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    Default On the Philosophy of Class Design

    ((My popular article, reposted from the WotC boards / Dreamscarred Press. Enjoy))

    Many people go about creating new classes all the time, but a lot of them aren't particularly good. Here, I'm going to examine a few of the elements of what I view to be good class design, and hopefully help a few people out (since they seem to keep asking me for help in this regard). I would love to get some feedback here to make this guide more complete and better able to communicate its points.

    Ultimately, this guide should help people to create fun and balanced classes, while avoiding common pitfalls.

    Is there a reason to create a new class?
    This is one that people miss out on a lot. I can't count the number of classes I've seen on these boards that actually served very little purpouse, because oftentimes the exact same concept could be managed by existing classes (and done with similar or sometimes better mechanical elegance).

    In order for a base class to be a solid new addition to the roster, it has to do at least one of two things:

    It must either
    A) Fill a new niche. For example, the Artificer fills the item creation and use niche as a class, where previously that was never the focus of any base class.
    or B) Be mechanically original. For example, while the Warblade fills the "Fighter" niche, it does so in a new and mechanically unique and elegant way.

    If it doesn't do either of these things, it may as well not exist.

    This post from Tempest Stormwind helps to illustrate my point:

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tempest Stormwind View Post
    I agree with this 100%.

    For me, a good base class has to fit two criteria: It must be mechanically original and it must fill a niche no other base class can do. I'm willing to be lax somewhat on one if the other's particularly strong, though. The society mind and blue mage do both of these quite nicely (summary of the two: The blue mage is the Final Fantasy archetype of learning enemy spells by experiencing them firsthand, and the society mind is a psionic support class that makes the team operate as if they were parts of a single greater being), while the gemini dancer doesn't fit the niche criterion at all and gets a ton of press as if it did. A lot of it looks like mechanics for the sake of mechanics, actually -- one of the major reasons I dislike Sztany's Ultimate series, in fact.

    (On an unrelated note, by the way, if it wasn't clear before, the society mind was published in Untapped Potential, meaning several DMs who require print sources may now peruse it at their leisure. Dreamscarred hasn't forgotten about it, either, and it will be used in later books.)

    Those two criteria can help you in designing other base classes. Step 1 is ALWAYS to ask yourself if your concept REALLY needs a new base class instead of just some imagination. From there, it's just a matter of mechanics.
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    For Example...

    Untapped Potential's other base class, the Marksman, was designed as follows: We noted that there was no full-base-attack manifesting class, and when we looked at all the published full-base-attack classes, every one of them except the ranger (and even the ranger, to some extent) had a heavy, heavy melee focus. Thus, a ranged full-base-attack class would be mechanically original, and would be a good place to go. From there, we looked at places like archetypal "small-scale psionics" (i.e. Starcraft Ghosts, The Shadow) and archetypal ranged combatants (there's a very powerful ability there drawn from classic Western films, for instance), and came up with interesting ideas mechanically (such as the ability to develop a signature weapon style). Finally, we put it all together and pared it down until it looked reasonably balanced.
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    To illustrate further, here's some WotC examples.

    Duskblade: Fills a niche no other single class can (fighter/mage, a popular niche; the psychic warrior comes close but feels completely different since it can't blast), sort of mechanically original (not so much, but what mechanics are there are solid). Conclusion: Good class.

    Warlock: Fills a niche no other class can (and that niche can vary somewhat depending on what you choose, but always having magic at your fingertips has a certain appeal), mechanically original (Self-evident!). On the plus side, it's dripping in unique flavor (which was enough to lure my brother, who NEVER plays anything *but* The Half Orc Barbarian, into trying something new). Conclusion: Good class.

    Samurai: Not mechanically original (all of its abilities are fighter bonus feats, essentially), fills no new niche (a Lawful fighter could do this). Conclusion: Bad class.

    Swashbuckler: Doesn't fill a new niche (warrior rogue, light fighter), not mechanically original at all. Conclusion: Bad class. But insightful strike's good, so it's worth considering as a dip.

    Beguiler: Doesn't fill a new niche (sneaky spellcaster; illusionist comes close), but executes it with mechanical elegance and brilliance. Conclusion: Good class. You'll note that this is the reverse of the duskblade (which fills the niche but isn't mechanically original), yet both are good because their better side is as good as it is.

    All of these work without introducing a new system either. If I wanted to, I could laud the Expanded Psionics Handbook, Pact Magic section of the Tome of Magic, the Totemist from Magic of Incarnum, and the Tome of Battle classes as "good" (they all fill various niches and do so with mechanical elegance) and the rest of the Tome of Magic and Magic of Incarnum as "poor" for similar reasons (MoI doesn't fill any new niche except for the totemist, Truenaming fails on so many mechanical levels, and shadow magic is weak on both fronts but shows promise).
    Are you seeing how to design a good class from this by now? I'd hope I'm being helpful.



    If we're including variants of existing base classes, then my money currently lies on (in no particular order) Seerow's Fighter*, OneWinged4ngel's Paladin, my own Marshal, BlaineTog's Soulknife, and RadicalTaoist's Ranger (even if the latter may need a bit of tweaking; it's getting intensive playtesting in our group now, right alongside Blaine's soulknife). All of these except the ranger are intended to "fix" an existing class, replacing it altogether (Seerow's fighter is the result of many, many long discussions of what the figher's lacking as a class, OW4's paladin is a reimagining from the ground up of what a PALADIN means, Blaine's soulknife fixes many weak mechanical flaws while giving the soulknife a niche of its own isntead of a bastard niche between stealth and tanking, and my marshal makes a dip class into something worth taking as a defining class). The ranger is meant as a variant that can be used in addition to normal rangers, trading mystical abilities for Tome of Battle maneuvers.

    Hope that helps.


    * I haven't yet read Otto's classes beyond a cursory skimming, but I like what I see there, particularly the hexblade.


    ^--It also covers my next point a bit.

    Mechanics for mechanics' sake is bad. Seriously. People add little +1s and -1s and tiny little details that don't actually affect the character much based on this and that, and bog it down (and actually can limit the versatility of the character concepts it can fill), when you actually don't need any new mechanics. Some good examples of "mechanics for mechanics sake" are actually some classes that have received high acclaim from some, but criticism from board veterans like myself and Tempest Stormwind, such as Szatany's classes and Frasmage's Gemini Dancer. This is largely because the presentation looks good, but the underlying mechanics are actually rather unnecessary.

    Basically, mechanics should have some meaning and significance. They should do something you care about, instead of bogging down the system.

