Filling in the Blanks

In this blog, I went over a method you can use to “mathematically” categorize a character concept or class. This is largely useful for exploring character concepts in terms of mechanics, taking the key points of what an individual can do and mapping them on the pyramid to roughly gauge where they land class-role-wise.

However, the class pyramid isn’t limited to this use. It can be a very versatile tool if you know how to use it.


Say you use the pyramid to figure which class fits a character concept best. You want to make a character with just a touch of magic and maybe one skill to focus on, but largely they would be combat focused. As far as the pyramid goes, we’d want 2 to 3 points in each of magic and skill with the rest in combat. Generally, somewhere near the top of the pyramid but a couple steps away from the corner.

Before any archetypes, our best bets are Champion, Monk, Ranger, and maybe Inventor or Thaumaturge. With some specialization or archetype support, you can add Barbarian, Fighter, Swashbuckler, Gunslinger, and Magus. Certainly a plethora of options here. Depending on the exact feel and flavor you want, you can make any number of different characters.

Now, let’s instead assume you want to make a character with a healthy amount of skill and magic abilities – ideally about half and half –  and only nominal combat prowess. A role score of C1 M5 S5, give or take a point in each, basically the exact opposite of the previous character. What classes are at the middle of the pyramid’s base? …none, really. Bard is close, and if you made an Eldritch Trickster Rogue it could fit over there. Maybe a Thaumaturge with an archetype to shift its focus. Now, far from it for me to suggest Bard can’t do anything you need, but we’re still looking at three-ish class options? Compared to ten? Not nearly as flush with options.

The great thing about Pathfinder 2e is that you can absolutely adjust these role values considerably with just a few archetype feats. This void in the pyramid just takes a little extra effort to fill.

Or a whole new class.


Identifying an opening in the design space is one thing. Designing a class around it is another. “Skills and magic” only goes so far, and as stated earlier there are actually a few examples of that in the system already. That really only describes the class’s role. Two major factors make classes with similar role identities distinct from one another: core mechanics and class fantasy.

Core mechanics are a little hard to define but easy enough to identify. What’s the main thing a class does to perform its role? A barbarian Rages to deal more damage and take less. A ranger Hunts Prey to get benefits when fighting a designated target. An investigator Devises Strategems to attack with their intelligence or use other abilities in their kit. Lots of class abilities and feats rely on or augment core mechanics, like the Raging Athlete feat giving skill bonuses while raging or Monster Hunter allowing Recall checks when Hunting Prey. 

Another way to think about it specifically in P2e: what abilities do you get when you take the Dedication feat for a class’s archetype, and what abilities are specifically absent or missing? Both are good indicators. Ranger Dedication gives you Hunt Prey, but you cannot access Hunter’s Edge with the multiclass archetype. Multiclass investigators can get Clue In and Devise a Strategem, but they do not get Strategic Strike and cannot use Intelligence as their attacking stat.

Class fantasy – or job fantasy or character fantasy –  is more about the flavor and feel of a class, but the mechanics can and should tie into this in some way. It’s the in-world explanation and description of how the class executes its mechanics. The fluff around the crunch, so to speak. For example, Barbarian and Ranger are both primarily damage dealing martial classes. Their core mechanics – Rage and Hunt Prey – are both direct ways of increasing offensive capabilities. Their class fantasy separates them though. As a berserker warrior that throws everything they have at their foes in an all out attack, Barbarian gets bonus damage at the cost of a little AC. As a trained hunter that stalks their target so they can optimally take them down, Ranger gains bonuses and special actions they can take against a single designated target.

Or look at cleric and oracle; both are divine spellcasters with a large amount of casting feats and abilities that focus on specific areas like healing, elemental damage, etc. There are mechanical differences like Cleric being a prepared Wisdom based caster and Oracle being a spontaneous Charisma based caster, but what’s more important for this discussion is the flavor behind the classes.

Cleric gets their power by worshiping a deity that gives them access to spells, domains, etc. Oracle gets power from their mystery, which has both upsides and downsides thematically linked to their curse and revelation. Both get abilities from some other source bigger than themselves, but one is a reverent worship of a named deific being, and the other can be nebulous, unknown, and even unwanted. Similar mechanics, different implementations, unique character fantasies.

Take a class’s role identity, determine its core mechanics that let it perform well in that role, and develop a class fantasy around it to set it apart. Combined, you have the class’s schtick – its main mechanical and flavorful identity.


We know vaguely what this new class wants to be: a skill and magic based class with roughly equal weight in each.  All classes have some kind of combat stuff baked in, but that’s definitely lower priority in this case. I’m thinking of this as the skill-magic answer to magus being the combat-magic class; it can’t compete in either one quite as much as a purely devoted class, but it has good support for both and a unique way to combine them for its own purposes.

We also know a bit of what it wants to not be in order to stay unique: a sneaky backstabber that dabbles in magic, an improvising virtuoso that inspires others, or a loremaster that mystically activates hidden powers of objects. There’s nothing wrong with playing a skilled-caster with those classes, but there should be a theme or hook to play this that the others can’t fulfill, at least not automatically. This class’s default settings should not match the others. It needs to have something fundamentally different.


How do we build its specific identity from that? Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. If there were a big glaring vacancy in design space like this, it would have been filled already. So next time, I’m going to do what I always taught my students to do: brainstorm. Throw any and every idea down on paper to help get started.

Other Posts
  • Filling in the Blanks
    I went over a method you can use to “mathematically” categorize a character concept or class. However, the class pyramid isn’t limited to this use. It can be a very versatile tool if you know how to use it.
  • Make Love, Not Warlock
    Last in our trio of pseudo-warlocks uses the Psychic class. While there’s no exact copy of eldritch blast, Psychics are the superstars of cantrips and adding bonus effects on your spells.
    Magus is all about combining spells and martial prowess, perfect for a Blade Warlock. Their signature ability Spellstrike has you attack a foe with a weapon and unleash a spell against them all at once.

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