View Full Version : How I Make a Class (Class Included!) [PEACH]

2008-09-17, 01:50 AM
How I Make a Class

Iíve gotten a few questions about how I design a class, so I figured Iíd share the process as I create a new one just for the heck of it. Should be fun.

The first thing I consider when making a class is the purpose. Unless the class has a role to fill or an interesting concept (hopefully both), nobody will play it. So to start with, Iím going to list a whole bunch of base classes and the roles theyíre supposed to fill-- not neccessarily roles they actually fill, but roles theyíre meant to fill.

Barbarian: melee, tank, movement
Bard: arcane, buffer, skillful
Beguiler: arcane, stealth
Cleric: divine, melee, versatility, undead
Duskblade: arcane, melee
Dragonfire Adept: arcane, infinite
Dragon Shaman: buffer, element
Dread Necromancer: arcane, undead
Druid: divine, melee, shapeshifting
Favored Soul: divine, melee
Fighter: melee, ranged
Healer: divine, mounted
Hexblade: arcane, melee
Knight: tank
Marshal: melee, buffer
Monk: mage-killer, melee, unarmed, unarmored, movement
Ninja: precision, stealth, poison, skillful, unarmored
Paladin: melee, tank, divine, mounted
Psion: psionic, versatility
Psychic Warrior: psionic, melee, ranged
Ranger: melee, ranged, stealth, tracker, divine, special enemy
Rogue: precision, stealth, traps, skillful
Samurai: melee
Scout: precision, stealth, tracker, movement, skillful
Shugenja: divine, element
Sorcerer: arcane
Soulknife: melee
Spellthief: mage-killer, precision, stealth, arcane
Spirit Shaman: divine, special enemy
Swashbuckler: precision, melee
Warlock: arcane, infinite
Warmage: arcane
Wilder: psionic
Wizard: arcane, versatility
Wu Jen: arcane, versatility

I think that covers the principal classes and roles. In any case, itíll serve for these purposes.

So the trick is to either find a unique role that hasnít been filled yet or a unique combination of roles that hasnít been put together yet. The roles Iíve picked to use are as follows:

Poison: only one base class uses poison right now; the ninja. Moreover, they donít even use it very well, since they have to pay gp to use their class features. This is a very poor design; by filling the role theyíre meant to fill and by using their special skills, theyíre weakening themselves in comparison to the rest of the party. It means these class features wonít see much use and the player will feel penalized for contributing to the party. So this class Iím making is going to have poison use, but itís also going to be able to create its own poison, probably through some kind of supernatural mechanism.

Unarmed: the only class that fights unarmed as it is is the monk. This is ridiculous, since there are lots of concepts that could include unarmed combat which simply canít be pulled off as a monk (poor class design aside). Thus, this class will fight using bare hands.

Mage-Killer: the only class right now that can adequately be a deterrent to full spellcasters is the spellthief. The monk, strangely enough, is meant to fill this role, but suffers from so many problems that this aspect is glossed right over. Yet with the overwhelming power of full spellcasters, a class made to fight them specifically is going to definitely have a place in the party.

Tracker: often a glossed-over role, the Track feat and Survival as a class skill can be helpful to any party in out-of-combat navigation. As of right now, only the ranger and the scout are designed to be trackers, and only the ranger gets the feat. Thus, this class will have the feat and the skill. In addition, an oft-overlooked aspect of the survival skill allows you to track by scent. This seems like it would be an interesting addition, since thereís currently no way to get scent aside from a warlock invocation and maybe some spell or other. A scent-based tracker would be interesting, certainly.

So where does this leave us? We have a poison-using, bare-handed, magic-killing, scent-based tracker. I donít know about you, but Iím getting serious Ďsnakeí vibe off of this. Which is cool, because as it is thereís no class that has anything to do with snakes. So letís take this idea for the time being. The class will focus on a snake theme.

The next things to determine before starting are the attributes of the class. BAB, saves, hit dice, and skill points to start with; class skills can come later.

For BAB, Iím thinking 1/1. This class is meant to fight unarmed, and that means lots of attacks. In addition, theyíre made to kill casters, who can generally have very high ACs through spells.

Saves: against spells, Fort and Will are easily the most deadly saves. Taking this as a good Fort and Will and a poor Ref, this gives us the image of a character who spends his time training his body and mind to take magical punishment.

Hit Dice: with full BAB, this guyís probably going to be in the middle of things. Iím thinking at least d8, probably d10 hit dice.

