AD&D (2nd Edition) DMG, pg32-35: Creating New Character Classes. This is an optional rule, but one that has always piqued my curiosity. I played with these rules when I first started as a DM and I quickly threw them out. They proved difficult to use as they tended to produce classes with little to no focus, and the experience requirements were too high compared to the standard classes. It was an interesting concept, but one that player out poorly.
Fast-forward to 3rd Edition and we had so many different classes, with more added every few months, that it seemed unnecessary to explore new ideas. When I included prestige classes (and who didn’t, really?) it was as though the market was saturated with options. Most of the time my players read about the different classes and conducted thought experiments, or ran test scenarios, to determine the best combination of race + class + prestige class + feats + magic items… but rarely did we see any of these played in the game. They were either too complicated or convoluted – after all, what kind of background will lead a barbarian to take levels in bard and then druid and then assassin and then… – or they just took too much time away from the game itself.
Keep in mind, too, that during 3rd Edition there were no formal rules for creating a balanced or reasonable class. (I’m not advocating balance as a necessary, core design feature – far from it – but without a standard, it’s entirely up to the DM to artfully craft a class that is useful without overwhelming the game.) The entire process was one of trial and error, with not the slightest reliable guidance.
So 2E tried to provide guidance but failed because, in practice, the rules did not produce satisfactory results. And 3E provided no guidance but suggested that all DMs can create whatever class they like (by saturating the market with options).
All that aside, here’s the one thing that’s always bothered me: why can’t I recreate a core class using the 2E method?
If you don’t have access to the book, I’ll sum up: each class feature, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is assigned a numerical value. Take the list of class features and add up their values, and you have the class experience modifier. Multiple that modifier by the base experience table and you have the necessary experience for that class to achieve each level.
There are three ways that this method, as written in the 2E DMG, fails: 1) the modifiers were not balanced against each other. For example, in 2E AD&D, wizards and rogues use different base to-hit values. Yet the experience multiplier for a wizard’s and a rogue’s THAC0 are both -1. Or bonus hit points (beyond 9th level) of +2 or +3 are each worth +2 experience modifier. 2) The base experience chart does not follow the pattern suggested by the various experience tables. So even if the multipliers were reasonable and representative of the actual benefit an ability gave the player, you aren’t guaranteed that the final experience table will work against the core classes.
#3 is the biggest concern for me: I can’t recreate the experience chart of any core class. Consider the fighter:
Keep in mind that this chart is based on the modifiers listed in the DMG and thus excludes fighter abilities like followers or allowed magic items (since the DMG doesn’t break magic item use into sub-categories).
This gives us an experience table like this:
|Level||Base XP||Modified XP||Actual XP|
Clearly, there is something wrong here.
Yet I feel the concept is solid. All we need do is adjust the numbers and we’ve got a method for assigning a fair experience requirement for each class. It would also allow us to create hybrid classes, or entirely new classes, as required to fit whatever world or genre we’re playing in.
One last note: the core experience award method for D&D is, and always has been, based on fighting and defeating monsters. Experience awards for taking treasure were present in 2E and removed in 3E, but the core remained the same. Adventurers earn experience by fighting monsters and NPCs. Therefore, when we set the experience modifier for a class ability, we need to consider how that ability impacts the class’ strength in combat. The warrior THAC0 clearly offers the best to-hit chance and should be worth more as an experience modifier than a rogue’s Hide in Shadows skill. So long as we keep this in mind, I believe it’s possible to balance the classes in a way creates a dynamic, fluid and interactive playing field for the players.