13th Age class design guidelines

Written by Martin K.

After designing about a dozen homebrew classes for this game I want to go back and review the process, in the hope that others find it useful.

Overall, designing a class, or anything for an RPG, is not a straight line process. It's best to think about it as a cycle of generating ideas, shaping them, playtesting and refining. In general, the steps are...

  1. Idea generation: How to fill a blank sheet of paper
  2. Concept: How to sort your ideas into a framework
  3. Rules writing: How to write class features, talents and powers
  4. Design considerations: Things to keep in mind in step 2 and 3
  5. Testing: When the rubber hits the road
  6. Balancing: How to avoid breaking the game
  7. Editing: The final polish

Not strictly in that order.

(1) Idea Generation

This is the most free-form process. There are many sources to get yourself inspired.

Sources

Characters from movies and books: I am sure you have favorite characters that you always wanted to play in an RPG, or 13th in particular, but didn't quite find the support for yet. This is a great starting point. Make sure that the concept is broad enough though, don't attempt to make "Drizzt Do'Urden the class". Think of the character's background, his source of powers, his fighting style, his way of solving environment puzzles and social situations. Think of other, similar characters that the class could also model.

Existing RPGs: Of course, you can start with an existing class or concept in a different RPG. This gives you a shortcut through a lot of steps, because of the groundwork has already been laid out for you. The challenge is more in translating concepts from the source RPG, for example how it handles movement or level advancement to the way things are done in 13th Age.

Video games: Similar to RPGs, many video games already provide you with a blueprint for the character class and its abilities and powers. However, you have more conversion work in front of you, because video games naturally do some things different from tabletop RPGs, like measuring time in seconds and movement in numeric distance. Complex calculations for things like damage are a piece of cake for a PC but need to be simplified for humans and so on.

Fantasy art: Fantasy artwork is great because it adds a visual component to your mental image of the class. It helps to think about shaping living, breathing characters instead of a bunch of numbers on a character sheet. If you think about creating a class, spend a bit of time researching its keywords on sites like deviantart.

Mechanics: Sort of the opposite from art, some class ideas start with a new mechanic that you want to try out.

Process

At this stage, it's perfectly fine to just collect raw ideas on a sheet of paper or an empty plain text document. The best way to overcome the initial block is just to start writing. You can start jotting down some specific mechanics, maybe even a detailed spell or maneuver, but don't expect any of that to make it into the final version unchanged. One thing I like to start with is the intro text, the first sentences that explain the class to the interested player. This helps me figure out whether I can explain my idea in 2-3 sentences, and it leads to the next stage, concept.

Idea generation is never really over. After your first concept has taken shape, you'll get back to it again and again as you flesh out the class, add more talents and powers, review feedback and look at it from new angles.

Also, it's perfectly fine to have ideas that you will remove later as you straighten, simplify and trim the fat. It's part of the process.

(2) Concept

This is the stage where you answer the big questions and build the framework that will give shape to your ideas.

Does this really need to be a new class?

If this is your first attempt at rules writing, try to expand an existing class before starting a new class from scratch. This gives you a framework to build on. You can always take these ideas and develop them into an independent class later.

New class

When you have a new mechanic that you want to implement, when building a similar PC would currently require multiclassing, or you have a long list of new powers or spells you want to write, a new class is better. A new class can still be quite similar to an existing class. For example, the 13th Age necromancer could have been a Wizard variant, as in other D&D versions. Making it a separate class opened the space for unique class features and talents.

Class variant

If you can fit all the changes you want to make to an existing class in an alternative class feature or a talent, it's better to just make it a class variant. This gives the player access to existing talents and powers for his or her character. The storm voice in 13th Age for Glorantha is an example how an existing class can be reflavored to cover an archetype in a different setting. Or have a look at this swashbuckler writeup as an example for reskinning the rogue.

Visuals, flavor and even setting background can be rewritten for a class. For example, you could base a space opera gunslinger on the 13th Age fighter or ranger without creating a new class.

On the other hand, if you want to introduce new mechanics, it's usually better to create a new class, even if 13th Age already has a class that covers the archetype. For example, if you want to create a spellcaster class that is based entirely on talents, without individual spells, make it a separate class, even if its flavor is very similar to the sorcerer.

Combat Role

If you have played D&D 4th edition, you will be very familiar with assigning a combat role to a class. However, this has existed in D&D from the beginning, even if it wasn't so explicit and a central design pillar. A similar concept also exists in MMOs and MOBAs, and if you want to go all the way back, classic military strategy with the split between infantry, cavalry and artillery.

Put simply, the idea is that no PC, and no class, should attempt to win a battle all by itself, but rather, it should contribute something to the team effort. There are some variants to the role, and different names, but they boil down to...

Striker / DPS: The main damage dealer, focused on dealing a persistent stream of hit point damage to monsters (DPS) or creating a big damage spike (nova). Melee strikers go right into the thick of things, and need some mobility and damage avoidance powers to stay alive. Ranged strikers deal their damage from a safe(r) distance.

Defender / Tank: Focused on defense rather than offence. Note that just a high AC score is not enough. A tank also needs the ability to keep the enemy focused on him. This can be a disengage penalty, like the 13th Age fighter, or a more complicated mechanic like the swordmage's Aegis that punishes enemies for attacking the PC's allies. Ideally, tanks also have a way to deal with non-damage effects, because they'll be a prime target for effects like daze or stun.

Leader / Support: Sometimes called "Healer" but that only covers part of their duty. Aside from the necessary healing and resurrection, the powers of a support class buff their allies in different ways, such as direct numerical bonuses to attack, damage and defenses. Support classes can also provide movement and tactical positioning, but that's downplayed in 13th Age compared to systems that use a grid.

Control: The most flexible and thus hard to define role. It mainly includes three types of powers. One is direct debuffs to enemies, sort of the opposite of support. The second is area damage, clearing the battlefield of weaker enemies while the DPS focuses on the big targets. The third category is battlefield effects, for example separating a group of enemies from the battle temporarily with a wall of fire.

These categories aren't hard-coded or exclusive. It's perfectly fine to have a class that can fulfill several roles depending on the choice of talents and powers. Just consider the druid. However, there is a clear advantage if you start your design with a defined role in mind. You get an idea of what sort of powers the class should have available, and you have a yardstick for balancing later because you know what other classes to compare to. It also makes it easy to guide the player who is building a PC with your class for the first time.

Powers or just talents?

While the role is a universal concepts across many genres, the next question is very 13th Age specific. What's the basic skeleton for your class? There are two main choices, with variants on each side.