Skill Points: do I want this class to be particularly skillful? Going with the snake theme, physical skills are certainly going to be important, but with full BAB he shouldnít need too many skills to be powerful. Weíll hedge our bets and go with 4 + Int for the moment, but this could change once we get a better picture of the class.

Now: weíre working off of an idea of a snake. So now itís time for brainstorming. What kinds of things do I associate with snakes? Slithering, certainly. Winding, climbing, hissing, venom, snakebites, rattle, contrictors, boa, viper, python, fangs, lithe, scaled, forked tongue, smelling tongue, tail, whip, hanging. These are just some ideas, but theyíll probably be handy when Iím making the class features for the class, since I can draw on them for names and inspiration.

Already Iím thinking of expanding the role of the class; based on a snake, giving it stealth abilities would certainly make sense in the context of the class and fit with the poison theme. Certainly if Iím going to be fighting full spellcasters with it it needs some way to avoid detection. Hide and Move Silently as class skills and probably Camouflage as well would serve very nicely.

Now, weíve got some supernatural abilities lined up for the class. It seems heís going to be making poison to use. I might be able to swing this as extraordinary if I went with a guy slowly turning into a snake, but thatís kind of bleh and icky to boot. Supernatural is a much better fit. But supernatural abilities should come from somewhere, certainly. Where could these snake-related abilities come from? Looking down the roster of sources:

Arcane: probably not. Thereís already an arcane-poison user, the assassin. Anyhow, it doesnít make much sense thematically either.

Divine: I could go with a snake-god idea, but honestly that just doesnít appeal to me.

Psionics: certainly a possibility. For a more Ďnatureí oriented psionic class and especially a psionic base class with stealth that wouldnít feel just like a psionic rogue (cough lurk cough). But mastery of the mind doesnít really fit with the theme of a spellcaster-killer with snake powers.

Ancestral: interesting idea. If this class is more of an order or group, then this could make a lot of sense. Ancient snake-based fighting style thatís passed down since time immemorial to fight magic. This would explain a lot of the abilities and also provide a basis for some of the abilities and a start on the rationale behind the class. I like this idea a lot.

Totemic: another distinct possibility. Abilities gained through worship of Snake in general. Dragon Shaman did this through worship of Dragon and not any one dragon. Could work, certainly, but honestly not as interesting as the idea of an order of anti-magic snake warriors.

So the working idea is going to be the class is an initiate of an order of mage-slayers. This ties in with the tracking ideas already thought of, with the order teaching the initiate snake-based ways of hunting down vigilante magicians.

In order to start work on the class features Iíll need something to call the class, so looking back at my brainstorming list Iím going to go with the Ďviperí as a tentative class name. This will probably change before the end.

We have 20 levels to work with for class features. I hate dead levels, so I definately want to have something at each level. To start with, we need a few things out of the way at 1st level. The class needs to at least be usable to start with, even if it doesnít have all its snake-based powers. So Iím going to go with Improved Unarmed Strike to start with, and the unarmed strike progression of a monk. Whatever else you want to say about the monk, it can hit unarmed better than most people.

Other basic abilities to toss out there: both Evasion and Mettle, certainly. Something to boost saving throws. Track, probably at level 2 or 3. Later on, spell resistance.

As far as ability scores go, Charisma seems to me to be the key mental stat. It fits the most with the snake theme and the intimidating nature. Dexterity represents a snakeís swiftness, and Iím probably going to have a suite of abilities related to attacks of opportunity. Certainly itís going to be harder to cast defensively beside a viper. Constitution will probably determine the potency of poison.

Grappling is a good way to immobilize a caster, and works very nicely with a snake theme. Unfortunately, thatís a lot of important abilities if we add in Strength for grappling. So weíll put in a way to substitute an ability score, probably Dexterity for Strength in grapple checks. Improved Grapple should also be given. Wisdom is important for tracking, but in the interest of reducing MAD Charisma could be worked in if itís the snake skills used in the tracking. Probably replace the ability modifier for survival checks using Scent. Intelligence also seems to be mostly a dump stat, but being stealthy and all theyíll need a fair number of skill points. So weíll boost the skill points tentatively up to 6 + Int for now to accomodate the lower Int.

