Saturday, 1 November 2014

D&D 5: Class Prejudice

Following on from my recent thoughts on how I might use the full menagerie of D&D 5 races in a campaign, I've been giving some thought to the full complex of classes presented in the new PHB. As much as I might try to reconcile them all, my feeling remains grognardy on this one.

Barbarian: this is a culture, not a class. Especially with D&D 5's great system for character backgrounds, I find the choice of including such a class pretty questionable.
Bard: I'm not a knee-jerk bard-hater -- I used to like them in AD&D 2e -- but I just don't like the mechanics of the new one. The inspiration dice are just too abstract / disconnected for my taste. I also feel that a bard type character could easily be created as a rogue or wizard with the entertainer background.
Cleric: a nice 2e-ish implementation of the class. The way the divine domains are implemented is very well done. I don't use clerics in many campaigns, but I'd be happy to use this one.
Druid: also a decent version of this class. There's a lot of overlap starting to show here, however. How is a cleric of nature different to a druid? What's the difference between a ranger, a totem warrior barbarian, and a green knight paladin? There are too many nature-oriented, magical classes, with no clear distinction or connection between them. The description of the cleric's nature domain (p. 61) is an admittance of this. It just doesn't make any coherent sense to me. Purely on the topic of the druid class, though, I'd happily use it, in the right campaign setting.
Fighter: nice. Lots of simple options to give fighter characters different flavours.
Monk: the monk... yeah... super culturally specific, doesn't mesh at all with the rest of the classes, why was this class ever included in core rules? I guess it's just historical really (somehow Greyhawk or Arduin related, perhaps?). Anyway, I must confess that I've not even read this class yet in the new PHB. I can't imagine ever using it, except if I were to run some Asian inspired campaign. (Also, for me, like the barbarian "class", it's just way too culture-specific... can anyone seriously imagine a world with dragonborn, halfling, and gnome monks or barbarians? I'm afraid I can't. Well, not a world I'd like to run a campaign in, anyway.)
Paladin: I've never seen the point of the paladin class. The cleric is a holy warrior, right? No question. So what's a paladin? This version doesn't change my feeling. More vague overlap without clear differentiation or explanation.
Ranger: I like the flavour of a wilderness-oriented warrior a lot, but feel that this archetype can be modelled very nicely with a background (outlander, for example). I don't get the need for magic either, to be honest.
Rogue: again, thankfully, a nice implementation of this classic core-4 class. I'm very happy with the options and features presented.
Sorcerer: yeah... I just never understood the need to separate an intuitive wizard from a bookish wizard, mechanically. The mechanical differences themselves are so small that I would have just made this an option under the umbrella of the wizard class. And if you really want to go for the "bloodlines" thing, why not make some racial options? Sorcerer, no thanks.
Warlock: very nice flavour, but again I'd just make this an option for wizards. Doesn't seem like it needs to be a separate class, and the mechanical differences seem (to me) just kind of forced.
Wizard: a very nice version of this class! As someone who (obviously) loves wizards, I'm glad to say that I really like the 5e class. The approach to school specialists is great.

So, apart from the core-4 classes, the only ones which come anywhere near to desirable, in my mind are the druid and warlock. Luckily I like the core-4 classes a lot in 5e, so I'd be perfectly happy to run a campaign with just those.

I've also had some thoughts on taking the options from the non-core-4 classes and rolling them into the core-4. It seems like this would be perfectly possible... but that's a topic for another post.

Edit: I noticed that I'd totally forgotten to mention the monk class. Shows how far off my radar it is! Added above.


  1. I think the "problem" here is similar to the differences in American and European board games, the latter usually having cleve but often quite disassociated mechanics that differentiate games.

    In a way, the different classes and class options in 5E are more different in mechanics than flavour, which suggests that choosing either of them is more of a choice of favoured mechanics, if that makes sense.

    1. Interesting point. I don't know enough about board games to get the comparison, but I see what you mean. The non-core-4 classes tend to have more complex or novel mechanics involved.

      I would argue that the wizardy classes aren't even very different mechanically, though.

  2. Since the 3E days, I'd been thinking that the Barbarian class should really have been called Berserker instead.

    I also think the bard concept needs to be scrapped and redone from the ground up. The bard should be a "sage" character, not a minstrel with magic. That would give them their own niche instead of trying to be a jack-of-al-trades. I really liked the 2E Bard for what it was, but now I don't think we really need that anymore.

    And I agree about the Sorcerer/Warlock/Wizard. If they had very different spell lists, I would see more reasons for each class to exist. As it stands, they basically just give you a choice of how you'd like to cast your spells, as Ynas Midgard noted.

    1. Yeah I really don't think the bard needs to be a class. A suitable background and perhaps an option for the rogue class would be just fine for me. I might work on that, actually.

      In general, I'm interested what the design choice is between making something a separate class vs making it an option for an existing class. Personally, I'd go the latter route for all of the non-core-4 classes, but obviously someone at D&D 5 headquarters had a different idea. Interesting that they've gone *both* routes, though! Is an assassin any less worthy of a full class than a bard is?

  3. Druid comes from the days of making up fun shit. It's the first custom cleric and an example of what can be done with them when you don't half ass it.

    Heard they nerfed wizards big time. Not a fan of that.

    1. That's a good point about the druid. It only exists as a separate class for the historical reason that someone once put in the effort to make up a unique spell list for it. In 2e they made a sort of half-hearted attempt to roll druids back into the generic priest "group". I wish they'd gone further down that road in the core PHB and included some more "priests of specific mythoi".

      As for wizard-nerfing... I'm not sure. Some of the classic low-level killer spells are much weaker (charm person or sleep, for instance), but I've not noticed the higher level spells being equivalently weakened, yet. Wizards can also cast a lot more spells per day, with the new rules, and have a lot of high damage output spells at low level. Play will tell whether this results in an overall weakening or just a bit of a rejigging.