Friday, May 07, 2010

Class Balance: The High/Medium/Low Method...

Good Afternoon, All:

When I am developing new classes within a d20-based context, I tend to maintain a balance of class abilities by evaluating a class in three different areas: combat abilities, magical abilities and skill/feature abilities. I rate them all in terms of High, Medium or Low. I make one High, one Medium and one Low, unless the class is a balance in all three areas, in which case they are all Medium. Using this process, I can quickly evaluate whether a new character class is overpowered or underpowered to me, simply by looking at these three elements.

In terms of combat ability, I use the following standards:

High - Attacks, Hitpoints, Weapons and Armor as a fighter/fighting-man.
Medium - Attacks, Hitpoints, Weapons and Armor as a cleric.
Low - Attacks, Hitpoints, Weapons and Armor as a wizard/magic-user.

In terms of magical ability, I find that the following works well:

High - Casts spells as a wizard/magic-user.
Medium - Casts spells as a wizard/magic-user of ¾ level.
Low - Cannot cast spells at all.

In terms of skill/feature ability, I assume that one class feature is roughly equivalent to two initial skills/skillpoints under the D20 System, or one skill under a skills-light system like MyD20 Lite. I like the following standards:

High - Starts with five or more class features. (In MyD20 Lite, that means one base talent and four skills.)
Medium - Starts with around three-four class features. (In MyD20 Lite, that means one base talent and three skills.)
Low - Starts with two or less class features. (In MyD20 Lite, that means one base talent and two skills.)

In addition, High combat ability typically means saving throws made to withstand physical damage are easier, while High magical ability emphasizes better saving throws to resist mental effects, and High skill/feature ability places a premium on saving throws that avoid consequences by not being there (effectively dodging out of the way or utilizing good reflexes).

With that in mind, I have found that I can define seven distinct class types in terms of general abilities under this system:

Fighter High Medium Low
Paladin or Ranger High Low Medium
Cleric or Druid Medium High Low
Thief Medium Low High
Adept or Scholar Low Medium High
Wizard Low High Medium
Bard or Battle Sorcerer Medium Medium Medium

Looking these options over, the one class concept that doesn’t get as much play as others is the Adept or Scholar, who sucks in combat and has moderate magical talent, but more special abilities or skills than other classes. I think the other class concepts get represented at least once in most systems, if not twice. So, what do you think of an Adept/Scholar character concept? Would it be viable? Would it be fun?

Looking Forward To Hearing Your Thoughts,


Anonymous said...

With regards to class balance, have you considered a point buy system for character creation and development? I think that a simplified approach similar to what is outlined in Eclipse (
would work well with d20 Lite. I have played around with the numbers a bit but it would offer great flexibility to character development.

Flynn said...

I have, but one of the founding goals behind MyD20 Lite is to maintain the ability to quickly create characters. I find that point buy systems encourage "shopping for effectiveness," and that tends to lengthen character creation time. I appreciate the thought, though.

With Regards,