Making your own class—whether for DnD, Pathfinder, or any other class-based tabletop RPG system—is an amazing experience. Your players are literally bringing your vision to life, and if you make a custom class for them, you’re doing the same for their dreams! And after all, if you’re already building your own unique campaign setting, it makes sense that you’d have unique classes of heroes and Player Characters that inhabit it! Regardless of the system, there are definitely some things to be certain you think of when making your own DnD class, Pathfinder class, or any other type of TTRPG class!
What’s a class in DnD?
A class, in DnD, describes your player character’s ability and archetype. It’s not a profession—it’s a character’s calling! The way a class is structured depends on the specific RPG, but they’re generally created around certain character archetypes: the rogue, the wizard, the fighter… you name it! In DnD, they also have subclasses to let the player narrow down the kind of character they want to play. And, of course, they are the main source of a character’s abilities when leveling up!
5 tips for making your own DnD class (or for any other Table Top RPG too)!
1. Start with a vision… and make it fun!
Sometimes you’ll have a vision of the class you want to make. Sometimes a player at your table comes to you with a new class idea, and you want to help them make it happen! Regardless, the vision of the class should be foremost. Don’t start with specific abilities or mechanics—as cool as they might seem, they won’t feel as cool if they’re not part of a shared vision. So, ask yourself: “how does playing this sort of archetype feel?” For a rogue, the answer could be something like “moving in the shadows, seeing without being seen”, while for a barbarian it will be “charging ahead no matter what… thinking comes later!” In any case, make sure you have a clear vision before continuing. Everything depends on it!
2. Double-check your vision: are you sure it’s a class you’re thinking about?
Make sure that your vision is really for a class and not for something else! Building a class is a significant undertaking, and maybe your vision could be better suited by a Race/Species, a Background, or a Subclass? In case you’re not familiar with DnD terms, here are quick definitions:
- Race: it’s the species of your character. They have physical differences and, while they get abilities, they rarely evolve as the character levels up.
- Background: flavor with some minor mechanical benefits! They describe where a character comes from before starting the adventure.
- Subclass: a more narrowed-down version of the class. Think of it as specializations!
Creating any of these three things is far easier than homebrewing a class, which means that getting a balanced game will be easier too. Plus, being a GM is already kind of a part-time job without having to design a class! But, if you’re certain, it’s really a class you’re envisioning, let’s go on to the next tip:
3. Consider how your class works with others
RPGs are (usually) collaborative games, which means that characters need to work well with each other! Something very important to remember is that a class should not be great at everything. Take DnD’s bard: it’s a jack-of-all-trades class, but specialized classes will often outclass (heh) it in their respective areas. A good way to start is figuring out where does your class fit in a traditional party’s composition:
- Tank: great at taking damage. It will usually be at the front of any battle, so make sure to give it an HP boost!
- Damage dealer: dealing damage is their jam. They’ll usually be in melee range too but won’t last as long as a tank.
- Ranged damage dealer: same as above, but keeping their distance! It could be an archer, a pistol-wielder, or even a stealthy assassin who runs in, gets a hit on their target, and runs back to the shadows.
- Caster: it’s fireball time! A caster’s abilities will all depend on magic and spells. They tend to be the squishiest of all and stay in the rearguard. When a class combines spellcasting with non-magical abilities (like a Paladin, for example), you’ve got yourself a half-caster!
- Utility: healers are precious resources! But utility classes go beyond just healing: tracking, exploration, lockpicking and trap disabling, and anything that can be useful outside action scenes goes here.
This classification is not an exact science, and you might find that your class doesn’t quite fit a single category, or maybe it just embodies part of it. That’s fine! For example, a Paladin might be a tank and a half-caster. Rogues tend to combined damage dealing, or ranged damage dealing, with quite a lot of utility. It’s usually a good idea to look at a class that fills a similar role to the one you’re creating and analyze it. How does it play along with other classes? What are its limits and, most importantly, why are they there? Remember that limitations will make playing the game more fun!
4. Remember to playtest when making your own DnD class!
Make sure you’ve checked how your new class works in the field! Try it solo first. Yes, playing a group game with yourself will be weird, but it’s the best way to test it. Create a small party of characters (three is fine), one of which is your homebrew class, and put them in combat against some easy-to-run enemies. Make sure to note down any issues you see and fix them. After you’re satisfied with what you have, it’s time to test it with others!
Put together a small group of players and make sure to tell them clearly that it will be a playtest session: balance issues are expected! To help with it, use the standard character creation options: standard array (instead of rolling for stats), the recommended class-background combination, and so on. For your homebrew class, make sure to give it to a player that you trust to give you honest (but useful) feedback. After all, getting feedback is the goal of the session!
During the game, note down any issues with the class, and be sure to watch your players’ reactions too. Are they confused by certain class abilities? Are the other players feeling out of place with the new class, or unclear about your vision? Once the game is finished, don’t forget to have a feedback session! Ask them about the issues you noticed and let them tell you their thoughts too. Don’t start giving them long answers (or even worse, excuses!) for the parts they didn’t like: just note them down for your next revision. And now it’s just a matter of iterating! Keep trying new things based on your players’ feedback and try to get other playtest groups to compare opinions.
5. Create a striking visual to share with your players!
Visuals are great to quickly represent what a class is all about. Old man with a robe and a thick tome? Probably a wizard. Archer dressed in green and brown clothes? That’s a ranger! Adding a visual reference to your class will let your players know at a glance what to expect. “But I can’t draw!” I hear you say. No worries, I can’t either! First, make sure your class description is well-structured—you can use World Anvil’s class statblock for that! If you’re wondering how that will look, check out this example from RiverFang, a member of our community.
As for the visual representation, there a lots of options for character portaits, but Eldritch Foundry lets you create a striking character miniature in an easy-to-use browser interface. You can of course get it in physical form, but you can also convert it into a regular image file. And their huge assets library is so flexible you’ll be able to create any kind of character you can imagine!
Create amazing gorgeous miniatures with Eldritch Foundry
Eldritch Foundry is an amazing web tool to design miniatures for your amazing characters! Using a video game-like character customizer, you’ll be able to create your character in seconds. And with all the different options available to you, turning your character concept into reality is a piece of cake! The character creator is completely system-agnostic, which means you’ll be able to create characters that fit any class you can imagine. So don’t forget to check them out and start creating your characters!
Have you ever created homebrew classes or subclasses? What are your homebrew tips?