Sub-classes?

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So, some L&L feedback to us showed that they want to give some more unique things to the Fighter and the Rogue. My initial thought was that Fighting Styles and Schemes would get unique traits (similar to the Tradition and Domain traits of the other classes.) However, I have not seen any discussion on sub-classes in a while, so I’m curious as to what players want to see. Here are my questions:


1)      Are sub-class systems a good way to add variety to overall classes?


2)      Do Monks (and other future classes like the Ranger, Bard and Paladin) need a sub-class systems? Or do those classes fill such a specific niche that they don’t?


3)      Would you like specific sub-class boons to make your character unique and highlight your style of play, OR would you rather have a list of spells/maneuvers and bonuses that you can choose from as you level? IE would you rather have all classes with the current Wizard/Cleric sub-classes or the Fighter/Rogue ‘pick it yourself’ sub-classes’

I love the Pathfinder model of subclasses where a Monk can be a Zen Archer, an elementalist, etc. I think that a large combination of feats available to the entire class and maybe one to two "class features" of the subclass to differentiate it would be a fun way to go. Make the class features strong too, but only accessible by being a member of the sub class so as not to combine overly powerful effects.
Are sub-class systems a good way to add variety to overall classes?

Yes. They let you vary a class's powers in a balanced set of changes. It avoids the complexity of a pick your own power setup, while still allowing for more variation then feats or specialties would allow.

Do Monks (and other future classes like the Ranger, Bard and Paladin) need a sub-class systems? Or do those classes fill such a specific niche that they don’t?

The possibility should be allowed for, but those classes are specific enough that they don't need to start with a bunch of sub classes to work or be interesting.

3)      Would you like specific sub-class boons to make your character unique and highlight your style of play, OR would you rather have a list of spells/maneuvers and bonuses that you can choose from as you level? (IE would you rather have all classes with the current Wizard/Cleric sub-classes or the Fighter/Rogue ‘pick it yourself’ sub-classes’)

Ultimately, I would like a bit of both. Fixed sub-classes with balanced sets of powers and abilities, along with some degree of customization for standard abilities.

With all the backgrounds, skills and feats and the multi classing option, I fail to see what could be the point of having sub classes ?
I'm not sure what exactly you mean by sub-classes. If you are speaking of something similiar to the Battle Mage tradition then I would have to agree with JayM. They allow a single class to be more flavorful if implemented, but the problem I have with the current traditions is that they feel "cookie-cutter". On the opposite side though, the specialties are set-up in such a way as to make themselves obsolete. Why bother following the
investigation specialist when you can just mix-and match whatever you want? If there is no added value other than a meanignless title then it is simply a way of organization, like "weapon proficiencies" then listing all the weapon proficiency feats. A balance between the two extreme would be ideal. Give players flavor chooses, then allow minor tweaking within that choice so you are not locked into a single path.

My personal opinion is that classes should support multiple play styles, and sub-classes are a great way to do that. However, choosing from a handful of maneuvers is not enough to justify a ‘sub-class’. Having both pre-determined bonuses and some unique ability choice built into the class is the way to go.


I agree JayM, something maybe like fighters get a specific Style boon and a Style related maneuver at level 1, then get to choose a second maneuver of their choice from the list.


Interestingly enough, because Monks get the static bonuses as they level, they actually have the least amount of choice in how they are played. I very much hope they add sub-classes to each of the classes, though I have no idea what the Monk’s might be aside from different martial arts…

Phawskin, Swordsage. 

Just give monk "Way of the Sword". Allow them to use unarmed maneuvers w/ finesse blades and make FoB be fire elemental. A few maneuves could be added (Salamander Charge, anyone?) and it's good.

To be truly hilarious, Grammaton cleric w/ Way of the Gun (or gun-kata) in a dystopian futuristic campaign.

There could be shugenja who could eschew expertise dice for more ki abilities/spells? 
"What's stupid is when people decide that X is true - even when it is demonstrable untrue or 100% against what we've said - and run around complaining about that. That's just a breakdown of basic human reasoning." -Mike Mearls
Rofl Gun-Monk... actually has some place in fantasy...

