About the time I started working on Crisis of the World Eater, Owen Stephens posted one of his thoughts on facebook, of a character who could change the world by simply writing about it. Louis and I (and possibly Jeff Lee, I can’t recall) had a quick discussion on what this class could be… and then about six months pass.
Louis comes to me and says “hey, a while back you said you were interested in this. Wanna write it?”. We had one more quick discussions about what the class would do – a very all-around active class, not quite as good as a more specialized character, but otherwise able to do whatever they wanted within the limits of their creativity, and I set to writing it.
At the time, it was called the Storyteller – and while the name eventually changed to Protean Scribe, the concept stayed mostly the same. But woo boy did the mechanics go through revisions.
The idea had always been about the same. They have buffs (embellishments), summons (stories) and spells (phrases).
The first full iteration of the class had the class’s primary resource, eloquence, constantly changing. Every ability reduced it, until the ability ended, at which point it began recovering. While it sounded like a good idea at the time, it ended up being supremely complex as players would need to track every active ability and their eloquence values. And also, the more eloquence something cost, the longer it took to activate the ability.
I think it’s a cool idea, the ability to overcharge, but it is very complex in practice, and the amount of math a player was saddled with was just too high.
So I simplified it, reducing the costs of nearly every ability, making phrases at-will activations, and turning stories and buffs into constant effects. And, of course, I slashed the amount of eloquence a character had.
I did a lot more playtesting on this than a lot of other things I write – I had my players build and about a dozen distinct protean scribes through three playtest sessions. Some big breaks in the class were revealed, and some much more optimal builds came up. Summon-focused characters, as you might have guessed, were much stronger than buffing characters. But not game-breakingly so.
And that’s how a character should be, I think. But the best part is that they can change so quickly from one sort of build to the other. A summoner one day can still be a good buffer the next – or in a pinch, even on the next round.