The 100 classes of 5E

This is a thought experiment. With all NPC classes, settings and variants, 3.5E easily had over 70 classes. With 3rd party material, over 100.
4E is no slouch either, I haven't checked the compendium lately but if you count Essentials variants as their own class, there should be 50 or more.

So here is the idea: If D&D 5E will have tons of classes at some point anyway, why not design it for that purpose of having 100, 200, or 500 classes from the start?
Illusionist and other specialist Wizard? Own class. Light armored fighter? Swashbuckler class. Fighter/Mage? New class.

As long as it is different enough to represent its own archetype, it's a class.

But what does the game need to look like to allow this?

* Class feature lego bricks. Like in 3E, classes can share common or identical class features like arcane spells or evasion. This is the opposite of 4Es exclusive silos. If there are 4E-style powers, they are tied to a power source, not a class
* Restricted Multiclassing. With so many classes to choose from, it shouldn't be necessary to mix and match in the first place. Or, you make every character required multiclass, so individual classes can be more narrow.
* Very diverse roles. If you have 50 strikers, you don't want them all to work the same. Instead, you get to the point where role is just a vague reference, and some classes fill niches that the 4 main roles don't cover (think scholar, noble) or that fill diverse roles depending on their choices (summoner)
* Shorter writeups. Corollary of shared features, Class rule blocks fill half a page, not 20
* Specialization: Want a spiked chain fighter? Here is your class. Sub-classes, paths, feat chains etc. are replaced by stand-alone classes.
* Setting-specific: Deities wouldn't just have some domains attached, priests of different deities (or at least pantheons) are considered different classes
* No niche protection at all. Since any group would never have more than 5% of all possible classes at the table, no class can monopolize things like trapfinding, because it wouldn't be present at 95% of the gaming tables
(Addition)
* Closer match between character archetype and class name. It just sounds different whether you say "I'm a gladiator" or "I'm a fighter". You diversify the archetypes more, and get more varied characters.
* Easier DMing. Wait, what? More classes means more narrowly defined abilities of each class. This in turn means higher predictability. If you want to know what the gladiator could throw at you, look at the gladiator section of the sourcebook and the 3-4 options the class has. Compare that to 3E fighter or Wizard, which can vary so widely in build, flexibility and power that it's impossible to predict what you'll get. Even worse because both can steal something from every splatbook.
I am not sure that predefining all the classes/build options ahead of time would be a good idea, nor would it really fit with the modualrity theme that seems to be at the heart of 5E design.  What you end up with in this example is what we got in 4E: tons of "classes" that were pigeoned into the few roles and were by in large quite simular.  Sure, the powers were slightly different, but one striker was pretty interchangable with the next so defining additional classes was more about style and flavor.

A different option would be to take the basic classes (fighter, cleric, mage, rogue) and use those as the core foundation of the type of character you want.  Then, choose additional skills/feats/powers/options to taylor to what you want.

This would allow for a lot less restriction on various add-ons.  There wouldn't be any "ranger-only" powers, as ranger would simply be a specific build based on the base Fighter class.  In this aspect, each of the more specialized classes (ranger, druid, bard, monk, magus, etc) could be printed as a build option, much like in 4th.  A recommendation of what to pick to get the type of class you want.

Some of your points are along these lines, such as the lego-brick idea.  Still, I would avoid calling these things classes, as it can be overly restrictive.  If I want my axe wielding barbarian to be able to use something like Ki Strike, I don't want to have to multi-class in Monk to get it, I'd rather that be a feat or power or whatever that I can pick from the fighter/martial pool as I level up.

This method also agrees with your power source model.  If my barbarian wants to cast spells, that would require a multiclass of mage.  There wouldn't be a need to define the Pathfinder class Magus.

This also allows us to focus on roles without getting tied down to a restrictive set of abilities.  This goes back to the class-level restrictions.  Martial characters can use all the martial powers, assuming they meet level and ability requirements.  Arcane users can access all the arcane powers, etc. 

The pre-built solution you propose is interesting, but I think utimatly would have way too much context to work out.  A seperate class for a fighter who specializes in chains? Do we really want to have 100 predefined, but inflexable classes?
4E is no slouch either, I haven't checked the compendium lately but if you count Essentials variants as their own class, there should be 50 or more.

45 classes and subclasses from all sources.

Not including hybrid classes, of which there are 32.
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Why not:

1) Later released classes are able to incorporate lessons learned from where the release classes hit and where they missed.  Take the Warlock, Duskblade, or Beguiler from 3e -- none of these classes would have shown up on release, and duskblades were the finally usefull expression of a fighter/mage, something that had been tried numerous times.

2) Not releasing with a massive compendium leaves the game room to expand.  From the point of view of WotC, that is of MASSIVE importance.  If 5e is going to last, if it's going to be a financial success, then they need to be able to grow it, release books, and make profit off D&D every quarter.  DDI and new adopters buying the core books are one thing, but a continued release of material for groups that have already bought in to keep buying is important.

3) The load to playtest and debug a hundred classes and their interactions in a complete manner would be insane.  Unless you forbid multiclassing, you have to take into account, for each class, EVERY OTHER CLASS it could be combined with when attempting to discover something broken and correct it.  While this may, in the long term, be the same issue, the fact is it's easier to playtest the heck out of a dozen classes or so at the start, and selections of 3-5 against the pool of existing classes later.  Less pressure on development to deal with reams of stuff upfront = more focused dev on what needs it = better game (?)

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Heroes of the Fallen Lands was $20 for 360 pages, softcover and had 5 races and 5 classes in it and, honestly, that felt like I was getting my money's worth.


I would rather have a small group of working choices with the promise of more later than launch with 100 classes that were hastily put together.


The idea of Archetypes is important because if you’re allowed to respec a class, then you get to swap out your role in a party without changing characters completely.

I'd like to see a couple of NPC classes come to the forefront. The First is the Chef, the second is the Blacksmith. Both could have a variety of quasi-campy abilities rooted in common sense, experience, and choices of equipment.

The Chef could have fire resistance, expertise with knives of every size, and the ability to create a variety of poisons. They would also be able to create potion-like meals capable of catering to the dietary needs of the adventuring party. They would know the right soup or spices to cure diseases, and over several months could derive nutritional needs to improve the strength and constitution of their repeat customers. They could produce stimulants and sedatives with the effects of haste, slow, and sleep. They could be further expanded into specialists like a Butcher (expert at cutting flesh and criticals), Pastry Chef (charm, heal sanity loss), Brewer (flammable booze), and so forth. With the exception of the butcher, Their primary attribute would be Dexterity, followed by Int and Wisdom. Pastry chefs might have high Charisma.

The Blacksmith would have even more fire resistance - almost immunity. They could specialize in tools (including many dwarven weapons), regular weapons like swords, Armor, and possibly branch off into similar fire treatment processes such as glass blowing, currency manufacturing, jewelry, alchemy, and to some extent, magical or ritual enchantments of their specialty. Their primary attributes would be Strength and Constitution, though Jewelers and armorers might have exceptional dexterity. The ones dealing with enchantments or Alchemy would also have high Intelligence.
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