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Khaalis
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« on: January 08, 2010, 07:08:04 AM »

This idea was spawned from another thread. This is a long standing "prestige class" conversion from my campaign world. Thoughts and comments?


SKINWALKER [Expert Class]

Skinwalkers are devoted totemists, sometimes referred to as animal shamans, devout worshipers of the power of nature inherent in the animal spirits of the world. Skinwalkers have tapped into the animal spirits’ power and bound themselves to that energy. Skinwalkers use their connection with the animal spirits to awaken the animal within themselves, allowing them to alter their form into the form of many kinds of animals.
   Skinwalkers develop their powers almost as an epiphany, generally contacted in a dream or through some traumatic experience such as drowning, burning, burial in a landslide, falling from a great height, etc., where they are aided by a totem animal spirit.  Occasionally skinwalkers initiate the contact themselves, trying to offer their services to the animal spirits. In either case the skinwalker enters a pact with these spirits and begins the path of their training. Skinwalkers will often be directed to the presence of another skinwalker so that they may be trained in the rudiments of their abilities, while others must teach themselves through trial and error and experience over time.
   Depending on your campaign, a Skinwalker could be…
•   A grizzled totemic warrior whose animalistic traits have found a way of surfacing
•   A tribal eco-warrior seeking to prevent their home from being destroyed by industrious incursion
•   A spy that uses their natural affinity for shapeshifting to allow them access to areas others wouldn’t expect
•   A spiritualist seeking to preserve  the tradition of a lost culture
•   A black-hearted beast seeking to destroy ‘civilization’

Party Role: Combatant/Specialist. The Skinwalker utilizes their ability to assume animal forms for the purposes of combat, travel, exploration and reconnaissance.

Class Features
Requirements: Miracles campaign quality, Alignment (Totemism), Survival 6+ ranks
Favored Attributes: Strength, Constitution
Class Skills: Acrobatics, Athletics, Blend, Intimidate, Medicine, Notice, Resolve, Sense Motive, Sneak, Survival
Skill Points: 6 + Int modifier per level
Vitality: 9 + Con modifier per level

Core Ability
Fierce Creature: You tap into the inner beast within yourself. Whenever you spend an action die to increase the damage of a natural or extraordinary attack, you may roll two dice and add both to the result.

Class Abilities
Wildshape I: At 1st level, once per scene as a full round action, you may assume the form of an animal for 30 minutes per career level (dismissible). The form you may take is that of an Avian I, Mount I or Predator I as per the Nature's Ally I spell.

Wildshape II: At 4th level, you may also choose to take the form of an Avian II, Mount II or Predator II as per the Nature's Ally II spell.

Wildshape III: At 6th level, you may also choose to take the form of an Avian III, Mount III or Predator III as per the Nature's Ally III spell.

Wildshape IV: At 8th level, you may also choose to take the form of an Avian IV, Mount IV or Predator IV as per the Nature's Ally IV spell.

Wildshape V: At 10th level, you may also choose to take the form of an Avian V, Mount V or Predator V as per the Nature's Ally V spell.

Otherworldly Totem: At Level 2, once per session as part of your Wildshape full round action, you may choose the Horror or Spirit type. You gain this Type until the end of the scene.
   At Level 7, you may use this ability twice per session.

Way of the Totemic: At Levels 3, 5, 7, and 9, you may either gain 1 Unarmed Combat feat or take 1 step on one of your Paths.

Uncanny Dodge I: Your senses are supremely sharp, letting you react quickly to danger. At Level 4, you retain your Dexterity bonus to Defense (if any) even when flat-footed.

Uncanny Dodge II: At Level 8, you never become flanked.

