In the spirit of the holidays, a present for the community - a skill challenge handbook for Pathfinder (or 13th Age or whatever your favorite flavor of d20 is) Get it here.
Bear in mind this is NOT the conventional 'x successes before y failures' skill challenge. This is a new(ish) system built to play fast, write simple and keep mechanics close to fiction. Would love feedback if you read through it.
It's not at all fair to compare how much errata 4th edition has compared to 2nd. Editions 2 and earlier did not attempt to create a unified rules system like 4E. It was expected that each table would play the game with different interpretations and add-ins; "rulings, not rules" as the old-schoolers among us like to say. The case could probably be made either way with 3.X, but I ultimately have to lump it in with the prior editions due to WotC's hands-off approach with the OGL, Paizo handling the magazines and then all the 3PP content. They simply weren't trying to manage such a large ruleset on their own.
4th edition is distinctly definitive in its attempts to create a play style where you can drop in with any group anywhere and play the same game in almost entirely the same way. The fair comparison would be to compare WotC's errata with similar games from different publishers - Steve Jackson's GURPS, White Wolf's World of Darkness, maybe even the Champions system.
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Many of the 4th Ed. classes have literary or cinematic iconics to which we compare the class. Conan (Barbarian), Merlin (Wizard), Gandalf (Invoker, although I've also heard valid arguments for both Wizard and Swordmage) immediately spring to mind. I've been having a terrible time trying to find iconics for certain classes - Seeker, Battlemind, and Ardent among them. Today, though, the iconic Mantle of Clarity Ardent was revealed to me in a glorious flash of inspiration....!
Peter Gibbons from Office Space.
You laugh (and so do I) but I think it works. There's the moment of vision in which the meaning of life is revealed to him (sort of). He spends most of the movie trying to remove "conditions" from the rest of the cast - Samir and Michael: Broke (job or money laundering ends), Joanna: miserable (quitting ends) to name a couple. He even gets a promotion to a Leader role at Initech!
I now really want to play one of these using a very calm, laid-back tone; a sort of cross between Peter's actual voice and a hippie. Thoughts?
I am a good friend of the author, Jared Glenn, who - in case you didn't know - hosts the Power Source Podcast on D20 Radio. He's also around here as LordDreadman. I'm going to point him in the direction of your review; I'm sure he'll be please to se it getting some press. He's also going to be playing one in my new campaign so I'm looking forward to seeing it in action.
I find this truly bizarre because I have a heck of a time staying away from humans as a race. Of course, I like to build quirky characters, like my Summoning Wizard multi. Shaman who deals direct damage MAYBE once per encounter but can be trusted to keep three or four mobile roadblocks/hazards (Storm Pillar, Spirit Companion, Arcane Debris plus summons) on the board at all times. This of course means I need all the feats and powers I can get, where straight statistics are not as important. It can be hard to do this without being a human.
BTW, Radio Free Hommlet - the podcast - refers to Second Wind as the "dwarven racial power" since they say only dwarves seem to use it. I have to agree.
Also, seriously consider upping his NADs - probably at least 3 points each. He's going to get DESTROYED by an illusionist, warlock or bard with a 10 Will at level 3. PCs will be hitting that defense with probably a +4 or +5 (+3 or +4 stat mod, +1/2 level), maybe even a +6 if they've picked up a decent implement. Do you really want him to get hit on a roll of 5? With those stats, you've got a Brute with not enough HP. AC looks good, though.
Also, if you don't like the marking mechanic for whatever reason, you can have them shift as a reaction to an adjacent enemy shifting or do something that makes the area around them difficult terrain.
Davi The Eccentric wrote:
Well, those feats let you switch powers out during an extended rest for a specific power, so they're not completely obsolete. They're only as useless as a wizard's spellbook, in any case.
I tend to run episodic sessions where most extended rests occur in-between sessions, so for my style it's meaningless. In the broader sense, though, you are correct.
Davi The Eccentric wrote:
As for martial practices being separate from rituals, that's probably just so a fighter with training in Heal can't raise the dead without using a scroll for it.
I have in fact played Martial characters and taken Ritual Casting as a bonus feat. Again, probably just my tastes.
If you picked up the most recent RPGA rules, you may notice that they now let you retrain EVERYTHING except class and race.
