Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Step 7: Choose the Available Classes
Now that you've gotten the basic stepping stones of your campaign complete and you've selected the races that will fill it, it's time to start selecting the classes that will be available to your players and NPCs. Classes are extremely important to the flavor of your campaign, as they impart and evoke themes and feelings that can easily be used to flesh out the flavor.

Start with the Player's Handbook: The Player's Handbook contains 11 classes that should form the basis of most of your campaigns. These are the classes that your players will be the most familiar with, and they're the ones that are used most often in every single campaign setting. You're welcome, of course, to exclude any or all of these classes, but you should have a strong reason for doing so. For instance, most Oriental settings exclude bards, clerics, druids and paladins as they don't fit with the flavor of the rest of the campaign.

Remember your Races: Back on Steps 4 and 5, you chose and created the races for your campaign. Look back and make sure that your available classes include all favored classes that your races list. This might seem elementary, but it can be very embarrassing for a DM to spend a lot of time and energy making a campaign to only realize later, that one of the races has a favored class that's not available in the setting. While this is quite an easy thing to fix on the fly, it can damage credibility and your players will wonder what other mistakes you made.

What Magic Systems are you Using?: Back on Step 3, you identified the kinds of magic that were available in your setting and how prevalent they were. Go back to the work you've already done and see what you've selected. This will give you a good guideline for what classes you should and shouldn't include in your campaign setting. You're always welcome to revise your previous steps if you feel that things need to change.

The idea is, that there are so many different classes available to choose from, it can be extremely daunting to make a list. If you can eliminate several right off the bat, then you've lessened some of the load.

How Prevalent is your Magic?: Again, refer to Step 3, specifically the prevalence of each kind of magic in your setting. In settings where a system of magic is common, you can easily incorporate powerful and 'flashy' classes quite easily, without extending disbelief. Where a system of magic is more rare, the classes that are able to harness it are likely more low-key.

For instance, let's look at psionics. In a high-psionics setting, the soulknife, a class that creates blades of psionic energy that extends from their hands, is more common. A class like this shows off it's powers quite visibly, and there's very little denial that they harness a powerful force. In a low-psionics setting, this class probably would either be extremely rare, or simply unavailable to player characters.

Necessity First: You don't want to overwhelm your players with class options. Look at what's necessary for your campaign. Try to select classes by how they'll interact with the setting itself. If you're writing a campaign where theocracies control much of the world, clerics, paladins, favored souls, divine minds, and other religion-based classes will likely take the forefront and classes like spellthief might be unimportant in the greater scheme of things.

This is not to say that you can't include all the classes you want, but you should try to limit the class selection to a list of about 15 or so, but this can be increased for larger or more detailed settings.

Are your Classes Thematically Unique?: This is one of the more difficult questions to ask yourself, and the reason why, is because it takes quite a bit of analysis. Most classes are unique from one another in both abilities and theme. While having a theme is good, it's also quite important to show contrast between your choices.

For example, consider a campaign setting, where the creator is thinking about including infiltrators (Kingdoms of Kalamar), lurks (Complete Psionic), ninjas (Complete Scoundrel), rogues and spellthieves (Complete Scoundrel). Each of these classes focuses on the same basic idea, stealth, high skill usage and a form of bonus damage. Beyond the mechanical similarities, they all have the same basic flavor (or role). This would be redundant. One, or two classes that share a theme can be good, but including more than that should be cautioned against.

Step 8: Select your NPC Classes
This step is somewhat less important than the last. NPCs typically have levels in classes that are underpowered when compared to those the player characters use. For the most part, your campaign will probably use all five NPC classes included in the Dungeon Master's Guide: adept, aristocrat, commoner, expert and warrior.

Depending on what level of magic is available in your campaign, you may want to exclude adept from the list of available NPC classes. If you're running a high-magic campaign, you may even want to look into including an NPC class like the magewright (Eberron Campaign Setting). The choice will ultimately be up to you as Dungeon Master.

Step 9: Making your Own Classes
Much like Step 5, this is entirely optional. Not only is it not always necessary to make your own classes, it can be a very time-intensive step. Creating a class takes a lot of testing and a lot of revision, and is not recommended for inexperienced DMs.

