View Full Version : D&D 3.x Class Balancing a custom prestige class?

2015-08-31, 02:55 PM
I'm making a sailor character, but I want him to have a huge focus on using rope for everything. I couldn't find a rope-wielding-dude class in any rulebooks, so I'm making one. My main question is: How do you balance it? What things do you have to consider when determining if it's overpowered or weak? How do you choose which abilities to make into capstone abilities?

The Marlinspike
Role: Solo grappler, group crowd control, secondary skill-monkey.
Hit Die: d8.
full Attack bonus.
Skills per level 4. Class skills:
Proficiencies: Rope/chain weapons. Fishing/sailing related weapons. Light Armor. No shields.
Good saves: Fortitude, Reflex.

1: Improved Grapple, Tricks of the Trade, Rope Mastery.
2: Rope Sorcery, Rope Wrestle.
3: Combat Expertise.
4: Constrict(using rope).
5: Int to AC.

Tricks of the Trade(Ex): The marlinspike is treated a having the prerequisites for Improved Trip and Improved Disarm.

Rope Mastery(Ex): Any rope the marlinspike uses acts as if affected by "Animate Rope". Use Rope skill checks take one step less time. Full round checks become standard actions, standard actions become move actions, move actions become swift, etc.

Rope Sorcery(Su): 1/day create 50ft silk rope. Any sack becomes bag of holding for 300ft of rope and associated tackle. Bag can hold no other items.

Rope Wrestle(Ex): While wielding a rope the marlinspike counts as 1 size category larger while grappling.
The Marlinspike:
Role: Out of combat the marlinspike has enough skill points to fill a role of their choice. In combat the marlinspike excels at either crippling a single powerful foe with grapples, or greatly hindering weaker enemies in a large area using combat expertise.
Prerequisites: Use rope 8 ranks, profession(sailor) 4 ranks.
Hit Die: d8.
Full Attack bonus.
Skills per level 4 + intelligence modifier. Class skills:
Proficiencies: Rope/ropelike weapons, Fishing/sailing related weapons. Light Armor. No shields.
Good saves: Fortitude, Reflex.

1: Improved Grapple, Tricks of the Trade, Rope Mastery.
2: Rope Sorcery, Rope Wrestle, Lifeline.
3: Combat Expertise, Rigging Trick.
4: Constrict, Reach.
5: As the Kraken, Pirate's Noose.

As the Kraken(Su): A marlinspike can control ropes within 20 feet as a standard action, making the ropes dance or move as they wish. In addition, a marlinspike can increase these ropes’ length by up to 15 feet and cause their ends to gain large, hard knots. These ropes attack as effectively as the marlinspike, using both his attack bonus and damage. Each rope has one attack per round. A marlinspike can control a number of ropes equal to 3 + 1/5 of their total hit dice. If a rope is in another creature’s possession, the creature can attempt a Will save to break the marlinspike’s power over that rope. The DC is 10 + the marlinspike's class levels + marlinspike's intelligence bonus. If the save is successful, the marlinspike cannot attempt to control that particular rope again for 24 hours or until the rope leaves the creature’s possession. A marlinspike can traverse ropes they control at their normal speed without making Climb or Balance checks.

Constrict(Ex): While wielding a rope weapon a marlinspike can deal additional constriction damage on a successful grapple check. This damage is equal to 2d6 + 1 1/2 times the marlinspike's strength modifier.

Lifeline(Ex): Whenever the marlinspike falls, is thrown, or flung more than ten feet by any effect they can attempt to catch theirself without penalty at the normal climb DC for the surface being caught. They must have a rope or ropelike weapon in their hands to use this ability. This effect is an immediate action. Also, as an immediate action the marlinspike may catch another creature at the same DC, so long as their weight is no more than double the marlinspike's maximum load.

Pirate's Noose(Su): Once per day the marlinspike can unerringly throw a special noose about a creature's neck at a range of up to 60ft. With a sharp tug and a little magic, the creature's neck is broken, killing it instantly. A successful fortitude save (DC 10 + 1/2 marlinspike's total level + marlinspike's strength modifier) prevents death. Even on a successful save the creature is entangled as by a lasso. This does not work on creatures immune to sneak attacks or with multiple heads.

Reach(Ex): While using a rope or ropelike weapon the marlinspike has reach as if they were one size category larger.