I'm also very liberal with the retraining - I let my players change whatever powers the like between sessions, but only one feat or class build option at a time at level up. I've found that people find what they like after a little initial shuffling and then run with it pretty consistently so it's not a huge disruption.
This, of course, invalidates several of the new 'adaptation' or 'flexibility' feats in MP2, but whatever. You shouldn't need to spend a feat on that in the first place.
I'm really looking forward to the Martial Practices, though I'm not entirely sure why they're separate from all the other Rituals. I also particularly enjoy the feat that lets dragonborn get sneak attack damage on their breath weapon. It somehow reminds me of the sneak attack ballista scene from The Gamers.
Are you trying to keep the setting or the mechanics or both?
If you like the idea of kids running around in a dystopian future being bad@$$, consider Robert Bohl's "Misspent Youth." I'm not sure Grimm is going to do what you want it to, but not knowing your concept well, I can't say that with certainty. Also, consider BESM (Big Eyes, Small Mouth) for the same reason.
On the other hand, there a few mechanics that are decidedly Earthbound that you might want to hold onto. The rolling HP meter for one, which would then obviously require a system with HP. (Assume no matter how much damage you take, you only sustain say, 10 HP per round or something.) The SMAAAAAAAAAAASH and Pray options are also important, so a system with fun random effect tables are helpful too. Maybe steal some charts from old school TSR or Rifts for this?
Wait a tick.. is this a 4E class or a Pathfinder class? I can't access the site here at work, but I know the 4E Jester is due for release. On the other hand, Crimson Jester here is reading off "6th level spells" and "must be chaotic." What's going on?
BTW, glad you like the show, Healer. I tend to find it a little.. aberrant. ;)
Alright, I need to pimp this out for a friend of mine. The writer's name is Jared Glenn and he hosts the Power Source Podcast on D20 radio. He also released the Explorer - an Indiana Jones-type class - some months back. I unfortunately haven't seen the Jester yet, but the Explorer is very flavorful and makes great use of terrain modification. There's also a second revision of the Explorer coming out soon as well. Anyway, I'm sure he'd love to hear your feedback on the class and I've directed him to this thread so whatever love or hate you've got for it, go right ahead.
And I swear I'm not him. Really. I am also on the podcast regularly, though...
Mircolis quickly ascertains that it will take the girls too long to climb out the window and furthermore, the smoke is getting dangerously close to choking them. He chooses a spot several meters away from the window (to avoid catching the girls in any possible backdraft) and uses his Eldritch Blast to blow a large hole in the wall from which both smoke and people can quickly escape. He then attempts to coax the girls near the hole.
(OOC: this might be two checks over consecutive "rounds", and if so I'm ok with that.)
Give me just a minute here - this is my RPGA character that I have to de-level from 6 back down to 1... and voila!
Mircolis, Half-Elven Starlock/Bard
Something else to consider - the combat system (which I have to refer to since it's really the only other relevant system in the game) at no point discourages you from using your best to-hit mod. In fact, it assumes you will at all times! Yet no one seems to think that system is 'broken' for it. To some extent, it's simply a double-standard in gaming: combat vs roleplaying. Fine. But there is something else behind it.
A combat is responsive - what you are up against actively opposes you. If combat were a single enemy that did nothing but get hit, but you lost if you missed more than x number of times, the best option would in fact be to let the guy with the best to-hit go up and pound the thing to death. I don't think anyone would disagree with that strategy. Furthermore, would you call it a challenge??
This, as far as I can tell, is the ultimate failing of skill challenges and the bottomline reason why so many people think they don't work or are broken. Combat has a natural back-and-forth exchange that makes it interesting; skill challenges are mechanically one-way operations unless the DM narrates the player's failures as the obstacle interacting somehow. Relying on good DM narration is not good game design. In the combat system, 4E acknowledges that fact by use of powers and conditions to create a tactical feel without the DM even needing to describe a single sword sweep. The mechanics are both a springboard for roleplaying and a backup plan should the players and DM fall short. (We are in fact all only human, even if some of us are elves or whatever.) The skill challenge system on the other hand relies on the DM for interactivity AND complexity.
OPINION: A well-designed game will be interesting and give the feel of the setting through mechanics, even if the players and DM are less than imaginative. Good game design is less vulnerable to poor play - not immune, but stronger. This is why I feel the skill challenge system is poorly designed.