I detest per day abilities. The day is a completely arbitrary unit that the DM has no real way to control, since itís up to the party to determine how far to go. Per encounter abilities make far more sense. The supernatural abilities of this class will probably have a certain number of uses per encounter. Iím going to go with Cha mod per encounter for now, and lump all of the in-battle supernatural stuff into the same ability, which they can divy up as they like. Certainly poison will be in there. Looking back at my brainstorming, weíll call this supernatural power Ďsnakebiteí for now, for a catch-all name. They should get a bunch of different ways to use snakebite, a new one every few levels.

Just looking class feature-wise, hereís what Iíve got so far in a rough table.

Table: Class Features (Take 1)
{table=head]Level|Class Feature
1|Improved unarmed strike, snakebite (ability I)
2|Track, evasion
4|Snakebite (ability II)
6|Spell resistance?
7|Snakebite (ability III)
10|Snakebite (ability IV)
13|Snakebite (ability V)
16|Snakebite (ability VI)
19|Snakebite (ability VII)

I decided to give a new use for snakebite every three levels, so they should have lots of options for it. Evasion is at level 2, being the earliest anybody gets it. Mettle, being better, is at level 5.

I want something, though, to boost saves in general. This guy should be as close to untouchable by spells as possible in a class. Scent isnít much to get at 3rd level, so weíll stick in paladin-esque Cha-to-saves bonus. Itís later than the paladin gets it, so it shouldnít be a problem so long as I say it doesnít stack. ĎSnakeís graceí sounds good.

Spell Resistance also makes tons of sense. 6th level is probably a good time to start, since itís just before spellcasters start getting some decent spells. 5 + class level sounds good to start with, and weíll improve it later on. Every six levels, maybe? That sounds good. An additional +5 spell resistance every six levels.

Do I want improved evasion and (dare I say it) improved mettle? Weíll leave them out for now, but if it looks sparse later on, that would be a heck of a capstone with improved mettle.

The first ability snakebite gives should definitely be poison. Probably a free action to activate it, then have it active for all the attacks in that round. The damage the poison deals we can figure out later.

As for other abilities involving snakebite, pounce seems to make sense. I donít want to give it by itself, but spending a use of snakebite to be able to charge and attack makes sense. Actually, come to think of it, I think just granting a move action woud be better. Speaking of which, this guy needs to be able to move fast. If heís going to catch spellcasters, heíll need speed.

Letís see the chart!

Table: Class Features (Take 2)
{table=head]Level|Class Feature
1|Improved unarmed strike, snakebite (venom strike)
2|Track, evasion
3|Scent, snakeís grace
4|Snakebite (lunge), movement +10ft.
6|Spell resistance
7|Snakebite (ability III)
8|Movement +20ft.
10|Snakebite (ability IV)
12|Improved spell resistance, movement +30ft.
13|Snakebite (ability V)
16|Snakebite (ability VI), movement +40ft.
18|Greater spell resistance
19|Snakebite (ability VII)
20|Movement +50ft.[/table]

Well, itís starting to look a bit more fleshed out. The early levels look reasonable, and he should be pretty quick.

Now. Spellcasters should find it hard to cast around this guy. Heís trained to fight and disrupt them. So letís give him the ability, almost an aura, which makes it harder for spellcasters to cast defensively adjacent to him. Level 8 seems reasonable for this. Letís say, he adds 1/2 his class level to the Concentration check they need to make. That should give him plenty of incentive to get over to the caster.

I like the movement bonuses, but snakes have other ways of moving too. Climbing, burrowing, swimming, and even gliding. Iím thinking make that into an ability, like Ďsnakeís swiftnessí or something, which provides a bunch of options that they can pick from, all related to movement. Much more interesting than a flat increase to land speed. Make the bonuses scale with class levels, and let him get them all by 20th level.

Grappling. We want him to have it fairly early on, so letís give him Improved Grapple at 6th level. Thatís when he gets spell resistance for the first time, but bear in mind that at level 6 that wonít be used very often. Also, itíll be fairly low at that point (11), so itíll be nice to get another offensive option too. At that point heíll also get the ability to substitute Dex for Str in grapples. Weíll wrap them into an ability like Ďcoilsí or Ďconstrictioní or something like that.

In the same vein, he should have constrict damage. Letís find an empty level after level 6 to give him constrict damage probably equal to his unarmed damage. Then in the spell-fighting theme, a snakebite ability that drains spell slots could be interesting. Letís see if we can work that in. Speaking of snakebite, we wanted to work with attacks of opportunity. A snakebite use to make an immediate attack of opportunity makes sense, and it even replicates a spell, snakeís swiftness. As well, Combat Reflexes makes sense too. Letís see if that could fit anywhere.