Even if you don't create your own class, there are some things that you can do to help separate your campaign from others your players may have experienced before.

Variant Classes: Take an existing class. Change around a few class abilities and write new flavor. Once you're done, you've created a variant class. Variant classes are an easy way to inject theme into your campaign. Just remember, for every ability you add, you must take abilities of equal power away. The key in this is to create a balanced class.

For example, consider an Oriental Adventures campaign set in a world based on ancient China. Obviously, the samurai (Complete Warrior), a class based on a Japanese warrior, would not be appropriate. By removing some abilities: medium and heavy armor proficiency, daisho proficiency, iaijutsu master and the two swords as one ability tree, you strip out much of the 'samurai' from the class. Add in a dodge bonus progression, the ability to qualify for fighter feats as a fighter of half the class's level and bonus feats from a specially selected list, and you've turned the class into a dexterous warrior who relies equally on skill and reputation called the swordsman.

Variant Class Abilities: Near the end of Wizards of the Coast's production of 3.5 Edition material for Dungeons and Dragons, they introduced the concept of variant class abilities. This is much like the variant class, but it relates to a single ability, like the cleric's turn undead class feature. By swapping out a single ability, you can change a class's focus dramatically. Consider a paladin who gains an animal companion that would be considered sacred to their deity instead of gaining a special mount, or a ranger who gains bonuses for fighting in specific terrain types instead of against specific creature types.

Don't Forget NPCs: If you're running a setting that varies greatly from the norm, or if your setting uses different magic systems than others, you may want to consider creating an NPC class to illustrate the prevalence of one kind of group of people common to your setting. For instance, if you're creating a setting where psionics replace magic entirely, you might want to consider a psionic version of the adept class. Any NPC class that you create should be as powerful as the other NPC classes; that is to say, it should be noticeably weaker than a class that your player characters will select.

If you decide to create an entirely new class, a variant class or class ability, always remember to test what you've created. The same rules given in Step 5-A apply here.

Step 10: Flavor your Classes
Your final class choices need to be examined and explained to your players. Remember: they will be coming in fresh when reading what you've created, and they might not necessarily know that one class has a special place in the world unless you explicitly tell them. If wizards are hunted, or paladins considered part of a noble hereditary caste, you should write that down.

Try aiming for writing about one to two paragraphs for existing classes. If you've created a variant class, you'll probably want to write about three or four paragraphs maximum. If you've gone all out and created a new class, you'll want to give it about the same amount of attention as the Player's Handbook gives to any class it contains.

The end result is that you should encapsulate all the information the players will need to play as the class they select. Your information should be insightful, and necessary. More esoteric information can also be included, but make sure not to write too much, or else your players won't read your work.

Prestige Classes: an Aside
Now you might be asking yourself: where are the prestige classes? Well, we haven't quite gotten there yet. Prestige classes contain quite a lot more campaign-specific flavor than ordinary classes and that's by design. Only once most of the flavor and world has been created will we come back and work on creating prestige classes for your campaign.

If you've got good ideas for prestige classes, write them down, because we most certainly will come back to them. One of the best things a DM can do is make notes, even if they are generic. If you're ever short on an idea, you can always refer to your notes for inspiration.


  1. Select the classes (see Step 7) that will be available in your campaign setting. You'll want to have about 10 - 15 classes for your players to choose from. Keep your previous choices of magic systems and races in mind while you do this.
  2. Select the NPC classes (see Step 8) that will be available in your setting. Most likely you'll be choosing the five basic NPC classes from the Dungeon Master's Guide, but if your setting requires it, you can make variations.
  3. If your setting requires it, try your hand at creating a new class, variant class or variant class feature (see Step 9)that exemplifies how the classes in your setting are different than their peers in other campaigns.
  4. Finally, write some flavor text (see Step 10) for all the classes you've selected in Step 7 and any new or variant classes you created as part of Step 9. If you feel it's required or you just want the practice, try also writing some flavor text for your campaign's NPC classes. Try to keep the amount you write within the guidelines described above.


