Inspired by that, I have tried to create my own rules. It replicates the advancement in 4e, but in a sort of miniaturized advancement scheme (but with 30 ranks, just like you have 30 levels, and with 3 tiers). In addition, I have added a bonus to those willing to play through Minion status with a Profession/Talent (instead of Classes...they are trying to get to be a first level Class!) type rank advancement.
I've been working on what could be some viable rules for characters starting off as Minions, then continuing on until they finally reach First level. Thought that they are finally fleshing out somewhat nicely and could post them here (and maybe ENworld as well?). Maybe someone will really like this, edit it into a much easier to read article and send it into WotC for a Dragon article to be published (and feel free to do this...though hopefully you'd also give me co-credit in writing).
Minions and 0 Level Characters.
They start as a 0 level minion. They advance on levels called ranks instead. These ranks advance from A to Z, and then additionally Ch, Th, Sh, and Omega (30 total Ranks). Level 0 Minion is not considered a Rank.
Most of the time, they will not go through 30 ranks to become 1st level.
Each rank gives one HP...and once the character get's enough HP to equal (Class Hp at first Level)+Constitution, the character stops being a Minion of any type and becomes a Classed up character (aka Fighter, Ranger, etc.
To create a Minion, stats (STR, DEX, CONS, INT, WIS, CHA) are generated the same as any other character.
Minions get NO skills and NO feats to begin with. They get no proficiencies with any weapons. They have no proficiencies with any armor. They start with 1 Hitpoint. Their Defenses are completed as normal.
They choose an apprentice-ship. This means that they choose what class they are aiming to be. This is the end goal.
Each Rank costs 10 x rank to get to the next rank with a minimum of 10 Experience points to get to Rank A. So it would cost 10 XP to get to rank Bravo, 20 XP to get to Rank Charlie, 30 XP to get to Rank Delta, etc. They gain the following abilities at each Rank...If they reach First Level before finishing all the ranks (most likely scenario...especially for spellcasters...then they gain ALL other skills, feats, and abilities upon reaching first level).
They gain all their racial features excluding their racial power (they gain this at Rank A). Rank 0 minions do a minimum of damage. They do 1 point of Dmg plus whatever their strength modifier is for melee, or Dex modifier is for Ranged combat. So for melee the damage is 1+Strength Modifier, and for Ranged damage is 1+Dex Modifier.
They start with 1 HP. This is NOT modified by Cons. They gain 1 HP per Rank AFTER Rank A (so they gain 1 HP at rank B)…UNLESS they have a negative modifier on their CONS…at which point it stays at 1 HP until their level is greater then their Negative Constitution Modifier (Ex. If they had a 5 Cons…then they would have 1 HP at Rank 0, 1 HP at Rank A, 1 HP at Rank B, 1 HP at Rank C, 1 HP at Rank D, 2 HP at Rank E, 3 HP at Rank F, etc.).
If they have a positive Cons modifier, this bonus is added at Rank A. (Ex. If they had a 14 Cons, they would have 1 HP at Rank 0, 3 HP at Rank A, 4 HP at Rank B).
A character remains a Minion until they have 3 or more HP (so a stronger Minion will have 2 HP, the strongest minions will have 3 HP…and after that…they are no longer a minion).
When they have 4 or more HP, they are no longer considered Minions. Instead they are 0 Level Characters.
