Class and characters options for low tech societies?

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Havard
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Class and characters options for low tech societies?

Post by Havard » Sat Jul 20, 2019 1:21 pm

I'm starting to wonder if 5E might be one of the editions that are best suited for running games with characters from low tech societies like Mystara's Atruaghin clans or barbaric societies from other settings. The biggest obstacle from previous editions seem to me to have been the dependency on armor.

In 5e heavy armor seems to be only of limited usefulness, especially for high dex characters. I also like that even most clerics don't have the ability to wear heavy armor, but are compensated by other abilities

What options are ideal for such characters? The Barbarian class for sure, but Bard, Rogue, Ranger, Druid, Cleric, Warlock, Wizard and Monk seem like they would work quite well.

What options would you recommend? Any special feats etc?

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Re: Class and characters options for low tech societies?

Post by Blacky the Blackball » Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:34 am

Dex-based Fighters would work well, but if you're talking about being low-tech enough that swords aren't really a thing then you might need to do something like introducing a couple of new finesse weapons for dex-based Fighters (and Rogues!) to use instead of the usual rapiers and short swords.

If you're really going low tech and you want a pre-literate society then Wizards might be out; but Sorcerers seem to fit such a society better anyway.
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Re: Class and characters options for low tech societies?

Post by Tom Bulls Eye » Wed Jul 24, 2019 11:57 am

I am not sure that I agree with the basic presumption of question.

High tech has always replaced low tech, because it was better. So being a low tech fighter is more risky than being a high tech fighter (no armor vs. bronze shield vs. steel plate armor).

What traditionally kept the balance between low tech and high tech societies was numbers and economy. Equipping an army in steel plate was incredibly expensive because industrial steel working technology was not developed until 400 years after the end of the middle ages. So only few nations could do that. They went on to conquer (Romans, Quin Dynasty, Conquistadors etc.) against nations with lower technology.

What you are talking about, however, is finding a way to annul the technological difference through a human factor or a class bonus. I disagree with that approach. An Atruaghin fighter in leather breaches is no match - one-on-one - with a fighter in plate mail, so for good role playing, the Atruaghin should adapt his fighting style to match this, not be granted enough bonuses to make the Autruaghin identical the steel clad fighter. E.g. lack of armor means higher speed. Keep some distance, throw objects (make-shift slingshots etc.) or use poles to overturn the armor clad fighter.

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Re: Class and characters options for low tech societies?

Post by Havard » Wed Jul 24, 2019 1:48 pm

Tom Bulls Eye wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 11:57 am
I am not sure that I agree with the basic presumption of question.

High tech has always replaced low tech, because it was better. So being a low tech fighter is more risky than being a high tech fighter (no armor vs. bronze shield vs. steel plate armor).

What traditionally kept the balance between low tech and high tech societies was numbers and economy. Equipping an army in steel plate was incredibly expensive because industrial steel working technology was not developed until 400 years after the end of the middle ages. So only few nations could do that. They went on to conquer (Romans, Quin Dynasty, Conquistadors etc.) against nations with lower technology.

What you are talking about, however, is finding a way to annul the technological difference through a human factor or a class bonus. I disagree with that approach. An Atruaghin fighter in leather breaches is no match - one-on-one - with a fighter in plate mail, so for good role playing, the Atruaghin should adapt his fighting style to match this, not be granted enough bonuses to make the Autruaghin identical the steel clad fighter. E.g. lack of armor means higher speed. Keep some distance, throw objects (make-shift slingshots etc.) or use poles to overturn the armor clad fighter.

Regards, Tom.

Thanks for commenting. I actually think you misunderstand my question. I'm not looking for a discussion about historical realism or lack of it. That would be a huge discussion since D&D is far from realistic in its portrayal of weapons and armor.

What I'm talking about is that I want to see if we can run a game where the Pcs are from a stone age culture without their characters sucking. Now the Fighter class is a bad option because one of its main abilities is to wear heavy armor. However heavy armor in 5e is not as good as it was on earlier editions. High dex characters are better off with medium armor. If stealth is important in the campaign, we now have rules for how some armours penalize that.

Rangers, barbarians, rogues and even clerics do seem like viable alternative classes.

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Re: Class and characters options for low tech societies?