Talent-based (barbarian, paladin, ranger): These classes only have talents, aside from class features. Each talent therefore contains a big chunk of a PC's power level. For example, the ranger's Double Melee Attack talent by itself is a 15%-20% damage bonus, and the main reason why the Ranger is considered a DPS class. For Barbarian and Paladin, the power level of individual talents is a bit lower, because they have strong class features in Holy Smite and Rage, but the basic idea is the same.

Power-based (most other classes): In most other classes, class features, talents and powers / maneuvers / spells contribute more evenly to the power level. Individual talents are less powerful, and serve more to define the background and style of the PC.

There is no right or wrong choice here. On first glance, it might look easier to write a talent-only class, but I would say it's harder to write a good one. You really need a good core class feature or talents that are universally useful, otherwise you end up with a weak writeup that might have ended up better as just a class variant of something existing. Even the core book has its duds, like the horribly underpowered Ranger's Pet talent.

If you feel ambitious, you could try your hand at a mixed type like the druid, but frankly, I'd leave that one as a one-time experiment that didn't live up to expectations.

If powers, what type?

Again, it's up to you, as it really depends on what provides the best framework for your ideas. The core book gives you templates to work with:

Spells: What wizard, sorcerer and cleric use. More on how to write these later.

Weapon powers: What the rogue uses.

Flexible maneuvers: What the fighter and bardic battle cries use.

Something special snowflake: See the occultist spells, monk forms, bardic songs.

Two or more types at once: If this is your first class design, do yourself a favor and stick to one type of power. The bard is one example for a class that uses more than one type of power, but frankly, it doesn't make it a better class in my book. Commander is another, but it pulls it off better, mainly because the two types of power complement each other, rather than pull the class in different build directions.

I will refer to spells, maneuvers and powers as "powers" in the text below, regardless of how the individual class calls them.

Core Mechanic

A core mechanic is a unique gimmick that the class has. The easiest way to implement this is a class feature, but it can also be a mechanic in class features or powers.

The idea of giving your class a core mechanic is to make it feel distinct from a rules perspective.

Signature class feature: A class feature tends to match the role of the class. For example, the rogue has a damage-dealing class feature in Sneak Attack, which matches the Striker role. So does the barbarian in Rage and the sorcerer in Gather Power. The cleric's support role is matched with his Heal class feature.

The Paladin is an exception to this rule. His class feature, Smite, is a damage bonus, although his main role is a tank. The fighter has a proper tank class feature with Threatening, but it's more of a bonus ability than a powerful core mechanic.

Signature talents: The ranger has its signature mechanic in his Double Melee / Ranged Attack talents, which allow a second attack on an even roll.

Signature powers: The fighter's signature mechanic are his flexible attacks. Other classes have them too, but in the fighter, they are front and center. The occultist with his interrupt spells is another class that is mainly distinct through its powers.

Your class doesn't need to have it's own gimmick. If you look at the Wizard, the class has it's own unique flavor even its mechanics are pretty vanilla.

For a homebrew class, I recommend including some sort of unique mechanic to make the class more interesting and set it apart from the core classes.

Basic numbers

Basic stats and level progression of the class. You'll fine-tune these later in the balancing stage, but you'll need to come up with a first draft. These numbers include what weapons and armor the class can use without penalty, which influences the damage die of weapon attacks and AC. You'll also have to define base AC, PD and MD, base hit points and recovery dice. If the class has spells / powers, you'll need to decide how many you get at which level. You can also give a class extra background points or recoveries, but it's better to leave them at default 8.

The easiest way to set these numbers is to use a core class or two for reference. The key reference points are pure caster (Wizard), light melee combatant (Ranger) and tank (Fighter).

 

  Caster Light combatant Tank
Weapon choice Small Simple; Martial if striker All
Armor None Light Heavy
Shields No Usually no Yes
Base hit points 6 7 8
Base AC 10-11 12-13 15-16
Base PD 10 10-11 10-11
Base MD 11-12 10-11 10-11
Recoveries 8 8 8-9
Recovery die d6 d8 d10

 

Ability scores

In 13th Age, all classes use attack rolls, including casters. Because a PC will try to hit something nearly every combat round, the ability score used for the main attack of the class is the most important.

Heavy melee classes usually use Strength, more acrobatic types and archers use Dexterity, intellectual spellcasters use Intelligence, divine and intuitive types use Wisdom, and show-offy types use Charisma. Constitution is usually not used as an attack stat, because it is already very important for hit points and recovery rolls.

Some classes might also want to use a secondary ability score for some class features or talents. In D&D 4th edition, it was a key design principle to have at least two different builds in each class, with different secondary ability scores. This is less important in 13th Age, although it does echo off in some classes. For example, the fighter has different powers that use either Constitution or Dexterity.

Note that most classes use Strength for basic melee attacks and Dexterity for basic ranged attacks. You can change this pattern if you want. For example, the Ranger can choose between Strength and Dexterity for the attack stat of basic melee attacks.

(3) Rules writing

Now that you've come up with a pile of ideas and defined starting assumptions for the basic framework of your class, it's time to add meat and create a first draft.

I like to start with play style, ability scores, races, backgrounds and icons, because it forces me to explain my concept before I get lost in the details of the mechanics. You can use the core book and 13 True Ways class entries for reference on how to write these.

Overview

Play style

Try to include the social behavior of your class, their adventuring style as well as their intended combat role. Make sure that someone who has only seen the name of your class gets an idea of the sort of character he can play with it in these first few lines. You don't need to oversell your class, but try to pique interest.

Ability scores

Describe what the primary ability score of the class is, if it has any secondary ability scores, and what other ability scores are good to have. For example, if you expect a PC to be in melee combat a lot, Con/Dex/Wis are important for AC.

Races

Be inclusive. Even if you have a class that screams "elf" or "dwarf", give the players some pointers of how to different races see members of that class, and whether they would be common or not. In 13th Age, it's acceptable to say that a certain race pretty much never chooses a certain class as its career. After all, that implies a One Unique Thing right there...

Icons

This is where you tie your class to the movers and shakers of the game world. Take the time to put some thought into this. After all, players are expected to pick icon relations for their PC. It also helps the GM to throw story hooks at that PC.

Gear, Armor, Weapons, Basic Attacks, Stats

See the entry basic numbers above.

Level Progression

If your class only has talents, the only real level progress is an additional talent at 5th and 8th level (unless you want to experiment with a different pattern.

If your class has powers, the level progression table is a lot more complicated, and you'll end up tweaking it a lot.

For spellcasters, the default is that they get about 2/3 of their spells at their highest (odd) level, and the rest at two levels below that. You don't have to copy that, but you'll have to make a decision here.

