I recently had my players make back-up characters. They had a few chuckles at that, and wondered aloud if I was planning on throwing more yellow molds at them, but I reassured them that I just wanted some new characters in case we want to do a parallel campaign or if somebody croaks naturally.
My players are awesome, especially in respect to creating interesting characters and backgrounds for me to pull storylines from, so I presented them with the following inexhaustive list of character subtypes. The idea is for them to approach their character generation in reverse—rather than picking a class and then trying to trick out the character, come up with the character first and fit it into the class most appropriate. We’re not talking about modifying the mechanics of the class, really, but more about not being influenced from the get-go by a preconceived notion of the class. Though I encouraged them to come up with their own “subtype”, I offered them these as examples:
Fighter: Barbarian, Gladiator, Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Soldier, Swashbuckler.
Cleric: Priest, Witchhunter, Shaman, Druid, Witch, Warlock, Avatar.
Magic-User: Wizard, Sage, Sorcerer, Illusionist, Summoner, Alchemist, Soothsayer.
Thief: Bandit, Burglar, Scout, Ninja, Bounty Hunter, Treasure Hunter.
The subtype chosen mostly affects the way they would equip, clothe, and roleplay a character, but some subtypes would also involve modifying the class mechanics a bit. I don’t do multi-classing, because I think it’s sort of unrealistic and clumsy. I think each class requires one’s full attention. Therefore, if you’re a fighter/thief, something is going to suffer; you don’t have time in life to dedicate yourself completely to thieving skills and lifestyle and extensive combat skills and training. And I don’t really buy the “it just takes a bit longer to progress” mechanic. If you want to be a fighter/thief in our campaign, you need to work out a mechanic and storyline in which you will have some skills of each class. For example, the bounty hunter (or treasure hunter, for that matter) takes his base abilities from the thief class, but is a bit more rough and tumble by necessity. Therefore, he loses Pick Pockets, Hear Noises, Climb Walls, and Hide in Shadows, but gains a fighter’s combat matrix and d6 for HD. This way he has something of both classes, but not all. (In our campaign there are also “fighting styles” that only pure Fighters can specialize in.)
So far, this house rule system is working pretty well, but I realize there are many ways to skin this cat. We’ll keep fooling with it, I’m sure. In the meantime, however, the players chose to make a Druid (mostly according the LL Advanced Edition) and a Ranger (lost fighting style specialty in return for some outdoorsy skills).