Rank XP to Rank Total XP HP Gain Powers and Features
0 0 0 START AT 1HP 1 pt of damage with weapons or by hand
A 10 10 Gain CON bonus Gain of Con bonus to HP, Racial Power
B 10 20 +1 Do 2 points of damage with weapons or hands
C 20 40 +1 Gain Class Armor Proficiencies
D 30 70 +1 Do Normal Damage, [I Have the Power]
E 40 110 +1 Gain Class Weapon Proficiencies and implement
F 50 160 +1 Gain Primary Class Trained skill (Relig. Thiev)
G 60 220 +1 Gain a Class Skill
H 70 290 +1 Gain Class Defense Bonuses
I 80 370 +1 Gain 1 Healing Surge and second wind ability
J 90 460 +1 Gain 2nd Healing Surge
K 100 560 +1 Gain One At –Will-Power , [Journeyman]
L 110 670 +1 If Human gain extra Feat and Skill
M 120 790 +1 Gain Feat
N 130 820 +1 Gain 3rd Healing Surge, Gain Skill
O 140 960 +1 Gain One Class Feature
P 150 1110 +1 Gain 4th Healing Surge, Gain Skill
Q 160 1270 +1 Gain 2nd Class Feature
R 170 1440 +1 Gain 2nd At-Will-Power
S 180 1620 +1 Gain 5th Healing Surge, Gain 2 Rituals
T 190 1810 +1 Gain Class Encounter Power
U 200 2010 +1 Gain Class Daily Power, [Chief Journeyman]
V 210 2220 +1 Gain ALL Class Healing Surges
W 220 2440 +1 Gain ALL Class Skills
X 230 2670 +1 Gain All Class Powers
Y 240 2910 +1 Half Elves get third At-Will-Power option
Z 250 3160 +1 Lose [I Have the Power]
CH 260 3420 +1 DM Fiat: Extra Skill
SH 270 3690 +1 DM Fiat: Extra Feat
TH 280 3970 +1 DM Fiat: Combat Bonus
OMEGA 290 4260 +1 [By The Power of GreyHawk]
If a 0-Level character gets to be a 1st classed character before reaching Rank Z or Rank Omega, they gain all their Class abilities (aka, everything on the list after the rank they just left). They no longer have any ranks, and are no longer a minion or 0-Level character as they now are 1st level…MASTER of their chosen Class (well…at least not an apprentice or journeyman anymore).
At Rank F, they gain a skill ONLY if their chosen class (to which they are apprenticed) has a specific skill every member of the class MUST select (aka…Clerics get Religion, Rangers get Dungeoneering or Nature, Rogues get Stealth OR Thievery, etc.).
At Rank S they get two Rituals ONLY if they have the proper feats to cast rituals.
At Rank A, races gain their racial powers (second chance, etc.), BUT humans do NOT get their extra feat and skill yet, and Half-Elves do NOT get their extra At-Will Power until later.
At Rank B, As with Rank 0, Characters do 2 points of damage modified by their Str or Dex modifiers depending on whether it’s a melee or ranged attack.
At Rank C and D when they gain armor and weapon proficiencies, these are all the weapon and Armor proficiencies of their chosen class of which they are apprenticed. The same applies to when they gain skills, and At-Will, Encounter, or Utilitiy powers, these are from the class to which they are apprenticed. Obviously, when it says gain class feature, this is also from their apprenticed class. All At-Wills, Encounter, and Daily Powers are OBVIOUSLY from the list that they would attain at FIRST level. If the class is an essentials class they may not necessarily get a rank bonus at a new rank as some of the essentials classes may NOT have these items. An extra class feature if any are left may be chosen instead.
At Rank D they gain the [I Have the Power] 0-Level Character trick. This allows them to become minions in combat. For use of this power, have characters chart out what powers, skills or feats they will choose on a second sheet…for at least DOUBLE their level. This trick allows the 0-level character or stronger minion to become a normal minion. In return, they can use all the rank privileges of someone TWO TIMES their Rank. (Ex. A Rank B could gain all the abilities of a Rank D character and reduce their HP to 1 for the duration of an encounter) (Ex. #2 A Rank J character could gain all the abilities of a Rank T character and reduce their HP to 1).
This is a Daily Trick/Power. They can only use it once a day, and it lasts until the end of the encounter. When they do this, they count as a leveled Minion. In otherwords, a Rank B character who used this would become a 4nd level Minion. A rank J character who used this would become a 20th level Minion. This level ONLY lasts until the end of the encounter.
This is obviously a very powerful ability that continues to gain in power until 10th level, and has diminishing returns after 15th level. They LOSE this Trick/Power at Rank Z and can no longer use it (hence it is useless to 1st level characters).
At Rank K a character becomes a Journeyman while a Rank U becomes a Chief Journeyman. This is nothing more than a notation showing that the character has reached another tier in the ranks. Much like Class Levels have the three tiers (Heroic, Paragon, and Epic), 0-level and minions have tiers as well. These are Apprentice, Journeyman, and Chief Journeyman.
A Character in the apprentice tier ranks is just getting on their feet, learning the tricks of the trade, and learning the basics of their chosen class. Hence they are merely getting basic items such as learning the weapons, armor, how to defend themselves, and other such items.