The progression for hit points, feats, level-up ability bonuses and damage bonus from ability score is standardized across all classes. I suggest that you use the defaults. If you want to give more feats or similar bonuses, make that a talent choice.

Class Features

This is where the actual rules text writing begins. In 13th Age, class features range from none (the Ranger) to complex rules that define the class as something very unique (the Occultist, the Glorantha Trickster). If you have decided that your class should have a core mechanic class feature in the concept stage, now is the time to put it into rules writing.

If your class has powers, such as spells or flexible maneuvers, add a section under class features that explain how those class features work. Don't repeat the mistake of the core book, that just assumes that players are familiar with D&D-style games. For example, it's never explicitely stated that spellcasters choose their spells at each full healup, and every spell can only be chosen once. Make sure you explain how you want your class to work, so that DMs and players can go back to the class description and resolve conflicts. If you want to leave something open to player or DM interpretation, you can write that too.

Apart from that, class features are very similar to talents. The line between them is somewhat blurry. Look at the Sorcerer's Gather Power and the Rogue's Shadow Walk. They are very similar, and it's not immediately obvious which one should be a talent and which one should be a class feature. For example, you could easily rewrite the Sorcerer and give them a choice of one Heritage as a class feature and make Gather Power a talent. Or, you could rewrite the Rogue, make Shadow Walk a class feature and Sneak Attack a talent (with Improved Sneak attack as the 2-slot option). Either works, and it's up to you as the designer to decide. With that said, the guidelines under talents below also apply to class features.

Talents

There is a wide variety in talents for 13th Age classes and it might feel like anything goes. In a way, that's true. Even within one class, and I'm using the Ranger as an example, there can be a huge variety in word count (Archery 10 words vs. Animal Companion 2 pages), power level (Double Melee Attack A+ vs. Ranger's Pet F) or flexibility (free-form Tracker vs. automatic, passive bonus First Strike). So the question is, how to design your own talents?

Balance

First of all, go back to the general framework you decided in step 2. If you have a class where all its abilities are contained in the talents, like the Ranger, you have the tough job of making sure each of these is a valuable option that contributes 33% to the classes' power level without a dud like Ranger's Pet.

If your class has its role defined by a class feature, you have a bit more flexibility and the individual talents can be less powerful. That's even more true in a class that mainly relies on powers. Look at the Wizard. Out of context, taken just by themselves, Evocation is about as powerful as Double Melee Attack and Wizard's Familiar is the same as Ranger's Pet. But Evocation boosts spells like Force Salvo instead of a basic melee attack, and is therefore overpowered. The familiar is an option in a class that could still teleport and throw fireballs if it had zero talents, so it's fine as a mostly flavor option.

Lesson One: Balance your talents in the context of the rest of the class.

Class Archetypes

The next consideration is variety. Think about the different archetypes that exist for your class, and try to design talents that cater to these. For example, Paladin's are usually considered the epitome of lawful good, but the Anti-Paladin is a common archetype. So 13th Age added the Way of Evil Bastards to support that archetype.

Short & Mechanical vs. Longer & Free-form

Some players like chunky, short pieces of rules, others like free-form abilities. Most of your class will cater to the first type, so it's a good idea to balance it out with an option like Vance's Polysyllabic Verbalizations. If it's something that every player would want in the class, make it a class feature. But if it's something that you feel some players will want to avoid, make it a talent so you can explicitely not choose it.

On my first design draft, I usually keep talents short and sweet, similar to most fighter talents, and cover the basics. On later editing passes, I expand talents where I think a longer explanation or more flavor text is helpful.

Combat vs. Social encounters vs. Exploration

Some players don't like combat that much and prefer the social aspects of an RPG. Add a talent that caters to those players, especially if the class otherwise doesn't have a lot of options in social encounters. Not every fighter has to be a Charisma dump stat brick. Something similar applies to exploration, puzzle solving and interacting with the environment.

Passive vs. Active

Talents are usually passive abilities. A prime example is the paladin's Fearless talent. You don't need to activate the immunity to fear or the attack bonus, you just benefit from it when the conditions apply.

There are also active talents, which are like powers. Either they share the same format with powers, or have a power listed as a sub-entry (Counter-magic under Wizard High Arcana), or give all the information a power entry would in the text (Paladin Lay on Hands). 

Either format is fine. Use whichever makes sense for the intended effect. For active talents, you'll usually want a more powerful effect in exchange for a once per battle or daily limitation. A "talent power" can also be at-will, like the Necromancer's Death Knell.

In general, if the class already has a lot of active combat options, like a spellcaster, the talents can be passive. If the class has no powers, the talents should give some active tactical option so the player feels like he is making decisions instead of just rolling dice like a robot.

Powers

Whether it's a spell or a weapon attack, all powers in 13th Age follow a certain format, with the elements below.

Note that most element entries are optional - if something is obvious, you can leave it out. For example, spells are usually standard actions. You don't need to write down if a spell is a standard action, only the exceptions, such as quick action and interrupt. A melee attack will target one enemy you are engaged with.

If you want all (or almost all) of the powers to work in a certain way, you can add a single explanation to the class feature that explains the powers, and omit that information from the individual power writeups. However, don't be too aggressive on the space-saving. If there are only one or two exceptions, it's fine to cut the text from all powers and add an explanation to the exceptions. If it's a 2/3 to 1/3 split, it's better to add the information to all powers to avoid confusion.

Let's look at the individual elements of powers.

Power Elements

Type: Usually Melee attack, Ranged attack / spell / power, Close-quarters attack / spell / power, Flexible melee /ranged attack. This entry tells the player whether the power provokes opportunity attacks (if ranged). Some types give additional information. For example, a melee / ranged attack uses a melee / ranged weapon, a spell uses implements, flexible attacks are triggered off attack rolls.

Action: For most powers the default is a standard action, so that information is omitted. Alternatives are quick action, interrupt, free action and no action. Quick action is very powerful because it still allows an attack in the same round. Quick actions are best reserved for buffs. Interrupts are even more powerful because they can be used on an opponent's turn. However, the PC is still limited to one interrupt between turns. Free actions don't have that limit, and can be used any time as long as the PC is conscious. A no action power doesn't have that limitation, so it's the default choice for bonuses to death saves.

Trigger: An additional entry if the power is an interrupt or free action. It specifies when the power can be used. Examples include when you are attacked, when you are hit / missed, even / odd hit / miss, when a nearby ally is attacked / hit / missed, when an ally hits / misses, when you are staggered / knocked unconscious by an attack, ...

Triggering Roll: For flexible melee / ranged attacks, the natural attack roll when the power can be used.

