Elite Characters (4e Variant Rule)
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The Elite Characters variant rule allows players to roleplay as more-powerful-than-normal characters. The following framework is an attempt to allow people to design homebrew races or classes that would normally be inherently unbalanced in standard 4e design guidelines.
- Combined Race and Class
When making an Elite Character, you do not choose a separate race and class. Each Elite Character has a combined race and class. These characters are often large, monstrous or otherwise unusual. They might have significant natural weapons or natural armor and be unable to wield equipment manufactured for humanoids. Also, as described below, they will have non-standard hit points and attacks. Therefore they cannot select any of the normal classes.
Like elite monsters, elite characters are "worth" two standard player characters. This means they have roughly twice the hit points of a normal character, more attacks that can hit multiple foes, and an improved ability to save against ongoing effects. Each Elite Character handles this in its own way.
- Designing Encounters
When the DM designs encounters, she will add the equivalent of one standard creature of your level on top of the XP budget for that encounter. For example, if the party consists of three level 1 elite characters, an average encounter worth 300 XP could have 6 standard level 1 monsters (or 3 elite level 1 monsters). In this way, elite characters can handle tougher challenges but advance at the same rate as their regular companions.
Treasure parcels are still calculated using the number of PCs - for the party of three level 1 elite characters, the DM creates level 1 treasure parcels for a party of three. Whilst this is under par for the true value of the party, a group that includes elite characters requires less magic items than normal.
- Magic Items
Monstrous elite characters may be described as unable to wear magic items. This might be a restriction on only a subset of items (you can't wear foot-slot items because you haven't got feet), or any magic item at all (for example if you're a giant centipede). Depending on the Elite Character, you might instead receive inherent bonuses (from Dungeon Master's Guide 2), or receive other bonuses detailed with the Elite Character.
- Party Coherence
Clearly an elite character can outshine normal characters on the battlefield. In a mixed party all players must be on board with having a such a monster in the team. In a smaller party, you could view it as being not much different to a player controlling both a PC and a companion character in order to fill out missing roles (especially as an elite character build might take on two separate roles). Whilst a mixed party can be interesting, if a player of a regular character wants to have the same level of power, a DM might allow them to take a Template from the Dungeon Master's Guide (p. 175) which will effectively turn them into an elite character.
- Elite Characters List
Since the elite character is adopting the role of two standard characters, it is not unreasonable to give them an extra racial skill bonus (three, instead of two).
- Saving Throws
As with elite monsters, an ongoing condition should be easier to shake off since it is effectively inflicting two characters rather than one. You might give an elite character a +2 bonus to all saves, the ability to make more saving throws, or mitigating effects (resistance to ongoing damage, immobilization becomes slowed, stunned becomes dazed, etc).
- Hit Points and Surges
Hit points can be twice normal, for example 24 + twice your Constitution score for a striker, gaining 10 per level.
Surges need more consideration. At half bloodied value, the surge value will still be twice that of a standard character. With the normal amount of healing surges, the total hit points that can be restored remains the same as two standard characters. However, some odd things can happen. For example, a leader's healing power that allow the character to spend a healing surge becomes twice as effective when used on an elite character (the equivalent of using the power twice on two standard characters). This can be normalized by doubling the elite character's surges, but halving their surge value (to 1/4 of their bloodied value).
AC, Fortitude, Reflex and Will do not need to be any higher than that of an equivalent standard character. If the character has "natural armour", describe which normal armour it is the equivalent of. This is important for qualifying for feats, and for determining AC value for a given enchantment value (through material improvements). Decide if you will allow it to be enchanted, or if it will use an inherent bonus. If the latter, use the guidelines in DMG 2.
Attack bonuses to not need to be higher than that of an equivalent standard character.
Damage output needs to be the equivalent of two standard characters. For example, At-Will attacks can cause 2[W] damage, or allow two 1[W] attacks.
If the elite character uses natural weapons, you need to explicitly state that it is a weapon (so it can be used with powers with the weapon keyword), what weapon group it is in (so that it qualifies for feats), and what proficiency bonus and [W] it has. When deciding on other properties, do not make the natural weapon the equivalent of a superior weapon, which should always be a feat option.
Decide on if you will allow a natural weapon to be enchanted or if it will use an inherent bonus. If the latter, use the guidelines in DMG 2. The level at which the +1 bonus is introduced can be raised or lowered depending on the character's role (a striker might get it earlier)