February 24, 2016

Making custom classes using my rather confusing percentage based system, example #1; Custom Class: Goblin

If you don't want to read a bunch of thoughts on making custom classes, then just skip to the end.  There is a Goblin PC class there with a list of abilities and an xp chart.

I've been thinking lately about customized classes.  I made this whole system a while back hoping to help DMs who like to create custom classes but worry about weighting the new xp charts so that they all stay relatively balanced with the original seven classes.  When adding a new class with more powerful abilities I always like to make sure that the class also has correspondingly higher xp requirements for leveling up.  Some DMs are probably comfortable looking at a list of class abilities and simply throwing out some numbers on an xp chart.  I can't really do that.  I need a method.  My method still has a bit of guesswork involved (especially regarding unique powers and abilities), but I feel like the framework helps to keep me honest and impartial.

Testing out xp charts takes a long time.  Over the course of many game sessions you watch the new classes level up beside the regular old fighters and thieves.  While I made this system quite a while back, I've only recently decided to be quite proud of it.  The classes (and xp charts) that I have made seem to be leveling up characters at appropriate rates.  I'm sure that more testing is needed (especially for higher level play), but for the levels below 10 it seems to work quite well.

My old posts about this custom class system are a bit of a mess.  I just sort of threw the whole thing out there without a very good explanation of how to use it.  I'm sure some people found it to be too frustrating and confusing to make proper use of (Sorry!), so I thought it was high time that I try to put together some kind of walkthrough to help people who are trying to understand it all.  I've made some classes and posted them on the blog here, but I probably could have done a better job of explaining how I get from the class concept beginning to the end where I have a whole list of abilities and an xp chart.

I plan to write out two more guides after this one (but don't hold your breath) in which I'll give a kind of rambling stream of consciousness account showing how I make a custom class from start to finish.  I hope someone out there finds this helpful, but sadly your guide in this endeavor is just as scatterbrained and descriptively challenged as ever.  Best of luck, gentle reader. 

For this first example I thought I'd start with a custom class for a Goblin.  When you combine muderhobo tactics and easy access to the Charm Person spell, I find that a party of PCs will eventually pick up a goblin henchman/mascot somewhere along the way.  After a few adventures together the players might want their goblin buddy to level up alongside the PCs, so I might as well help to facilitate this by building a custom class for goblins.

So, first thing I'm going to do is pull up my old blogpost "Custom Classes for B/X" in a new tab and kinda flip back and forth as I'm typing this out and building the class.  I'm going to go through each of those tables one by one, and then at the end I'll do some math to make the Goblin class xp chart.

Step 1 - Base XP
There are three different Base XP Charts listed at the top there, and I need to decide which one of them to use for the Goblin class.  I don't feel like goblins are going to be using spellbooks, so the one on the right is out.  I don't really see goblins tithing 10% of their gold to anyone, so not the one on the left either.  That leaves me the middle column marked "Standard".  Let's go with that.  It looks like this...

0 --------- Level 1
400 ------- Level 2
800 ------- Level 3
1600 ------ Level 4
3200 ------ Level 5
6400 ------ Level 6
12800 ----- Level 7
24000 ----- Level 8
48000 ----- Level 9
Level 10+
Add a flat amount to the total based upon hp gained

+100,000 --- +1 hp/level
+120,000 --- +2 hp/level
+130,000 --- +3 hp/level

OK!  I have the Base XP Chart picked out.  I'll set this aside for now.  In fact, this might work better as the last step.  I wanted to start here so that people would have a sense of what this whole process is working toward, but maybe it would serve better if it were at the end.  My blog (and brain) needs a better editor.

Step 1.5 - Write down "100%"
Every class starts with 100%.  As I go through each step I'll determine things like Hit Dice, Saving Throws, and special abilities; each of these will have a percentage point cost that adds onto this 100% base.  At the very end I'll tally up all these percentages and apply that total to the Base XP Chart from Step 1.  This will then give us the Goblin Class XP Chart.  Can't forget to start with this base 100% though.

I write down "Base: 100%".

Step 2 - Hit Dice
Hmm, how many hit points does a goblin gain each level?  Let me grab a drink while I take a moment to think about it.

I'm of the opinion that if you are going to give class levels to monsters then the entries in the monster manuals don't necessarily apply to level 1 monsters only, but show more of an average; like say up to level 2 or 3 at the top end.  I'm gonna to be a dick and give goblins fewer hit points than thieves and magic-users.  I don't want any PC thieves feeling silent resentment that their class is getting overshadowed by the mechanics of some crappy goblin class (I would absolutely delight in having their individual PC outshined by some crappy goblin NPC, but that is a whole different issue).  Looking at the class abilities side by side, I want it to be pretty obvious that goblins have the deck stacked against them.  This class needs to suck.  I'm gonna say that goblins get d3 hit points each level.  Glancing over at my Custom Class Tables I decide that the cost for d3 is +15%.

I write down "d3hp: +15%" underneath the 100% I wrote earlier.

Step 3 - Hit Progression
Goblin combat skills aren't up to fighter caliber for sure, but I still think they should fight better than a magic-user.  I'll have them use the Cleric/Thief Hit Progression table.  Incidentally, this also shows that goblins would get +1hp at level 10 and beyond, but I'm certain that I'm going to set their level limit low enough that it never comes into play.

I write down "Cleric/Thief Hit Progression: +30%". 