Frequency: At-will, once per battle, recharge, daily and cyclic. At-will powers are attacks that deal as much damage as a basic attack or slightly more, and add a minor additional effect. They are meant to be used every round, which is why effects are usually limited to a "once" or "until the end of your next turn" duration. The effect should also be fairly easy to resolve, to avoid taking up too much game time.

Once-per-battle powers are useful that you'll want to have them available every battle, but too powerful to use every round. Good examples are one-turn attack boosts or using a recovery. The fighter talents are good examples for once per battle powers.

Daily powers are the big guns. Typical daily powers are a single attack that can take a monster out of the fight, an area attack that does significant damage to several enemies, buffs that last until the end of the battle, or powerful debuffs such as stun or confusion.

Recharge powers are between daily and once per battle.

Cyclic is a special option for the wizard. These are spells that can be used every other turn (even escalation die), so they are between at-will and once per battle. Cyclic is an example of how the escalation die makes for a good limiter on powers. If you have a powerful buff that you want the PC to use to finish a combat, but not at the start, a limit like escalation die 3+ does the trick.

Target: Eligible targets for the power. For attacks, this is usually a nearby enemy or a far away enemy. Melee attacks always target an enemy you are engaged with. Area attacks usually target 1d3 nearby enemies. Some ranged attacks can target a far away enemy, often at a -2 penalty. Buffs either target yourself, or a nearby ally. Note that "ally" doesn't include the caster, so if you want a buff that a PC can use on himself, use you or a nearby ally. The nearby part avoids discussions whether the cleric can buff party members even though he's at the tavern getting drunk.

Some powers that inflict auto-win status effects like stun use nearby enemy with XX hp or fewer as the target. The idea here is to force the party to fight a powerful opponent and take down their hp total before they can take them out with a spell.

Use creature for powers that can be used regardless of ally or enemy status.

Some powers also target a weapon, a nearby object or similar. Use what gets the point across.

Effect: Something that always happens. It's usually used for buff spells and other passive effects. Against enemies, powers usually require an attack roll, but there are exceptions, such as Magic Missile.

Flexible melee / ranged attacks also use "Effect", because hit / miss is already decided by the "triggering roll" entry.

Attack: The attack roll. The usual format is <ability score> + Level vs. AC/PD/MD. If you want a power to have a higher chance to hit, you can add an additional attack bonus, but in general that's not necessary in 13th Age because of the escalation die. Note that an attack against PD or MD has an indirect attack bonus. The default defense values for monsters are AC 16+level, PD 15+level and MD 10+level, which is a whopping 6 point or 30% hit chance difference. Casters and other "smart" monsters often have PD and MD switched.

Hit: How much damage the attack does, plus any condition. Weapon-based attacks, such as rogue maneuvers, use WEAPON + <ability score> as the basic entry. Spells use NdX <element> damage.

Additional effects include the condition keywords dazed, weakened, hampered, stuck, stunned, confused and vulnerable (against...). They can be either until the end of your next turn or save ends.

Saves can be easy (6+), normal (11+) or hard (16+). Since saves are made at the end of a target's next turn, a save ends effect has a guaranteed turn to be effective. Due to how the math works, a 6+ save effect will last 1.33 turns on average, a 11+ save for 2 turns, and a 16+ save for 4 turns.

Limited Hit: The hit effect triggers with at least a 50% chance. If you have a effect in mind that's too strong for the frequency, say a status condition on an at-will power, you can limit the attack rolls that the effect will trigger on. Typical examples are Natural even hit, Natural odd hit, Natural 16+, Natural 18+ and Natural 20. This assumes that a 16+ will be a hit. If it isn't, the PCs are in deep trouble...

You can also use this mechanic to give a power an extra twist, or underscore the chaotic nature of a classes' powers. Beware of overdoing it though. A common complaint is the shifter druid's Beast Form Attack, which constantly switches 50/50 between d6 and d10. Why not use a d8 and be done with it? 

Miss: What happens when you miss. Note that this effect is less likely the longer combat progresses because of the escalation die. If a power's miss effect is too good, or even desirable, it makes attack buffs worse.

Usual miss effects are nothing (for weak powers, or powers that allow multiple attack rolls), damage equal to your level (default), half damage (for dailies) or this power is not expended. Strong debuff powers sometimes have a weaker debuff on miss (say dazed until end of next turn instead of confused save ends).

If you want to balance a strong power by making it more risky, add a harmful miss effect (such as damaging the caster or his allies) to a power. See the reckless miss entry of Fireball for an example.

Limited Miss: Similar to limited hit, you can also have a miss condition that triggers only on some rolls, usually odd or even.

Limited Effect: Similar to limited hit, but not tied to hit / miss at all. Any odd or even roll is an option. Or for a 20% chance, natural 5/10/15/20.

Second target / attack / hit: For more complicated, staggered powers, you can add a second attack that triggers of the first. See Slick Feint of the rogue for an example.

Special: A free-form entry that adds some limitation or special condition to the power. Place it directly before or after the entry that is affected. For example, if a power can be used as a quick action in some cases, the special entry should be after frequency.

Adventurer / Champion / Epic feat: See Designing Feats below.

Feats

During the initial design, I usually hold off on feats because you'll want to have the big picture reasonably fixed before you get into the small details. Every big change to a talent or power also means rewriting all feats attached to it. The other challenge is just the potential number of them. Multiply the number of class features, talents and powers by three...

And you don't want to be repetitive either. If you end up adding a "this power can be used as a ranged attack" feat to half of your powers, it's better to make this a general option as a talent and come up with something else. 

If you want to prioritise, add feats to talents first, because a talent stays with a PC his whole career, whereas powers can usually be switched on full healup. Another way to reduce the workload is to only add an adventurer feat to 1st and 3rd level powers, a champion feat to 5th and 7th level powers and an epic feat to 9th level powers.

If you are stuck on feat ideas for a power, go through each entry and think about how it can be improved. More targets? Higher attack bonus? More damage? Stronger effect? Harder save? Miss damage?

In general, if you have an idea for something cool the power should do, but just flat-out adding it for free would make the power more powerful than the other available options, add it in against the cost of a feat.

(4) Design Considerations

This chapter covers a few advanced topics to consider when reworking and improving your initial design.

Builds

Different combinations of talents and powers are called builds. For example, as a ranger you can decide to specialize on melee or ranged attacks, depending on your talent choices. In 13th Age, some classes have only one build and all talents push in the same direction, like the Paladin. Other classes are extremely diverse, depending on your choices, with the druid as the most extreme example.

When you draft your class, think about where you want to position your class on that scale. If this is your first class, it's a good idea to keep it simple and focus on one way to play the class. You can always expand your class and add other build options later.

