The Cleric was a class that I was very curious to see unfold. The nature of the setting seems to minimize the role of Gods in favor of Icons. In fact, the only mention of gods is in the general sense that the Priestess and the Crusader both have connections to vaguely defined divinities.
The cleric seems to follow this model by leaving the general idea of what being a cleric is up to the player. Want to invent a god? Do it? Want to just sort of generically worship “The Gods”? Go right ahead. The authors suggest a very loose hand with pantheons.
I admit I’m not 100% sure I’m excited by this. I like the player authorship component, but I regret the absence of any real social component. It’s a small complaint though, since a player can pretty freely introduced more elements of organized religion via backgrounds or uniques.
The class feature that all clerics get is the ability to heal – twice per battle allows an ally to spend a recovery, very much in the mode of 4e. This is pretty much a concession to the realities of d20 – clerics are expected to heal, and making healing demand any kind of tradeoff can be cruel.
The three class talents take the form of domains, a familiar enough concept, and their abstraction allows for several talents to have different explanations. For example, the talent which allows striking back when an ally gets hit is considered appropriate to the domain of Justice or Vengeance. While this is a bit of sleight of hand to squeeze in more domains, it’s eminently practical, so i can’t fault it.
Structurally, the talents are composed of an effect and an invocation. The effect is usually passive, but some are reactive or are effectively mini-powers. The invocation is effectively a daily power. Notably, the feats seem to improve the effects, not the invocations, though it’s not immediately clear why that is the case.
I think my favorite is the Illusion/Trickery effect – you roll a d20 at the beginning of the fight, and at some point you hand that to someone else (friend or foe) who was just about to roll. Colorful, flexible, a little unpredictable, and mechanically neat.
In lieu of powers, clerics get spells. Technically we already saw spells with the Bard, but that was mixed in with a bunch of other stuff, so it was hard to get a sense of what spellcasting is supposed to look like. Now’s our chance.
The first and potentially weirdest thing is that the spell progression is hollow. We’ve touched on this before, but it’s interesting to see it in practice – see, 13th Age has spell levels, (1st. 3rd. 5th, 7th and 9th – sync them up with the levels they’re acquired, I suppose) . At level 1, the cleric has 4 level 1 spells. At level 2, she has 5 level 1 spells. But at level 3, she only has 2 first level spells, but she now has 3 level 3 spells. By the time she turns level 5, she will no longer have any level 1 spells.
As someone used to classic d20 spell progression, this is crazypants banana town, but the logic becomes more apparent as you look at the actual spell entries – they actually contain multiple versions of themselves.
That sounds weird, but bear with me. The level 1 spell, grants someone an AC bonus. Easy enough. The 3rd level version of the spell expands the bonus to Physical defense as well as AC. At level 5 it improves the bonus when the target is staggered (whatever that is). At level 7 it also improves mental defense. At level 9, the bonus is improved.
What’s important to note is that this is not a progression – these are effectively 5 different spells. They’re written in a compact way which can lead to a bit of confusion (especially for damage spells – they don’t necessarily have a smooth progression, largely because hit points don’t have a smooth progression). At level 3, more spells show up, and the only difference is that they don’t have level 1 versions.
As noted, this is strange, but I kind of dig it. One big part of this is that it limits the number of spells that a character knows to something between 4 and 9. That greatly simplifies bookkeeping while still allowing for a very wide range of spell choices. There are only 19 spell entries, but in practice, there are 69 clerical spells.
However, as I read this, I have no idea how I’m supposed to use these spells. The spells are actually written like powers, including frequency (daily, at-will or Per battle) so you can figure out how to use a particular spell based on its entry, but what I am not finding is whether or not spells can be swapped out. Clearly they change at level up, but are they then locked in? Are they prayed for on a daily basis? The index fails me. In the absence of any information it seems that they’re locked in, but if so, it seems disingenuous to call them spells rather than powers.
I’m confident that I’m missing something, but I’ve been looking in all manner of odd corners of the book to no avail.
EDIT: I have been informed on Google+ that according to the designers, spells can be re-jiggered when you take a full heal up (basically a long rest). I re-checked the text under the full heal up rules to see if there’s any mention of this, but there is not. I fully accept that the correction is accurate, but this is a really glaring example of the text falling short of the quality of the game. That is not something that should be in errata.
