Does D&D Next need classes?

I've DM'd the first session of DnDNext for our group, and we all had a good time.  I've spent the past week reading here on the forums, and found a common thread.

It seems that a lot of people don't want to be pigeon holed into class restrictions.  I see a lot of comments like "Why does a ranger have to choose between ranged / Dual Wielding?"  or "If I want a more physical Rogue, can I do that?"

Every insight that we are given into the thoughts behind the class design brings comments about how they don't want that class to be limited, or why we even need that class when a mix of fighter and this theme or that theme will get the same results.

After thinking about it for a bit, I wonder if we really "need" classes in D&D?

What if the classes themselves were broken down into a theme like element, let's call it Power Base for lack of a better term.

Power Bases would describe where your power comes from and could include:

1.  Dual Wielding
2.  2-Handed Weapon Specializations
3.  Wizard style magic
4.  Cleric style magic
5.  Ranged combat
6.  Dex Based Melee (Finesse type weapons)
7.  Hand to Hand Combat (Monk)
8.  Sorcerer Style magic
9.  Psion Style magic
10.  Jack of all Weapons (Weapons Master style Fighter)
11.  Inspiration through Music & Magic (Bard type)
12.  Raging cyclone of destruction (barbarian)

.... ect, ect, ect

I'm not sure really, how well it would work out, and maybe it gives too many moving parts to balance well.  I do like the idea though, that my character wouldn't be defined as a class..

He is Bracknor -- The Dwarven ne'er do well that can hold his own in a bar, or a brawl, and can sneak when he needs to..

 
I really like the idea of not being bound entirely by class.

I think multiclassing, backgrounds and themes may take care of this though.  Bracknor could be a slayer rogue and if he wanted to pick pockets from a distance, perhaps he could xclass wizard to pick up cantrips like mage hand or something along those lines.

I think classes make sense though, because each one takes training and time to learn. They'd be like a job in real life, except of course that you're slaying mad monters and saving princesses and such.

So, in a way I believe the D&D next system is allowing for a balanced way of nearly scratch-building one's character.
I wish they made a Ultima Online style of rpg. It would be, essentially this. Unfortunately, even in UO, magic is king. Of course, in the Ultima series, almost every class uses magic

I love Ultima...
I really like the idea of not being bound entirely by class.

I think multiclassing, backgrounds and themes may take care of this though.  Bracknor could be a slayer rogue and if he wanted to pick pockets from a distance, perhaps he could xclass wizard to pick up cantrips like mage hand or something along those lines.

I think classes make sense though, because each one takes training and time to learn. They'd be like a job in real life, except of course that you're slaying mad monters and saving princesses and such.

So, in a way I believe the D&D next system is allowing for a balanced way of nearly scratch-building one's character.




I love the idea as well, which is what lead me to the thought of no classes.  I doubt we'd ever see it.  I wonder how multi-classing will work?
Just reorganize class features into feat trees, and the need for "class" largely disappears.
I think the speculation about multiclassing right now revolves around themes.
I think the speculation about multiclassing right now revolves around themes.



So there would be a "wizard class theme" that would allow for some of the features of the wizard class, but maybe not all of them?

And you would take that theme instead of taking your next level of **current class**? 
D&D needs classes because D&D has always been class based - some sacred beef should stay kicking so that the game at least mildly resembles itself.

Also, I only play games with class-less approach to character creation very rarely because it is more difficult for me and most players that I know to build a character free-form and get to where we want it to be.

I'd much rather say "I'm a fighter" and pick out my favorite weapon than have to use fiddly parts of something to build said fighter... and the more fiddly parts you add to character building, the more an optimizer will find a way to separate himself from a crowd of non-optimizers mechanically. (though a well built system could mitigate exactly how large that separation could be, it will still be more pronounced, even if only slightly, the more choices are involved)

And lastly... character creation speed. It is very important to me, both as a player and as a DM.

Anecdotally, I once played in a 4e campaign that made it from 1st to almost 15th level - in that campaign there was an average of one character death per session, and I personally played 7 different characters before the game ended... I got worn out building all those characters, especially towards the end of the game, because of all the choices that need to be made in order for the character to be complete... even when I started the process with a solid theme and concept in mind, it took nearly an hour just to go through the process.

Similarly, My gaming group (except our rules-obsessed strategy monkey) got worn out on building characters because - even with character builder aiding us - it just took too long for our tastes.

