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    Default What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    What to Make, and How to Make it Special
    3.5 Homebrew Theory by Djinn in Tonic

    *****


    Over the years I've seen numerous "how-to" articles on homebrewing balance and class formatting, but I have yet to encounter anything that actually discusses the theory and practice of homebrewing within the 3.5 system as it stands today. As a result, I tend to see a lot of homebrewed creations that, while they show a high level of technical and mechanical competence, nonetheless fail to mesh with the system. This treatise is my attempt to put my thoughts on homebrew creation down for others to see and, hopefully, to learn from.

    First things first: I'm no expert. There are better and brighter homebrewers out there, and many who I wouldn't dare to list myself amongst for fear of being completely eclipsed. So don't think that I'm preaching something mandatory; feel free to take or leave what you read here.

    With that out of the way, let's proceed with the most important step: Concept.


    Conceptualizing: What am I making?

    A common mistake I see is that people set out to make a Prestige Class, Base Class, Feat, Martial Discipline, and so forth without properly thinking about the place that their idea has in the game. Here's my rundown on the categories, and what sort of creation goes into them.

    Alternate Class Feature
    Alternate Class Features are something you should consider if your concept borders closely upon another class or set of classes, or if your concept is just a slight alteration or specialty to a playstyle or concept.

    For example, I tend to consider the Ranger a "half-class," and, if given the chance, would merge it with the Scout. For the cost of the bonus Scout feats and Blindsense, I'd allow it to take the Ranger's style feats and Favored Enemy progression. The end result gets across the "Ranger" flavor without needing to make a whole new class. Alternatively, give the Druid the ability to sacrifice Wild Shape and a few of the more supernatural abilities to gain Favored Enemy and the fighting style feats. Two different flavors of classes, both with a Ranger theme, without the need for a strange hybrid class.

    If you ask yourself "what is this class," and the end result is something close to an existing class (in this case, a martial woodsman who hunts a specific foe), why bother to make something new? The Scout fulfills the martial woodsman role, and the Druid fulfills the spellcasting side of the Ranger: the style feats and the favored enemy don't define a class in and of themselves, so tacking them on feels, to me, like a natural progression. Just pick the flavor you'd prefer, and adjust the class to adapt to the small mechanical change.

    Some concepts, however, go past alternate class features. If you find yourself removing the majority of a class's abilities, or altering most of the abilities that define a class, you're likely looking for a new Base Class, a Prestige Class, or a Martial Discipline.

    On the Similarities of Alternate Class Features and Prestige Classes
    At first glance these two appear quite similar in concept, and, to some extent, they are. The difference, however, is important. An Alternate Class Feature is a different take on something about the class: our alternate Druid is a hunter, as is our alternate Scout. It's a crucial part of the character concept, not something that a character will later specialize in. A Prestige class either improves on some aspect of the character, or takes him or her down a new path (see the Prestige Class section below). While we could make a Hunter prestige class for the Ranger in question, it would have to represent an improvement of existing skills or a change in the character's way of life. If we want a Hunter without devoting up to half of the character's progression to accomplishing just that, an Alternate Class Feature is a better option: it accomplishes the same thing, while allowing us the freedom to explore other Prestige Class or Base Class options.

    Base Class
    A Base Class is a foundation for a character to grow and expand from. Like the foundation of a house, the possibilities for what is placed upon it should be virtually limitless. True, the foundation does to some extent determine what can and can't be done atop it, but there is still room to grow in almost any direction. The most effective base classes are those that offer numerous options and styles of play: you can build hundreds of Wizards, Clerics, Swordsages, or Warblades without repeating a character concept once.

    Base Classes that tend to be unsuccessful are those that replicate other classes, or those that simply have to constrained a concept. The Samurai is really a subset of Fighter or Warblade. The Ranger comes off as a hybrid of other classes, with Favored Enemy thrown in as a little perk. The Marshal is just another fighter with leadership perks. Then come things like the Dragon Shaman, which, while functional, is a poor design due to its incredibly constrained concept, and the Soulknife, whose entire shtick is that it "has a magical mind-sword." Not a truly compelling base for a character to expand upon...

    If you can paint your concept in broad strokes and encompass a wide variety of character concepts within a fairly general category, you are probably designing a Base Class. If what you're doing comes off as a hybridization of classes (Ranger, Marshal, Samurai), you may be better served by making an Alternate Class Feature, a Feat, or a Martial Discipline. Finally, if you have a very themed class that fits a small subsection of characters or dramatically expands upon a single aspect of a character, you may want to make a Prestige Class.

    Prestige Class
    Prestige Classes come in three styles: Specialty, Enhancement, and Essence. This is some strange terminology, so bear with me a minute.

    Specialty Prestige Classes
    Specialty Prestige Classes are those that make you better at something specific. They add little bits of flavor without overriding your character concept or taking you in a completely new direction. A Wayfarer Guide, for example, is still very definitely a Wizard. Specialty Prestige Classes should be between three and five levels in length, and empower a single ability or related set of abilities. They should contain abilities that improve and expand on abilities already possessed by the class, and not offer anything in the way of game-changing powers.

