Class Construction System (3.5e Guideline)
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|This material is published under the OGL|
- 1 Class construction System
- 1.1 Methodology
- 1.2 Base Abilities
- 1.3 Special Abilities
- 1.4 Restrictions
- 1.5 Mystical Abilities
- 1.6 A Bit More Detail
- 1.7 Closing Thoughts
- 1.8 Examples
Class construction System
A Class can be built in any order you wish, but I recommend that you begin by developing a brief overview for your Class. Once you know the basic purpose and characteristics of your Class, it will be easier for you to determine the proper abilities and decide its relative strengths and weaknesses.
Classes are built with this system by means of Class Points, or CP’s. Class attributes are broken down into four different groups: Base Abilities, Special Abilities, Restrictions, and Mystical Abilities. The CP total from each group is added to determine the CP total for your Class, which determines its relative strength. Classes designed to be equivalent to the published Base Classes have a limit of 215 CP. This limit can be adjusted if you want your Class to be weaker or stronger than the published Base Classes.
Important Disclaimer: This system works only to create alternate base classes, not Prestige Classes.
- Determine the Hit Dice for the Class and add the corresponding CP value from Table BA1.
- Determine the Weapon Proficiencies available to the Class and add the corresponding CP value from Table BA2. The proficiency values are cumulative, so if the Class can use all simple weapons plus 4 different martial weapons, the cost would be 14 CP.
- Determine the Armor Proficiencies available to the Class and add the corresponding CP value from Table BA3. The proficiency values are cumulative, so if the Class can use both Light and Medium armor, the cost would be 25 CP. Proficiency with tower shield is not included with the ability to use Shields and must be counted separately.
- Determine how many Class Skills are available to the Class and add 1 CP for each Class Skill. Knowledge Skills are counted as separate skills, so if your Class has access to all Knowledge skills their cost would be 10 CP.
- Determine how many Skill Points are available to the Class at each level and add 8.5 CP for each Skill Point. If using an odd amount of Skill Points, round the CP total up to the next highest number.
- Determine the Attack Bonus progression for the Class and add the corresponding CP value from Table BA6. Low attack progression is equivalent to a Wizard (0,1,1,2,2…), Medium attack progression is equivalent to a Cleric (0,1,2,3,3…), and High attack progression is equivalent to a Fighter (1,2,3,4,5…). For a complete listing of Attack Progressions, see Table E1 in the Extras section.
- Determine the Saving Throw Bonus progression for the Class and add the corresponding CP value from Table BA7. High corresponds to the number of saving throw categories that have a High saving throw progression (2,3,3,4,4…) and Low progression being (0,0,1,1,1…).
Table BA1: Hit Dice
Table BA2: Weapon Proficiency
Table BA3: Armor Proficiency
Table BA4: Class Skills
Table BA5: Skill Points per Level
Table BA6: Attack Progression
Table BA7: Save Progression|
Special Abilities include all of the other abilities available to the Class, except the ability to cast magic or use Psionics (which are covered under Mystical Abilities). Special abilities can include bonuses to attack or saving throws, bonus Feats, new ways to use particular skills, granted languages, exceptional, spell-like, or supernatural abilities, or any other ability that makes the Class unique.
Special Abilities are categorized into two separate types: Normal and Powerful.
- Special Abilities that grant the ability to speak an additional language (such as Druidic) are unique and only cost 1 CP for each language. Otherwise, the Class can grant the ability to learn specific additional languages for no cost.
Normal abilities are classified as any ability slightly stronger, equivalent, or below the power of a standard Feat. Most abilities gained by the different Classes are considered Normal Abilities. A standard Feat is considered a +4 bonus to initiative, a +4 bonus to a single skill or divided among several skills, 3 bonus hit points, a +2 bonus to a single type of save (such as Reflex), a +1 bonus to attack or Armor Class, any Feat, a low level bonus spell or spell-like ability, or a +1 bonus to a single Ability score.
- The ability to cast arcane spells in armor counts as a separate ability for each type of armor that can be ignored (or 4 abilities if able to cast arcane spells using all types of armor and shields).
