Do classes built for the 5E D&D *ENGINE* NEED sub-classes?

View Poll Results: Do 5E Classes need Sub-Classes?

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100. This poll is closed
  • Yes, classes NEED sub-classes.

    72 72.00%
  • It depends. (Please elaborate.)

    7 7.00%
  • No, it's not mandatory.

    21 21.00%
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  1. #1
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    Do classes built for the 5E D&D *ENGINE* NEED sub-classes?

    So, a classplosion is happening for D&D 5E, and it's overwhelmingly third party. Actually it's been going on for quite a while but I'm just becoming aware of just how many homebrew 5E classes are floating around as I develop my own homebrew classes. Now my own homebrew classes for 5E are not, strictly speaking, for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Some are for Dragonrun, and some will be for a more serious commercial project I'm developing using the 5E OGL but little or no Dungeons & Dragons specific content. With that said, personally speaking I wouldn't buy "10 new classes for 5E" for a dollar even if I recognized the names of the authors and thought they'd be balanced and fun, because personally speaking, I take a "less is more" approach to my D&D. To me, the amount of character options in the core rulebook was just right. Adding in the the three published WotC guides, and it went from just right to "plenty". I have no desire for any more character options.

    One of the things I like about the core classes and sub-classes (besides the old school fanboy/grog in me that just plain likes things have been around forever like wizards and fighters better than new things) is that broadly speaking the number of them is just about right for a player to learn to play a few intelligently and while playing that character, also observe the combat capabilities of NPCs belonging to those same classes and learn the right tactics for fighting them invisibly. If you have enough character classes that there's no reason not to make every enemy NPC a special snowflake, so you can't have this kind of learning.

    ANYWAY: it strikes me that the more classes become available, the LESS NECESSARY sub-classes become, as the point of sub-classes was to allow for ample character differentiation in a game with relatively few classes. Thus: poll.
    Last edited by ParanoydStyle; Monday, 29th April, 2019 at 11:17 PM.
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  2. #2
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    The poll results are hidden. Wait, what?
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  3. #3
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    Fifth Edition has always suffered from inconsistent granularity between the classes. Some classes (Fighter, Rogue, Cleric) absolutely need sub-classes, in order to define their identity. Other classes (Barbarian, Druid, Warlock) are already hyper-specific concepts.

    Ideally, the solution would be a system with generic base classes and specialized sub-classes, where the hyper-specific classes became sub-classes of the generic base classes. Barbarian should be a Fighter sub-class, for example. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way.

    When it comes to new classes, I would say that they absolutely do not need to have sub-classes within them, if the concept for that class is already as hyper-specific as the Barbarian or Druid. It would be entirely justified to include sub-classes for any core class that was as generic as the Fighter or Rogue, though.
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  4. #4
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    Ranger is ridiculously awful without a subclass because it loses all of it's damage output except for Fighting Style and Hunter's Mark. That's one of the reasons why Beastmaster is so awful; it adds the pet without adding any additional damage, so it falls way behind.

  5. #5
    My opinion is this:

    Sub-Classes are a Core Feature of 5E.

    While most classes could easily be playable if stripped of sub-classes, or assigned a single sub-class with no options, the fact of the matter is, Sub-Classes are part of the design choice that was made for 5E, so any game that DOESN'T use sub-classes ISN'T actually a game of 5E, and any class that DOESN'T have sub-classes ISN'T a 5E class.

    Either or both could be said to be 5E compatible, but because it doesn't use a Core Component of the system, it's not really 5E.

    This isn't to say this makes them BAD.

    Just that, IMO, in order to be a "5E Class" you MUST offer AT LEAST 2 subclasses, and really you should have 3-6.
    Last edited by TiwazTyrsfist; Tuesday, 23rd April, 2019 at 01:18 AM.
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  6. #6
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    Do they NEED subclasses? No.

    But it serves several purposes:
    It prevents duplicating abilities. A subclass can gain certain features of the base class without needing to rename, refluff or retool an ability that already exists and works.
    It saves on design space. It allows us to make a "fighter, but different" without having to reinvent the wheel or have "Different Fighter Man" stepping on the toes of "Good Old Fashioned Fighter Man".
    And of course, it keeps down splat bloat.

    Creating a new class typically means attempting to justify some niche that isn't already covered by an existing class. Which is where subclasses shine, we don't have to justify a new niche, we can say this is a niche within a niche! It means more paper wasted on the same things, or very slight variants of the same things, instead of saying "it works just like this guy, except for here, here and here."

    And really I think that's healthier than whole new classes.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by TiwazTyrsfist View Post
    While most classes could easily be playable if stripped of sub-classes, or assigned a single sub-class with no options, the fact of the matter is, Sub-Classes are part of the design choice that was made for 5E, so any game that DOESN'T use sub-classes ISN'T actually a game of 5E, and any class that DOESN'T have sub-classes ISN'T a 5E class.
    That makes it sound like you can't play 5E using the free rules which were provided to let you play 5E, just because it hard-codes each class to one sub-class.

    As they explain elsewhere, the concept of classes and sub-classes is a fundamental aspect of 5E, but none of the individual classes or sub-classes is fundamental. It's still 5E, even if the DM's setting only allows for human fighter/champions.

  8. #8
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    Hydra (Lvl 25)



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    Not at all. I could imagine a game using a strictly 5e chassis that had 60 2 page classes, with no subclasses at all. Maybe even no decision points at all, much like 1e and 2e classes.
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  9. #9
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    Design wise, I wish they did, but at this point I think that the spectrum of classes is how things are going to go.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ParanoydStyle View Post
    So, a classplosion is happening for D&D 5E, and it's overwhelmingly third party. Actually it's been going on for quite a while but I'm just becoming aware of just how many homebrew 5E classes are floating around as I develop my own homebrew classes.


    ANYWAY: it strikes me that the more classes become available, the LESS NECESSARY sub-classes become, as the point of sub-classes was to allow for ample character differentiation in a game with relatively few classes. Thus: poll.
    There will probably only ever be 1, maybe 2, more non-setting specific classes released for 5E (some form of psion and maybe something completely new). They will probably make a few setting specific classes that could be transferred to other settings (such as the artificer for Eberron), but those are still going to be rare. Given the classplosion of 3E, and the resulting power creep, I strongly suspect that any new "class" they want to make will be done as a subclass if possible. Thus for 5E classes, sub-classes are necessary to allow variety and to create new character concepts.

    However, you have added in homebrew and 3PP options to the mix, which creates an unbalanced equation for your question. They can add a billion new classes, making sub-classes unnecessary for any game that uses all of them. You can design homebrew or 3PP classes that don't have or need sub-classes, but that is not the design principle of 5E. Your question would be better stated as: do games that allow a lot of homebrew classes and 3PP classes really need sub-classes. In that case, sub-classes are probably irrelevant.

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