Table XX: The Skinwalker
Lvl BAB Fort Ref Will Def Init LS Lgnd Abilities

 1   +1   +1  +1   +1  +1   +1  +0  +1     Wildshape I, Fierce Creature
 2   +2   +2  +2   +2  +1   +1  +0  +1      Otherworldly Totem 1/session
 3   +3   +2  +2   +2  +2   +2  +1  +2      Way of the Totemic
 4   +4   +2  +2   +2  +2   +2  +1  +2      Uncanny Dodge I, Wildshape II
 5   +5   +3  +3   +3  +3   +3  +1  +3      Way of the Totemic
 6   +6   +3  +3   +3  +4   +4  +2  +3     Wildshape III
 7   +7   +4  +4   +4  +4   +4  +2  +4     Otherworldly Totem 2/session, Way of the Totemic
 8   +8   +4  +4   +4  +5   +5  +2  +4     Uncanny Dodge II, Wildshape IV
 9   +9   +4  +4   +4  +5   +5  +3  +5     Way of the Totemic
10  +10  +5  +5   +5  +6   +6  +3  +5   Wildshape V


Notes:
- Totemism Paths = Beast, Strength

- I think that Wildshape V, and equivalent to a 9th level spell, or a 116-121XP form is a good level 10 power rather than a stand alone gamebreaker. It also stays with the template progression and allows the theme to continue through to its most powerful form.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2010, 08:52:13 AM by Khaalis » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2010, 08:28:51 AM »

Like your Wildshape chain. Could use a bit more clarification what the rules effects of "taking the form of" are, using the shapechanger NPC quality as a starting point.
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« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2010, 04:54:33 PM »

You seem to be short of by one  Pre  Req, perhaps a high Constituition.

Your text for Wildshape doesn't match your class table. Smiley

Again you need to clarify more about the taking form bit, do you still retain your own abilities while in the other form?

Otherwise interesting Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2010, 09:15:43 PM »

You seem to be short of by one  Pre  Req, perhaps a high Constituition.

Your text for Wildshape doesn't match your class table. Smiley

Again you need to clarify more about the taking form bit, do you still retain your own abilities while in the other form?

Otherwise interesting Smiley

It looks like it's as a full round action, but it is somewhat ambiguous whether or not any other abilities are retained.  It looks like normal form of the Skinwalker is also a pretty tough customer, with Full BAB, three medium saves and potential four path steps or bonus unarmed feats in any combination.  I'm still wary of making incorporeal available to PC's for more time than is already through Darkness V, because there are a few potentials for abuse.  One thing that might be cool is to retain some vestige of the character's normal race even in Wildshape.  I don't know exactly how to pull it off, but Spirit type is very powerful.
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aegis
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« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2010, 04:39:17 AM »

Well, I guess that's why he used "take the form of an Avian II, Mount II or Predator II as per the Nature's Ally..." in his phrasing, so that no abuse is even possible. If you want to expand the possibilities to other animals, though, I would suggest "your alternate form cannot have any Type other than Animal" (or any other you see fit). And of course, as always, the acceptation of an alternate form is ultimately up to the GM - he must do his job.

By the way, how is the Skinwalker a specialist?

Edit: Oh, I missed the Otherwordly totem! OK that's not cool. Horror, yes, Elemental, why not, even Undead for a necroskinwalker (which I clearly picture in my head). But Spirit, no no no no... (in my opinion)  Tongue
« Last Edit: January 09, 2010, 04:43:17 AM by aegis » Logged
Khaalis
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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2010, 10:40:13 AM »

First, thanks to everyone for the comments.  Here are my replies.

Quote
You seem to be short of by one  Pre  Req, perhaps a high Constituition.
Good catch. In this particular case, I'd take a page from "Monster Slayer" and go with this addition:

Requirement: Studies (Animals, Totemism)


Quote
By the way, how is the Skinwalker a specialist?
I wasn't 100% certain about this. The class has more to party role than merely combatant. Specialists are listed as skill masters, which is somewhat what I see the skinwalker as. They have a lot of skills to bring to the table. However, after looking at it again, Solver might actually be more appropriate as their skills are geared toward plot advancement and information gathering.


Quote
Your text for Wildshape doesn't match your class table.
Text corrected.


Quote
Spirit Form
I hadn't realized the implications to the Spirit type being seen as SO powerful. No more so than plant, construct or undead, all of which are 5XP modifiers.

The rationale behind "Spirit" type as an option was purely thematic. The idea was that the skinwalker is eventually able to assume a more powerful / monstrous / thematic shape other than the simple basic animal.  Considering that the class is based on a Totemism alignment (a basically shamanistic type concept), the thought of bing able to eventually take the true Spirit Totem form was what I was going for.  The horror form was a reflection of Spirit form, allowing for those taking a more "insane/intimidating" type of form, such as a 'Bear'zerker.