Typical build choices are:

  • Melee vs. ranged
  • Heavy vs. light armor
  • Different schools of magic or psionic disciplines
  • Different icons or deities
  • Different primary or secondary ability scores

Time economy

When you play a tabletop RPG, your PCs is only one of 4 to 6 PCs, possibly more. If you add the time for the DM to describe the scene and NPC / monster actions, each player has 10% - 15% of in-game time at best. Keep that in mind when writing a class, or any piece of mechanic. You want it to be resolved quickly. You want to leave room for the player to give a creative description, but at the same time, you want to put all the required information in there and be clear and concise to avoid causing a discussion.

This is also the reason why game design has moved away from a few classic elements since the 1980ies.

Obfuscated mechanics: Yes, there's the odd neckbeard on the Internet who still thinks THAC0 was a great invention because it meant only "smart" people could play D&D, but smarter people noticed that it's mathematically equivalent to always rolling high, always adding and comparing the result to a positive number. Which is faster and more intuitive. When you design a class, invest your smarts into designing the mechanics in a way that makes them simple.

In general, try to keep the math down to adding single-digit numbers to another number. If you need multiplication, use x2, x3, x5 or x10.

Excessive tables: In the time it takes to find the right page with the table, roll dice and interpret the result, the DM can just pull something out of thin air. Tablets and other digital aids have made it easier to quickly look something up, but in general, you'll want to avoid these. The only time 13th Age used a monster table is the chaos mage's High Weirdness, but even there it's more of a nostalgia throwback than a serious design element. Note how rolling on that table is the exception, not the rule.

Mixed fluff and mechanics: While I love the flavor of classic D&D spells, some of them have overly long entries that become absurdly specific. Is it really necessary to specify whether a Fireball works under water? And if you add it to Fireball, what about a Flame Lance? And do I really need to know what the air smells like after a Lightning Bolt? If you want to add pure flavor text, visually separate it. Give it its own paragraph, and use italics or other visual cues.

Avoiding Analysis Paralysis

A fancy term for the situation where you throw so many options at the player that they don't know what to pick. This is pretty bad at character creation, and absolutely terrible in play, when everyone is waiting for the player do something and get on with it. You want to hit the sweet spot between doing the same every turn (classic D&D Fighter: I attack) or more than 9 options at once, where most naturally-wired humans start to break down.

During Character Creation

It's not completely avoidable, but you want to break down the choices into manageable chunks.

For example, instead of throwing 20 talents at the player at once, try to group them into around 5 choices at once, or at least logically connected build options. Maybe not all talents need to be available at first level? If the class has a level 5 and 8 talent slot, make some talents champion and epic options. If you have two similar talents, can you merge them? If a talent feels like the default option, make it a class feature? Or if it's too niche, maybe make it a power? Maybe something is really solved better by multiclassing?

For powers, it's natural to have a sort of pyramid with many low-level and few high-level options. However, try to balance the numbers more evenly. Make sure the 1st-level options are the most basic and universally useful. Move the more niche options up.

Tactical Options in Battle

Keep track of how many options the class has available during a combat turn. If players take too long, especially at low level, straighten things out. Think of all options that the player has as a card in his or her hand. Each available spell, each class feature and talent he or she can activate, plus general actions such as rally and disengage all add a card to their hand. Notice how most core book spellcasters start with 5, 6 cards in their hand and go up to a dozen or so. This is not just the physical limit of cards you can hold in one hand, it's also the limit where analysis paralysis starts to set in.

How many cards do I have in hand?

If you've played D&D 4th edition, the classes had a clear design paradigm. You had two at-will options, which gave you a basic tactical decision each turn, and a number of per-battle and daily tricks that you can pull in particularly difficult battles. In 13th Age, you have a lot more freedom, but it's still a good starting point.

Think about the class role, and what you want it to do in a normal combat turn.

Stealth archer? Default options could be an aimed shot from a safe position, or a shot on the run while hopping from cover to cover.

A holy spellcaster? Maybe a choice between holy damage plus some healing or holy damage plus an attack bonus to an ally. Or for a darker theme, holy damage plus enemy debuff.

The important part of an at-will power is that it's something the PC could do every turn, every combat and be useful. Keep the mechanics fast and simple and the effect obvious.

The other extreme are limited use powers, that get more powerful, but also more free-form. This is where the PC gets to feel bad-ass. The spotlight is on the PC, so it's acceptable if it takes a bit longer to resolve the power.

For example, the stealth archer could have a once-per-battle trick shot attack that allows him or her to use the environment in some way, like knocking down the chandelier on a group of mooks, in the spirit of the ranger's Tracker talent.

The holy spellcaster could have a daily spell that summons an angel, which naturally takes longer to resolve because the angel is an additional combatant on the battlefield, with his own stats and actions.

Some classes, such as fighter or chaos mage, have a larger amount of known powers but only make a smaller choice available to the player each turn, for exactly this reason. If a class has both talents and powers, make the talents passive, always-on abilities to limit the number of cards in hand. The fighter gets a pass for his active talents because flexible attack powers limit the range of available options.

Creating Valid Options

To help players with decision making, make the available "cards" distinct tactical options. For example, a "reckless attack" for extra damage with AC penalty vs. "defensive fighting" attack penalty with AC bonus" is a distinct A or B tactical choice. The player can make the decision based on role-playing or tactical consideration, whether he wants his PC to go full attack and full risk or carefully test the waters.

On the other hand, "poison attack" 5 ongoing poison damage vs. "fire attack" 2d6 fire damage is very similar and ends with roughly the same result in many combats. In the end, both reduce the hp total of a single enemy. Unless the player has a strong grasp of RPG math (most don't!), it creates a decision point that's not easy to decipher and therefore slows down the game. Give the player some sort of guidance. Maybe the poison attack is clearly better against some monster? Maybe make one at-will, the other a more powerful daily option with multiple targets? Or add a talent that encourages the player to theme the character for fire or poison attacks? It's a generic example but this is the sort of analysis to make.

Resource Management

Aside from the number of options, resource management is another factor that decides how complex a class is in play.

Resources are either at-will, per battle or daily. You'll recognize these categories from power frequencies.

Common Resources

Aside from powers, the important resources of a PC are his recoveries and any consumables like healing potions, runes and oils.

Recoveries are a daily resource for every class, as they are only regained on a full healup. The classes with the simplest resource management, that don't have to worry about daily powers or anything like that, will still use up recoveries by healing either in battle or between battles. 13th Age is balanced around 4 battles between each full healup and 8 recoveries per class, so each PC can use 2 recoveries each battle without getting into deep trouble. You can still use recoveries after you run out, but each imposes a -1 penalty to attacks, which quickly becomes crippling.