    Dead levels suck.
    Make sure the player gets something new every level. The reason for this is simple and straightforward: No one wants to take a level where there is no benefit, and moreover dead levels are boring and just plain not fun. Even if it's something minor, you should at least put *something* to fill the void. Ideally, you should be giving a fairly even progression of cool class features.

    It is worth noting that gaining a level of spells or something is *NOT* a dead level, because a level of spells actually represents an array of new class features. In fact, it often represents a larger array of new class features at the new level than many other classes get. Don't confuse "class features" with "entries in the special column," because it's just not true. It's also worth noting that if you have a lot of abilities that scale by level, it can also be acceptable to have a few seemingly "dead" levels, since you're actually getting something nifty at those levels even if you don't see it right there in the special column. A bad dead level is one where you're basically the same guy as you were at the last level, except with a bit higher numbers.

    You should feel more powerful, more versatile, and generally cooler at every level. A player should not be doing just the same old thing, except with slightly higher numbers.

    Tempest helps to clarify, here:
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tempest Stormwind View Post
    I should add that if you have a lot of class abilities that scale by level, you can also get by with this.

    The classic "bad" dead level is Fighter 5. You play EXACTLY the same way you did as Fighter 4, except with slightly different numbers.

    This is, at its core, what the no-dead-level approach is meant to avoid. You don't need flashy new abilities at each level, but the character should feel more powerful, more versatile, or similar at every level. He should NOT feel "just like I was, but more so".

    (Note a quick comparison in general design philosophy with core melee and ToB characters, by the way -- core melee use the same tactics at level 20 that they do at level 1, more or less: charge, full attack. They have some new features (spells, rages, unique feats, etc) to make the delivery of these tactics possible, and to make the numbers bigger... but it's still the same tactics. Meanwhile, a warblade at level 20 plays significantly different from one at level 1, even if fundamentally they still involve move-in-and-attack. It's because they get options -- and they get them at every level, so it feels good to be a warblade every time you level up. Make your class something you'd want to feel proud to be.)


    Uneven progressions suck. There are two common sides of the coin here. There's toploading, and there's the "suck now, but own later" mentality. Both of these ideas generally suck. Toploading is bad because it means that most of your class's progression is actually useless (for instance, the Swashbuckler is often considered a 3-level long class. The other 17 levels are wasted). And "pay for it now for power later" and similar such uneven progressions *really* don't actually work that way in play. Sure, many PrCed up gish builds will be pretty lame at low level, and killer at higher level, but the reality is that most campaigns aren't actually played from levels 1-20. They'll be more like "5-12" or "1-14" or "12-18" or whatever. So that "evening out cost and benefit over levels" doesn't really exist. Making a class good at one level and crappy at another is a bad thing. Ideally, a class progression should be as even as possible and a class should contribute to the party in a level-appropriate way at *every* level. No more, no less. It doesn't actually have to be perfect... but it should be a fairly even progression of cool class features.

    I think this honorable Crane puts it fairly well here.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaidojiTaidoru View Post
    "Suck Now Rule Later" and it's reverse are poor points of game balance and design. Even assuming that all games run from levels 1 to 20 (wildly untrue), and that the characters remain the same throughout all 20 levels (often untrue) that still means that only half your players are having fun at any given point in your campaign, and the others are only hanging on in hopes they'll get a moment to shine at some point via DM intervention. Your players should enjoy every fight they meet and consider every challenge interesting, not singlehandedly win the first 3 fights of the day and stand around useless for fight number 4.


    Make the class for everyone who's going to use it, not just you. Basically, this follows a principle that when designing something for public consumption, you want to make it adaptable to everyone's needs. A class shouldn't look like "your specific character's build choices." It should be able to embody a variety of concepts. Writing extensive fluff on the history of some order and the exact way a certain character fights and so forth doesn't actually make for a better class in any way. We've all seen these classes that look like one guy's character, instead of a real base class that can be adapted to a variety of concepts.

    Keep it flexible in build. Building on the last point, a class should provide many "viable" build options, allowing it to embody a variety of concepts. With a look at the Wizard, we can see that you can make a tricky illusionist, a war wizard that makes buildings explode, a calculating seer, or a thousand other concepts. Where possible, you shouldn't be restricting the sort of concepts you can use with the class.

    Give it options in play. Using the same tactic over and over is boring. If you're a trip fighter with that one trick (trip, trip, trip) then your gameplay is going to become more monotonous. By contrast, the Warblade introduces more versatility and options into every battle.

    This is notably distinct from versatility in build. Versatility in build refers to the ability of a Fighter to be built in many different ways, but versatility in play refers to have many options of actions available to you during play.

    Plot writing abilities SUCK. Just don't do it. This is a no-no. When I say "plot writing" abilities, I mean stuff like the HORRIBLE Thunder Guide class in the Explorer's Handbook where you get abilities like "Serial Hero: At 8th level, famed Korranberg Chronicle reporter Kole Naerrin writes a serialized account of your adventures appearing over the course of thirteen weeks. You earn 1000 gp per point of your charisma bonus for the rights to your story (minimum 1000gp)." Seriously, WTF? "A guy writes a book about you" isn't a class ability. A class ability is supposed to be some ability that your character has, not something that happens in the plot.

    This PrC from the Dungeonomicon parodies the plot-writing abilities and "The class is actually just my specific character put into a progression" problems that we see *alarmingly* often, which is just stupid.

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    Quote Originally Posted by K/Frank's Dungeonomicon
    Elothar Warrior of Bladereach
    "My name is Elothar. Your name is unimportant, for you shall soon be dead."

    The city of Bladereach sits at the mouth of the Typhon River that flows from the Bane Mires into Ferrin's Bay. The elves of Celentian's caravan come every year to trade with the largely human inhabitants of Bladereach and sometimes they leave more than the wares of the Black Orchard Hills when they leave. The results of these dalliances find that they never fit in amongst the people of Bladereach, and are taught the hard secrets of battle that the children of Bladereach have to offer. Often, these half-elven warriors turn to adventuring.

    Prerequisites:
    Skills: 9 ranks in Use Rope
    Race: Half-elf.
    Region: Must be from Bladereach.
    Special: Name must be Elothar.