A Character in the Journeyman tier ranks has learned the basics and is ready to start learning specifics. Here they start learning skills, feats, and abilities pertinent to the rest of their lives.
A character who is a Chief Journeyman has mastered most of what his Master or Teacher has for him. He is given extra duties, sometimes overseeing the other Journeymen, sometimes ensuring the apprentices are in line or even being put in charge of all the apprentices. Chief Journeymen are trusted members of the Master’s and can be seen as second hand honchos at times, head servants, or even the trusted valet that gets put in charge of the shop when the Master is gone. The Chief Journeyman is simply solidifying his grasp of all the final principles of his Class before he goes out on his own.
DM Fiat: These are abilities that characters CAN gain ONLY if they haven’t classed up yet (become first level characters). These will NEVER be gained by characters who classed up prior to or at Rank Z. Though they gain all other abilities after they Rank up…the DM Fiat is NOT something they gain. These abilities are up to the DM to grant. As such they normally go to Warriors who have exceptionally HIGH Constitution scores which means they don’t become first Level characters prior to or at Rank Z. This is a reward for having to be stuck as a 0-Level Character whilst probably most of their friends have gone on to bigger and better things at first level.
Two of the Rewards are obvious, they gain an EXTRA SKILL and an EXTRA FEAT BEYOND the number given for their character class. The skills should be from their class skill list. The Feat can be any feat they qualify for from the Heroic class list.
The Combat Bonus is particularly powerful, but should be given as a final reward (Especially if they are a Wizard as this means they put at least an 18 into their Constitution…AS A WIZARD). This gives the character a choice of ONE of the following bonues…
The next step up of Armor Feats (so from Chain to Scale…etc.)
Choice of Weapon Profficiency and Focus in an Exotic Weapon
+1 to hit
+2 to damage
+1 to Fortitude, Reflex, and Will
+2 To ONE of Fortitude, Reflex OR Will
Criticals hit on a 19 OR 20 (if choosing a feat later that gives a critical on 19-20, it is now an 18-20…just add in the bonus to critical on top of their critical bonus already…this applies for larger critical bonuses as well)
An additional +1 to AC when using two weapons
+2 additonal AC when using a shield
This is ENTIRELY up to the DM and does not have to be given out if it doesn’t fit in the campaign…it is just a reward for a character having lasted this long in a Level-0 character.
By the Power of Greyskull is the final ability all Characters get as long as they make it to first level, irregardless of what point they become first level at. With this they lose the ability of I Have the Power, but attain the ability By the Power of Greyskull in application to the Talents (as explained below) they have gained. With this ability, they can DOUBLE the bonus of any one talent on one Talent (aka, skill check but using that talent) per day.
Being a Minion is Hard work for a player. The chances are HIGH of character death, especially in the lower ranks. To gain experience it is suggested that you give them easy quests…such as a journey in the forest to deliver a message, finding a lost tool of their masters, watching guard over a house and alerting the authorities if something happens. After they reach 0-level, combat becomes a little more doable…but they are still easily killed. I would suggest having them ONLY fight other MINIONS.
With these rules, for DM’s who want fully fleshed out minions, you can use standard array for monsters (found in the back of MM1 and MM2) and add on Rank levels for specific Classes, and make either 0-level Ranked monsters or monster minions (especially if you use the [I Have the Power] Ability with them).
So if being a Minion is so hard, what advantage is there to going through all the trouble for Characters?
If the Dm allows, I have something I’ll call their selected Talent. These are Abilities they gain from a specific profession that increases as they gain ranks. It is FAR more specific than most skills in general to it’s application. The biggest ones that came to mind are found below, but these are by no means the limit. The character will typically gain a +1 PER RANK in rolls to determine a success or failure. This means by the time they are Rank Omega (if they reach that rank) they will have a +30 in that talent. They will literally be MASTER CRAFTSMEN for their selected ability. Other craftsmen can do these things, and are at various Ranks themselves…but by the time characters get to first level they will be masters at their chosen craft. Skill checks of 40 should be something they can do on average (so making a masterwork weapon for a smith would be a breeze). Most of these are self explanatory. They carry this ability over throughout their entire adventuring career and lives.
