Wordsmith Review

 

Continuing on item month Duck and Roll has a fantastic and creative homebrew class to review. The Wordsmith by Madara!

The Wordsmith is a class inspired by the game scribblenaughts, and it gives the player fantastic power to alter reality and create both items and even creatures. All of this is done through an elegant system that is balanced but still leaves room for the player to think through each situation and come up with novel solutions.

To start off lets look, as always, at the basic chassis. The class sports a medium base attack bonus, low fort save but good reflex and will. It also has 4+int skill points per level. The medium attack bonus hints at an interesting aspect of this class, despite having wizardlike abilities to alter reality, you aren't likely to spend all your time casting, and quite often you may find yourself drawn into combat. The skill points are decent, but they lead to an element of this class that is likely to be somewhat divisive. None of the class features are based on ability scores. Some people love this in a class, feeling free to make any kind of character any way they like. Others feel it's taboo, giving the player no reason to boost their ability scores, no clue what race to play, and no way to optimize.

Speaking of, or rather writing of the abilities, those are clearly the real star here. So without anymore dancing around it, how can a class give you infinite creative power without being totally unbalanced? Carefully. Very carefully. Right at level one you get the ability to create mundane objects and items. But there are three sorts of limitations you can use to judge what you can make. A cost, weight, and size limit. The cost limit at level 1 is 30 gp. Just think about all the amazing items a level 1 character might want that cost 30 gp. But, you can only have two of these items at a time, however that shouldn't be too much of a limitation considering most of the items one would want are fairly situational. The other catch is that if you stop touching the items they vanish after just a few rounds, but again it's a problem that can be worked through. Even at level 1 you can pull up a temporary 10 ft wall, a ladder or rope, a boulder, or even many kinds of weapons or armors.  This gives you a ton of amazing options, and establishes immediately that this class is as useful as you are inventive. At level two all your limits double, You can make things twice as big, valuable and lasting, plus you get the power to dismiss the items before they would expire normally, and you can use a writing tool like a short sword. At this low level a doubling of your abilities is very noticeable and a significant improvement. By the time level three rolls around you can summon creatures like a summon monster 1 spell.

The progression is smooth and even, as you level up you can create wands and scrolls, giving you nearly unlimited access to magical power BUT if the scroll or wand is used, you have to pay a massive xp cost, making sure that you can't just breeze through a problem without a hefty xp fine.  Eventually you can make nearly any kind of creature, but with no special ability to command them, which means you have to rely on your charm, wit, magic or allies to make the best use of such a power.  You get the ability to add enhancements to summoned creatures and items, but at the cost of more word slots, and you even get feats and abilities to help you out in melee now and again.  And as the class advances you gain abilities letting you create faster, and make those creations last longer, progressing neatly into features that allow you to claim a part of the world and permanently alter it to create permanent fixtures there.

When used in the traditional way, this class is strong, but certainly balanced with other casting classes, often even falling behind them since they have limited ability to damage or incapacitate stronger foes. Especially when one keeps in mind that creating objects is normally a full round action, meaning the object doesn't appear until the start of the next turn. That being said, there are a few ways their powers can be abused, but I would argue the same is true of nearly any mechanic if the player is cheesy enough.

On top of the abilities though one has to consider the themes, the storytelling potential, and the flavour of such an amazing class. This class can be anything from goofy object making with cartoon drawing powers, importing the lighthearted source material into your game. Or a dark exploration of the nature of creation, of the formation and dismissal of intelligent sentient creatures.  Or delve into the nature of truenaming, of discovering the written language of the universe itself. You could be a sinister godlike being, a youthful hero who doesn't understand their full power, or anything else. With freedom of ability scores and race and the power to describe your created objects as you like, there are few limits to how you want to portray your character.

Overall this class lends fantastic abilities that are well paced out to give a true sense of progression and integration with the world. It is true to the core concept of being able to create nearly anything desired within the confines of being balanced. And it is unlike anything offered by another class that I've seen. It is dynamic simple, interesting and it easily makes my bucket list of classes I have to play sometime.