Fighter domain endgame

There are effectively four different endgames, for each of the four foundational classes. Clerics, mages, and rogues all seem pretty well diversified, with well-defined niches. A good realm should have a solid mix of all of them, and they each excel at one aspect of the economic game.

The fighter seems to have essentially the same endgame as the cleric, but without any of the special perks (the cheaper strongholds and loyal followers). Sure, they do well as battlefield commanders (with +1 morale abilities), but that doesn’t have the same roleplay-enhancing potential as the unique economic options (crafting, etc) for the other classes. “My troops get this mechanical bonus” doesn’t have as much flavor as “I’m building an elite guard of two-headed titanium golems!” or “My cultists are sacrificing captured unicorns so I can cut off my left pinky finger and turn it into an unholy relic!”

I’ve been playing with the idea of creating a differentiated of new perks for fighters, something that makes them feel less like a weaker version of clerics. Ideally I’d like something that plays to their identity as elite soldiers.

Since clerics get to build a church and some of the research structures, I’m thinking it might work to give fighters some alternative structures they can use to (say) research improved versions of siege engine technology, or to train basic troops into more elite troop types, or host jousting tournaments.

Another possibility would be giving them the ability to hand out “quests” to low-level NPCs with a system like the thief-endgame, functioning as sponsors for junior adventuring teams – with the possibility of recruiting better-quality henchmen from the successful ones.

Does anyone have suggestions as to what other ideas might work? I want something that makes fighters feel unique and not overshadowed by clerics, without duplicating something that already exists. Extra credit if it feels inspired by something in classic D&D!

Fighters weren’t given any special powers because they’re the default. Most realms are governed by fighters. To the extent that they have special powers, those special powers would then be standard in most empires. So I would be cautious in regard to giving them too much, because whatever you give them will be widespread.

I don’t think they’d have special powers with regard to giving out quests (in fact, that’s supposed to be part of what mages do with sanctums and dungeons).

THAT SAID, here are some ideas that will yield more opportunities for role-play:

  1. The profession of arms is the most respected among the aristocracy. When rolling for Favors & Duties, the fighter can roll twice and select the better result.
  2. The Merry Men, the Knights of the Round Table, the Myrmidons… Fighters never lack for bands of retainers. Fighters track their number of vassals and henchmen separately.
  3. If they construct a structure of notable size and importance (such as “The Round Table”, “The Colosseum”, etc.), fighters can recruit henchmen from their entire realm, rather than just from cities. Build out a table similar to “Merc Availability in Realms”, but for henchmen.
  4. Fighters, being expert at war, roll twice on Vagaries of Recruitment and Vagaries of War tables and get the better result. They are less susceptible to the fog and friction of war.

Of these, #3 is my favorite, though it requires the most work. I can help work up a table if it’s of interest.

I like #3 as well. Nothing is like the Harat Arena, where free men (and lizardmen) compete in battle for honour and gold, in presenting King Hardun with the best fighters in the region as prospective candidates for his elite guard…

After going back to look over the rules for encounters with domain rulers in OD&D, what stands out is that wizards and patriarchs will default to giving quests (with a geas or quest spell), but lords will default to a martial challenge (whereupon the rules then refer players to the Chainmail jousting system).

That supports the inference that fighters are not quest-oriented but are more contest-oriented. That would imply an arena-type structure for competitions, which could be flavored for a particular setting. A military autocracy might have a sand-floored colosseum, a chivalrous late-medieval society would have a festive tiltyard, a bronze-age empire would have chariot racing at a circus, etc.

The broader henchmen/vassal recruitment idea does work to differentiate fighters from mages (who have item/creature benefits), clerics (with construction/conversion benefits) and thieves (with monetary/mischief benefits). I think it’s most important to differentiate the fighter from the cleric, who currently enjoys an “anything you can do I can do better” package vis-a-vis the fighter.

I’m looking for something that feels interactive and involves planning and resource allocation decisions on par with crafting or research, rather than a passive perk. I want to make sure that fighter-class players don’t feel deprived of domain-level interactivity, and have a niche that feels every bit as customizable as being “the domain where that wizard is breeding the arachnopanthers”. I think #3 is closest to that objective, although certainly #2 would give them a broader range of options too.