Healing potions don't change much in that equation, since they still require a healing surge to activate. The gp cost of potions and other consumables isn't really calculated in since 13th Age doesn't have a magic item economy like other D&D editions. The rules for handing out magic items are rather loose, but considering the quirk limits PCs are expected to have up to one item per level. Recharge powers of magic items are another resource a PC has to manage, but they are less important than recoveries.

Class-specific resources

This is where you make a design choice about the complexity of your class.

At-will only: The class has all of its options and powers available every turn. This puts a hard limit on what each power can do, and makes it necessary to balance them against each other, because otherwise the PC will just spam one thing turn after turn after turn. Some classes, like the Ranger, do the same thing every turn by design.

Limited at-will: Powers are at-will, but there is some mechanic in place to keep the player switching powers between turns. The warlock does this by having two types of powers, curses and blasts, with an incentive for switching between the two. The fighter creates variety by determining the available powers with the number on the attack roll. The monk uses the opening-flow-finishing cycle of his forms. The rogue gains or loses momentum.

Per battle: The class uses up its powers over the course of a battle, but gets them all back at the next quick rest. There is no core book example for this in 13th Age. The Warrior Druid is the closest example, although they have a way to reset their powers during a long battle. The disciple of 9 swords is another example, based on the original Tome of Battle writeup, but they also have a way to reset.

Daily: A class with daily resources has to do the most planning, and in a way, meta-gaming. Do you spread out your daily powers, trying to win each battle effectively and preserving recoveries? Or do you hold back, because you expect a series of encounters at increasing difficulty, with a big final battle as the fourth or even fifth? Throwing a big daily spell or power is fun for the player, but it adds complexity that they have to deal with.

Classic D&D had the problem that high-level spellcasters could just throw spells at encounters to win them almost immediately. When the party is on an overland journey, and doesn't expect more than one encounter per day, a single Cloudkill or similar could just wipe the slate and make the battle, and the other PCs, irrelevant. 13th Age doesn't work that way. PCs are expected to have at least four battles (or more general, four challenges) between each full healup, and any attempt to cheat that can be punished with a campaign loss.

If a DM decides to ignore that and allow PCs to regain their daily resources more often, then classes with daily resources become more powerful. But that's a house rule, and as a designer, you have to assume that the DM plays the rules by the book. Therefore, it's a design choice rather than a balance question whether you add the management of daily resources to your class or not.

Writing Techniques

The importance of names

Because the visuals of each power are mostly left out of the rules text, its name has to be memorable and evocative. Memorable, because you don't want your player to always be like "I used, err, what was it called" and evocative because it adds a cue to the player how to describe it. For example, compare three powers, all with the effect "daze (save ends)". One is called "Kick to the Nuts", one is called "Seductive Gaze", one is called "Daze". Even if their mechanics are identical, the first and second conjure images of different PCs with different tactics. The third one is just bland.

Writing style

13th Age has a bit of a peculiar style in rules writing. Most of the rules are short and concise, even bare-bones. For example, the fighter talent Tough as Iron just says "Once per battle, you can rally using a quick action instead of a standard action." No in-game explanation, no corner cases, no rules lawyering, no list of exceptions. For the usual talent that provides a straightforward bonus, that's completely sufficient. 13th Age assumes that the DM is experienced enough to judge any corner cases should they arise. The system also trusts that the player is creative enough to take these plain rules bits and add the flavor he or she likes.

There are exceptions. One is more free-form talents, like the wizard's Vance’s Polysyllabic Verbalizations. Since you encourage the player to step out of the defined rules, you need to give the GM some guidance on how to handle this and what effects to allow. It's fine to be more verbose on these.

Another category are powerful spells whose existence has deep repercussions on the game world. Resurrection is a prime example. The spell effect itself is quite short: "You can bring a creature back to life in more or less normal condition." 14 words. However, this is followed by a long paragraph on defining "more or less normal condition", an even longer part on casting limitations, and an explicit text box aimed at the GM that explains the role of the spell in the world. If you want to include similar abilities in your class, it's a good idea to spend a similar effort.

It's a defining characteristic of 13th Age that the authors "break the 4th wall" and express their personal viewpoint on in-game issues, and it's very helpful. Old-school D&D is a bit notorious for having implicit assumptions on how it is to be played, without ever mentioning them. For example, AD&D would precisely define spells to avoid edge cases and "standardize" interpretations, to allow competitive tournament play between parties. It just never explains or even mentions tournament play itself. Don't do that. If, for example, you give your class a specific limitation to balance a certain issue, don't be afraid to add some design commentary explaining it.

Readability

A good way to test the readability of your class is to give it to a player and have them build a character. If everything is lined up in a logical order, they should have no problem. Pay close attention to any questions they have. If something remains unclear, try to explain it better.

Another good test is to go back to the class after a week or a month. Does it all still make sense? It's not unusual that you had it all clearly laid out in your mind, but forgot to write down an important detail. If there's something that you don't remember, and it's not written down either, add it in.

(5) Testing

You've defined the basic stats, you have your first draft of class features, talents and powers, at least enough to build a level 1 character? Time to test.

In an ideal world, you'd either have a willing GM to allow you to play your class, or a willing player to test it in the campaign you're running. You'd be surprised: Just the threat that a player will bring your creation to your table makes you see it with very different goggles, and you suddenly start questioning whether they really need this or that bonus and what sort of shenanigans they are likely to pull off.

Playing the class yourself is also invaluable, because you start looking through the options you put in there with critical eyes, dismissing the weaker ones and squeezing out that little bit of extra power. Or you'll look at your writing from a month ago without a single clue how it was supposed to work, and end up rephrasing and reordering.

Setting up a playtest takes time. If you don't have the time or opportunity to playtest immediately, at least take the time to create 2-3 sample characters with different builds and at different levels, and run a few mock combats against monsters. You could even pit the class against a PC of a different class, but remember that PC classes are expected to work as a team. Some classes, like the commander, don't really work that well if they are on their own.

Feedback is good. Don't sit on your creation like a jealous lover, share it. Especially if this is your first creation, feedback will be harsh. People will rip it to shreds. You can safely ignore people who just dress you down ("this is stupid and you suck!"), but if someone takes the time to give you detailed feedback based on logical arguments, hear them out. More than once I first thought some criticism was baseless and unwarranted, only to come to the same conclusion myself later.

The important message here is that you are far from done. The real work starts from here, and you'll go back and repeat all steps on this chain many times over.

(6) Balancing

When talking about balancing, we're talking mostly about combat. This has a number of reasons, but the main one is that outside of combat, a player's skill at talking and solving puzzles is just as important as the stats on his character sheet. 13th Age PCs are also mostly on a level playing field outside of combat, as they gain the same amount of background points and icon relations.

