Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Welcome to Part 3 of Zen & the Art of Character Creation. In Part 1, we discussed character styles and design philosophy, and in Part 2, we looked at choosing a race and the effect that your choice can have on your build. In this installment, we'll be looking at class selection, multiclassing and some hazards you can avoid with a little planning.

When selecting a class, you should first consider the roll; or mechanics that you want your character to utilize. What you want your character to be able to do should be foremost in your mind. No matter what it comes down to, your class will fit into one of a few categories.


Warriors are characters who focus on combat. They generally have a high hit die, high base attack bonus and often have a high Fortitude save bonus as well. Fighters, samurai and knights are all examples of warrior characters as are martial adepts (see Book of Nine Swords) and hybrid magic-users like paladins, rangers, hexblades, sohei and psychic warriors.


Skill-users are characters who prefer to use their many natural abilities to get along in the world. For the most part they have a mid-level base attack bonus and a high Reflex save bonus, although many have multiple high save bonuses. Some, like rogues, monks, ninjas and soulblades don't have access to any magic, but many more like bards, binders and spellthieves possess moderate magic, or supernatural abilities to augment their skills. Also, aura-based classes like the dragon shaman and marshal can be considered skill-users.


Priests generally gain their power from an external, usually divine source. Most have a mid-level attack bonus and a high Will save bonus. Clerics, druids, favored souls and shugenjas are all examples of traditional priest-type classes. Most incarnum users and some psionisists like the divine mind, are less traditional, but still fit nicely into the mold.


The last type of class, spellcasters generally use powerful magic or spell-like abilities as their first resort when confronted with an obstacle. Such classes usually provide small hit dice, a low base attack bonus and generally a high Will save bonus. Wizards, sorcerers and wu-jen are all traditional spellcasters. Psions and wilders are both examples of psionic spellcaster-type classes, while warlocks, dragon adepts and shadowcasters are all examples of spell-like ability focused spellcasters. Also included in this type are the ultra-specialized spellcaster; the war wizard, beguiler and dread necromancer.

No matter what kind of class you want to play, there are a few things that you need to consider:

Hit Dice: If you're the kind of player who likes to rush out into battle, you'd do better with a warrior or priest-type character. Staying alive in the thick of things can be difficult, even for high-level adventurers, so plan accordingly for how you like to play.

Party Makeup: What does the party need as a whole? At the very least, a party needs a warrior, a skill-user and either a priest or a spellcaster. A good player can make a character that the party needs, and still have a character they want to come back to time and time again. There's enough variety in each class type that a character shouldn't feel restricted in their final choice.

What you can Play: Not every player can effectively use every type of class. Knowing what works for you will give you a richer and overall more enjoyable playing experience.

Plan for the Future but Keep an Eye on the Past: If you're planning to take levels in a prestige class, or you've planned a build, that's great, but don't cripple yourself in the meantime. Try to keep your power-level consistent throughout your progression and avoid being too weak to be effective or starting out too powerful and tapering off quickly.


Multiclassing can be an excellent way to consolidate your character's powers or branching out into new abilities. Players should be cautious to make sure they keep any alignment or multiclassing restrictions in mind. Players should also try to make sure that the ability scores and their class abilities are both complimentary to both classes. Monks and clerics multiclass very well together, as do hexblades and warlocks.

Some Things to Avoid when Choosing Classes

Dead Levels

Levels where you don't gain access to new abilities or feats are bad. When you aren't gaining an increase to base attack bonus, or saving throws, gaining a bonus feat for your level or even an ability score increase, that's worse. Try to make sure you always have something going on.

Dead levels are something to avoid at all cost. Prior preparation and good planning can help you never see a single one, and that means that your character remains fresh and new throughout their progression.

Extremely Low Base Attack Bonus

Multiclassed characters with two non-high Base Attack Bonuses are usually plagued with an extremely low Base Attack Bonus, even possibly lower than the lowest ones available to single-classed characters. While this might not mean much to a wizard who can throw around area of effect spells, you will eventually need to hit something at least once in your campaign.

Putting it Past 20th

So you've built a character and played it for a while and now you're an epic-level character. What's left? How do you plan for the future when you've arrived?

Well, for the most part, if you've followed these basic guidelines, you won't need to. Epic level characters are powerful enough that they generally don't need an intricate plan beyond 20th level. Just stick with the design basics and your character should do well.

So that covers it for class selection in character design. Join us next time for Part 4 of Zen & the Art of Character Creation when we'll be discussing skills and feats.

Did you like this article? Then try:

Bookmark and Share