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So You Think You Can Homebrew? (3.5e)
So, you think you have what it takes to make some quality content? You think your ideas are solid, your mechanics are balanced, and your fluff is more flavorful than thanksgiving dinner? I hope so. Here's how we do it. Every step of this tutorial is a section of the pre-load for making a 3.5e Base Class. If you're having trouble with flavor in a section, this guide should point you in the right direction. If you are having trouble with formatting, this should help out there too. With that, let's begin.
Name of Class
As you might guess, on your base class you should fill in the name of your class. The paragraph directly under the name of you class, the equivalent of where this text is, should be a brief intro of your class. Some folks like to paint a little picture of their class in action, with a story. For example: "Bromir stepped into the woods, sunlight shining down through the canopy, bathing the glade in a warm glow. He strode confidently to the center of the clearing, and knocked an arrow in his bow. He was ready to rain down a hail of arrows on anyone who dared enter his forest uninvited" Others like to describe the origins of the class. For example, "Forest Avengers are a proud bunch of warriors who live in harmony with trees. Every forest avenger chooses a single type of tree at birth, and uses only wood of that tree for his bow and arrows. With supreme dedication to archery, a forest avenger can truly become a force to be reckoned with". Naturally, both of these examples are too short, and you would want to fluff your class out a little more. A combination of the two types, or use of a different intro style is also quite common.
Making a Class
Abilities: This section is where the crunch of your class begins to take place. Key abilities associated with your class should be mentioned first. Again, while simply stating "Dexterity is the most important ability of a Forest Avenger", adding in a little flavor never hurt anyone. You are expected to mention the two most important abilities associated with your class, as well as a common "dump stat". It is not advised you outright call it a "dump stat". Try wording it as "Charisma is traditionally the lowest stat of a forest avenger"
Races: Next up comes races. When mentioning races, try to stick mostly to SRD races. If you have designed a special homebrew race to go perfectly with your class it is ok to mention it, but you should still mention races as they come from the Player's Handbook. Try to categorize your class in a vague way, and see what race has a Favored Class that would match your class. While you need not mention all of the major races, you should mention two or three good racial matches, as well as one who is typically ill-suited to be your class.
Alignment: This section describes the common alignments of your class. naturally, a class like a paladin would be restriced to a specific alignment. Because most base classes are not so restrictive, just give a simple sentence saying something like "Forest avengers often lean toward a more chaotic alignment, because they follow the law of nature over the law of man. However, because forest avengers often quest with the best interest of their home glade at heart, many find themselves to be Good or Neutral. While these are the more common alignments, just as there are dark scary forests, there are dark scary forest avengers. Evil aligned forest avengers, while uncommon, are not unheard of."
Starting Gold: This is simple math. Nothing too complex here. Recall back to races, when you thought of a general type of class for your common races. If you are making a thief-styled class, you probably want your starting gold to be similar to a rogue's. If you've created a rough and tumble melee class, consider matching your starting gold to a barbarian or fighter. As my example has been a very woodsy archer, I'm going to make my starting gold something in the range of a druid's.
For a more complete overview of how tables work, check out <Trouble with tables, when I get around to writing it>. With that said, there are a few things to keep in mind when making a base class table. first, Base Attack Bonus. Base attack bonus, BAB for short, is a pretty hard line. If you are building a melee fighter, odds are he's got the primo BAB (+20/+15/+10/+5 at level 20). If you are making a full spell caster odds are high you have given him the wizard's poor BAB (+10/+5). If you have something in the middle, you've probably got the rogue's BAB (+15/+10/+5). It is important to pick which progression you want, and then follow it. If you don't recall the pattern, check another class when writing your table. Secondly, saves. Most classes have either one or two high saves (+12 at level 20), and either two or one low save (+6), respectively. Some classes have three high saves, and off the top of my head I can't think of any with 3 low saves, but they may exist. Just as you did with BAB, look up the progression of saves and keep it standardized with the SRD. Don't forget to modify your HD, and class skills, which are also in this main table.