Basics

The correct power balance is one of the trickiest parts to get right. It's also the part that causes the most damage when done wrong, the part people will complain most about, and the part complainers will be wrong about the most.

Let's say you add a power that does 100 flat damage on a hit. Is that good? Bad? That depends. Is that at level 1 or level 10? Can I do it every round? Does it cost me resources? As a level 1 at-will, it's going to completely destroy the game. As a level 10 daily, this better come with something extra or I'll pick something else.

The important thing to understand here is that balance is always relative. It's relative to three things:

  • Alternative options for the PC. Too weak, and nobody picks it. Too strong, and it overshadows the other options of the class.
  • Other PCs. What can they do, at what level? If your class is too good, it will start stealing the spotlight. It's especially bad if your class can casually be better at something that is supposed to be the specialty of the other class, but not yours. On the other hand, if your class is nothing but a drain on party reserves and never gets anything done, it's not fun for anybody either.
  • Monsters and NPCs. Whether your attacks will hit or not doesn't just depend on your own attack bonus, it also depends on what the defenses of the monsters on the battlefield are. It's therefore important to look at what sort of opposition the PC will face at what level.

This is not an exact science. Is perfect balance even achievable? Sort of. The 4th edition of D&D put class balance as one of its core design principles, and it came closer to it than any RPG before or after. People hated it with a passion. The main issue was that once you try to achieve pixel-perfect balance between classes, you start to constrain your design space to the point that you compromise on the other core design principle, fun.

On the other hand, if classes are unbalanced to the point that they are sorted into six tiers from trash to god-like, as in 3rd edition, it kills the fun too. If you don't know what this is about, look up "linear fighters, quadratic wizards". It's been a bane of D&D for a long time.

Luckily, in 13th Age, the classes are close enough in power level that you can usually balance your class against one or two of the other classes and be in the right zone compared to all other classes. At the same time, class design is very open, and you have a variety of templates to choose from or you can invent your own.

So what are the key balance points? If you break down RPG combat to the very basics, it's the attempt to deplete the hit points of all monsters on the battlefield while preserving your own resources (hit points, recoveries, items, resurrections...). So there are two directions: How much damage the class can dish out, i.e. how much it contributes to finishing the combat quickly, and how much it contributes to preserving resources (for example by resisting an attack with a high armor class).

Damage output

The main objective in combat is to defeat the enemies. And the main method is to reduce their hit points to zero. Measuring the damage output of a class can become quite complex, once start splitting it into categories like DPS (consistent damage without spending resources), nova potential (throwing everything at the enemy) and indirect damage (ally buffs, summons etc.).

Damage output is the key metric for a Striker class. If you are designing a striker class, spend some time comparing its damage output to reference points such as the ranger (for consistent damage output) and the Sorcerer (for nova).

Damage prevention

The opposite of damage output. The overall survivability of a class depends on how well it can stay away from enemies (mobility, ranged attacks), how hard it is to hit (AC, PD, MD), how many hits it can take (hit points), how well it can heal itself (recovery dice), and how well it can shake off non-damage effects (saves). However, that picture changes slightly if you consider the entire party instead of just one PC. A power like Shadow Walk is the ultimate defense ability, because you can't even be targeted. It doesn't help the group as much, because the monster will attack a different PC. It's only a net positive if the targetet PC can take hits better than the squishy rogue.

Status effects are also a part of damage prevention. If you stun an enemy and it can't attack, the damage of that attack is prevented.

Damage prevention is a main concern of tanks, who can not only take hits better than their allies, they can entice monsters attack them rather than their squishy allies. Control classes also have a focus on damage prevention, but they try to prevent enemies from attacking effectively in the first place.

Game breakers

This is a catch-all category for abilities that give a PC a significant advantage, in combat and often outside of combat, because they break certain limitations of enemies or the environment. The main categories are mobility, such as flight, teleportation, invisibility or walking through walls; control abilities such as stun, mind reading and mind control; and death-related abilities like resurrection. In the worst case, they can break the plot of an unprepared DM.

PCs will only gain access to these slowly, at champion or epic levels. But still, once they are in the game they represent a power difference between the PCs who have them and the PCs who don't. Be extra careful when you add such abilities to your class, and make sure that you add similar limitations to them as the existing spellcaster classes have, namely Wizard and Cleric.

Damage Output

DPS

How much damage your class can dish out reliably, each round, each battle, without burning limited resources, especially dailies. Typically, that depends on your expected hit chance (vs. the AC of a standard monster of that level) multiplied by the damage of each hit. Add in additional effects like miss damage, extra attacks etc.

Nova potential

It's the last encounter of the day, you're up against the big dragon, and you decide to burn all your resources. How much hurt can you dish out? This is the nova potential. Sorcerers are the undisputed kings of this, although wizards aren't close behind (or even in front, depending on how brutally the table nerfed the Evocation + Force Salvo combo). Again, this is mainly a striker metric.

A good reference point for damage output is the "baseline stats for normal monsters" table in the core book. Here you'll see that the average monster has AC 17 and 27 hit points at level 1. A first level character will deal somewhere between 6 and 9 damage with a hit, so it takes 3 to 4 hits to take down that monster. Take into account that the PC has about a 40% chance to hit at escalation die zero, and 70% when the escalation die is 6, and it takes the PC six to seven rounds to take down that monster. At the table, combats don't last that long, because of limited-use powers, buffs, several PCs attacking one enemy and so on.

That calculation becomes more complicated once you take once-per-battle or daily powers into account. At 22 average damage and 5 ongoing, the first level daily Acid Arrow is strong enough to kill a first-level monster in one hit.

Add in to-hit bonuses, increased critical hit range, rerolls and other bonuses and you can end up with some fairly complex maths.

Area effects

Spellcasters often have effects that damage several enemies instead of one. This can be better or worse than a single-target attack.

Better: If you have a low-hit point enemy like a mook or a staggered monster, it's better to distribute the damage to take out one monster and damage another than do a lot of excess damage against a monster at low hit points.

Worse: In 13th Age, most monsters fight at full strength until they are taken out. So in general, it's better to focus fire and reduce the number of attacks coming in, rather than spread damage around.

Since the worse situation is more likely than the better, area attacks deal a bit more total damage than single-target attacks.

Damage Prevention

This part is easier to balance since the numbers are static and it's mostly passive.

AC

AC is by far the most-attacked defense. Base AC ranges from 10 (Wizard) to 17 (Paladin with shield). Since AC is based on Con/Dex/Wis, for any class that can afford to have a high value in two out of three of these, base AC is effectively higher. The type of armor doesn't matter much, PCs will usually wear the best option that doesn't give an attack penalty.

