So, in the game I am about to begin running, I have four players.
One of them had a solid concept. He was toying with playing a Ranger, but didn’t see his character as a spellcaster (much less a divine spellcaster). I showed him the Scout class. He was hooked.
Another wanted to play a tinker-type character with some spellcasting. If the game were set in Eberron, I’d have shown her the Artificer, but it isn’t… and the Artificer is very focused on Eberron. She could have played a Wizard, but even with a high Intelligence score a Wizard isn’t going to have many skill points to toss around at Craft abilities. A Bard? Closer, but most of its abilities don’t mesh with the concept.
A third wanted to play a naturalist/scientist type. A druid seemed the most logical choice, but she didn’t see her character as a shapeshifter.
The fourth went through a few concepts, but she settled on a nontraditional Fighter/Barbarian (a guy from the city who went off to seek his fortune and became a thrillseeker – the sort who, today, would be into extreme sports).
So, what did I do about the middle two? I made shit up. I figured that neither of these concepts were so strange that they deserved to be unsupported, especially considering the wild proliferation of classes that do exist in 3.5.
I designed a Tinker class. This is something I’d actually been working on anyway (in part inspired by conversations with her). It took the bard as a base, replaced sonic/song spells in the spell list with craft-based spells, and replaced bardic music with item-crafting abilities. Easy enough.
I created a Druidic Sage variant of the Druid, with no Wild Shape abilities, but with some extra knowledge-based abilities.