The Origin System, A Closer Look

Posted on December 29, 2012 by


What’s that?  You thought that we were done talking about the Origin system?  You believed even for a short moment that I would miss an opportunity to flesh out the Origin system to an unnecessary degree?  While this new class system may never see the light of day, I nevertheless want to share it with all of you.

Remember, each character consists of a broad Origin that helps to define the character, an Archetype that defines what your character can do, and a Specialty that helps to bring out the nuances of the character.


The Fighter

The Fighter is a master in the use of weapons and armor.  They dominate the battlefield with a mastery of combat and a skill built through years of training and practice, both on and off the battlefield.  From the drunken brawler who always seems to grab the right bottle in a barfight to the elven warrior dancing with his blades, the Fighter Origin accommodates anyone who focuses on the art of battle.  Mechanically, all Fighters use expertise dice, a new mechanic devised in Next which gives characters dice of damage that they can either use to deal bonus damage, or spend to do daring maneuvers that aid them in battle.

Fighter Archetypes
The fighter Archetypes largely focus of what kind of fighting style the character has.  They determine the character’s to-hit, damage, armor and weapon choices, saves, and other defenses.

The Archer is a master of ranged combat.  They wear light armor, have bonuses when attacking at range, and tend to focus on high mobility, allowing them to move around the battlefield and stay out of harm’s way.  While their defenses may not be as good as those of other Fighters, by staying away from their foes, they are capable of sustaining considerable damage.

The Bruiser specializes in hitting things hard.  Using heavy armor makes them difficult to take down, and their massive weapons deal large amounts of damage.  They may not attack quickly, but they only need to land a single blow to crush their opponent.  Choose this Archetype if your character is big, slow, and dangerous.  High to-hit and damage make this a powerful choice.

The Defender may not be the most deadly of combatants, but he will be the last to fall on the field of battle.  While he has below average attack and damage, he makes up for it with heavy armor, expert use of a shield, and an area around him in which he threatens any enemies that would switch their focus away from him.  A defender aura (like a Knight from 4th edition) is the real selling point of this character.

The Scrapper is a whirling frenzy of  death in combat, a character that uses two or more weapons, or wields a fast weapon capable of multiple jabs.  While he may not hit as hard as the Bruiser does, this character makes up for it with quantity, killing their enemy with dozens of rapid attacks.  Lighter armor and higher mobility give this hero the versatility that he needs to survive.

Fighter Specialties
Because the fighter’s Archetype largely dictates how they fight in combat, their Specialties increase their utility, giving them a greater range of options both in and out of combat.

Bards gain access to bardic music, allowing them to fascinate their foes and inspire their allies.

Berzerkers can throw themselves into a range, increasing their damage and durability at the cost of self control.

Monks have an incredible degree of focus, and as such are able to overcome many limitations of the body and mind,

Rangers act as defenders of the wild, and as such have access to limited primal spellcasting each day.

Tamers have a companion, usually an animal who joins them in battle.  This could even be a special mount.

Thugs have limited Rogue abilities, probably a scaled down sneak attack bonus to damage.

Warlords inspire their allies with powerful words and courageous actions, buffing their abilities.


The Mage

The standard issue spell slinger for any party of adventurers, Mages cast powerful arcane spells with varied effects.  While they may need to conserve their magic at times, a Mage without restraint is a terrifying thing to see on the field of battle.  From the wrinkled old wizard poring over books in his tower to the scarred and toughened warrior throwing spells in between slashes with his sword, arcane spellcasters are not to be taken lightly.

Mage Archetypes
The Mage Archetypes generally determine how the character casts spells.  For the most part, all Mages have little-to-no armor, and a very limited weapon selection.  All wizards share the same spell list.

The Expert is the person you talk to when you need to get something done.  Masters of study, research, and experimentation, Experts generally know more about the strange and unusual than anyone else alive.  While they may not cast as many spells per day as other Mages (although they do get new levels of spells at the same rate as the Wizard, with whom they share vancian spellcasting), they have increased skills, and abilities to support them.