Table: Class Features (Take 3)
{table=head]Level|Class Feature
1|Improved unarmed strike, snakebite (venom strike)
2|Track, evasion
3|Scent, snakeís grace
4|Snakebite (lunge), swift stride
6|Constricting coils, spell resistance
7|Snakebite (reflexive strike)
8|Pythonís presence, swift stride
9|Combat Reflexes
10|Snakebite (ability IV)
11|Tightening coils
12|Improved spell resistance, swift stride
13|Snakebite (ability V)
16|Snakebite (spelldrain), swift stride
18|Greater spell resistance
19|Snakebite (ability VII)
20|Swift stride[/table]

Swift stride is now an ability which will give a movement-based benefit. Constricting Coils gives Improved Grapple and Dex-for-Str, while Tightening Coils gives constricting damage. Spelldrain will let him drain spell slots, either with a single strike or to someone heís grappling. Pythonís presence lets him distract nearby spellcasters casting defensively.

Rattlesnake. I like the idea of an ability called death rattle. It seems to lend itself to a save-or-die ability, but I donít particularly like those. Not that itís neccessarily overpowered (although I feel it is, as well as unfun) but youíll also inevitably get people saying itís unbalanced, despite the fact that spellcasters do it all the time. So Iím thinking death rattle could be a sonic-based ability which could deal damage to spellcasters nearby or anybody with spell-like abilities or the like for that matter. It seems like it would work best as a snakebite ability, so weíll put it in at 19th level and make it really powerful.

Cobras are also cool. Tying in with attacks of opportunity, letís let him avoid them too. A snakebite ability called Ďcobra danceí lets him avoid attacks of opportunity until the next turn.

That leaves one snakebite ability. Getting back to poison, an improved venom strike would work, with a better choice for poisons. Maybe paralytic poison and mind-damaging poison for spellcasters.

14, 15, and 17 are empty. Also, I just realized that I never gave him camouflage like I wanted to. 14 is a bit late for it, though, so weíre going to move tightening coils to 14th and give him camo at 11th. Thatís about the time that Hide starts to become less effective, so this should give him a boost.

15 and 17. Iíve got Improved Evasion and Improved Mettle that I could stick in there, but I think thatís just going to be too powerful. I could see Improved Evasion, especially since heís got a poor Reflex save, but Improved Mettle is crazy good. Letís schedule Improved Evasion for level 15.

Table: Class Features (Take 4)
{table=head]Level|Class Feature
1|Improved unarmed strike, snakebite (venom strike)
2|Track, evasion
3|Scent, snakeís grace
4|Snakebite (lunge), swift stride
6|Constricting coils, spell resistance
7|Snakebite (reflexive strike)
8|Pythonís presence, swift stride
9|Combat Reflexes
10|Snakebite (cobra dance)
12|Improved spell resistance, swift stride
13|Snakebite (mind venom)
14|Tightening coils
15|Improved evasion
16|Snakebite (spelldrain), swift stride
18|Greater spell resistance
19|Snakebite (death rattle)
20|Swift stride[/table]

Now Iíve got one dead level at 17, and Iím missing a capstone. People will always multiclass to squeeze every last drop out of a build, so you always want to put something great at 20th level. I donít worry too much about the balance of that ability, because at that point the game is ridiculously crazy and going to end soon anyway.

Level 17. This oneís starting to bug me, because I canít think of anything appropriate for this late in a build. I want something fairly potent, so I think Iím going to give him a nice edge in grappling: the ability to take 10 on Grapple checks. As far as I know, nobody else can do that, so that should be something to look forward to. In fact, thinking about it now, they could probably use an ability to take 10 on most of their snake-like skills. So letís say that he gets a combination ability to take 10 on Grapple checks, stealth skills, and maybe Survival checks to track, too. I like the idea of that. Iíll come up with a clever name for it later.

Lastly, a capstone. I want something potent, something to terrify casters. Iím thinking Disjunction. Mr. Mordenkainenís Disjunction, to be precise. I donít want it to destroy items and artifacts, because nonspellcasters get the most use out of those. So Iíll make it a 1/encounter ability to radiate a disjunction aura that only targets spell effects. Strip all the buffs off of a caster, and then beat him up. Nice.

