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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Tiers for d20 modern advanced classes

    Obviously, inspired by JaronK's tier system for d&d 3.5e classes. Mostly posted for my own benefit, so I can look it up and link people I play with to it. Thoughts are welcome, of course.

    Anyways, I've grouped them in three tiers. Tier 1's are either supremely good at combat, or merely unusually competent and otherwise versatile and useful in most situations.
    Tier 2's all have something they can do in a combat situation, albeit not to the level of a tier 1 class.
    Tier 3's either can't contribute to combat, or they happen to be moderately bad at fighting, and on top of that have bad class features.

    I've grouped them this way because, in my experience, the number one way for a d20 modern character to lack behind and feel suboptimal is if it's something like a Smart Hero/Shadowjack who has no combat feats. You can get away with being bad at skills - it's usually enough if one person has a particular skill, and it's easy to get access to a complete suite of skills in the party at different levels of competence.

    For example, a tier 1 party might be a Smart Hero/Technomage, a Dedicated Hero/Shaman, a Strong/Field Officer(with face skills), and a Fast/Psionic Agent. A comparative tier 3 party might be a Smart/Shadowjack, a Strong/Archaic Weaponsmaster(with face skills), a Dedicated/Investigator, and a Fast/Infiltrator.

    There's no notable difference in skill coverage between them, but the first party will kick major ass, and the second one will flounder about and get themselves killed all the time.

    Tier 1: These classes have powerful abilities. As combat is a common feature of d20 games, each of these also have some relevant combat abilities, and can either somewhat reliably force massive damage saves, or otherwise bring radically game-changing abilities to the table.
    Strong
    Battlemind: A +Ĺ/level weapon, whatís not to like? Besides, powers are really good, and the class has excellent defense.
    Cyberwarrior: Those free cybernetics represent a lot of power. Base attack is also a consideration here.
    Field Officer: Weíre after the Tactical Expertise/Mastery abilities here. Itís sad that the duration is so short, but you canít argue with the benefits.
    Shadow Slayer: Full BAB, +Ĺ/ level melee weapon, Fast Healing Ĺ/level, +Ĺ/level DR vs shadow creatures, & Favored Enemy.
    Tough
    Dreadnought: This is really, really good. Arguably not quite as good as Trasher, but the prerequisite feat is a lot better. Additionally, it is available in non-magic games, which is a plus. Besides, the class features are only marginally worse than the Trasherís, and in some respects (i.e. the rage variant), better.
    Evolutionary: Mutations are pretty good, and I can totally see 16 points of mutations and various benefits being a worthwhile investment of ten levels.
    Gangster: Sneak attack does the heavy lifting here. Itís fairly easy to set up flanking, and from that point on, youíre pretty much guaranteed to inflict massive damage with each blow, at least once youíve got 2 or 3 dice of SA. Besides, 7+int and a good class list makes it a good skill monkey that doesnít face the usual problems of a research-focused list of class skills that smart-derived classes are usually stuck with.
    Trasher: Holy Smokes, is all. This is a good class. The prerequisites are ****ty, but the features more than make up for it. Thereís con to defense, d12hd, rage, damage reduction, and a smattering of other minor stuff.
    Fast
    Psionic Agent: You get fly and dimension door, among other things. Youíre pretty much king of magic movement, and thereís some nice buff spells in there too. Metaphysical Weapon comes to mind.
    Smart
    Mage: This is a good class. Spellcasting is powerful, even the nerfed Spellcasting of d20 modern.
    Scientist: Depending on interpretation (whether you lose the ability to build inventions when you build one, and whether theyíre based off of Spellcasting or scrolls), the Scientist is either totally bonkers, or merely very, very good.
    Techno Mage: The same difference as the mage, really. One notable feature is the ability to use light armor without incurring spell failure. This is nice at low levels, when you canít keep mage armor running 24/7.
    Dedicated
    Acolyte: A cleric-expy. Medium BAB & d8 hd makes it a good combatant, and it provides healing, something that is not otherwise readily available in d20 modern.
    Shaman: This class is pretty good. Druids have always made excellent buff-machines, and the shaman manages to piggy-back on that legacy to create a powerful and versatile class. Not much to say here.
    Tracer: Full base, Target Species, Swift Strike, are the components that get it up here. It is admittedly one of the weaker tier 1ís, but itís not bad. The most credible example of a sniper class too.
    Charismatic
    Mystic: The combination of spontaneous divine spells and poor base attack isnít so hot, but thereís enough there to make it work once you reach the mid levels. Iíd peg this as the weakest tier 1.
    Sorcerer: The Sorcerer is an odd combination of the d&d sorcerer and dragon disciple class. Fairly weak for a tier 1, but itís probably the best arcane class for an eldritch-knight like character, if thatís something youíre into.
    Telepath: Heck yes. The undisputed master of mind magic, the telepath is a psionic powerhouse. The first 4 or so levels are a bit rough, but at that point everyone is best off relying on guns anyway, and taking personal firearms proficiency shouldnít mess your progression up much.

