Game the Game: Ultimate Dungeon Fantasy-Martial Characters, Part One

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Martial characters. This is a much more elegant way of saying fighter types. Fighter types (fighter, ranger, paladin, barbarian) are interesting, as they have evolved quiet a bit from 3e on, and I wonder if all that evolution is a good thing. I used to comment that, when the party is sitting around the campfire, the ranger is off playing in the woods, the paladin is praying, and the fighter is sharpening a sword. This should be the difference, and should be reinforced by the mechanics.

Looking at the rogues gallery, there are many different fighter archetypes represented, and I would posit that the current edition of D&D discourages this. In 5e, one picks a background (limited choices, mean not true freedom), and then picks a martial archetype, of which there are two, both of which are very specific. This seems to be very, very limiting, and is one Champion that different from another Champion? And Battle Masters seemingly have some choices they can make in battle, but do any of these choices do much mechanically.

The Fighter has frequently suffered from having limited combat options other than “I roll to hit” and many editions penalize players for not buffing up with the best armor and weapon choices. 3e and 4e allowed for some customization with weapon selections and the like, but there were indeed choices that were more optimal.

If the goal is to create a system that allows for any option you can imagine, how is this helping?

I am going to start with the Fighter, and hopefully the other classes will fall into place.

Fighters should maintain their rate of multiple attacks per specific edition.

Fighters always have advantage attacking in combat.

Each level of Fighter, gives one Combat Edge point. Combat Edge points do the following:
– at the beginning of each round, the number of Combat Edge points refreshes.
– they trump advantage, so expending 1 will give a Fighter advantage, even if the Fighter had no advantage prior, this Combat Edge advantage can only be negated by an opposing Fighter.
– Combat Edge points can be rolled more than one at a time, so a 3rd level fighter, who has three Combat Edge points/ round might decide to spend them all on one attack, and would therefore roll 4 dice for the attack, and would keep the best result.
– Combat Edge points can be used for defense, and work as advantage, but a character can also expend more than one.
– Saves or checks can add extra advantage dice to a roll.
– Damage: a character can reroll damage with the use of one Combat Edge point.

So, why Combat Edge points? It gives fighters something a bit more interesting to do aside from declaring that they roll to hit. Yes, that is likely still all they will be doing, but they will be hitting frequently, and avoiding damage as much as possible, this allows for a player to represent their character any number of ways, allowing the dice to support their narrative.

The other major component is that Fighters should be mook-killers. For the sake of this article, mooks will be considered any opponent who has less HD or a lower CR than the levels of Fighter the character has. A Fighter can attack multiple times, the total number of attacks being the difference between the Fighter level and the (HD or CR) +1, so a 9th level fighter against CR 8 monsters could attack [(9-8)+1] times (2, the answer to that equation is 2!) The same 9th level Fighter against a CR 6 monster would have [(9-6)+1]= 4 attacks! These extra attacks can only be used against those opponents.

My Ultimate Fighter thus is a mook-killer, and has some mechanical options in combat, that are not confined to any specific system, but that let the character be the best at what they do.

Does this make the Fighter less dull? I hope so. Does it allow for more flavor and customization, without having to resort to specialization? Yes. Want your Fighter to be a foppish dandy clad only a silk shirt unbuttoned just ever-so much, armed only with a rapier and his cunning wit? You can do that! Swashbuckle away. And if that same fighter decides to pick up a crossbow, they can fire that as well!

Now, what about Rangers?

Rangers have become the Episodes I-III Jedi. The essence of what they were meant to be has been lost and bastardized and accepted. It’s too bad, we need to get the Ranger back to being cool, and simple and not just a Drizz’t clone.

1e Rangers were not at all like the Rangers of today, their primary cool abilities were: tracking, surprise, and a bonus against “giant” class creatures, and at higher levels, some low-level druidic and magic-user spell-casting ability. They were generally lightly armored, but this did not have to be the case, they were always good aligned, and the coolest feature, they had 2 HD at 1st level.

The whole two weapon fighting or bow specialization is a construct of later editions.

So, what to keep, what to revise, and what to add?

I appreciate the Good aligned aspect, but think it is unreasonable. Similarly, the bonus against the “giant” class was cool, but Rangers should be able to have all sorts of enemies. In 1e and 2e, Tracking was a thing, a special thing, a Ranger thing.

We need to get that back.

Trackers: Rangers are skilled in the art of tracking, primarily outdoors, but their uncanny abilities transcend the natural boundaries. For a game that purports to encourage Exploration, Social Interaction, and Combat, the rules for the first two seem to be lacking, and the first is an area in which the Ranger should excel! There are already skills in many games, and there are rules for those. So, we will instead be making a new ability, called Observation. It is an ability available only to Rangers. The bonus to their roll is equal to their Wis modifier plus their ranger level. The difficulty for any check is equal to the CR+10. Simple? Yes. But, what about tracking through difficult terrain, a lot of monsters, only a couple monsters who are disguising their passing, or too much time has elapsed, or of the Ranger has a special affinity for monsters of this ilk? Apply advantage and disadvantage as needed. No need for a chart breaking things down, because, what happens in an attempt to quantify, you clearly state what can be done, but also, by exclusion, what cannot be done.

Observation allows a Ranger to track, ambush, gather information on, be sneaky when doing all these things. All sorts of fun stuff. So, sure, you want to min/ max cheese it out, grab 1 level of Ranger for the ability, but your higher level Ranger will indeed be so much better.

Surprise. Rangers don’t get surprised. This makes them perfect for taking point or bringing up the rear in a party. Allow them to always have advantage on surprise and initiative rolls.

Designating an enemy. At first level, a Ranger will designate an enemy, or group of enemies. But how can this not be abused? Perhaps Orks are a Ranger’s enemies. When the players learn the Orks are tied to the cult of Vecna, well, that broadens things. When they come riding down on war elephants, this also qualifies. What if a Ranger is enemies with all the giant-kin that reside in the hills tormenting their homeland? This works too. This point is to give the Ranger enemies that can grow with them, and are not just limited to one race or sub-race. But, what happens when the Ranger learns and grows and finds new enemies? Well, they can designate those enemies as well.


Similar to the Fighter, who gain Combat Edge points, Rangers gain Enemy points. They gain one per level. If they decide to broaden their group of enemies, or add a new enemy, they must consult their DM. On a character sheet, the levels will be noted. Example: Levels 1-5, The Orks and Giant-kin of The Mordish Hills. Levels 6-9, Cultists of Reynion. Levels 10-17, Undead and the followers of the Dread God of Death.

So, what do Enemy points do?

– the number of Enemy points available to a character refreshes at the beginning of every round, depending on the enemies being engaged. So, the above Ranger, against the enemies of the Mordish Hills would have 5 Enemy points.
– Enemy points can be spent to gain advantage on any roll against an enemy in combat.
– embracing the most recent interpretation of the Ranger, an Enemy point can be spent for an extra attack. But this attack is at disadvantage. Per the above, a 5th level Ranger with 5 Enemy points could get two extra attacks, and negate the disadvantage of both, and still have 1 point left over.
– Enemy points can be use to give an enemy disadvantage on a roll.

Spell-casting. Because we are not reinventing the wheel, keep this as is per your specific edition. Personally, I loved the flavor of the 1e Ranger and their spell-casting.

I’m over 1,500 words, so I’m going to finish in another blog-post, where I will attempt to tackle the Paladin and Barbarian.

One thought on “Game the Game: Ultimate Dungeon Fantasy-Martial Characters, Part One

  1. Pingback: Acts of Geek » Game The Game: Ultimate Dungeon Fantasy-Martial Characters, Part Two

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