Saturday, August 22, 2015

[Pathfinder] Class-based Worldbuilding

My long-time readers know that I like random generators for worldbuilding. Those who have bought and read my Doomed Slayers setting also know that I like to give "adventurers" a proper social context - why and how they exist within a fantasy society, and how the rest of society interacts with and views them.

So why not go a step further? In many games with "character classes", such as Pathfinder, the classes are often something of an abstraction which might not have a clearly defined counterpart within society. Normal people might not see much of a difference between a sorcerer, a wizard, or a witch - or a cleric, druid, or oracle. But what if that is not the case? What if particular classes have clearly defined roles in society which everyone recognizes, even if they don't understand the deeper mystery of the class?

Of course, trying to come up with a social role for each Pathfinder class and for each society within your world would represent enormous effort for possibly little gain. But by selecting a few classes for each society - let's say three - and working out what they mean within the context of their culture, we can focus on what makes a particular society distinct. And after that, if a player selects a particular class for their character, it will have some immediate associations with a particular culture which will shape other people's interaction with them.

So, how does this work? Start by rolling (1d4-1)x10+1d10 (that is, generate a random number from 1 to 40) three times and consulting the following table:

1: Barbarian
2: Bard
3: Cleric
4: Druid
5: Fighter
6: Monk
7: Paladin
8: Ranger
9: Rogue
10: Sorcerer
11: Wizard
12: Alchemist
13: Cavalier
14: Gunslinger
15: Inquisitor
16: Magus
17: Oracle
18: Summoner
19: Witch
20: Ninja
21: Samurai
22: Arcanist
23: Bloodrager
24: Brawler
25: Hunter
26: Investigator
27: Shaman
28: Skald
29: Slayer
30: Swashbuckler
31: Warpriest
32: Kineticist
33: Medium
34: Mesmerist
35: Occultist
36: Psychic
37: Spiritualist
38-39: Roll for a random prestige class
40: Roll twice

Currently there are 86 prestige classes listed in the Pathfinder SRD. I will leave choosing randomly between then as an exercise to the reader.

Next, if the class in question has archetypes or some forms of "specialization" (such as the arcane schools of wizards), check if all members of that class have a shared status within the society or if only particular archetypes or specializations are held in prominence. Roll 1d10:

1-6: All members of the class share the same status.
7-8: One archetype/specialization is prominent.
9: Two archetypes/specializations are prominent.
10: Three archetypes/specializations are prominent.

Choose randomly between the available archetypes and/or specializations.

Finally, roll 1d4 to determine what the overall status of that class is within the culture in question:

1: Adored. The class is part of the ruling elite, "living saints", or held otherwise in great esteem.
2: Respected. The class may not be part of the elite, but they are generally at least "middle class" or otherwise well-paid professionals.
3: Disdained. Few members of "polite society" will openly admit to doing business with them, but the services of the class are too useful to be ignored.
4: Reviled. No citizen of good standing will even look at them - they might be untouchable or otherwise not protected by the law. Killing them will frequently not have any legal consequences, and might even be seen as a laudable act in extreme cases. However, the class might not be defenseless (few player character classes are), and they usually band together and take care of their own - they might not ever be able to gain respect, but their more powerful members can gain the fear of others. Perhaps they also band together as secret societies, so that nobody will know they have learned the abilities of the class in question.

There should probably be at least one class which is Respected or Adored - if all your results are 3 or 4, repeat the rolls until you get a 1 or 2.

So, let's try this out! Rolling on the table three times, we get:

  • Mesmerist, all Mesmerists, Disdained
  • Hunter, all Hunters, Reviled
  • Inquisitor, Vampire Hunter only, Adored
What have we here? Well, this particular region suffered a major plague of vampires in a frontier area. The vampires infiltrated and took over several of the hunting lodges during their reign of terror, and it took an order of vampire hunters to break their power - these vampire hunters are now hailed as the saviors of the country, and many children want to join them when they grow up. Meanwhile, the remaining hunting lodges are suspected of harboring vampires - not entirely without cause in a few cases. Those who have managed to stave off the vampires are now trying to restore their reputation and destroying the remaining vampire-infected lodges, but many survivors have just given up and moved to other lands where they face less suspicion. Meanwhile, mesmerists are now popular as "vampire detectors" - since they know very well how mind control works, they are among the first who can detect vampiric influence in others. They are still seen with a lot of suspicion from the population, but their services are too useful to be ignored.

And another example:
In this feudal land, there are none more respected than the warriors who swear fealty to a lord and live and die for him. They guard the land vigilantly against its many enemies - foremost among those are the Cloud Wizards who dwell on remote mountaintops, fly through the air, and bring bad weather and bad fortune as everyone knows. Furthermore, the warriors know that as long as they face battle and death bravely, they are assured a honored place among their ancestors. No one doubts this publicly, for to doubt is shameful. However... doubts remain. And thus, many - perhaps even most warriors - secretly consult mediums to contact their ancestors and ease their doubts. If the ancestors are pleased with the warrior, they will tell him through the medium. If they are not pleased, they will tell the warrior how to atone for their failings so that they can restore their honor before passing on to the other side. The mediums, in turn, are well paid for this service - as long as they never talk of it and do not draw attention to their presence - for if it were known that a medium was part of a lord's household, it would mean that the lord would doubt.

Your thoughts?

EDIT: On some further thought, it's probably a good idea improve the odds that a certain class is at least respected. Thus, change the die roll for determining the social status of the class to 1d6:

1: Adored
2-4: Respected
5: Disdained
6: Reviled

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