    Abilities granted should be improvements upon existing abilities and designed around a central focus. Classes should not grant new spellcasting, initiating, or any other mechanics, although they can improve on existing mechanics and advance them normally. Many abilities granted will be static or applied directly to other powers, and those that don't fall under this category should be occasional powers that do not really change the way a build is played.

    Spread out over 10 levels such a class might be boring and uninspired, but condensed into 3-5 levels it makes a nice diversion for a character interested in such a path. Entry requirements should be fairly simple for anyone who already focused somewhat on the aspect your class offers, and should not be to taxing in general, as the class is merely a brief diversion from the character's main progression.

    Specialty Prestige Classes can often also function as homebrewed Feat Chains, depending on your inclination and the specialty and abilities in question.

    Enhancement Prestige Classes
    Enhancement Prestige Classes are those that give you a few abilities along a certain line of thought, yet lack the character-changing definition of Essence Prestige Classes. In short, Enhancement classes further improve existing abilities, and sometimes provide new, related abilities. If your concept is an improvement upon a general concept rather than a specific ability (making you a better Necromancer rather than simply able to raise slightly stronger undead), your class is probably an Enhancement Prestige Class rather than a Specialty Prestige Class. Likewise, most dual-progression classes are Enhancement Prestige Classes, as they don't change the way your character plays, but rather improve upon and blend his or her existing abilities.

    If you can see someone following your intended build being interested in your class, you're probably looking at making an Enhancement Prestige Class. Entry requirements should be straightforward and not overly complex, although you should be certain to cover the bases of any abilities you intend to expand upon. Most Enhancement Prestige Classes are either five or ten levels, with a few falling in between.

    Good examples of Enhancement Prestige Classes (in concept, at least) are things like the Arcane Trickster, the Assassin, the True Necromancer, the Dwarven Defender, the Exemplar, and similar classes.

    Essence Prestige Classes
    Essence Prestige Classes are, in my mind, what a prestige class really is. While a Specialty Prestige Class improves a single area of your character, and an Enhancement Prestige Class improves your character in his or her chosen field, an Essence Prestige Class answers the question of "Who or what am I?" These are almost exclusively ten level classes (although exceptions do both exist and abound), and offer entirely new character-defining abilities around a complex theme.

    Essence Prestige Classes are those that are specific to a certain mindset of character: not every Paladin wishes to be a Warden of the Hedge, and not every Cleric dreams of being a Sybil of the Blinded Eye (to use two of my own examples). These classes offer new and exciting powers that help to shape a character's future, as well as his or her philosophy on life.

    Requirements for such a class often contain role-playing hooks: organizations that must accept you, rituals that must be performed, or quests that must be undertaken are all good examples. The skill, feat, and class ability requirements are specific (in most cases) or general and paired with a highly specific role-playing hook. Either way, the class is tailored to a very small subsection of adventurers, and is designed to highlight the character rather than the character's abilities. A master staff-fighter does not get an Essence Prestige Class for his staff-fighting (he gets either a Specialty Prestige Class or an Enhancement Prestige Class, depending on how in depth his abilities are), but a Bard who has attuned herself with the music of the heavens and has devoted herself to reading the movements of the stars and harmonizing with the music of fate does merit an Essence Prestige Class.

    There are fewer guidelines for making an Essence Prestige Class, as these often feature new mechanics, complete shifts in character mindsets or abilities, and other life-altering changes. The one rule is to make sure that the abilities are active and interesting: for this level of dedication, a player should get abilities that radically alter their gameplay and truly make their character distinct from another member of the same base class.

    Example Prestige Class Analysis: the Dwarven Defender and the Blood Magus
    Let's take a look at this more in depth. We'll take two classes: the Dwarven Defender, and the Blood Magus. The Dwarven Defender improves on defensive abilities, granting related mechanics for a character who wishes to excel at defense. It also come with some flavor that's been sort of forced on: there's no reason such a character has to be a Dwarf. In actuality, the Dwarven Defender is an Enhancement Prestige Class, and would probably benefit from being condensed into just five levels, so that the minor benefits it gives don't consume all of a character's resources.

    The Blood Magus, on the other hand, has been undervalued as a gimmick class. Rather than being looked at as a major change in character philosophy, it was considered to be a tiny little detour. It has minor, rarely-used abilities, many of which are static: this places it in the Specialty Prestige Class category, while the concept of a Blood Magus is really a character-changing idea probably better suited to an Essence Prestige Class (or an Enhancement one at the very least). As an Essence class, the Blood Magus would retain some of these minor abilities, but see a marked increase in its use-activated abilities and possibly even develop new powers to improve and expand upon the concept of blood magic. It currently is dealing in Specialty or Enhancement power, meaning that's its a five level class expanded out to ten, something that is destined for failure. Many abilities end up feeling tacked on or insignificant, as they've been used to plug the gap.

