Class Do's and Don'ts (5e Guideline)

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Class Do's and Dont's[edit]

This covers design errors that are often made. Some of these are conventions (e.g. "round-counting" doesn't break the game but is at odds with 5e design philosophy), whilst others are just wrong.

Terminology
  • Class features are "features", not "abilities" or "skills"
  • Strength, Constitution etc are "abilities", not "stats". "Statistics" refers to all the game numbers of a game entity.
  • "Hit points" - not "health" or "life".
  • Class names are (usually) not proper nouns.
  • Feature names and subclass names are (usually) proper nouns.
  • Spell names are in lower-case italics.

Class Features[edit]

Recharge
  • Wrong: "before needing to take a short/long rest", "between short/long rests", "per short/long rest" - the exact recharge point is ambiguous.
  • Correct: "You need to finish a short/long rest before you can use this feature again" - clearly states when you get the feature back.
Targeting
  • Features and spells can target "creatures", "creatures you choose", "friendly creatures".
  • While creatures can have a "hostile" attitude towards you, you would normally use the phrase "creatures you choose" to avoid ambiguity.
Duration
  • Do use the standardized durations: 1 round, 1 minute (the length of one combat), 10 minutes (one "exploration phase"), 1 hour, etc.
  • Do allow a creature to repeat a saving throw for applying effects on enemies for an indeterminate length.
  • Don't use round-counting, e.g. "lasts for 3 turns", or "1d4 turns". If you must have a variable length, consider using a d6 recharge (the method used in the Monster Manual)
  • Don't have features that last for the duration of the "combat" or "encounter", as this is not defined (but see "1 minute" duration above); similarly do not have "at the start of combat/encounter" (but you could have something trigger on an initiative roll).
Action
  • Don't forget to say how the feature is used. Is it an action, a bonus action, a reaction? Is it triggered on another action, or does it work in a general (non-combat) way?
Damage-for-benefit
  • Be careful with features that grant you a benefit if you take damage, as it's trivial to arrange to be damaged by a willing player or NPC.
  • Do have the benefit only work against the creature that caused the damage.
Regaining hit points
  • Be careful not to disrupt the hit point economy of using hit dice to regain hit points during a short rest. These examples allow a character to regain all their hit points too easily:
    • Don't have unconditional regeneration.
    • Don't have anything "count as" a long rest.
    • Don't have at-will "cure" effects.
  • DO use temporary hit points.
XP and treasure
  • Don't make features that change the way XP or treasure is granted. These rewards are entirely the purview of the DM.
Feats
  • From WoTC: "...never assume that a particular feat will be a part of the game. For instance, a class can't refer to a feat and feats should never be granted as class features."

In general[edit]

  • Do give your class features to help with combat, exploration, and interaction
  • Do think of new class features rather than copying features considered unique to a particular class (e.g. the barbarian's rage)
  • Don't make your class concept too narrow. Particularly when adapting a character from another work of fiction, don't tailor the class to fit that character exactly: pull back and consider a broader scope with options that could make that character.


More tips![edit]

These aren't strict instructions, but may help to make your class feel and look better.

  • Don't invest a lot of writing in describing the effects of edge cases that might never crop up. For example, in one class, I saw a big paragraph about what would happen if they cast a spell without using their focus. Such a situation is a rarity. It would be better to keep the effect of that situation simple, so the class isn't cluttered with nonessential information.

Terminology and Mechanics from Older Editions[edit]

Statistics[edit]

  • Fortitude save - most commonly "Constitution saving throw", but Strength is sometimes more appropriate.
  • Will save - most commonly "Wisdom saving throw", but Charisma or Intelligence are sometimes more appropriate.
  • Reflex save - use "Dexterity saving throw"
  • "DR" (e.g. "10 DR/all") - See damage resistance, PHB p. 197.

Actions[edit]

  • Full round action - not used. For example, characters can make all their available attacks and still move their speed.
  • Move action - not used. Movement is no longer a discreet action.
  • Attack of opportunity - now it's "opportunity attack".
  • Minor action or swift action - use "bonus action"
  • Free action - not used. Examples from SRD:Free Actions: Dropping an item is not an action (while putting one down is an object interaction [p. 190]); dropping prone is part of your movement (p. 190); speaking is "other activity" (p. 190); ending concentration on a spell is not an action (p. 203); casting a quickened spell is a bonus action (p. 102)
  • Immediate action - use "reaction"; don't forget to say what triggers it.

Features[edit]

  • Supernatural, Spell-like and Extraordinary - not used. A spellcasting feature is declared as such, and attacks can be designated as weapon or spell. The actual features have no designation.
  • "Times Per Encounter" - Becomes "Use(s) of this feature is/are restored after a short or long rest."
  • "Times Per Day" - Becomes "Use(s) of this feature is/are restored after a long rest."

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