Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sign of the Zodiac

A recent discussion on class roles and multiclassing versus no-multiclassing got me to thinking about the creation of a campaign world where multiclassing was discouraged (or even forbidden) in-game, not just by an arbitrary distinction of the rules. Something similar to this exists in the Rokugan campaign setting, where you can't multiclass into shugenja, because you either hear spirits or don't, and shugenja can't multiclass into samurai, because of ancient spiritual taboos.

At the same time, I was considering some of my old campaign concepts, specifically a campaign where the starsign of your birth literally determined your destiny. After all, in a fantasy world, anything can be true with the right background and setup; you just need some level of consistency. The fact that astrology is hokey and fake is meaningless in a world where the stars are living gods that influence heroic destinies for their own reasons.

To this end, I introduce "Signs of the Zodiac," a campaign seed that uses the twelve signs of the Western zodiac as the model for the base classes. While I'm using d20 as the default here, this could pretty easily be adapted to other games; Exalted already has Sidereals, and a "different Exalted" could have Zodiacals instead. In this post, I'm just putting down my ideas for each class, its general abilities and tendencies, and some sample powers. If people show some interest, I'll try to develop it further (with any outside input that looks good, of course).

Basic Concepts

People with heroic souls are those with Signs. While everyone is influenced by their birth Sign to some degree, individuals with heroic souls (i.e., player characters and major NPCs) actually gain special powers from their Sign. These powers must be trained to gain their full effectiveness, but they begin to develop unbidden at puberty (or sooner for some prodigies). Academies and training schools exist to help the Startouched gain full control over their powers, and many Startouched go on to become great heroes or terrible villains.

Multiclassing is possible, in a very limited fashion. Your highest-level Sign must be your birth Sign, and you cannot take a Sign that is more than two steps removed from your birth Sign. So you could be Virgo 7/Cancer 6, if you were born a Virgo, but not Virgo 7/Cancer 7 or a Virgo/Gemini.

The Signs of the Zodiac

Aries: The Ram
The master of warfare and strategy, Aries offers its followers melee combat prowess unmatched by any lesser warrior. Any weapon is deadly in the hands of an Aries, and every bit of terrain a key element to victory. An Aries thrives in situations that require courage, leadership and strength, though their aggressive nature sometimes leads them into rash or impulsive action.
Class Features: Aries are consummate fighters. They get a bunch of melee-oriented attack abilities, like maneuvers from Bo9S. They're focused on offense, and don't get much in the way of defense.

Taurus: The Bull
Resourceful and dependable, the Taurus is the epitome of defensive combat just as the Aries is the epitome of aggressive combat. A Taurus masters her own body to become tough and stable beyond the ability of others to move or harm her. Because of their desire for stability and forethought, however, a Taurus can often seem dull, argumentative or conservative to others.
Class Features: Taurus are all about defense, defense, defense. Their class abilities allow them to avoid negative status conditions, take hits for friends, and exhaust enemies.

Gemini: The Twins
The Gemini is a dualistic individual, on the one hand adaptable and articulate, and on the other fickle and insensitive. A Gemini’s abilities focus on interaction and the ability to become what others seek to see and hear. Cunning diplomats and moving speakers, a Gemini’s greatest flaw is his inability to be his own person—a Gemini ever mirrors others.
Class Features: A Gemini is like a mimic from the Final Fantasy games. They're good at monkey-see, monkey-do, and at "faking it." They have a bunch of social interaction abilities as their basic stuff, and then can imitate skills, feats and weapon proficiencies. They're best at mimicking other party members, but can "mimic" people they've seen before too.

Cancer: The Crab
Cancer is generous and devoted, capable of offering healing and care to others even at greatest cost to herself. Visionaries, teachers and lawgivers, the sign of Cancer lends itself to those that place the good of others over their own well-being. Unlike Taurus, who seeks to defend their physical selves, Cancer protects their rights and souls. Their devotion can easily turn to zealotry, however, and Cancer can seem controlling or even domineering at times.
Class Features: Cancer's primary abilities revolve around healing wounds, protecting people from negative energy-type effects, and maybe harming the undead. They're like non-religious clerics. They can probably choose to accept status ailments in place of their friends.

Leo: The Lion
Ambitious and independent, but ultimately noble, a Leo finds his truest calling as a leader of men. From magistrate to king, a Leo is born to greatness. Perhaps because of this regal bearing and their aristocratic calling, Leos also have a reputation for being overbearing and luxurious, without any concept of the value of money. A Leo does not request—he demands, and expects to be heard.
Class Features: Like Nobles from SWSE - powers focused around getting people to listen to them, pushing people around, and intimidating others with their sheer presence. Leos can compel others to obey them, even against their will, and they can become so fearsome that enemies flee from them in terror or become allies.