    Another option, depending on the importance of blood magic to your concept, would have been to make it a Specialty Prestige Class, giving options for increasing the power of your spell through self-sacrifice and cutting out most of the other abilities. It all depends on the importance you place upon your idea, but you must know that importance before you begin your class.

    Martial Discipline
    Martial Disciplines are fairly new to 3.5, yet their presence helps to keep prestige classes prestigious. As a general rule, if you plan on homebrewing a fighting style for a character, and are debating making a prestige class (or even if you're not), consider making a Martial Discipline instead. The advantage is that Martial Disciplines are available from first level, and can, with about twenty-five maneuvers per school (give or take as many as five), accommodate more techniques than a prestige class would be able to. Another advantage is that it's fairly easy to integrate disciplines into existing classes and prestige classes.

    One thing to remember is that Martial Disciplines are largely weapon neutral. While maneuvers do differentiate between ranged weapon, thrown weapons, melee weapons, and sometimes unarmed strikes, they do not discriminate on the basis of individual weapons. If your planned techniques would discriminate based on individual weapons, or only function for specific weapons, consider making a Specialty Prestige Class or Feat Chain instead.

    Alternative Weapon-Specific Disciplines
    One option would be to make a Enhancement or Essence Prestige Class that grants the maneuvers in question as class features, but only when wielding the specified weapon. While this does lock you into a Martial Initiator base class, it can give you the versatility you desire, as those classes are almost infinitely mutable.

    Another possibility is a small Weapon Discipline, either unlocked through a feat (which also perhaps grants one first level maneuver or stance of that discipline), or traded for an existing discipline. These smaller disciplines can tie in with specific weapons or groups of weapons, and contain fewer maneuvers (anywhere from 9 to 18). If you additionally desire to increase the desirability of Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization, and Weapon Proficiency feats, you can also houserule that these feats tie in somehow to these Weapon Disciplines. This is a fairly extensive houserule, but it does allow for an incredible amount of customization of individual fighting styles without resorting to Prestige Classes or burning through feats.


    Feat/Feat Chain
    If what you want to make is something that anyone with a bit of training could accomplish, or to disjointed to make a tightly themed Prestige Class, you're most likely looking at a Feat or a Feat Chain. These represent (mostly) mundane abilities and improvements upon abilities that are generally small, specific, or static. Many Specialty Prestige Classes could, in fact, be replicated through Feat Chains: the reason that we can get away with making them and granting multiple abilities is that the three-five level diversion takes away from the normal class features that would have been gained, offsetting the benefit of what could be considered numerous feats.

    Feats are almost never X/day, X/encounter, or once every X rounds abilities: they are, practically without fail, tricks and techniques that a player may freely choose to utilize (or, of course, static effects). This is, of course, out of the box, as you are perfectly within your right to put these limitations upon feats, often in exchange for a slightly stronger effect.

    The most interesting feats are those that grant new options; the most boring are those that grant static modifiers to existing abilities. Feat Chains should also remain fairly concise, as the reason that feats like Whirlwind Attack aren't often taken is that reaching that point requires a huge expenditure of a limited resource.

    What a Feat or Feat Chain should not do is dictate a large portion of a character's being. Feats improve and expand upon choices: Vow of Poverty and Vow of Peace, for example, carry certain connotations, but neither truly determines a character's path. Add to this the fact that the Vows are the most deterministic of existing feats, and you'll see that only options that don't dictate a character path should become feats. Feats add and expand in small ways, and that's where their influence should stop. This is the reason for the failure of the Fighter class: it grants a bunch of minor perks and abilities that were never meant to define a character.
    Last edited by Djinn_in_Tonic; 2010-01-08 at 06:21 PM.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    --reserved--

    Ingredients

    2oz Djinn
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    Instructions

    Pour Djinn and tonic water into a glass filled with ice cubes. Stir well. Garnish with lime wedge. Serve.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    --reserved 2--

    Ingredients

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    Instructions

    Pour Djinn and tonic water into a glass filled with ice cubes. Stir well. Garnish with lime wedge. Serve.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Your mode of description makes it a lot easier to discern between an ACF set and an class than it does between an ACF set and a PrC. I would say that if one starts out making an ACF and end up bunching (or wanting to bunch) the levels that the alterations happen at, then one may be looking at a PrC. The same can be said for some types of hybridization (in which case you might want to be looking at a dual-progression type PrC).
    Best homebrew:
    Grace-Gift - Truly Defensive base class, Falling Anvil Discipline - Loony Slapstick as Martial Art, Mepholk - Snuggly skunk-people. , Wing Dragon Masters of flight Comment HERE, Organ Undead Mega-Thread livers, skins, etc.
    Filk: 4000 Years(to live)
    Running: Ruceeglaelsktinag: "Justifiable Genocide", Contradiction in terms? IC OOC Active Map: None.
    For everything else see: Full list of Homebrew.
    My Homebrew is meant to be used, but, if you do, PLEASE tell me how it goes.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    I'm looking forward to bookmarking this once it's finished, along with Fax's Guide to Homebrewing and Kellus' process of homebrewing a base class.
    Last edited by Temotei; 2010-01-07 at 06:45 PM.
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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    I am also looking forward to this one. I look forward to seeing what you've got in your head about Items, actually, Mundane/Alchemical/Poison and Magical alike.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Good work, Djinn!