    Tier 2: Mid-line. Has some combat ability, and is often useful out of combat.
    Strong
    Helix Warrior: Full Base attack, and a host of interesting, if not always applicable class features.
    Martial Artist: It doesnít quite cut the mustard for a tier 1 class. Still, itís not far off. It has enough damage to reliably hit massive damage once you get into the upper levels, and itís easy to get as good or better at shooting as the gunslinger is, albeit your damage will be a little lower due to lack of weapon specialization.
    Soldier: My book says tactical aid gives int to hit or defense, which, if itís true (the SRD contradicts), is almost enough to make it tier 1 in a high point buy game, same as the Field Officer.
    Street Warrior: It gets full base attack, but otherwise isnít very good. The Weapon Specialization is all right. The Improved & Advanced Streetfighting might make you hit the MDT once in a while where you would not ordinarily have done so.
    Fast
    Gunslinger: Solid, although perhaps not the best possible ranged warrior class available. There are enough skill points there to be useful out of combat, and it advances prowess in ranged combat enough to be worthwhile, if not stellar. The lightning shot feature is the best thing here. With Double Tap, Point Blank Shot, Weapon Specialization and a Desert Eagle, you stand a decent chance at provoking saves vs massive damage with each shot.
    Swashbuckler: It has trouble dealing enough damage, but that can perhaps be solved with some finagling. Otherwise a pretty good class, but a plan for solving the damage issue is necessary.
    Tough
    Bodyguard: A pretty run of the mill warrior class. Itís good, certainly, and effectively has near-full base attack.
    Bionic Agent: The extra implant slots here are probably worth at least a 4-level dip. The biggest issue with cybernetics is affording them, however, so that makes the Cyberwarrior a good bit better. No reason not to take both.
    Smart
    Engineer: This is *a lot* better than the techie. The class features are superior, and it has medium base attack.
    Field Scientist: This makes for a good warrior smart hero.
    Occultist: This class wishes it was the mage. Itís not actively bad, but it suffers from enough issues that itís nothing to write home about either.
    Spiritualist: A divine version of the Occultist, it does basically the same thing, and shares its rating.
    Technosavant: Not quite as good as the engineer, but still better than the techie. Build Prototype especially, is a good class feature. If the campaign heavily features robots as enemies, this class becomes a better choice.
    Xenophile: This is actually quite good. Much like the ranger, it suffers from a wide variety of foes, but otherwise itís quite efficient. The Xenophile is one of the better non-magical skill monkey classes.
    Dedicated
    Explorer(future): This class has quite good stats, a good bonus feat list, and explorer lore is widely useful. Itís a bit lackluster in combat prowess, although extra step and evasion are useful.
    Explorer(Past): A little worse, feature wise, than the future version, but has the chassis to make up for it. Like many other tier 2 classes, it has to rely on firearms to deal damage, but it has optimal fortitude, reflex and class defense progressions, so the potential is certainly there. One of the strongest contenders for the non-smart skill monkey role.
    Field Medic: It has resurrection, which is a huge deal. It provides really, really good healing. The low BAB is a bit of a shame, but you canít have everything. Medical Miracle probably makes this a tier 1 class in a game that doesnít have magic.
    Shadow Hunter: A fairly good investigative class. Play a Hunch and Locate Target are good out of combat powers.
    Wildlord: As a 2-level dip for the animal companion, it might well be tier 1. The other features are unusually good, but suffer from the specialist problem.
    Charismatic
    Ambassador: It has medium base attack, and the class features are more useful than the Personalityís. Lower tier 2. Notably, itís a better investigator than the Investigator advanced class.
    Cyber Raver: A fairly all right combat class. The Rave class feature is good, Know the Chrome, Tinker & Street Hero are flavorful, but not very good.
    Glamourist: This is fairly good. The main motivator here is the Audience and Self-Confidence features in concert. A Charismatic hero 3/Glamourist 6 taking Charismatic Plus at third and sixth level can have the Fast-Talk and Leadership trees maxed out, for instance, and affect 10 people at once with Taunt and Dazzle, and inspire 13 people at once with Inspiration or Coordinate.
    Mesmerist: This is really low tier 2. Psionics are good enough that itís here instead of in tier 3, but itís a close thing.
    Negotiator: In my experience, GMs are reluctant to allow you to actually use the Talk Down class feature. However, itís still a pretty all right class, lower tier 2, probably.
    Swindler: This class is good at manipulating dice, and thatís probably a worthwhile thing to be good at in d20 modern. The low defense is a bit of a bother, but itís definitely playable.

