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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Apr 2011

    Default Advice Requested: Designing a "Build your own class system"

    I've been playing around with the idea of a homebrew system built where you build your own character class, Mutants and Masterminds style, but built out of a Pathfinder chassis. This is the first time I've ever tried something like this, so I'm not sure if it can even be done without being horribly broken, so I'd appreciate some insight from anyone with actual experience designing a homebrew system.

    The idea is that you start by picking a class focus: Combat, Magic or Stealth, which grants you a starting pool for Hit Dice, weapon/armor proficiencies, skills and saves. Then you use some kind of point system to purchase starting class features. Weapon proficiencies use are picked up by choosing fighter weapon groups to be proficient in, rather than simple/martial/exotic. Class features would be classified by Combat, Magic, Stealth or Universal, with Universal class features including things like altering HD per levels or combat styles (like with rangers, but more of them and available to everyone). Universal class features and class features for your class focus cost the same number of points regardless, but taking a class feature from another focus would cost more points to take. For example, it would cost more to take Sneak Attack as a class feature if your focus is combat or magic. During character creation, you would also pick out additional class skills based on your Intelligence modifier. At level up, you would be given additional points for to buy new class features, usually no more than two three, plus the usual compliment of feats and skill points.

    For example, say you wanted to play an arcane trickster type with a heavier emphasis on magic. You would choose magic as your focus, which would automatically grant d6 HD, 2+Int skills, one weapon and one armor group to be proficient in, and the Spellcasting class feature. Say that you get get 4 points for class features every level. You'd pick your spells, then choose to take the following class features: Scribe Spell, Additional Weapon Proficiency to get a ranged weapon, and Trap Master to be able to use Disable Device against traps. Scribe Spell is a magic ability and Additional Weapon Proficiency is a universal, costing 1 point apiece. But since Trap Master is a stealth class feature, it costs 2 points to take, and you would have to wait till level 2 to take Sneak Attack.

    Or if you wanted to do a paladin-style character and act as the secondary healer, you'd choose the Combat focus, and use Feature points sparingly for a couple of levels to afford Spellcasting to gain access to healing spells.

    That's the gist of it thus far for character creation, with the option of saving points from one level to the next to purchase more powerful class features further down the road. Your Focus would also make qualifying for certain feats or progressing through feat trees faster. For instance, someone with the Magic focus would have an easier time qualifying for meta-magic feats, or a Combat-focused character might gain a Feature that lets her perform a free Trip attempt before full attacking and ignore Combat Expertise as a prereq for Improved Trip. Just as an example, as I want to streamline some of the feat trees anyway, and there are a lot of threads about that topic I can search through.

    As this is an experiment for right now, I'm welcome to any and all feedback, but here are some issues I'd especially like suggestions for:
    - Can something like this work well (or at all) with the Pathfinder system, or am I better off sticking to systems that already allow this level of customization?
    - Where to set hard limits for how many features you can take every level.
    - Maintaining game balance. As it stands now there isn't any real way to discourage players from tacking spellcasting onto every single character and potentially breaking the game. I've considered making spellcasters choose from a spell list that they have to take their spells from, so no one has access to every spell in the game, but that feels almost like it defeats the purpose of the expanded customization. Plus, I'd like to see pure martial characters being able to hold their own at higher levels. I'd also considered going with a mana-pool style of magic.
    - Should I drop feats altogether and increase the amount of features you can take each level, or rework feats to be more like D&D 5e, where they're fewer in number but more powerful?

    Thank you for any and all feedback.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Dwarf in the Playground
    Join Date
    Dec 2017

    Default Re: Advice Requested: Designing a "Build your own class system"

    I would start by two different aspects, variables and constants. First you select the constants, those things that are equal on every class level, hd, bab, weapon and armor proficiencies, skill points, skills, and whatever i'm missing. Of course assigning a cost to each increase. Then the remaining points are usable each level gain to gain features, which are the variants, points are saved for next level if not used. This way if you choce rather weak option in hd and bab you may compensate with skills and magic or whatever. If you can build most of the classes after you made this system then you have done ir right.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Troll in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Jan 2009

    Default Re: Advice Requested: Designing a "Build your own class system"

    For the spellcasting question, one thing could be that only Magic-focus can buy full spellcasting. Spellcasting akin to 3.5's Duskblade or Beguiler, or half-casters like Ranger/Paladin, are still options for anyone, but full spellcasting is limited.
    I'm not saying that's the best way.
    It might be better to assume some light spellcasting (at least) will be part of each character, akin to things like Arcane Trickster or Eldritch Knight archetypes in D&D 5th edition.

    ---

    I think your overarching idea is a good one. You might find inspiration from some 'build your race' guides, where racial pros and cons are given point-values. However, I think a system using this would require a sense of "don't break the game", much like Mutants & Masterminds has. Balance is tricky, and even someone not with a lot of system mastery can pick combos that (intentionally or not) are game-breaking in M&M. The level structure of D&D makes it less likely to accidentally make a broken class, but probably more likely to intentionally make one (especially one that is not noticeably broken at first.)