Step 4 - Level Limit 
Oh already?  I was just thinking about this.  Um, I'm gonna say that goblins max out at level 7.  I want the Halfling player look down their nose at the goblin and think to themselves "Well, at least I can get to level 8". 
I write down "Level Limit 7: +0%

Step 5 - Saving Throws
A lot of times I'll give classes with a low level limit access to the Dwarf/Halfling saving throws.  Not this time.  I think that goblins were meant to suffer.  I'm going to give them Thief saving throws, even knowing that they max out at level 7.  

I write down "Thief saves: +10%".

Step 6 - Armor
I'm a bit torn here.  I can picture goblins wearing hide armor and even repurposed dwarven scale mail, but I also know that I'm going to be giving goblins some thief type skills later, so maybe I should restrict them to only thief type armors?  Hmm, compromise.  I'll just mention in the class description that they can make use of many materials as armor, but that goblin piecemeal armor only ever gives the same protection as studded leather. 

 I write down "Padded, Leather, and Goblin Piecemeal: +10%".  Then I remember to include shield use and hurriedly write down "Oh and shields too: add another +10%"

Step 7 - Weapons
I always imagined that goblins were fairly small, so I'm thinking that they should have the same weapon restrictions as dwarves and halflings.  Being able to use any weapon costs +90%, so I'll just start with that and subtract off the weapons they can't use: Long Bows -5%, Quarterstaff -5%, Heavy Weapons -10%, and Pole Arms -15%.  

I write down "No Long Bows, Quarterstaff, Heavy Weapons, or Pole Arms: +55%".

Step 8 - Magic Items
I don't really see goblins using cleric or magic-user scrolls.  Goblins probably aren't much for literacy in general.  I don't really think that wands are their thing either.  It might be fun to let goblins use those items incorrectly, but there is no real reason to make them pay any xp cost for that.

I write down "Can incorrectly use cleric scrolls, magic-user scrolls, and wands.  Other magic items are fine: +30%". 

Step 9 - Extras
I'm of the opinion that goblins should have some thief skills, but not all of them.  Also, goblin will max out at level 7, so the PC thief is going be better at all this stuff eventually.  I think that Open Locks requires more intelligence and patience than a goblin has, goblins probably just bash locks open.  Backstab is another that I feel should be PC thief only, so that one is out too.  I think all the others are fair game though.  They should speak Common and Goblin, but that costs 0%, so I don't even write it down.

I write down "Remove Traps, Pick Pockets, Move Silently, Climb Sheer Surface, Hide in Shadows, Hear Noise: +60%".  Actually I wrote down each of those individually with a +10% after each one.  

Step 10 - Beyond Human Abilities
Infravision!  It's super handy.  And... um... I'm struggling to think of any other goblin ability.  Oh!  The monster listing in Labyrinth Lord says that they get -1 to-hit in full sunlight.  Also it says that their Infravision is 90' range... does that cost more than 60' infravision then?  Also they ride worgs, but it's not like humans pay extra xp to ride horses, so I'm just gonna call that +0%.  I'm thinking that the attack penalty in sunlight should cancel out the extra range bonus too, so I'll just have goblin infravision cost the same as the elf and dwarf versions.

I write down "Infravision 90' range, and -1 to hit in full sunlight: +15%"

Step 11 - Spell Progression
None. Zero. Just nothing.  I still reserve the right to use an NPC goblin shaman, but that's a class write up for another day.

I write down "Spellcasting: squat"

Step 12 - Make the damned XP Chart
Looking over the notes I've written...

Goblin Class
Base: 100%
d3hp: +15%
Cleric/Thief Hit Progression: +30%
Level Limit 7: +0%
Thief saves: +10%
Padded, Leather, and Goblin Piecemeal: +10%
Oh and shields too: add another +10%
No Long Bows, Quarterstaff, Heavy Weapons, or Pole Arms: +55%
Can incorrectly use cleric scrolls, magic-user scrolls, and wands.  Other magic items are fine: +30%
Remove Traps +10%
Pick Pockets +10%
Move Silently +10%
Climb Sheer Surface +10%
Hide in Shadows +10%
Hear Noise +10%
Infravision 90' range, and -1 to hit in full sunlight: +15%
Spellcasting: squat

So I total that up...

I write "TOTAL: 335%"

then a double check my math...
Then I triple check my math since I started drinking back at like Step 2...

the math still looks good!

Now I pull out that Standard Base XP Chart from back at Step 1, and multiply each of those X 3.35
I don't bother with the levels after 7 since that is now the goblin max level.  I end up with something like this...

3.35 X 0 = Level 1 ----- 0xp
3.35 X 400 = Level 2 ----- 1340xp
3.35 X 800 = Level 3 ----- 2680xp
3.35 X 1600 = Level 4 ----- 5360xp
3.35 X 3200 = Level 5 ----- 10,720xp
3.35 X 6400 = Level 6 ----- 21,440xp
3.35 X 12800 = Level 7 ----- 42,880xp

So, now is when I would usually polish it all up and look everything over once I was sober before I posted any of this to my blog, but this is for a crapsack goblin class so whatever.  Who cares, it's done.

I hope that this was enlightening, or at least interesting.  Not tedious?  oh well...

I certainly enjoyed it.  Making custom classes is a passion, if you enjoy it too then please say so in the comments.  I plan to do two more of these step by step guides.  Feel free to suggest new classes if you want to watch me stat them up with xp charts.

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