View Full Version : making a campaign V3.5, heavy homebrew

2011-11-03, 02:46 PM
so, I'm starting to make a campaign and setting, but i have limited resources (read: SRD, and that's about it). I want to basically build or modify everything for a more balanced game, with some of the concepts I like from other materials i used to have. some of the changes i plan on making are:

1. classes: I will be rebuilding the base classes around themes. I want 4 primary caster classes, and 4 primary warrior classes, each with their own themes.


A. clerics gain their power from the divine forces. their spell selection will be focused around buffs, debuffs, and healing, with sprinkling of direct damage spells (inflict line, harm, flamestrike, etc.).

B. druids gain their power from nature spirits. their spell selection will be focused around nature related spells, and terrain control.

C. Psions are, of course, psychic. they will be spellcasters, and will be focused around enchantments, divinations, illusions, and traditional psychic stuff, like telekinesis or force/sonic related spells.

D. Wizards gain their power from arcane study. Their spells revolve around planar manipulation, and include direct damage evocations, summoning/calling creatures, as well as planar travel (including teleportation).


A. Fighters are masters of martial training. this class will be more or less the same as normal, but will get some extra bonus feats unique to it.

B. Barbarians have adapted to life in the wild. they use "primitive" weapons such as spears, slings, axes, and clubs, and excel with them. they are naturally tougher than others, gaining damage reduction and energy resistance.

C. Monks are spiritually enlightened. they are fast and deadly, requiring no tools to punish lesser men.

D. Rogues are skilled assassins and thieves. you won't know they're there until you feel their blade between your ribs.

2. instead of standard prestige classes, i want secondary classes that basically mix themes. for example, the paladin is a mix of martial (fighter) and divine (cleric), gaining slowed progression in features from both classes, as well as a couple of its own features. gaining a secondary class merely requires 2 or more levels in each of the base classes. in addition to magic/warrior mixes, there will also be magic/magic (mystic theurge is cleric/wizard), and warrior/warrior (ninja is rogue/monk).

3. the feats will need some balancing. I already know of some fixes, like combining toughness/improved toughness (gain 3 hitpoints, plus 1 hitpoint per hd) to make a feat actually worth taking, but i need ideas for reworking other feats.

4. casting will work differently.

A. casting spells is no longer guaranteed to work. to cast a spell, the caster needs to succeed on a caster check, dc = spell level x4.

B. spell slots are no longer exhausted when a spell is cast. when a caster prepares spells, the spell slots are merely used to determine which spells he can cast, but he can cast any of them any time he makes the caster check.

C. stress: any time a caster successfully casts a spell, add the level of the cast spell to the dc of subsequent castings. stress is reduced by 1 point for each 10 minutes of no strenuous activity (no movement faster than a walk, no combat, casting, or carrying medium/ heavy loads, etc.) and 1 point per 1 minute of rest

D. whatever level a metamagic feat is supposed to add to the spell level, instead add twice that number to the dc of the spell. example, quicken spell, a 4 level metamagic, increases the dc by 8 instead. metamagic feats do not require preparing ahead of time, and can be added at will. metamagic no longer increases the casting time.

E. Level 0 spells always succeed, no matter what the stress level or metamagic level may be. they also do not add stress.

F. temporary modifiers to ability scores do not affect spell slots. this includes enhancement bonuses and ability damage, but not inherent bonus or ability drain.

G. instead of having a random chance to stop the spell, armor adds 2 to the casting dc per 5% spell failure chance to any spell with a somatic component. this applies to all spell casters.

5. I want to add in a Vow system. similar in concept to the sacred vows in book of exalted deeds, but these vows do not take feats, are not alignment related (unless they are, such as maybe a Vow of Good), are for a set amount of time (up to and including "life") and can be gained by anyone. Vows are relatively common knowledge, so anyone who can make a DC 10 knowledge (nature (nature class only, i.e. druid), or the planes) will know of the existence of vows. a DC 15 check is required to know of any specific vow, and a DC 20 check is required to know how to actually go about taking a vow. to take a vow, a character needs at least 10gp worth of materials (1gp of silver dust to make a symbol on the ground that varies by vow, and the rest is an offering to the mediator, usually some cheap gem or food). they draw the symbol, and summon an extraplanar creature (or possibly a fey, if a druid is performing the ritual). this creature is the mediator, who will hear the vow, and relay it to whatever the appropriate source is. the character taking the vow (not necessarily the one actually performing the ritual, btw) then makes a short speech, that basically consists of "I, <insert name> will/won't do X for X amount of time, or until X happens, whichever comes first. I desire assistance to accomplish this" usually with more words. the mediator takes the offering as payment, and then disappears to relay the message. after 1 hour, the character that took the vow gains the associated benefit. if a character willingly and knowingly violates the terms of the vow, they lose the benefit during the violation, and for 1 hour after the violation ends, as well as taking 2 points of damage to all ability scores. all benefits from a vow are extraordinary, unless stated otherwise. so far, the only vow i have worked out is poverty:

Vow of Poverty.
A character that has taken this vow has agreed not to use magic items in exchange for the following benefits. all benefits are retroactive:
1. they gain a bonus to all attack rolls equal to 1 per 4 levels
2. they gain a bonus feat at 1st level, as well as at every 3rd level. these feats still require all prerequisites, and can't be used as prerequisites of feats not gained by this vow. example: you can't take mobility without already having dodge, but if you take dodge with this feature, it only allows mobility if you also take mobility with this feature.
3. they gain a bonus directly to AC at every 2nd level.
4. they gain a +2 bonus to any ability score at every 5th level.

this vow may seem weak, but remember that everything is untyped, so all buff spells, etc. still apply. also, there is no limit to what kinds of armor, weapons, etc. that can be used, as long as it's not magical.

that's all I have for now, and would appreciate any advice or contributions.

2011-11-03, 02:55 PM
This sounds like the change from 3.5 to Pathfinder. A lot of these look good, though.

Alternately, if you just need links to handy 3.5 material, I can give you a few places to look for stuff like the Complete Series and so on.

2011-11-03, 11:09 PM
well, I took a quick look at pathfinder, and it's not really what I'm looking for. i don't want to mess with skills too much, besides bluff and diplomacy.

bluff: you can disguise your intentions, masking any signs of lies, for example, but you can't under any circumstances force someone to believe that you are telling the truth.

diplomacy: add the targets number of HD, plus their wisdom modifier, to the dc of any diplomacy check. diplomacy alone can't shift a character's attitude more than 1 step per week.

I think i have another vow put together. since the last one was an abstinence vow (I won't use magic items), this one will be an active vow (I will complete a quest for a magic creature/character/item).

Vow of Magical Quest

by vowing to dedicate yourself to the use, protection, retrieval or destruction of a magical target, you gain the following spell-like abilities (caster level = HD):

level 1: detect magic, at will

level 6: dispel magic, 4/day

level 12: greater dispel magic, 2/day

I think that's enough to get the idea of the Vows. you announce that you will or won't do something, and gain a variety of abilities based on your level. the more extreme the vow, the more powerful the abilities. there is no limit to the number of Vows you can have active at a time, but they can't overlap or contradict (example, can't have a vow of poverty and a magical quest to retrieve and use a scroll of wish at the same time).

now i need to put together some classes, or at least spell lists.

2011-11-04, 05:15 AM
If you havenít really started reinventing everything yet, then youíd be better off making the correct tweaks than rewriting the game.
Take it from someone who knows. I probably wrote the most extensive D&D house rules codex ever and Iím telling you that achieving class balance by rewriting the game is incredibly difficult.

To save you a lot of time (and I do mean A LOT OF TIME!!!), Iíd suggest the following changes to the core rules and they would do wonders for your game, regardless of the game supplements youíd use:

1. Use these rules for martial combat and actions (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=203688).
2. Casting Defensively: make the DC equal [15 + 2*SL + 1/2 highest BAB among creatures threatening you +2 per creature threatening you beyond the first].
3. Donít allow more than a single metamagic on a spell thatís being cast.
4. Donít allow Divine Metamagic.
5. Donít allow caster level enhancements to stack - ever.
6. Reduce Medium range to 50ft + 10ft/CL and Long range to 100ft+20ft/CR.
7. Change the casting time of all spells that force conditions on their victims to be 1 round.
8. Increase the casting time of Planar Ally/Binding and Gate to several hours.
9. Prismatic Wall/Sphere: Rule that the caster is not immune to the effects of his own wall/sphere and cannot pass through them.
10. Ban all forms of Celerity.
11. Apply the following rules to force effects:
- Force effects have Hardness [10 + Spell-Level + primary ability-mod] and [5 HP per Spell-Level].
- Force effects donít get partially damaged Ė if theyíre not breached, they endure as if nothing had happened.

If the above suggestions appeal to you, I'd also make suggestions regarding classes.