  1. The classes available in the campaign will be: artificer, barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, paladin, psion, psychic warrior, ranger, rogue, shadowcaster, sorcerer, swordsage and wizard. The monk class does not fit with the flavor of the campaign setting so it is not available. Artificer can be found in the Eberron Campaign Setting, psion and psychic warrior can be found in the Expanded Psionics Handbook, the shadowcaster can be found in Tome of Magic while the swordsage may be found in Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords.
  2. Adepts, aristocrats, commoners, experts and warriors will all be available as NPC classes in this campaign. The common folk of Penumbra are, physically speaking, not too much different than those in other settings.
  3. Predator's Vision
    Druids who live in Penumbra usually live apart from the decadence of the remaining inhabited cities and sometimes must make due for weeks without a proper light source. These brave few have developed powerful night vision that allows them to function in even the most gloomy environment without being inhibited.
    Class: Druid.
    Level: 4th.
    Replaces: If you select this class feature, you do not gain resist nature's lure.
    Benefit: You gain darkvision out to a range of 60 feet. If you already possess darkvision from another permanent source (such as through your race), the range of your darkvision increases by 60 feet.

    Dawn's Caress
    The few paladins who remain in Penumbra must guard against the twin threats of evil and the even encroaching darkness. Channeling their inner strength, these holy warriors can call forth a small beacon to stand against the shadow.
    Class: Paladin.
    Level: 2nd.
    Benefit: You gain the ability to use lay on hands to cast light as a spell-like ability. Doing so uses up 2 points of healing for the day. This variant class feature augments, but does not replace the standard paladin ability to lay on hands.
  4.     Artificer: Using artifacts gleaned from dig sites of the alien ships that crashed during the Cataclysm, some learned men and women have reverse engineered their own devices. This study has led to the growth of artificers, who find their equipment as often as they create it. Their ability to infuse objects with power, create magical and psionic items and their insight into excavated alien devices have made artificers extremely sought after, especially by the rich.
        Humans and halflings make up the majority of artificers, although half-elves, githspawn and mongrelfolk also find the calling to take up working with machines. Some gnomes also find the path of the artificer to their liking, and many craft items that manipulate light and shadow.

        Barbarian: With the decline of civilization on the borders of the shadows, many have turned to barbarism as a way of survival as they slowly migrate towards safer areas. These warriors, who throw themselves into battle with suicidal recklessness are seen by some romanticists as the last truly free people in the world. Others see barbarians as curiosities, protection or even entertainment.
        Orcs and half-orcs are most likely to become barbarians, but many other races, such as elves, humans, half-elves and dwarves take up the class as well, especially if they come from an uncivilized region of Penumbra.

        Bard: The rich and idle, or the poor and idle are always looking for new ways to spend their time. Entertainment is often how they occupy themselves. It is from these ranks of these unsatisfied people, that bards generally come from. Many are not used to adventuring, but would prefer to work safely within the confines of a well-protected city. Those who leave and travel are generally thrill seeking, escaping from trouble, or just looking for a new experience.
        Humans and half-elves are by far the most likely races to become bards. Gnomes occasionally become bards as well, mainly to learn new ways to manipulate their environment. Strangely enough, elans also become bards infrequently, showing off their often exceptional personal skills. Elves also sometimes take up this class, often as an attempt at reconnecting with their racial past.

        Cleric: With the massive changes that rocked Penumbra in the time of the Cataclysm, so too came changes to the deities who guided the world. Those gods and goddesses that remain often promote survival, revelry and commonly doom. Clerics of Penumbra are little different than those of other settings.
        Dwarves, whose theocracy of flame controls their lives, are most often clerics. All other races have clerics in their ranks as well, but not in the same concentration as the dwarves.

        Druid: Living purposefully in the shadows of the wilderness, the druids find themselves on the front-line in the battle against the ever encroaching gloom. It is their sworn duty to protect what little nature still exists on Penumbra, and they find themselves in a losing position. As the world seems ever more hopeless, fewer and fewer find the calling of the druidic arts to be relevant. One faction, known as the Duskhunters take steps to separate themselves from what they consider to be decadence and take to living without even light. These Duskhutners often take the Predator's Vision ability (see above).
        Elves and orcs, being the ones who live closest to the shadows are the most likely to be druids. Often those that are exiled from civilization, usually half-elves, half-orcs and the occasional mongrelfolk, also take up druidic training.