    Hit Die: d8
    Class Skills: The Elothar Warrior of Bladereach's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Balance (Dex), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Knowledge (all skills taken individually) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Search (Int), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis), Swim (Str), and Use Rope (Dex).
    Skills/Level: 4 + Intelligence Bonus
    BAB: Good (1/1), Saves: Fort: Poor; Reflex: Poor; Will: Good

    Level, Benefit
    1 Way of Two Swords
    2 Tommy, Legacy of the Water Stone
    3 Magic Swords, Immunity to Petrification
    4 I've got that!
    5 Double Riposte, Fistful of Rubies
    6 Der'renya the Ruby Sorceress
    7 Ways and Paths
    8 Name of the First Eagle
    9 Blessing of the Gnome King
    10 Flying Ship, Your Money is No Good Here
    11 Demesne of Tralathon
    12 Mark of Ruin
    13 Sword of Kas, Dwarf Friend
    14 Happily Ever After, Khadrimarh

    All of the following are Class Features of the Elothar Warrior of Bladereach class:
    Weapon and Armor Proficiency: An Elothar Warrior of Bladereach gains proficiency with the Nerra Shard Sword, the Kaorti Ribbon Dagger, and the Shuriken.

    Way of Two Swords (Ex): With a single standard action, an Elothar Warrior of Bladreach may attack with a one-handed or light weapon in each hand at no penalties to-hit or damage for the weapon in his primary or off-hand.

    Tommy: At 2nd level, an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach is joined in his adventures by Tommy, a 5th level Halfling Rogue from Figmountain. Tommy is a loyal cohort and gains levels when the Elothar Warrior of Bladereach does. Other Halflings will be impressed by Tommy's apparent loyalty and the Elothar Warrior of Bladereach gains a +3 bonus to his Diplomacy checks when dealing with Halflings if Tommy is present.

    Legacy of the Water Stone (Sp): An Elothar Warrior of Bladereach of 2nd level has touched the fabled Water Stone, and gleaned a portion of its powers thereby. He may cast create water as a spell-like ability at will. The caster level for this ability is 5.

    Magic Swords (Su): Any sword a 3rd level Elothar Warrior of Bladereach holds has an enhancement bonus equal to 1/3 of his character level (round down, no maximum). The enhancement bonus fades one round after the Elothar Warrior of Bladereach stops touching the weapons.

    Immunity to Petrification (Ex): At 3rd level, an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach cannot be petrified.

    I've Got That! (Sp): At 4th level, an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach can mimic the effects of a drawmij's instant summons at will. The Elothar Warrior of Bladereach does not need an arcane mark on the item, nor does he need a sapphire to call the item in question.

    Double Riposte (Ex): If an opponent provokes an attack of opportunity from a 5th level Elothar Warrior of Bladereach, the Elothar Warrior of Bladereach may attack with a weapon in each hand at no penalty. This is considered a single attack of opportunity for purposes of how many attacks of opportunity the Elothar Warrior of Bladereach is allowed in a turn.

    Fistful of Rubies: At 5th level, an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach finds 10,000 gp worth of rubies.

    Der'renya the Ruby Sorceress: At 6th level, an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach is joined in his travels by Der'renya the Ruby Sorceress, a beautiful Drow magician. She is a Wizard 6/ Seeker of the Lost Wizard Traditions 4, and gains levels when he does. Other dark elves will be angered by Der'renya's betrayal, and will be if anything even less friendly with the Elothar Warrior of Bladereach if encountered with her.

    Ways and Paths (Su): At 7th level, an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach can make his way back to any plane he's ever been to. By wandering around in the wilderness for three days, he can make a Survival check (DC 25) to shift himself and anyone traveling with him to another plane.

    Name of the First Eagle (Sp): At 8th level, an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach can speak the name of the first eagle, which summons a powerful giant eagle that has the attributes of a Roc (though it is only large sized). The eagle appears for one hour, and may be summoned once per day.

    Blessing of the Gnome King (Su): At 9th level, an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach has pleased the king of the Gnomes so thoroughly that he is granted a portion of the gnomish power. The Elothar Warrior of Bladereach can speak with burrowing animals and sees through illusions as if he had true seeing cast upon him by a 20th level Sorcerer.

    Flying Ship: At 10th level, an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach finds a Flying Ship from the Eberron setting. And can pilot it around.

    Your Money is no Good Here: An Elothar Warrior of Bladereach of 10th level gets free drinks and food at The Wandering Eye, a tavern in Sigil.

    Demesne of Tralathon: At 11th level, an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach gains sole control of Tralathon, a small demiplane that appears to be an abandoned Githyanki outpost. Tralathon has several one-way portals that exit onto places on the Astral Plane, the Prime Material, and Limbo. The Elothar Warrior of Bladereach may planeshift to Tralathon at will as a spell-like ability.

    Mark of Ruin (Su): At 12th level, an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach is permanently marked with the Mark of Ruin, which causes all of his melee attacks to ignore hardness and damage reduction.

    Sword of Kas: An Elothar Warrior of Bladereach finds the Sword of Kas at level 13.

    Dwarf Friend (Ex): The deeds of an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach are well remembered by Dwarves when he reaches level 13. Dwarves he encounters are treated as Friendly.

    Happily Ever After: At 14th level, an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach becomes king of Bladereach with Der'renya as his queen. The castle of Halan Shador, that used to belong to the Lichking Hadrach is his to rule from.

    Khadrimarh: A 14th level, an Elothar Warrior of Bladereach has a young adult white dragon named Khadrimarh as a pet.
    • Elothar Warriors of Bladereach in your campaign: You may want to adapt this prestige class to the specifics of your campaign. In other campaign worlds, the race, region, and name requirements of this class may need to be changed to fit with the overall narrative.


    MAD isn't a bad thing.
    Now, before you say "What? zomgwtf? MAD makes you weaker!" Well, yes, it does. However, SAD is actually a problem, while MAD is probably a good thing. Allowing a person to excel in different ways by excelling in different stats increases his customizability and versatility in build, which is a good thing. A world where everyone invests in and only cares about the same stat is *not* such a good thing. This goes back to the "make the class versatile in build" point.

    Allowing for decent multiclassing is a good thing, too.
    You know what's annoying about a lot of full spellcasters? They kinda just feel cheated when you multiclass 'em most of the time. This isn't fun... it impedes on the "make it versatile in build" principle. By contrast, we see a more elegant multiclassing mechanic in Tome of Battle classes, where your maneuvering abilities don't just become completely obsolete if you decide to take a few levels at level 7 or 8 (As opposed to getting magic missile at level 9 with a caster level of 1).

    Thankfully, they've got a few PrCs and a feat or two (like Practiced Spellcaster) to mitigate the multiclassing issue of some classes, but it would be better if they didn't have to. However, this is a fairly advanced concern, and people aren't going to mind *terribly* if it doesn't multiclass well, just because multiclassing generally sucks across most of the board in D&D.

