Saturday, August 15, 2015

The 2-1-1

Fighting 2, HD 1, Thievery 1, to be exact - a specific sort of build from the ACKS Player's Companion.

It's a versatile build - consider the Assassin and Explorer from ACKS Core, and the Mystic and Paladin from the ACKS:PC.

Or, classes like the Aristocrat or Archer from the boards.

Something I've seen over the years I've been reading all these elfgame blogs is that folks want to be Fighters, but they want also to be something more. Pirates, marshals, knights, soldiers, etc.

There's a hundred ways to make that happen, from just letting it be an implied fact judged for utility when necessary all the way out to a whole industry based on publishing books full of prestige classes, a'la the d20/3X days.

At the very light end of the scale, ACKS lets a Fighter have some proficiencies that emulate that - they've taken Sailing, or Military Strategy, or Leadership, or what-have-you.

For a strongly themed fighter, within the structure implied by the Player's Companion, the most efficient way to strongly theme a combatant is the 2-1-1. And by efficient, I mean XP progression vs. capability - the way classes are balanced in an old school D&D.

I've stated at the Autarch boards I'm beginning to consider the 2-1-1 build the "default" warrior class, whereas the Fighter build is something out of the ordinary.

As an example, take the ACKS:PC Barbarian. This is a Fighting 2, HD 2 class, as is the fighter, customized via tradeoffs, as one would be wont to do - 4 tradeoffs, to be exact.

That costs 2,600 XP at 2nd level - 150 XP per tradeoff out of the Fighting Value.

The 2-1-1 build of the Barbarian would cost 1,850 XP - with one tradeoff made out of the Fighting Value. In fact, they're a more competent character as a whole - taking only one trade out of Fighting means they would have a broader armor or weapon selection, or keep their melee and ranged damage bonus.

They give up d8 HD.

Is 70% less experience required for the first 8 levels worth, on average, 1 more hit point per level?

There's a couple ways of looking at it. Average of d6 rolls is 3.5, average of d8 rolls is 4.5 - you've got a 50% chance on either die of doing a 4+ or a 5+, respectively.

Since those chances are cumulative, though, we can look into what it takes to always roll "6" or better on either die for each level's HP (to illustrate the advantage of the d8 over the d6, the higher maximum):

Leveld6 - 6 or betterd8 - 6 or better

which is a sad story in either case. Alternatively, we can look at what it takes to barely meet average for the die type:

Leveld6 - 3 or betterd8 - 4 or betterd6 - 4 or better

...with the addition of the 3rd column telling us our chances of emulating slightly below average on a d8 with a d6. And for completion's sake, the same table rolling ever so slightly above average:

Leveld6 - 4 or betterd8 - 5 or betterd6 - 5 or better

...with the requisite nod to the d6.

Conversely, the odds of being really low in your HP rolls consistently is also ... really low, the exact same numbers as the tables above.

Assuming I've done the math right:

XP TOTAL211 BarbarianPC Barbarian

The 211 Barbarian spends some decent amount of time having an extra HD over the PC Barbarian, though that really depends on the pace of any given game. For example, it spends about 750XP being level 2 while the PC Barbarian is still slogging through level 1 - how much "game time" or "real time" does 750XP take at first level?  The 6000XP at 5th, or the 50,000XP at 9th?

I would submit that the d8 HD isn't worth all that much - trading out more than a couple things from Fighting Value being a bit more than it's worth over the 2000XP of the base Fighter advancement.

That being said, missing from this analysis is a conversation about damage output, either incoming from foes or outgoing towards mobs - they roll with d8 HD - so where is the true value of matching their HD type? Also, the value of delayed tradeoffs, so you're getting more over a longer period of well as a comparison of Fighting 3/ HD 1 in that, perhaps.

I'd further posit that the archetype of the class, Conan, is better modeled with the 211 Barbarian's capabilities, relying on his fictionally-boosted stat array to increase his HP to above normal.

Alternatively put, the 211 build is a build about what your character *is* - a barbarian, a pirate, a marshal, etc. The "fighter" build, with a splash of flavor from proficiencies, is a build about what your character *was* - before survival in combat (via d8 HD) became paramount.

Anyway. Opinions, like goblins, everyone's fought one, and they all stink.


  1. My players and I have largely concluded that the PC Barbarian's tradeoffs are too expensive in terms of XP to make it competitive with Fighter. Part of the problem with fighting value tradeoffs is that they vary a ton in terms of the capabilities they cost you. Trading away missile weapons (like Paladin), heavy armor (like Barbarian), or shield-and-weapon fighting style really costs you in terms of max achievable AC and ability to contribute to some fights, even if you have fighting value 2 or 3. To a lesser extent this is also true of swords (because most magic weapons in treasure are swords) and spears and polearms (because spears are amazing). I'm totally willing to accept an XP cost for trading away whips, hammers, axes, flails, maces, darts, daggers, and crossbows for a proficiency, but there are a lot of cases where the XP cost plus capability loss make fighting tradeoffs a really bad deal.

  2. I've just started an ACKS campaign and one character is a barbarian. Right now, he's still at 1st level while the others have made it to 2nd. We'll see how next session goes and how much the "XP tax" will affect him, but in previous campaigns the differential wasn't enough to really affect things.

  3. I like this break down. Very good points. I also agree that not all trade-offs are equally costly. To me, sacrificing Plate is a huge deal for a fighter class and most proficiencies do not equal the loss of combat effectiveness. I've often considered that that first trade should not have an xp price.

    1. Thanks!

      Another alternative could be graduated changes in tradeoff cost. That first tradeoff out of unrestricted armor/weapons costs less because you may not be getting a fully fair trade, whereas from narrow to restricted is a higher cost, because you've already given away most things of value - and at that point you may be getting more out of it because you're likely stacking things together that play off a theme.

      Though whether or not a cohesive system that does that fairs better for, say, the Mystic rather than just a flat 150XP per would remain to be seen.