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I am going to make a campaign set in a time when technology is readily available, but not like futuristic Earth or whatever. To keep the campaign fantasy, I'm going for a Star Wars kind of feel with technology, especially since in the campaign there needs to be a physical way to get to other planets.

So I thought I would attempt to create a new class that fits that theme of technology (tinkerer). But, I don't know if it's balanced or not. It feels balanced and looks balanced on paper, but anyway, here's the class:

Tinkerer

Hit Dice are 1d8 per level
proficiencies are no armor, finesse and loading weapons, and technician's tools, a type of tool that I would add into the game as well that would include the basics that a tinkerer would need.
Skill proficiencies: Technology another new part of the game (a new skill), and one other from Arcana, Insight, History, and Investigation.
Equipment: You start with

  • (a) any simple weapon or (b) two knives
  • (a) handaxe, or (b) healer's kit
  • basic technician's tools, and an explorer's pack.

When you reach 4th level, and again at 9th, 13th, 17th, and 20th, you can increase 1 of your ability scores by 2 or 2 of your ability scores by 1. As normal, you can't increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.

Class Features

[Placeholdername] 1st level feature

If at any time someone in your party (including yourself) makes a check related to technology, your expertise can help others (or yourself) create, repair, or understand technology. This comes in the form of a die roll, the results of which you can add to the check. At 1st level, your die and modifier is 1d4/2 (round down). At 5th level it becomes 1d4, and at 11th it becomes 1d4×2, and at 17th, if the player making the check you choose to help with rolls a 1, it's 1d10.

You can't use this feature if you are in some way incapacitated or distracted. This feature has 2 uses before you must take a rest to regain uses. If you take a short rest, the number of uses you gain back is equal to 1d4/2 (round up). If you take a long rest, you regain all uses of this feature. At 11th level, the maximum use number before a rest increases to 3 and at 20th, it increases to 4. You can use this feature after the die is rolled but before effects take place. For the sake of technicalities, this feature applies after any other effects on the check.

[Placeholdername]

At 2nd level, you gain a keen eye for what state technology is in. You have advantage on Investigation checks related to technology.

[Placeholdername]

Beginning when you reach 6th level, when you are creating or modifying a gadget or other mechanical or technology-based object, the time it takes to do so (in minutes) is reduced by 1/3 the original time plus your Tinkerer level. If the original time is 300 minutes or more, add double your Tinkerer level instead. If the original time is 600 minutes or more, add triple your Tinkerer level instead. If this makes the time it takes to create or modify the object go below 1 minute, count it as 30 seconds.

[Placeholdername]

Beginning when you reach 11th level, you can, using an action, DM permitting, create an improvised weapon or shield. The weapons do 1d6-1 (minimum of 1) damage of the appropriate damage type, and have 1d4 uses. The shields give you a +1 to AC and have 11 hitpoints. You can't use this feature twice in a row. You also can't use this feature if you don't have both hands free, and you also can't use this feature if another object created by this feature has more than half its uses (or hitpoints) left.

At 20th level, the damage done by the weapons increases to 1d6+1, the number of uses for the weapons becomes 1d6, the shields give you +2 AC and have 13 HP instead of 11.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I moved this from our meta site because it is for questions (and a few other things) about our site, not for the questions of it. If that process end up doing something odd to this question, please raise a custom flag and we'll see if we can't unmangle it. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jun 16 at 20:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ i didn't know the difference a few seconds ago thanks :) \$\endgroup\$ – BJMtheDM Jun 16 at 20:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you aware of the Artificer class (Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron and Eberron: Rising from the Last War)? If you are, is there a reason that doesn't work for you? \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jun 16 at 21:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nope i didn't know that existed \$\endgroup\$ – BJMtheDM Jun 16 at 21:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure if this this meta on how to ask a good homebrew review has been shared with you, but please take a look! Going over your own assessment of your build and adding that along with highlighting areas of concern really shows that you've put some effort into the homebrew so we can review after youve done your own analysis and iterations. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 16 at 22:00
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This class is underpowered

...and by a significant margin. That's because regardless of how much your campaign focuses on technology, Dungeons & Dragons as a game has a heavy emphasis on combat. Your class simply provides no tools with which to participate in combat at all.

