Every class, as a class, is almost sure to have more defects than qualities. As soon as you put men together, they somehow sink, corporatively, below the level of the worst of the individuals composing it.
― Aleister Crowley, Magick Without Tears
One of the core precepts of role-playing games is that characters have ‘classes’ that define their abilities and track their improvement over time. From the very beginnings of Dungeons & Dragons to the newly released GURPS-inspired Dungeon Fantasy, classes have been an easy way for players to define their creations and guide their choices.
On the other hand (and the RPG spectrum has a truly Kali-esque number of hands), games like The Fantasy Trip, Savage Worlds, and our own Heroic Expeditions have no classes, or a very simplified class structure. HEX divides characters between Explorers and Adepts, depending on whether they focus on magic or worldly talents.
I have always felt that class structures were too restrictive, and force players into trenches that make making a PC unique more difficult, but that is simply taste. Classes provide real values, especially to new players. Classes not only give characters a foundation, but also built-in goals and motivations to increase their power.
Classes (or Professions, Careers, etc.) can also ground a character in the world they are playing in. A Knight character is probably part of a feudal system and will have obligations and restrictions based on that, whereas a Red Wizard of Thay will have a very different community and codes of conduct.
These benefits can gained in a skill-based system without adding all the mechanical restrictions of classes. For HEX, we’ll call them Packages and Paths. Let’s take a look at a few, starting with warriors.
The Way of the Warrior
The warrior (all the way back to the Gygaxian fighting man) has always been a character class that relied on strength and power, and focused its efforts on weapons and armor. One might be tempted to load a Warrior Explorer in HEX with a high ST and cut loose— especially considering the ST requirements of some of the heavier weapons.
A high ST warrior can do a lot of damage with a large weapon, but without DX they will not be able to hit often, and even less if they wear heavy armor. These will need to be balanced. Only a basic intelligence is required for most weapon skills, and can be improved with experience.
Given that, our basic Warrior package would start out putting 4 points in ST and 4 in DX, and none in IQ. This will give a human a ST of 13, and the capability of using all but the heaviest weapons. An 12 DX would hit around 75% the time unarmored, and would hit roughly 37% in leather armor and carrying a large shield.
Base Package Aspects would include Sword (or Axe if preferred), Shield, Bow or Crossbow, or Pole Weapon and Thrown Weapons. This would leave a point or two to customize your base warrior, giving them Literacy, Horsemanship, Seamanship, or even Sex Appeal to set them apart.
The Warrior Path would improve ST by 1 quickly, to allow them to trade top to even heavier weapons. DX improvements would be equally important to offset armor choices. Stamina increases are helpful to withstand prolonged combats as well. Once you’ve reached ST14 and as much as DX15, a warrior will want to improve their IQ to gain new Aspects.
Important Warrior Aspects include Weapon Training and Warrior, as well as physical Aspects like Running, Swimming, and Alertness. A warrior may want to learn a specialty weapon like Cestus or Naginata.
A Warrior’s advanced Path (40 Att points or more) should still include moderate increases to ST and DX, but will probably focus more on Aspects. Improving IQ will allow them to gain Fencing or Weapon Mastery, Tactics, and Two-weapon fighting. Depending on their role in the campaign, they may want to have Expert Horseman, Courtly Graces, or even Strategist.
This path shows that even a straightforward Warrior PC can be advanced through 50 Attribute points with little difficulty and without becoming overpowered.
Alternate Packages: Warrior
Almost as soon as Warrior classes appeared, variations on the concept followed. The holy paladin, the wise ranger, and the thrill-seeking Swashbuckler are as much a part of fantasy gaming history as the fighting man himself. And, they are just as easy to create in a skill-based game like HEX.
Rangers rely on Aspects more than a standard Warrior, and will need a higher IQ. Their base package would be 3 points in ST and DX, and 2 points in IQ. Base skills would include Sword (or similar weapon), Bow, Animal Handler, and Naturalist, leaving points for Alertness or additional physical skills like Swimming, Running, or Climbing. Rangers typically use lighter armor and weapons, and will rely less on ST and more on DX.
As they increase in experience, their Path will include increasing DX to 15 or so, and IQ up to 12. Additional Aspects would include Woodsman, Silent Movement, Veterinarian and Weapon Training in their favorite weapon. As they become mighty heroes they will acquire Aspects like Expert Naturalist, Stealth, and Fencing. They might even learn a few spells like Trailtwister or Control Animal.
Paladins are the martial arm of a church, and are held to a high moral standard. They are usual strong warriors, but they have divine gifts that might be seen as magic. If you want to use paladins in your campaigns, you might allow them to bypass the restrictions against iron and magic. Their base Package would be 4 points to ST, 3 to DX and one to IQ, but they will need to improve IQ faster if they wish to use magic.
Their initial Aspects would include a Weapon, Shield, Charisma, and perhaps Priest. You might want to consider a One-point Aspect like ‘Ordained Warrior’ to reflect their place in church hierarchy. Their Path may take them down the martial route of Weapon Training and Warrior, or a more social route of Diplomacy, Courtly Graces and Theology. As they gain experience, they will want gain spells like Detect Enemies, Vigor, Refresh and Healing.