Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Changeling: A Half-Elf variant [revised]

Noisms posted a trio of excellent elf variants drawn from folklore this week, and I thought I'd try my hand with a Half-Elf class. I've thrown out the Tolkienian underpinnings and taken my influences from folklore and fairy tales instead.

I am wondering a bit about balance. The class has some big perks -- spell use, unrestricted weapon use, superb saving throws -- but think I've balanced it reasonably well by prohibiting all armor and limiting the spell selection. Feedback is appreciated as always.

Half-Elf (Changeling)

Changelings are born to human mothers but have the taint of fey magic -- some are the result of couplings with sprites, pixies and the like, others may be switched as infants with fairy bairns and returned to the mortal world later in life, and still others may simply be born to parents cursed by the fey.

Many changelings go unnoticed among humans, though all bear some mark of the fairy realm. A changeling with only a minor mark will often pass as a hedge wizard or wise woman, or may even adventure incognito as a magic-user. Those with more obvious fairy marks usually take some pains to conceal them, for changelings are mistrusted and even shunned in many communities.

Prime Requisite: Intelligence and Dexterity.
Other Requirements: Intelligence and Dexterity of 9 or greater.
Experience Bonus: 5% for an Intelligence and Dexterity of greater than 13; 10% for an Intelligence and Dexterity of greater than 15.
Hit Dice: d4 per level up to 12th level.
Maximum Level: 12
Armour: No armor is permitted.
Weapons: Changelings may use any weapon. They use the Cleric/Thief attack progression.
Special Abilities: Changelings are immune to Sleep spells and spell-like abilities. They can speak Pixie.
Changelings show some mark of their fey heritage: unusual eye color, straw or leaf-like hair, fangs, fur, horns or tail are typical. At the DM's option the Fairy Marks chart below can be used.
Experience Levels: as Magic-User.
Saving Throws: as Dwarf/Halfling.

Fairy marks
3 Wings (bat, bird, butterfly, etc; not capable of flight)
4-5 Bizarre feet and/or legs (cloven hooves, crow's feet, frog's legs, etc)
6-8 Fangs, claws, webbed fingers (not useful for attacking)
9-12 Unusual visage (facial structure, eye or hair color, ear shape, etc)
13-15 Tail (bird, fox, lizard, pig, etc)
16-17 Scales, Fur, or Bark-like skin
18 Bizarre visage (antlers, beak, bestial features, horns, etc)

Half-Elf (Changeling) Spell List

Changelings use the Magic User Spell/Level table. They neither pray for nor memorize their spells, but draw on the magic inherent in their fey natures. Each spell is essentially an innate ability usable once per day. Like clerics, they can choose from any spell of the levels known to them. However fairy magic is unpredictable: For any level in which a changeling can cast more than one spell per day he or she must determine one spell randomly each time spells are renewed. It is up to the DM whether the random spells are determined before or after the player's chosen spells.

Level 1
Cause Fear (C1)
Cause Light Wounds (C1)
Cure Light Wounds (C1)
Purify Food & Water (C1)
Putrefy Food & Water (let's say this spoils food or fouls water in amounts equivalent to Purify)
Remove Fear (C1)
Resist Cold (C1)
Faerie Fire (D1)
Pass Without Trace (AD&D D1)
Charm Person (M1)
Sleep (M1)
Ventriloquism (M1)

Level 2
Bless (C2)
Blight (C2)
Blindness (AD&D I2)
Silence 15' Radius (C2)
Detect Invisible (M2)
Invisibility (M2)
Knock (M2)
Levitate (M2)
Magic Mouth (AD&D M2)
Mirror Image (M2)
Phantasmal Force (M2)
Wizard Lock (M2)

Level 3
Clairvoyance (M3)
Dispel Magic (M3)
Fly (M3)
Haste (M3)
Cure Disease (C3)
Cause Disease (C3)
Infravision (M3)
Protection from Poison (D3)
Gust of Wind (AD&D M3)
Remove Curse (C3)
Curse (C3)
Suggestion (AD&D M3)

Level 4
Create Water (C4)
Control Temperature 10' Radius (AD&D D4)
Tongues (AD&D C4)
Hallucinatory Terrain (M4)
Charm Monster (M4)
Confusion (M4)
Dimension Door (M4)
Wizard Eye (M4)
Polymorph Self (M4)
Polymorph Others (M4)

Level 5
Create Food (C5)
Quest (C5)
Feeblemind (M5)
Teleport (M5)
Hold Monster (M5)
Magic Jar (M5)
Pass-Wall (M5)
Telekinesis (M5)

Level 6
Anti-Magic Shell (M6)
Find the Path (C6)
Speak with Monsters (C6)
Projected Image (M6)
Part Water (M6)
Reincarnation (M6)

MP3: Bill Jones, The Tale of Tam Lin (Compact Disc - Download)


noisms said...