- Access to a specific Domain of spells and the Domain’s granted ability counts as a Normal Ability, but does not grant the ability to cast any extra spells (see Mystical Abilities below).
- Abilities that increase a number of times as the Class progresses are counted as separate abilities each time the bonus is gained (a Barbarian’s Rage (1/day) and Rage (2/day) are counted as two separate abilities).
Normal abilities cost 1 CP per ability.
Powerful abilities are classified as any ability that is significantly stronger than a normal Feat.
Examples of Powerful Abilities are:
- An ability that grants a bonus Feat or Ability that can be chosen from a list of 3 or more different abilities (such as a Fighter’s bonus Feats or a high-level Rogue’s Special Abilities).
- An ability that changes the character’s creature type or adds a template (such as the Monk’s Perfect Self).
- The ability to Turn or Rebuke Undead or any other ability can affect multiple creatures at once or has an area of effect.
- An ability that grants the use of a spell or spell-like ability at will (such as the Paladin’s Detect Evil ability).
- An ability that grants multiple points of Damage Reduction.
- The ability to gain an animal companion, familiar, mount, or other creature/character that can help the character.
- An ability that grants any type of Spell Resistance.
- An ability that grants any type of Immunity to some type of effect (such as the Paladin’s Aura of Courage or the Monk’s Timeless Body).
- An ability that grants more than 5 points of Energy Resistance.
- Access to a player chosen Domain of spells and the Domain’s granted ability counts as a Powerful Ability, but does not grant the ability to cast any extra spells (see Mystical Abilities).
Powerful abilities cost 2 CP per ability. Powerful Abilities normally do not increase as separate abilities as the Class progresses.
A Powerful ability is roughly equivalent to a +1 level adjustment in Savage Species Creature builder. This allows for additional options:
- Gaze Attacks
- Fast healing 3-
- 10 points of energy resistance (each type separately)-
- Damage reduction 2/magic -
- The ability to cast a spell not available to castors of the same level (within 1 or 2 levels of the spell casting level required)
- five feet of reach-
- 3 skills with a +2 bonus
- Plus 5 Natural armor-
- Climb or Burrow up to 1/2 the character's base land speed-
- Blindsight 30 ft-
- swim speed of up to 30 ft-
- natural poison/ability damage--
- constrict dealing an average of four damage (1d8 or less)-
- fast healing 3-
- Spell like ability usable at will of a level castable by another class at equal level
- Spell resistance (costs an additional cp if it increases by level)
- Some Breath weapons (rules get complicated with those)
Awesome Abilities These abilities cost four CP
- Damage Reduction 2/anything except magic-
- Changing a Creature's type to be undead or incorporeal
Energy drain -- The ability to cast a spell not available to castors of the same level (within 3 or 4 levels of the spell casting level required)
- -You can get this multiple times, its effects stack, for example with a second purchase fast healing 3 would increase to fast healing 6
- --This cost's double if it effects constitution
Determining the Total
Determine the Special Abilities gained by the Class at each level. Total the cost separately for abilities gained from 1st to 5th level, 6th to 10th level, and 11th level and beyond. Multiply the cost of the abilities gained by the Class from 1st to 5th level by 4, abilities gained from 6th to 10th level by 2, but abilities gained from 11th level and beyond are unmodified. Add all three modified totals together. This amount is the CP cost of your Class’ Special Abilities.
In some cases, the Class may have restrictions against alignment or the use of abilities. These restrictions reduce the CP total for the Class depending upon the severity of the restriction. A Class may have as many restrictions as you like, but each restriction needs to be justified and cannot overlap an inherent restriction of an ability unless it significantly increases that restriction (such as the inherent restriction against arcane spell casting in armor). Restrictions on a Special Ability of a Class cannot grant more CP than the cost of the ability itself.
- Weak Restrictions limit the Class in some minor way and grant 4 CP each. Most (if not all) restrictions on Special Abilities are Minor Restrictions. A Weak Alignment Restriction prevents the character from gaining additional levels without removing any of the Class’ abilities. Examples of Weak Restrictions include a Barbarian’s illiteracy, a Bard’s alignment restriction, a Cleric’s inability to cast opposite alignment spells, a ranger's limited animal companion, and a Paladin’s reduced ability to turn undead.