Now, a review. No dead levels, and abilities mostly themed around movement, stealth, tracking, poison, and anti-spellcaster tactics. The only thing Iím not happy with are the skill points. This guy seems too focused on combat to be as skilful as a bard. I think Iím going to drop them back down to 4 + Int modifier. I think Iím going to stick with d8 HD as well, since as we all know, the most deadly spells donít do hp damage.

I think weíre about done! All thatís left is to write up descriptions of the class features and a description of the class. I use a fantastic class table generator, found at


Itís really quick and easy to use.


Now for some tips on actually writing up the class:

When youíre writing out the abilities, you want the abilities to be clear and concise. Itís fine to talk about what the ability does in terms of fluff, but you also need to be specific about the mechanics of it; what it actually does do in terms of the rules. For an example of what to avoid, see the rouse spell in Playerís Handbook II.

Another thing to keep in mind is to try to emulate a formal layout as much as possible. If you want, grab one of the books and copy each section word for word. Itís little things, but it makes the whole document look much more professional. It can be as small as seperating ĎSkill Points at 1st Levelí and ĎSkill Points at Each Additional Levelí, or something as important as actually having a table.

A lot of classes have the abilities written out in one of two ways: theyíll talk about the class in the third person, or theyíll talk about the reader as if he were the character in the class (second person). As in, Ďbeginning at 11th level, you gain the ability to eat trufflesí or Ďbeginning at 6th level, the astral tapdancer gains the ability to waltzí. Either way is fine, and I always seem to switch back and forth when Iím doing classes. The main thing is, pick one and stick with it for a single class. Donít go changing tenses in the middle of a write-up.

Next, be familiar with terminology of classes. Recognize the difference between Supernatural and Extraordinary abilities. Copy phrasing in cases such as Ďyou may take 10 on (insert skill here) checks even if stress or distraction would normally prevent you from doing soí. If youíre using a class feature that already exists, use the same wording as that one to standardize it.

Once youíre finished writing everything up, put it on the boards with (generally) a P.E.A.C.H. tag on it, asking people to evaluate it honestly. Realistically, the best choice would be to playtest it, but most people wonít want it in a campaign until itís been playtested, which leads to sort of a vicious cycle. Anyway, you can expect to have people critique it, maybe even quite harshly. Donít take it personally. Try to explain why you designed it the way you did, and find a solution that satisfies any problem. Remember that itís not set in stone even when itís on the boards. Assuming you want it to be the best it can be, make sure to honestly consider any criticism levelled towards it.

Any comments or questions, just let me know!

2008-09-17, 01:51 AM
A viper is a martial artist who channels the powers of his ancestors into a mystical fighting style that emulates the snake. He specializes in quick, venomous strikes that target spellcasters.

Hit Die: d8.
Skill Points at 1st Level: (4 + Int modifier) x4.
Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Class Skills: The viperís class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Balance (Dex), Climb (Str), Disguise (Int), Hide (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis), Swim (Str), Tumble (Dex), and Use Rope (Dex).

Table: The Viper

1st|+1|+2|+0|+2|Snakebite (venom strike), unarmed strike

2nd|+2|+3|+0|+3|Evasion, Track

3rd|+3|+3|+1|+3|Scent, snakeís grace

4th|+4|+4|+1|+4|Snakebite (lunge), swift stride


6th|+6/+1|+5|+2|+5|Constricting coils, spell resistance

7th|+7/+2|+5|+2|+5|Snakebite (reflexive strike)

8th|+8/+3|+6|+2|+6|Pythonís presence, swift stride

9th|+9/+4|+6|+3|+6|Combat Reflexes

10th|+10/+5|+7|+3|+7|Snakebite (cobra dance)

11th|+11/+6/+1|+7|+3|+7|Camouflage, penetrating poison

12th|+12/+7/+2|+8|+4|+8|Improved spell resistance, swift stride

13th|+13/+8/+3|+8|+4|+8|Snakebite (mind venom)

14th|+14/+9/+4|+9|+4|+9|Tightening coils

15th|+15/+10/+5|+9|+5|+9|Improved evasion

16th|+16/+11/+6/+1|+10|+5|+10|Snakebite (spelldrain), swift stride

17th|+17/+12/+7/+2|+10|+5|+10|Slithering stance

18th|+18/+13/+8/+3|+11|+6|+11|Greater spell resistance

19th|+19/+14/+9/+4|+11|+6|+11|Snakebite (death rattle)

20th|+20/+15/+10/+5|+12|+6|+12|Spelldeath strike, swift stride


All of the following are class features of the viper class.

