A combination of listening to some podcasts, some further discussions with friends, and my point-buy multiclassing post have allowed me to design the true skeleton of the Lord of Brackas RPG.
I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to design appropriate prerequisites for class abilities, because I couldn’t figure out what your basic stats and attributes would be before picking said abilities. How many spell points would you have? How would you go about getting more of them? How many maneuvers would you have, what distinguishes a spellcaster from a martial character before they start selecting abilities?
Enter hit dice. Hit dice are a nice mechanic in 5E, but go a tad underused. The variant rule that requires you to use them across a long rest to actually get some healing in was pretty great, and added some grit to the game. I’ll be porting it over as the default in LOB. Besides that, they’re pretty underused. “But wait”, I asked, “what if the first thing you did when you gained a level was choose hit dice?” So, I started laying them out, following whatever trail my subconscious was attempting to lay out for me. I began adding titles to each hit dice. “Psion: 1d4. Spellcaster: 1d6. Half Caster: 1d8. Martial: 1d10.” These were the foundations I needed to start.
In Lords of Brackas, the type of hit dice you select determines what you advance in. Selecting a d4 hit dice gives you more psi points. Selecting a d6 gives you more spell points. Selecting a d10 gives you more maneuvers. Selecting a D8 gives you more maneuvers or more spell points depending on what level you’re at. See the pattern? The “basics” of your character are all filed under this one mechanic. What determines your psion level, spellcaster level, and martial level? Hit dice. Perfect.
Now, when designing class abilities, I can say “This is appropriate for a 5th level spellcaster to access.” The person accessing it may not be 5th level; chances are they have some martial or psionic levels as well. But now that I know the progression paths, these “extras” (class features) can be adjusted accordingly. I originally thought martial, spellcasting, and psionic levels would be determined by selecting the abilities themselves. Could you imagine what kind of hell it would be to balance “ok, so this ability adds a spellcasting level, but this ability adds a martial level, but this one isn’t quite good enough to add a martial level so now I need to scrap it or combine it with-”
Literally impossible. Hit Dice on the other hand, set the foundation for a half-classless system. I’ll add more on them later, but I’d like to point out one last thing I only realized typing this essay out.
This is perfect for a rules-lite game. Psions have their Psionics, Spellcasters have their Spells, Martials have their Maneuvers, and those who mix up their levels get to pick and choose. You could probably sweep aside just about every class ability beyond what your players get at first level, and just play with the bare bones of the system. I would have zero interest in such a game as a player, but it could be useful for people trying to practice with the system, people who don’t like fleshed out systems, or even myself and other team members as devs making getting familiar with how class abilities play off this skeleton.