- Average Restrictions limit the Class from a number of abilities and grant 6 CP each. A Limited Alignment Restriction may prevent the gaining of levels and the use of one major or several regular Class’ abilities. A Weak Restriction that affects a majority of the Class’ abilities is also an example of an Average Restriction. Examples include a Bard’s music restriction or the Monk’s armor restriction.
- Strong Restrictions limit the Class severely and grant 8 CP each. A Strong Restriction removes the major ability or abilities of the Class or prevents the character from gaining additional levels if the restriction is abused. A Strong Restriction can affect the abilities of a character temporarily or even permanently. Examples include a Cleric’s alignment restriction, a Druid’s natural armor restriction (due to the stiff 24 hour penalty), or the Paladin’s multiclass restriction.
Determining the Total
Determine all of the Restrictions to the Class and total the amounts gained from each Restriction. This amount is the CP granted from all of your Class’ Restrictions, reducing the overall cost of your Class.
The most problematic ability to quantify is the ability of a Class to use magic or psionics. The ability to cast spells or use psionics grants a Class with a greater amount of versatility than other Special Abilities. Because of the many variables involved with magic, it is harder to calculate the value of magic to a Class. Depending upon what level of spells or abilities are available to the Class and when the Class gains these abilities, Mystical Abilities can cost from a little to a lot of CP. If the Class can use multiple Mystical Abilities, such as being able to cast both Arcane and Divine magic, you must calculate each type of ability separately. Unless modified by another ability, Mystical Abilities have certain inherent restrictions: A spellcaster requires 8 hours of rest and 1 hour of preparation per day to regain or prepare spells. An arcane spellcaster suffers from the possibility of spell failure when casting spells with a somatic component while wearing armor. A psionic Class loses the benefits of the non-psionic buffer. Bonus spells and power points are based upon one of the three non-physical ability scores (Intelligence for the results of training, Wisdom for judgement or common sense, and Charisma for innate, wild, or untrained force of will).
Calculating the CP cost of Mystical Abilities is broken down into separate costs depending upon its type. The CP cost of spellcasting is equal to the Ability Cost plus the Spells / Points Available times the Total Spell Multiplier (or CP = AbC + (S/P x TSM), rounded up). The CP cost of psionic use is equal to the Ability Cost plus the Spells / Points Available times the Total Psionic Multiplier plus the Abilities Known Amount times the Mode Multiplier (or CP = AbC + S/P x TPM + AK x MM, rounded up).
Each portion of the cost is broken down below.
Ability Cost (AbC): Determine the type of ability you are calculating for your Class: Arcane Spell Ability, Divine Spell Ability, or Psionic Ability. Find the relevant cost from Table MA1.
Spells / Points Available (S/P): Determine the total amount per day of spells that can be cast or the psionic power points available to your Class at 20th level, including Domain spells if appropriate. For spellcasting, your S/P is equal to this number. For psionics, your S/P is equal to this number minus 100. Abilities can be laid out in two different ways: Even and Decreasing. Even means that at 20th level, the abilities gained are evenly distributed between the ability levels. Decreasing means that at 20th level, the abilities are distributed in an even, but decreasing manner between the ability levels giving the Class more lower-level abilities than higher level ones. There is no cost difference between the two different forms, but the D&D system generally uses Even distribution for Arcane spellcasting and Decreasing distribution for Divine spellcasting. Domain spells are normally not interchangeable with normal spells and require their own spell slots. Divine Spellcasters with access to Domains must choose how many spells of each level are considered Domain spells, and each spell level must have at least one or more Domain spell slot(s) allocated to it.
Multipliers (TSM, TPM, MM) & Abilities Known (AK): The Total Spell Multiplier, Total Psionic Multiplier, and Mode Multiplier are composed of several different modifiers and have to be calculated by following the steps below. Abilities Known differs depending if you are calculating a spellcasting or psionic ability and is also presented below.