I didn't choose plant or elemental because the class is based on a totemic relationship with animals, not plants or elementals (which are different alignments in my world). The concept of a skinwalker changing into a bear-shaped fire elemental is not the direction I wanted to go. The same can be said for necromancy, which is antithetical to the concepts of Naturism, Totemism, etc. Life and death are part of the great cycle but necromancy is an abomination of that cycle, so I'll be steering away from shapeshifting into necromantic forms as well. However, the entire concept of the "druidic" style religions of nature worship, all revolve around the existence of 'nature spirits'. In the case of the skinwalker, it would be 'animal spirits', thus the choice f the Spirit type.

I was also aiming for a simplicity that is often a cornerstone of Crafty design. It seemed much easier to simply add a type to the existing forms than to get into anything more complex as a method of "improving" the forms. However, the other option I had seriously considered was instead - Templates. For instance to be able to take Dire form of the animals as the true "Spirit Totem". However, the Dire template is a 20XP modifier.  The other templates I looked at were Predatory and Heavenly (again spirit-like).

How do people see Dire (or the other templates) as compared to Spirit?


Quote
Wildshape Basics
As Aegis points out, the specifics of the form are taken directly from the stats listed for the Nature's Ally spells (e.g. Avian I). This was specifically to prevent abuses and odd creations for forms.  However, if people want something more detailed, I'll give it a go.

I've also seen some comments on this discussion thread, which is where this concept spun off from, that indicates this may not be the best way to approach the wildshape.  Krensky says:
Quote
the abilities are just the same thing over and over, and the game breaker has no character or flavor to it, just more of the same that youve gotten for the last ten levels. Honestly, shape-shifting like this feels more like a feat chain than an expert class.

What do people think of that comment? Agree, disagree? With feats being as precious as they are, I personally don't think a specialized ability like Wildshape should be left to feats, but to a specialized class.  However, I can see the point of the abilities being redundant. Should the Wildshape II-V abilities include something more than simply improving the base form?  For instance make the scaling inherent into the first level ability?

Example: When you gain wildshape you gain forms I, but you attain forms II-V each odd level thereafter. This would free up the E/F/G/H slots for different abilities, such as templates, improved shifting time, etc.

Version 1
Wildshape: At 1st level, once per scene as 2 full round actions, you may assume the form of an animal for 30 minutes per career level (dismissible). The form you may take is that of an Avian I, Mount I or Predator I as per the Nature's Ally I spell, or choose a specific animal from the Bestiary (p253) so long as it has the Animal Type and a maximum XP value of 40.  The skinwalker always retains its own Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, as well their own feats and this quality. Additionally, they take the higher skill bonus, their own or that granted by their form. A True Seeing spell reveals the skinwalker’s base form, which he returns to when killed.
    At every odd level, the skinwalker's form improves by 1 Step or 20 XP as per the Nature's Ally spell. For example a 5th level skinwalker may take the form of an Avian III, Mount III or Predator III or any specific animal from the Bestiary of up to 80XP.

At 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th.... slot in new class related abilities.


OR...

Version 2
Wildshape I: At 1st level, once per scene as 2 full round actions, you may assume the form of an animal for 30 minutes per career level (dismissible). The form you may take is that of an Avian I, Mount I or Predator I as per the Nature's Ally I spell, or choose a specific animal from the Bestiary (p253) so long as it has the Animal Type and a maximum XP value of 40.  The skinwalker always retains its own Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, as well their own feats and this quality. Additionally, they take the higher skill bonus, their own or that granted by their form. A True Seeing spell reveals the skinwalker’s base form, which he returns to when killed.

Wildshape II:  At 4th level, the skinwalker's form improves by 1 Step and 20 XP as per the Nature's Ally II spell. For example, you may take the form of an Avian II, Mount II or Predator II or any specific animal from the Bestiary of up to 60XP.
    Additionally, you may add the Horror type to your form.

At 6th, 8th and 10th, Wildshape simply continues to improve the form it offers or perhaps how it performs such as lowering the shift time to 1 full action, etc.
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Khaalis
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« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2010, 05:12:02 AM »

After some thought and experimentation, I've come up with some modifications. I chose to keep Wildshape at 1/4/6/8/10 as this is truly the key ability of the class and there is precedent for the level 10 ability being an increment from other levels (see the Gallant).