    This quote from Tempest helps to clarify this point a bit.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tempest Stormwind View Post
    Just a minor clarification, then: A class should multiclass well, and reward players who stick with them all the way (note: capstones alone aren't the way to do this, though they do sweeten the deal a bit). The trick is to balance these two competing forces and do it well.

    The best example I can think of currently is the warblade. It has simple build elegance in the single class, progressing given abilities, granting new ones, and having no dead levels (every level past 4 has either a maneuver swap or a new maneuver, plus the new Battle X abilities), and a capstone to sweeten level 20. However, it also gains a fair bit from multiclassing, both INTO and OUT OF warblade, due to the interesting way ToB multiclassing works. A non-warblade considering to multiclass has a more compelling reason every level to consider a warblade level. A high-level warblade doesn't lose out too much by taking other classes, especially if all he needs to get more or less "back on track" is simply take a warblade level later on. The pull to multiclass is almost exactly countered by what the class provides.

    (Add to this that warblades are diverse in their builds, diverse in their play, capable in their niche, and FUN, *while* being relatively simple, and you get a spectacular class in general, but I wanted to highlight the multi/singleclass balance present.)


    Choose a paradigm for balance. This is to say, don't just shoot in the dark, then post on the boards saying "is this balanced?" Decide, from the beginning, what you consider to be your standard for balance. Many people will recommend the Rogue or Psychic Warrior as a "middle-of-the-road" point for balance. Frank uses the single-classed transmuter Wizard. It's ultimately up to you. But the point is... know what power level you're shooting for and go for that.

    Keep your conceptual goals in mind. You want to know where you're headed. You find a new niche to fill, or you think of a mechanically original way to handle something. From there, keep that goal in mind, and work towards realizing the concept of the class, and moreover keep in mind *how it will work in play.* Synergy matters. If you're making a paladin, don't just throw in a bunch of holy warrior-y abilities for 20 levels... think of the cohesive whole and how the whole thing works together to create an even class progression that fills a useful and fun role.

    Capstones are cool abilities, but don't really change the class's playstyle. Basically, a capstone should be something and cool and shiny that says "congrats, you just hit 20th level." However, it should *not* be something that significantly alters the style of play, such as, say, a Duskblade's Arcane Channelling, which is a "meat of the class" ability. You want to get those sort of abilities when you can use them for more than 1 level. Instead, a capstone is something like "you turn into an outsider type," which is cool and all, but doesn't really revolutionize the way the class is played.

    Mind the CR system. You want your base class to be balanced, so measure it up against encounters of the appropriate level (including monsters, other characters, encounter traps, and non-combat obstacles and encounters). Look up the CR system, and know what it's supposed to mean. If a character cannot contribute in a way appropriate to his or her level against encounters appropriate for their level, or if they can completely floor all of those encounters, you don't have something balanced on your hands. What you DO NOT want to do is just eyeball it and say "Hey, that looks balanced." Examine it. Scrutinize it. Make comparisons. Playtest it. Get other people to playtest it if possible, so that you can get away from your own biased opinion.

    Balance your options. That is to say, each build option should be good in its own way, with no clear "best" or "worst" choice. When you can feel the indecision, that's balance, right there. Pretty straightforward, but worth mentioning. You don't want "Cat's Grace vs. Bite of the Wererat." You want "Invisibility vs. Silence."

    Present your class clearly. The last thing is that you want your class write-up to look nice. This doesn't actually have so much to do with class design itself, but it's an important point when designing classes. You want some flavorful stuff to entice the reader to pay attention, like a quote from a character of the class or a picture. You want to have a clear table, clear ability entries, and something that's legible instead of all just kinda blending together in a great blob of text. You might even want to link up your spell list table to stuff in the SRD or something. Whatever. The most important part of this is making the rules clean and concise, to avoid misinterpretations and generally make everything go down smooth. A badly explained ability entry has led to more than one long, heated, pointless argument on these boards. Don't make it happen to your class.

    That's all I got off the top of my head. May edit more in as it comes to me. Please have the courtesy to reply maturely, like it was a Regdar's thread. The last thing I want to see is frivolous tangents and opinion bumps corrupting an otherwise valuable resource.

    -Signed,
    Last edited by OneWinged4ngel; 2007-09-05 at 10:28 PM.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Regarding MAD, I like to use the definition from the stickied Dictionary of Terminology on the WotC site. Reprinting it here:
    Multiple Attribute Dependency [MAD] (expression): Phrase referring to character classes whose abilities require good scores in multiple attributes rather than just one, and commonly used to refer to what is often considered the primary weakness of the psion character class.
    It is a term used in the pejorative to refer to a class which requires multiple good ability scores to be able to make use of its class features, rather than simply to refer to a sliding scale of efficiency, and inherently refers to a weakness of the class in question. I believe the sort of flexibility in design you are referring to might better be referenced with an acronym other than "MAD", which is generally has a far more negative meaning than you intend.

    (For reference, the definition is from the 3.0 psion era, in which each discipline had a different ability score to determine its casting. This had a dramatic, and very negative, effect on the class.)

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by tainsouvra View Post
    Regarding MAD, I like to use the definition from the stickied Dictionary of Terminology on the WotC site. Reprinting it here: It is a term used in the pejorative to refer to a class which requires multiple good ability scores to be able to make use of its class features, rather than simply to refer to a sliding scale of efficiency, and inherently refers to a weakness of the class in question. I believe the sort of flexibility in design you are referring to might better be referenced with an acronym other than "MAD", which is generally has a far more negative meaning than you intend.

    (For reference, the definition is from the 3.0 psion era, in which each discipline had a different ability score to determine its casting. This had a dramatic, and very negative, effect on the class.)
    We, uh... have gone over this before.

    As to the article in question, all of the points are solid. If I ever design a class, I'll certainly make sure this article's points are in my mind.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Kasrkin View Post
    We, uh... have gone over this before.
    I had not made such a statement previously, and even if I had made that exact statement before I prefer to respond to each thread with a separate treatment of the topic at hand. Not only does it cut down on potential baggage, but it allows each thread to be complete within itself rather than dependent on other (nonlinked) threads for context.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by OneWinged4ngel View Post
    MAD isn't a bad thing.
    Now, before you say "What? zomgwtf? MAD makes you weaker!" Well, yes, it does. However, SAD is actually a problem, while MAD is probably a good thing. Allowing a person to excel in different ways by excelling in different stats increases his customizability and versatility in build, which is a good thing. A world where everyone invests in and only cares about the same stat is *not* such a good thing. This goes back to the "make the class versatile in build" point.
    I think you've made good and reasonable points with every suggestion except this one. MAD limits versatility, it doesn't enhance it - not only in mechanical build options, but in roleplaying dimensions. Take the Paladin and the Wizard as examples. Every Paladin is going to have middling-to-high STR, CON, WIS and CHA. They can't easily afford to utterly ignore any of those and remain effective mechanically, so playing a (for example) strong and brave but not very wise paladin isn't a viable option. Most paladins are going to have very similar stat-builds because of this.