    Tier 3: Almost all of these are specialists, useful only in a single, rarely relevant field, although thereíre a few classes among them that are merely bad in all respects. If you take one of these, you will feel outclassed nine times out of ten, unless the game is specifically tailored to your character.
    Strong
    Archaic Weaponsmaster: This class is a piss-poor excuse for a melee warrior class. If it interests you, do yourself a favor and play a Soldier instead, or better yet, a Shadow Slayer.
    Fast
    Infiltrator: One of the few classes that does not make you significantly better even in your designated area of expertise. Since this area of expertise comes at the expense of your ability to do most anything else, this is a bad deal.
    Speed Demon: This class is good at driving things, bad at everything else. That said, it does have medium base attack, so weíre not looking at a total loss here. High tier 3.
    Tough
    Daredevil: Sadly, the lack of at the very least of medium base attack makes this class a little too hard to make use of; excellent defense, but not enough offense. High tier 3, though.
    Road Warrior: Has the same problems as the Speed Demon, but is slightly less good at driving.
    Smart
    Cybernaut: This guy is a god on the VR-net, and pretty much useless anywhere else. I suppose it might work out in some campaigns, but I suspect heíll be fairly useless, even in a campaign that features the VR-net from time to time. A three or four level dip might be considered, if the campaign features virtual reality much of the time.
    Salvager: The scavenging game is not a game thatís worth being better than your skill points make you, sadly. The extra effort is more or less wasted, when you couldíve been an Engineer or Field Scientist instead.
    Shadowjack: Suffers acutely from the specialist issue. Also, itís not that much better at computer use than a field scientist would be, so I donít really see the point.
    Techie: Your main trick, mastercrafting, is available as a feat. Robots are fairly useless. Engineers Are Better Than You.
    Dedicated
    Implant Hack: This one is another example of investing too much in a too small field. Besides, they donít even become good at cybernetic surgery in ways that matter, in the end. Compare a dedicated hero 3/implant hack 10 to a mix-up of smart and dedicated Ė youíll see that theyíre about equally proficient, except when it comes to the time it takes to use the skills, and Iíve never seen that be a problem in game.
    Investigator: This class does not make you notably better at investigation. Medium BAB & class defense makes this a high tier 3, however.
    Charismatic
    Arcane Arranger: This class is a good enough face that it sits on the very upper border of tier 3. That said, being a face is really the only thing it can do, which makes it hard to defend putting it in tier 2. It has no combat ability at all. It gets hammer space as a class feature at 8th level, which is of course hilarious, and may have colored my view of the class a bit brighter than it deserves, itís hard for me to tell.
    Personality: Bad base attack, bad class defense, mediocre class features. Thereís little to come for here Ė itís a level dip to boost reputation for the field officer, at best. The compelling performance is too little, too late, and takes an action point to activate anyway.

