log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E [+] On Building 5e Classes

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, classes are big. 20 levels, multiple systems intersecting often in different ways from any other class, balance in terms of no class overshadowing another in play, but also balance in terms of people not looking at a class and calling it broken before they ever get it onto a character sheet. In addition to all that, it has to "pop", it has to help create "hell yeah!" moments for the character, it has to have multiple unique hooks, and it has to have a cohesive identity for it's subclasses and for most characters to hook onto and build from.

It's a lot.

But can it be made simpler, or at least less intimidating? Can we device a system by which a class and at least 1 subclass can be built, at least to level 12 let's say, in a day? A week? A few hours?

What would that process look like? Do we break down and separate things like;
  • 1/2 spellcasting
  • full spellcasting
  • half extra attack (all warriors except fighter)
  • full extra attack (fighter)
  • extra attack + a force multiplier
  • Sneak Attack or "nova mechanic" (of which the game currently only has one, but I don't think there has to be only one)
  • Half Sneak Attack or "half nova power" (if the paladin had smite that didn't use a spell slot and either was usable X per day and increased dice or was 1/round at-will but only scaled at high level, it would be a half sneak attack ability)
  • expertise
  • 2 skills
  • 3 skills
  • 4 skills
  • beefy armor and HD package
  • Whatever else needs to be an "item"

If so, can that be done more simply than the point system I've seen passed around online? Could a decent number of people agree on what goes into Major, Moderate, Minor, and Ribbon, fields, and a custom class gets XYZ number of each category?

What does this idea allow?
  • Dual Class/Hybrid/Simpler Multiclass characters, whose class is just "Winter Knight of The Court of Mabd", and gains extra attack, a half nova ability, moderate defense package, and half casting. Or "Fey Master of the School of The Faerie Circle" which has half nova that resembles Sneak Attack and is limited by situationality rather than x/day, some expertise but not full expertise, light defenses with unarmored defense (Int) and solid light weapon proficiencies, half casting and ritual casting with a spell book, and a couple minor abilities that help it feel light on it's feet and hard to pin down, basically making Swashbuckler Rogue/Bladesinger Wizard into a class.
  • The player gets to build their class, with the DM. Because the balance of the options and the system is transparent to the player and DM, they can tweak the progression of abilities if it isn't quite doing what was desired.
  • Front loads the work of leveling in a classless system, while still being simpler than actual classless systems (ie, you choose x major, y moderate, z minor, and pepper with ribbons as appropriate but no more than 3 in one tier, and no ribbons in a tier following a 3 ribbon tier. If needed, 2 minors can be traded for 1 moderate, but that moderate should upgrade at a later level to make sure every level has something. that's the system. You look at the list of features in each category, there are notes on what each accomplishes and what narratives and play styles they lend themselves to, and you build your class.)

Any thoughts? Note, + thread. I'm fine with "I don't think I'd use it, but" replies, but not "this is a bad idea and you should stop" replies.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Forgot, probably the guidelines would include picking a basic chassis in terms of what levels you gain your subclass, whether your identity lives primarily in class or subclass, etc.

I think a half caster with a form of sneak attack would be really fun, with subclasses that take both into account.

Could you mix extra attack with half nova? Probably, that's close to what the paladin is, just don't quite throw so much additional power on top of that into it! Hmmm...I'm actually kinda doing that with my Archer class.
 

Would you be looking at trying to break down the current classes into their components, on the assumption that they're all balanced against each other?
Or are you looking at a more "eyeball it" attitude towards whether one class is balanced against another?
Are you separating the three pillars out, or does a character being weak at two of the pillars justify overwhelming power in one?

What is the typical adventuring day that we are balancing at-will/Short res/Long rest powers around?

I'd suggest for example, that half-casting is worth less than half or what full-casting is. Maybe 1/3rd.
Also that Sneak Attack is very much not a nova mechanic. Its a steady, sustained level of damage, which should be given less of a weighting than damage that can be called up on demand like a Paladin's smites, or full spellcasting.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
I like the idea, full stop. I've advocated in the past for a 5e model with more classes, but the classes are simpler with less decision points during the leveling process. More of an AD&D model than the 3e model. Using that kind of a template combined with a "class construction guide" could empower both players (who can design a class to fit their exact conception of a character) and DMs (who can design classes to model concepts within their setting.)