    Are you going to be posting suggestions for more restrictive classes with limited choice in features, such as the warlock and monk?
    Keep 3.5 alive!
    Creepy psychics, shark dogs, and whatever else I feel like drawing.
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    I am willing and able to critique 3.5 homebrews. I'm still learning though, and I may not be able to help with unfamiliar material. PM me if you are having trouble getting your work reviewed.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Well actually I homebrew speficially to make it fit my campaign world :P

    It's an interesting read, what are your thoughts on PrC's?
    Last edited by Latronis; 2010-01-07 at 09:40 PM.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    This will become a staple for the Homebrew Contest.

    Really, I will weigh in when you've got more of your thoughts up. Then you can decide/copy+paste whatever in.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    This desperately needs to be sticky'd.
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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Further definition of Specialty, Enhancement, and Essence Prestige Classes has been posted.

    More to come.

    Ingredients

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    Instructions

    Pour Djinn and tonic water into a glass filled with ice cubes. Stir well. Garnish with lime wedge. Serve.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    I really like the discussion of the Dwarven Defender and the Blood Magus. That's really helpful.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Yeah, alright, this is good stuff. Always a pleasure to read your works Djinn.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    The below is not intended as an attack on anyone (for one thing it would be the pot calling the kettle black), and may be flawed. If you think it is a bad idea, just explain why, and (as always) if you have a suggestion for improving it, then speak up...

    Something I am very guilty of, but which still annoys me philosophically, is that you don't see a lot of prestige classes where the author figured out that the abilities worked best mechanically when spread over a number of levels other than 3, 5, or 10. You DO see a few that have a certain number of levels for thematic reasons*, but I have never seen one done with a "wonky" number of levels as a means of making the special abilities spread out over juuuust the right number of levels to make the power level right. This method is probably slightly more difficult, but allows the class features to be better crafted, since they don't have to be adjusted to make the overall power level of the PrC when completed balanced.

    *Nine Hells themes -> Nine levels, Hours of the Day or Dragon -> 12 levels (for hours in the day or number of age catagories)


    If I were to attempt this method then here is the order I would do it in:
    1. Write up all the class abilities without any especial regard for what order abilities that don't interact mechanically should come in unless there is a thematic reason for them to come in a certain level...
    2. Figure out entry requirements
    3. Determine full power level of all PrC class features, and add an adjustment factor if the PrC has a different BAB, Saves, and/or HD from the base class(es) it would normally be entered from.
    4. Compare this to the power level of the class features from the base class(es) the PrC is intended to be entered from and figure out how many levels need to be swapped out to make it a balanced trade off (taking into account any power drop from sub-optimal feats, skills, etc required to enter the class).
    5. Create the chart for the PrC, then distribute abilities across it in appropriate order.
    6. Steel yourself to ignore the hide-bound traditionalists when they tell you to change the number of levels it is spread over.

    Of course, the above assumes that you set out to do this, rather than just realizing that you have a rather weak PrC (maybe even with a dead level), so why not cut it from 5 levels to 4 levels?
    Best homebrew:
    Grace-Gift - Truly Defensive base class, Falling Anvil Discipline - Loony Slapstick as Martial Art, Mepholk - Snuggly skunk-people. , Wing Dragon Masters of flight Comment HERE, Organ Undead Mega-Thread livers, skins, etc.
    Filk: 4000 Years(to live)
    Running: Ruceeglaelsktinag: "Justifiable Genocide", Contradiction in terms? IC OOC Active Map: None.
    For everything else see: Full list of Homebrew.
    My Homebrew is meant to be used, but, if you do, PLEASE tell me how it goes.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    I quite agree, DracoDei. That said, most people do expect to see 3, 5, or 10 level prestige classes, hence why I said as much in my little article. Any less than 3 and you don't have a class, but I'd be fine with seeing 4, 6-9, and 11-13 Prestige classes...provided there was a reason for it.

    Ingredients

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    Instructions

    Pour Djinn and tonic water into a glass filled with ice cubes. Stir well. Garnish with lime wedge. Serve.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Nit-pick: A lot of the Dual-Progression stuff should be 14 (or more), but... you knew that.
    Best homebrew:
    Grace-Gift - Truly Defensive base class, Falling Anvil Discipline - Loony Slapstick as Martial Art, Mepholk - Snuggly skunk-people. , Wing Dragon Masters of flight Comment HERE, Organ Undead Mega-Thread livers, skins, etc.
    Filk: 4000 Years(to live)
    Running: Ruceeglaelsktinag: "Justifiable Genocide", Contradiction in terms? IC OOC Active Map: None.
    For everything else see: Full list of Homebrew.
    My Homebrew is meant to be used, but, if you do, PLEASE tell me how it goes.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    I think having an Ur-Priest-like class (accelerated progression) be 15 levels long would work well, since you can then avoid the issue of 9th level spells (or equivalent) at 15.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Added: Martial Disciplines and Feats.