The Sorcerer is a person for whom magic comes naturally.  Whether they’ve made a pact with a demon, have dragon ancestors, or have cracked the universal code of the arcane, Sorcerers are fluid casters.  Instead of memorizing spells, they can cast a certain number of spells each day for each of their spell levels, drawn from a much more limited list.  this allows them enhanced flexibility, at the cost of versatility.

The Swordmage is a versatile combatant on the battlefield, equally comfortable with sword and spell.  Able to use some light and medium armor and weapons, they also cast spells like a Sorcerer does, without memorization.  Although they may get far fewer spells each day than other Mages, they make up for it with improved martial ability, making them a force to be reckoned with in combat.

The Wizard is perhaps the most iconic of all Mages.  Years, sometimes even decades or centuries of study have given them incredible mastery over the forces of the arcane.  Vancian spellcasters, they memorize spells from their spellbooks each morning, and ration them out over the course of the day.  The ability to learn new spells by inscribing them into their spellbooks means that a Wizard can have hundreds of spells available to them.

Mage Specialties
Although their Archetype largely determines how a Mage casts spells, their Specialty often helps to inform what they use those spells for, or aids in their effectiveness in some other way.

Arcanists get a few extra spells per day, roughly one extra spell slot per spell level.

Bards gain access to bardic music, allowing them to fascinate their foes and inspire their allies.

Binders have powerful pets, usually constructs, elementals, or even bound demons that aid them in battle.

Dabblers explore non-traditional spellcasting, and can cast a limited number of spells from other classes each day.

Martial casters gain a small number of the Fighter’s expertise dice, which they can use in battle.

Ritualists gain a greater ability to use rituals, often using them faster and cheaper than anyone else.

Specialists choose one of the schools of magic and gain enhanced ability with spells of that school.


The Priest

Priests believe in a cause larger than themselves, sometimes even larger than the deities who grant them their powers.  Whether they are the most devout champions of a goodly god or the unscrupulous cultists of a wicked one, they are defined with their relationship to the divine.  Priests have the ability to cast spells that can do incredible things, from healing the wounds of allies to smiting their enemies with holy wrath, and should never be taken lightly.

Priest Archetypes
Like the Mage, the Priest’s choice of Archetype usually determines what type of spellcaster they are.  Priests can all use light or medium armor and weapons, but their main defense will always be the powerful faith that they have in their chosen god.

The Chosen channels the power of their god directly, like a pane of glass through which the light of their deity shines.  Whether they were indeed “chosen” for something greater or channel these powers in some other way, the Chosen need not memorize spells each day.  Instead they cast them as a Sorcerer does, freely and from a limited list of spells.  They are the most versatile of casters, although they tend to focus on a given area of expertise.

The Cleric is the backbone of most fantasy religions.  Able to wear heavier armor and use better weapons then the Chosen makes them tough to put down, especially coupled with their powerful healing magics.  They are vancian spellcasters like Wizards, and pray for their spells each morning, albeit without the limitations of a spellbook.  Devout, powerful, they are everything that their god needs them to be, and sometimes more.

The Paladin combines the fiery zeal and spontaneous casting of the Chosen with the sturdiness and martial abilities of a Fighter.  While they may have only limited spellcasting each day, they also get a small number of Fighter’s expertise dice, which they can use to Smite Evil and maneuver through combat.  While many choose to use their spell slots to heal the sick, others use them to deliver divine judgement on those who do not share their faith.

The Theurge understands that while the divine is truly a source of great power, sometimes it needs help.  These casters dedicate as much time to study and practice of the arcane as they do to prayer, and as such they may prepare arcane spells as well as divine.  Vancian spellcasters like the cleric, they may not cast as many spells per day (nor have the same skill with weapons and armor), but those spells can be more versatile than most.

Priest Specialties
Like the Mage, a Priest’s Specialty often determines what he uses his magic for.  These choices create a wide variety of options for the character, and create a large number of career paths.

Bards gain access to bardic music, allowing them to fascinate their foes and inspire their allies.

Battlecasters have enhanced to-hit and damage, and are suited for the front lines of a battlefield.

Domain casters focus in one of their god’s domains, getting extra spells per day from that domain.

Harmermay spontaneously replace any of their spells with Harm spells of the same level, and deal extra damage.