Virgo: The Virgin
Purity is the watchword of the Virgo. Not just physical purity but spiritual purity as well. Not all Virgos are literal virgins, but even at their worst they seem virginal. A Virgo values innocence and justice, and is willing to pursue truth and moral uprightness to almost any extreme. Their modesty and discretion can make them seem prudish and perfectionists to those who have lower standards of excellence.
Class Features: I see Virgos as being like D&D paladins. Evil ones could exist; they'd be like neat-freak villains (think Darken Rahl or Bijomaru Mogami) who seem nicer than they really are until it's too late, or moralistic zealots who smash every "evil" creature they meet without mercy. They can cleanse people of spiritual ailments and smite corrupted beings (like demons and undead),

Libra: The Scales
The sign of the Libra is one of the most valued in the Zodiac. With its penchant for balance and moderation, and talents that lend themselves to fairness and equality, Libras are judges, peacemakers and builders. Unlike the Gemini, who is skilled at copying another’s viewpoint and mimicking it, a Libra excels at actually understanding both sides of complex issues and finding ways to balance them. Some see Libras as easily swayed thanks to their willingness to shift views, however.
Class Features: Like the half-moon caste in Werewolf, or the Eclipse caste from Exalted, Libras are about seeing both sides of an argument and rendering fair judgment. They could gain other Signs' class abilities permanently, and seal pacts and oaths to make them spiritually binding. A Libra would be good at "reaching balance," such as by ameliorating or negating status effects on himself.

Scorpio: The Scorpion
Secretive and intense, a Scorpio revels in mystery and enigma. They understand that knowledge is the truest currency—and that the fewer people who know a given thing, the more valuable it becomes. Their innate talents lend toward being spies, thieves and infiltrators, and some Scorpios take their assets a step further to become assassins. Even friendly Scorpios hide things from their loved ones, and their inner passions often drive them to become manipulative or cruel.
Class Features: Rogues, through and through. A Scorpio would be a master of the sneak attack, uncovering hidden truths, and convincing people to say more than they really want to. Leos are Intimidate, Geminis are Diplomacy, and Scorpios are Bluff. Scorpios would also be really good at concealing themselves from perception, physically and mentally.

Sagittarius: The Archer
Born with an eagle eye and a steady hand, a Sagittarius is a master of archery almost before he can walk. Freedom-loving and idealistic, the Sagittarius hopes that someday every person will embrace his broad-minded philosophy. At his best, a Sagittarius is open and honest, accepting of others, while at his worst he is impulsive, tactless and rebellious without good cause.
Class Features: Their Sign is called "the archer," for crying out loud! What do you think they do? ^_^ A Sagittarius is preternaturally good with ranged weapons, eventually able to threaten bigger and bigger areas around them with ranged attacks. They would also be good at throwing off bindings, both physical and mystical.

Capricorn: The Sea-Goat
With their birth sign so closely resembling the traditional emblems of devils, it is no wonder that Capricorns are regarded with mistrust and suspicion. A Scorpio might stab you in the back, but she would do it in a moment of passion—a cold, ambitious Capricorn would do it with perfect calculation, having decided your doom months beforehand. A Capricorn’s mystical powers make them no less strange and terrible to others, but their hard-working and serious natures make them reliable allies to anyone willing to associate with them.
Class Features: I'm thinking "warlock" here - weird, sinister magical powers that make other more than a little nervous. You would never know if your Capricorn buddy really likes you, or is sizing you up for a pine box. Their powers are all about dissecting the soul and neatly rending the body, but they can also shrug off emotion-affecting abilities. They have emotions to affect, but they're really good at suppressing them.

Aquarius: The Water-Bearer
The Aquarius looks into the depths of the human mind, seeking meaning in the pursuit of the intellectual. The urn held by Aquarius in myth does not hold only water, but the very water of life—the urn is the receptacle of all knowledge. Though somewhat detached because of their intellectual pursuits, an Aquarius is friendly and progressive in his personal life. He seeks knowledge not just for its own sake, but to share it with others and improve their lives by doing so. Their erratic pursuit of esoteric learning can make them eccentric and self-centered, though.
Class Features: Traditional wizard type here. They learn magic and mysticism as their primary class abilities, and they're wise sages seeking knowledge of the universe. Maybe some abilities relating to knowing things they never learned by tapping into the "wisdom of the stars" or somesuch.

Pisces: The Fishes
With a sign that governs both beauty and health, a Pisces almost literally glows with attractive well-being. Where a Cancer would heal wounds, and a Virgo would heal spirits, a Pisces wipes away disease and pain. As well, their focus on appearance lends itself easily to the manipulation of appearance—illusion and reality mix freely for a Pisces. Sometimes impractical and even escapist in their fantasies, a Pisces is sensitive, creative and artistic. “Enchanting” applies to a Pisces in every sense of the word.
Class Features: Illusionists and enchanters. Pisces can cure diseases and poisons, but they also are adept at bending people's perceptions, or bending their emotions and minds. An advanced Pisces can also shapechange, or maybe change the shapes of others.


Well, that's what I've got so far.

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