I really like this. It seems well balanced to me; I always try to keep in mind when designing RC classes that it doesn't really matter if one class is more powerful than another at the lower levels provided you cap its level limit at around 12. Elves are way more powerful than the other classes at level 1, for instance, but that doesn't really matter so much when they're level 10 and all their buddies are level 15 or more.

I like the folklore/faerie feel you've given to the spell selection especially - they're just the kind of spells I'd expect a Changeling to have. And the Tiefling-esque 'fairy mark' table is a really nice touch.

Max said...

Thanks for the kind words, Noisms.

I'm going to tweak this a bit tonight. Occurs to me that forcing the player to choose spells and not change them would mean some of the more flavorful on the list were never selected (the similarly restrictive Sorceror in 3e was almost always played as magical artillery, for example -- never heard tell of a utility sorceror). I hate the thought that a changeling wouldn't be able to skunk the ale of a greedy tavern keeper because the player sensibly opted for Sleep, Charm Person or Cure Light Wounds, so I'm going to modify this.

Also, Polymorph Other needs to be on the list. I mean, it's right there in "Tam Lin."

trollsmyth said...

Nice class! What rules are you using this with? That lack of armour can be a real bear, especially at low levels and without access to the armour spell.

I'll be looking forward to seeing your modified spell list. I can understand why you'd want to change it, but I think it looks pretty good right now.

- Brian

Max said...

Trollsmyth: Lacking a copy of the Rules Compendium the ruleset is improvised: Moldvay Basic, + RC spells cribbed from Noisms elf variants + the odd AD&D spell as needed (if these have RC equivalents let me know and I'll edit them in).

I thought lack of armor was a suitable penalty to balance their unrestricted weapon list. Given their fey background I wanted a class that could use bows, spears, swords, etc but M-U hit points and armor restrictions should keep them from charging into melee. DEX as prime requisite may help with AC as well, for the fortunate anyway!

I may have already posted the changes by the time you saw the class, Brian. The major change was to drop the idea that the player must choose spells once and not change them. Instead I opted for cleric style daily spell selection, with some spells determined randomly each day.

The change to the spell list was trading out Massmorph for Polymorph Other. Without Polymorph Other, no foe risks going home with an ass's head, right? I'm chuffed with the list -- I think it gives the character a cool progression from the small mischiefs and boons of the household sprite to the fearsome powers of Oberon and Titania.

trollsmyth said...

It's a very flavorful list, powerful in its own right, but not as powerful as the magic-user's, I think. There may be a strong urge to focus on more "useful" spells, but things will depend, in large part, I think, on the campaign and player.

I'm tempted to snag this for my Moldvay/Cook/LL hack. I'll have to think about it, though, as it's got a lot of neat but very powerful effects. Shakespeare could get away with it only because he knew Titania wouldn't make her perception check to spy Puck sneaking up on her, and even if she had, she wouldn't ruin the story by blasting him to his component atoms. ;)

Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of the RC, either. I'm pretty much strictly Moldvay/Cook/Labyrinth Lord these days. No druid in that setup, so things like pass without trace and similar are lacking. Still, it's not difficulty at all to port that sort of thing over.

Polymorph other is also insanely powerful in Moldvay/Cook, as it gives you all the powers of the creature you are transformed into. A literal reading wouldn't allow Puck to give Bottom the head of an ass (though you could do it with the curse spell which is the same level for magic-users) but would transform the poor amateur thespian completely into an animal, with an animal's intellect and interests as well. Still, transforming unfortunates into toads and deer is just too much a part of the traditions to cast aside.

- Brian

Max said...

Trollsmyth: As far as adjusting the power level of the class goes, it's too bad that Moldvay/Cook as a primary source doesn't have more Illusion-based magic. There are many spells from the AD&D Illusionist list that would also work for the Changeling. I borrowed only Blindness for the list above.

Is there an Illusionist in the RC, I wonder? It has a number of variant and optional classes, I believe. Need to lay my hands on one, but they cost dear on eBay.