An old boss of mine said, “We never subtract, we only add.”
She was talking about work roles and promotion, and how that as we developed we never really get to stop being what we were. We still are expected to know what we learned when we first started and carry the memory of that forward to our next role with us.
RPG characters are not so different.
Some people might say, “Of course my role doesn’t change, I am the cleric! I heal.”
And yet when they level and storms of divine vengeance are unleashed and columns of divine flame strike from the heavens, casting that cure moderate wounds, mass might not do it for them anymore.
A few tips when thinking about role-change and character advancement:
1) How available is the change? – Does your game allow for retraining? Can your party ALSO respond to your shift in role. If you are playing a vital role, say a healer in a heavy damage game, you might not be able to change without serious issues unless someone else changes in response. This can create a lot of stress on other party members if it blindsides them.
2) How permanent is the change? – Sometimes a role change can be as simple as a prepared spell caster changing up spells for the day. A spontaneous caster or fighter retraining a feat will likely have far fewer chances and far less time required to make changes. If the change is more permanent, the repercussions are more extreme. Be thoughtful here.
3) How aware is the GM of your desire to change? – GMs can seamlessly facilitate change IF they are aware of it. If on the other hand you fail to communicate your sorcerer’s trade out of magic missiles, you might suddenly find yourself the star of an adventure full of ghosts with nary a force effect to blast them with.
4) How detrimental to old roles is the change? If you are healer in a high mitigation party, maybe changing is no big deal. If you are the abjurer in the plane-shifting, hazard-heavy game, a shift in school specialty probably isn’t going to make your spell economy any easier. Determine whether your “additions” of new abilities “subtract” anything old. Don’t fail to be reliable without warning people first.
Here is a list of a few of my favorite change friendly tools that make advancement based shifts in roles easier:
1) Human Adaptation – (Feat – 101 Feats by Steven D. Russell, Rite Publishing) – This feat allows “menu-based” class selections to be traded out with an hour of meditation. A paladin can trade mercies after dealing with the diseased hyenas of the wastelands when facing venomous ophiduan warriors. Gold.
2) Dipping Brawler – (Class – Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Class Guide) – If your GM only allows core Pathfinder sources, a brawler dip gives you martial flexibility which can give enormous feat versatility to an established melee character without overly impacting BAB or other class abilities.
3) Dipping Taskshaper – (Class – Secrets of the Taskshaper by Steven D. Russell, Rite Publishing) – A more extreme version of the brawler dip, a gaming group allowing third party classes can touch on this shapechanging wonders’ feat imprinting powers to grant massive role flexibility to any character. A second feat allows the duration of its “feat imprints” to become 24 hours. Feats can mean extra spells known, new weapons, new metamagic options, and are essential to the change toolkit.
4) Paragon Surge – (Spell – Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Race Guide) – An option for only the lucky or the knowingly distracted, this half-elf only spell allows a character to select a temporary bonus feat. It is worth mentioning that official rulings have stated that this selection is locked per day though RAW it isn’t so clear.
5) Retraining Rules – (Rules – Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Campaign) – When all else fails, these rules allow for everything about a character to flex, given gold and time. A GM allowing retrains will likely work with you to help you find the progression of your character you want to see.
Final Warning: Remember Who You Are (WERE)
The MOST important thing to keep in mind in late game role changes is what it means to your over all metabalance with the party. A party can grow accustomed to a play-style and your alteration (or addition) to that mix can have fare reaching consequences. Remember who you have been to your party and don’t leave them hanging if you can help it.