And actually, thats not a great point with the monk, giving some weapons or some magic are likely a really great way to express different play styles, but it brings up a good point: Do changes in Core class mechanics constitute different classes, a form of sub-classes or a different system such as PF's Archetypes? Monks are 'unarmed and unarmored', so does taking that away change the class too drastically? If you let a Wizard use Charisma rather than Intelligence, is that a sub-class, a class of its own or a different change to the Wizard?
I'd put forth monks aren't explicitly unarmed. Yes, some aspects hinge... but, deadly strike on a katana wielding monk fits very well w/ an unarmoured wandering samurai. Similarly, monks are associated with staff combat and "monk weapons". I think explicitly focusing on the armed concepts may be worth subclasses.
I do like the gunmonk. Infuses bullets w/ ki. As for my shugenja idea, it depends on how subclasses work. What about a fighter who can deliver touch spells through a sword, but has a slower ED progression? Does that idea move to far away from the class? Would it be better represented by a whole new class?
I think a cha wizard is a reasonable variant. I could see a str wizard whose casting is refreshed by short term stat debuffs as a subclass/variant.
"What's stupid is when people decide that X is true - even when it is demonstrable untrue or 100% against what we've said - and run around complaining about that. That's just a breakdown of basic human reasoning." -Mike Mearls
I'd put forth monks aren't explicitly unarmed. Yes, some aspects hinge... but, deadly strike on a katana wielding monk fits very well w/ an unarmoured wandering samurai. Similarly, monks are associated with staff combat and "monk weapons". I think explicitly focusing on the armed concepts may be worth subclasses.
I do like the gunmonk. Infuses bullets w/ ki. As for my shugenja idea, it depends on how subclasses work. What about a fighter who can deliver touch spells through a sword, but has a slower ED progression? Does that idea move to far away from the class? Would it be better represented by a whole new class?
I think a cha wizard is a reasonable variant. I could see a str wizard whose casting is refreshed by short term stat debuffs as a subclass/variant.

To me, it felt like the Sorcerer captured the charisma based wizard with a different mechanic.  A lot of what you said I have been thinking about as well, although perhaps in a different way.  Back in 3rd edition when I used to play a lot more(my work schedule has been a real hassle for me more recently), the sorcerer seemed exactly like that.  Can't speak of much outside the basic core books in 4th because I haven't had as much of a chance to delve into it as much as I used to.

That said, my thoughts:

In 3rd, sorcerer and wizard seemed so similar...yet different mechanically and in overall experience.  That left me wondering, especially after I played shugenja,  if other possibilities were possible or a good idea.  Maybe a templar variation to the Paladin that played differently would be good, for example.  Then when 4th came around, it did one thing that I liked that was kind of similar to that.  The Cavalier, for instance, had different paths based off of virtues that played differently.  This doesn't even take into consideration all the variants to base classes in other books.  This is something I really hope they expand upon in some way without taking away too much freedom for a player to customize their character in 5e.

Anyways, to the heart of the matter:

There is a point where, at least I believe, a class variant deviates so far from its base class that it would be better if it were its own base class instead(gunmonk and samurai reached that point imo).  A templar class that uses similar mechanics as the Paladin, but is a little more offensively oriented, and few other differences outside of perhaps alignment restrictions is better represented as a variation or subclass imo.  Let's also just assume that Paladins and the Templar share a preparable spell list for now in this example above.

On the other hand, let's say the templar has an entirely different bag of tricks.  Lets say that he doesn't get virtually any of the same class abilities as the Paladin.  Let's say that they get a divine blade class ability that does bonus damage based on the deity they serve, but if its a certain evil deity, it may add negative energy/necrotic damage or a Templar of Kord may add storm damage.  Let's say they don't get a preparable spell list and instead either can spontaneously cast from their deities domain lists a small number of times a day or select spell-like abilities from those domains.  Let's also say that the Templar gets a number of other very different class features than the Paladin.  In this example, it would probably be better suited as its own class.

Your strength/charisma/*insert stat other than int here* based wizard could probably still fall under the wizard template.  Start changing spell casting methods and class features a bit too much and it probably deserves a class all its own

I like the idea of both actually.  I liked wizard, sorcerer, and warlock existing as they did back in 3.5.  I also liked the variations to classes approach that 4e took too...druids of the seasons, paladins that differed with chosen virtue, etc.  I hope that they can combine the best of both worlds.  Subclasses that differentiate two characters of the same class in ways other than backgrounds, feats, and skills would be great.  Base classes that are a very different approach to a traditional class would be great too.  Why not?  Wizard, Sorcerer, and Warlock have done this...



 
I don't believe subclassing is the way to go.
Arrange them into families/categories/whatever, but do not suggest that Class B is simply a derivative of Class A.