Personally, I'd argue that you can build classes without the need to hold subclasses, they simply need more features (or stronger or scaling features) to fill in the gaps.

I think the types of features you broke down in the all make sense. Special abilities like wild shape (moon druid strength, normal wild shape not so much) and warlock invocations might need to be considered as specific builds. Like, a simple invocation like Agonizing Blast completely changes the at-will attack profile of the class, which should impact the number of other features it should receive.

Spell list access is also a key factor in balancing what other features can be received. Just limiting to existing spell lists is probably the easiest approach to balance, especially when access to just a few of the most useful and powerful spells can be class defining.
 

I don't know about getting it all down to one 'class', but you could probably get it down to three:

1. Full caster, getting additional minor abilities at set levels. With a robust list of options, you could do a lot here. The tricky part would be figuring out how to handle spell lists. They need to work before you know theme, flavor, or playstyle, but jst giving them access to any spell will make unbalanced spells more obvious than they already are.

2. Non-caster. You'd probably want a few options for 'defense mode' (armor/dodging/toughness/warding) and something like a fighting style but bigger. (ie rage, sneak attack, extra attacks). Then a few modular options like maneuvers or static bonuses. I'd be generous with skills for any non-caster - fighters getting six skills at level one wouldn't be a problem.

3. Half-caster would likely need to be it's own thing, progression-wise, but could borrow from and expand on the first two.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Would you be looking at trying to break down the current classes into their components, on the assumption that they're all balanced against each other?
Or are you looking at a more "eyeball it" attitude towards whether one class is balanced against another?
Are you separating the three pillars out, or does a character being weak at two of the pillars justify overwhelming power in one?

What is the typical adventuring day that we are balancing at-will/Short res/Long rest powers around?

I'd suggest for example, that half-casting is worth less than half or what full-casting is. Maybe 1/3rd.
Also that Sneak Attack is very much not a nova mechanic. Its a steady, sustained level of damage, which should be given less of a weighting than damage that can be called up on demand like a Paladin's smites, or full spellcasting.

I like the idea, full stop. I've advocated in the past for a 5e model with more classes, but the classes are simpler with less decision points during the leveling process. More of an AD&D model than the 3e model. Using that kind of a template combined with a "class construction guide" could empower both players (who can design a class to fit their exact conception of a character) and DMs (who can design classes to model concepts within their setting.)

Personally, I'd argue that you can build classes without the need to hold subclasses, they simply need more features (or stronger or scaling features) to fill in the gaps.

I think the types of features you broke down in the all make sense. Special abilities like wild shape (moon druid strength, normal wild shape not so much) and warlock invocations might need to be considered as specific builds. Like, a simple invocation like Agonizing Blast completely changes the at-will attack profile of the class, which should impact the number of other features it should receive.

Spell list access is also a key factor in balancing what other features can be received. Just limiting to existing spell lists is probably the easiest approach to balance, especially when access to just a few of the most useful and powerful spells can be class defining.

I don't know about getting it all down to one 'class', but you could probably get it down to three:

1. Full caster, getting additional minor abilities at set levels. With a robust list of options, you could do a lot here. The tricky part would be figuring out how to handle spell lists. They need to work before you know theme, flavor, or playstyle, but jst giving them access to any spell will make unbalanced spells more obvious than they already are.

2. Non-caster. You'd probably want a few options for 'defense mode' (armor/dodging/toughness/warding) and something like a fighting style but bigger. (ie rage, sneak attack, extra attacks). Then a few modular options like maneuvers or static bonuses. I'd be generous with skills for any non-caster - fighters getting six skills at level one wouldn't be a problem.