    By contrast, Wizards are going to have one thing in common: they're smart. Some of them may be strong as well, others may be agile, others may have forceful personalities that stand out from the crowd. SAD allows you to succeed mechanically with a number of different builds, which opens up the roleplaying options. And it makes sense that all wizards would have brains in common; it's probably why they chose to be wizards in the first place. Mechanically, this allows for variety: giving a wizard high CON to increase his hit points is a reasonable choice, but so is giving him a high DEX to avoid being hit in the first place, or a high CHA so he can avoid at least some battles through negotiation and wit. You can play a wizard a lot of different ways, even after leaving his spellbook out of it.

    Similarly, in the real world you can find rocket scientists who lift weights at the gym, and rocket scientists who are the champion dart-player at the local bar, and rocket scientists who moonlight as motivational speakers. They're all at a certain baseline level of smarts, but their other strengths and weaknesses vary.

    That one item aside, though, you make a lot of good points. In my opinion, the one you put up front is the best: why is this class needed?

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Maybe we need a third term here:

    • SAD, for when the character really only needs one ability score high to be uber. Other abilities are mostly irrelevant, although they might have generally beneficial game effects if boosted with items (you'd never waste your level advancement points on the others, though). This is somewhat bad, because the character can focus on boosting just the one ability score and get all their relevant class abilities boosted in one go. Example: wizard.
    • MAD, for when the character needs several ability scores to be high to be even viable. This is bad. Examples: monk, paladin.
    • VAD (Variable Attribute Dependency), for when the character can be viable with any of several attributes high, but different attributes mean that the character focuses on different aspects of the class. This would be the "good" kind of MAD. I can't think of a standard class which actually has it, though. Regardless, it would mean that a character of this hypothetical class who focuses on Strength (for example) would be viable, as would one who focuses on Dexterity - they would just be different. Likewise, perhaps a character who focused on both Strength and Dexterity would be just as viable, and different still from either single attribute character.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWinged4ngel View Post
    Mechanics for mechanics' sake is bad. Seriously. People add little +1s and -1s and tiny little details that don't actually affect the character much based on this and that, and bog it down (and actually can limit the versatility of the character concepts it can fill), when you actually don't need any new mechanics. Some good examples of "mechanics for mechanics sake" are actually some classes that have received high acclaim from some, but criticism from board veterans like myself and Tempest Stormwind, such as Szatany's classes and Frasmage's Gemini Dancer. This is largely because the presentation looks good, but the underlying mechanics are actually rather unnecessary.
    This is an important point, and one that I think warrants some more discussion. One of the things I try very hard to do when designing a class is to avoid any mechanic of the form "+X to Y," where the bonus in question applies to more than a single roll. There are two reasons for this. First, each +X mechanic adds one more number to a game that already has far too much number-crunching. Second, +X mechanics are boring. There's nothing exciting about them, no thrill to using them; you just have slightly bigger numbers than before, that's all.

    As an example, in creating the mystic class I used to replace arcanists in Iron Heroes, I wanted to have a "good luck" special ability. The simple way to handle this in d20 is to give one of those "+1 to all d20 rolls" bonuses, of the sort you get from bless. But that's another +1 to keep track of, and it's boring.

    So instead, I created a special ability that gave mystics a small number of re-rolls to hand out among the party. Statistically, this might be comparable to a +1 all-around bonus; but it was vastly more fun in game-play. Instead of everybody having to remember to add +1 to all their rolls, somebody would fail a saving throw or miss a key attack roll, and the mystic would say, "Hmm... you know what? Try that again." And everybody would grin, and the mystic would feel cool and powerful, and the guy who got to re-roll would be relieved at getting another chance to do whatever it was he was trying to do, and nobody had to keep track of any extra numbers.
    Last edited by Dausuul; 2007-09-06 at 12:03 AM.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    On the subject of MAD, perhaps my wording can be a bit misleading, and I'm certainly open to suggestions to enhance the guide.
    Last edited by OneWinged4ngel; 2007-09-06 at 12:04 AM.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by OneWinged4ngel View Post
    On the subject of MAD, perhaps my wording can be a bit misleading, and I'm certainly open to suggestions to enhance the guide.
    I would go with Golthur idea of a middle ground like VAD, which more closely resembles what you appear to be saying than MAD.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Golthur View Post
    I can't think of a standard class which actually has it, though.
    Consider the Warblade, or really any fighter class (including the Fighter, even though he sucks). They can choose to emphasize Constitution, Strength, or Dexterity in varying degrees, and gain differring benefits from these things. The Warblade can also benefit from an investment in Intelligence, though he doesn't strictly NEED it. Take the Crusader. Charisma certainly isn't essential, but he gains benefits if he CHOOSES to emphasize it (and really, he doesn't get much less of a benefit if he picks Wisdom instead). And of course, there's all the physical attributes again.
    Last edited by OneWinged4ngel; 2007-09-06 at 12:09 AM.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Perhaps suggesting that classes ought to allow the player to either mix their attributes or dump them all into one or two and still have the class playable? Like with the Warblade- you can focus more on strength, dexterity, constitution, or intelligence, and you'll still have a playable character.
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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Viscount Einstrauss View Post
    Perhaps suggesting that classes ought to allow the player to either mix their attributes or dump them all into one or two and still have the class playable? Like with the Warblade- you can focus more on strength, dexterity, constitution, or intelligence, and you'll still have a playable character.
    This is what I'm trying to get at. You can emphasize one or two, or keep them all pretty much even, or whatever. Any suggestions for a better wording, in keeping with the general format of the guide?
    Last edited by OneWinged4ngel; 2007-09-06 at 12:13 AM.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Although it's not core, I feel a good example to point towards for a VAD class is the warblade.

    Specifically, a warblade needs Strength to be effective. Dexterity, Constitution, and Intelligence are all secondary. Now, most people would be very wary of making a melee with low CON, but there's no reason a smart (high INT) and quick (DEX) warblade can't get by with 10 or 12 CON.