We avoid games where building a character takes more than 15-20 minutes regardless of level... even the ones we enjoy playing - it just isn't worth spending a 1/4 of one of our sessions building characters when there are games out there we could be playing in less than half the time.

I especially avoid them as a DM because character can, will, and should, die from time to time - and if it takes to long to make a character, that can end up feeling like a punishment to a player.

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I like the points about the optimizer (we call them min-maxer's).

And speed certainly would be a bonus.

I guess in reading others comments like (why play a paladin when a fighter/cleric works better) type stuff, I got to wondering what really DEFINES each class.

Is a ranger more than a fighter with a nature theme?
Is a Druid more than a Sorcerer with a nature theme?
Is a Paladin more than a Fighter / Cleric?

And you can obviously go on and on...

At the end of the day, I agree that Classes are probably necessary, for both speed and to limit the min-maxer's a bit.

I just hope they balance things well, so that the Paladin isn't an obviously better choice, or there is no reason to play Paladin, when you can build a Fighter / Cleric and just role play them as a Paladin..
 
This would essentially turn D&D into a class-less build system...there are several of them out on the market.

Unfortunately, it would cease to be D&D at that point. I'm not saying such systems are bad, just that they aren't D&D systems. To remain D&D, there are certain things that are essentially Canon, which are:

1.  Classes and Races
2.  Level Progression (although how it progresses varies) and Experience Points
3.  Iconic D&D Monsters
4.  The Existence of 2 types at least of magic, Clerical and Arcane. 
5.  AC, Hitpoints, and some kind of Saving Throw mechanic (again, these vary from edition to edition, but are all staples of the franchise)
6.  The 6 Basic Attributes: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma

Just about everything else in the game can actually be gotten rid of or changed, but these concepts are essentially core defining aspects of D&D. If you take any of them away, you might have a game, even a very very good playable game, but it would lose the D&D identity...shoot, even with all of these, the inclusion of the word "Powers" in 4e alone was enough for many people to say that 4e wasn't D&D, but in essence, 4e was indeed, very much D&D, but if you violate these "sacred cows" as people call them, you make it a whole new and different game
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Is a ranger more than a fighter with a nature theme?
Is a Druid more than a Sorcerer with a nature theme?
Is a Paladin more than a Fighter / Cleric?

Not really, no.

I'm working on a 4.x project that works on this.

Pick a power source, each power source has sub choices, (for Martial you pick a fighting style, for arcane you pick if you get power thru wizardy study, power of your blood, or pact bound, etc)

Then pick a theme.  Theme determines what you do in the world. You job/occupaction....Here is where paladin/ranger/ etc live. So you could be a 2 weapon paladin or an unarmed ranger etc etc

So far it's working well.
Does a given fantasy RPG need classes?  No.  Does D&D Next need classes?  Yes.  Absolutely.  The goal is to make a version that feels like every version of D&D that came before.  That pretty much demands classes.

Classes are also much easier to balance, and to offer niche protection.  Plus thanks to background and theme, you can flesh out your character in interesting ways.
Is a ranger more than a fighter with a nature theme?
Is a Druid more than a Sorcerer with a nature theme?
Is a Paladin more than a Fighter / Cleric?

Not really, no.



I disagree.  Now what?  Assuming you agree with Next's goals and want to accommodate both of us, how do we break the impasse?  Either we make more classes or we don't, basically.  If we don't, then I'm unhappy.  If we do, then your book has a few extra pages you don't care about.

Seems like the path forward is pretty clear.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
If we do, then your book has a few extra pages you don't care about.

So long as you don't insist the systems I'll use to "emulate" those classes using other classes get kneecapped to prevent what I just did, we should be able to coexist nicely.

Yes, it needs the core classes. The moment classes are removed from the game is the moment the game ceases to be dungeons and dragons, and it becomes a different RPG with a similar theme.
If we do, then your book has a few extra pages you don't care about.

So long as you don't insist the systems I'll use to "emulate" those classes using other classes get kneecapped to prevent what I just did, we should be able to coexist nicely.




Nah, they don't get kneecapped, they get expanded.  There will still be a treehugger theme, it just won't have the sole purpose of faking class features.  Now, to be sure, this puts a pretty huge weight on them to get themes right, in that they're interesting and compelling character choices that can apply to a variety of classes, but that's entirely doable.  And certainly better than denying classes to people who want them, just to placate those who believe in exclusion as design.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
If we do, then your book has a few extra pages you don't care about.

So long as you don't insist the systems I'll use to "emulate" those classes using other classes get kneecapped to prevent what I just did, we should be able to coexist nicely.