- Start: All multipliers begin at 1. (TSM = 1, TPM = 1, MM = 1)
- Ability Type: Determine the type of ability you are granting your Class and find the relevant multiplier from Table MA2. Multiply your Total multiplier by this amount (TSM x # or TPM x #). Normally, this type will be the same as the one you chose for your Ability Cost above, however, arcane abilities are separated into two different types, Arcane and Limited Arcane. Limited Arcane grants the ability to use arcane spells that do not cause direct damage (such as the Bard).
- List Type: Determine the list of spells available for your Class and find the relevant multiplier from Table MA3 based on the size of your list of spells. Multiply your Total Spell Multiplier by this number (TSM x #). Skip this step if you are calculating a psionic ability. A Large list of spells has an average of 30+ spells per level for Arcane spells or 20+ for Divine spells (such the Sorcerer/Wizard list, ~37 per level, and the Cleric list, ~22 per level). A Medium list of spells has an average of 20-30 spells per level for Arcane or 15-20 for Divine spells (such as the Bard list, ~23 per level, and the Druid list, ~17 per level). A Small list of spells has an average of less than 20 for Arcane spells or less than 15 for Divine spells (such as the Paladin and Ranger lists, ~12 per level). Arcane lists do not normally contain healing spells and Divine lists normally lack a large arsenal of direct damage spells.
- Casting Type: Determine the method of casting your Class will have and find the relevant multiplier from Table MA4. Multiply your Total Spell Multiplier by this amount (TSM x #). Skip this step if you are calculating a psionic ability. Normal casting requires the character to prepare spells for the day in advance. Fast casting allows the character to choose the spell to be cast when it is being cast and does not allow the character to prepare spells in advance, forcing the character to increase the casting time to cast metamagic spells.
- Abilities Known: This number differs depending upon the type of Mystical Ability you are calculating.
- Spellcasters: Determine how many spells your Class can know at each spell level. Find the relevant multiplier from Table MA5 based upon the progression of spells known to spells available to cast per level. Multiply your Total Spell Multiplier by this amount (TSM x #).
- Unlimited allows the Class to know an unlimited amount of spells at each level. Arcane casters gain four 1st level spells plus a number of spells equal to the relevant ability modifier at 1st level and two spells for free at each Class level afterwards. Divine casters have access to any spell on their list. Arcane spellcasters with Unlimited access to spells are also required to record
their spells in a spellbook or similar type of device, and cannot regain their spells without it.
- Even gives the Class an amount of spells known equal to 1½ times the amount of spells that can be cast at each spell level (rounded up).
- Reduced gives the Class an amount of spells known equal to 1½ times the amount of spells that can be cast at the first spell levels (rounded up), which are reduced to an equal amount of spells that can be cast at higher spell levels. (Example: Bard)
- Dropping gives the Class an amount of spells known equal to the amount of spells that can be cast at the first spell levels and drops down to ½ the amount of spells that can be cast at higher spell levels. (Example: Sorcerer)
Individual levels for any but Unlimited can be modified to suit the needs of the Class, but only on a one-for-one basis by moving from a higher level to a lower level. Unless the Abilities Known amount is Unlimited, every time a new spell level is gained, the Class may choose to learn a new spell in place of one spell already known by the character up to one level below the new spell level gained. (For more details, see the description under the Bard or Sorcerer entry in the Player’s Handbook.)
Psionics: Determine the total number of psionic abilities available to your Class at 20th level. This number is your Abilities Known (AK) amount.
- Start Level: Determine the level that your Class gains the ability to use a 1st-Level ability (spell or psionic power, or 0-level ability if the Class doesn’t gain a 1st-Level ability) and find the relative multiplier from Table MA6. Multiply your Total multiplier by this number (TSM x
- or TPM x #).
- Max Level: Determine the maximum ability level gained by your Class (spell level or psionic power level) and find the relative multiplier from Table MA7. Multiply your Total multiplier by this number (TSM x # or TPM x #).