    For sources, I've used Apocalypse, Core, Cyberscape, Future, Past, & Urban Arcana. I'm not aware of any more official d20 modern books with advanced classes in it.
    Last edited by Sahleb; 2016-02-25 at 02:02 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Default Re: Tiers for d20 modern advanced classes

    If you can find it (not an easy task), there's an official web enhancement for Urban Arcana called Making Urban Arcana More Prestigious. It features five new advanced classes: Mastermind, Shapeshifter, Sniper, SpecOp, and Spellslinger.
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  3. - Top - End - #3
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    Default Re: Tiers for d20 modern advanced classes

    Quote Originally Posted by Rizban View Post
    If you can find it (not an easy task), there's an official web enhancement for Urban Arcana called Making Urban Arcana More Prestigious. It features five new advanced classes: Mastermind, Shapeshifter, Sniper, SpecOp, and Spellslinger.
    I have it so if anyone wants it I can email it to them.

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    Default Re: Tiers for d20 modern advanced classes

    Quote Originally Posted by Rizban View Post
    If you can find it (not an easy task), there's an official web enhancement for Urban Arcana called Making Urban Arcana More Prestigious. It features five new advanced classes: Mastermind, Shapeshifter, Sniper, SpecOp, and Spellslinger.
    Do note those are prestige classes, not advanced classes. They fit the idea of the Artificer, Archmage, Ecclesiarch and Holy/Unholy Knight, as you need advanced classes to meet the requisites of the classes themselves (the latter one being sort of an exception). This is tiering for advanced classes.

    BTW: you're missing some of the setting-specific advanced classes from d20 Future (Star Law Officer, Mecha Jockey, Dimensional Ranger, etc.), since they're kinda hidden within the description of each setting, and aren't within the general settings (I mean, you mentioned the Evolutionary, which is part of the last setting of Apocalypse...)

    As well, I'd like to see how you place Thrasher over Dreadnaught, when I find the former somewhat more interesting. Damage Reduction, even when magic weapons are scarce, isn't that great on the given setting (Urban Arcana) when most of your enemies have DR/magic (of the 3.0 version, meaning +1, +2 or +3) or can bypass DR of the same kind, or on most of the Future settings where most of the more advanced weapons aren't ballistic. Certainly, the latter levels of Dreadnaught aren't entirely amazing, but that class is usually one I pretty much always default on. Working a Paladin in Urban Arcana? Dreadnaught. Really tough mecha pilot? Dreadnaught. Divinely-empowered leader of a gang? Dreadnaught and Thrasher. Knockdown in particular is impressive as a lockdown tactic, since it almost always works and the bonus is pretty impressive. At the very least, I'd consider more levels of Dreadnaught over Thrasher when making a build (also: Dreadnaught + Thrasher is just sickening as a tough-as-nails guy).
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  5. - Top - End - #5
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Tiers for d20 modern advanced classes

    Good question. In my experience, Tough Defense is good enough to make up the difference, and allow you to have an additional 'free' dump stat. Dreadnoughts have a bit of trouble with damage avoidance, or they have to spend feats for heavy armor proficiency. I might well be overstating the effectivity of damage reduction - I've played it a few times, and it was quite effective at defending against firearm attacks.

    Dreadnought is very effective too - their rage variant is particularly good, but heavy artillery and knockdown is impressive as well. I don't think there's a big difference there.

    I was deliberately avoiding prestige classes. Same reason there's no Musketeer or Flight Ace. It's pretty much always a good idea to pick one up if you can, though.

    I overlooked the future campaign setting classses. I'll have to get those ones added in. I did get the ones in Cyberscape, luckily.
    Last edited by Sahleb; 2016-02-26 at 04:21 AM.

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    Default Re: Tiers for d20 modern advanced classes

    Quote Originally Posted by Sahleb View Post
    Good question. In my experience, Tough Defense is good enough to make up the difference, and allow you to have an additional 'free' dump stat. Dreadnoughts have a bit of trouble with damage avoidance, or they have to spend feats for heavy armor proficiency. I might well be overstating the effectivity of damage reduction - I've played it a few times, and it was quite effective at defending against firearm attacks.

