I'm looking at creating a homebrew class for dnd-5e, but have had trouble finding resources to assist with this. The DMG includes guidelines for modifying existing classes, but there don't appear to be any official guidelines/rules for creating classes from scratch. Are there any online guides to help with class creation? If you are answering with an unofficial guide, please back it up with your experience using it, and include a fairly detailed description of good and bad points.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Similar questions have been asked and answered for other editions, so I think this is legit. Also, the question I duped it as discusses only modifications, so I'm going to reopen this and it's materially different. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 17 '18 at 15:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank-you @NautArch. I'm new here, and thus not qualified to talk about the list-question thing, but I agree that it is definitely not a dupe. \$\endgroup\$ – Gryphon May 17 '18 at 15:59
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The official guide can be located here, I will expand a bit on it below, for reference, I have made 3 custom classes before:https://media.wizards.com/2015/downloads/dnd/UA3_ClassDesignVariants.pdf

Creating new classes is not an exact science, and works best by taking features of pre-existing classes and adapting them

Having a template is always the best way to start, even if you don't plan to have your new class to be remotely close to the pre-existing class. Even if you do choose to remove most, if not all features, it helps to be able to consider what traits you would add that would be of a similar strength. For example, level 11 is a big increase in power, giving spellcasters access to level 6 spells and fighters and barbarians an extra attack. When making a class, you should consider that, and plan something that you would consider to be of a similar level of power, such as an aura of energy that increases your AC, or blinds creatures of evil alignment on a failed charisma save.

The best way to make a strong class is to playtest with a party Explain with your party that your class will be as balanced as you can intend it to be, but it will not be perfect, and is open to changes if certain features are too strong or too weak. For example, one of the homebrew classes I made was a shapeshifter class. Progression through levels 1-10 felt solid, and the PC had lots of fun using it, but felt a distinct lack of power as they progressed. Because of this, I had a discussion with the player and we came to the consensus that we would add the ability to shapeshift inanimate objects as well as your self, with that power getting stronger and allowing for more drastic changes or to shapeshift objects from 10 feet away, rather than through touch. And again, at levels 15+ we added the power to shapeshift living enemies, and to be able to use it as a combat effect against creatures. The class was nowhere near perfect, and working to together to tweak classes helped with that

Communicate with your players the factors involved in this Make sure your players know what to expect when they play with their class. Explain that it is open to buffs if needed, as well as nerfs. Make sure you and your players communicate. For example, if the shapeshifter PC chose to multiclass instead of having a discussion, we would not have been able to balance the class and have fun with it.

It will not be balanced from the start This is a simple fact: you will not be able to make a perfect class. It is one of the reasons that D&D has gone through so many editions: classes are unbalanced and need to be balanced. Don't worry if you encounter issues, expect them to come and embrace the opportunity to perfect them.

I hope this helps you with class creation, if I missed anything or it was made unclear please let me know :)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Excellent answer, DMate. Thanks for taking the time to give such a in-depth answer, and for helping me find a useful resource. +1 \$\endgroup\$ – Gryphon May 17 '18 at 17:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ About your last point: I don't think the "many editions" issue has so much to do with balancing classes. I would argue instead that this is the reason everything WotC publishes goes through internal playtest and then external playtest (e.g. Unearthed Arcana and even open playtesting for 5e before it was released). And even after that we still have Beast Master and Moon Druid :P \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint May 17 '18 at 17:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ True, my comment was mostly related to the earlier editions of D&D, which I have more experience with. One thing that comes to mind was the assassins in AD&D, which came with a plethora of large balance issues with assassinations, leading to a rework for the class. You do have a good point though, most of the newer editions to tend to focus on adding more versatile options and choices rather than a heavy focus on balance. \$\endgroup\$ – DMate May 17 '18 at 18:22

Just a week ago - the D&D Beyond Youtube channel published a video with Jeremy Crawford where he's talking about "Designing D&D Subclasses". Note that the linked video is just part 1, there'll be more, so far unpublished, parts.

See also Modifying Classes, hosted by WotC (note the PDF linked at the bottom), as well as this fantastic reddit post on class design.

I could elaborate on class design, but most, if not all of it would be restating either of the sources mentioned above - and that would be a shame considering the time and effort other people put into them.


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