Nah, they don't get kneecapped, they get expanded.  There will still be a treehugger theme, it just won't have the sole purpose of faking class features.  Now, to be sure, this puts a pretty huge weight on them to get themes right, in that they're interesting and compelling character choices that can apply to a variety of classes, but that's entirely doable.  And certainly better than denying classes to people who want them, just to placate those who believe in exclusion as design.


Really, with all my gripes about 5e(that I can finally justify having done some playtesting), themes IMO are one of the best ideas they have here. I'm really dissapointed if the thing about certain themes being class limited is true though. I'd prefer them to be more suited to a certain class or type of class, but not be outright locked away from them. I want my Fighter with the Necromancer theme dangit.
Actually, as they seem to be looking at theme/background mixing to be the solution to multi-classing, both parties should be able to work out, as there will be themes that can "build" a Ranger, or modify another class to feel like a Wizard/Ranger hybrid/Multiclass type, while still having the optional Ranger class as well, who could take the Raner like theme to be even more Rangery, or take another them to multiclass his own way
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I'm really dissapointed if the thing about certain themes being class limited is true though. I'd prefer them to be more suited to a certain class or type of class, but not be outright locked away from them. I want my Fighter with the Necromancer theme dangit.


If it is true, then it's the exact sort of thing to provide good feedback on.  I know I will be if I start seeing that sort of thing, the necro-fighter is exactly the sort of awesome that the new system has the potential to provide.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
I don't DnD as a system needs classes; however, I do think DnD as a game needs classes.  They have been in every edition and do make things simpler to jump into.


In addition, it places a control on the power curve on characters; although, I will admit this control has had varying success from edition to edition.  
I'm really dissapointed if the thing about certain themes being class limited is true though. I'd prefer them to be more suited to a certain class or type of class, but not be outright locked away from them. I want my Fighter with the Necromancer theme dangit.


If it is true, then it's the exact sort of thing to provide good feedback on.  I know I will be if I start seeing that sort of thing, the necro-fighter is exactly the sort of awesome that the new system has the potential to provide.


Hell, even if they are class-limited, I know the first thing I'd houserule as DM(which I rarely am). I even have excellent flavor for it.

A battlefield commander with such a powerful force of will with troops who had literally undying loyalty to him. Such loyalty that on death, they willingly imbued their souls into their commander's blade. On killing an enemy, instead of "raising" it, he imbues the enemy's corpse with a soul of his fallen troops through the sword, giving them an opportunity to serve their commander on the battlefield once more.
Well, the problem is that there are two kinds of restrictions.  The restrictions that are in name only, which are easy to waive, and the restrictions that have real impact because they rely on class features.  If our necro-fighter's theme says "When you hit with a spell attack, you gain hitpoints" and the fighter has no spell attacks, then it doesn't matter if the requirement is waived, the theme itself doesn't work because it wasn't designed broadly enough.

This is a pretty simple example, and even that would be easy enough to fix, but you get the idea.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Yeah, that's the kinda restriction I'd prefer them avoid. Name only resitriction, that essentially just make the theme "more suited" to one type of class over another without actually being incapable of used by others is fine, I can deal with that and talk to my DM about it.
One thing to keep in mind is that while they are writing themes, another equally valid option is essentially the a-la-carte theme, where you just pick the individual pieces from the entire pool and create your own theme on the fly.  Supporting that goal is going to put a pretty strong check on the class-feature referencing things.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
D&D without classes isn't D&D. D&D has always separated the different aspects of adventuring into groups and made them into individual classes. It is like individual school expect you learn by killing, lifting gold, and talking it out.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

 DnD will always need classes because that is one of the core concepts (or sacred cows, haha love this phrase) that DnD has been built on for nearly 40 years.  Now themes offer WoC and DMs an opportunity like we have never had before; we can allow our players to truly customize and make the characters they have always wanted.
I think DDN will live or die on how they approach themese, and so far I like where this path leads.

In short the post asks if DnD really needs classes. In my opinion, yes....yes it does.
I'm working on a 4.x project that works on this.

Pick a power source, each power source has sub choices, (for Martial you pick a fighting style, for arcane you pick if you get power thru wizardy study, power of your blood, or pact bound, etc)

Then pick a theme.  Theme determines what you do in the world. You job/occupaction....Here is where paladin/ranger/ etc live. So you could be a 2 weapon paladin or an unarmed ranger etc etc

So far it's working well.