Every level should give you something

Take a look at the typical level progression table for official classes. These characters get something with every level, beyond just more HP. Even classes which don't get new features (like the wizard) provide new spell levels, which provide whole new avenues with which to interact with the game. Your class simply gets... nothing at all at several levels.

You should have some way of dealing with combat

Every class has some way of improving its damage output. Whether it's through fighting styles, extra attack, cantrips that scale with level, or access to higher level spells, a 19th level character will deal more damage than a 2nd level character. This is not true with your class. As I read it, the only improvement to combat available is the ordinary increase in proficiency bonus. There is technically an improvement at level 20, but since the weapons you can create are still vastly inferior to those that are readily available at level 1, I'm going to go ahead and not count that.

I don't think you want to create a class

Whenever you set out to create a new class, the first question you should ask yourself is whether you actually need to. The way I see it, you aren't trying to create a new style of combat, or a new kind of spellcaster. All you really want is a character who gains a few very specific abilities that let them interact with things specific to your world.

There are a few things that might suit your needs better.

If you want different players to be able to interact with your technological world in different ways, consider creating custom feats for each ability you want to exist. Then you can allow your players to take these feats piecemeal, without restricting their class.

If you want to give a class access to your technological world without creating one from the ground up, consider creating a subclass. A good option here might be a new fighter Martial Archetype. These archetypes receive about the same number of features specific to their subclass's flavor as you've listed here, while keeping up with the power level of competing classes through simple improvements to their combat abilities. Alternatively, if you want a sort of hacker aesthetic, consider a rogue.

In short

I think it's clear that you've focused heavily on making sure your tinkerer class is not overpowered. That's a good impulse; it's easy to accidentally favor a new creation. Unfortunately, the class is missing fundamental pieces that would compel somebody to choose it.

I'd suggest reevaluating whether this is the best way to achieve the result you're looking for. If it is, you'll need to spend a fair amount of time understanding how the other classes achieve their goals, in order to produce something comparable.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ OK I want to make a few things clear: One, I appreciate the advice. Second, did you notice that at 20th level the class could potentially turn a 1 into a 22? (+11 bonus, 10 on the d10) I thought that was overpowered, actually. Anyway, I was clearly wrong when I thought this class had enough features. Also, this class is somewhat incomplete, I did plan on putting paths with additional features. I will update this with a new question. :) \$\endgroup\$ – BJMtheDM Jun 17 at 2:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also I looked at the other options and I think that using a class is a good way to go for me and my campaign. The advice about it being underpowered actually helps a lot since I was trying to create something balanced, and so I used underpowered mechanics. Now I see my mistake. \$\endgroup\$ – BJMtheDM Jun 17 at 3:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ When you want to find out whether a new feature is strong, compare it to existing features rather than looking at the best case scenario. High level characters are often supposed to do powerful things. The easy comparison here is Bardic Inspiration. Inspiration can be used for everything your 1st level feature can, as well as all other ability checks, and attack rolls and saves. By 10th level, it always adds a d10. For your capstone 20th level ability to conditionally add a d10 to a specific subset of ability checks is far from overpowered. \$\endgroup\$ – 1600hp Jun 17 at 4:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, aside, 20th level capstone abilities are almost irrelevant for evaluating class balance. The vast majority of campaigns never reach 20th level, and even in the ones that do the characters have spent most of their career not being 20th level. Even if the capstone was actually incredibly great and makes the class worth playing at 20th, nobody wants to spend 19 levels of ineffective slogging to get there - the class must remain competitive throughout its progression. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Jun 17 at 9:44
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This class seems extremely weak.

Perhaps this indicates that it's incomplete, but what you have are mostly "ribbon" features, things that are nice to have, but not something you'd ever want to build a character around.

