The XCOM D&D Project Part 5: Soldier Creation and Promotion

This is part 5 in a series. To read part 4, click here.


It’s time to move beyond talking about this project and to start actually working on it! I’m going to create the starting soldier and a couple “classes” as prototypes, and discuss how character progression might work. These “classes” are quickly thrown together so I’ll have a baseline to test, and shouldn’t be seen as a serious attempt to create any sort of balanced or unique character options.

The Starting Soldier

In the newer XCOM games, all soldiers start life equally. They have the same stats as each other and the same abilities. It’s only when they pick a specialization that they begin to diverge from each other. So, to start off I thought it would be a good idea to create the starting soldier. Despite my love of the older XCOM games, I think I’ll use XCOM 2 as inspiration. Starting soldiers should not be particularly good at most things, but also not incompetent. They should have enough hit points that being one-shot will be difficult but not impossible with basic weaponry. In XCOM, basic soldiers only have access to rifles, but because of the fantasy setting I think the soldiers should be given access to a standard melee weapon and a weaker ranged weapon, so that ranged “classes” can shine. I’m currently debating whether or not multiple playable races will exist in this game, so I’m just sticking to the things that would be universal to all characters.

The Soldier

HP 8

Str 10, Dex 10, Con 10, Int 8, Wis 8, Cha 8

Proficiencies: simple and martial weapons

Sword (str-based, 1d6 slashing damage)

Sling (dex-based, 20/60 ft. 1d4 bludgeoning damage)

Overwatch: As an action you can ready an attack. As a reaction you can attack the first enemy that comes into range of your equipped weapon.

The Elite

With the basic soldiers out of the way, it’s time to create the more advanced soldiers. The first I want to create I’m currently calling “the elite,” which serves as a generalist fighter, with armor to improve their survivability. Like XCOM, I want to provide options so that advanced units can progress in divergent ways, so I’m going to experiment with giving units three options every other level, with the level in-between giving a specific ability. Two of the options will be abilities, and the third option will be an ability score increase. In the final version there will probably be more levels, but I want to try out 5 levels before I do any more.

Level Proficiency Abilities Armor Bonus
1 +2 Armor Bonus 1
2 +2 Rooted or Critical Impact 1
3 +2 Indomitable 1
4 +3 Uncanny Dodge or Second Wind 2
5 +3 Evasion 2

Elites gain 2 additional hit points per level.

Armor Bonus: Elites are resilient. Whenever an elite takes damage from a weapon, reduce the damage by their armor bonus.

Rooted: When you move 5 feet or less during your turn, you can make an additional attack as a bonus action and your armor bonus increases by 1 until the start of your next turn.

Critical Impact: Your weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20 and you deal an additional +1 damage to weapon attacks on a roll of 15 or higher.

Indomitable: You can reroll a saving throw that you fail. If you do so, you must use the new roll, and you can't use this feature again for the duration of the mission.

Uncanny Dodge: When an attacker that you can see hits you with an attack, you can use your reaction to halve the attack's damage against you. This ability is limited to three uses per mission.

Second Wind: On Your Turn, you can use a Bonus Action to regain Hit Points equal to 1d8 + your Elite level. You cannot use this feature again for the duration of the mission.

Evasion: When you are subjected to an effect that allows you to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, you instead take no damage if you succeed on the saving throw, and only half damage if you fail.

The Brute

Brutes are powerful soldiers that prioritize melee combat and heavy damage.

Level Proficiency Abilities
1st +2 Reckless Attack
2nd +2 Fast Movement or Unstoppable
3rd +2 Action Surge
4th +3 Shrug it Off or Great Weapon Fighting
5th +3 Extra Attack

Brutes gain 3 additional hit points per level.

Reckless Attack: When you make your first attack on your turn, you can decide to attack recklessly. Doing so gives you advantage on melee weapon attack rolls using Strength during this turn, but attack rolls against you have advantage until your next turn.

Fast Movement: Your speed increases by 10 feet.

Unstoppable: Difficult terrain does not slow your movement and you have advantage on saving throws made to resist the restrained condition.

Action Surge: You can push yourself beyond your normal limits for a moment. On your turn, you can take one additional action on top of your regular action and a possible bonus action. You cannot use this feature again for the duration of the mission.

Shrug it Off: When an attacker that you can see hits you with an attack, you can use your reaction to halve the attack's damage against you. This ability is limited to three uses per mission.

Great Weapon Fighting: When you roll a 1 or 2 on a damage die for an attack you make with a melee weapon that you are wielding with two hands, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll, even if the new roll is a 1 or a 2.

Extra Attack: You can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the attack action on your turn.

The Scout

Scouts are soldiers that prioritize ranged combat and avoiding tricky situations.

Level Proficiency Abilities Pinpoint Strike
1 +2 Pinpoint Strike 2
2 +2 Cunning Action or Escape the Horde 2
3 +2 Elusive 3
4 +3 Archery or Volley 3
5 +3 Blindsense 4

Scouts gain 2 additional hit points per level.

Pinpoint Strike: Whenever you hit a creature and your attack does not have disadvantage, you can spend a pinpoint strike to treat the hit as a critical. You recover pinpoint strikes at the end of a mission.

Cunning Action: You can take a bonus action on each of your turns in combat. This action can be used only to take the dash, disengage, or hide action.

Escape the Horde: Opportunity attacks against you are made with disadvantage.

Elusive: No attack roll has advantage against you while you aren't incapacitated.

Archery: You gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with ranged weapons.

Volley: You can use your action to make a ranged attack against any number of creatures within 10 feet of a point you can see within your weapon’s range. You make a separate attack roll for each target.

Blindsense: If you are able to hear, you are aware of the location of any hidden or invisible creature within 10 feet of you.

Character Advancement

In XCOM, soldiers increase in rank by killing aliens (and through merely participating in missions in older XCOM games). To keep a simple experience system, for now I’ll say that killing an enemy provides 1 XP, and surviving to the end of a mission provides 1 XP. I think requiring 3 + your level XP to advance sounds like a good level flow, but I’ll adjust it as needed once I’m able to playtest (though that’s still far off).

What’s Next

As you probably noticed I left out any sort of spellcasting classes. This isn’t because I don’t plan on having spellcasting classes, but because spellcasting is such a complicated mess that I want to spend more time figuring out how it will work in this game. However, next I want to begin designing some of the enemies that will be encountered in this game. I will probably directly lift a few enemies from the Monster Manual, but I want most to be unique or at least changed a little bit.

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