Weapon and Armour Proficiencies: The viper is proficient with all simple weapons, and with light and medium armour. He is not proficient with shields of any kind.

Unarmed strike (Ex): At 1st level, the viper gains the Improved Unarmed Strike feat. A viperís attacks may be with either fist interchangeably or even from elbows, knees, and feet. This means that a viper may even make unarmed strikes with his hands full. There is no such thing as an off-hand attack for a viper striking unarmed. A viper may thus apply his full Strength bonus on damage rolls for all his unarmed strikes.

Usually a viperís unarmed strikes deal lethal damage, but he can choose to deal nonlethal damage instead with no penalty on his attack roll. He has the same choice to deal lethal or nonlethal damage while grappling.

A viperís unarmed strike is treated both as a manufactured weapon and a natural weapon for the purpose of spells and effects that enhance or improve either manufactured weapons or natural weapons.

A viper deals more damage with his unarmed strikes than a normal person does, as shown on the following table.

{table=head]Level|Unarmed Strike Damage

As a famous warrior one said, Ďsize matters notí. Differently-sized vipers donít deal extra damage on unarmed strikes by dint of size.

Snakebite (Su): By channeling the powers of her ancestors, a viper can enter a mystical stance that calls upon the powers of the snake. Snakebite is usable once per encounter per point of Charisma modifier (minimum 1).

Venom Strike: At 1st level, a viper may expend one use of snakebite as a free action to create a lethal poison that he can deliver with an unarmed strike. The poison deals 1d6 damage to a physical ability score specified by the viper when he uses this ability as its initial and secondary damage. The Fortitude save DC against poison created by a viper is equal to 10 + 1/2 the viperís class level + the viperís Constitution modifier. Venom only applies to the next unarmed strike the viper makes. If no unarmed strike is made within 1 minute of creation, the venom becomes inert.

Lunge: At 4th level, a viper may expend one use of snakebite as a free action to take a move action. He may only use this ability once per round.

Reflexive Strike: At 7th level, as an immediate action, a viper may expend one use of snakebite to make a single melee attack.

Cobra Dance: At 10th level, a viper may expend one use of snakebite as a swift action to avoid attacks of opportunity until the end of his next turn.

Mind Venom: At 13th level, a viper may expend one use of snakebite as a free action to create a powerful poison that he can deliver with an unarmed strike. The save DC against the poison is equal to 10 + 1/2 the viperís class level + the viperís Constitution modifier. Anyone who fails the Fortitude save against this poison must make a Concentration check before casting spells as if they were casting defensively. The DC to cast like this is increased by an amount equal to 1/2 the viperís class level. This does not stack with the Pythonís Presence class feature. If the spellcaster fails to make the Concentration check, the spell is lost with no effect. This effect lasts for 1 minute per class level of the viper.

Spelldrain: At 16th level, a viper may expend one use of snakebite as a standard action to make a single melee attack. If the attack succeeds, the target loses 1 spell slot per class level of the viper. Any combination of spell slots is acceptable; for example, if hit by a 16th level viper, a spellcaster could choose to lose 8 2nd level spells, 2 5th level spells and a 6th level spell, and so on. If it is impossible to divide remaining spell slots evenly into the spell damage done, as much spell damage as possible is done without going over the limit.

Death Rattle: At 19th level, a viper may expend two uses of snakebite as a full-round action to create a sonic effect especially harmful to spellcasters. This effect is a 40ft. burst centered on the viper, and deals 1d6 sonic damage per class level with a Fortitude save for half damage (DC 10 + 1/2 the viperís class level + his Constitution modifier). However, if a target is able to cast spells, he or she takes a -4 penalty to the saving throw, and, if they fail, are affected as if by the spelldrain ability (see above).

Track: At 2nd level, the viper gains Track as a bonus feat. If he already has the Track feat, he may select a different feat for which he meets the requirements.

Evasion (Ex): Beginning at 2nd level, a viper can avoid magical attacks with ease. If he succeeds on his save against any effect that offers a Reflex saving throw for half damage or partial effect, the viper instead takes no damage from the effect.

Scent (Su): Beginning at 3rd level, a viper is more in tune with the tracking techniques of the ancients. He gains the Scent special ability. Whenever he uses scent to track, he may use his Charisma modifier in place of his Wisdom modifier for his Survival check.