To start with, a Tinker only appears to gain abilities at a few levels, and on many other levels they gain nothing at all. That is very unusual. Most classes give at least one new ability at every level. A few exceptions exist for spellcasters, who sometimes gain access to new spell levels, without gaining any other features. But the Tinker is not a spellcaster.

Lets run through the class features:

Ability score increases at levels 4, 9, 13, 17 and 20.

This is a strange distribution. All official classes get ability score increases at levels 4, 8, 12, 16 and 19 (and Rogues get an extra one at level 10, while Fighters get two extras at levels 6 and 14). You've delayed most of the standard increases by a level for no obvious reason.

Bonus die on technology related checks.

This seems a little bit weaker than the Cleric cantrip Guidance (which can give a 1d4 bonus to an ability check an unlimited number of times) and much weaker than the Bard's Bardic Inspiration feature (which gives larger dice, more frequently, and can be used on many more kinds of rolls than your feature, including attack rolls and saving throws in combat).

Advantage on investigating Technology.

This is probably a bit weaker than the Expertise feature that both Bards and Rogues get, which doubles their proficiency bonuses for certain skills of their choice. Advantage might be slightly stronger than expertise on any given roll, but expertise is much more broadly applicable.

If you had expertise in Investigation, you'd be nearly as good as a Tinker dealing with tech, but you also be good at all others uses of the skill, like searching defeated enemies for loot or trying to figure out how a trap can be disarmed.

Reduction in time to create technology.

This depends entirely on how slow and how powerful the technological things you can make are. Since that's presumably some kind of homebrewed system, it's hard to evaluate this class without it. In any case, this ability is very confusingly worded. It seems to be saying to subtract your level (or a multiple of it) in minutes from a crafting time?

This seems like something that will hardly ever be relevant, since if you have enough time to spend any number of minutes (e.g., you're not currently in combat), you will often have the ability to spend an hour or two if you really need to. Changing five hours to three hours is a very small benefit, as often you'll have days of downtime (and so a moderate speedup won't matter) or you'll have rounds and the reduced time frame will still be much too long.

If technology is very powerful in your world, I'd also be concerned that all other classes would be creating it too, even without the Tinker's special features, which are not so strong that they carve out an exclusive niche.

Creating a weapon or shield with an action.

This is extraordinarily weak, especially for the levels you can do it at. All D&D characters start with weapons that are better than what this feature can create at level 11. And a new weapon or shield is something any character can buy for just a few GP.

And anyone at any level can use an improvised weapon in a pinch, smashing a chair or bottle over somebody's head, for example. Improvised weapons deal 1d4 damage, which is comparable to 1d6-1.

A 20th level character should be reshaping the universe with their action, not crafting a 10 gp shield for their friend.

It's also unclear what the HP you attach to the shields is supposed to do. Shields don't generally get damaged by combat in D&D (though I'm aware this is not terribly realistic). Do you also have homebrew rules for weapon and shield damage that make these features more relevant? Are weapons so rare in your setting that a 1d6-1 damage weapon would be used by any PC in any circumstance?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ OK I want to make a few things clear: One, I appreciate the advice. Second, did you notice that at 20th level the class could potentially turn a 1 into a 22? (+11 bonus, 10 on the d10) I thought that was overpowered, actually. Anyway, I was clearly wrong when I thought this class had enough features. Also, this class is somewhat incomplete, I did plan on putting paths with additional features. I will update this with a new question. :) \$\endgroup\$ – BJMtheDM Jun 17 at 2:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also I didn't know about the ability score distribution. And yes, the HP for shields (and maybe armor and weapons) would be a homebrewed system. Also the limited damage for the weapons was intentional, though at this point I probably should take it up a notch, seeing as both the answers for this question told me this class was very underpowered. \$\endgroup\$ – BJMtheDM Jun 17 at 2:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's definitely tricky to balance before you have every feature planned out. I hope my answer helps you by pointing out existing features of other classes that are mechanically similar enough to be worth comparing your features to in isolation. \$\endgroup\$ – Blckknght Jun 17 at 4:14

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