PD and MD

PD is attacked more often than MD, but attacks against MD tend to have terrible status effects like confusion, so MD is equally important. PD and MD are a lot more similar between classes, usually 10 or 11, with a few 12s.

Hit points

On paper, there isn't much difference between the Wizard's 6+Con and the Fighter's 8+Con.

 

Debuffs

Healing

Status effects

Doing the math

Hit damage

Since the PC is expected to land many hits over his career, we just look at the average damage of a hit, not minimum or maximum. High-level PCs often average damage anyway to speed up dice rolling. The average of a dX is (X+1)/2. So d6 = 3.5. Don't forget to add the ability score bonus when calculating damage of a hit, and remember that at 5th level, that bonus is doubled, and at 8th level, tripled.

Damage per round

PCs don't hit every turn. Depending on ability scores, magic items, whether they attack AC, PD or MD, the escalation die, buffs and other factors, a PC's chance to hit will average out between 50% to 60% over a battle.

Miss damage

At just 1 per level, you can usually ignore miss damage in calculations unless you give the PC some way to buff it. Note that miss damage will be less important the better a PC's chance to hit is.

Attack bonus

Each +1 increases hit chance by 5%, so it increases per-round damage output by (0.05)*(average damage of a hit). Note that if a PC has a 50% chance to hit, and you increase that to 55%, per-round damage is increased by 10% over all. The bump from 75% to 80% is only a 6.67% increase. At 95% to hit, each additional point has 0% effect (if a natural 1 is always a miss).

The higher your chance to hit already is, the more valuable a damage bonus becomes over more attack bonus.

Critical threat range

Usually, a +1 bonus to critical threat range adds a 5% chance to increase damage by 100%, so the effect on damage per round is (0.05)*(average damage of a hit), the same as a +1 bonus to attack. There are a few subtle differences: (1) hit to crit is a true 100% bonus, whereas miss to hit is only the difference between hit and miss damage, which is slightly less; (2) if your hit has additional effects like ongoing damage or daze, a hit bonus is better

Vulnerability

Vulnerability to an attack is a +2 bonus to critical threat range, so balance the effect in the same way. Remember that a general vulnerability can be used by allies too, so it is potentially a as powerful as a +2 bonus to the entire party rather than just one PC. 

Odd / even roll

This is essentially a 50/50 chance that's independent of hit and miss. Keep in mind that even rolls include natural 20, whereas odd rolls include natural 1. As a rule of thumb, things like "even hit" will trigger 25% of the time.

Saving throw difficulty and duration

A "save ends" effect always lasts for at least the target's next turn, at which point it ends (if the save is a success) or continues until the next turn, where it requires another save.

An easy save succeeds on 6+ (15/20 = 3/4 = 75%), a normal save on 11+ (10/20 = 1/2 = 25%), a hard save on 16+ (5/20 = 3/4 = 25%). 

To calculate the average duration D of an effect, we need the chance for the save to fail f, which is 1 minus the success chance. If we add up the chance for the effect to continue another round each round, we end up with a geometric series.

D(f) = 1 + f + f^2 + f^3 + ... = lim sum [k=0...inf] f^k = 1 / (1-f).

According to that formula, an easy save effect lasts 1.33 turns, a normal save effect 2 turns and a hard save effect 4 turns on average.

Ongoing damage

With the above formula, we can also calculate the expected total damage from an ongoing effect, which is damage per turn multiplied by the duration. 10 ongoing damage with a normal save does 20 total damage. 5 ongoing damage with a hard save also does 20 total damage.

However, note that ongoing damage is worth less than immediate damage, because a monster can still attack while it takes ongoing damage. If it takes the entire damage at once, it might be dead immediately.

Resistance

Resistance mechanics in 13th Age are a bit counterintuitive. They reduce damage to half if the attack roll is lower than a certain number. So if you have resistance X+, there are 3 outcomes: miss, hit below X, hit X or above. Unless your DM loves tough fights with double and triple-strength monsters, most monsters deal no damage on a miss, so your resistance is only effective in the narrow middle band.

With a resist any 12+, monsters that needs an 11+ to hit, and does no miss damage, that's really a natural 11 only, 5% half damage out of 50% chance to hit. So the total damage you take goes down by (5%/50%)/2 = 10%/2 = 5%. (The epic barbarian's Relentless power isn't quite as bad, mainly because he's nearly always raging, it resists any damage, and many monster's have a higher chance to hit or deal miss damage at that level.)

The same math for resist any 16+ gives (25%/50%)/2 = 25% damage reduction. That's where it starts getting useful.

Attack and Damage Scaling

The monster table is important because you want your class to scale properly. That AC 17 / 27 hp becomes AC 21 / 72 hp at level 5, and AC 26 / 216 hp at level 10. Monster attacks and defenses go up by +1 per level, damage and hit points by about 25%. Attacks and defenses of your homebrew class will go up by +1 thanks to the level bonus, but damage doesn't scale that easily. You'll have to do some calculations to make sure that your class can still kill the average monster with about as many hits at 10th level compared to 1st.

The tricky part is that by default, weapon classes scale their damage by doing <level>dX + <ability score>*<tier> damage. This scales up with monster's +25% per level until epic level, where monsters just go through the roof because of exponential vs. linear growth. PCs have to fill that end-game gap with talents, powers and items, which some classes do well (Rogue, Fighter) and others don't (Ranger).

Now, it's also true that most campaigns will stay at adventurer level, and few will reach the point where level 9 or 10 abilities become relevant. But it is something to consider when balancing a class.

(7) Editing

Even after you've balanced your class and it performs well in play, there is still work to do.

Spelling and Grammar

If English is not your native language, or just not your strong point, have a friend or someone in the community look over what you wrote. After all, what you write is a piece of communication between you and the player, so make sure you are understood clearly. At the very least, run a spell check, especially if you have a habit of writing late at night.

Correct Keywords

Writing RPG material is a great playground for your creativity, but when it comes to naming elements of the system you are using, make sure you stick to the standard lingo. This can be a bit challenging at first if you come from a related game system, especially D&D 4th edition. Some things are named the same but have different effects, notably the weakened and dazed condition. Other things describe the same concept but use slightly different wording.

Keywords to watch out for: battle (not combat or encounter), quick rest (not short rest), full healup, recovery (not healing surge), save (not saving throw), negative energy (not unholy or necrotic), engaged with (not engaged to), interrupt action (not immediate interrupt), opportunity attack (not attack of opportunity).

I am not 100% on these either but I try...

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