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Game Designer Roundtable
Advanced Classes
Mat Smith

What's the difference between an advanced class and a prestige class?

Bill Slavicsek: In the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game, we have basic classes and advanced classes. The basic classes conform to the six abilities in the game (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, etc.). They are very open and general in their approach. Advanced classes, on the other hand, while they build from the basic classes, are more specific in approach. So, a Strong hero might eventually qualify for levels in either the Soldier or Martial Artist advanced class, for example. Also, the advanced classes allow us to add campaign-specific character options into the game as characters become more experienced.

Jeff Grubb: Prestige classes take specialization one step further. While the advanced classes tend to be open to 4th-level characters, the prestige classes tend to open around 8th to 10th level and represent a definite level of mastery and specialization. For example, a Strong hero might take the Soldier advanced class at 4th level and the Special Forces Operative prestige class at 8th level. A Smart hero might take levels in the Techno Mage advanced class, which will prepare the character for the Artificer prestige class. The prestige classes have fewer levels and more power under a tighter focus than the advanced classes. In the Urban Arcana Campaign Setting, we are looking at advanced classes that highlight the modern fantasy setting and prestige classes that "blow the top off the joint" (Archmages, Artificers, and Shapeshifters, for example).

Charles Ryan: The real advantage of this system lies in its flexibility. You can play a modern game of any style. The base classes let you build characters that fit the style of your campaign, whether it's Scooby Doo or Tom Clancy. If we'd started with concept-related classes, like the normal classes in Dungeons & Dragons or Star Wars, the classes we chose would slant the game toward a particular style of play. We knew there were many directions people would take their d20 Modern Roleplaying Game campaigns, and we wanted to make sure they were able to do that.

Each of the advanced classes is tied most strongly to a single basic class. What was the reason for doing that? (And will all advanced classes be built that way?)

Bill Slavicsek: Each advanced class has an optimal path to qualify for it. For example, the fastest way into the Techie advanced class is to take levels in the Smart hero basic class. This allows you to qualify for the Techie class as early as 4th level. However, you can get there from any of the basic classes or by multiclassing in more than one basic class. It will just take you a bit longer. Since the basic classes are the foundation of the game, at least as far as character classes are concerned, all advanced classes will hearken back to one or more of the basic classes.

Jeff Grubb: For the Urban Arcana campaign setting, we're looking at advanced classes that are best addressed by qualifying in two different basic classes (an advanced class that requires both Fast hero and Charismatic hero levels, for example). For the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game, it was a good idea to provide clear progressions at the outset so that players coming into the system have straightforward goals.

Twelve advanced classes are listed in the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook. Why not more? (To encourage GMs to design their own? To allow plenty of room for future expansion and third-party publishers' material? To conserve space in an already overflowing manuscript?)

Bill Slavicsek: Actually, there are 12 advanced classes that we deem suitable for all campaigns. These appear in Chapter Six: Advanced Classes. Then, in Chapter Nine: Campaign Models, we provide six additional advanced classes best suited to specific campaign styles (horror, psionics, modern fantasy). We encourage GMs and other d20 publishers to design new advanced classes that add color and vitality to specific styles of play and campaign models. We had planned to include two more campaign-specific advanced classes and a sample prestige class in the book, but we ran out of room.

Jeff Grubb: Advanced classes provide a great way for other d20 publishers to create hero archetypes specific to their campaign models, as opposed to having to say, "This is like the paladin, but we don't do this and we add this."

Charles Ryan: Why not more? With 6 basic classes and 18 advanced classes, players have a heck of a lot of choices--more than in most games. While the advanced classes are more concept-oriented than the base classes, they're still broadly defined. The Soldier class, for example, works not just for an army soldier but also for a marine, SWAT team member, terrorist, or mob enforcer, in the same way that a fighter in D&D can represent a broad variety of backgrounds.

How did you decide to go with the choices you made?

Bill Slavicsek: The design team brainstormed possibilities, and then we debated the best mix of advanced classes to include in the core rules. A few changed a bit as we developed the document, but we pretty much came to a consensus about the class types with very little disagreement.

Charles Ryan: Bill proposed the idea of the ability-based basic classes. We all like the idea, and the way it allowed the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game to support many different game styles and genres.

Since the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game was designed to allow (and encourage) multiclassing of basic classes, do you think people will multiclass their characters into different advanced classes as well? (Can you give an example?)

Bill Slavicsek: I think that might be a bit harder to justify in terms of your particular story, but the rules allow it. Certainly, due to the way the advanced classes are constructed, I can see players deciding to stick with a particular advanced class to get the most out of it, while also occasionally taking a level in a basic class to get at the goodies we've packed into them as well. For example, there's a character in my Thursday night campaign who is a Fast 2/Charismatic 3/Infiltrator 1. The player plans to add another level of Fast hero the next time she advances (to get another Fast hero talent).

Jeff Grubb: I can see people gaining multiple advanced classes, much like multiclassing in D&D. It's totally a matter of style. I'm running a Dedicated/Field Medic/Acolyte right now in Bill's campaign, and my character intends to take another level of Acolyte with his next level.

Charles Ryan: With free multiclassing and so many good choices, I expect to see a lot of characters multiclassing among the advanced classes and base classes (even back and forth between the two types of classes).

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