Been thinking long and hard about the first time I brought this class up - I really appreciated your points and suggestions for alternatives - BUT I honestly fee as if the class (and the Warlock class, while I'm thinking about it) can be justifiably included - but I'd like your input. Ease of creation, balancing and interest in the class are discussed here.
SO - the aim of this (admittedly long winded) post is to Justify the class, discuss how it could work in game and RP terms, and discuss how it could be built.
Overview of class:
- Basically a Cleric with a very limited spell selection solely focused on party/individual buffs
- A Bard with better weapon proficiencies but no thieving/mage spells
- A fighter with better utility, but poorer combat skill
Basing off this guy here: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/ex/20030906b
Fighter (Should ensure we don't get issues of blunt weapons becoming available to all Cleric kits, for example. Or is it more a Paladin Class? as long as you can open other available alignments to a Kit, which I assume you can, judging by Blackguard, then it might be easier, considering it already has the proficiency restrictions)
d8 (should be possible to replicate? the Dragon Disciple has greater hd than the class it comes from, so if this was a fighter class, could it have less hd than the class it comes from?
Con (14+?), Int (12+?), Cha (14+?) (Int and Cha don't change anything in the class - Much like Cha for Druids now - but just adds to the fluff of being a capable leader)
All (would some races not have military leaders/bother with military leaders?)
Buffer/Support fighter, one that would spend the first seconds of combat buffing the party, then charging in to assist in the fighting.
The Marshal is defined by the ability to create 'Auras' that buff parties, how could this be replicated in BG? My idea was that, to keep it simple in creating the class, one a day inherent abilities unlock (Similar to Bhallspawn abilities) that focus on buffing teammates mainly, with the occasional debuff on enemies (Thinking over the course of the class progression there being 90% buffs and 10% debuffs, or just 100% buffing?)
Extra Marshal abilities could unlock every 3-4 levels, so by the level cap, we're looking at maybe 10 different abilities. Maybe the gap between abilities could widen as the hero levels up? would have to review the buffs to ensure that some will still be useful at high levels, but at the same time won't be overpowered. Maybe a couple of awesome ones in the last 8 levels of the hero just to justify the class?
Marshals have basic military training - this could be replicated by limiting proficiency points to two per weapon, and maybe limiting armour to scale/chain to represent the more tactical role of them. Also, less HD is a fairly big hit for a fighter class, even if they're not the first to enter a combat. Barbarians balance poorer armour with more HD, Marshals have Poorer armour and poorer HD, but the balance is the abilities.
Why Not a Bard?
Why not indeed? A Bard has low to fair combat ability, compared to other classes (certain Kits make the bard pretty deadly, in fact) His song buffs allies (or debuffs in the much undervalued Jester class) and he can cast spells, so you could include party buffing ones in there. When I brought this Marshal class up before, people suggested a Skald, which I happily used for a playthrough, and really enjoyed, I can see the similarities with what I wanted.
The problem is with the Bard (And this is a very rare problem in the Bards case) is that he's too good at some things to justify being a Marshal, and not good enough in other areas to justify being a Marshal. For example, his spellcasting is only really limited by the amount he can cast. I don't want a capable magic user. His combat skills and armour choices aren't good enough to combine into the buffer warrior I want (unless you get some Elven Chainmail) and the bard song (that you have to use while NOT swinging a blade...) and thief abilities don't match the feel of an inspiring military combat leader. I want a fighter who has sacrificed extended combat prowess to help his friends work better as a unit. I don't want a jack of all trades, master of none character, I want a mid tier fighter who is a master of buffing his team mates while holding his own in combat - and one that can use a shield if he wants too, as well.
Why Not a Cleric?
A fine question - Clerics can buff, heal and support their friends in combat. They can wear all the armour a fighter can, and can hold their own in a combat situation.
But again, there's too much of one thing, and not enough of another. The Cleric can buff, heal, damage and debuff foes. I want a character who is completely focused on making combat situations easier for his party - I don't want him summoning Skeletons while holy smiting and mass healing. Also, I want my leader to have at least a basic training or potential in all weapons. I don't want a religious restriction preventing him using a longsword, for example.
Why Not a Paladin?
A Paladin would be an almost perfect choice in theory - A fighter, less proficiencies sacrificed for other abilities, a fairly big set of stat prerequisites, they are generally 'leaders' in a lot of fantasy parties.
...but its a strain on the game in terms of Role Play capabilities. I strongly dislike the idea of a Lawful good character mixing with anyone else but Neutral Goods at most - it just doesn't fit to me to see a Paladin strolling along with say, a bounty hunter, or a Barbarian, or an Inquisitor running around with a Wild mage...you get the idea. Also again, the abilities a paladin has are generally focused on making sure he is self sufficient enough to take on whatever foe he's dedicated to eliminate. Apart from the obvious boon of having a knight that is tailored to take on Demons and Dragons, there's not much else he offers to make the party better. I guess you could say this is the class closest to what I'm after - a Paladin of any possible alignment, with a worse armour selection and health, but with the offset of some party buffing that'll keep him and his friends in better shape that some self sufficient Good guy.
Why Not Just a Fighter?
The fighter himself fills most of the roles I suppose, I mean, if your CHARNAME was a fighter, he may get some Bhaalspawn abilities that can do a few of the things you'd want in a buffer/debuffer I guess. He would lead from the front too.
...but now he's too GOOD a fighter and not good enough as a support. I don't want someone who is the first man there, staring that Beholder right in the eye(s), swinging his two hander before he can disintegrate him. I want someone who sees the Beholder, assesses the situation, thinks 'now how can I make sure my friends aren't going to get disintegrated?' and buffs them to give them that extra +1 in a saving roll. THEN he draws his bow, or runs to fight with his two handed sword swinging companion.
Justifying his value in the BG game setting:
There's just...something about the CHARNAME that people fine drawn to, an almost diving aura around him that compels people to gravitate to him, the CHARNAME doesn't know why, or how, but he has the ability to inspire others to fight on when they otherwise would have fallen. His Bhaalspawn heritage makes him a capable leader. It would be a challenge to begin with - I imagine the first abilities he unlocks wouldn't be particularly useful, or abilities that other classes have space for, such as remove fear. In fact, in BG 1, he may prove to be like the Monk - poor until the final quarter of the game. But, come that final quarter, your Marshal might have one or two abilities that can genuinely assist you - Defensive Harmony, or Horror, for example
The Marshal class could just be called 'Leader' as the set of abilities could easily apply to a Chieftain of a clan, the Leader of a hunting party, or a genius strategist and tactician who leads from the rear.