|Far too young to fight orcs|
But the same can be said about classes as well. Does becoming a fighter take more time than becoming a cleric? How does one actually become a warlock? And what do we do with multi-classing?
We start by taking yet another page from 4th edition, and dividing the classes up by where they get their power from.
Power Sources and Classes
There are four major power sources in D&D that fuel the various classes. They are Innate Power, External Power, Physical Power, and Mental Power.
Innate Power is something that you don't really have to work for. It simply resides within you, ready to be drawn forth when you command it. This power is something that might be discovered when it manifests during emotional duress, or something you were born with. The power grows because you learn to channel and control it in better ways, not because the power itself necessarily changes.
The most notorious classes that rely on Innate Power are the Sorcerer and Mystic. Each of these classes begins with the concept that a power has awakened inside the character, and controlling it is a matter of careful thought (Mystic) or emotional control (Sorcerer).
In some cases, the Barbarian and the Bard can be an example of Innate Power as well. Depending on how you decide magic functions in your world, the Barbarian/Bard could simply be drawing the natural powers within them through the medium of art or rage, both very emotional sources.
Finally, depending on the rules of magic, the Cleric, Druid, Paladin, Ranger, and Monk could also have Innate Power. But in the standard settings of D&D, they can be better described by other sources of power.
External Power is also called Divine Power. Essentially, you don't have any power: something or someone grants you power. This necessitates you being chosen to receive this power, and if you wish to be chosen, you might need to undertake oaths and preparations to become worthy of such power. By continuing to further the goals of the being giving you power, you are granted greater powers. Sometimes, this means the demands placed on your activities are more severe.
The Cleric is the epitome of External Power. The first thing a Cleric must do is chose which God is granting them power, and many clerics act in service to their God over the course of their adventures.
In the basic D&D settings, Paladins and Druids are also powered by External forces. Paladins are granted basic powers, then undertake oaths to ensure they gain more. Druids speak to the spirits or Gods of nature in order to manipulate their surroundings. Either way, the classes come with restrictions (such as oath tenants or being unable to wear metal armor) that the class must follow.
The odd child here is the Warlock, which could be External or Mental Power depending on how the class is played. For Warlocks with a back-and-forth relationship with their Patron, External Power would be appropriate.
Again, depending on the rules of magic, you could also include Rangers, Barbarians, Bards, Mystics, or Monks in this category. They wouldn't be a great fit in the standard settings of D&D though.
|The pointy end goes in the bad guy. I can't believe I have to explain it that clearly|
The classic Physical Power class is the Fighter. A fighter must train in the use of all weapons and armor, and their growth comes from learning new techniques and implementing them on the battlefield. Some, like Action Surge and Second Wind, are literally an additional burst of effort powered by endurance training.
The Rogue and Ranger are also (for the most part) powered by Physical Power. Their speed and precision require physical training. However, the Rogue's skills and the Ranger's magic can be attributed to other Power sources, making them less "pure" Physical Power than the fighter.
Depending on the magic rules of your setting, Barbarians, Monks, and Mystics might also fall under the Physical Power category, but they are more of a stretch.
Mental Power comes from study and learning. Though this is reasonable to expect a person to accomplish in real life, the end results are much more fantastic in D&D. A properly trained mind in this case can hold magic in the mind and push the body beyond its limits. Mental Power is increased through study and mental exercises such as meditation.
The best example of a Mental Power is the Wizard. Wizards must write down their spells and learn them carefully. They memorize spells for the day, gain new abilities through study within their school of magic, and can cast spells effortlessly once they have internalized them at high levels.
The Unearthed Arcana Alchemist and Mystic classes can also be seen as Mental Power classes, the Alchemist especially so. The Mystic gains power via superhuman forces, but controls it mentally, so they might be included. The Alchemist studies recipes and inventions, making them solidly fueled by Mental Power.
The Monk is also based on Mental Power, specifically through the use of Ki points. Their mental focus allows them to perform feats beyond the capabilities of fighters and rogues, but only for a limited time.
Again, the Warlock is the odd one out here, as it is possible for a Warlock to gain power by further studying their patron. This would work if the Warlock wanted to take a very Lovecraft-ian approach to their class, where they learned their magic powers by delving deeper into forbidden lore. They would use their force of personality (Charisma) to prevent themselves from going insane, but their growth would be governed by their Mental abilities.
