If you’re here, that means you want to either A) learn to balance your own 5th edition DnD homebrew class, B) learn to judge the balance of a homebrew class that is not your own, or C) learn to do both.
What follows is my Guide to Balancing (and Judging the Balance of) Homebrew classes. It covers everything from the simple basic principles of 5e design philosophy to the common pitfalls any homebrewer can find themselves in.
IMPORTANT! Bear this in mind: This is not a guide on how to make a homebrew class. It does not cover level-by-level construction. This is a guide on balancing homebrew classes. It covers design principles, making comparisons, and identifying excess and deficiency.
As of 07/05/2019, the GMBinder and Website versions have been edited for grammatical and spelling errors, slightly better wordflow, and improved GMBinder text spacing to reduce text spillage on multiple zoom percentages. The substance of the material has not changed.
As of 04/28/2020, the GMBinder and Website versions have been edited to reflect completion of the sequel article, “Leuku’s Discussion on Innovative Class Design”, and the addition of two new homebrew classes, the Bastion and the Mistborn.
GB(JB)HC = Guide to Balancing (and Judging the Balance of) Homebrew Classes
Respecting the tiers of play means ensuring you fulfill minimum average damage expectations… – GB(JB)HC “Tiers of Play: Respect Them!”
“To begin with, since using feats is an optional rule, it’s important to never assume that a particular feat will be a part of the game. For instance, a class can’t refer to a feat, and feats should never be granted as class features.” – UA: Feats Article
Because at the end of the day, if you are presenting your homebrew class for public consumption, you must be able to convince the general public that your class is worth existing, and that means being able to justify why it has any given feature.
– GB(JB)HC “Primary Features”
Your class’ features do not exist in a vacuum – they stack upon a foundation of basics. – GB(JB)HC “Class ‘Starter Kits'”
The balance of any given feature does not exist in a vacuum, but in a continuum of all of the features combined. – GB(JB)HC “The Good: The Direct Comparison”
You have to justify every single feature you take from another class.
– GB(JB)HC “The Bad: ‘This is stepping on the toes of X class'”
Justify, Justify, Justify! No matter what you do, you must justify it. If you can justify it, then you can do almost anything.
– GB(JB)HC “The Bad: The Argument from Tradition”