And yes, I can also understand the appeal of wanting a “clean” class that has very few special abilities, to keep the baseline domain system as simple as possible. That’s what fighters already provide at first level for combat – a clean baseline. So I can see why the rules would want to default toward keeping the simplest class consistently simple. I can also understand why a purist would balk at the idea of just giving a special perk to PCs only, without making it available to NPC realms.

#3 is interesting, but I think I prefer #2’s simplicity. #1 is problematic because it’s largely cultural; in the land of the sorcerer-kings, wizards might get that instead of fighters, in which case it’s something of a weaker factor in the fighter’s favor. Likewise, 4 requires the Vagaries tables to be in effect.

#2 and #3 would be the most campaign-generic.

#2 also calls back a bit to the original Ranger’s special follower list; and in some way complements #3 - maybe combine the two. Build that Round Table and get non-vassal henchmen from all the realm and perhaps beyond (Lancelot).

That would at least require some monetary spend on the Fighter’s part to benefit from what’s a pretty darn good extra (still having quality hench to take on adventures). I bet there’s a nascent, still gooey table on Alex’s HDD that could be mangled for “Spend X over Minimum Stronghold Value, Get Y More Hench”.

Fighters weren’t given any special powers because they’re the default. Most realms are governed by fighters. To the extent that they have special powers, those special powers would then be standard in most empires. So I would be cautious in regard to giving them too much, because whatever you give them will be widespread.

I cannot say that I agree with this line of reasoning very much. Implicit in it seems to be the idea that Fighter is a class intended only for NPCs, new players, and players who don’t want lots of abilities. Certainly, that was once the case in D&D. But one of the good things to come out of modern D&D is the idea that you shouldn’t force people who enjoy as broad a fantasy archetype as “Fighter” to play a specific rules-complexity niche.

I don’t see how it would break ACKS’ design paradigm to have a list of interesting endgame abilities for Fighters and say “Most Fighters don’t have these bonuses, but some do. If you’re playing a Fighter, feel free to take them.” There are a lot of Fighters in any given fantasy world, and I find it reasonable that there’s going to be some variation in what they can do, especially as they level up.

Sounds like a job for some new class proficiencies to go along with command, if “some variation between high-level fighters” is your goal. Noble Scion could do “+2 to reaction rolls with nobility, roll twice and choose on domain favors / duties”, and Logistics might confer the “roll twice on vagaries and choose”, along with perhaps a small reduction in supply cost when on campaign. The henchman / vassal manipulation is trickier, but I could see amending Leadership to apply some vassal bonuses. The problem, of course, is in removing existing things from the class prof lists…

A 9th-level fighter is one class proficiency (gained at 9th level) ahead of anyone with a non-fighter progression, and keeps that lead at 12th level. That’s basically a free Command, Leadership, or Military Strategy proficiency, which are quite meaningful for rulers.

A fighter who wants to be one makes a better leader and ruler (with fewer sacrifices) than other classes, all else being equal. Plus, they reach those higher levels sooner, and they don’t have magic research, etc. as a drain on their treasure: they have more to spend on armies and building up their realm.

Adding any special abilities beyond the proficiencies (and special maneuvers) for fighters would be a bit much for a BD&D clone. ACKS does a wonderful job of broadly keeping to the style and complexity of BD&D.

I have no idea whether, proficiencies not withstanding, fighters also make better war leaders under D@W rules, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

I don’t know if class proficiencies are the way I would want to implement this augmentation. If high-level Fighters want to have as deep an endgame as the other classes do, then they would be forced to spend their last proficiencies on pimping their domains . (Disclaimer: I have not played high-level ACKS, nor have I really experimented with building high-level ACKS characters. So if most high level characters are able to take pretty much all of the proficiencies that they want well before the endgame starts, then this concern is no longer relevant.)

If you wanted to go in that direction, it might be better to do something like giving Fighters a new progression track that starts once you hit domain-level. Every couple levels, this progression track gives you a new domain-oriented ability. Ideally, this progression track might open up minigames of similar depth to hijinks, necromancy, and the like. That sort of thing could go beyond the scope of ACKS, though.