    From my limited experience, warlocks can pick either Dexterity or Charisma as their more defining stat. Dexterity for a more blasting-oreinted build, and Charisma for stacking status effects.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Golthur View Post
    • VAD (Variable Attribute Dependency), for when the character can be viable with any of several attributes high, but different attributes mean that the character focuses on different aspects of the class. This would be the "good" kind of MAD. I can't think of a standard class which actually has it, though. Regardless, it would mean that a character of this hypothetical class who focuses on Strength (for example) would be viable, as would one who focuses on Dexterity - they would just be different. Likewise, perhaps a character who focused on both Strength and Dexterity would be just as viable, and different still from either single attribute character.

    The only class that I can think of that does this in a WotC game is the Jedi base class from Star Wars Saga. You can make a lightsaber wielding death god, a fast talking negotiator, or a Force wielding lightning rod and all of them require different abilities. Their only commonality is a requirment for a high charisma to fuel their Use the Force skill.

    The fighter does this as well, but the easiest and most effective build is to use Power Attack with a two-handed weapon with a greatsword.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Beleriphon View Post
    The only class that I can think of that does this in a WotC game is the Jedi base class from Star Wars Saga. You can make a lightsaber wielding death god, a fast talking negotiator, or a Force wielding lightning rod and all of them require different abilities. Their only commonality is a requirment for a high charisma to fuel their Use the Force skill.

    The fighter does this as well, but the easiest and most effective build is to use Power Attack with a two-handed weapon with a greatsword.
    The Fighter is greatly imbalanced, even against itself, and this is largely a result of the imbalance of the feat and weapon systems. Two-handed fighting is, on its own, just hands down awesome with minimal investment.
    Last edited by OneWinged4ngel; 2007-09-06 at 04:47 AM.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Er... you do mean two handed fighting, don't you? If not, may I inquire as to how you make two weapon fighting awesome without massive feat drain?
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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by OneWinged4ngel View Post
    Consider the Warblade, or really any fighter class (including the Fighter, even though he sucks). They can choose to emphasize Constitution, Strength, or Dexterity in varying degrees, and gain differring benefits from these things. The Warblade can also benefit from an investment in Intelligence, though he doesn't strictly NEED it. Take the Crusader. Charisma certainly isn't essential, but he gains benefits if he CHOOSES to emphasize it (and really, he doesn't get much less of a benefit if he picks Wisdom instead). And of course, there's all the physical attributes again.
    If those are your comparison classes, then it confirms that MAD isn't really what you were going for...the VAD suggestion is a good one to use and I'd really recommend it.
    Fighters and Warblades are not commonly referred to as suffering from MAD--in fact many use the Fighter as an example of an SAD class. While they can benefit from having multiple good stats (as can practically anyone, which is why a term didn't previously exist for it) they are not dependent on having high scores in all of them in order to effectively use their class abilities, unlike a true MAD class.

    If the Fighter and Warblade fit your vision then it would be good to have a term to describe the benefits they receive from varied stats without a dependence on them, and VAD keeps the +AD theme, so it's really a good way to go.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Viscount Einstrauss View Post
    Er... you do mean two handed fighting, don't you? If not, may I inquire as to how you make two weapon fighting awesome without massive feat drain?
    Yes, that's what I meant. Geez, I'm doing way too many typos lately :(

    Fixed.

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    ...Also... I've NEVER heard someone call Fighters SAD (except in the sense that the players felt sad cuz they feel they got gypped =P), though I've seen dozens of instances where people complain about them being MAD (particularly in "fighters suck" arguments). And, though I'm only a halfling *HERE*, I've been around the block a few times, heh.
    Last edited by OneWinged4ngel; 2007-09-06 at 04:51 AM.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    I'm confused by the responses to this guide. I've always thought the terms SAD and MAD were class-design terms. As in, we're going to design this class to be a SAD class, which means it really only needs 1 high attribute.

    And MAD as in, we're going to design this class so that it benefits, in an important way, from multiple high attributes.

    Saying "This class sucks cause it is MAD" is like saying "I don't have enough point to be able to make a powerhouse character that requires MAD, therefore MAD sucks".

    I think when people start throwing terms like "viable", "mechanically effective" around, it starts to get scary. This is also expressed in the form of "My character will suck if they don't have at least a ____ (Attribute)."

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Beleriphon View Post
    The only class that I can think of that does this in a WotC game is the Jedi base class from Star Wars Saga. You can make a lightsaber wielding death god, a fast talking negotiator, or a Force wielding lightning rod and all of them require different abilities. Their only commonality is a requirment for a high charisma to fuel their Use the Force skill.

    The fighter does this as well, but the easiest and most effective build is to use Power Attack with a two-handed weapon with a greatsword.
    Rogue is actually a pretty good example of it. Most Rogues I've seen have high Dexterity, because of AC concerns. But there's the Rogue with high Int (super skillmonkey), high Cha ("Convincing John"), or even high Wis (for scouting abilities). You could even design a brawler Rogue with Strength instead of Dex. A Rogue can be an effective Rogue with or without any of those options.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWinged4ngel View Post
    ...Also... I've NEVER heard someone call Fighters SAD (except in the sense that the players felt sad cuz they feel they got gypped =P), though I've seen dozens of instances where people complain about them being MAD (particularly in "fighters suck" arguments). And, though I'm only a halfling *HERE*, I've been around the block a few times, heh.
    Fighters are commonly mentioned as SAD because they only need one high score (usually Strength, but it can vary with build) in order to use their abilities. They need a non-penalty in Dex/Con in order to shine, but that's not what MAD is all about, MAD's about needing multiple good ability scores in order to make use of your abilities. The prototypical Fighter with high strength and mediocre Dex/Con is usually taken as the SAD example to compare to MAD classes like the Monk, who need multiple stats as high as the Fighter's Strength in order to make use of their abilities. If the Fighter is being described as MAD, they're taking all the meaning out of the term, because there's no longer anything to differentiate the SAD Fighter from a MAD Monk or Paladin--you might as well describe Wizards as MAD at that point and say there are no SAD classes at all.