Aubrey - I do not have my DMG2 with me at work right now. My post is made to the best of my memory. I will go home and re-read the sections you have pointed out and will retract or reinforce my statements when I can do so with actual references.
edit 1: It may also be that you and I are playing from different definitions of "rule." Maybe I should clarify my position. Go to combat for a moment - when building an encounter, an XP budget is a rule. It's quantifiable and uses words permission-based words like "must" or "may." You also may also only use a standard action on your turn - another rule. The idea that an encounter should have multiple types of enemies (Skirmishers, Controllers, etc) is not a rule, it's at best a suggestion. Going against it is suboptimal, but not inherently "wrong." The wording uses "should" or "can." Choosing a patron deity for clerics and paladins is not a rule. You can choose not to. Are we on the same wavelength here?
So let’s back up here a minute, folks. What’s still in debate here? Looking at the original four Trollman points again:
1. Get Everyone Involved!
2. Be Dynamic!
3. End Binary!
4. Other Difficulties
So the conclusion: 2:1. Skill Challenges per RAW do not function the way they are intended to. That being said, the devs have, in the examples (RAI), given us solid, useful challenges – demonstrating further that while the Challenge system is viable and interesting, the rules do not support it. Even the devs are ‘houseruling’ things. I personally enjoy the Challenge system as I and others have gussied it up, but I must stand by Trollman and Man in Black here. The RAW fails to meet its goals.
Also - Good idea, Paul. Count me in.
Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
That's pretty much the point. Adding complexity to a challenge sets you up for multiple failure scenarios. You know what happens if they succeed. You may have to wing it if they fail and so you want to have more than one way to deal with it. You can also give the players the choice of which failure route they would prefer to promote further roleplaying. I'd still run the whole thing as one challenge, though.
First off, there's this:
Part of the issue of getting players excited about a skill challenge is that there's usually one obvious "right" way of doing it - in your case, a Climb check. It's hard to get excited about a bunch of Climb checks. If your players know that there's really no "wrong" way to go about tackling the task, they will be more inclined to become personally involved.
Second, you have the plot requirement factor - do your PCs have to get up that cliff to progress the story? If your PCs must climb the cliff to move forward, then your challenge is invalid; if they need to get up the cliff, then they NEED to get up the cliff. Your challenge would be better served as "Climb the cliff without being detected" at which point you also inuitively open up the Stealth skill (as well as Athletics and Nature) and maybe some of your characters' utility Powers. The PCs will make it up the side no matter what - the stakes of success or failure at the challenge is the element of surprise. Generally speaking, the more you can add to the complexity of the stakes (not to be confused with the numerical Complexity of the challenge), the better skill challenge you create.
Third, don't be afraid to have the challenge "bite back", forcing the characters to make certain rolls that they may not have planned on. A monster that doesn't hit you back would be very boring. In the same way, a challenge that doesn't react to what the players are doing is essentially dead. Furthermore, if your PCs are solidly whooping the challenge, a couple unforeseen and awkward skill checks can push the tension factor up, which leads to my fourth and final point..
"Complications, not failures." Chatty DM Phil Menard calls this 'Mouseguarding.' A failed skill check doesn't have to mean no action. As the DM, you can only tell your players "you don't (whatever)" as a failure result for so long before it gets lame and frustrating. Say one of your PCs fails a Climb check on your challenge here. Rather than simply tell him (or her) that the character doesn't climb the cliff, tell him "You get partway up, but the effort is exhausting you. You will need to make an Endurance check to continue, or (lose a healing surge, have to leave some of your gear behind, etc.) " You have now brought in another Skill AND provided the character with a meaningful roleplaying choice.
Bottom line, if your skill challenge is unresponsive, your characters will be unresponsive as well. Hope that gives you some ideas.
Why has no one mentioned rituals? AFAIC, they are THE way to go for profession/craft type skills. F'rinstance - I play a star pact warlock (multiclassed to bard) is who is an astrologer. Now clearly there are no rules for practicing astrology in 4E. But, even at low Heroic tier, I have Hand of Fate for when I need to consult the stars over a question, Glib Limerick for when I need to bluster someone with mystic astrojargon and Lullaby when I captivate a room with my warnings of imminent doom.
The most obvious change for my game(s) since the advent of 4E is that I actually DM. We'll come back to that in a second.