Class goodness in DaW is sort of interesting - fighters do get the +morale, and have more profs and access to Command for even more +morale, but mages and clerics have high Int and Wis respectively, so in our tests they have had higher Strategic Ability than our (admittedly built-for-dungeoncrawl) fighters. As a result all three make decent commanders, each typically having certain weaknesses. Thief and assassin look pretty lacking in DaW as unit commanders, so I expect the best use for them is in the enemy rear causing mayhem and taking out leaders.

This was very much by design. We wanted to avoid a situation where one class was “the” mass-combat class, relegating all other classes to secondplace when it came to the end game.

Ability at mass combat is based on INT, WIS, CHA, Leadership proficiency, Command proficiency, Military Strategy proficiency, and Class-based ML bonus.

Fighters get access to more class proficiencies, have access to Command, and get a class-based ML bonus. Even with average ability scores, a fighter can be respectable in mass combat.

Mages have the highest INT, which helps with Strategic Ability. That in turn cascades to more general proficiencies. They have the fewest class proficiencies. A low INT mage will not be good at mass combat, but if he has a high INT and “studies war in his free time” (bonus proficiencies) he can be a very good strategist. He’ll never be as inspirational a leader as a fighter, though.

Clerics have the highest WIS, which helps with Strategic Ability. They don’t tend to have as many bonus proficiencies from INT, but have more class proficiencies than mages. They are thus mid-way between fighters and mages.

Bards have the highest CHA, which helps with Leadership Ability, have a reasonable number of class proficiencies, and get a class-based ML bonus. They will virtually always be inspirational leaders, though they may be terrible strategists.

I think one advantage fighters have in the end game is time. All the other classes will be spending their time on r&d, raising divine power, or running a crime syndicate. Fighters on the other hand have the time to engage in the mercantile system. If they don’t want to be merchants they could “contract out” to higher level lords, rulers, mercenary companies, or even rich merchants. Why not use the henchmen pay chart as a base line for a very low risk contact, then tempt them with more gold in exchange for rolls on some sort of risk chart.

Some sort of hi-jinks-like system for sending out fighters to adventure or work as mercenaries might be an interesting side gig. Unfortunately, you can’t exactly use skill rolls since they don’t have thief skills. Rolling with their attack might work, but “I hit the thing” might get boring. Maybe borrow from the mass combat rules and roll based on their mass-combat stats to see if the henchman successfully managed the military campaign?

I guess using the simplest rules for mass combat could work similar to hi-jinks (with a significantly greater investment) for mid-level fighter followers and henchmen as you send them out for border skirmishes or mini-crusades.

I feel like it should be possible to kludge something together from D@W (or the core book) in the style of Traveller: Mercenary.

#3 sounds fantastic (particularly since it neatly solves the issue of how a PC-class unit for D@W might be acquired)

Interesting, but I think you want the availability of henchmen and mercs to scale based on the fighter’s investment in the structure (possibly further modified by accomplishments of the character, size of his holdings, etc.) rather than basing it off realm size, to account for those who are attracted from neighboring lands and peasants that are inspired by his legend. This also gives the PC a money sink like some other classes that isn’t just increasing one’s income.

Would this be only fighters, or would it attract all manner of adventurer?

If you need a stronghold of value Xgp to secure a domain, it stands to reason you need a structure of value Ygp to be able to pull from a realm of Z size. If the emperor builds a small coliseum, perhaps it only has the reach of a duchy or barony instead of the whole empire.

As for costs, are we assuming a custom unit? thus dividing their monthly wages by the availability of the “realm” that is covered by the special structure?

Example: King Arthur constructs a Round Table of sufficient value and renown to permit him to recruit henchman from among his entire realm of England, rather than just Camelot. A kingdom’s Exotic row lists 8100/cost. If we’re rounding down, he could recruit one 9th level (7250gp per month), 2 level 8s (3000gp per month), 5 level 7s (1600gp per month) etc.

I have no idea if this would actually work, or what that round table would have to cost in order to justify such an endeavor.

It might also make more sense as a one time cost: say holding a tournament. In that case, the cost would likely be the recruitment cost.

Where did you get those numbers?