…Is that classes ain’t no thing.

Does anyone remember the complaints about Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons character classes being obnoxiously front-loaded? Well, Fourth Edition didn’t just “fail” to fix this problem, Wizards of the Coast technically compounded the problem.

Instead of spreading out class features across levels for characters to grow and develop or whatever, classes literally get everything at 1st level — and just get more of what they got at 1st level as they grow in power. That’s why multiclassing fails.

Of course in the process of making classes more front-loaded, they actually became (arguably) more balanced in terms of raw power. One or two stale class features can still ruin an entire character class (e.g. spellbook), but the field is (more) level.

Then of course, we have Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies. These don’t so much supplement the front-loading, what they do is essentially “reset” the playing field every ten levels — albeit with less success at higher levels.

The interesting thing about Fourth Edition is that it’s actually easier to create a whole new class than it is to multiclass. So many features and powers feed into one another that mixing classes of different roles and power sources has disastrous results.

Admittedly, despite it being easier to make a new class than cross two or more existing classes, creating a Fourth Edition class can be a daunting process. First, you need a really hardcore concept for the class that can actually stand to be diluted somewhat.

Your concept has to be both narrow and yet flexible, like a sapling. Because a character class does not a character make. Remember your class is going to be attached to a race, and a theme to boot — you need to take both into account.

Last week I started a project to “decode” the Fourth Edition character classes, and I think I very nearly completed the process over the weekend. There are still a few gaps in the logic, but I’m sure I can reliably produce fun and balanced 4e classes.

Once I can verify my findings, I’ll happily post my findings here on my blog for aspiring designers to review, comment upon, and share. Of course you’ll have an easier time getting everything if you read my other Fourth Edition “discoveries.”