DESIGNER’S DIARY 8: CLASSES OF CONFLICT – THE PACK
The Pack… The Pack… By far the most challenging class design. You might find that some of the mechanics have changed as you read this, so be prepared! Nonetheless, you can trust that the core will remain the same.
Our starting point for The Pack was goblins. A small-sized, underdeveloped race that can be described as weak in many ways. The possibility that certain individuals here could form an incredible bond, allowing them to function as a single character, is the main concept behind The Pack.
However, at this point, within our internal think tanks, the perception of a “kobold in a trenchcoat” was prevalent. Still, the inevitable situation of characters piggybacking on each other, which any player might want to separate when needed, was a challenge. As a DM, saying, “No, these characters stacked on top of each other are stuck together and can’t separate” wouldn’t be correct. If a player sees two or three characters stacked on top of each other, they would want to use them separately. And they should!
Therefore, The Pack needed to consist of three or more characters that could move independently. However, this posed an unusual mechanic problem for D&D. One of the ideas to solve this mechanic problem was the Beastmaster Ranger theme. However, it didn’t fully encompass this mechanic. Another challenging concept was the number of magical items that all characters could wear. The issue of HP was relatively easier, and from the beginning, the shared HP pool idea seemed reasonable. After all, having 3-4 characters with HP several times that of a regular class would be unbalanced.
Amidst all this research, thoughts, and discussions, the idea of deriving the individual movements of all The Pack characters from a total movement pool stood out. However, we didn’t want this pool to be 70 feet, as we didn’t want any of the characters to turn into Quicksilver. Therefore, no matter how much the total movement was, the maximum speed of a single character would remain the same. When the HP was depleted, they would all become ineffective at once.
But what about attacks? We resolved this issue by thinking of it in terms of martial characters gaining extra attacks at certain levels. However, instead of making multiple attacks with the same character, a second attack could be made with another character (whom we were now calling Packlings).
As the term Packlings emerged, we began to think about how, although they all acted as a single character, each Packling could have different traits. Instead of being a homogenous and featureless group, they could resemble basic classes but not be as powerful as them, offering the player numerous alternatives. After some consideration, we created six distinct Packlings, each resembling fundamental classes but not as powerful as them; for instance, we had a Defender akin to a Fighter and a Brawler resembling a Barbarian. The player would start the game with any three of them. This not only provided an incredible range of diversity but also made it easy for the party to fill the needed roles.
Of course, Packlings not only had their own unique features but also brought additional characteristics to the entire class. Skirmishers would provide extra speed to the party, while Brawlers would offer additional HP. While doing this, the logic of subclasses was automatically resolved. These subclasses, known as Leader Packlings, would be more skilled than the others. Finding these was not difficult. We had the larger and more powerful Bossling, the better concealed and ranged Stalkerling, and the Casterling, which had spells as a unique feature.
However, these Leader Packlings shouldn’t dominate too much to encourage players to use all the Packlings. The abilities of Leader Packlings were adjusted in a way that would have a significant impact on the entire class rather than just on themselves.
As it stands now, there are a whopping (get ready!) 648 possible combinations with The Pack alone. This doesn’t even include options like feats and races. Think about it: if you take 3 Defender Packlings and choose the Bossling Leader subclass, you’ll have a complete defense unit at your command.
What if you pick 3 Burglars and go with Stalkerling? You become a mini-thief guild. Adding 1 Defender, 1 Brawler, and 1 Wildling on top of a Casterling as a buff spellcaster gives you solid crowd control and melee attack potential. With 2 Skirmishers and 1 Expert combined with any Leader, you can excel in ranged combat and have ranger-like skills.
The options are vast; let your imagination run wild!