Class Design

Class abilities are a very important balancing point for characters. The tier system for classes points out two factors that make a character useful: raw power and versatility. The tier list is judged by placing characters in a variety of different situations and asking “how many ways does this character have to effectively deal with this situation?”

The balancing point for this project is intended to be tier 3 - capable of doing one thing well while still being able to contribute in other situations OR capable of doing many things but not specializing in anything. All characters have the opportunity to shine in particular situations that fit their niche, but no character ever feels useless. Rarely are encounters trivialized by a single spell or ability, but classes all have options to contribute to an encounter. No one character outshines the others or seems overpowered. Some classes may run as high as "low tier 2" or has low as "high tier 4," but these are quibbling points.

Situations to consider when creating a tier 3 class:

  • Direct combat
  • Ambush
  • Being ambushed or caught off-guard
  • Stealth mission
  • Social interaction
  • Dungeon delving
  • Defending a town
  • Investigating a crime scene
  • Movement – up a hill, over a chasm, getting to flying enemies, swimming enemies, etc
  • Miscellaneous magic threats

A single class should excel at one or two of these situations, but still be able to contribute to all situations, or be able to contribute to all of them with no particular specialty.

Fulcrum aims to power up weaker classes by giving them either more options, better options, or both. Overpowered classes will, inversely, become more focused with fewer and less powerful options. Classes that are already tier 3 will remain more or less the same, though they may receive minor tweaks.

Best Practices

  • Keep classes as thematically-similar as possible.
  • Change as little as possible.
  • Improve flexibility for tier 4, 5, and 6 classes.
  • Improve power for tier 5 and 6 classes.
  • Decrease flexibility for tier 1 classes.
  • Decrease power for tier 1 and 2 classes.
  • Grant something interesting every level, and cap with something cool at level 20.

Examples of things that can improve tier

  • Action economy – giving characters ways to use their swift actions is a big one.
  • More skill points/better skills – increases out-of-combat utility.
  • Variable abilities.
  • Larger bonuses to specialties.

From a personal design perspective, each class should gain two special abilities per level. One of these should be a choice among many options, and one should be a set class ability. Often, one ability will scale while the other provides some static benefit. Players should always have something to look forward to when gaining a level in a class, each class should be viable through all twenty levels and gain a powerful capstone, and multiclassing and prestige classes should always present a trade-off, not be an automatic choice.

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