Snakeís Grace (Su): Beginning at 3rd level, the spirits of a viperís ancestors are watching out for him. He gains a bonus on saving throws equal to his Charisma modifier (minimum 1). This doesnít stack with the Divine Grace class feature.

Swift Stride (Ex): At 4th level, and every 4 levels thereafter, a viper improves his mobility. He may select one ability from the following list. He may not select an ability more than once.

ē The viper gains a +10ft. bonus to his base land speed per five class levels.
ē The viper gains a climb speed equal to half his land speed. The viper gains a +8 bonus to Climb checks, and can always take 10 on such checks, even if stress or distraction would normally prevent him from doing so.
ē The viper gains a swim speed equal to his land speed. The viper gains a +8 bonus to Swim checks, and can always take 10 on such checks, even if stress or distraction would normally prevent him from doing so.
ē The viper gains a burrow speed of 5ft. He leaves a tunnel behind him when he burrows in this manner.
ē The viper can spread out his body to take advantage of aerodynamics. He gains the ability to glide, if not fly. When falling, he moves forward 20ft. for every 5ft. he drops. He is considered to have clumsy maneuverability for the purposes of making midair turns. He does not take damage from falls.

Mettle (Ex): Beginning at 5th level, a viper is resilient against all kinds of magical assault. Whenever he is subject to a spell or effect that offers a Will or Fortitude saving throw for half damage or partial effect, he instead takes no damage or effect with a successful save.

Constricting Coils (Ex): At 6th level, the viper gains Improved Grapple as a bonus feat. If he already has Improved Grapple, he may instead select another feat for which he meets the requirements. In addition, a viper may at this point substitute his Dexterity modifier for his Strength modifier when making a grapple check.

Spell Resistance (Ex): Beginning at 6th level, a viper can shrug off any kind of arcane assault. He gains spell resistance equal to 5 + his class level. At 12th level this increases to 10 + his class level, and at 18th level this increases to 15 + his class level.

Pythonís Presence (Ex): Beginning at 8th level, the DC to cast a spell defensively in a square adjacent to a viper increases by 1/2 the viperís class level. The spellcaster knows the DC is different before he or she attempts to cast defensively.

Combat Reflexes: At 9th level, the viper gains Combat Reflexes as a bonus feat. If he already has Combat Reflexes, he may instead select another feat for which he meets the requirements.

Camouflage (Ex): Beginning at 11th level, a viper can make a Hide check while in any kind of natural environment.

Penetrating Poison (Ex): Beginning at 11th level, the poison a viper creates with his Venom Strike ability ignores immunity to poison gained through anything other than type. For example, constructs and undead are still immune to his venom, but an 11th level monk is not.

Tightening Coils (Ex): Begining at 14th level, a viper may crush opponents with his grapples. Whenever a target begins their turn grappled by a viper, they take damage as if hit by an unarmed strike from the viper.

Improved Evasion (Ex): Beginning at 15th level, a viper takes half damage from any effect that offers a Reflex saving throw for half damage, even if they fail the save.

Slithering Stance (Ex): Beginning at 17th level, a viper may always choose to take 10 on grapple checks, as well as Hide, Move Silently, and Survival skill checks, even if stress or distraction would normally prevent him from doing so.

Spelldeath Strike (Su): Beginning at 20th level, a viper may declare a single attack made every encounter to be a spelldeath strike. A target hit by this strike is affected as if by Mordenkainenís Disjunction (spell effects only). However, the viper may decide which ongoing effects targeting the victim are disjuncted, and which are not. If the attack misses, the use for the encounter is not used up, and the viper may declare another attack to be a spelldeath strike.

2008-09-17, 10:58 AM
very nice little guide. we get to see into the mind of kellus, which is definitely a good thing as regarding the creative process.

your class is pretty cool too, and fits right up the alley of a couple of concepts i've been pondering.

it could use a couple o' things though. first of all, toward higher levels, its poison is useless against half of the high-CR creatures out there. give it some kind of ability similar to the searing spell (is that the one i'm thinking of, from sandstorm?) metamagic feat, that lets him ignore a creature's resistance (in this case, racial bonuses to poison saves), and do half damage against poison immunity. make that a snakebite use.

also, there are a lot of good poison feats out there that make poison a more viable game option--since it is so underpowered as it is currently written. i don't know where to fit them in, but this guy deserves two or three bonus feats. make him only able to take poison-related feats, and a few that could affect them (ability focus, etc).

savage species has two good feats, though i can't remember their names. the weaker one gives a +2 to poison save DC, and the stronger one *doubles* all secondary damage. that is awesome.

then, telonius has a pretty good selection of poison mechanics here:

and in my homebrew sig, i have a whole slew of venom feats, some of which are redundant to the savage species feat. eventually i'll get around to updating that and making the savage species one the prereq.

anyway, cool stuff. aaron out.