Some of the abilities are discussed by tier. You gain the bonus described ONLY WHEN YOU HAVE FINISHED the tier, or in otherwords, you gain the bonus from the apprentice tier when you first become a Journeyman. You gain the bonus from the Journeyman tier when you become a chief journeyman. You gain the bonus from the chief Journeyman tier when you become a first class character. You MUST SPEND the ENTIRE tier with this Profession/Talent in order to gain this benefit. If you switch at any point, you do not gain the bonus. All bonuses are ROUNDED DOWN.
Smith – Ability to create weapons and armor, as well as pots, horseshoes, and basically anything metal
Fletcher – ability to make arrows and bows. They also possess the ability to carve wood (as statues, etc). also + .1 Dmg with one ranged weapon (thrown OR shot) per rank. (so +1 Damage at Rank J, +2 Damage at Rank T, and +3 if they reach it at Rank Omega. They ONLY get +3 to damage if they actually REACH Rank Omega).
Potter – Ability to make pottery as well as sculpt and handle clay
Dyer – Ability to dye cloth as well as create clothe and put different designs and artwork on it
Guardsman (militia) = +.1 to damage per rank (so +1 Damage at Rank J, +2 Damage at Rank T, and +3 if they reach it at Rank Omega. They ONLY get +3 to damage if they actually REACH Rank Omega).
Archer (militia) = +.1 to hit with (their choice) either a bow or crossbow per rank. (so +1 to hit at Rank J, +2 to hit at Rank T, and +3 if they reach it at Rank Omega. They ONLY get +3 to hit if they actually REACH Rank Omega).
Weaponmaster Apprentice = +.1 to hit with one specific simple or martial melee weapon (so +1 to hit at Rank J, +2 to hit at Rank T, and +3 if they reach it at Rank Omega. They ONLY get +3 to hit if they actually REACH Rank Omega).
Scribe – ability to read and write distinct scripts. Gain an additional language per tier (one additional at apprentice Tier, another at Journeyman Tier, and another at Chief Journeyman Tier). Also can write 1 page per rank per hour (hand written, so 20 pages at Rank T). Gets bonues to read different languages.
Historian – Ability to know any item from history, past or present. If they can cast Rituals, can reduce the time to cast a ritual by 1 minute per Rank (can be exceedingly powerful). Gains one ritual per Tier (so one at Apprentice, one at Journeyman, and one at Chief Journeyman).
Archaologist – As Historian, but also has the ability to use any weapon or item at a +1 skill or proficiency level. Does NOT gain rituals. If they can cast rituals, they have learned the secrets to reduce the cost of rituals by 10 GP per rank (and 100 GP per rank of Ch, Th, Sh, and Omega).
Herbalist – Can make herbal concoctions that can help with healing, aid health, or put off death. Get’s the typical bonuses to succeed in making potions such as healing potions, feign death potions, etc., they also get typical bonuses to succeed in making potions of herbs that can increase a caster’s ability to increase damage by +1 per die, or add poison to weapons (doing 5 dmg till saved) if applied, or adding elemental damage to spells or weapons (adding a bonus of 5 dmg on hit and then per round till saved) such as fire, acid, cold, and poison. (difficulty should be average for typical poutices such that add +1 to a healing surge when taken to heal someone, to extra difficult for a poison that when applied to a weapon adds 5 dmg till saved, to Nigh Impossible [DC 75] for those that add 5 dmg on a hit and per round till saved, or greater).
Arcanist – Yes, even if studying under a wizard or Warlock…some Wizard or Warlock (or Priestly if Clergy, or Druidic, etc) masters require even more fervent and important study. This grants a +.1 to hit per rank when using a spell or Prayer. +.1 to hit per rank (so +1 to hit at Rank J, +2 to hit at Rank T, and +3 if they reach it at Rank Omega. They ONLY get +3 to hit if they actually REACH Rank Omega). You also gain the ability to comprehend other languages as a skill check.
Magician – You specialize in NON-MAGICAL tricks of illusion, but at the same time start to understand how things work with real magic. You gain bonuses to trick people with sleight of hand, or do illusionary tricks to deceive. Your understanding of how the world works and how to deceive also can be transferred to your abilities that you gain in your final class also can extend spells that you cast by a total of ONE round per tier IF you can cast spells. (hence a Wizard spell that would last until the end of your next turn would instead end until the end of two turns instead).