Rope Mastery(Ex): Any rope or ropelike item the marlinspike holds in their hands is considered to be under the affect of the animate rope spell and can entangle creatures of any size. The save DC is 10 + marlinspike class levels + the marlinspike's intelligence modifier. This is an extraordinary ability. Additionally, all the marlinspike's use rope checks are faster than normal. Reduce the time taken by one step, or halve times longer than 1 full round. Full round actions become standard actions, standard actions become move-equivalent actions, etc. Finally, in the marlinspike's hands ranged rope weapons (Lassos, rope darts, etc.) have a range of 30ft.

Rigging Trick(Ex): While balancing or climbing the marlinspike retains their dexterity bonus to armor class and take no penalties to attack.

Rope Sorcery(Su): A marlinspike may create 100ft of extraordinary rope from nothing once per day. This rope has 10 hit points, AC 10, hardness 5 and can be broken with a DC 28 strength check. Further, any empty sack becomes a bag of holding capable of holding 300ft of rope and rope related gear. It cannot be used to hold any other items.

Rope Wrestle(Ex): While wielding a rope or ropelike weapon, a marlinspike counts as 1 size category larger for grappling.

Tricks of the Trade(Ex): The Marlinspike counts as having all prerequisites for the feats Improved Trip and Improved Disarm.

2015-08-31, 03:09 PM
In terms of WotC classes that are closest to yours, the two that come to mind are the Master of Chains (http://dndtools.pw/classes/master-of-chains/) and the Lasher (http://dndtools.pw/classes/lasher/). I mention them mostly in case they generate ideas.

The general rule with all classes, PrC or otherwise, is that if they don't have spells, or a spell equivalent, they are weak enough to be balanced. Obviously, certain abilities can change this (Hulking Hurler, for one), but by and large if the class can't alter reality on a whim, it's not overpowered. More specifically, you want to understand what level each of a class's abilities are going to exist, because that gives a general idea of the power level they should be at.

Now, on to the specifics of your class:
It's a little disjointed (The abilities don't build on one another), and it's weak. There's no ability in there that can't be replicated or used by a character of around level 3 or down. A few more specifics are also necessary - it's a prestige class for sailors, but is it for NPC sailors (commoners and experts), or PC ones? At what level do you see characters taking it?

2015-08-31, 03:30 PM
Seconding Lasher as a place to look for inspiration. It's an old 3.0e class, but it had some fun ideas, especially the Third Hand thing.

Some other things you might consider...

- The Animate Rope ability needs more definition. Am I "using" a rope that I'm standing on? How about one that's tied to my waist? What is the minimum action that I need to take to make a rope grab a jerk? Usually the spell has a Medium range.

- Webslinger Bracers (a magic item that creates silk rope, with a sticky glob at the end, created by the famous Gnome Tinkerer, Petros Parktender).

- Rope Trick, it's a standard.

- Raid the Combat Trapsmith class for tricks that are even halfway plausible using rope.

- Hangman Golem companion.

2015-09-01, 04:05 AM
Ropes are not whips, whips have incremental stiffness and tapering to them, you might as well call a stick a staff, or bottle a club. Ropedarts on the other hand...


PF has the tie up option automatically and uses opposed escape artist instead of "use rope".

I mean, if I were you what I would do is build a grapple heavy initiator class around

Except give the class the natural reach (explain the use of ropes to accomplish this) of a large character early on with a limited duration, and expand that to permanent, and use your living ropes/ropedarts for everything.

Or, yaknow, just play quorin and do whatever you want whenever you want.

2015-09-01, 11:07 AM
Pathfinder also has rules that allow you to use a rope as a spiked chain that deals bludgeoning damage or as a whip under their "equipment trick (http://www.archivesofnethys.com/FeatDisplay.aspx?ItemName=Equipment%20Trick)" feat that may help with this.

2015-09-02, 12:13 AM
So many good ideas and links! You guys are awesome!

I've made some serious changes to the class, most making it stronger. A few of you will definitely recognize where they came from. I tried to make the abilities scale with total level so that they are something the character will continue using even as he advances.

The overall theme of the class seems to fit better, with abilities that tie into his dual main role. I feel like Pirate's Noose is a little ill fit and should be replaced with something more fitting to the theme.