I liked to run 1st and 2nd edition games, but not play them. It was often difficult to get mechanics that represented character abilities and personality. Upon looking at 3rd, I decided I wouldn't touch DMing with a 15 ft guisarme, Combat Reflexes and Spring Attack. It was just way too involved. I really enjoyed playing 3rd, though, since the myriad of options - both WotC and 3PP - allowed me to create pretty much any character concept I could think of. Good stuff.
Now that 4th is out, I enjoy playing and running games about equally. The transparency or streamlining of the system lets me improvise at the table as frequently as 1st or 2nd edition while maintaining a reasonable challenge. (Many people will insert the b-word here. I dislike the b-word, and will not use it) There is also clear room for pure story-based character customization, not unlike the old 2nd ed Proficiencies. I used to find the lack of these sorts of things in the system a bug - I have since come to see it as a feature to be filled in however the players and DM see fit. As a player, there is finally enough material between DDI, two PHBs and two campaign settings that I can make the distinct, quirky characters that I enjoy so much. In many ways, 4th edition feels a little more old-school (not as much as, say Swords and Sorcery, but still) and flexible than 3rd edition ever did.
I try to look at this from a Star Trek standpoint. The synthesizer can make any food or drink in existence, but Guinan has the 'real' stuff in Ten Forward because the replicator's version isn't quite right. Same with magic - it's close, but not as good as the natural thing. KFC doesn't stop people from making their own homemade fried chicken. Same with Mending - it'll fix your shoes, but then they wear out again faster. Amen.. aman.. crap.. the copying spell... maybe the magical ink fades quicker or is more subject to smearing unless the book itself is also magical? In order to have some semblance of what we consider 'normalcy' with the presence of magic, abundant low-level magic has to be inherently somehow inferior over a long period of time.
My major problem with this is that there's no metric. How do you define meaningful roleplay? I can think of at least two groups I've played in where chatting up the barmaid for 20 minutes real-time would in fact be considered meaningful. You'd have to say something like "solves an in-game issue or progresses the plot over 15 minutes of roleplay" but even that's a little cagey.
If you play in a tight group where everyone has pretty similar expectations on what 'good roleplaying' is, then individual DM discretion is probably more than sufficient to handle it. That group is also less likely to care about the XP and roleplays for the enjoyment of it.
A rule like this is meant to encourage people whose enjoyment is primarily systemic or mechanical (gaining levels, char-op, etc) to be more narrative without fear of undermining their primary 'payout' (not getting XP for fighting or skill challenges or whatever). Thus you need more crunchiness to the rule - something like Dresden Files' Compels or having completely story-based Milestones.
Didn't Luke Crane do this in Burning Wheel or Mouse Guard as the "angry" condition? I've never played any of his games firsthand but I know I heard something very similar on an actual play recording once or twice.
I actually really like the idea because it does something 4E tends to shy away from: letting the fiction dictate the mechanics. It does seem like an overly harsh penalty, though. I'd keep maybe half of it. Maybe.
As a DM, I would gladly accept player's wishlists with the understanding that such things may or may not show up 'randomly' and that if they really want something, they should consult a sage, bard, or similar repository of knowledge. Most magic items, IMHO, should be unique and unpredictable.
For all the crap 4E gets about unspectacular magic, I find it's one of the better systems in which to introduce unique artifacts and such since the math is so transparent. I really prefer the alternate "+1 magic item bonus to attacks and all defenses every five levels" concept to cut down on the NEED (not desire!) for magical gear, thus making each magical find more exciting. I'm also very fond of stuff that grants you more power as you increase in level, rather than swapping out the old +1 sword for a +2. When it's time to find treasure, and the players don't have levelling gear, I tend to resort to the LFR "you find a flaming weapon" and let the player determine the type.
Just as a reminder, though this may have been posted elsewhere on the thread, you must evaluate the 'awesomeness' of a character class in context with the world or adventure in which they exist.
The wizard certainly has spell versatility on his side, but that versatility is dependent on available resources, sufficient time and a static goal. If she knows exactly what she wants to do and has all the time in the world to get just the right spell and set up the pieces in precisely the right way, then yes - she's going to lay opponents low without blinking in a way that no other class can even hope to match. Conversely, if she doesn't have time to switch out spells, find the proper spell that she doesn't already have, or the situation to which she is heading into changes without her knowledge, then she could be in real trouble.