Let me clarify my meaning of ‘sub-class’. There are systems in each of the classes (with the exception of the Monk) that allow variety within a single class. In Packet 2 each presented class had place for variation (the Warlock and Sorcerer each only had one, but the text was there for expansion). I have called these simple variations ‘sub-classes’, and they each provide some unique changes to the class. Currently, there are 2 kinds of ‘sub-class’ systems in the packet. The first is the Fighter Fighting Style/Rogue Scheme type wherein your ‘sub-class’ is derived only from choice in maneuvers. There is a sidebar explaining how to create your own ‘sub-class’ simply by choosing your maneuvers. The second styles is the Cleric Domain/Wizard Tradition type where your ‘sub-class’ provides a specific boon AND some unique choices in spells. Interestingly, the second type gives players both open-ended spell selection and a few pre-determined spells.


An interesting point: right now each class still functions without choosing a sub-class. While this is non-optimal and breaks some of the class balance, fighters/rogues each have 1 maneuver to expend their ED resource on and clerics/wizards still have spells.


Sub-classes change the way a class functions, or at least highlights an emphasis of the class (damage, damage mitigation, ‘tanking’, mobility, ect). Some of them change weapon/armor proficiency, but none (so far) change the core features of a class (primary abilities, use of resources, ect).


Now, the Templar/Paladin point is a little hard to follow, but I think I get the point, and I’m mostly sure I agree. With sub-classes there is plenty of room for unique classes AND variations of those classes. Actually, I think a sub-class system (in the form we have seen so far) forces classes to be variable enough to take up class space, rather than a small niche that could be taken care of as a specialty, background or unique sub-class. For example: I think an alternative casting system (Con based Wizard, for example) might work as a sub-class in some cases, but  I will argue that the Sorcerer has enough diversity to function as a stand-alone class (through the use of Bloodlines as sub-classes).

I'd put forth monks aren't explicitly unarmed. Yes, some aspects hinge... but, deadly strike on a katana wielding monk fits very well w/ an unarmoured wandering samurai. Similarly, monks are associated with staff combat and "monk weapons". I think explicitly focusing on the armed concepts may be worth subclasses. I do like the gunmonk. Infuses bullets w/ ki. As for my shugenja idea, it depends on how subclasses work. What about a fighter who can deliver touch spells through a sword, but has a slower ED progression? Does that idea move to far away from the class? Would it be better represented by a whole new class? I think a cha wizard is a reasonable variant. I could see a str wizard whose casting is refreshed by short term stat debuffs as a subclass/variant.

To me, it felt like the Sorcerer captured the charisma based wizard with a different mechanic.  A lot of what you said I have been thinking about as well, although perhaps in a different way.  Back in 3rd edition when I used to play a lot more(my work schedule has been a real hassle for me more recently), the sorcerer seemed exactly like that.  Can't speak of much outside the basic core books in 4th because I haven't had as much of a chance to delve into it as much as I used to.

That said, my thoughts:

In 3rd, sorcerer and wizard seemed so similar...yet different mechanically and in overall experience.  That left me wondering, especially after I played shugenja,  if other possibilities were possible or a good idea.  Maybe a templar variation to the Paladin that played differently would be good, for example.  Then when 4th came around, it did one thing that I liked that was kind of similar to that.  The Cavalier, for instance, had different paths based off of virtues that played differently.  This doesn't even take into consideration all the variants to base classes in other books.  This is something I really hope they expand upon in some way without taking away too much freedom for a player to customize their character in 5e.

Anyways, to the heart of the matter:

There is a point where, at least I believe, a class variant deviates so far from its base class that it would be better if it were its own base class instead(gunmonk and samurai reached that point imo).  A templar class that uses similar mechanics as the Paladin, but is a little more offensively oriented, and few other differences outside of perhaps alignment restrictions is better represented as a variation or subclass imo.  Let's also just assume that Paladins and the Templar share a preparable spell list for now in this example above.

On the other hand, let's say the templar has an entirely different bag of tricks.  Lets say that he doesn't get virtually any of the same class abilities as the Paladin.  Let's say that they get a divine blade class ability that does bonus damage based on the deity they serve, but if its a certain evil deity, it may add negative energy/necrotic damage or a Templar of Kord may add storm damage.  Let's say they don't get a preparable spell list and instead either can spontaneously cast from their deities domain lists a small number of times a day or select spell-like abilities from those domains.  Let's also say that the Templar gets a number of other very different class features than the Paladin.  In this example, it would probably be better suited as its own class.

