We had a discussion last night after our gaming session. I have recently purchased the Pathfinder-compatible mass-combat system called Warpath and Wolfgod and I are in the process of building the armies for each of the nations in our world. One of our nations is a very druidic nation. (If you read my campaign journal, it’s the country Mauril just visited, Mastillan.) As one would expect, Wolfgod and I were trying to work out how we were going to include druids into that army.
As you might already be aware, full-casters are generally much more powerful than non-casters and druids are pretty solidly powerful, even among full-casters. Pathfinder has done well (in my opinion) of powering down druids, but one-on-one, a druid is still more powerful than an evenly leveled fighter. The animal companion plus summoning spells make them a more than formidable adversary. So why bother with fighters when you can just raise armies of druids (and clerics and wizards)?
Our first problem when answering this question is that, in Pathfinder, your basic NPCs are given the stat array 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8 with no mention of how those stats should be best arranged. With this we concluded that it is more-or-less evenly distributed, with one in six people having any particular stat be that 13. Since a 13 wisdom will let you cast 3rd level spells as a druid or cleric, wouldn’t 16% of the population be prime candidates for militarized divine spellcasting? And another 16% primed to be wizards?
The second problem we run into is that we have no built in controls on how common the various heroic PC classes are. The rules make vague statements that most people fall into one of the NPC classes (commoner, warrior, expert, aristocrat and adept) but there is no hard and fast rule saying that they can’t be of heroic PC classes. Gone are the 1e days of stat requirements to play classes (17 charisma to be a paladin, anyone?) so why not take a level in ranger or barbarian or fighter instead of warrior? Why not take cleric levels instead of adept? What makes the NPCs take NPC classes?
This kind of thinking leads toward an end that we, as our gaming group, do not desire: the Tippyverse. If you frequent the Giant in the Playground message boards, you may have heard of the DnD universe created by the poster Emperor Tippy. For those of you who haven’t heard, this thread explains it relatively well. Basically it is a world were RAW is Law and the logical extensions of a world wherein magic exists and costs nothing but time and coin are explored. It’s a magocracy to the Nth degree. Our group does not want this. So how do we fix it?
My first solution to this conundrum was to decide that the stat arrays were not evenly distributed. In a pseudo-medieval society, your basic person is going to be best served by a high constitution. Yes in a magical setting, clerics, bards, druids and adepts exist and can cast curative spells, but they aren’t around all the time and not every midwife has levels in them. People die from injury and disease. Those who have that 8 in constitution are much more likely to die than the ones with their 13 there. Secondly, because every street corner doesn’t have a wizard on it offering to solve your problems with a few arcane spells, manual labor still needs to be done. Fields need to be plowed; tools need to be made; things need to be lifted and carried; a decent strength score is probably well prized among the common folk. Essentially, natural selection has made it such that the stat arras are skewed towards the physical stats rather than the mental ones.
The second solution that I arrived on (which still is contended by Wolfgod) is that the PC classes are just less common. My reasoning is that, even though as players we think, “I want to be a cleric” or “I’d like to play a barbarian this time”, the people in the world don’t make that conscious decision. They simply do stuff and then their actions are translated into classes, feats, skills and such as best modeled by the rules. The rules of the game, as I see them, are like the laws of physics in our world. Physics does not force an object to fall when I drop it. Physics describes how the object fell and can help me predict what other falling objects will do based on centuries of data. In the same way, being a fighter or cleric or druid was not a conscious decision by the character, but rather a reflection of the decisions that he made in his life. With this outlook in mind, the NPC classes are just easier to fall into. It’s easier for your average soldier to have made decisions that made him a warrior instead of a fighter or for your skillful NPC to be an expert rather than a rogue. My basic viewpoint is that not all priests are clerics and not all soldiers are fighters. Most are NPCs and a select few are specialized PC classes.
With these two constraints in mind, we have gone to building the various armies. We are still hammering out the finer points and balance issues, but our basic conclusion was that the vast majority of an army needs to be made up of rank-and-file guys with spears (or swords or whatever) and that spell slingers are a small minority. We are setting a fluid limit of no more than 5-10% of your force can be casters and I would eventually like to see a rule that states how many of your infantry need to be warriors instead of fighters/rangers/barbarians/paladins.
If you have any comments or advice on how best to achieve our desired low-medium magic world, I’d love to hear them. We are always looking to make our world fit our vision for it and would like to have reasons why it has developed and remained that way.