Not sure how extensively this topic has been discussed already, but I don't quite feel up to searching through countless blogs/forum threads right now.Since they seem to really be stripping classes of previous editions down to the basic elements that differentiate them, I'd like to discuss which classes don't really have much overlap, and see which classes can be stacked as themes or backgrounds on top of them to create what we've seen before. I think all variations of what people want to see would be possible with DnD Next's modularity. Not all variations should necessarily be separate classes, though, but possibly themes instead.
Let's start with what might be the base classes. What does each class have that's unique, and shouldn't be available as a Theme to anyone? I'm going to throw out a few ideas here, and would like to see what amendments or additions you all have.
Casters seem to mostly differentiate themselves by their source of power. The primary two have been arcane and divine. Arcane seems to be more versatile and damage-heavy. Divine heals, and seems to typically be a more defensive or party-enhancing magic. Psionics can be another form of 'casting', with the source being the character's mind. What about pact magic? Or nature being a separate source (and therefore class) for something like the Druid, or should nature be a variant of a divine source? Should the casting method also create a separate class, or a variance based on modularity (Vancian, spontaneous, spell/psionic points, etc.)?
What about the fighting classes such as Fighter, Paladin, and Monk? If we really strip them down I suppose they might all be based on some generic warrior class, but I don't think WotC is going that sparse with class design. Most of the previous editions seemed to group the classes into broader categories, or at least had some of the classes as variants of other base classes. The third and fourth editions break them down into four generic groups, but I doubt WotC's design approach will include only four base classes in the basic design. For clarity here's a list of classes by edition:
From 1st Edition:
Base Class: Variant Class:
Fighter Paladin, Ranger
Cavalier Paladin (updated)
From 2nd Edition:
These offered Kits; variants of the base classes by racial/cultural themes.
From 3rd Edition:
Arcane Caster Sorcerer
Divine Caster Cleric
(Skill-focused class) Rogue
'Complete' Handbooks and other supplements:
These provided additional base and prestige classes loosely grouped by a generic role.
From 4th Edition:
Player's Handbook 2, 3, etc:
These books added more classes than you can shake a stick at.
Now that we see which base classes have been published, which should persist as full classes, and which should be modular variants or possible Themes that can be added to any class? We might start by listing some classes and deciding what features each have that are unique to that specific class and shouldn't be shared.
Class: Primary Features: Class or Variant?:
Assassin Assassination, Poison Variant
Bard Inspiration, Lore, 'Versatility' (See Below)*
Barbarian Rage, Trap Sense Class
Cavalier Inspiration?, Mounted Combat Variant
Cleric Divine Magic, Turn Undead Class
Druid Divine (Nature) Magic, Shapechanging Variant
Fighter Feats** Class
Monk Unarmed Strike, Ki Powers, Movement Class
Paladin Lay on Hands, Smite Variant
Ranger Favored Enemy, Tracking, Weapon Style Variant
Rogue/Thief Sneak Attack, Skills Class
Sorcerer Arcane Magic (Spontaneous), Familiar Variant
Specialty Priest Divine Magic, 'Special Granted Abilities' Variant
Specialist Wizard Arcane Magic (Focused/Limited), Familiar Variant
Warlock Eldritch Bolt, Arcane Magic (At-Will) Variant
Warlord Inspiration, Alternate Healing Variant
Wizard/Mage Arcane Magic, Familiar Class
* The 1st Edition Bard was akin to a Prestige Class of 3rd Edition. I personally think it would be great if they went back to their roots for this class, and created an advanced Theme that can only be applied to a multiclassed character.
** The Fighter doesn't really have any unique powers of its own. This is a design issue that WotC has stated they're trying to address to try establishing the Fighter as a unique class and not just a generic 'build it yourself' warrior-type.
Taking a look at my gut instinct on which classes I selected to stay base, and which might be better as variants, I kind of surprised myself. Two classes I definitely am not sure about are the Paladin and Ranger. They have such an established role in the history of the game, yet I can't help but think that the basic features of each class could possibly be applied to other base classes without too much trouble. Why can't you have a Rogue with the 'Ranger' theme? Or a Fighter or Cleric with the 'Paladin' theme? When I think of a Paladin, I think knight in shining armor. Others may see it differently, though, and my bias shouldn't limit what other players want to play.
Maybe I'm thinking backward in regards to the relation of Class and Theme. Meaning, that we could just consider the class of Paladin as just 'holy warrior', and the Theme would be something like Knight (or Dervish, or whatever) stacked on top of it. The big question is which classes should really be the foundation for possible combinations, and which are better suited to focus that base class toward a unique identity. As you can see I'm very undecided at this point. The purpose of this blog is mostly just to sort my thoughts, and see what suggestions the community has.
Thanks for reading!