Your strength/charisma/*insert stat other than int here* based wizard could probably still fall under the wizard template.  Start changing spell casting methods and class features a bit too much and it probably deserves a class all its own

I like the idea of both actually.  I liked wizard, sorcerer, and warlock existing as they did back in 3.5.  I also liked the variations to classes approach that 4e took too...druids of the seasons, paladins that differed with chosen virtue, etc.  I hope that they can combine the best of both worlds.  Subclasses that differentiate two characters of the same class in ways other than backgrounds, feats, and skills would be great.  Base classes that are a very different approach to a traditional class would be great too.  Why not?  Wizard, Sorcerer, and Warlock have done this...



 



I think this might be one of my favorite discussions on this forum so far. I agree with all of your points. After a certain point, a sub-class is better represented by its own class. I think when there is a significant mechanical and thematice difference, it should become a full class. I wonder... could a subclass have a subclass? Or, could a way of thinking about class vs. sub-class be that if a concept can have its own sub-variations, perhaps it is better suited to its own class?

Consider a hypothetical paladin, templar, and cavalier for D&DN. Paladin is an archetypal class w/ spells, etc. Let's say the cavalier is a subclass of the paladin. It might be able to get different prestige classes which focus on different mounts, but I'm not sure if a cavalier would have viable subclasses. But, with your hypothetical D&DN templar we're looking at a magic-blade wielding character whio focuses on different virtues. Each of those virtues could be subclass of the templar (servant of charity vs. knight of justice). I would then propose that the templar might be better suited to a class than a sub-class. This gets interesting when considering an assassin as an offshoot of rogue. Would it make a better sub-class, prestige class, or its own class? Does its core function change from the rogue's enough to warrant its own class (esp. in the context of rogue currently being a martial class whose focus is skill mastery rather than dealing damage).

I agree that a blooded sorcerer has merit for its own class, but alternate stat casting would be better for a sub-class.
"What's stupid is when people decide that X is true - even when it is demonstrable untrue or 100% against what we've said - and run around complaining about that. That's just a breakdown of basic human reasoning." -Mike Mearls
Actually, for Templar I was going more for the divine champion and protector of a faith of a specific deity sort of flavor.  Like a Templar of Pelor, Templar of Sehanine, and a Templar of Bane may all be considerably different from one another.  A templar of Sehanine may actually have abilities that help him/her keep to the shadows(ironically) for instance.  The blade was sort of a random mechanic that I threw into the example as a means of doing some sort of damage related to his/her deity. 

Still, it sounds like you understand pretty much everything I was trying to say.  YouKnowTheOneGuy, it sounds like we are 100% in agreement on this...
Actually, for Templar I was going more for the divine champion and protector of a faith of a specific deity sort of flavor.  Like a Templar of Pelor, Templar of Sehanine, and a Templar of Bane may all be considerably different from one another.  A templar of Sehanine may actually have abilities that help him/her keep to the shadows(ironically) for instance.  The blade was sort of a random mechanic that I threw into the example as a means of doing some sort of damage related to his/her deity. 

Still, it sounds like you understand pretty much everything I was trying to say.  YouKnowTheOneGuy, it sounds like we are 100% in agreement on this...

Pretty much, yeah. :D

 
"What's stupid is when people decide that X is true - even when it is demonstrable untrue or 100% against what we've said - and run around complaining about that. That's just a breakdown of basic human reasoning." -Mike Mearls
Here's where I really like Pathfinder's version. The Ranger got additional combat styles besides two-weapon and archery (crossbow, two-handed, weapon and shield, etc), and that really diversified the class. What they did with sorcerers I thought was perfect, giving them different Bloodlines from which they gained their arcane powers, and each provided different spells and abilities, similar to a Wizard's specialty school. I'd like to see the return of arcane schools too, rather than just the kinds of archetypes we see for 5E Wizards now.
The Monk as written does not represent all the monks I'd be interested in playing.  It ignores a lot of what the Monk could be in favour of it being the bare-fist, Lawful Good Monk with martial arts and ki.  The Martial arts is something that should be fundamental to the class, and represented by Expertise Dice and maneuvers, but I want to see the possibility of divine monks, or psionic monks.  I want to see monks focused on using special monk weapons, or monks even going as far as being the Swordsage from Book of Nine Swords.  The Swordsage holds a bit more kinship with the Monk than the Fighter, because of the Monk's supernatural Ki elements, though I want to see Fighters and Rogues (and eventually I want to see Warlords and Assassins back in here too) with more martial arts and fighting styles, because these are essentially classes, that while they are fundamentally different in their roles in the world, they all are practitioners of the martial arts (whether that be fighting styles of knights, cutthroats, pirates, samurai, ninjas...).  The Warlord and the Assassin round it out as the other two fundamentally MARTIAL characters, and I don't really feel for the real Shadow Assassin we saw in 4e (it didn't feel "real" – though minor shadowy elements like in the Executioner could possibly used, the Shadowdancer didn't feel like it was telling the story of Assassins).  Assassin is very much a martial class, and a very different one than the Rogue.  But they'd both be users of the martial arts in how they go about fighting, escaping, killing, injuring, sneaking… these are martial arts abilities.  This is why Martial classes rock, and the answer to making the Fighter not feel stupid and useless compared to the Wizard.

