It’s a common trope in fiction and cinema: the hero learns to fight, and as her skill improves, she becomes more adept at dodging or turning blows. After each training montage, she earns a level in badass, and it shows. Importantly, we see this manifest in real-life combat. Military forces spend countless hours training in combat scenarios to sharpen soldiers’ skills. Martial artists devote a lifetime to practicing forms so that their implementation is instinctual. Mob enforcers familiarize themselves with their weapons of choice.
They practice because Fighting Teaches You Things.
d20 and 3.5e represent this with Base Attack Bonuses. You get better at fighting the more experienced you get at fighting. It makes sense – but it’s missing something. The action doesn’t just make you better at attacking – it also makes you better at defending. The game has space to represent this – but the original designers filled it with magical effects. AC is improved by enhancement bonuses cast on your armor or shield. That sucks.
As we move towards our ideal system, we want magical bonuses to defenses to be reactive (see our bracers of armor example in Design Philosophy, part 2). However, the game will fall apart mathematically if we start tossing enhancement bonuses to the cutting room floor. If we cut the numeric part of magical armor out, we need to supplement it with something else. I prefer if we acknowledge that Fighting Teaches You Things and makes you a better defender.
- magical armor and shields no longer have an enhancement bonus to AC
Defensive Bonus: Each class now receives a defensive bonus based on level. The defensive bonus is a dodge bonus to AC. There are three defensive bonus progressions, following the three-BAB-progression model for combat prowess.
Low Progression: This progression exists for classes that do not traditionally focus on combat. Instead, they have a broader preoccupation with research, natural phenomenon, or divinity.
Classes: Archivist, Beguiler, Cleric, Druid, Favored Soul, Healer, Sorcerer, Warlock, Warmage, Wizard
Medium Progression: This progression serves two different types of combatants. The first is the one who relies on armor in their combat style. The second is a blended class that might typically have excellent defensive skills but has a strong tradition of magic that distracts from those skills.
Classes: Bard, Crusader, Duskblade, Fighter, Knight, Marshal, Paladin, Ranger, Samurai, Spellthief, Warblade
High Progression: This progression targets those for whom armor is often optional or very light. For these combatants, defensive skills have the utmost importance.
Classes: Barbarian, Hexblade, Monk, Ninja, Rogue, Scout, Swashbuckler, Swordsage
That’s it. It’s pretty simple – other games (i.e. Spycraft) have something similar but ours is a little bit different. It’s a plug-and-play module, so pull out enhancement bonuses to AC and plug in class defensive bonuses. See what happens and let me know how it plays! If it’s all going according to my ultimate plan, this should feel pretty organic. Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook with feedback.
See you soon.