I've decided to make minor tweaks to two classes: The Dwarven Delver and the Elven Ranger. For whatever reason, the classes simply aren't resonating with players; no one in any of our playtest campaigns has volunteered to select them. Hopefully I can fix that.
Here are the revisions:
Dwarven Delver: Dwarven Delvers lose the much-maligned "Mapping" class power and replace it with "Backstab". This more closely aligns the Dwarven Delver with a thief-like archetype, and gives him a bit more striking power. It also makes a Delver-Machinist classes a nice set, neatly assigning the "scouting" functions to the Delver and the "lockpicking/trap removal" functions to the Machinist.
Elven Ranger: The Elven Ranger loses the "Pass Without Trace" class power and replaces it with "Tracking". I initially thought that players would prefer "Pass Without Trace" because of its vaguely magical effect, but, in actual play, its very rare that adventurers worry about covering their tracks, and quite common that they want to track enemies. Moreover, pretty much everyone who has looked at the Elven Ranger has assumed this class would be able to track, and its lack of ability to do so is perceived as a skill tax. One further tweak I made is that the Elven Ranger can *also* take Tracking proficiency, improving his Tracking by +4 each time, so its possible for a level 1 Ranger to be quite a formidable tracker. The Elven Ranger is not an "uber-class," but its combination of Beast Friendship, Precise Shot, Tracking, and elven racial powers makes it "feel" right, I think; it'll resonate well with fans of 1e Rangers, fans of WoW-style hunters, and Legolas lovers.
I hope these last-minute changes are well received, and put all of our new classes into that happy place of balance and fun.
Hmm… honestly a little disappointed about the Delver change. I’m no fan of Mapping, but I did like that the Delver didn’t have backstab; it differentiated them a little more away from the standard thief and assassin. I might end up tweaking that particular bit into some other skill or proficiency for my own use (though I don’t think my players would much like it, so perhaps backstab will stick).
I personally like Mapping, but if I was going to swap it out for something, given “Decades of training in lightless environments teach delvers to hear noises that others miss,” I might give them Blind Fighting as the new ability.
I guess I don’t love the mapping proficiency, but how about land surveying? It gives them two things that would be quite theme appropriate while keeping them distinct from the thief.
As flavorful as the class is on paper, I can see why players would not select the Delver, and understand why you would replace Mapping with Backstabbing. The Delver without backstab or a similar ability makes a great NPC henchman and not a great PC for players who like thief-leaning characters, in my humble opinion.
They are a lightly armored, limited weapon class with no spellcasting and some thief skills but with limited fighting progression and no specific bump in combat.
I would love a Dwarven Delver henchman in my party to help me with my dungeon crawling… as a player, however, every time combat rolled out I wouldn’t really know what to do aside from pelt the enemy with missile weapon fire. Players of thief-leaning characters, in my experience, enjoy tactical play in and out of combat. They like the challenge of maneuvering behind enemies and striking from the shadows. The Delver can hide and sneak, but without any kick in combat to reward them for their sneakiness, I can understand why a player would pass him up for a class they feel would contribute more to the story when swords were drawn. If no one is choosing the class in playtest, I would imagine that would be the reason.
I personally might replace expert caving with mapping, since to my mind the delver will be down in ancient underground complexes and forgotten crypts more than they’re be ‘spelunking’. But that’s really to taste - either ability makes sense.
The ranger tweak is great. One question, will they have the ability to choose the pass without trace ability, or something like it, as a proficiency? It’s still a really nice flavor thing for some elven rangers to possess.
Moorcrys, you have hit the problem spot-on. Without backstab, there's no combat benefit to the Delver's sneakiness. The lack of combat reward, combined with the lack of remove traps ability, means that the Delver is a sub-par class, relative to the thief.
I'd be open to replacing backstab with "something else" that would be of value in combat, but it seems like the best fit for a stealth-oriented class.
As far as the ranger tweak, Pass Without Trace was added to the ranger class proficiency list, so those who want it can take it!
Perhaps this was merely fortuitous timing, but as soon as this change was put in play, someone rolled up an Elven Ranger in our house campaign. We are pleased.
Perhaps the dearth of Dwarven Delvers is simply because they don’t have Dwarven Brewing on their proficiency list.
Is this deliberate or a simple oversight? (all the other Dwarven classes have it)
Outrage! I knew there was something very, very wrong with that class.
Maybe that’s what drives them to become Delvers, outcast as they are by the rest of society
It was deliberate. The idea of Spelunking Port-a-Brewers didn't ring well for me.
Cool. Thanks for the clarification Alex.