Further Edit: Hat tip to Ralph Mazza who found the appropriate passage. It’s in the opener of the class chapter (page 76 for those who care) in a section title “Shifting choices as you adventure”. I’d say it’s a little obscure, but I withdraw most of the criticism and place it on myself for the failure to catch that passage.
The Fighter looks to be a little bit less of a headache – more complicated than the Barbarian, but still pretty straightforward. The class features improve recovery and give the fighter a taunt ability that makes it hard for enemies to disengage. At some point this became as mandatory as cleric healing, but I’m less copacetic about it. It’s a kludge, and the fact that it’s a kludge that MMO’s have elevated to high art does not reduce that fact. But people dig it, I guess, so I’ll roll with it, but meh. Also, get off my lawn
The fighter class talents are largely what you would expect in a post 3e world, something made pretty clear by the first one being “Cleave”. Once again, a lot of them are effectively powers (once per battle do something cool) and I admit that this blurring is starting to get to me. I sort of get why it’s there – some talents are passive effects and some are pseudo-powers, so the goal is uniform presentation, but I admit I kind of dread tracking that on a character sheet.
That said, some of the talents are pretty cool. Deadeye Archer is fairly badass, and Counter-Attack is interesting. It’s the first effect I’ve noticed where the even-odd state of the escalation die matters rather than its value, which is definitely a little hard to wrap my head around. The idea that the effect isn’t useful at, say, escalation 5 is counterintuitive.
(if you’re confused at what I mean by escalation, that is intentional, because the book hasn’t explained it yet either)
The fighter is also where another mechanic that’s shown up quietly gets brought into the highlight – Miss Damage. In 13th Age, attacks almost always do damage, even on a miss. Miss damage is reduced (usually just equal to character level) but still non-zero. This is a nice trick to keep attacks from feeling wasted, and the fighter in particular has a number of effects that improve miss damage, which seems to make him a reliable damage outputter, which seems right.
This idea is reinforced by the structure of the fighter powers (called “Maneuvers”), the bulk of which are “flexible attacks”, which is to say, they’re effects you trigger after the die is rolled based on the value showing on the die. For example, for a fighter with Heavy Blows, a miss that shows an even number on the die will do extra miss damage.
I mentioned the flexible attacks before because the Bard also has some, but i really want to look at it here because they seem to be the fighter’s bread and butter. I had to go check ahead in the book to consult the rules, where I discovered they can’t be used for opportunity attacks (which seems kind of lame) and you can only use one per attack (which seems totally reasonable).
The net result is that the fighter is going to have a menu of options to consult after the die has been rolled, pretty much every time he attacks. That’s an odd cadence, and I suspect it’s going to be a little bit awkward until the fighter player gets familiar enough with his own triggers to know them by heart. This probably won’t take long, since the number of maneuvers starts at 3 and caps at 8 – like cleric spells, the list of stuff to keep in mind stays reasonably short.
I’m a little torn on missile support for the fighter. There are clearly some cool things if you want to be a missile guy, but the maneuver selection skews heavily towards melee. This is almost certainly working as intended, but I just look a little sad because the archery stuff is cool enough that I want more of it.
One oddity – The fighter section has a very striking image of a victorious gladiator type standing over his fallen foes with a sword in each hand. This is interesting because there’s no fighter talent for dual wielding, so I wondered how that was done. Index took me to the two weapon rules, which are fine, and which said some classes have talents that expand those rules, and so I guess they meant “rangers” (screw you, Drizzt). It’s not a bad thing, but it definitely seems like an odd gap.
And, well, crud. Looks like another 2 class day. More tomorrow.
- One nice mechanical bit – most cleric spells can either be cast on multiple targets for minor effect or on a single target for greater effect. For example, Shield of faith gives 1 target +2 AC, or 3 targets +1 AC. ↩
- Checked the glossary. Basically means the same as bloodied (under 50% hit points) but since bloodied isn’t in the OGL, they needed a different term. ↩
- And as a callout, Resurrection is interesting, with a steadily escalating cost that is tied to the number of times the spell has been cast, in addition to the number of times the target has been resurrected. It’s a nice balance between keeping resurrection as an option for high level play while including a check to keep it from upending the setting. ↩
- It is not clear in the rules whether this is before or after a hit is declared, but some other statements about transparency of information seem to strongly imply that it’s after the hit is declared. ↩