    Requesting: Ideas that I can use as examples. Things you might like to see for a character...I'll categorize them, explain them, and maybe even make them.

    Ingredients

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    Instructions

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Hmmm...

    For the most part, you seem to be dictating how a person should work the fluff of their classes/whatever, which, well, I can only respond one way to: Fluff is fluff is fluff. What do I mean by this? I mean fluff is insubstantial, ever changing, unhindered, and completely up to the user. I mean, a person could take levels in Crusader, and reflavor it with the fluff of the Soulknife. Or, a person could take levels in Dragon Shaman, and reflavor it with the fluff of the Rogue. In other words, dictating how fluff should be worked, is like directing people in what pattern to brush their teeth: it gets you nowhere.

    Also, you discourage 'narrow concept' classes on the basis that they have 'narrow concepts'. Well, I'll counter this with an example:

    It is perfectly feasible for a person to build a character to be Dancer 10/Ur-Priest 10. Now, this is done with an highly 'narrow concept' class (the Dancer, I mean, they're dancers, that's pretty clean and clear cut), yet, the character concept just grows ten fold due to the exotic mixing of such interesting ideas. This character build could be for a tribal prophet who goes into a dancing frenzy where their eye's roll back into the backs of their head when they contact their god, or for a good old fashion gypsy. My point here is that 'narrow concept' classes, are usually even better for character concepts than 'broad concept' classes could possibly be. So, they should probably not be discouraged.

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    Also, hope you don't mind me using your class as an example, DragoonWraith, just had it open in the other window, so, quick to look up



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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Heh, I certainly don't mind - very glad you took the time to look at it!

    I do agree that fluff is definitely mutable, and I like the idea of making odd combinations like that, but at the same time, when designing a class, I think it does make sense to have the level of specific-ness in the fluff aling with how specific the mechanics are. As Djinn says, there's nothing particularly Dwarven about the Dwarven Defender's abilities. While you can always change that, it would improve the class if things aligned better. For example, the Ironsoul Forgemaster (Magic of Incarnum) is a Dwarf-only PrC that is just awesome, and rather fitting for Dwarves - it revolves around Dwarven ancestor-worship and forgery. Perfect. As another example, the Eternal Blade from Tome of Battle is an Elf-only PrC that gives the Elf an ancestral spirit to guide them, granting them exceptional 'experience' to use in combat. These make much better sense than the DD.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by Rithaniel View Post
    For the most part, you seem to be dictating how a person should work the fluff of their classes/whatever, which, well, I can only respond one way to: Fluff is fluff is fluff. What do I mean by this? I mean fluff is insubstantial, ever changing, unhindered, and completely up to the user. I mean, a person could take levels in Crusader, and reflavor it with the fluff of the Soulknife. Or, a person could take levels in Dragon Shaman, and reflavor it with the fluff of the Rogue. In other words, dictating how fluff should be worked, is like directing people in what pattern to brush their teeth: it gets you nowhere.
    You've got it half right. Fluff is fluff is fluff...but only once the class is completed. When you're in the process of making a new creation, it's important to determine where it belongs in the system. You can reflavor a Crusader with Soulknife fluff, but that doesn't alter the fact that the Crusader was created to be a versatile and defender-oriented martial combat class (and, as a base class, that's all you need to attach any even remotely fitting flavor you can think of). The Dragon Shaman is a worse example, as that class comes with strings attached, and is thus not a good design example.

    If we ignore this, we shouldn't have Prestige Classes or Feats at all, but rather a single, personally customized base class for every individual character concept possible. That's nonsense, obviously, and therefore why the system embraces open and fairly generic base classes, expanded upon by personal options such as feats and prestige classes.

    Also, you discourage 'narrow concept' classes on the basis that they have 'narrow concepts'. Well, I'll counter this with an example...This character build could be for a tribal prophet who goes into a dancing frenzy where their eye's roll back into the backs of their head when they contact their god, or for a good old fashion gypsy. My point here is that 'narrow concept' classes, are usually even better for character concepts than 'broad concept' classes could possibly be. So, they should probably not be discouraged.
    I don't discourage 'narrow concept' classes: I discourage 'narrow concept' base classes. A base class should be available to many types of characters: the Dancer can be many different things, as it is generic enough to encompass a wide variety of characters (especially with the discipline choice added in), while specific enough to have a focus in and of itself. Take your example, for instance.

    Things like the Dragon Shaman and the Soulknife don't have this advantage: both lock you in a certain path and, while you can deviate from it, it's hard to forget the fact that you gain Draconic abilities (and a breath weapon), or just manifest a sword from thin air. Reflavoring them only gets you so far. Those aren't abilities open to as much interpretation, and thus are better suited to specialized options like feats or prestige classes.