As an aside, we FUNDAMENTALLY NEED TO HAVE UTILITY MANEUVERS.

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As an aside, we FUNDAMENTALLY NEED TO HAVE UTILITY MANEUVERS.


Mighty Exertion (obviously)
Arguably Great Fortitude, Lightning Reflexes, and Iron Will (all useful in out-of-combat situations)
Controlled Fall
Step of the Wind (run across water and walls at higher levels)
Skill Mastery (duh)
Some more would be nice, though. 

So, some L&L feedback to us showed that they want to give some more unique things to the Fighter and the Rogue. My initial thought was that Fighting Styles and Schemes would get unique traits (similar to the Tradition and Domain traits of the other classes.) However, I have not seen any discussion on sub-classes in a while, so I’m curious as to what players want to see. Here are my questions:


1)      Are sub-class systems a good way to add variety to overall classes?


2)      Do Monks (and other future classes like the Ranger, Bard and Paladin) need a sub-class systems? Or do those classes fill such a specific niche that they don’t?


3)      Would you like specific sub-class boons to make your character unique and highlight your style of play, OR would you rather have a list of spells/maneuvers and bonuses that you can choose from as you level? IE would you rather have all classes with the current Wizard/Cleric sub-classes or the Fighter/Rogue ‘pick it yourself’ sub-classes’


I personally think the whole question of class variety comes down to how to have the maximum possible set of options for players to flavour their characters in a balanced way in the minimal set of rules.
  Therefore, we should dispense with multiclassing, dispense with subclasses, and instead focus on making specialities more significant and allow players to maybe pick more than one. You dont need a ranger subclass if you have a fighter with woodland survival, animal empathy and stealth. You dont need a paladin subclass if you have a fighter with turn undead and some kind of 'deity power'. Just a few base classes is all you need and let a good speciality mechanic take care of the rest. Otherwise the system will end up suffering from rule bloat with books like... 'player handbook 36 - sneaky magic warriors who prefer nature magic over necromancy but aren't completely averse to it either'
I'm making up specialities, but thats the jist. I'm also aware I've said the same in other posts, so I apologise for sounding like a scratched record but I just wanted to reiterate it here given the subject of the thread.

Also I would add that I'd like to separate the concept of class from profession. I much rather would have classes as a set of powers/abilities and have professions to be more campaign specific and IC.


So I don't really want to see an 'assassin' class. A stealthy rogue or fighter or even mage shuold be able to go and find a guild IC and join it to call himself an assassin.


Similarly, a Druid is a cleric with some nature specialities, who IC goes out and becomes chummy with the Druid circle. A wizard could too in theory, but probably wouldn't be allowed IC.


So Cavalier, Templars... really don't want to see them. Make a fighter, or if you really must a paladin, and go and join some order that calls themselves 'templars'.


The problem with not making classes fundamentally more generic is that it pigeonholes characters too much. A lot of decisions around character development would be better made IC in my opinion.

Disagree completely.  If you polish every class in the game and give them a wide enough array of options, then they aren't really pigeonholed.  If you feel they are, then why aren't you advocating the removal of classes completely?  The danger in reducing classes to a few is that it is more difficult to adequately express uniqueness in the powers of characters in the game, and in a certain respect the characters themselves...
Disagree completely.  If you polish every class in the game and give them a wide enough array of options, then they aren't really pigeonholed.  If you feel they are, then why aren't you advocating the removal of classes completely?  The danger in reducing classes to a few is that it is more difficult to adequately express uniqueness in the powers of characters in the game, and in a certain respect the characters themselves...



If there are few classes and each has few options, then players might begin to realize again that uniqueness isn't in your numbers and powers but in the character--his influence, his equipment, his mannerisms.