Variants, Roles, Subclasses and Styles
with some (heavily) multiclass characters and new variants that work for
several classes, I wanted to overhaul an old post on the distinction between
a 'variant' and a 'role'. At that time there were a few posts 'Hey I got
a new variant!! A WarRioR that jUsT uses BladeZ!', as well as some variants
that just had a few features and could be used with existing characters.
Here let me clarify a few terms, and make some suggestions for enhancing
your 'variant experience'.
i) a system of play designed to differentiate, limit, and make a character
ii) a character that plays by some variant set of rules.
A common set
of defining elements that can be shared by anyone who wishes. e.g. The
Beyond Naked Way includes 3 main variants, and several less common ones
(BNAPM, BNSNOB). They share not only rules on items and over attitudes,
but a delight in 'streaking'. You might consider Paladin, Cleric, ARCs,
Diakons together as The Way of Light, while Ninja, Netherspawn and Assassins:
The Way of Darkness. Living off the Land is another rich 'Way' of life
for characters, as is Ultra Purity.
A distinctive atmosphere and guiding rules for a specific class of character.
Many of these have breadth enough to have several different flavors (see
below). e.g. Muscle Mage, Amazon, Barbarian, Goth. (Others have used 'subclass'
to mean characters "act like they're supposed to", and variant for one
class acting like another. I tend to avoid this usage.)
goes far beyond the limits of normal behavior. With time, some forms of
aberrant behavior come to be accepted as alternate, or even normal. (e.g.,
variants, or BNMs) Note this is as subjective as the definition of 'normal'
:) e.g. CGW, FOM (and SNOBs would consider SOBs abberant)
A set of
limitations or guidelines designed to add a role-playing element, which
can be applied well to any existing class or subclass (for which the role
elements are not illegal) e.g. Body Builder, Follower of Thor, Kin of
Albrecht, Bloodguard, Perfectionist, Demoniac, Glutton for Punishment.
e.g. Elf, Dwarf are roles that can be applied to several classes. This
could equally be called a 'path'. For several, see:
A minor but distinctive component added to an otherwise common base set
of elements. e.g. A Goth can be Vizigoth or Ostrogoth, and there are several
'Orders' as well. e.g. Elemental Wizards have four flavors. Savages have
different flavors which depend on their class.
manner of playing consistent with a more broad set of allowed options
e.g. Battle Mage, Arty Mage and Hybrid Mage. Or Bow-rogue, CAT-rogue,
CC-style, S&S rogue. e.g. decide not to use Bastard, but only up to Broad
Swords; prefers Crowns, hates Crowns, etc. e.g. make all lvl up points
to dex until 8th lvl.
A temporary or situtational playing style e.g. Stealth Mode, Recovery
Mode, Axe Mode (for a young Amazon)
What is a Variant?!
Simply put, any character that follows some imposed set of limits
to be different or have more challenge. Using only hammers makes you a
variant, although if this is the only restriction you won't find other
beating down the door to play it. If you have a developed 'role' with
an otherwise unrestricted class, it's a variant. A Muscle Mage (MM) can
choose a body building path (BB) to make him a little different from other
MM's. Or a sorcerer who doesn't want to give up spells can just be a BB
variant. He should play that up then, wearing his Ring of Might instead
of that newly found Drakes/Sorc Ring. Do not in anyway feel bad to take
an existing variant and play it with an altered set of rules that *you*
think is fun. At the same time, referring to your warrior who casts spells
and wears jewelry as a Barbarian, or a max-resistance shield-wearing Viking
will cause needless confusion. Sometimes it's fuzzy whether something
is a role or variant of its own. When the limitations are so severe it
dominates actions, it becomes more than a role. So a Valkyrie is a variant
in its own right, and Feline is right on the border or variant and role.
(Just a point of distinction, this doesn't make the Feline less challenging
or less fun.)
What is a dual class or multiclass variant? One who plays by two or more
sets of variant rules. Usually, this menas trying hard to follow the most
restrictive path. But that's not always possible. Let me give some specific
examples which I or others have tried: -
- BAR/SNOB - sounds ridiculous, but by using *UNID'd* unique items the
BAR gets a tad more damage, slightly more AC, and more fun in finding
cool items, but retains all the challenge of no blocking, useless AC at
higher difficulties, and pitiful to hit.
- AMZ-SNOB - with Amazon rules restricting the use of several unique rings,
and with the necessity to wield some heavy gear, perfect rings were allowed
as well as perfect amulets. The SNOB restrictions on spells remain in
full force. The high respect of Amazons for unique items made this a great
- EXC/EWIZ - the Executioner rules, in the way they made allowances for
sorcerers, led me to play a dual class with an Earth Elemental Wizard.
Essentially all rules of both classes were observered, thanks to the EWIZ's
broad range of allowable weapons and armor.
- TRN/ARA/AWIZ - no longer can you fit the tag on the name :) Charis`Crystal
is an animal rights activist who loves to collect and use Crystal items,
and specializes in spells of the element of Air (and Bow). One modification
I made, which happened to be perfectly 'in character', was that Crystal
armor found was assumed to be Crystalline, not metal, and so could be
worn (metal not allowed for AWIZ).
- LoL/Exorcist/Demoniac - Given the amount of times LoLs spend in church,
I wanted a character that was not afraid of Black Deaths, or taking Goat
and Ornate Shrines. The Demoniac is a role, that gives him hatred of demons,
a desire to use CC and Bloodslayer (when he finds!), and an eventual goal
of Retribution Quest :)
- Marshall/Agile Mage/Druid - Charis`Tachyon. The rules were a little
far apart in some cases, but the druid emphasizes flexible, mandating
that the character learn both melee and spells, while the Marshall also
dictates that the body and hit points are not neglected. Play tends to
be in modes: strict Agile Mage mode in coop with MM's, Druid blasting
mode for quicker EXP runs, and Marshall-dominant for fun general coop
When a character is
multiclass, there is often one or two variants that are dominant, and
an extra role or so that add some distinctiveness. Caveats:
- some variants don't go well together because of difference in attitude
(Netherspawn and Amazon) or restrictions that, when combined, are brutal
(LoL and Savage, who don't use potions for first 10 lvls and die frequently)
- too many variants can leave you with a blurred hodge podge. In several
cases I've dropped a third class when i saw that it wasn't fitting with
the characters personality
- you might need to print out the rules With my Goth-Garg-ObsLord I soon
lost track of what the heck I was doing :)
- If you're new to variants, try one of the old standby's first: BNM,
BAR, ARC, or SNOB, to get a feel for how limitations affect playability,
before trying something too fancy.
your variant by adding a role, sticking to a style of your choice, or
by a multiclass character can be a lot of fun.