Design and Development

Welcome to Design and Development. This is the "behind the scenes" area of the site - backstage, the utility tunnels, root access… I think you get the point. Anyway, this is where all the design work gets done. All discussions will be linked here, and I've also included some random stuff too, like a short essay on how to create a PrC, the flowchart I used while I was working on Project Phoenix, etc.

Before I get to the links, I just wanted to talk about how I design rules. I go by a set of rough guidelines - four questions, which go something like this (in order):

Does it make sense?
In short, does the rule make sense? Does it fit into the world or system you're building? Does it break immersion? If someone read the rule in a book or encountered it in a game, would they stop and say "Huh what??"

Does it work?
I'm talking about on paper, not under playtesting. There's no real point in playtesting something that you can prove, on paper, won't ever work.

Is it balanced?
The corollary to the above. There are plenty of rules, monsters, items, etc. that seem to work on paper, but show up as badly over- or underpowered in play, or someone finds a loophole you missed, or whatever.

Is it fun?
Simply put, does it improve the gaming experience? Can the players remember it easily, can the DM use it without much trouble, and is everyone cool with it? Sometimes you'll come up with a rule that you think is really cool, works, and is balanced… but everyone hates (been there, done that). Or sometimes you won't even get to the testing stage - you posit the idea and it immediately gets shot down (been there too).

Obviously everyone's standards and group are different, so something that works for your group may not for another. Designing for a few people is easy, because you generally know those folks, what they like, and how they play, and you can customize rules for them alone. Designing for a generic system that could be used by many isa lot harder, because you have to contend with the vast amount of material already out there, as well as the fact that you will never, ever, be able to answer yes to all four questions for every group - a majority is the best you could ever hope for.

Oh, and before I forget: Always balance rules against the core. Ignore all those splatbooks and optional supplements - you can't assume that group XYZ has them, and you can't possibly balance something taking into account all those other variables. Players will always find a way to break the rules, given enough time; it's the individual DM's job to prevent it.

Design Diary

15 Apr 08: I want to do 3.75. Am I serious? Sure. Am I crazy? Most likely.

25 Apr 08: Starting at the Beginning. That's always the best place to begin, isn't it? For me, it was with the skill system.

6 May 08: Classes. While I was working on skills, I decided to take a look at the sorcerer, that sadly underpowered and oft-neglected redheaded stepchild of the class pantheon….

20 May 08: Races and Setting. While working on the races, I realized that we really needed some background for them…

21 Jun 08: "We're going back... to the future!" Way back in my first DD entry, I talked a little bit about backwards compatibility…

27 Jul 08: Dr. Spock Eats a Hindu Hamburger. I've been working on the spells for about a month now…

7 Aug 08: Rituals. In my last entry, I made reference to rituals…

17 Aug 08: Back to the Future, Pt. II. I should be writing about (and working on) magic items at this point, but…

28 Aug 08: Magic Items, Pt. I - Weapons and Armor. Ah, magic items. The favorite part of any player's D&D game…

3 Sep 08: Magic Items, Pt. II - Everything Else. I just finished the magic items…

27 Sep 08: "I want to play a rakshasa fighter/rogue/wizard/Assassin!" As I said, I've been working on a fix for multiclassing…

11 Oct 08: "Ugh, I don't feel so good..." Poisons and diseases. If ever there were a "This is a really cool idea that utterly fails in practice" rule…

17 Oct 08: "Rawr! I'm a monster!" I've been working on the monsters for about a month now…

31 Oct 08: "Dragon!!" Dragons have always been an iconic monster of D&D…

9 Dec 08: The phoenix has landed. Today is a red-letter day. It's the culmination of 9 months of work…

1 Jan 09: "What... is... it? It's it!" I started working on the epic material last weekend…

11 Jan 09: Legendary classes. When I started working on the legendary classes…

25 Mar 09: "Rawr! I'm an EPIC Monster!" After hanging out on Upper Krust's forum for a bit, I got the urge to do some epic game design….


The discussions are broken up by section, similar to the navigation bar at the top.

The Basics


Exploration and Movement

Spells and Magic


  • Combat (includes maneuvers, death & dying, temporary hit points, tactical movement, modifiers, and called shots & critical hits)
  • Turning





How to Design a Prestige Class. A short essay that walks you through creating a PrC. Includes the Hunter PrC (it's 3.5 stats, but you can find the new version here.

Project Phoenix task organization chart. This is the chart I made in Excel to map out what needed to be done, and in what order - how all the subsystems interacted with each other.

Weapon and Armor Value System. An Excel spreadsheet, along with a text doc, detailing a valuing system for weapons and armor.

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