2011-11-04, 12:28 PM
well, i don't want to mess with the combat mechanics.

since this campaign will be restricted to SRD and my own creations, i don't need to worry about things like divine metamagic and persist spell.

the worst i have to worry about is a quickened empowered maximized fireball, which is a casting dc 30, if its the first one they cast. they can't possibly pull that off before lv. 10, and even at lv. 20, they only have a 55% of getting it off, assuming no cl boosts. as for limiting the number of cl boosts, I'll keep that in mind, since uncontrolled cl boosts would break my casting system. I'll need to rework a few casting related magic items, anyway, especially pearl of power. i'm thinking of making that a single automatic casting of a prepared spell, but it can't be augmented by metamagic, and it still adds 1/2 of the spell level (rounded up) to the caster's stress level. its price would remain unchanged.

I will be rebuilding the classes and spell lists, anyway, because I'm trying to go for a system where you can theoretically get through just about anything with any combination of classes, assuming you have a variety, and not just all the same thing. the vow system should help with that, as well, since it allows flexibility even within a specific build, once i have enough of them put together.

2011-11-04, 01:34 PM
Stress entirely fails to scale properly. It's extremely difficult to make a DC 36 caster level check at level 20, and extremely easy to make a DC 4 caster level check at level 1. Though I think the entire concept is extremely ill advised, you could at least normalize the scaling (Constant + 2*Spell Level).

Also consider that if you make the check such that spellcasters fail half their appropriate level spells out of the gate, classes that use a lot of buffing like Clerics are going to care a lot less than classes like Wizards that are doing more casting in combat.

2011-11-04, 02:20 PM
that was the entire point of stress, actually. the low level spells are easy to get off repeatedly, allowing casters to do their job decently all day long, while the high level spells are extremely difficult to pull off even with whatever optimization may be available, leading to them being reserved for situations where the caster can expect to be able to try multiple times (failed castings do not increase stress or use materials/xp, so the caster loses only the action used to cast), or in desperate situations where it's a long shot high level spell, or certain failure with anything else. besides, for 81,000gp, a 9th level pearl of power is a single guaranteed 9th level casting per day, or they can buy a scroll, or other work arounds.

as for the difference between casting classes, that's fine. a cleric that spends the battle buffing and debuffing is by default contributing to the party as a whole, and makes everyone useful and happy. a sorcerer that enters every battle with: rod of maximize + time stop (rod of quicken + delayed blast fireball, delayed blast fireball 5 consecutive rounds) steals the fun from everyone, including themselves.

under the stress system, the wizard can try to end the battle single-handed, but will likely fail, or can use lower level spells to repeatedly do chunks of damage that, while significant, don't overshadow the entire rest of the party put together. once i get the classes and spellcasters put together, you'll see what i mean.

2011-11-06, 12:07 AM
ok, I've been working on the spell lists, and you are all right, it is a LOT of work, even for just that. I expected that, but it turns out I'm not as dedicated as I would like to be.

so, I'm leaving the casting classes alone for now, and will instead focus on buffing the fighter, rogue, monk, and barbarian. I'm still using the stress system for the casters, though. hopefully that's enough of a patch to bring them down a tier or two. bards might actually move up a tier, since their slower spell progression matches up to the DC progression much better than the full casters.

as for bards and sorcerers, they know whatever spells go in their spell slots, and temporary ability modifiers (such as enhancement bonuses from spells [i]and[/] items, ability damage, and the like) don't apply to spell slots. unlike other casters, they can't change their spells daily, but can now change one spell every time they level up.

quick fix for fighter:

gain regular bonus feats every even numbered level. gain specific bonus feats on every odd numbered level.

lv. 1. weapon focus +2 to attack, instead of 1
lv. 3. armor focus +1 to max dex, -1 armor check penalty
lv. 5. weapon specialization +3 damage, instead of 2. +4 for 2 handed weapons
lv. 7. armor specialization +2 ac
lv. 9 G. weapon focus
lv. 11 G armor focus
lv. 13 G weapon specialization
lv. 15 G. armor spec.
lv. 17 weapon mastery (focus and spec. combined)
lv. 19 armor mastery (same as weapon)

so, when using his favored weapon and armor, a fighter gains +6 to attack, +9 (or 12) to damage, + 6 to ac, and +3 to max dex. even in full plate, a fighter can utilize a full 18 dex. that's all before he uses any of his other feats.

monk and rogue get full BAB, and rogue gets d8 HD. rogue gets another special ability off the list at lv. 20, to clear that idiotic dead level.

I'll get to the Barbar later, since i want to rework him more extensively.

so, will this combine with the stress system balance the classes any?