- Mode Multiplier (MM): Determine the number of psionic combat modes available to your Class at each level. Skip this step if you are calculating a spellcasting ability. Add up the number of modes gained from 1st to 5th level and multiply that number by the corresponding multiplier found on Table MA8. Do the same with the number of modes gained from 6th to 10th level and then add these two numbers together. This number is your Mode Multiplier. Multiply your Total Psionic Multiplier by this number (TPM x MM).
- 0-Level: Determine if your Class gains spells of a new spell level initially or if it has levels that it only gains bonus spells (such as the Bard or Paladin). Find the relative multiplier from Table MA9. Multiply your Total Spell Multiplier by this number (TSM x #). Skip this step if you are calculating a psionic ability. The number of levels chosen for this multiplier affect every new spell level the Class receives and will slow down spell advancement dramatically.
Determining the Total
Determine the CP cost for the Mystical Ability by the method shown above. The CP cost of spellcasting is equal to the Ability Cost plus the Spells / Points Available times the Total Spell Multiplier (or CP = AbC + S/P x TSM, rounded up). The CP cost of psionic use is equal to the Ability Cost plus the Spells / Points Available times the Total Psionic Multiplier (rounded up) plus the Abilities Known Amount times the Mode Multiplier (or CP = AbC + S/P x TPM + AK x MM, rounded up). Remember, if the Class has more than one Mystical Ability, you must calculate each ability separately.Table MA1: Ability Cost
A Bit More Detail
Understandably, this system can get a bit complex, especially if you’re creating a Class with any type of Mystical Ability. To ease in understanding, the following is an example of how to use this system to create a Class using the established Base Bard as a reference. The system can be followed in any order you wish, but as Mystical Abilities are the hardest to follow, I will start there.
Mystical Ability: Spellcasting
Ability Cost is based upon the type of ability the Class has. Since the Bard casts arcane spells, we use the cost for Arcane spellcasting which Table MA1 lists as 5 CP. We record this as the value for AbC.
Spells / Points Available is based upon how many spells the Class will be able to cast at 20th level. At 20th level, the Bard can cast 4 spells of each spell level (Even spell distribution). Adding all the levels together, it gives us an S/P value of 28, which we record.
This leaves only one value left to calculate, the Total Spell Multiplier (TSM). This value is actually made up of several values, so we continue following the rules which state that all multipliers begin at 1. Therefore, our initial TSM is 1.00.
The Bard can only cast arcane spells of a non-direct damage nature. Because of this, the Bard’s Ability Type is considered Limited Arcane. Table MA2 lists the multiplier for Limited Arcane spells as 1.5, so our TSM becomes 1.5 also (1.00 x 1.5 = 1.50).
The Bard spell list averages around 23 different spells per spell level. This falls between 20 and 30 arcane spells, so it classifies as a Medium spell list. Table MA3 lists the multiplier for a Medium spell list as 0.65, so our TSM becomes 0.975 (1.50 x 0.65 = 0.975).
The Bard can cast his spells spontaneously, which the system classifies as Fast casting. Table MA4 lists the multiplier for Fast casting as 1.15, so our TSM becomes 1.12 (0.975 x 1.15 = 1.12). Because of this, the Bard cannot prepare spells in advance and must increase the casting time required to cast a metamagic spell.
The Bard has access to only a limited number of spells per spell level. At 20th level, the Bard has access to a number of spells that qualifies as Reduced Knowledge (6/5/5/5/5/5/4, 6-1st level spells = 1½ x # castable, 4-6th level spells = 1 x # castable). Table MA5 lists the multiplier for Reduced as 0.80, so our TSM becomes 0.897 (1.12 x 0.80 = 0.897). Because the Bard is limited in his knowledge of spells, he does not require a spellbook or other means to regain his spells, he needs only to rest.
Although the Bard has access to spells at 1st level, he does not gain access to a 1st level spell until his 2nd Class level. Table MA6 lists the multiplier for Class Level 2 as 0.90, so our TSM becomes 0.807 (0.897 x 0.90 = 0.807).
The Bard can only learn up to 6th level spells. Table MA7 lists the multiplier for a Max Level of 6 as 0.70, so our TSM becomes 0.565 (0.807 x 0.70 = 0.565).
Because the Bard does not have a Psionic ability, we get to skip the Mode Multiplier section and our TSM remains unchanged.
