I have a Player who is just smarter than me, and at first level managed to get 5k from his Tibbit family. I learned a few lessons, since I am still looking to resurrect my DM skillz.
- Be sure that nonPHB races are a good fit for your game. This isn’t to say that a race isn’t good for my game, since I always said that “anything goes, and you will meet every critter in the MMs at least once each.” In my ripe old age, 12 years since the day I began to play when I was 15, I’ve developed a curved model of available PCs. For playable races, my developments have led to my latest guideline: those in the Player’s Handbook (PHB), the Faerun Campaign Setting (FRC), Touched races (such as Fey-Touched, Fiend Folio), and Bloodlines (Unearthed Arcana).
- Confirm your PC’s backgrounds. I have never required backgrounds before Level 5 since many PCs do not agree with the Player/game when their “Character personality” becomes apparent. Some concepts are just not playable, which spoils the character. However, especially if your PCs have wealthy families, be sure that works with your plans; wealth is one of the ways that I found helps to curb crazy campaigns since money does help the world go round. It could very well be that, again in my old age, I got too cocky and stopped minding this aspect for a long while simply because I could. I just don’t like to micromanage Players.
- “You can’t fix stupid,” said Ron White in his most excellent Tater Salad skit. I don’t mean to be stupid, but some Players I just can’t keep up with. Simply, they outpace my wit. I try to remember that I can actually curb craziness in-game if I simply let the world respond in a more proactive way; many times, I have let PCs walk over me because I don’t want to “deprive” them. But what’s better for the campaign? In this way, I decide instead to work with Players to make more playable PCs.
On this note, we come to the crux of our topic. Having a very smart Player prompted me to see if it is possible to use base NPC classes and build onto them within limits that work with the game in mind. That is, while I know PHB classes and UA variant classes are balanced, I need something better balanced for my game.
So, I did the jerk thing: underpowered the PC. Yeah, I did. He now operates a Warrior class, and I will continue to use the MMI/3.5 as usual.
I did more, though. Class underpowered. Race can be as expected; with Bloodline variants per the UA. We then decided on PC Class Features- we chose two majors from among the PHB classes. To accompany his Warrior base, he chose Sneak Attack (Rog feature) and Unarmed Strike (Monk feature). We also selected a personal ability feature to experiment with, since he wanted a mage-y slant, so he has magical tattoos.
We shall see how this works out. If it’s overpowered, we will take away. If underpowered, somebody there will probably be a sudden boost. (“Hey, I feel smarter!” said the Fighter.)