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Overpowered, underpowered, balanced classes

Overpowered, underpowered, balanced classes

This is picking up from a discussion in a different thread. I'm particularly interested to hear Hyudra's answers if she'll share them, but also interested in other opinions. Since we already beat the fighters suck (or don't) and big 5 casters are over-powered debates to death elsewhere, hopefully we can avoid reprising that too much here. I'm less interested in extensive justification than in perceptions, though I guess I should be prepared for more arguments.

So, here's the question: Hyudra, you referred to "tier six" classes in your discussion in the other thread, implying that you (or someone) has come up with a ranking system for power-balance between classes. If fighters and monks are at the bottom, and the "big 5" (wizard, cleric, druid, archivist, artificer, was it?) are at the top, where do all the others fit in? And is the tier 2 to tier 5 difference in your opinion small enough to maintain reasonable playing balance? Anybody else out there have a ranking system, or a list of classes they think are woefully underpowered or horrifyingly overpowered? I'm focusing on regular classes, not prestige classes here, but interested in those in the Complete books and other supplements.

There was a link to a page around here somewhere...I think Viletta Vadim gave me that link, but I can't seem to find it. It was really useful and I forgot to bookmark it.

This is the generally accepted tier list. It's not gospel, but it's a very useful tool. Tier 5 is when you start getting to characters who are pretty much screwed. 2-4 is a more reasonable range. 3-5 can work, too.

Viletta provided a link in another post, (Edit: Viletta just revenge-ninja'ed me), wherein players discuss a 'tiering' of the classes. I more or less agree with the general idea, though personal impressions would place Paladin and Monk lower, and hexblade, IMHO, ought to sit one tier lower as well (the primary class feature - the curse - just doesn't work well at all unless you're using the revised version posited by the original author of the class - Most DMs will accept that, after which I agree it's suitable for Tier 4).

I only read through that thread a couple of days ago, and I do agree with a few of the ideas posited - that a 'Big5' isn't necessarily unbalanced if the rest of the group is within the same general power level, nor is a tier6 a problem unless you've got tier4+ in the group. If such is the case, it's relatively easy for Dms to adjust the enemy CR upwards or downwards to accomodate. The issue only arises if you have, say, a druid and a monk in the same group.

Thanks VV. It helps to see what you're using as a starting point, and the originator's viewpoint on what goes where and how to use his system.

My current party is sorcerer, beguiler, duskblade, binder, warlock, and rogue/fighter multiclass. Shouldn't be a horrible mix, in terms of balance between tiers (range 2-4, though the rogue/fighter player isn't a dedicated optimizer so he might end up needing a little help). We'll be testing what a party with very limited healing can do (I've homebrewed a healing-oriented vestige to tide the binder over until Buer becomes available)--new territory for me. I suspect I'll have to throttle back on the challenges in this campaign vis-a-vis how I ran Red Hand of Doom. There I had three of the big 5 (cleric, druid, wizard), a warlock, and a samurai (started out CW but we did a homebrew rebuild of the class partway through that worked pretty well) plus a cleric cohort, a scout (eaten by a dragon, main cleric was his replacement), and a barbarian and a ranger who began as PCs but became DMPCs. Four deaths--scout, barbarian (DM sacrificed him to a dragon to save another party member in an intentionally nasty encounter), cleric (bad luck in an ice devil encounter and raised for the final show down), and the ranger (in the final showdown, also intentionally sacrificed by DM). Two of my big 5 players were pretty self-restrained (druid had a hell-on-wheels animal companion but only used wild shape to scout, cleric was a heal-bot and often couldn't post, so didn't overpower anyone). The third, the wizard, was like a blooded warhorse--I had to keep a tight rein on him by requiring DM approval for non-PH spells, and I nerfed or nixed several of his proposals for them. I let him have a feat to learn four new spells per level, but the campaign is structured with minimal downtime, so I didn't have to worry about him fattening his spellbook too much. I homebrewed a prestige class for him that gave him some flavor he was looking for without breaking the game. I also gave the warlock a couple of nifty home-made toys to boost his power, and the final encounter ended up (by virtue of the encounter design and the players' reaction to it) being all his baby, which maybe wasn't so good, but every PC had many moments of glory, plus lots of individual roleplaying attention, so it worked out well. That is kind of what I was talking about in the other thread when I meant that I do a lot of tailoring to make things work--and I think that is very much in the spirit of what the poster of the tier system that VV linked proposes.

Hey VV, where do you put the Wu-jen on that system? How about the psionic classes?

I know you asked VV and not me, but I'd but the Wu Jen at tier 3, personally.

Psionic classes - no clue. Like incarnum classes, they're just not a class I'm thematically interested in, and as a result, I don't pay much attention to them.

Wu Jen would probably be Tier 2, borderline 3. Wilder is... something of a borked class, one not really worth using (shunting a Psion's casting stat to charisma will usually work better for the desired result), but their minute number of spells known would probably put them at Tier 3. Ardent is a bit wonky, but it makes Tier 3, maybe 2. Divine Soul sucks. Tier 5. Psychic Rogue is a superior incarnation of Rogue, ultimately. Tier 3, maybe a bit low on there. Lurk, I'm not too sure about; I don't have a great deal of experience with them. I'm guessing Tier 3-4. The rest are already placed, and I more or less agree with it.

Saw VV online and asked. Thanks for your input Hyudra. Now that I look again, I see he includes psionic classes but based mostly on hearsay rather than play experience.

Thanks VV.


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