On the other hand, the sorcerer does not have the benefits of time and resources behind her and can't set up the perfect storm of conditions, but that's OK - that's not what the sorcerer does. The sorcerer is about flexibility in the moment, not flexibility in preparation. She probably doesn't have exactly the right spell for the situation at hand, but odds are that she has always has something that will make do, even if it's ham-fisted and requires multiple castings. Consider also that sorcerers can more quickly switch to non-magical options, utilizing high CHA to wield her words and particularly in Pathfinder, may have claws or a breath weapon or some sort of bloodline ability to buy herself a round or two in combat if the tanks get distracted or make a mistake. For an excellent example of how a sorcerer can be just as powerful as a wizard, I suggest reading any of Terry Pratchett's DiscWorld novels that features Granny Weatherwax.
In short, the question is do you want to fiddle around looking for the key to open the lock or are you content to use a crowbar?
There's also of course the option of is your Deva a Deva in both mechanics and flavor? I'm playing a Deva Shaman that for all roleplaying purposes is a human. The resistances and 'Memory of 1000 Lifetimes' are explained as bonus effects for being so tightly associated with the spirit companion. The Deva is particularly (IMHO) a very mechanically alluring race that begs to be reflavored as something else.
As far as RAW, I think you're right. If the jump is not limited to your Speed, then you could have any Speed and the jump would apply normally. It seems odd, though, that the Monk would have an at-will that is essentially 'ignore being slowed' since a halfway-optimized level 1 Monk could have a +14 (+4 STR, Athletics training and the +5 power bonus) or more bonus to this roll to start with, meaning that even on a 1, she could clear 3 squares - up to 6 squares on a 16 or better!
agreed with the above poster. Beautiful comment.
I'm just about to turn 27 which puts me in the Millenials group but just barely - and I grew up on 2nd ed so I feel like I've got a foot in each camp here. I would disagree that the 'younger set' as it were is less imaginative. We're still all making up pretend characters aren't we? Moving little figurines around a board holding the picture of a raging battle solely in our minds is still at the heart of the hobby.
What the generation before us views as an inability to think abstractly is to us an appreciation of standardization. We're used to all taking the same tests in school - ACTs, SATs, high school proficiency, whatever. We all access the same Internet regardless of where the terminal is. We grew up with major pushes in the EPA, FDA, gun control, gay marriage, and so on to make things equitable. It seems appropriate to us, then, to have a rule in place so that if I want to mudwrestle that Minotaur today and then my friend here wants to do it again tomorrow, it works the same way both times, free of (what is to us) random DM fiat.
This is why I'm sort of on the fence about the 4E power system. I enjoy that whatever excuse I can come up with to push someone around with Trick Strike (trip, shield push, flowerpot to the face, a truly horrible fart) will work every day, all day. It's annoying, though, to be limited in the number of different effects I can manage. It's not so much that we can't think outside the rules (though this is more true than previous groups), we want the tules to consistently support our imaginations
I will employ one of a few different options based on the game feel and players. These all assume that the character death or TPK was legitimate and not due to mechanical mistakes ("your AC was actually 23, not 18 so that last hit wouldn't have connected") and that standard resurrection or some kind of time travel in-game is not a reasonable option.
Death Penalty - your PC and is out of this fight or trap or whatever. After the rest of the team passes, you get to rejoin them but you get no XP or loot for that situation. If it's a TPK, you get one retry and if you succeed, no XP or treasure beyond the MacGuffin (if there is one). Otherwise, start making new characters.
Blaze of Glory - technically your PC is dead. (S)He will not survive the encounter but you will yourself back to consciousness one last time to fire off your big spell, throw the One Ring into the volcano or otherwise bring down the house Samson-style. You will not have died in vain. This happens to be my favorite to use as a player as well.
NPC Resurrection - your new character is haunted (at least emotionally if not literally!) by your old character; your old character dies under mysterious circumstances only to come back later as a villain or NPC. If (s)he comes back as an NPC, it's usually to undergo a Blaze of Glory. In any event, you do not have control of that character anymore though they might show up from time to time.
