Creating new and balanced classes for any campaign
Play D&D long enough, and it’s inevitable that you’ll want (or need) to tweak an existing character class or create one of your own. There are many approaches to doing so, but if you’re like me (i.e., you have OCD and believe that everything can be represented by numbers), you want a process that’s consistent, that meshes with the existing rules, and that doesn’t take a lot of time (because maybe you want to add many classes to your campaign). Luckily (and largely because I have OCD), this article provides just that process, which allows you to create or customise any class you want, using any race and a variety of abilties, all without unbalancing your campaign.
For brevity, the class creation instructions are located in the PDF attached to this article, Building the Perfect Class. I suggest you download the article, read it thoroughly, and follow the instructions given. But since no one actually reads manuals, here’s the short version:
How it Works
Building the Perfect Class assumes that each class is, in dry terms, a collection of abilities and that every ability can be represented by an XP value. If you total the XP for each ability, you can figure out how many experience points are needed for each level. The trick to achieving
game balance with the canonical classes is making sure each ability’s XP value is consistent. To do this, I reverse-engineered each class by breaking out component abilities and assigning XP values until my results matched the level advancement tables. While this probably isn’t how the classes were built, the results (with one notable exception) were sufficiently precise to form a solid foundation.
With consistent XP values known, one could then mix and match abilities to create new classes, or simply customize classes that already existed. The PDF article explains how to do this, but it’s a very simple process: because I bothered to “show my work,” it actually takes more time to read the material than to simply crank out a few examples.
Quick and Dirty
To speed things along, you can use the attached Excel spreadsheet (class_xp.xls), which contains all the abilities, XP values, and experience point tables from the article. Just open the spreadsheet and start creating your own classes in the section titled, “Enter Your Classes Below.”
I’m always interested in the classes people create, mostly because we all have different interpretations of what a “ranger” is, or what weapons a halfling thief is allowed to use. There are certainly no wrong answers, and the system here is infinitely scalable. So when you’re done building your perfect class, follow our posting guidelines to share it on this site. I’d love to see what you come up with!
UPDATE – Dec 24, 2013
I’ve added a revised XP Calculator to remove zero-XP values (this prevents munchkins from gaming the system with 0XP requirements). To make the numbers work, I combined the “Special I” and “Special II” categories, and broke out “bundled” skills, like thief and mystic abilities. As a result, the categories and values don’t precisely match those described in the PDF. On the plus side, this approach provides greater parity for the Magic-User class. Enjoy!