So with Jason working on his own Age of Sail style piracy campaign, the question that comes to mind is what should I play? I know we're a ways off from actually playing it, but I always like to have an idea in mind. My first thought is, Gunslinger, duh. I really like that class. I love firearms in my DnD because to me they represent progress and evolution, rather than the weird stagnation of technology of most fantasy worlds where there are either remnants of ancient advanced civilizations, or no one can figure out how to put together a printing press or make gunpowder. Gunslinger is definitely one of my all time favorite classes, but I feel like Gob scratches that itch well enough that I have no need to play a Gunslinger. Normally I favor Rogue-type or hybrid classes. I've never played a full bore caster as a character or an npc and I have no real desire to with Jason's crazy magic and sanity rules.
One of the things I have always wanted to play is a Monk/Shadowdancer or a Monk/Assassin or a Bard/Assassin, or a Rogue/Shadowdancer/Assassin. By the way, I love the Shadowdancer prestige class. Hands down my favorite prestige class. Don't get me wrong, stuff like the Psion Uncarnate is pretty cool too, but the Shadowdancer has a special place in my heart.
I think I wouldn't mind trying a Monk/Shadowdancer, but I don't know if I can play Lawful Anything. I mean, Lawful Good to me is fanaticism. Lawful Good to me is a former partner of mine at work that is a really nice and quiet charitable religious guy that got kicked out of his church for being too anti-homosexual. So to me, Lawful Good is actually Lawful Evil. Lawful Neutral to me is...heartless, passionless. What motivates someone that isn't motivated by greed or mercy or whatever? House M.D. is supposedly Lawful Neutral according to the Internets, so I suppose the challenges of one's profession? Lawful Evil seems silly. I'm evil as fuck and want power and glory and riches and will kill and enslave anyone to get them, but I have a code or discipline or something. At what point does reliably killing everything that pisses you off and only stealing half of a mark's food and money become less of a code and more of a Chaotic Evil.
This is why alignments are stupid to me. You cannot cram the complexities of human mentality and personality into two words that mean different things to every person at the table. To that former partner of mine's current church, he is Good. To me, he is a hateful, stupid, delusional bigot that should be locked up. He follows the tenets of a crazy religion to the letter, so he is Lawful, but he is all about oppression and crazy Old Testament law, so he is Evil. To me. Alignment is stupid and means nothing. Might as well say your alignment is Barking Dog Dicks and play your character however you want, it'd mean about the same thing.
Anyway. I don't know that the Monk/Shadowdancer is the right thing for Jason's campaign though. There aren't a lot of shadows on a ship in the middle of the sea. Are we going to be mostly doing ship things or are our adventures primarily going to be in port cities or forgotten coves on unexplored islands? Shadowdancer and Assassin are kind of urban prestige classes to me, not sure they'd have a whole lot of application on a sailing ship or in the jungle. I mean, if we're going to be doing a lot of boarding action and ship to ship combat, say hello to my elven Rogue/Duelist and his dual rapiers or scimitars or whatever. Actually, not really. I don't care much for the Duelist prestige class. I mean, looking at the Duelist prestige class, it is very agile and maneuverable. I can see its abilities having some fun uses on a ship, but it doesn't pop for me. There is no moment where I go THIS! I must have this!
The reason I start with class rather than background or race when I create a character is because I have to want to play the character and enjoy the way the character functions in the game. I need to find a facet of something, an aspect I know I will enjoy during play that won't leave me wanting to split my focus or shift my focus mid game. Naturally, once you've got class down you can get a better idea about what the race and background is going to be. Talking about an archer idea, normally a Dwarf isn't an archer, so either you've automatically scratched that race as an option or you've forced yourself to come up with an interesting concept and justification as to why the normally axe wielding and cave dwelling Dwarf has decided to specialize in the longbow.
The two ideas I am flirting with right now are something ranged and snipery and something Monkish and grappling focused with the goal of taking the Jawbreaker/Bonebreaker/Neckbreaker series of feats, because I want to do those things. Neckbreaker is pretty sweet, 2d6 Dexterity or Strength damage with successful pins and grapple checks and Bonebreaker allows you to do 1d6 Dexterity or Strength damage with your Stunning fists. I believe you can substitute Stunning Fist for your attacks in Flurry of Blows. So yeah.
I just don't quite know how I want to implement the ranged one. A Hobgoblin Fighter (Archer) appeals to me on some level, but so does a knife throwing Ninja or Rogue. The Ninja has a lot of versatility, as you can use their tricks to augment poisoning, gain an assassination ability, and gain a Monk's unarmed damage. Plus they gave some ki and smoke bomb abilities that are fun. Plus I could literally be a pirate ninja. Paradox.
The Monk thing would be kind of awesome as well. Just imagine this burly scarred bastard swaying across a deck and instead of blocking your sword, he just rips the arm out of the shoulder, chokeholds you to the ground, then literally snaps your neck. It's a powerful image, but grappling is something of a more complex method of attack than just straight up punching a guy a half dozen times. I also believe there is a chance of your allies striking you while you're grappling someone so with a six man party, things might get just a wee bit crowded.
The thing I am toying with as of earlier this week is a Rogue (Knife Master). I'm not sure on race or background yet, but the design is to make him equally adept at stabbyness in melee as he is at range. Daggers aren't that impressive, 1d4 with criticals on 19-20 with only x2 modifier. However, a Knife Master deals d8s with their sneak attack with small blades and rogue talents can turn 1s and 2s on the rolls to 3s at around 10th level, so as long as you have a flanking buddy or some ranks in Stealth you can easily compensate on your damage. I think I'd roll with Two-Weapon Fighting and Rapid Shot as well, so plenty of extra attacks for extra chances of critical hits.
I think focusing on both ranged and melee applications of the daggers would be less than ideal, it splits the focus of a character too much. Sneak attack seems like it is more difficult to implement at range as well. You can't flank at range as far as I know, so you need to leave them flat-footed or otherwise deny them their Dexterity bonus to AC. You can do that by using Bluff to feint in combat or become invisible, which a few Ninja tricks allow you to do, which you can get via some Rogue talents. The low tech way is to just hide before the fight starts and start slinging daggers at people's backs, I think the sniping use of Stealth has a hefty penalty to the check to stay hidden though.
I don't have anything particularly nailed down quite yet I guess, but I am getting there. I just have so many ideas and so few chances to play that I tend to go a little crazy trying to get a feel for a concept. More as it develops I guess.