The Bard is not initially granted the ability to cast a 1st level spell. For 1 level he only gains access to bonus spells. This qualifies as a 0-Level of 1. Table MA9 lists the multiplier for 1 Level as 0.85, so our TSM becomes 0.48 (0.565 x 0.85 = 0.48).
We now have all of the pieces required to calculate the cost of spellcasting for the Bard. We have ended up with an AbC value of 5, an S/P value of 28, and a TSM value of 0.48. Using the formula given, this gives us a cost for our Mystical Ability as 19 CP (0.48 x 28 = 13.44, rounded up to 14, + 5 = 19 CP), which leaves us 196 CP for the rest of the Bard’s abilities.
The Bard uses a d6 for Hit Dice, which costs 10 CP (Table BA1). He can use all Simple weapons (10 CP) plus six others (6 CP), which totals to a cost of 16 CP (Table BA2). He can wear Light Armor (10 CP) and use Shields (7 CP), which totals to a cost of 17 CP (Table BA3).
The Bard has access to 24 skills plus all Knowledge skills (or 34 total skills) for a total of 34 CP (Table BA4) and gains 6 Skill points per level for 51 CP (Table BA5). He uses the same attack progression as a Cleric, which qualifies as a Medium Attack Progression for a cost of 17 CP (Table BA6) and has two High Save Progressions (Reflex and Will saves) that cost 12 CP (Table BA7).
Totaling these costs together, we find that the Base Abilities of the Bard cost a total of 157 CP. Combining the cost of Mystical Abilities and Base Abilities gives the Bard a total cost of 176 CP, leaving us 39 CP for the Bard’s Special Abilities barring Restrictions.
Special Abilities and Restrictions
The Bard has the ability to cast his spells while wearing light armor without any chance of spell failure. As this is not a normal quality of an arcane spellcaster and is reasonably the same strength as a normal feat, this qualifies as a Normal ability (1 CP) gained at 1st level.
The Bard gains the use of Bardic Knowledge, which is equivalent to a special Knowledge skill usable on anything. This ability is also equivalent to the strength of a normal feat, therefore it qualifies as a Normal ability (1 CP) gained at 1st level.
The Bard gains the ability to use Bardic Music once per day per level. This ability gives the Bard access to several different powers that are all relatively equivalent to a normal feat while the limitation of only using it once per day effectively counters the amount of different powers available, therefore it qualifies as a Normal ability (1 CP) gained at every level. The fact that the Bard must have a required number of ranks in the Perform skill would be an additional restraint. Since Perform is a Class skill, this would be a Weak Restraint but as this is a major Special Ability of the Class (gained at every level), this is increased to an Average Restraint (6 CP).
The Bard must retain a non-lawful alignment or cannot continue to gain in levels, however as he loses no abilities if he changes alignment, this qualifies as a Weak Restriction (-4 CP).
Totaling the values of the Special Abilities together from 1st to 5th level, 6th to 10th level, and 11th level and beyond gives us totals of 7, 5, and 10 CP respectively. To get the total cost of the Special Abilities, we multiply the first total by 4 for a value of 28 CP, we multiply the second total by 2 for a value of 10 CP, while keeping the last total unmodified at 10 CP. Adding these values and the bonuses granted from Restrictions together, we get a final value for Special Abilities and Restrictions of 38 CP.
Totaling the values from all three categories gives us a total cost for the Class of 215 CP, which is exactly what we need. Were we creating a Class from scratch, this total would probably have been greater or less than our goal of 215 CP, which would have required us to tweak the Class until we reached our goal.
Even with a point-based system, you still need to use a bit of common sense and judgment to make an entertaining and usable Class.
Hopefully this system will help you in your endeavors.
D10 HD (30 cp)
Base Attack good: (25)
Skill proficiency: 7 class skills (7)
Skill points per level 2 (17)
simple & martial proficiency (25)
Armor proficiency (10+15+20+7+3=55)
1 good save and 2 poor saves (26)
Bonus feats: (46)
30+25+7+17+25+55+26+46 = 231
Someone please double check the math here