3. Half-caster would likely need to be it's own thing, progression-wise, but could borrow from and expand on the first two.
I think that what I’m looking to do is figure out how much space each class part takes up, so that if you have a concept that would normally be like a Monk/Paladin or something, you’re gonna give up some parts, and probably either have ki or spells slots and figure out how many spell slot levels a ki point is worth, or soemthing, but if a feature from Druid makes the build come together, and is within the category budget you have left, then you can just add it. If not, you have to figure out what to get rid of to make room for it. In the end, you have an Avenger class, tailored as close as possible to your vision of an Avenger, with Unarmored Defense, Martial Arts, ki and ki features, no Spellcasting, smite that costs x ki, and Druid cantrips. (Note, I’ve no clue if that would be doable yet, since I haven’t built the system yet, it’s just an example).
 

I think that what I’m looking to do is figure out how much space each class part takes up, so that if you have a concept that would normally be like a Monk/Paladin or something, you’re gonna give up some parts, and probably either have ki or spells slots and figure out how many spell slot levels a ki point is worth, or soemthing,
If it helps, Ki points are directly equivalent to spell points, which can then be converted to spell slots using the known table. Monks are literally short-rest based half-casters based on the amount of Ki points they have and the spells they can cast using them.
 

I think that what I’m looking to do is figure out how much space each class part takes up, so that if you have a concept that would normally be like a Monk/Paladin or something, you’re gonna give up some parts, and probably either have ki or spells slots and figure out how many spell slot levels a ki point is worth, or soemthing, but if a feature from Druid makes the build come together, and is within the category budget you have left, then you can just add it. If not, you have to figure out what to get rid of to make room for it. In the end, you have an Avenger class, tailored as close as possible to your vision of an Avenger, with Unarmored Defense, Martial Arts, ki and ki features, no Spellcasting, smite that costs x ki, and Druid cantrips. (Note, I’ve no clue if that would be doable yet, since I haven’t built the system yet, it’s just an example).
If you get the two other down pat, I think the half-caster becomes a lot easier to put together. You just get half-caster slots, a 'fighting style' (in this example Martial arts), a defense mode (in this case either dodging or magical warding) and a bunch of options that could be caster features or martial features or special half-caster features (ie smites) at your option.

The half-caster ends up with a ton of options, but it can't cover wizards or non-casters, so you have three classes.

The progression would look like:

1. attack mode, defense mode
2. 1st-level spells, source (where you get your magic, basically an archetype) feature
3. special feature (pick a caster, noncaster, or halfcaster feature)
4. ASI
5. 2nd-level spells
6. source feature
7. special feature
8 ASI
9. 3rd-level spells
10. source feature
11. special feature
12. ASI

(repeat the last four two more times)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Would you be looking at trying to break down the current classes into their components, on the assumption that they're all balanced against each other?
Mostly. The classes aren’t really balanced, but they all have a way to do roughly spell level appropriate damage reliably, ways to defend, major defining features and features that support those features, ribbons, etc.
Or are you looking at a more "eyeball it" attitude towards whether one class is balanced against another?
More this. Half casting seems to roughly equal the fighters additional extra attacks and action surge, judging by class design in the phb, for instance.
Are you separating the three pillars out, or does a character being weak at two of the pillars justify overwhelming power in one?
Definitely rough balance in each pillar is the ideal.
What is the typical adventuring day that we are balancing at-will/Short res/Long rest powers around?
I’d say probably per the PHB, with options to change short rest abilities to proficiency per day abilities? Or advice that if you do short days you should make short rests 5-20 minutes rather than an hour.
I'd suggest for example, that half-casting is worth less than half or what full-casting is. Maybe 1/3rd.
That’s probably fair. However, whate does that put it in a “major, moderate, minor, ribbon” categorization? Moderate, alongside extra attack?
Also that Sneak Attack is very much not a nova mechanic. Its a steady, sustained level of damage, which should be given less of a weighting than damage that can be called up on demand like a Paladin's smites, or full spellcasting.
Sneak attack is a nova, it’s just situational (you nova on a crit, and should have advantage pretty often) rather than controlled by a limited resource.

