired with a TN 11 Strength (Smithing) test for metal armor or Dexterity (Crafting) for leather armor. This replaces learning a New Weapon Group.
Cleave: When you reduce an opponent to 0 Health with a melee attack, you can make an extra attack against another adjacent enemy as a free action. This replaces Veteran.
Rationale: The barbarian is a damage-dealer. The concept of “exploding 6s” has been bounded about on the message boards and instead of incorporating it throughout the entire game, it feels very appropriate to the barbarian.
What can I say that already has not been said. My character is a ranger, and even after one combat encounter, the superior weapon choice (battleaxes) made much more of a difference than being able to attack twice. This warrants further playtest and observation, but I would sooner drop weapon choices before Twin Strike.