Here is where you are going to start listing all the neat things your class can do. If you have created a spell caster, here is where you will list his spells. The same is true for Psionics users. It is convention to select a gender (either male or female, your choice) and use that gender for pronouns throughout the class. Instead of saying "At level 10 a forest avenger gets pass without trace, that means you can walk without leaving tracks" say "At level 10 a forest avenger gets pass without trace. That means he can walk without leaving tracks". Avoid using "you", and especially avoid "he or she". Don't forget to include your class' weapon and armor proficiencies in this section.
When adding class features, you want to be careful with placement. If you put all the features in the first five levels, no one will take the other fifteen. This is called "front-loading" and is very bad technique. If you make the last five the only ones worth having, no one will want to spend the first fifteen getting there. Logically, this is called "back-loading", and although less common, is also bad technique. Beyond just fun, mechanically, balance is important too. You should be aware that a second level character should not be getting a 10d6 sneak attack. I know sometimes you can run out of steam with class features, and want to just move on. If you can only think of a few class features, perhaps your idea would be better suited as a 10 level prestige class. If you can't think of enough ideas to span even 10 levels, you'll want to hold off writing until you can think of more. I know this section can get long, especially if you're writing like twenty class features. Trust me when I tell you, it's worth it to see the finished product. Keep at it, and as with any other page, you can always go to the talk page and ask for suggestions or other help.
Not every class has an "Ex-option". If your class has a restricted alignment, or other rules, you need to say what happens when they violate the alignment, and what the consequences are. Often authors will include a way to atone for mistakes and "get right with God", and enable you to resume taking class levels again.
Constructing epic classes should be a cake walk considering you just wrote twenty levels of a class. If you have created a pattern, like ever four levels something happens, keep that going. If you were writing new class ideas for every single level, consider making a list of bonus feats you can take as you progress into epic levels.
Race Class Starting Package
Just as in the Player's Handbook, we expect you to write a starting package. This generally consists of a first level feat, and a bonus feat if your race is human, and skill selection. Add on a few items and a weapon and armor choice and this section pretty much writes itself. There isn't much need for fluff here, this is pretty bare-bones..
Remember how starting packages don't have a lot of fluff? Was that upsetting to you? Here is your chance to add all the fluff you can manage. Jot down a few opening sentences, then get started into the major groups.
Playing a Class
Here is where you add the flavor of how to play your class, and what their role in the party will be.
Religion: Just as above, you'll want to write what common religions are for your class. If you can't think of any actual names of deities, just go with a vague belief system.
Other Classes: Here you should add a sentence or three about how your class deals with other classes. One might expect a forest avenger to get along with a druid. Do they? Reading this section should clarify that.
Combat: This sub section tells you how to play your character to it's potential. Give a few tactics, like "Stand in the tree and shoot", as well as some clever ideas like "have a sorcerer cast invisibility on you to get that sneak attack damage in the first round".
Advancement: I know you probably don't want to hear this, but it's unlikely someone will want to play 30 straight levels of your class. I know, I was sad when I realized it too. Here is where you should give some names of classes, both base classes and prestige classes, that would mesh well with your new class.
Class in the World
Really the only thing that should go here is a quote. The tag is built into the pre-load, so just think of something your new class would say, and name the guy who said it.
Daily Life: You should describe how the average class member spends his day. Does he sleep all night and farm all day, or does he sleep during the day, and stand vigilant over the town at night?
Organizations: Some classes have support structures they can lean on if they need it. Does your new class have a local guild they can get help from? Would a thieves guild or druid collective welcome your class?
NPC Reactions: This is what Non-Player Characters think of your class. Are they big scary guys with sharp axes? Do people think they are smart, or bumbling idiots? Would a commoner ask you for help, on cower in fear while in your presence?
Classes in the Game
You may want to add another sentence of fluff here, or you can just skip down into the next section.
Adaptation: Think of how you can adapt this class to fit better in other people's campaigns. Maybe give a sample origin story or two to give readers an idea of what makes your class shine.
Sample Encounter: A brief bit of flavor should appear before your encounter. This might serve as what the DM would read to a party just prior to saying "Let me get your initiatives"
EL #: Encounter scenario and character info on sample NPC including stat block. The CR of the NPC is typically the same as the EL for the encounter.