It’s equal to extra attack and a moderate feature, I’d say.
I like the idea, full stop. I've advocated in the past for a 5e model with more classes, but the classes are simpler with less decision points during the leveling process. More of an AD&D model than the 3e model. Using that kind of a template combined with a "class construction guide" could empower both players (who can design a class to fit their exact conception of a character) and DMs (who can design classes to model concepts within their setting.)

Personally, I'd argue that you can build classes without the need to hold subclasses, they simply need more features (or stronger or scaling features) to fill in the gaps.
I think that is a doable goal as an addition to my primary goal of less weird and kludgey multiclassing/mixing mechanics to suit a concept.
I think the types of features you broke down in the all make sense. Special abilities like wild shape (moon druid strength, normal wild shape not so much) and warlock invocations might need to be considered as specific builds. Like, a simple invocation like Agonizing Blast completely changes the at-will attack profile of the class, which should impact the number of other features it should receive.
Absolutely.
Spell list access is also a key factor in balancing what other features can be received. Just limiting to existing spell lists is probably the easiest approach to balance, especially when access to just a few of the most useful and powerful spells can be class defining.
Agreed.
If it helps, Ki points are directly equivalent to spell points, which can then be converted to spell slots using the known table. Monks are literally short-rest based half-casters based on the amount of Ki points they have and the spells they can cast using them.
For sure, although it’s worth noting that satisfying play doesn’t quite translate with direct spell point math. IIRC the 4elements monk costs its spells using direct spell point to slot conversion, and nearly everyone agrees that it runs out way too fast for what you get out of using the disciplines, while other subclasses that instead convert at 1ki/spell level are generally considered satisfying and fun.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
If you get the two other down pat, I think the half-caster becomes a lot easier to put together. You just get half-caster slots, a 'fighting style' (in this example Martial arts), a defense mode (in this case either dodging or magical warding) and a bunch of options that could be caster features or martial features or special half-caster features (ie smites) at your option.

The half-caster ends up with a ton of options, but it can't cover wizards or non-casters, so you have three classes.

The progression would look like:

1. attack mode, defense mode
2. 1st-level spells, source (where you get your magic, basically an archetype) feature
3. special feature (pick a caster, noncaster, or halfcaster feature)
4. ASI
5. 2nd-level spells
6. source feature
7. special feature
8 ASI
9. 3rd-level spells
10. source feature
11. special feature
12. ASI

(repeat the last four two more times)
I’m not currently thinking in terms of a class, but will have to at some point. Part of my worry is that Warlock and Artificer weird their class chassis. I’m not sure if you could mix Invocations with Wizard Spellcasting, for instance. Nor am I sure that Artificer actually gives anything up overall to get cantrips and Spellcasting at level 1. Maybe Extra Attack? Actually yeah...we can separate Spellcasting and Cantrips and Ritual Casting into their own features. I don’t think that it would be a problem to have a character with Full Spellcasting, no cantrips, and Extra Attack, with the Druid’s spell list, for instance.

Spellcasting has a system for mixing different levels, which is the multiclass table. I’m confident we can use that to figure out a 2/3 caster,
 

cbwjm

Hero
No idea what the points based system is but I typically have a basic layout based on whether it is non-caster, half-caster, or full-caster.

LevelMartialHalf-CasterFull-Caster
1Class Defining AbilitiesClass Defining AbilitiesClass Defining Abilities
2Class/SubclassClass/SubclassClass/Subclass
3Class/SubclassClass/SubclassClass/Subclass
4ASIASIASI
5Combat BoostCombat Boost-
6SubclassSubclassSubclass
7ClassClass-
8ASIASIASI
9Class--
10SubclassSubclassSubclass
11Combat BoostCombat Boost-
12ASIASIASI

Class Defining Abilities. This could be a subclass (especially if more weight is on the subclass) or general class abilities. I often place the subclass at 1st level as I like the subclass abilities to be available from the start.
Class/Subclass. Sometimes I will have the next subclass ability available at 2nd or 3rd level. If no subclass then it will be a general class ability like second wind, action surge, or arcane recovery.
Class. This is where the overall class grants an ability.
Subclass. With rare exceptions, these are the levels that I will grant a subclass ability. Normally only changes if I'm using something like paladin as the basis for a class like Death Knight which gains subclass abilities at 7th and an aura at 6th.

