Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Flying Knight Class for S&W


Kain Highwind concept art
by Yoshitaka Amano
My focus on Final Fantasy this week comes from watching my 6y.o. son is discovering Final Fantasy IV for the first time. I am using it to help him work on math, reading, comprehension, and media awareness skills. 

Thirty years ago, the same game really made an impression on my 7th grade Dungeons & Dragons group.

One big way it shaped my 7th grade campaigns was through the characters my players wanted to play. FFIV inspired them to want to play heroic, noble characters, or penitent ones, characters who summon monsters, or ones who can turn any object into a weapon.

My best friend Matt asked if he could play a "Dragoon" warrior-acrobat like Kain Highwind with his signature leaping attack. I didn't see why he couldn't. 

This was my first attempt at building any serious house rules for D&D. What I came up with was a leaping ability based on his movement rate, which would increase like a monk's speed would. Then I told him that he could leap on one round, and then land on the next to make his attack, spending two rounds to make a single attack.

Basically, the character could do the damage of the two attacks he could have otherwise made in a single roll with a slight bonus on the to-hit number. At the end of the day, it didn't gain him much except a +2 bonus to hit, and came at the cost of the possibility of hitting with one attack and missing the other. Using it would therefore be a gamble.

He might do less damage than a regular fighter, or do it slower, exposing the party to more risk. But when it worked there was a slight payoff. I pitched it to Matt, and he was cool with his household because it was fun and flavorful.

This past week, as my son made progress in Final Fantasy IV, he has made the exact same request as Matt did thirty years ago: he wants to play a character like Kain who can jump through the air and land on monsters with both feet and a spear. It was both strange and funny bringing back my same house rules three decades later.

This time, I thought I would actually write them down, and so I made a Swords & Wizardry character class out of them. Obviously, I have renamed a few things, we re-contextualized it to fit in a non-FF world, added some things that made sense, took away some things that didn't, and made it my own.

The end result is a character class I call The Flying Knight. It is part fighter, part monk and would work as well as a kung-fu movie-style hero as it does a Western knight.

After all of my tweaks, is honestly not that much like the Lancers, Dragon Knights, or Dragoons from Final Fantasy. But, I won't tell my son that. He will still have his cool jump attack, and that's all he cares about.

If you are sharing my nostalgia right now feel free to grab it here:

The Flying Knight

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