    Dreadnought is very effective too - their rage variant is particularly good, but heavy artillery and knockdown is impressive as well. I don't think there's a big difference there.
    Sure - damage reduction is somewhat more useful in d20 Modern, because damage is a bit more restrained depending on the setting. Firearms, in particular, are somewhat binary - you either do little damage (most 2d4 firearms, when you lack the right feats) or can be devastating (say, a 2d6/2d8 automatic longarm with the Burst Fire capability worn by a Soldier or Gunslinger). On the first one, DR 5/+1 is enough to stop the damage of most weak firearms on average unless they're magical, and on the second case, it depends (4d6 averages to 14 points of damage; you're also adding +2 from Weapon Specialization, so on average you're still taking 6 points of damage per shot, with relatively good accuracy). However, when you're opening all options (and in particular, if you're playing on a higher PL, where energy weapons become available), you either get no DR from the toughest creatures, or from energy weapons. Tough Defense works well there, but so does Heavy Armor (you need 24 Con to meet what you get from the weakest heavy armor from the Core rulebook). The real problem is the feat cost: 1 level in Thrasher is more effective than 2 feats (what you need to get Light Armor Prof. and Medium Armor Prof.) in terms of how much AC you get from Tough Defense, and the difference is around 2-3 Defense per feat; a Thrasher can get Light Armor Prof. + Tough Defense and get roughly the same defense as a Dreadnaught with all three feats, with 2 feats to spare (Tough Plus being a nice alternative). It's only when Powered Armor and Boost Armor come to play that the feat cost makes a difference, as +4 untyped (not equipment) bonus to Strength is pretty good, and +2 to Reflex without losing speed on top of that certainly compensates (you'd also need 24 Con to meet what Tough Defense grants you).

    It's also a reason why combining levels in Thrasher and Dreadnought is so brutal. 1 level of Thrasher nets you Tough Defense anyways, and while wearing armor hinders this benefit, clever choice of armor still grants a pretty hefty Defense bonus. 5 levels in both Dreadnaught and Thrasher grant you DR 5/+1, Tough Defense, Unhindered (ACP reduced by 2), Knockdown and both Ability Surge and Adrenaline Surge, plus Uncanny Dodge 1 on top. 8 levels in both grant Heavy Artillery and Uncanny Dodge 2, making you pretty much undefeatable because of the high Defense, temporarily high Strength, outright immunity to flanking and flat-footed, and damage soak on top.

    I overlooked the future campaign setting classses. I'll have to get those ones added in. I did get the ones in Cyberscape, luckily.
    You also ignored Dogfighter and Space Monkey, and those are in the "general" advanced classes list.

    There is one thing to consider in Tiers, though - for example, the Techie, the Engineer, the Technosavant and the Salvager are in a way the same class, but at different PLs. The Technosavant is the Techie beyond PL 5, while the Salvager is what you get from an Engineer or Field Scientist when there's too little resources. They're built around that, so it's natural that you end up with a weaker class overall - however, when you lack Wealth and resources, the other class may end up invaluable. d20 Modern is unique in that the PL and campaign setting you choose determines the worth of some feats - a Flying Ace can do with old-school 'ware what a Dogfighter can't, for example. That said, some classes are PL-friendly, where they can appear in just about any setting - a PL 4 Dreadnaught would be a Barbarian of sorts, whereas a PL 5 Barbarian would be Arnie in Commando. Magic/steroids + intense training can handwave the Dreadnaught fluff in lower PLs. For the other classes, this isn't the same.
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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Tiers for d20 modern advanced classes

    That's true, to a point, but salvagers, for instance, are bad, not because technosavants are better, but because they're not good classes on their own merits, in the setting that fits them.

    So too for the techie. Is it cool? Absolutely. It doesnt do much, though. There's little significant discount to be had by using their mastercraft feature, meaning that it only really does anything good when it allows you to craft +2 items at lvl 8.

    It just isn't a good class, regardless of whether it's in a pl 5, 3 or 7 campaign. Granted, if core is the only book allowed, it's the only way to get MC+2 or +3 items, at class level 8 and 10, but that's really not enough to merit tier 2.

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