I'd love to see 5e go in this direction and the theme/background structure suggests that it will work a little bit like this, but perhaps not to the same extreme.  I hope you post your rules somewhere once they're ready for review; would no doubt make for an interesting read.
I'd like to echo what others have said. Yes, yes, yes, yes. D&D needs classes. Simply because D&D has always had classes. Because those classes define D&D, give it the distinctive D&D taste we all know and love.

There are plenty of classless systems out there, and I'm sure they're a lot of fun. But they aren't D&D and they never will be.
D&D Experience Level: Relatively new First Edition: 4th Known Editions: 4th, 3.5 --- Magic Experience Level: Fairly skilled First Expansion: 7th Edition Play Style: Very Casual
Just a side note: one of the benefits of classes and levels is they provide a safety-net for players who would have trouble with a more free-form, built-it-yourself character generation system. I've joked in my HERO group that I can take 150 points and make a character that is as "powerful" as a 125 point one, whereas my friends (who know the system like the back of their hand) can make something I'd need 200 points to make.

Basically, if someone is class X, race Y and level Z, they will at least have A, B and C because of it. Any GM, writer/dev, etc., can depend on that. Add your themes and backgrounds, choose your feats, whatever, but you're still building a character that reliable foundation. Sure, some players might have a tent, a shack, a mansion or a fort, but at least there's that.

This is a not-insignificant reason why so many MMOs are class/level based. Its easy for players to understand, and easy to work with on the dev's end. I tried one MMO (Champions Online) years ago - you go to build a character from the ground up! And let me tell you - I made a fair number of crappy, unfun characters before giving up. City of Heroes, on the other hand, is much more limited in character creation, but its much easier for me to make a good, fun, viable character in that game as a result.

While power-gamers and min/maxers can be a concern, I'm not worried about them. They'll find ways to optimize and do crazy things in the rules regardless. I'm concerned more about people who need the safety net. And as such, yes, I think classes are an excellent tool for that. 
I don't mind the classless approach, but I think from a practical standpoint we can all realize that "classes" are considered a fundamental aspect of the game by the developers and they aren't going anywhere.
I don't mind the classless approach, but I think from a practical standpoint we can all realize that "classes" are considered a fundamental aspect of the game by the developers and they aren't going anywhere.


Yeah I don't think removing classes helps it in the case for remaining DnD.

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

Yeah I don't think removing classes helps it in the case for remaining DnD.

A systemic requirement and a branding need are two different things entirely.

Yeah I don't think removing classes helps it in the case for remaining DnD.

A systemic requirement and a branding need are two different things entirely.




Quite true but one can inform the other.  The fact is that while there are relatively few things you absolutely "have" to have for a game to be "DnD", levels and classes are one of them.  Thus the question of whether it's needed or not mechanically is rendered moot.  Unless Wotc wants to risk alienating the very people they're trying to attract (which I don't quite see), the game will need classes in order to even have a chance of surviving the marketplace...and that means the machanics of the game need to support the class/level structure.


-Polaris
Theorycaft, guys.  Theorycraft.
Just because something can not exist doesn't necessarily mean it should not exist.
Theorycaft, guys.  Theorycraft.
Just because something can not exist doesn't necessarily mean it should not exist.


The same goes both ways.

Just because something can exist, doesn't mean it should.

I don't see a classless system being a better way to go.  Ultimately just piling the powers in a book and letting the players point buy from them doesn't appeal to me. 

I like iconic characters.  Sure I can build them with point buy but I find it much nicer to focus my attention on a game that lays the basics out and gives ways to customize and borrow from the other classes without overriding them.


Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

I'm definately in the camp that believes that classes should stay.  However I feel that wotc needs to come up with another system that allows players to customize characters so that they can play that class in different ways.  The themes idea was a step forward but I feel that they can do more with the next edition to make players make the character they want and not need a lot of classes to support various character types.  If they could find a way to make different ways of building the small number of classes in the basic book then I feel there would be more satisfied players.  One system that I think had the right idea about this is pathfinder with the archetype system where players can trade certain class abilities at certain levels for an alternate set of abilities at the level in which they made the sacrifice.  That is something that was also used in late 3.5. and something similar could be added to 5th edition.  I would like to see them do more than just that of course.  Also give martial characters stances as a default so that they could have something cool to do and not be grossly overshadowed by the casters.
D&D needs classes because D&D has always been class based - some sacred beef should stay kicking so that the game at least mildly resembles itself.

