About Me

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Seattle, Washington, United States
I'm an old time roleplayer who became a soldier who became a veteran who became a developer who became a dba who became a manager who never gave up his dream of a better world. Even if I have to create it myself.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Phoenix Classes and Aspects - v2

During the last round of playtesting, I decided that the Portfolio system in Phoenix needed some revision. Previously, character creation involved the selection of two Aspects to create a sort of custom class.  So someone could combine Ninja and Dimension to make a crazy time-hopping assassin.

It worked good in some regards but as a player and a GM both, I really love spells and spellbooks, and this system necessarily ran away from those concepts a little bit. Characters also fell into the psuedo-4e trap of being too similar; i.e., having the same number of abilities on each character sheet regardless of class or desire.

I do like a class-based approach, and I like classes to be strongly defined but customizable by the player. I did like the interesting combinations that aspects offered, so the new draft for the next round of playtesting will reflect a combination of these approaches.

During character creation, a character's Mortal Portfolio now involves two choices: what class, and what aspect.


There are only 2 classes, and although I was already headed in a certain direction with these classes, the final straw supporting the 2 classes was a brief comment discussion with David Macauley in one of my recent posts, talking about the possibility of removing distinctions between clerics (divine) and mages (arcane).

The 2 classes are, simply, Warrior and Spellcaster. The focus in class design is the minimal featureset necessary to be that class.

Warriors are the masters of physical weapons. They get a weapon group proficiency, benefit from the Endurance mechanic (effectively extra HP that refresh after each encounter), and they get the Dodge ability which lets them gamble a small amount of Endurance to try and avoid an incoming hit.

Spellcasters can... cast spells. Surprise! They do this with Mana, which recharges each round during Maintenance, and they have a standard spell list with spellbooks and such. Spellcasters also gain the Gather Mana ability that lets them accelerate their mana recharge at the cost of actions in combat.

Both base classes have some Discretionary Abilities, that a character's discretionary points (DP) can be spent on for specializations.


The most fun thing about an aspect is that it is not class-specific. This is what lets creative character concepts loose in the campaign. Like the Conquestor aspect? Well the obvious choice is to combine it with the Warrior class, but it works perfectly with Spellcasters now, too; Rage Strike can augment spell damage.

Examples of other aspects include Ninja, Conjuror, Weaponmaster, and Servant of Zyx. For the most part, no Endurance or Mana expenditures are required for aspect abilities. The focus is on fun flavor and choices in how to spend an action - not in being overly accounting-focused. "Pure" Warrior and Spellcaster builds are also possible, for those seeking simplified character operations.

I look forward to seeing what kind of combinations come up.

Tentatively, the Heroic and Demigod tiers will each involve the selection of an additional aspect that is specific to that tier, but those advanced tiers are still outside my detailed design scope until I get the Mortal tier nailed.


  1. When you write these up it's like peering into the cobwebby research notes of some strange mage that died years ago.

    Slightly creepy but really interesting stuff can be found and it really fleshes out your intentions for the game design.

    Keep them coming.

    1. Ha! Well, that's close to what I'm trying to do, anyways.


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