Though I stated my case back on page 1 - something else mathematical for everyone to consider:
A +3 bonus is not a 15% variation but actually feels something more like 30%. Why, you ask? Because the system is built such that hitting an enemy of your own level and ability will be roughly a 50/50 thing. The exact percentage is based on the enemy's type (soldier, skirmisher, etc) and which defense you're hitting, but you can eyeball the whole concept as being basically 50-50 on any one 'average' hit with a well-built character.
Thus if you are behind 3 points, you have in total a 35% hit chance. However, what you're going to feel is not the total -15% but the hit rate relative to what you "should" be doing. So when 3 of the 10 values you're used to rolling for success are no longer successes, it comes across as a -30% (ish) loss in accuracy, not simply 15. You were never going to hit on the 1-10 anyway, so you've lost almost a third of what you were used to hitting on: the 11-20 is now 14-20.
It's the same phenomena as increased crit range, but backward. An 18-20 crit range is only technically a 10% increase but feels like you've tripled.
I'll admit that 4th Edition is the first system where I've felt compelled to always have an 18 in my main stat - probably because it's just so stinkin' obvious. The math behind most other systems is less transparent, so I don't get caught up in it.
On to the Poll - #3. They're nice feats. NICE feats. But that's all they are - feats. I've seen all the math on how AC for enemies scales faster than to-hit and all that, so I don't deny that PCs are probably "down" 3 by level 25 or whatever it is. That being said, by that time they probably have more interesting tricks than '+3 to hit' (E.g. "Once per day when you die...", recharge mechanics, resistances, autodamage, a whole suite of utility powers) to even out the discrepancy in ways that aren't just "I hit more accurately."
It also depends highly on gameplay expectations. Should it be as easy to hit Lolth at level 30 as it was to hit a kobold at level 1? I would give a vehement "no" to this, though there are obviously some who would want that. They should take these feats. Furthermore, what kinds of combat tactics do you want to employ, if any? A party of four rangers should probably take them to account for the lack or leader and controller (de)buffs. A party that includes a Starlock, a Shaman and a Warden probably isn't in such dire need of to-hit bonuses to smooth out the math to whatever extent the group feels is necessary. I find myself moving less from combat tactician to kick-down-the-door, straight-up-the-middle as I age (which is kind of backward, in a way) and so I can see having one or two characters take them so I can just charge in blindly when I feel like it.
So while they're certainly useful and support specific styles of gameplay, I would hardly call them 'feat taxes' or even necessary.
I was playing an LFR game where the bard defeated no less than three enemies with Vicious Mockery. The first time we decided 'ok, heart attack' - but the second and third threw us. We came to the conclusion after the encounter was over that the second had soiled himself, thus surrendering, and that the third literally died of shame. It was kinda fun working through that in the fluff, but we were glad the bard didn't get any more kills that module.
Please please PLEASE 2a!
*One round per point and one 'always on' power changeable each round is flexible without excessive bookkeeping.
*Backwards compatability is better than 1, but not 3
*Very few people really dislike 2a. It may not be everyone's first choice, but it seems to be most people's second.
I really like the idea so long as some of the names get changed. The Knack? The Cure? Really?
Then again, I'd like to pick a racial trait called 'Quiet Riot' (trained Intimidation; gain +2 against 4 or more Commoners)... or even 'REO Speedwagon'! (Trained in Profession, Caravan Driver; gain +2 when being chased) Maybe even 'Flock of Seagulls' ("Augury" as a spell-like ability once per day when you can see the flight paths of birds. what's that called? Ornithomancy?) would be an interesting choice.
But seriously, solid idea. Good thinking, OP. :)
I'll add another possibility to what I'm sure is a mounting pile of multiclass ideas. That 1/2 level bit isn't bad, but I think the best way to do this is to split each class into 10 synergystic "blocks" and then rebuild your multiclass character from scratch. For example -
All multiclass characters start with a d6 hit die, no armor proficiency, simple weapon proficiency, poor BAB/Will/Fort/Rfx and eh.. 8(?) trained Skills. Building a Fighter would be as follows:
d10 Hit die - 2 blocks (1 for d8)
Building a Wizard:
Now, let's build a Gish:
This gives you a wizard with full spell access, two good saves and the ability to last a few rounds toe-to-toe for giving up the familiar and Magic Art. It's also, unlike the Gestalt, pretty well-balanced with single class characters AND can be easily triple-classed as well.