Power, Skill, and Scope (Dec 5, 2011)
Tiers For the Fallen (Aug 6, 2011)

Now the Brilliant Gameologist forum has gone down a few times and I want to make sure this information is preserved for posterity. I haven’t obtained permission from JaronK to re-post his words, so I will reorganize the contents of his list “in my own words,” as per a review. If he wants me to remove the list, I will happily do so.

First, what you need to understand about the Tier System is what it IS NOT: a ranking of “which classes are the best.” At its core, the Tier System is a pragmatic admission of the failing to effectively balance power between character classes in Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons. The Tier System is a tool for players and game masters.

Tiers are an objective determination of class potential. A poorly-built and poorly-played wizard will be no better than a warmage in terms of effectiveness, despite the difference in tier listing. Some classes, given access to supplementary materials, become substantially more powerful and potentially move up a tier (or more).

Character classes that are found across multiple tiers through utilization of alternate class features and supplementary material are italicized. Classes are organized “descending from core,” meaning that classes appearing in core material are listed first, followed by Complete series, Campaign Setting, and so on.

Composed entirely of classes who acquire world-altering abilities.

Cleric, Druid, Wizard, Archivist, Artificer…
Erudite (Spell to Power variant)

Classes have equivalent power of tier one but prove less versatile in play.

Sorcerer, Favored Soul, Psion…
Binder (online vestiges), Erudite (w/o Spell to Power)

Powerful specialist classes that fall short of world-altering power.

Bard, Beguiler, Dread Necromancer, Duskblade…
Crusader, Factotum, Psychic Warrior, Swordsage, Warblade…
Ranger (wildshape variant), Binder (w/o Summon Monster variant),

Specialist classes that excel in one area, proving less versatile in play.

Barbarian, Ranger, Rogue, NPC Adept…
Hexblade, Scout, Spellthief, Marshal, Warlock, Warmage…
Fighter (Zhentarium Variant)

Specialist classes that generally fail to excel, even in their own area.

Fighter, Monk, Paladin, NPC Expert…
Healer, Knight, Soulknife, Swashbuckler…
Ninja (Complete Adventurer or Rokugan version)…
Samurai (Oriental Adventures version)

Classes that fail to excel in any area.

NPC Aristocrat, NPC Commoner, NPC Warrior…
Samurai (Complete Warrior version), Truenamer

While there are indeed six tiers as listed, and I might feel compelled to apply my own system for measuring “scope” to characters, I have to point out that the vast majority of these characters fall in perhaps one of two to three of the scopes.

Tier one and two characters fall in either scope five or six, for their ability to effect other planes of existence, particularly at epic levels (21+), while every other class falls in scope three or less, given their limited access to fifth- and sixth-level spells, which provide the gateway to unlocking greater cosmic power.