    Could you reference a "Fighters have MAD" thread for me? I've only seen them in response to some Fighter multiclasses, not in response to the base class, and I find it difficult to believe that a thread of any significant length could call Fighters "MAD" without getting silly.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tormsskull View Post
    And MAD as in, we're going to design this class so that it benefits, in an important way, from multiple high attributes.
    That kind of runs counter to the standard definition of MAD that I gave in the first reply, so while you're welcome to think of it that way, you are using the term incorrectly (in the context of forums like this one) if you do so. MAD is an expression referring to a design weakness, not design customizability.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by tainsouvra View Post
    That kind of runs counter to the standard definition of MAD that I gave in the first reply, so while you're welcome to think of it that way, you are using the term incorrectly (in the context of forums like this one) if you do so. MAD is an expression referring to a design weakness, not design customizability.
    I think you are using the phrase "design weakness" completely wrong. When someone is trying to optimize a class, they may view MAD as being a weakness, because it means that they have to spread their point-buy available points out to more than 1 stat in order to increase their overall character power. Compared to a SAD class where a player can just bump 1 stat to get the same amount of overall character power increase.

    When you design a class, and you are worth anything as a class designer, you should be taking these kind of things into consideration. You try to fit the class into some kind of a niche or a role without hedging out the other classes that exist.

    Whenever someone brings up the fact that spellcasters are overpowered/broken it is often referenced that all a Wizard needs is a high intelligence, and all a cleric really needs is a high wisdom, etc. If we assume for a moment that spellcasters are overpowered/broken, then the fact that they can derive so much power out of 1 stats would be a "Design weakness". As in, the Designers of the class made a mistake, the weak part of the design of this class that prevents it from fitting into a niche/role without stepping on the other classes is the fact that it is a SAD class.

    So overall, when YOU say "design weakness" I'm hearing "hindrance to optimization".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tormsskull View Post
    When someone is trying to optimize a class, they may view MAD as being a weakness, because it means that they have to spread their point-buy available points out to more than 1 stat in order to increase their overall character power. Compared to a SAD class where a player can just bump 1 stat to get the same amount of overall character power increase.
    This is not the only problem with MAD. Wealth-per-level, level-based increases, and spells make the problem considerably more severe than you suggest. It's not just about point-buy or rolling stats, it's a difficulty that impacts every aspect of a character.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tormsskull View Post
    When you design a class, and you are worth anything as a class designer, you should be taking these kind of things into consideration. You try to fit the class into some kind of a niche or a role without hedging out the other classes that exist.
    If that is the case, then the designers at WotC are not worth anything. You are welcome to that opinion, and I won't challenge it, but do realize the implications of what you're stating...and also realize that, if your interpretation of MAD relies on classes being designed as to not be weakened by it, you run into the obvious problem of classes that are weakened by it. The 3.0 Psion is an excellent example of this--the difference in power between the 3.0 Psion and other caster-types is due primarily to the worst case of MAD to date (every single ability score!).
    Quote Originally Posted by Tormsskull View Post
    Whenever someone brings up the fact that spellcasters are overpowered/broken it is often referenced that all a Wizard needs is a high intelligence, and all a cleric really needs is a high wisdom, etc. If we assume for a moment that spellcasters are overpowered/broken, then the fact that they can derive so much power out of 1 stats would be a "Design weakness". As in, the Designers of the class made a mistake, the weak part of the design of this class that prevents it from fitting into a niche/role without stepping on the other classes is the fact that it is a SAD class.
    I don't agree that SAD is the reason spellcasters are so powerful (spells themselves are), but leaving that aside a moment, look at your own logic. You have just proven that, according to your standard, WotC designers aren't worth anything...kind of makes me wonder why you play their game
    Quote Originally Posted by Tormsskull View Post
    So overall, when YOU say "design weakness" I'm hearing "hindrance to optimization".
    ...please read your statement again. I really think that must not have come out right. If an MAD class is suboptimal because of MAD, then that is a weakness of the class. The way you're using these terms, "design weakness" and "hindrance to optimization" are one and the same, so you probably want to find another way to make your point if you dislike the taste of foot.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    I, for one, am not afraid of "Hindrance to Optimization". What I really want to see out of a class is a few paths I can take.

    Take the rogue example from above: I want a rogue who can do any two of the following -- Out-maneuver me, out-think me, convince me I'm really fighting for the wrong side, or bring back information about me to the party safely and accurately (Dex, Int, Cha, and Wis, respectively).

    You can have varying degrees of skill at all of them, but no single rogue should excel (and by that I mean really excel) at all of them.

    Lets look at the fighter: Str is considered to be the main stat. I want to build Dex-based fighters, and I don't want to use ToB, or the Ranger, or the Rogue. What do I do?

    Even worse: I want to be a Monk. 'Nuff said (Kidding, I'll continue). Maybe if some Monks were silky smooth (dex) and impossible to hit, and if some were exceedingly wise and calm (wis), and some were brutal hand-to-hand warriors (str), I'd feel better about the class.

    It should be possible to be a Monk who is a brutal hand-to-hand warrior but not exceedingly wise. Under the current D&D rules, it's not. What's more, it should be known and understood that you can't be the best at all three.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arbitrarity View Post
    The wizard sleeps the fighter, and/or greases him for sneak attack, and/or uses color spray. And/or makes him too weak to use his armour. And does the laundry.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by tainsouvra View Post
    This is not the only problem with MAD. Wealth-per-level, level-based increases, and spells make the problem considerably more severe than you suggest. It's not just about point-buy or rolling stats, it's a difficulty that impacts every aspect of a character.
    I'm just guessing here, but:

    Wealth-per-level is bad for MAD classes because they have to spend more money to purchase multiple items that increase different attributes?

    Level-based increases is bad for MAD because instead of sticking 1 point into 1 stat and getting a significant boost, you'll have to choose one of 3 (or 4) stats to increase which will only give you a minor boost overall.

    Spells you've got me on. You'd have to have multiple spells cast on you that increase all of your dependent stats in order to get an overall boost compared to a SAD character who only needs to boost one?

    If I am in the right neighborhood here, you're proving my point for me. You're saying that MAD is a "design weakness" because it is more difficult to obtain power for your character than it is for a SAD class. Used in this way, "design weakness" = hindrance to optimization.

    Quote Originally Posted by tainsouvra View Post
    If that is the case, then the designers at WotC are not worth anything. You are welcome to that opinion, and I won't challenge it, but do realize the implications of what you're stating...and also realize that, if your interpretation of MAD relies on classes being designed as to not be weakened by it, you run into the obvious problem of classes that are weakened by it. The 3.0 Psion is an excellent example of this--the difference in power between the 3.0 Psion and other caster-types is due primarily to the worst case of MAD to date (every single ability score!).
    The designers at WotC made some mistakes, but who wouldn't? Based on how they played at the time, all of the classes probably felt balanced to them.