    Heck, I even encourage narrowly themed classes! Essence Prestige Classes should be incredibly specific. That's what makes the character special, and what merits the Prestige Class. Your first Dancer example would make for an excellent Essence Prestige Classe (although both could be pulled off with the straight base class, if desired).

    Does that make my point a little clearer?

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    There is possibly a case for very strongly and tightly themed base classes under one circumstance and not one that is easy to express on the boards:

    When you're effectively making a baddie and designing it to be scalable.

    I've designed a number of these things previously and i've seen others [incidentally most were torn to shreds because of poor communication]. What are your thoughts on such things, given that they're usually designed to be more powerful than the conventional PC classes of their attendant setting?
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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Bookmarked!

    You seem to be working on this consistently enough for me to bookmark it and use it when I make my next thing for homebrew.
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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Djinn, I like your theory but I don't think the problem is one of how many levels. Conceptually, a 5- or 10-level prestige class fits the idea of a PC taking it a level 5, taking one 10-level (or two 5-level Prestige classes) and then going on to becoming an epic character. A 12-level prestige class might not be workable if you play with epic rules. Nothing is wrong with odd levels in a prestige class, but I think it helps when there's an acknowledgment of how it fits in your campaign and how it may fit in other campaigns.

    For me, the concept of what makes a class "special" isn't the problem. I just suck at judging balance and appropriateness. My first foray into home-brewing a prestige class was this: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?p=4216692 and while I find the humor justifiable, I still have no idea if it is even remotely balanced. Generally, I don't post comments on prestige classes for this reason except to occasionally help with creating the tables.

    Speaking of making prestige classes special: I thought you might find this interesting.

    Monte Cook had this to say about prestige classes: http://www.montecook.com/arch_dmonly9.html

    The original design intention behind them was to allow DMs to create campaign-specific, exclusive roles and positions as classes. These special roles offer abilities and powers otherwise inaccessible to PCs and focus characters in specific, interesting directions.

    The key there -- the one that's now often missing -- is that these are supposed to be DM-created tools, to lend specificity and actual mechanics to the details of your world. In short, you come up with some group, role, or whatever for your campaign (the Rangers of the Northwood, the Thief's Guild of Bandonburg, the Nightstalkers, etc.), and you create a prestige class based around that group. Too many prestige classes are designed like 2nd Edition kits: player-driven PC-creation tools for character customization. That's okay sometimes, but it really overlooks the main reason that prestige classes were invented.
    You don't have to agree with him, but I think he makes a valid point. While I believe that there is room for more general prestige classes, especially since the idea behind the home-brewed prestige class is to make it widely accessible, I don't often see a narrow-focused prestige class that makes me want to add it to my campaign. If the back story drives the PrC, then it becomes even more difficult to incorporate. I say difficult, not impossible. It's easy to change a name to fit a local.

    Just my two cents.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by Djinn_In_Tonic View Post
    You've got it half right. Fluff is fluff is fluff...but only once the class is completed. When you're in the process of making a new creation, it's important to determine where it belongs in the system. You can reflavor a Crusader with Soulknife fluff, but that doesn't alter the fact that the Crusader was created to be a versatile and defender-oriented martial combat class (and, as a base class, that's all you need to attach any even remotely fitting flavor you can think of). The Dragon Shaman is a worse example, as that class comes with strings attached, and is thus not a good design example.

    If we ignore this, we shouldn't have Prestige Classes or Feats at all, but rather a single, personally customized base class for every individual character concept possible. That's nonsense, obviously, and therefore why the system embraces open and fairly generic base classes, expanded upon by personal options such as feats and prestige classes.
    Of course, that is ridiculous, but, then again, that wasn't my argument. To explain, I'll use an example of a project I've been working on lately:

    A while back, like 3 months or so, I was musing on what it means to be dead, and I came to think about 'not existing', and that led me to thinking about what 'not existing' actually is. I thought about it for a while, and, I figured that the computer 'exists', as does the air around it, as does everything in the planet Earth, in fact, even the vacuum of space surrounding us exists, despite the fact that there is 'nothing' there. This thought led to the conclusion that anything that can be specified or defined, 'exists'. So, to 'not exist', would be to be undefinable, unspecifiable, unable to be comprehend or pointed at, entirely outside of sensory or extrasensory perception.

    This led me to getting all wowed by 'unexistance', and I decided to make a class that was based on a character's existance being flawed, to the point that he could actually 'not exist', to a certaint extent, and, essentially, break reality in the process. So, I asked myself what this character would be able to do, and so, I started writing down ideas, and, before I even realized it, I had a page and a half of abilities (just their names). So, naturally, I began the process of narrowing down the list, and, I realized, after I had done that, that I still had too much to load onto a single character in even 20 levels. At this point, I did some math, and realized I would likely need to split it into three different base classes. So, I thought about it for a moment, and I realized it was quite easy to do that in the fluff, seeing as there were such big chunks of flavor floating around.