Post by Havard » Wed Jul 24, 2019 1:54 pm

Blacky the Blackball wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:34 am
Dex-based Fighters would work well, but if you're talking about being low-tech enough that swords aren't really a thing then you might need to do something like introducing a couple of new finesse weapons for dex-based Fighters (and Rogues!) to use instead of the usual rapiers and short swords.

If you're really going low tech and you want a pre-literate society then Wizards might be out; but Sorcerers seem to fit such a society better anyway.
Interesting idea about finesse weapons for low tech societies. I would have to think about that

I wonder how to compensate for the lack of literacy. Maybe proficiency in a relevant skill?

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Re: Class and characters options for low tech societies?

Post by pawsplay » Mon Jul 29, 2019 7:31 am

For Wizards, just say their travelling spellbooks are actually bundles full of magical adjuncts, and their permanent spellbooks are painted caves.

Fighters are fine mostly as-is. However, there aren't any viable heavy armors in such a setting. The only real finesse weapons I can think of for such a setting would be knives and sickles. However, you might consider adding the finesse property to the javelin.

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Re: Class and characters options for low tech societies?

Post by zontoxira » Mon Jul 29, 2019 12:52 pm

The current edition almost expects you to play in a setting where late middle ages technology is abundant and all sorts of armour (and weapons) can be found everywhere. For that reason, barbarians and monks have Unarmoured Defence, to compensate for them not wearing heavier armour. In a setting where armour is sparse, they would have an edge over the rest. And unless you plan on giving the class an ability, like an extra fighting style called Armour Use where the fighter gains +2 AC while wearing any armour, or something similar, the class might feel underpowered.

Having said all that, nothing stops you from tweaking the armour list. You can devise your own setting-appropriate list, like a fella did for Dark Ages. Have for instance Bearskin, a medium armour, and its tougher counterpart Cave Bearskin, a heavy armour. You can use tortoise shells, rawhide, deer skin, wolf pelt etc. That way, you just reflavour the list, and still have all options for all classes.

Another thought now goes to monetary system. Clearly, there was no currency back in stone age, how do tackle that?
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Re: Class and characters options for low tech societies?

Post by Blacky the Blackball » Mon Jul 29, 2019 1:22 pm

zontoxira wrote:
Mon Jul 29, 2019 12:52 pm
The current edition almost expects you to play in a setting where late middle ages technology is abundant and all sorts of armour (and weapons) can be found everywhere. For that reason, barbarians and monks have Unarmoured Defence, to compensate for them not wearing heavier armour. In a setting where armour is sparse, they would have an edge over the rest. And unless you plan on giving the class an ability, like an extra fighting style called Armour Use where the fighter gains +2 AC while wearing any armour, or something similar, the class might feel underpowered.
I don't think there's much of a balance issue there to be honest. Basically, combat characters are expected to either:

1) Wear light armour and have high dex
2) Wear medium armour and have medium dex and medium strength
3) Wear heavy armour and have low dex and high strength

The way that armour types limit your dex bonus when wearing them reinforces this - and stops you having heavy armour and a high dex and being overpowered.

So a dex based Fighter who uses finesse weapons is just as effective as a strength based Fighter who uses non-finesse weapons. The dex based Fighter won't have the strength to wear heavy armour but gets their full dex bonus with light armour, and the strength based Fighter won't get a dex bonus to use with light armour while having the strength to wear heavy armour instead, so they end up pretty similar.

Rogues and Rangers fit the high-dex-light-armour type; as do Bards. Clerics tend to be medium-dex-medium-armour. Paladins are like Fighters in that they can be either strength based or dex based and wear armour to suit.

The two classes that don't fit those types are the Barbarian and the Monk.

The Barbarian is a high strength class with only medium dex, so should fit the medium or heavy armour type; but they can't wear medium or heavy armour and use their Rage. Therefore they get to add their Con to their AC to compensate.

The Monk is a high dexterity class and should fit the high-dex-light-armour type, but they can't wear armour at all. So they get to add their Wis to their AC to compensate.

All of this works fine and is reasonably balanced if your Fighters are dex-based and use finesse weapons. They don't need any bonuses to AC to keep them competitive.

Of course, if finesse weapons are hard to come by, because of the low-tech making things like Rapiers unavailable, then that might be a thing that needs fixing by the addition of alternate finesse weapons. But the lack of heavy armour in itself isn't likely to be an issue.
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