Since I started my series of articles on the various classes , I’ve wanted to go back and redo some to get a bit more mechanical. However I think the posts serve a purpose as they are now simply because they don’t get too mechanical.
Which is why I’m starting a new series that can get too mechanical!
Magic, Skill, Action!
As I’ve gotten more into homebrew, I’ve realized more and more that trying to classify the classes into distinct categories is a fool’s errand. Luckily for you all, I’m an absolute idiot of a fool, so here we are.
I’m not going to go too into it, to be honest. But I do want to be able to avoid doing a completely separate series covering each and every class individually. Been there, done that. Still doing that, in fact. So, instead, we’re going to cover vague descriptions.
To begin, I’m going to set three questions I’m going to ask about each class.
What is your typical Action in combat? Some classes have many choices, others do not. But even though combat is only one third of the game, this is still an important distinguishing feature.
How much are you defined by skill proficiencies? Again, some classes have a lot of skill proficiencies, and some don’t. However, different classes also tend to have different levels of proficiency – depending both on raw stats and on whether or not they have Expertise.
How much do you rely on magic and spellcasting? This is probably the most subjective one, but the idea is to figure out how much a class would use spells in combat and out of combat.
Based on these questions, I decided to split the classes into three different categories: Action, Skill, and Magic. While plenty of classes may seem to bleed over from one to the other, explaining my justifications will be just another part of the fun.
This group contains the classes who are defined primarily by one or two actions they always take in combat. Other than that, they only have a few skills, and either don’t have magic at all, or only use it to augment their central combat action.
The classes in this group are the Barbarian, the Fighter, the Monk, the Paladin, and the Ranger. Honorable mention goes to certain warlock builds, particularly bladelocks and eldritch blast spam warlocks.
This group contains the classes that have a lot of skill proficiencies and (usually) massive bonuses to nearly all of them. In combat, they generally have a lot of choices and don’t rely too heavily on any one action. And while they might have spells, those spells aren’t a major source of damage or power.
The classes in this group are the Bard, the Rogue, and – surprise upset! – the Warlock! Honorable mention goes to battlemaster fighters and that’s pretty much it.
This group contains classes that have a lot of spell slots and are almost useless inside an antimagic field. Their actions in combat are almost always spells or cantrips, and while they can have good skill bonuses, they generally don’t have many skill proficiencies to begin with.
The classes in this group are the Cleric, the Druid, the Sorcerer, and the Wizard. Honorable mention goes to the warlock, who I know everyone feels should’ve been in this group to begin with but please – just trust me.
So, we have our categorizations. What next? Well, the whole idea here is to look more into mechanics than I currently can. Because I think discussing a class, fantasy context and all, is the best way to do it… but mechanics are pretty important.
Basically, I want to talk about how to homebrew things. The general class analysis posts are about homebrew too, of course, but they’re also neat little history pieces about the classes and a general primer on how each one plays. Nothing in them is about something new.
Look forward to advice on the following topics:
- Making new subclasses for classes in each category.
- Making new classes in each category.
- Making new subclasses to push classes in other categories closer to each category
- So making an Action-focused rogue or a Skill-based wizard.
- Revising existing classes and subclasses to better fit in a certain area.
- Lookin’ at you, ranger.
- And more!
In any case, look for these articles coming next week. I might take more than one article on each category, but I think we’ll just start with one and see where it goes from there.
Thanks for reading!
Click here for the rest of my homebrew how-to’s!
2 thoughts on “Putting the Classes into Classes”
Love this! This is a really useful framework for approaching the homebrew process. I’ve actually been brainstorming a skill-based wizard for a bit now, to address the complaint (or at least my complaint) that wizards can be naturally outclassed by bards, rogues, in what I think should be one of their areas of strength: knowledge and smartsy skills. Obviously this can be addressed through multiclassing and/or feats, but blah — there should be a better mechanical route to the wizard who does know everything, and puts the Lore Bards to shame (or is at least on equal footing).
Some of the traits are pretty straightforward: growing expertise with wizard skills, maybe a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ type ability to represent extreme breadth of knowledge, or maybe ‘temporary proficiency’ a la Knowledge Cleric. But I’m having some trouble making it distinctly wizardy. Your “School of the Arcane” was a big inspiration, and I’m thinking about integrating some of those ideas. But maybe you had some other ideas for your skill-based wizard subclass that you wouldn’t mind sharing?
Hmm… It’s been a while, so I hope I’m not too late. In regards to the question, though, it’s a really interesting one.
My main “thing” with the wizard v. bard discussion is how weird it is that wizards have no in-class way to get Expertise in Arcana. With the addition of Feats for Skills this is much less of an issue. That being said, a skills based wizard would be interesting.
My suggestion? Firstly, focus on ritual spells a bit. For their “Savant” feature, consider giving them bonuses to learning spells that can be cast as rituals. Those spells tend to be the most skill focused (with things like Detect Magic and Identify for Arcana, etc.), and there shouldn’t be much of a power effect.
Otherwise… I would stay away from a “Jack-of-All-Trades” feature. Wizards are smart, but they’re also extremely specialized – bards are the type to learn a little bit of everything, but wizards generally either don’t care about a skill, or are obsessed with it.
OH! Here’s an idea – give them the ability to learn skills similar to how other spellcasters learn spells. Example feature:
Starting at 2nd level you can apply your powerful intellect to anything your mind turns to. By spending time studying tomes and treatises on a topic, you can gain proficiency in any skill that uses Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma. Learning a skill takes at least one week of study, where you dedicate your daily time to studying books. If you have at least a 16 in the relevant ability score, the study takes two weeks. If you have at least a 12, the study takes three weeks. If you have an 8 or less, the study takes one month. You can gain Expertise in a skill you’re already proficient in by spending double the amount of study time. You keep this benefit for three months, and can only have proficiency in a number of skills equal to your Intelligence modifier at one time (having Expertise in a skill counts for double).
Anyway, that’s all I have for now, but I’ll think about it. It’s a solid idea, and I really like the concept. One of your biggest problems going forward will be working in spells to the mix. After all, it is still a wizard subclass – you have to have it interact with spellcasting somehow, I just don’t know how. If you get something though, let me know!