2011-11-06, 06:11 AM
It's rumored that I have spent a little time on rebalancing. My work may be of some use to you. I'd also recommend you search the work of T.G. Oskar, who has revised most base classes with a markedly different slant from my own.

For a feat rebalance, probably the easiest change to make is to remove from the game all feats that are "Improved X" or "Greater X". Roll their effects into the respective prerequisite feats as advancement abilities that unlock when you meet the appropriate prerequisite. For example, Instead of a four-feat chain to learn two-weapon fighting, you have one feat with three advancements that "unlock" when the feat owner meets the relevant Dex and base attack prerequisites. This will turn a number of weak feat chains into valid choices. However, that won't be enough by itself. In an SRD-only game, martial characters simply don't have enough good options to be, well, good. I'd counsel you to extensively trawl the homebrew forum for additional feats and thoughtfully select the best ones. You'll find thousands to choose from in the past two years' of posts to this form alone.

Auto-refreshing spell slots will break your game faster than a roundhouse kick from Chuck Norris. Much pain lies that way.

Spellcasting failure will turn overpowered characters into unreliable overpowered characters. While it will weaken them, it will not make them well-balanced. Much pain lies that way as well. Remember that as the DM, you already have the ability to introduce uncertainty into spellcasting without changing the rules, simply by using monsters with resistance to energy or spells, immunity to energy or magic, and excellent saving throws. Conveniently, there are many races of SRD monsters with these qualities who make excellent recurring villains (plus you can always homebrew your own monsters with these qualities).

Stress is an interesting idea, and worth playing around with, but in its current form may have unexpected effects. Expect buffers, item crafters, and conjuration specialists to walk right through it unfazed. Its biggest weakness is that it is founded on the assumption of auto-refreshing spell slots and unreliable spellcasting, which are themselves ripe with unintended consequences.

2011-11-07, 12:10 AM
thanks for the warning on the stress system, but i re~eally want to try it for at least one campaign. I know it minimally affects buffers, and doesn't affect crafters, but a buffer is by nature a team player (unless it's a cleric that spams divine power and righteous might, which i was planning on raising by 1 spell level each anyway), and he still can't consistently pull off the best buffs without being several levels above when he first gets access to them, which should lower their power some.

as for the combined feats, that sounds like a good idea. I'll go with that.

any feedback or contributions to the vow system? or to the 2 vows I've got so far? that's something i really want to expand on, because i want it to be a prevalent part of the setting.

2011-11-09, 01:27 PM
I'd suggest a system of vows for gaining the "must-have" mechanical bonuses that characters need to remain competitive as they level. Thus,

enhancement bonus to stats
resistance bonus to saves
enhancement bonus to weapons and armor
enhancement bonus to natural armor
deflection bonus to Armor Class

Vows would either grant these benefits directly to characters, effectively as slotless, non-dispellable magic items, or would grant them to their gear, effectively as additional enchantments that are added to the gear by a novel means. Making these bonuses universally available ensures that characters can get what they need without you having to lay easter eggs for them in treasure hoards or provide a magic item shop, and by sticking it right in front of their noses, you also provide some guidance to newbie players who might not know enough about the game to realize that they need these items.

2011-11-09, 02:34 PM
i want to avoid having vows that go that far in replacing spells and magic items.

otherwise, for 10gp, any dirt poor farmer than managed to kill a gnoll and take his sword can go to town, sell it, and then go to the temple and take a vow to give them the power of the archmage king. i think the vow of poverty i put together is about as powerful as i want the vows to get. it only partially replaces the magic items you're giving up, but also leaves room to stack on the standard spell buffs that said items normally replace. most vows would be more along the lines of the vow of magic quest, that give you a small array of extraordinary or spell like abilities directly related to the vow you took. the vows should also be based on level, again to avoid said farmer to archmage situation.

i got another one:

Vow of Good:

by agreeing to either avoid all evil acts, or by taking on a quest for a good aligned person or organization, you gain the following extraordinary abilities:

lv. 1: Holy Resilience: you gain a +1 sacred bonus to saves against evil abilities, and abilities used by creatures with the evil subtype. at every level divisible by 5, the bonus increases by +1

lv. 5: Sacred Healing: you gain Fast Healing 1. this ability does not improve, but does stack with other sources of fast healing.

lv. 10: Armor of Purity: you gain DR 5/evil. this increases by another 5 at every 10th level.

you see what I mean? those abilities aren't especially powerful, but they also don't interfere (or they stack) with most normal abilities. and you aren't giving up much in order to gain them (the average paladin will have this by 2nd level for the rest of his/her life).

