Tumblr user splendiferousblog asks, “How did you go about creating your own classes? I’ve tried to homebrew a class myself (a card based spell caster) but the class was always either under or overpowered. How did you go about balancing? And were there any concepts that had to be dropped?”
I found that the first step to making a new class was to study the classes already presented in the core book. They cover a lot of ground there and although they don’t outright say anything, there’s underlying rules that they built into things. For example, I created an excel sheet that shows the average damage output potential for each class when optimized from levels 1 to 20. It had a column for base damage and a column for damage when resources are expended. There’s actually a really defined trend and tier system to the damage output.
Then you have to divide classes into utility tiers and tanking tiers and so on. As you do, you’ll see that each class typically gets to be tier 1 in something and tier 2 in two other things, and then tier 3 in a third thing.
There are exceptions, of course, because honestly not all of the core book classes are perfectly balanced with each other (the Lore Bard, for example). After that, you have to look at action economy and then examine areas that haven’t been touched by the core book yet. Things that are too complex for archetypes are whats most important. If you can find that niche and pair it with compelling flavor, you can then look at the tiers and try to build it into the tiers. Then as you design abilities, you track how your resource system compares to the charted resources systems of every other class that already exists. And you compare your damage output those classes as well. If things are in parity with your tier then you know you’re on the right track.
After that it’s totally a matter of practice, tweaking, and playtesting what you’ve made. I’ve made plenty of things that overwhelmed or underwhelmed for this product and outside of it, but playtesting shows the truth.
Not too many concepts ended up being dropped so much as changed, but there were a couple. One was a spellcasting Marshal archetype (one that had 4 levels of spells). It ended up giving that archetype far too many resources and utility. It also made the class dig too far into what makes the Bard unique from it. Another was a Scientist archetype that was so strong it morphed into the full Roboticist class. We also put the Scientist through four different iterations before we landed on the current one.
Overall my advice for building classes and their abilities is to look at everything laid out and then aim high. Pulling abilities back to make them less powerful is easier in my opinion than powering things up. Especially since your abilities are things you want to be cool and evoke excitement in your players.