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

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    Aug 2013

    Default Re: Advice Requested: Designing a "Build your own class system"

    One thought is to take the idea of E6--advancement by feat instead of level--and start everyone as a Commoner 1 with say 5 or 10 feats to spend, or more for higher "level" campaigns.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    jqavins's Avatar

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    Default Re: Advice Requested: Designing a "Build your own class system"

    On the back burner of my mind, I've been slowly developing a similar idea for some time now. Although my approach is different from yours, I think my solution for casting may address one of your concerns.

    Like you, I use three basic starting points, Fighter, Caster, and Other Guy (I need a better name for that) that I call classes. Features that can be taken as one advances have prerequisites, and class level is often among them.

    Casters get spells of advancing spell level automatically as they advance in character level. But for Fighters and Other Guys spell levels can be taken as features. Level one spells is a feature requiring, let's say, 3th level in the non-caster classes. Level two spells would require both level one spells and character level, let's say, 6. And so on. Spell levels up to four or five (I haven't decided) are available this way, and no farther.

    I'm on the fence about making Casters choose a path: arcane or divine (and maybe nature). If I go that route, then spell levels in the other path(s) would be available as features to them as well.
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  6. - Top - End - #6
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Grod_The_Giant's Avatar

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    Default Re: Advice Requested: Designing a "Build your own class system"

    You might take a look at True20, which is Green Ronin (the company that did M&M) taking a whack at a traditional D&D type system. Three very customizable classes and a big list of feats and special powers they can pick from, and a section on how to design your own class using their rules. Might be good inspiration, even if not exactly what you're looking for in a hypothetical "D&D but point buy" system.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slayer Lord View Post
    - Can something like this work well (or at all) with the Pathfinder system, or am I better off sticking to systems that already allow this level of customization?
    Mmm... Maybe? Starting with Pathfinder gives you a lot of existing material to draw on, but also gives you a pretty imbalanced starting point.

    - Maintaining game balance. As it stands now there isn't any real way to discourage players from tacking spellcasting onto every single character and potentially breaking the game. I've considered making spellcasters choose from a spell list that they have to take their spells from, so no one has access to every spell in the game, but that feels almost like it defeats the purpose of the expanded customization. Plus, I'd like to see pure martial characters being able to hold their own at higher levels. I'd also considered going with a mana-pool style of magic.
    The easiest way to balance systems is to make them roughly symmetrical, so if you take the Magic template you get to learn spells, if you take the Combat template you get to learn maneuvers, and if you take the Skill template... I dunno, heavily souped-up Stamina/Skill Unlocks, maybe. Within that, you can buy increasing Spell/Maneuver/Skill levels at an increasing cost, or slack off on that a bit to pick up other abilities. I'd suggest something more along those lines, anyway.

    In terms of spell list, you could start with a subset of spells ("only wizard spells with these three descriptors" or "only bard spells") and have to buy access to a larger pool, maybe?

    - Should I drop feats altogether and increase the amount of features you can take each level, or rework feats to be more like D&D 5e, where they're fewer in number but more powerful?
    Depends on how much you're tweaking the base system. Most PF feats are "avoid this penalty," "continue this chain to keep up with monsters," or "do your basic class stuff more." Offhand, I'd say it's probably better to remove them-- or, rather, have the feat list be a list of fairly cheap abilities that anyone can pick from, kind of like Advantages in M&M.
    Last edited by Grod_The_Giant; 2018-02-16 at 12:30 PM.

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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

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    Aug 2013

    Default Re: Advice Requested: Designing a "Build your own class system"

    A thought, and I hope it doesn't come off as snarky and jerkish, so it probably will.

    What is the actual objective here?
    1. A playable game at your table letting your friends play the concepts they really want to play?
    2. A publishable system? At least in terms of a free-to-download PDF on drivethrurpg, where you can take pride that other people used your system?
    3. The pride of having created something great, even if you accept that only a handful of people will ever play/see it.

    If it's 1, then I'd advise spending less time coming up with general rules for class-building, and more time working one-on-one with your players to build their ideal classes and test them in the game.
    If it's 2 or 3, then there's a lot of things you have to do so that someone else could pick up your rulebook and create characters for their Pathfinder modules.

    All 3 are valid goals, and I feel the lure of all 3. But when you're doing something big, it's important to decide what you're actually trying to do.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Orc in the Playground
     
    Quarian Rex's Avatar

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    Jun 2010

    Default Re: Advice Requested: Designing a "Build your own class system"

    Take a look at Eclipse. Thar's the link for the shareware. It breaks down the every aspect of character creation to a point based system (from BAB, to caster level, to attribute increases, to feat progression, to special class abilities). It actually provides a pont-buy breakdown of the 3.5 base classes and it actually lines up pretty damn well. Pathfinder conversion may take a bit or you could do a hybrid, where point-buy is used for the majority of abilities but certain abilities are just additional perks of the base chassis (things like a Wizard's school progression, a Sorcerer's bloodline, or a Fighter's bravery/armor training/weapon training, etc.).

    Have a look, see what you think.
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