    Also, I think you are misunderstanding me. I'm not saying the MAD doesn't weaken a class, I'm saying you are looking at it from a completely different angle than a designer would. A designer doesn't craft a class and then at the end say "hmmm, a little powerful, let's make it a MAD class to tone it down a bit." I'm saying a designer, from the start, will (should) incorporate the fact that the class is a MAD class from the get-go.

    Quote Originally Posted by tainsouvra View Post
    I don't agree that SAD is the reason spellcasters are so powerful (spells themselves are), but leaving that aside a moment, look at your own logic. You have just proven that, according to your standard, WotC designers aren't worth anything...kind of makes me wonder why you play their game
    Spells are powerful. How do you get more spells? Boost the casting stat for your class. You now have more spells. 1 spell = powerful, 2 spells = more powerful.

    Spell are powerful. How do you make your spells more difficult to resist? Boost the casting stat for your class. Your spells are now more difficult to resist. 1 Spell DC 15 = powerful, 1 Spell DC 19 = more powerful.

    IMO, WotC designers designed the game to be played a particular way. When they created the game they assumed that most people would play it in the way that they did, and thus they didn't give as much time to the other forms of playing. As such, overpowered combinations / loop holes occured.

    Quote Originally Posted by tainsouvra View Post
    If an MAD class is suboptimal because of MAD, then that is a weakness of the class.
    Or maybe the MAD classes are the ones that are "balanced", and the SAD classes are the ones that are overpowered?

    See you are missing a vital step in logic here.

    1. I want to make an optimized character.
    2. MAD is bad for optimization.
    3. MAD is a weakness.

    If we remove step 1, then step 2 no longer exists because I don't care about optimization. And as such, 3 isn't an issue at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by psychoticbarber
    You can have varying degrees of skill at all of them, but no single rogue should excel (and by that I mean really excel) at all of them.
    I agree. I also think no single Wizard should excel at all spells, but they can and do if they have a very high Intelligence, as Intelligence is really all a Wizard needs in order to excel at spells.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tormsskull View Post
    I'm confused by the responses to this guide. I've always thought the terms SAD and MAD were class-design terms. As in, we're going to design this class to be a SAD class, which means it really only needs 1 high attribute.

    And MAD as in, we're going to design this class so that it benefits, in an important way, from multiple high attributes.

    Saying "This class sucks cause it is MAD" is like saying "I don't have enough point to be able to make a powerhouse character that requires MAD, therefore MAD sucks".

    I think when people start throwing terms like "viable", "mechanically effective" around, it starts to get scary. This is also expressed in the form of "My character will suck if they don't have at least a ____ (Attribute)."
    Well, in some cases, this point isn't just "I want to have all 18s" - for example, the monk.

    They are prohibited from wearing armour and using their class abilities at the same time; thus, their AC is extremely dependent on their Wisdom and Dexterity scores - unlike any other melee character.

    As a melee damage dealer, who mostly doesn't use weapons and who doesn't have full BAB, Strength is extremely important to a monk. Because they get d8 instead of d10 hit dice, but, again, are a melee class, they need a high Constitution as well.

    Yes, you could focus on only one or two of these, but your character would suffer, and wouldn't be even comparable to a same-level fighter who focused only on Strength.

    And if you can't keep up with the fighter? Well, that's like having super powers weaker than Aquaman's.

  27. - Top - End - #27
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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Golthur View Post
    As a melee damage dealer, who mostly doesn't use weapons and who doesn't have full BAB, Strength is extremely important to a monk. Because they get d8 instead of d10 hit dice, but, again, are a melee class, they need a high Constitution as well.

    Yes, you could focus on only one or two of these, but your character would suffer, and wouldn't be even comparable to a same-level fighter who focused only on Strength.
    You know, Strength doesn't have to be important for a Monk. Since a Monk can't even 2-handed power attack with their unarmed strike, it's much more feasible to take the handfuls-of-dice approach to melee, facilitated by the ability to TWF and Flurry simultaneously with unarmed attacks.

    Strength mostly benefits a Monk for special maneuvers; Grappling, Tripping, and so on.

    In fact, Intuitive Attack and Zen Archery really null the need for strength as a damage-dealer, and reduce the need for dexterity as an offensive stat.

    It's things like these that make the Monk a _good_ example of a MAD class design; yes, you need a lot of stats, but you don't _need_ to need them, depending on how you develop your character.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Tormsskull View Post
    maybe the MAD classes are the ones that are "balanced", and the SAD classes are the ones that are overpowered?
    While you are welcome to that opinion, it does seem a little counterintuitive that the 4 prototypical classes--Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, Rogue--are all SAD. That's pretty heavy evidence that SAD is the standard for D&D design, since the archetypal classes are all SAD classes, and other classes are built in relation to them.

    With the archetypal classes as my baseline, SAD classes are the norm and MAD classes are balanced/imbalanced in relation to them. As it turns out, it takes significant countermeasures to prevent MAD from weakening a class, making it a weakness of the design that takes special effort to overcome.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tormsskull View Post
    I'm not saying the MAD doesn't weaken a class, I'm saying you are looking at it from a completely different angle than a designer would. A designer doesn't craft a class and then at the end say "hmmm, a little powerful, let's make it a MAD class to tone it down a bit." I'm saying a designer, from the start, will (should) incorporate the fact that the class is a MAD class from the get-go.
    Simply put, this rarely--if ever--actually occurs. The entire reason the expression "multiple ability dependency" was created was as an explanation of why the classes it describes were weaker than classes who didn't have that dependency. If they had been designed with MAD in mind from the beginning, they wouldn't have been weaker, and the expression would have never been coined. In other words, the very fact that MAD is a recognizable term is evidence that the game was not designed the way you suggest.
    Quote Originally Posted by Indon View Post
    Strength mostly benefits a Monk for special maneuvers; Grappling, Tripping, and so on.
    A Monk who isn't using maneuvers like those is only making his situation worse. I think you've just proven the point here.
    Last edited by tainsouvra; 2007-09-06 at 11:15 AM.

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Hypothetically, if MAD classes are the balanced baseline: does that mean Fighters are now overpowered!?

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    Default Re: On the Philosophy of Class Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Starbuck_II View Post
    Hypothetically, if MAD classes are the balanced baseline: does that mean Fighters are now overpowered!?
    According to the VAD definition that OWA is running under, Fighters are VAD, not SAD. They require STR for power, DEX to dodge, CON for HP, and either INT for skills or WIS for perception, but none of these are any more important than the others. Fighters are very solidly a VAD class--not SAD (like the Wizard), or MAD (like the Monk).
    Last edited by Fax Celestis; 2007-09-06 at 11:30 AM.

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