Ribbons/Minor Abilities. For the half-caster and full-caster, they have levels where they gain an additional spell level. I will typically not grant them additional abilities unless it is a ribbon or an ability with limited utility (such as turn undead, great when you fight them, but the upgrade of the turn ability isn't super strong).

Using this structure, I find I can throw together the basics of a class fairly quickly.
Combat Boost. At 5th level this is probably Extra Attack. At 11th it is something like improved smite or a defensive bonus.
 

That’s probably fair. However, whate does that put it in a “major, moderate, minor, ribbon” categorization? Moderate, alongside extra attack?
I'd say half-casting is moderate alongside extra attack in the combat pillar, but it is also moderate in the social and exploration pillars as well, which extra attack isn't.

Sneak attack is a nova, it’s just situational (you nova on a crit, and should have advantage pretty often) rather than controlled by a limited resource.
I think that we're using "nova" differently. To me, nova means a source of additional damage that you can call upon to do additional damage above your baseline when you really need it.
So Divine Smite is nova, as is action surge and BM SD, and primary spellcasting. I would not consider sneak attack nova because it is (generally) baseline damage and extra burst from it (crits and most off-turn attacks) are random, and cannot be called on when you really need it.

How are you using nova to mean?

For sure, although it’s worth noting that satisfying play doesn’t quite translate with direct spell point math. IIRC the 4elements monk costs its spells using direct spell point to slot conversion, and nearly everyone agrees that it runs out way too fast for what you get out of using the disciplines, while other subclasses that instead convert at 1ki/spell level are generally considered satisfying and fun.
That is the difference between using a formula based on existing costs, and eyeballing it.
By the numbers breakdown, 4E Monks are just half-casters like Paladins and Rangers. The issue is partly the issue of most adventuring days don't fit the shrt rests that balance would require.
However it is mostly that the 4E Monk fantasy (particularly Avatar-style benders) is almost that of a primary caster, and its "spell list" generally matches that.
But a half-caster cannot operate as a full caster, particularly if it is being further shorted by lack of short rests.
Rangers and Paladins use mostly buff and utility spells: - They can't operate as offensive casters either.
If there was a monk class with the same Ki levels and costs as the 4E monk, but its spells were buffs and utility like Hex, Shield of Faith, Bless etc, that monk would probably be fine. (Or at least better than the 4E).

Class features that synergise well are better than ones that don't even if they add up to the same "feature budget".
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I'd say half-casting is moderate alongside extra attack in the combat pillar, but it is also moderate in the social and exploration pillars as well, which extra attack isn't.

I think that we're using "nova" differently. To me, nova means a source of additional damage that you can call upon to do additional damage above your baseline when you really need it.
So Divine Smite is nova, as is action surge and BM SD, and primary spellcasting. I would not consider sneak attack nova because it is (generally) baseline damage and extra burst from it (crits and most off-turn attacks) are random, and cannot be called on when you really need it.

How are you using nova to mean?
It’s a significant damage spike. Rogues benefit more than anyone else from reaction attacks, and IME have advantage for most attacks. That means they get crits more often, and double their per/round damage frequently via reaction attacks.

I don’t see how controlling when it happens is relevant to whether it’s a nova.
That is the difference between using a formula based on existing costs, and eyeballing it.
By the numbers breakdown, 4E Monks are just half-casters like Paladins and Rangers.
Yes, like I said. Ki are probably valued incorrectly, however. Ie, short rest spell points are valued wrong.
The issue is partly the issue of most adventuring days don't fit the shrt rests that balance would require.
However it is mostly that the 4E Monk fantasy (particularly Avatar-style benders) is almost that of a primary caster, and its "spell list" generally matches that.
But a half-caster cannot operate as a full caster, particularly if it is being further shorted by lack of short rests.
Rangers and Paladins use mostly buff and utility spells: - They can't operate as offensive casters either.
If there was a monk class with the same Ki levels and costs as the 4E monk, but its spells were buffs and utility like Hex, Shield of Faith, Bless etc, that monk would probably be fine. (Or at least better than the 4E).