Monastery Servant – You served many years in a monastery, and have a good working knowledge of ONE religion of one Deity. You continually gain bonuses from this deity. In addition, you have learned more control over your senses, your body, and your abilities. When you use class attacks (as in from a fighter, or Warlord) or abilities (from Wardens, Monks) you can extend the duration by ONE round per tier. (hence a Fighter Attack that would last until the end of your next turn would instead end until the end of two turns instead).
Deacon – You serve as a layman for your church. In the duration you have learned much about the prayers and period in regards to how to effectively aid others. If you use a healing ability you can restore an additional 1 HP per Ranked Tier you achieved per healing you perform (so if you used a healing word which restored 1 Healing Surge + additional d6…that would become 1 Healing Surge +1d6+1 if you are an apprentice Rank, or Healing Surge +1d6+2 at Journeyman rank). You are also very skilled in the knowledge of the ceremonies associated with ONE deity.
Musician = You can sing and play musical instruments. Your ability to play any instrument is an element of this talent. You can also make checks to enthrall and charm others.
Performer = similar to Musician, except this is more in towards the capacity to act. Performers and Musicians often perform together. Performers do not gain the ability to charm or enthrall, instead they get bonuses to deceive others when acting in a different role, or trick others into thinking they are someone else.
Assassin – You learn the different anatomy of various humanoid creatures. You can attempt to assassinate someone with one hit. You make a hit roll at -13 to hit. If you hit, you kill the creature Outright. This CANNOT be a hit modified by magical means. You can reduce this penalty by .1 for every rank (so if you stayed in the profession, you would have a -12 to hit on assassination at Rank K, a -11 to hit on assassination at Rank U, and -10 when you finally get to first level). This creature must be humanoid. Demonic, undead, Elemental, and Giant Creatures are IMMUNE to this ability. You are also very skilled at knowing the anatomy of various different humanoid creatures (including giant, demonic, and undead humanoids).
Stoneworker – You have the ability to engineer and work great buildings out of stone, or carve caves and tunnels right from the earth. You also have the ability to create stone sculptures of great value.
Leatherworker – You are able to craft leather with great ability, make clothes, armor, create saddle and bridles, as well as identify all sorts of hides and animals. You can use this skill also to be able to identify any sort of creature that has a skin…as well as attempt to make it into some sort of useful leather item (like leather armor…though zombie skin might take an Epic check of something like 75).
Healer – The single most useful ability, you can use the Heal skill starting at first level. You gain bonuses in this skill at +1 per rank. In addition, you can heal HP during a short rest at 1 HP per rank you achieve as a Healer. Finally, you can use this skill to diagnose disease and to heal disease or fix broken limbs, cure blindness, etc.
Obviously, some of these abilities, professions, and talents may be considered overpowered by your DM for the campaign. These are considered bonuses for making it all the way through Minion status (and it can be VERY easy to DIE in the first portion of Minion status, or even later on, especially with the I Have the Power usage).
AS stated before, all bonuses are rounded down, and are final upon reaching first level. So if you had a +2.4 for damage, then it would be rounded to +2 damage at first level, and that would be the final bonus from your Minion days.
Finally, with Professions, you can gain Multi-professions. If you wish to switch professions, you do so at the next rank you get. Each profession has talent points that go into it. You get ONE talent point per rank. So You could be an Assassin 4/Guardsman 5 and get the appropriate .1 bonuses from each…though both would be useless at that point (remember bonuses are rounded down) if you were an Assassin 10/Guardsman 10 you would have a palpable bonus from each at rank T.
This can be more beneficial with Talent usage when used as skills. For example a Healer 5/Musician 6/Herbalist 7 (you would be a rank R character for these points) would have a +5 on diagnosing a disease on a skill/Talent check, a +6 to charm someone with their music, and a +7 on trying to make a healing salve that would heal an additional +1 when using a healing surge during a short rest. If and when you get to first level, these could be used the the By the Power of GreyHawk to give a +10 bonus, a +12 bonus, and a +14 bonus on those checks.
Once again, hopefully people find this idea useful and perhaps can polish up the writing and prose…even better, submit it to Dragon or something to get it in print! At least leave feedback on what you think of these rules for 0 Level characters.