    Now, when it's explained like that, the idea seems extremely broad, doesn't it? What with there being so many different things that 'unexistance' would be able to do, and there being three different base aspects of it. Yet, somehow, when I made one in particular, people told me that it would likely be a better PrC, which I just found asinine, seeing as I had two other classes in the works that were based off of the same idea, just shown in a different way.
    Though, that is an entirely different story, and I think I went off topic somewhere in there, and got a little turned around, oh, right... So, while I agree that, yes, broad base classes would be favorable, it should never be a hard rule in anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by Djinn_In_Tonic View Post
    I don't discourage 'narrow concept' classes: I discourage 'narrow concept' base classes. A base class should be available to many types of characters: the Dancer can be many different things, as it is generic enough to encompass a wide variety of characters (especially with the discipline choice added in), while specific enough to have a focus in and of itself. Take your example, for instance.

    Things like the Dragon Shaman and the Soulknife don't have this advantage: both lock you in a certain path and, while you can deviate from it, it's hard to forget the fact that you gain Draconic abilities (and a breath weapon), or just manifest a sword from thin air. Reflavoring them only gets you so far. Those aren't abilities open to as much interpretation, and thus are better suited to specialized options like feats or prestige classes.

    Heck, I even encourage narrowly themed classes! Essence Prestige Classes should be incredibly specific. That's what makes the character special, and what merits the Prestige Class. Your first Dancer example would make for an excellent Essence Prestige Classe (although both could be pulled off with the straight base class, if desired).

    Does that make my point a little clearer?
    Well, to be perfectly honest, I honestly, always reflavor anything I do that involves anything draconic, cause, really? There shoud only ever have been one (one (I mean, Uno, 1, a singularity)) class even relating to Dragons, if any at all, considering that there aren't 15,000,000,000 classes relating to Formian Queens or Zelekhuts. Dragons are a type of creature, and should never have been assossiated with anything else. So, I guess, since I have been doing it more often, it may just come easier to me, but, I find reflavoring a breath weapon quite easy, I mean, it could be a ultra-color spray coming from your hands, or just a thousand little nanobot that run through your blood, and you prick a finger and they shoot out in a cone. Same goes for the Soulknife. So, no, they aren't really all that difficult to reflavor.

    Though, yeah, that's prestige classes, they can be as narrow as you want, but, then the problem that comes in that, is that, maybe the class has a feature that a person really wants, but, they don't wanna be a "Bejewled Alligator of the Seven Cloud Jumping Clan" just to get it. Well, that's too bad, cause they have to be. Well, you're response would likely be to reflavor it, and, that's a perfectly fine answer when it comes to fluff, but, what you seem to be aiming for here, is make the class mechanics line up with the fluff, which would make it difficult to reflavor, which, in your own words, makes it bad. Now then, don't misunderstand me here, I actually understand and agree with most of your points, I just don't think that there should be any 'all this and none of that' when it comes to fluff.



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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by DragoonWraith View Post
    Heh, I certainly don't mind - very glad you took the time to look at it!

    I do agree that fluff is definitely mutable, and I like the idea of making odd combinations like that, but at the same time, when designing a class, I think it does make sense to have the level of specific-ness in the fluff aling with how specific the mechanics are. As Djinn says, there's nothing particularly Dwarven about the Dwarven Defender's abilities. While you can always change that, it would improve the class if things aligned better. For example, the Ironsoul Forgemaster (Magic of Incarnum) is a Dwarf-only PrC that is just awesome, and rather fitting for Dwarves - it revolves around Dwarven ancestor-worship and forgery. Perfect. As another example, the Eternal Blade from Tome of Battle is an Elf-only PrC that gives the Elf an ancestral spirit to guide them, granting them exceptional 'experience' to use in combat. These make much better sense than the DD.
    Ah, nah man, I'm actually using it in a game I'm playing, thinking about actually taking Eternal Blade with it too, so, yeah, I know what you're talking about, and I can see most of the points laid out here as being accurate, I just have issue with them being set-in-stone rules. XD
    Last edited by Rithaniel; 2010-01-09 at 08:15 AM. Reason: hit enter to soon



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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    I actually have to agree with Djinn here. Look at the coolest, strongest base classes: wizard, cleric, druid, the ToB martial classes. What do they all have in common? A strong capacity for variety. Narrow focus in a base class leads directly into a weak base class, and while it might be fun for awhile, it gets boring quickly. I struggle with that narrow focus with my Harrowed class (which, by the by - YOU STILL OWE ME FEATS, YOU BOTTLED BASTARD!). My Witch Doctor did much better. Why? A broader focus.

    Broad focus doesn't mean you sacrifice a strong flavor. I like to think that my Doctor has very strong flavor, but he also has a lot of options in and out of combat, paired with plenty of options for growth and development.

    In short - we don't need narrow base classes. That's what PrCs are for.


