Tuesday, May 20, 2014

D&D Next Homebrew: The Combat Engineer Subclass

A few months ago, I put up a homebrewed Engineer class for D&D Next.  I was really surprised by the size of the response I got.  I thought the idea was both wacky and of interest to a very specific niche of players, but folks really responded, with feedback that was overwhelmingly positive and at times surprisingly specific.  I personally look on these articles as—at best—interesting experiments that analyze aspects of the game that I personally think could use a little expanding, but I got the idea that some folks were ready to start playing my version of the Engineer right then and there.  That was cool.

At the time of the article, though, I stipulated that I thought a better way to manage the same concepts was via subclasses of the Fighter, the Rogue, and maybe the Wizard, though that seemed a less challenging, less all-encompassing task, which is why I wrote the article the way that I did.  But.  Again folks surprised me, wanting to see the sub-class variations written out fully—and whether or not they’d make more sense.

It’s been months, but I’ve finally finished drafting my novel, so now I actually have a little time to put towards this crazy project.  With that in mind, here goes…

We’ll start with the Fighter.

Path of the Combat Engineer
This whole project started because I was looking for a way to model combat engineers in D&D.  That is, guys who are heavy melee combatants, who’re also trained in the use of obstacles and terrain, etc.  Mobility, counter-mobility, and survivability.  I wanted to come up with a class of combat thinkers who install or breach obstacles and also fight as infantry when the need arises.

Feedback that I got on the initial incarnation of the Engineer was that it was too close to the Rogue.  My answer to that is that this concept is meant to be a different incarnation of that same idea—a kind of jack-of-all-trades class, but done as a heavy melee combatant.  Not stealthy.  Not dealing extra damage with weird mechanics.  In-your-face, shaping the battlefield, opening doors with a crowbar and a hammer rather than lockpicks.  You see where I’m going with this?

What that in mind, my write-up for this martial path would go something like this:

You are a master of combat terrain and the ways in which obstacles and traps can shape a battlefield.  You fight with weapons, but you also fight with your mind, using hasty and deliberate obstacles to control the way the enemy moves through your battlespace, allowing your allies to make the best possible use of their skills to kill the bad guys before they can kill you.

Combat Engineer Features
Engineering Knowledge, Emplace Hasty Obstacles
Emplace Deliberate Obstacles and Traps
Emplace Ruinic Obstacles and Traps

Engineering Knowledge
You gain proficiency with Construction and Breaching Tools.  You can add your Intelligence modifier to skills checks made using these tools.

Construction Tools:
Block and Tackle
Hammer, Sledge
Rope, hemp or silk
Spike, iron

Breaching Tools:
Grappling Hook
Pole, wooden (10')
Ram, portable

Emplace Hasty Obstacles
As an Action, you can emplace Hasty Obstacles (caltrops, ball bearings, etc) in a zone equal to a number of contiguous 5’ x 5’ areas (i.e. grid squares) equal to your Intelligence modifier.  Whenever a creature enters the zone of your hasty obstacles, it must make a Dexterity Save vs. your Obstacle DC.  On a failed save, the creature takes 1d6 + your Intelligence modifier piercing damage and is Slowed until it leaves the zone.

Your Obstacle DC is 8 + your proficiency modifier + your Intelligence modifier.

Emplace Deliberate Obstacles and Traps
Given time, you can emplace ruinously complex obstacles and traps.  For every five minutes that you spend installing an obstacle or trap, you can emplace a 5’ x 5’ zone that will deal 1d6 + your Intelligence modifier damage on a missed saving throw, up to a maximum level of damage equal to your Intelligence modifier x d6.  A creature that enters the zone of your Deliberate Obstacles is slowed until it leaves the zone (no save).

For example, a Combat Engineer with an Intelligence of 14 (+2) could spend ten minutes installing a 5’ x 5’ zone that would then deal a maximum of 2d6 + 2 damage on a failed save.  That same Engineer could not spend more time on that same zone to make it deadlier, but he could spend an additional ten minutes on an adjacent zone which would then have the same characteristics as the first zone.  However, an Engineer with an Intelligence of 17 (+3) would be able to make a deadlier 5’ x 5’ zone (i.e. 3d6 + 3), though creating such a zone would take him fifteen minutes.  He could also be make simpler zones (i.e. 1d6 + 3 or 2d6 + 3) if he has less time.

As before, the DC to avoid your Traps and Obstacles is 8 + your proficiency modifier + your Intelligence modifier.

You must describe your traps and/or obstacles to your DM and specify what kind of damage they do (this must be mundane physical damage, not magical damage).  

Note: Traps are hidden, and avoiding them requires an Intelligence saving throw.  Obstacles are open but more complicated; avoiding them requires a Dexterity saving throw.

Emplace Ruinic Obstacles and Traps
You have learned to employ ruinic magic with your hasty and deliberate obstacles and traps.  Your hasty and deliberate obstacles now use d10s instead of d6s to figure their damage, and they can deal magical kinds of damage (i.e. fire, lightning, necrotic, etc.).

That is pretty similar to my original write-up, if perhaps less confusing in the way it overlays with the existing Fighter class.  I should note that I’m not sure how often PCs will have the chance to actually emplace deliberate obstacles, but I think it would be cool to try to incorporate them into the game, there is certainly no doubt that they exist as an archetype in fantasy literature, and if the PCs had them as an option, I think smart Players would find ways to use the ability.

Depending on what you guys think of this piece, we may look at a Sapper sub-class of the Rogue next.

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