Fiery Diamond
2008-09-17, 02:39 PM

Friggin' AWESOME!

I like it as it is. Just a note- you omitted swift strike at level 20 on the table. Personally, since I use primarily core and homebrew, I don't think the poison-feats are relevant, and there really aren't that many creatures (barring constructs and the like) immune to poison. Besides, this is geared toward fighting other humanoids, specifically spellcasters, not monsters, so I don't think that's relevant. Since my campaign deals heavily with fighting humans and humanoids, I LOVE this class.

Please, can I use it? I DM. Too awesome not to use. (oh, and I run a high-powered campaign, so if this stands up well, then I'll get a better feel for how powerful it is and can post extra feedback).

-Fiery Diamond

2008-09-17, 03:09 PM
Of course, feel free to use it wherever you like. :smallsmile:

Thanks for the tip, stycotl; I added an ability at 11th level to make him a bit more viable against enemies that try to get immunity to his poison. Now the only way is to be immune is to actually not have a metabolism, like a golem or something. As for bonus feats, he's got enough of them already. If he wants venom feats or the like, he should pick them up on his own.

2008-09-17, 04:28 PM
Aside from minor nitpicks, this is good work. I like your style of explaining how you create classes.

My only major complaint is that this class seems specific enough to be a PrC, rather than a base class. I wonder if it could work well as a Monk PrC?

2008-09-17, 05:24 PM
Excellent work, Kellus.

You forgot to include Hide as a class skill, though. :smalltongue:


2008-09-17, 10:05 PM
Uh, yeah. I was just, er, testing you to see if you were paying attention. Let's go with that. :smallwink:

As for PrCification, it's basically a variant monk that actually serves a purpose. I think it's fine as a base class. Of course, if you want to adapt it into a PrC for your setting, be my guest. :smallsmile:

2008-09-24, 09:25 AM
bump because more people deserves to see this.

The Glyphstone
2008-09-24, 11:23 AM
Of course, feel free to use it wherever you like. :smallsmile:

Thanks for the tip, stycotl; I added an ability at 11th level to make him a bit more viable against enemies that try to get immunity to his poison. Now the only way is to be immune is to actually not have a metabolism, like a golem or something. As for bonus feats, he's got enough of them already. If he wants venom feats or the like, he should pick them up on his own.

Still, it does exclude a lot of the higher-end creatures. Constructs, Elementals, Oozes, Outsiders, Plants, and Undead all are immune to poison by virtue of their creature type - 6/15, or 40% of all creatures ever, and a significantly higher percentage at high levels (you don't see a lot of high-CR Animals or Vermin, and Dragons/Giants have excellent Fortitude saves because of their high HD-to-CR ratio, so it'll only really be useful if your DM uses a lot of humanoids/other monsters with class levels in Monk/Paladin or wearing Necklaces of Adaptation.

2008-09-24, 03:23 PM
While I can certainly see the point of the listing of the existing classes to see what combinations haven't been done, I don't think that people should let that stop them if they have something that happens to fill very much the same roles as an existing class, but which has a flavor that is fun, or helps define a given setting or campaign.

As for the class itself, the size not making a difference thing means that GMs should beware of twinks playing Tiny characters. OTOH it makes halflings, with their saving throw bonuses, a more viable option.

It seems to me you should follow your own advice about being consistant in formating with pre-existing work, and put the progression on the main class table I should think, rather than down with the description.

I would limit the capstone to 1/round, as it is you get up to 4 tries to land it in a single round, even without Haste and such.

Edit: Also neither Python's Presence, nor (more importantly) Death Rattle, allow exclusion of allies. Python's Presence is easy to to work around and flavorful in that regard, but Death Rattle may need a second thought. Also, you never stated your consideration of the other class feature, besides Evasion, and Mettle (and their improved versions) that helps out with saves: Slippery Mind. I would think that considering that would be part of the design process.