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For anyone reading this who doesn't know, Brave is my personal hack of Ben Milton's Knave, which you can find the latest draft of linked on the sidebar of this blog as well as right here. If that link ever dies, it's because I forgot to return to this blog post to replace it. But the sidebar one should always be up to date.
Here is a link to the latest copy of the Brave: Enchiridion of Fates and Fortunes with some designer notes included. I also thought I might provide a preview below on each of the classes currently included, if you read below:
- Knave: this is for anyone at your table who doesn't want to bother with a class and thought the game was just fine before. There are still some skills they can roll if they want to dip their toes. You'll notice that this game doesn't have a "Rogue" class. Instead, most of the tropes that get associated with that concept are split up across the Knave, Thief, and Assassin. And because most characters will start out with 1 level of Knave, my players and I like to say that no matter where you go in life or how much you achieve, you'll always be a degenerate deep down inside.
- Warrior: this is the most "lore agnostic" of any class. Most other classes double in their function as the game's faction system as well, but not really Warriors. To me, this class applies to literally anyone who has training in some kind of martial art, so it wouldn't make much sense to stipulate on them much. That said, when I asked myself "what are some traits true to all Warriors?" I decided to have fun and inject a layer of metaphor describing my own feelings towards violence and action. Brave, like Knave, is not a game where you're supposed to be able to fight big monsters and get away with it. You're not supposed to rely on combat as a problem-solving tool. So the price you pay for cheating the system and gaining this power is that you'll get addicted to it, which counterintuitively often leads to higher mortality rates for Warriors than most other knaves. Players tend to find the Cult of the Badass to be hilarious to roleplay.
- Thief: this is probably the tightest design of any class so far. That's why I typically use it as my main example of what a Brave class should look like. Half faction, half benefits that improve stuff you can already do but makes you feel like, "damn, why aren't I stealing more?"
- Cleric: this one's a bit funny. Remember, classes are only as common in your world as there are opportunities to become one. Warriors are everywhere. Thieves' Guilds can be found in most cities. Knights are only found in areas of the world that have feudalism and chivalry and stuff. But Clerics aren't meant to be common. They're like Moses or Peter the Hermit. They're the ones blessed with the power to work miracles. That's why I'm okay with them being such a strong class, and why the main prerequisite is, essentially, "talk to your referee if you'd like to play a cleric." This class also merges the druid and warlock because duh. At some point I'll be expanding their skill list to include some alignment-specific "miracles" that reinforce each religion a bit better.
- Ranger: this is the first of the alignment-restricted trilogy. For its design, I frequently consulted my player who loves the ranger class in D&D and was a trail guide (he's now in training to be a park ranger). Also, out of all the playtest characters in our group, the highest level one (7, I think?) is a Ranger. That said, it's surprisingly hard to remember to include plenty of Captain Planet villains in your sandbox.
- Knight: this is the second of the alignment-restricted trilogy. It's probably my favorite class, because I really like knights. It's inspired a lot by the RPG Pendragon, the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the many, many posts by Patrick Stuart over the years about Arthurian literature and Arthurian D&D. It contains the paladin concept as an optional "divine knight" version of the class, where you roll 1d12 instead of 1d8 on the skill table, which I allow when it makes sense for what the knight's liege is. Three things I'm really proud of:
- This isn't a straight up martial class. That's the Warrior. You can very easily play a Knight who's no better at combat than anyone else, just by getting the right skills and equipment.
- I think I thread the needle pretty well on avoiding the headache of "paladin roleplay problems" while still reinforcing the spirit of the class. To me, the whole point of knights is that they're imperfect. Walls, armor, chivalry itself, etc. are all structures we create to protect ourselves from our inherent fallibility. Being a Knight is an ongoing struggle to aspire to uphold a code but also understand that you'll fail sometimes. Hence why, as you gain levels, you become immune to more and more crimes. It's up to you to decide if you want to take advantage of your growing social privileges. A high-level knight actually might be more inclined to go with the party's plan to steal something or kidnap someone.
- The "honorific" rule is fucking hilarious. Every session where someone is playing a Knight, I have to firmly declare the moment the rule enters effect and the moment it ends so that we all know for how long we have to endure the burden of remembering to call our friend "sir" in-and-out of character.
- Assassin: this is the third of the alignment-restricted trilogy. I included it partly because much of Brave is inspired by OD&D and partly because I thought it would make a really good Chaotic complement to the Ranger and Knight. But since I was upgrading Assassin to a full class instead of just an archetype or prestige class, I wanted to do it justice and make sure it really embodied a more concrete idea. Hence why I heavily based it on the real-life Nizari Assasssins. That said, please understand that this isn't an accurate recreation of the real-life, historical Nizari Assassins. This is about as accurate a depiction of them as my Knights are accurate to real-life historical knights. That is to say, it's inspired by the legends of the Nizari and the concept of the Nizari, but not the reality. Not to mention, it's also tweaked to be more gameable. But for anyone curious to the differences:
- The real life Nizari Isma'ili were not a cult or anything weird. They were really just a micro-state in the Muslim World living alongside the Abbasids and Fatimids.
- They didn't worship demons at all. They practiced a normal, if rare, version of Islam that is still around today. There was nothing radical about them except for their military strategy, which relied on guerilla warfare and terrorism as a natural, pragmatic consequence of their vulnerable position living among greater powers. I would be more inclined to characterize most of the Medieval Muslim world as falling within the same "Lawful society" designation that I apply to most of Christian Europe.
- They weren't paid contract killers, they were strictly political. Again, just like most terrorist groups today. I just included a bit of room for this because I wanted the class to be a bit more playable.
- I specifically avoided the Hashish myth but it's also worth noting that we have no evidence that the "Alamut garden of paradise" thing was real at all. I just really like Persian gardens and wanted to incorporate it somehow.
- Poison wouldn't have been their style, since it isn't shocking the same way that stabbing a politician in broad daylight is. But come on, it's an assassin class. I needed plenty of poison.
- Likewise, I've heard some sources claim that they wouldn't use archery at all, whereas others claim they specifically trained in it as a part of Furusiyya. I decided to include it anyway to create the possibility of playing a sniper-style Assassin.
- The real-life Assassins often spent literally years in the field preparing for their kill. My class wouldn't really be great for that, because I wanted to, you know, play a game.