However, to make them more than simply a minor upgrade to the form, I've added additional alterations to improve the Wildshape. Currently I've added the benefits of the Horror type, faster shapeshift, and for the cost of an action die - Dire template and Spirit type.

This freed up the level 2/7 slots which I filled with Spirit Link, an ability that works for the character at all times, regardless of form.

Lastly, I fell back on other devices to fully state what you do and do not gain from a form change. Is there anything else this is missing?  Is it complete enough to remove the questions about the shapeshift?


SKINWALKER CHANGES

Requirements: Miracles campaign quality, Alignment (Totemism), Survival 6+ ranks, Studies (animals, totemism)

   Wildshape I: At 1st level, once per scene taking 2 full round actions, you may assume the form of an animal for 30 minutes per Career Level (dismissible). The form you may take is that of an Avian I, Mount I or Predator I as per the Nature's Ally I spell, or choose a specific animal from the Bestiary (p253) so long as it has the Animal Type and a maximum XP value of 40.  A True Seeing spell reveals the skinwalker’s base form, which he returns to when killed.
   Upon changing form, you gain the following from the new form.
•   You gain the new form’s Size and Footprint, but retain your own Type even though you have the physical restrictions of the new form.
•   You gain all Mobility types and Speeds of the new form.
•   You gain the Strength, Dexterity and Constitution attributes of the new form while retaining your own Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. You also retain your own Health.
•   You gain the form’s Defense but lose any inherent Defense bonuses of your natural form. You also lose any Damage Reduction and Damage Resistances of your natural form.
•   You retain your own saving throws, modified by your new attribute scores.
•   You gain any Signature Skills of the form, if they provide better bonuses than your own.
•   You gain all Qualities of the new form as well as all Natural and Extraordinary Attack types.
•   You gain all Feats of the new form.
   Except as denoted here, you retain all other statistics of your original form.
   Any gear you wear or carry melds into the new form and becomes nonfunctional, including tools such as a mage’s pouch. When you revert to your true form, any objects previously melded into the new form reappears in the same location on your body that they previously occupied and are once again functional. Any new items worn in the assumed form fall off and land at your feet.
   You also lose the ability to speak while in animal form, being limited to the sounds that a normal untrained animal can make, but you can communicate normally with other animals of the same general grouping as your new form. (The normal sound a wild parrot or raven makes is a squawk, so changing to these form does not permit speech.)

   Wildshape II: At 4th level, you may also choose to take the form of an Avian II, Mount II or Predator II as per the Nature's Ally II spell, or choose a specific animal from the Bestiary (p253) of the Animal Type and a maximum XP value of 60. Additionally, your improved link with the totemic spirits makes your animal forms more frightening than a normal animal, resulting in your forms gaining the traits of the Horror type (see Fantasy Craft p227).

   Wildshape III: At 6th level, you may also choose to take the form of an Avian III, Mount III or Predator III as per the Nature's Ally III spell, or choose a specific animal from the Bestiary (p253) of the Animal Type and a maximum XP value of 80. Additionally, when activating your Wildshape ability, you may transform as a full round action (instead of 2 full round actions).

   Wildshape IV: At 8th level, you may also choose to take the form of an Avian IV, Mount IV or Predator IV as per the Nature's Ally IV spell, or choose a specific animal from the Bestiary (p253) of the Animal Type and a maximum XP value of 100. Additionally, by spending an action die when activating your Wildshape ability, you may apply the Dire template (see Fantasy Craft  p288).

   Wildshape V: At 10th level, you may also choose to take the form of an Avian V, Mount V or Predator V as per the Nature's Ally V spell, or choose a specific animal from the Bestiary (p253) of the Animal Type and a maximum XP value of 120. Additionally, by spending an action die when activating your Wildshape ability, you may apply the effects of the Spirit type (see Fantasy Craft  p227).

   Spirit Link I: You bond more deeply with the totemic spirits. At Level 2, you gain the Pathfinder Basics feat. Also, your Heroic Renown increases by 1.

   Spirit Link II: At Level 7, you gain the Pathfinder Mastery feat. Also, your Heroic Renown increases by an additional 1 (total increase 2).

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