ORC is the Creative Commons licensed role playing game rules of Fates Worse Than Death, Tibet, In Dark Alleys and other great games.
Step One: Come up with the concepts for each class, including what they tend to be good at and tend to be bad at. For instance, in a highschool RPG, the classes might be:
- Geeks: Good at tech, science, intellectual stuff. Bad at athletic, charm, agility based stuff.
- Jocks: Good at athletics skills (including wrestling). Bad at tech, science, intellectual stuff.
- Stoner/Skaters: Good at vehicle and stunt based skills, creative skills. Bad at tech/science/math.
Step Two: Divide skills in to general categories, based on what you want classes to be good and bad at. For instance, in the highschool game there might be Athletic, Creative, Social, Stunt, Intellectual. Then figure out what the average highschool student would pay for each type of skill. For instance, people might pay 6 skill points for Social, Athletic, Intellectual, 9 for Stunt and 5 for Creative. The cost should be based on how rare you want those skills to be and how useful the skills are.
Step Three: Figure skill costs for each class. Try to make sure they are fairly balanced: people who pay more for something should pay less for something else. They don’t have to be completely balanced if characters are getting bonus advantages or disadvantages.
Step Four: Are there any advantages or disadvantages that any member of the class has? If so, list these as mandatory advantages and disadvantages. For instance, Jocks might get the free advantage “Athletic Build (+2 STH, +1 SPD, +1 BDY)”. Stoner/Skaters might get the mandatory disadvantage “Hated By Authority.” Also, are there any advantages and disads that one character class has access to? For instance, maybe only Geeks can buy the advantage “Taking College Classes” for 3 Bonus Points.
Step Five: Are there any special skills that only one class has access to? For instance, maybe Stoner/Skaters have access to “Drug Resistance,” which only they can buy, and maybe it costs 5 points per level.
Step Six: Figure out how much money and income each character class gets. Do any get special equipment for free or can certain character classes get certain types of equipment cheaper than everyone else? For instance, Stoner/Skater might get “free $100 in skateboards and skateboard accessories, can buy additional skateboard equipment for %75 normal cost.”
Step Seven: Look at the character classes again. Do they seem balanced? If not, can you give them anything special to make them balanced? Not everything that makes a character balanced or unbalanced has to be in a stat or bonus characteristics. For instance, Geeks might have an especially bad reputation in the game, as described in the character class description. Or Stoner/Skaters might have a very tight-knit community, always willing to lend each other a hand. Maybe Jocks seem to have every advantage, but they also have greater responsibilities. These little things can make character classes balanced. If a character class is completely not balanced, but you want to include it anyway (someone might want to play it at some point) just stick in a note saying “this character class is unbalanced.”