Healers may spontaneously replace any of their spells with Heal spells of the same level and heal extra hit points.

Undead Hunters can Turn Undead, and also gain and grant bonuses while combating the undead.

Warlords inspire their allies with powerful words and courageous actions, buffing their abilities.


The Rogue

It doesn’t matter whether you want a lock picked, a trap disarmed, a treasure stolen, or a king assassinated, you probably want to find a Rogue to do it.  Whether they’re the street-wise information broken, the coldhearted killer, or even a goodnatured Robinhood type that robs from the rich and gives to the poor, the Rogue is the best there is at what they do.  While they may not have incredible magics, they know how to use their light weapons and armor to the greatest effect.  Never turn your back on an angry Rogue.

Rogue Archetypes
The rogue Archetypes largely determine how they deal extra damage to their enemies, and what tactics they use to do so.  All Rogues have access to roughly the same options in terms of weapons, armor, and other tricks, it it only in the execution that they differ.

The Assassin  excels at destroying their target with a single devastating strike.  Armed with poisoned weapons, the Assassin deals extra damage to targets that have not yet been hit by their allies, and can study their target for multiple rounds in order to build up a huge amount of damage in a single blow, like stacking Sneak Attacks all at once.  They make excellent scouts, and are a great way to start a difficult encounter.

The Sniper takes their enemies down at range, much like the Archer does for the Fighter Origin.  Where it differs, however, is that the Sniper does not rely on mobility so much as it does concealment.  A Sniper deals bonus damage from range to enemies that cannot see him or are otherwise occupied, and while they find themselves in trouble once discovered, still have some escape options at their command.

The Specialist has no special mechanic to deal extra damage, no bonus to combat whatsoever.  Sure, they’re capable fighters, but where they really shine is outside of combat.  A Specialist has far greater access to skills than any other Archetype, and has the abilities that they need to support those skills, making them truly the masters of information and skill.  While they may not shine in a combat-heavy game, they always seem to have a way out of tricky roleplaying scenarios.

The Thief is a very traditional class, your classic break-and-entering, pick-pocketing, back-stabbing Rogue.  They deal bonus damage to enemies that cannot see them with their Back Stab ability, which can also be used on enemies that are currently distracted by other combatants.  The Thief is a classic character type for a reason, and while they may not be as specialized as other Rogues, they are no less deadly.

Thief Specialties
Being a Rogue is all about having a trick up your sleeve, and that’s precisely what their Specialties are all about.  Whether that trick gives them an advantage in or out of combat, you can never be quite sure what a Rogue is capable of.

Bards gain access to bardic music, allowing them to fascinate their foes and inspire their allies.

Companion Rogues have an ally for every situation, usually a trained pet.  These tend to be non-combat pets.

Dodgers know that the worst attack is the one that hits you.  They focus in avoiding damage.

Duskblades know some arcane tricks, and can cast a limited selection of spells when they find themselves in trouble.

Killers are all about hurting people, and as such their Archetype damage bonus deals additional damage.

Martial Rogues gain a small number of the Fighter’s expertise dice, which they can use in battle.

Ninjas can run on walls and water, and have other special tools that allow them to harry their foes.


As you can see, a system like this opens up a huge number of options for players.  After all, with only four Archetypes with seven Specialties each, a player has more than a hundred potential characters to choose from, even before Feat and Skill choices.

In addition, this makes new character options absurdly easy to add to the game.  Want to introduce a Primal Origin in the Player’s Handbook II, just throw in the Druid, Shaman, Savage, and Elementalist Archetypes.  How about Psionics?  Are we ready for the Psion, Psychic Warrior, Soul Knife, and Wild Talent?  A book could even be released that added a new Archetype to each Origin, with no problem.  Supplemental Specialties for each Origin, and Specialties like Bard that can apply to multiple classes give us even more choices.

And I haven’t even started talking about  Racial Specialties yet…

So yes, that is the sort of thing that I would like to see in the future.  Maybe D&D Next isn’t ready for something like this, but I hope to see a dynamic take-out menu of character creation sometime soon.

And if they need a guy to design it, then they know where to find me.

Posted in: Game Talk, Gamecraft