Exactly, 5e represents a pendulum-swing back in the direction of nostalgia.  It's amazing they're getting away with the 'bounded accuracy' thing, as it is.  I don't think they should push it so hard as trying to eliminate classes.  

True, the class-based system has faced a lot of valid criticism, and there are games with excellent systems that eschew classes entirely.  But they're not D&D, and don't have D&D's revenue.

 

 

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Unfortunately, Class-handling is one of the major "Deal-breakers" in 3.x that drove a lot of the players away from the game from 1e/2e....

It contributed to the Splat glut (and in fact was the primary focus of the splat glut, classes, prestige classes, multiclassing and archtyping)

I'm not saying that approach wouldn't appeal to the 3.x/Pathfinder crowd, however, and thus a module dedicated to that kind of thing might work, but definitely not for the core.
For the core, I think they need to stick with the 4 iconic classes, Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User, Rogue (I prefer Rogue to Thief, however, Magic-User is interchangable with Mage or Wizard in my books)
As one module, they can have the various Theme systems added in, with rules for creating your own themes, customizing themes, and free form Feat selection
As one module, they can have the various Background systems added in, with rules for creating your own backgrounds, customizing backgrounds, and free form skill selection.
As one module, they can have expanded class selection, with advice for how to conceptualize a new class, and even a subchapter that goes into the differences between classes, subclasses and themes as ways to play differently. This would be where Paladins, Monks, Rangers, Druids, etc... would be discussed as classes, instead of theme builds
As one module, they can introduce another play on the AEUD schematic that was used in 4e, but maybe with powers/exploits/maneuvers/whatever broken down by power source, and then maybe advice on other breakdowns and developing new power sources and powers.
As one module, they can introduce role-selection special abilities to customize your class towards a specific role, Strike, Controller, Defender, Leader.
As one module, they can explore "racial classes" nostalgicly going back to the Basic D&D days
As one module, they can explore alternate hybrid/multiclass rules
As one module, they can explore racial variations, expanded race selection beyond the iconic Human, Elf, Dwarf, Half-Elf, and Halfling. Here's where you'll see stats for Tieflings, Dragonborn, Shifters, and other alternate core races from previous editions
As one module, they can explore monstrous races and adapting monsters from the Monster Manual as playable characters.
If the Bounded Accuracy system stays core, than they definitely need a module that brings back scaling to-hits and defenses.
A module should include alternate Magic systems other than Vancian Magic and/or at-will hybrid like in the playtest.

There is a wide variety of options that they can explore as modules, and certain things that should be core... 
Core:
4 Iconic Classes(Fighter, Cleric, Mage, Rogue)
5 Iconic Races (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Half-Elf, and Halfling) **possibly Gnome and Half-Orc**
6 Ability scores used to resolve Checks and Contests as described in the Playtest
Basic Equipment as mainly discussed in playtest
Spells(but hopefully more refined than the playtest ones)
Saving Throws as described in the playtest
Enough other basics to make it playable as just core (IE a default Hitpoint system and healing system, but maybe different than current playtesting materials present, rules for death and dying, rules for poison, disease, and other basics, and basic rules for movement expressed in dual form Feet and Squares)

Just about everything else should be modular, to keep the system as pristine as possible for modification. 
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D&D needs classes because D&D has always been class based - some sacred beef should stay kicking so that the game at least mildly resembles itself.

Exactly, 5e represents a pendulum-swing back in the direction of nostalgia.  It's amazing they're getting away with the 'bounded accuracy' thing, as it is.  I don't think they should push it so hard as trying to eliminate classes.  

True, the class-based system has faced a lot of valid criticism, and there are games with excellent systems that eschew classes entirely.  But they're not D&D, and don't have D&D's revenue.



It may just be my opinion on the matter, but AD&D (at least 2nd edition, I'll be honest that I don't remember 1e that well) had bounded accuracy - just not as bounded.

THAC0 had a specific limit based on class, AC only hit -10 and stopped, and so on... you could play a character to level 178 if you really felt the need as everything hit a certain point and stop changing, except for gaining 1-3 HP for each level.

5e bounding accuracy on a lower scale is not amazing at all to me, it's actually one of the things I had hoped 3e would do.

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I liked the comment about how the classes help the newbies, and your min-maxers are going to optimize no matter what..

I never really had a problem with classes, however, I will say that I really hope that they don't have class restrictions on backgrounds / themes, and that multiclassing really let's you mix and match.

I have wide range of players at our table, and I'd like to see this edition work for all of them.

As for bounded accuracy... I think it is brilliant...

Thanks for the input all!