Of course, depending on your magic system, Bards, Sorcerers, Rogues, and even Fighters might have some Mental component to their growth. However, this wouldn't be common in regular D&D settings.
Preparing to Quest
|Epic magic power? Oh, I just got lucky I guess.|
Thus, when translating these classes to guidelines on how to become one of them, it's hard to generalize. You can't say all Bards should require the same amount of time to become Bards. Take the follow two examples:
I was dying. My father fought the bandits as well as he could, but they were too many. I couldn't help. I did the only thing I could think of: I sang the song mother had sung to me hundreds of times. Before my eyes, my father drew his sword again, and fought with renewed vigor. It was then I realized I had some power over songs, and my path to becoming a Bard began.
I'd been trained in music from a young age, expected to learn the lute and viol from my family. But I always had my eye on something bigger, something bolder. I wanted to learn the secret, magically-laced music of the Bards. I worked harder than I ever had to master my instruments so I could be accepted into one of their colleges. Finally, I was accepted, and my real training began.
The first example (Innate Power) would likely require only a few weeks of preparation before the character could begin traveling as a Bard. The second (Mental Power) would require years of training and plenty of backstory in order to become an adventurer.
Is either one better than the other one? Not particularly. Again, it depends on the way magic works in a particular setting, or even how a single character works. These two examples could happen side-by-side in the same world, as long as the rules of magic allowed for it.
So, instead of assigning requirements to particular classes, we'll assign requirements to particular Power sources.
Before we do, though, I want to talk about multi-classing.
Defining the power sources of each class gives us an easy way to determine the time required to gain a new class. For example, a class reliant upon Physical Power would take (10 - Con modifier) weeks to obtain, since a high Constitution would allow the character to train more often.
But compared to 1st level, the time a character spends on subsequent levels is minuscule. A 1st-level fighter might have a background in the army where they fought for years, but they reach 3rd-level and greatly increase their combat power in a matter of days. This can be explained in-game by the nature of their training: in the backstory, a character is simply learning the basics, but their power actually goes up once they gain real-world experience.
But this means that a lot of class growth comes from self-directed training. A wizard can continue to grow even while in the field, because they learned enough in wizard school to conduct their own research.
A multi-classed character doesn't have the benefit of years of becoming familiar with the basics. That means that every multi-class character must have a teacher or guide to help them understand their power more quickly. This is in addition to the time and story requirements imposed by their class.
|Even the chosen one can't multi-class into Monk-Sorcerer without a little help|
Class Requirements by Power Source
Gained By: an event (even birth) that grants potent powers
Increased By: using the powers and learning how better to control and channel them
1st Level Time Requirements: none
1st Level Story Requirements: must work with DM to create event that grants powers
Multi-Class Requirements: a teacher to guide the character in the use of their new powers
Gained By: being chosen to have the powers by a greater being or force
Increased By: the greater being or force bestowing more powers upon the character
1st Level Time Requirements: none
1st Level Story Requirements: must work with DM to become worthy of powers granted by being
Multi-Class Requirements: a teacher to show the character the proper path to serving the greater being
Gained By: undergoing physical training
Increased By: continuing physical training
1st Level Time Requirements: (10 - Con mod) weeks
1st Level Story Requirements: none
Multi-Class Requirements: a teacher to guide the character in using the proper exercises and techniques
Gained By: study and mental training
Increased By: continued study and mental training
1st Level Time Requirements: (10 - Int mod) weeks
1st Level Story Requirements: none
Multi-Class Requirements: a teacher to guide the character in learning the proper topics and understanding them
With this system, you can determine how a particular character gains their powers. Perhaps one Warlock opened an eldritch tome, and after poring over it for weeks, unlocked eldritch powers. Another Warlock was visited by a fiend and presented with a choice: serve the Fiend or die. They chose the latter.
Depending on how the character gains their powers, you can include sections of their backstory to reflect their training or events in their lives. A wizard might have gone to school, a Cleric was trained to be worthy or their God's power, etc.
If a character wishes to multi-class, you can determine what they must do in order to take that class. A character wishing to multi-class into a Fighter will need to start training weeks before they can take their first level, and they will need to remain under the tutelage of an instructor during that time.
|Idea for tutor: the book itself|
Thanks for reading!