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    Wow! Not only was that awesome, I think I actually kinda understand Archeron now. If all the "intermediate" outer planes got that kind of treatment, I doubt there would be anywhere near as many critics of their utility.
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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by Rithaniel View Post
    Though, yeah, that's prestige classes, they can be as narrow as you want, but, then the problem that comes in that, is that, maybe the class has a feature that a person really wants, but, they don't wanna be a "Bejewled Alligator of the Seven Cloud Jumping Clan" just to get it. Well, that's too bad, cause they have to be. Well, you're response would likely be to reflavor it...
    Nope. My response would be that, for that player, perhaps the ability would be best incorporated into a feat, feat chain, Martial Discipline, or Specialty Prestige Class. The character is not a "Bejeweled Alligator of the Seven Cloud Jumping Clan," and therefore has no need to meet the requirements that a "Bejeweled Alligator of the Seven Cloud Jumping Clan" would. His or her requirements for a similar ability would be slightly altered. Additionally, if ALL the features of a Prestige Class appeal to a player, it's likely that he or she is, in fact, ready to take the class.

    Specialty and Enhancement classes are more easy to reflavor, but an Essence class is all or nothing. If you like parts of it, well...feats and the like can compensate.

    Again, I do say at the beginning that I'm not preaching anything mandatory: nothing I'm writing is set in stone, as exceptions exist to everything. As a general rule, however, I feel it will lead to more compelling homebrew if people keep this stuff in mind.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by Debihuman View Post
    Djinn, I like your theory but I don't think the problem is one of how many levels. Conceptually, a 5- or 10-level prestige class fits the idea of a PC taking it a level 5, taking one 10-level (or two 5-level Prestige classes) and then going on to becoming an epic character. A 12-level prestige class might not be workable if you play with epic rules. Nothing is wrong with odd levels in a prestige class, but I think it helps when there's an acknowledgment of how it fits in your campaign and how it may fit in other campaigns.
    True. I included the levels portion as tradition, really. That, and I feel a Specialty Prestige Class really shouldn't stretch beyond 5 levels. I do say that exceptions exist, and in fact abound.

    For me, the concept of what makes a class "special" isn't the problem. I just suck at judging balance and appropriateness. My first foray into home-brewing a prestige class was this: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?p=4216692 and while I find the humor justifiable, I still have no idea if it is even remotely balanced. Generally, I don't post comments on prestige classes for this reason except to occasionally help with creating the tables.
    I will later be discussing appropriateness, but balance is tricky and best done on a case-by-case basis. I'm not going to even attempt to explain balance.

    You don't have to agree with him, but I think he makes a valid point. While I believe that there is room for more general prestige classes, especially since the idea behind the home-brewed prestige class is to make it widely accessible, I don't often see a narrow-focused prestige class that makes me want to add it to my campaign. If the back story drives the PrC, then it becomes even more difficult to incorporate. I say difficult, not impossible. It's easy to change a name to fit a local.
    For Specialty and Enhancement Prestige Classes, this is true. They're fairly general within their area of expertise, and should appeal to players of all sorts. Essence Classes don't have to be incredibly specific either: some of the fluff is mutable, but the concept remains strong. True, the abilities and often requirements pull you a certain direction, but an Essence class isn't made to appeal to everyone. They're also not really tied (as a general rule) to a specific world background, but rather to a character's specific choices. To take one of my own as an example: the Sybil of the Blinded Eye can be incorporated anywhere, but only a very specific character will want to walk that path.

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    Default Re: What to Make, and How to Make it Special (3.5 Homebrew Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by Djinn_In_Tonic View Post
    Nope. My response would be that, for that player, perhaps the ability would be best incorporated into a feat, feat chain, Martial Discipline, or Specialty Prestige Class. The character is not a "Bejeweled Alligator of the Seven Cloud Jumping Clan," and therefore has no need to meet the requirements that a "Bejeweled Alligator of the Seven Cloud Jumping Clan" would. His or her requirements for a similar ability would be slightly altered. Additionally, if ALL the features of a Prestige Class appeal to a player, it's likely that he or she is, in fact, ready to take the class.

    Specialty and Enhancement classes are more easy to reflavor, but an Essence class is all or nothing. If you like parts of it, well...feats and the like can compensate.

    Again, I do say at the beginning that I'm not preaching anything mandatory: nothing I'm writing is set in stone, as exceptions exist to everything. As a general rule, however, I feel it will lead to more compelling homebrew if people keep this stuff in mind.
    Yeah, well, but, as a rule of thumb, wouldn't it be better to make it so that it's less work for the potential player? I mean, average joe bob is only just now discovering the things about D&D, and about homebrew, and he is not anywhere in the realm of sense when it comes to balance, so, offering the advice that he should homebrew his own stuff to get this thing that he wants from this class, without having to actually become a member of the class, is like offering advice that a person should build their own furniture: it's just inviting a lot of problems. Though, this is breaking into the matter of balance, which, I guess is not at issue here.

    Of course, if nothing is necessarily set in stone in this guideline, then, well, you likely want to have a clause at the openning that says something like, "While these guidelines are highly recommended in order to make compelling, highly interesting homebrew, there are always exceptions to the rule," or something, maybe a little more subtle, or more pronounced, depending on what you're really aiming for.



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