        Fighter: Fighters have much the same function in Penumbra as they do in other campaign settings. They are well-trained warriors who serve a variety of functions ranging from brigand to guard.
        Shadowswyfts and humans are often fighters, but generally all races produce members of this class in more or less the same frequency.

        Paladin: Paladins, holy warriors who worship the few remaining deities of goodness and purity left in Penumbra are a dying breed. Even the exalted Order of the Inevitable Dawn finds itself with fewer and fewer members every year. Paladins are generally welcomed everywhere they go, as their innate ability to discern and destroy evil is invaluable for survival.
        Paladins are uncommon in Penumbra, but humans and dwarves the races that most frequently take levels in this class.

        Psion: As an after-result of the Cataclysm, some people in Penumbra discovered that they had the ability to use their minds to accomplish great feats. These psions are often as powerful as wizards, but rely on only themselves to produce their wonders.
        Elans and githspawn are more likely than other races to become psions, although the gift often affects those who live close to the long-buried alien ships that caused the Cataclysm.

        Psychic Warrior: Like the psion, the psychic warrior harnesses psionic power, however, they focus their powers in aggressive ways, using them to provide advantages in combat. Psychic warriors are often quite popular in gladiatorial competitions, as their abilities allow them to perform spectacular maneuvers without warning.
        Much like with psions, elans and githspawn are the most likely to become psychic warriors, but the gift can appear in any race, often those who live closest to the alien ships that caused the Cataclysm.

        Ranger: With their superb wilderness survival skills, rangers often find a place acting as guides or protection for others who wish to travel in dangerous areas (such as any area outside a city). Rangers often choose animal companions who work well in darkness such as dire rats, owls, snakes or wolves.
        Rangers are common among many races, but elves show a particular knack for wilderness travel.

        Rogue: With a large amount of darkness creating constant concealment, and a large amount of riches held by the remaining people of Penumbra, rogues are quite common. They serve a number of purposes, such as thieves, guides, skilled tradesmen, assassins, and so on. In that respect, they are much like their peers in other campaign settings.
        Several races are known rogues: elves, halflings, mongrelfolk and shadowswyfts are all common. Every race produces rogues though, but not in the same numbers.

        Shadowcaster: Darkness is omnipresent in Penumbra, and those who have mastered the secrets of controlling the shadows are alternatively revered and reviled. Some see shadowcasting as a noble pursuit, while others, like the dwarves see it as heresy, punishable only by death.
        Gnomes are most often shadowcasters, but other races like shadow genasi, humans and shadowswyfts are also frequently shadowcasters. Since this form of magic is so commonplace, members of all races, even the occasional rogue dwarf can become shadowcasters.

        Sorcerer: The inborn talents of sorcery are rare, but those who are lucky, or unlucky enough to possess them can be counted as some of the most powerful people in Penumbra. A crafty and resourceful sorcerer can carve a large domain for themselves by assuming control over an abandoned city or discovering and fortifying a tower or other building. Their powers, without reliance on outside research and study make them quite effective at surviving outside of cities for extended periods of time.
        Any member of any race could potentially be a sorcerer. The gift is extremely rare and could appear at any time.

        Swordsage: Contrasted to the power of spellcasters, many would seem to pale. Swordsages however, study and meditate on ancient combat techniques that harness supernatural powers. In the time since the Cataclysm, there has been something of a renaissance for swordsages, as there is a renewed interest in the abilities that they can learn.
        Swordsages appear infrequently all across Penumbra. Gnomes often train in the Shadow Hand school, while dwarves focus on the Desert Wind. Other schools are studied as well and by other races too, but the unique abilities provided by both Shadow Hand and Desert Wind make them invaluable pretty much everywhere.

        Wizard: There is a plethora of magical items, writings and lost spells strewn throughout the world. It is the wizard who can make the most use of these treasures, and perhaps if escape from Penumbra is to be had, it will be by a wizard. Those who make a living collecting magical items often find themselves in possession of much more. The power that comes with magic, either from spell or item, attracts followers, servants and others who wish to share both protection and comfort.
        Humans are the most likely to become wizards, but with hard study, any race can become one. Some, like dwarves, orcs and half-orcs simply don't have the patience or the mental acuity needed to study magic as a profession.

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