2011-11-11, 12:54 AM
so, I was just out walking my dog, and came up with something to help the non-casters be more independent. some magic items, including potions, oils, and some weapon abilities, can be created through alchemical as well as magical means, and craft (alchemy) no longer has that pesky "spellcasters only" rule. so an atheist fighter doesn't need to pay lip service to a god to get clerics to heal him anymore, he can just go brew up some cure serious wounds potions before he leaves town.

alchemical items are not considered magical unless also enchanted with a magical effect, so they work in AMF, and aren't subject to any form of resistance to magic (just like drow KO poison can KO elves immune to magic sleep effects). however, this means that alchemical weapons, even those that do energy damage, are subject to normal damage reduction, as well as energy resistances. base price of alchemical items are the same as their magical counterparts, but they don't cost XP to make. instead, the XP cost is converted into GP (1 xp = 5 gp, as standard) and added to the crafting cost.

also, a skilled weapon/armorsmith can craft masterwork weapons and armor that duplicate the enhancement bonus of magic weapons, although again, it's not actually magic, for better or worse. a weapon already crafted can't be crafted for a higher masterwork enhancement bonus, nor can alchemical properties be added, as these must all be done at the time of creation. however, magical effects can still be applied at any time. the costs and price of items that are both alchemical/masterwork and magic is the same as if it was purely mundane or magical.

hopefully this, along with the other systems I'll have in place, will help close the gap between martial and magical characters at least a small bit.

2011-11-11, 02:26 AM
give the martial each some casting. like a paliden, with them all learning buff spells. then the cleric isn't so dominant in combat as the fighter can get his own Greater magic weapon/mirror image.

also, the fighter needs some class features or at least some skill points. perhaps like 6+int mod levels? give it a rougeish skill list and it can finaly actualy be the team leader without a silly int mod...

2011-11-11, 09:13 AM
just like drow KO poison can KO elves immune to magic sleep effects

Actually, that's because drow KO poison isn't a sleep effect. (E.g. the individual can't be woken up, etc.)

2011-11-11, 09:25 AM
Actually, that's because drow KO poison isn't a sleep effect. (E.g. the individual can't be woken up, etc.)

sorry, wasn't looking at the books. still, the other point still stands. if it was a sleep effect, it would still work on elves because it's not magical, and their immunity specifies magical sleep effects.

2011-11-26, 02:28 PM
Ok, looks like I'm back to rebuilding the classes. I've already got 2 of them.

The Monk (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=222804)

The Wanderer (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=222403)

Any feedback on how those two compare to each other? I'm wanting 8 balanced base classes when I'm done.

also, I've got an idea on how to handle high powered characters, as well as deities.

total class levels cap at 20. no matter how skilled you may get, you can only channel so much power through a mortal body. this means, of course, that a human who can only get class levels can never match the power of a dragon, who can gain class levels as well as their base racial traits. to get around this, the lower creatures created the concept of "Deity". deities in this campaign are those that channel the power of others, in order to combat creatures naturally more powerful than themselves.

this is handled through the Vow system. I'm not sure exactly how to handle it, but there will be 2 related vows. here's my idea on it.

the vow of worship is taken by a member of the congregation. they lose 1 max HP per HD, in exchange for a place in the deity's realm upon death. this vow can only be taken for a duration of life, and can't be broken in any way except death.

the vow of true worship is taken by priests (class yet to be made, replaces cleric). the 1st level priest takes a vow of worship, and then a vow of true worship. the vow of true worship overrides the vow of worship, so the priest won't lose 1hp per HD. the priest gains an array of support abilities (her class features), and in return must care for the worshipers of her chosen deity.

The deity gains power from the interaction of the above vows. for every 100 worshipers, a deity can have 1 priest. for each priest, a deity can gain one "divine level". a divine level is a D12 HD that gives good BAB and saves, and 8+ Int. skill points. the divine level also progresses pattern repeating class features (such as the monk's Ki Blast damage, or the wanderer's Companion ability) as well as level dependent effects such as caster level.

the power gained through divine levels comes with its own risks, however. if a deity does not maintain 100 worshipers per priest, or if she doesn't have enough priests to maintain her divine level, she enters a state of suspended animation until the imbalance is rectified. while in this state, the deity's strength, dexterity, and constitution scores become -. they retain all class features, are still conscious, and can take any actions that do not require any physical movement. any ranged attack abilities use charisma in place of dexterity.