Class features that synergise well are better than ones that don't even if they add up to the same "feature budget".
The 4elements monk mostly just needs the same ki/spell level cost as every other Spellcasting monk (1/spell level), and some disciplines that use and add to the attack action, rather than pretty much entirely ones that replace it.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Okay okay. I think each category should have a mark for “this is stronger than other traits of this category”. I’ll use an * here to show what I mean. The rule might be that if you pick a * Major Trait, you cannot pick a Moderate * Trait, or something like that.

Major Traits
  • Full Casting*
  • 2/3 Casting (a new thing to give a little more freedom, since part of the point here is to replace multiclassing
  • Extra Attack (full Fighter progression)* ?
Moderate Traits
  • Extra Attack (basic)
  • Sneak Attack
  • Half Casting
  • Half Casting (Artificer)*
  • Fighting Style
  • Martial Arts
  • Ki
Minor Traits
  • 1/3 Casting (*?)
  • Half-progression Sneak Attack (caps at 5d6)
Ribbons
  • Natural Explorer*

That should give roughly an idea of what things “cost”. I’d say for the level 1 package, you just pick one from an existing class, but you can swap like proficiencies (rogue gives rapier, you could swap that for longbow, or swap thieves tools for tinker tools, or swap stealth for Arcana, etc)

Now, what is the best way to determine how to use this to make a class? Build some multiclass builds that aren’t overpowered and compare them to different combinations?
What I’d like is the following:

At Level 1 you choose a starting package from an existing class.

from level 1-3, you gain a subclass, and X Major Traits, Y Moderate Traits, Z Minor Traits. (repeat for level 4-7, 8-12, 13-16, and 17-20.

Generally, a Moderate Trait is worth half of a Major Trait, and a minor Trait is worth half of a Moderate Trait. Most classes have either 1 Major Trait, or 2 Moderate Traits by level 3.

Some features determine what level they are gained at, while others can be moved around. Each trait also shows what level it is gained at normally, in existing classes.

You can only have [1 or 2] Major Traits in a class.

Subclass: Choose a subclass progression. Each one shows roughly how much of your feature budget should be in your subclass.

So a step by step that just shows you what there is still room for when you’ve chosen a given set of features. So, if you take full casting, you won’t have as many moderate traits throughout your progression.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The simplest way to make class design easier is to just bake subclasses into the main class.
Or prescribe how many moderate and minor traits you can have in a subclass depending on what level you get your subclass.

But for a single character, yeah maybe.
 

Additional feats like the Rogue and Fighter get. - Minor traits you reckon?
Mathematically, full Sneak Attack progression keeps up with Fighter Extra Attack progression, all else being equal.
Fighting style seems Minor at best.
 
Last edited:

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Additional feats like the Rogue and Fighter get. - Minor traits you reckon?
Hmmm. Yeah, I don’t think the average feat is equal to half casting, so probably minor.

Unless you look at them as a package of extra feats, in which case the fighter package might be moderate.
 

Hmmm. Yeah, I don’t think the average feat is equal to half casting, so probably minor.

Unless you look at them as a package of extra feats, in which case the fighter package might be moderate.
Good point. Getting a costing for feats would be useful though because abilities like extra skills, expertise, Fighting style can be costed roughly based on being able to pick them up via feats.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Good point. Getting a costing for feats would be useful though because abilities like extra skills, expertise, Fighting style can be costed roughly based on being able to pick them up via feats.
Yeah, and feats have a range themselves, as well.

But if we look at it that way...yeah, expertise is probably equal to a feat, if we look at prodigy or skill expert. So is the Rogue’s “2 extra skills and thieves tools”, probably. So, yeah, each extra feat I’d say is a Minor Trait, but I’d say that if you are getting full fighter extra feats, that’s a moderate trait at least?
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top