D&D 5E Broad vs Narrow Classes

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Most of the classes could be split into 2-3 classes and have players multiclass or take feats to take more than one focus.

Hmmh. I would not go this far.
I think, a certain broadness enhances the multiclassing effect.

I think, the fighter might be a bit to broad, while the barbarian and the monk are a bit too narrow. I think, we could just scrap the paladin and the ranger amd make them proper fighter/rogue/druid or fighter/cleric multiclass.


If you are going to use a Class-based system... then each class should have their own flavor and thematic intention story-wise.

In 5E in my opinion there are 3 Broad classes and 10 Narrow ones. Fighter, Rogue, and Sorcerer are the three Broad classes, in that their flavor and theming come out of their subclasses and not the base class. The words "Fighter", "Rogue", and "Sorcerer" are more catch-all terms used as a title heading to encompass all the different "real" thematic classes within them.

Whereas the Artificer, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Warlock, and Wizard all have their flavor and thematic intent baked into their base class, and the subclasses are merely different ways or paths to present it or to focus on a specific thing within the base class.

Having both types within the game is what causes all the hullabaloo, because two of the three Broad classes are the two purely MARTIAL classes in the game. Which means it gives the impression that the game is focused on magic because there's all these other spellcasting Classes in the game and only "two" Martial classes. But that's not really "true" per se... because all of what WOULD be the heaping amount of Martial classes are actually presented as subclasses under two Martial umbrellas. The Samurai, Thief, Scout, Assassin, Swashbuckler, Cavalier, Gunslinger, Banneret, Champion, Mastermind et. al... could ALL have been their own Classes in the game sitting right alongside the Cleric, Wizard, Warlock, Druid et. al. And if WotC had done that, there wouldn't be any of this caterwauling about not having enough Martial Classes.

Which is why I most certainly understand many people's desires for the condensing of Classes down to "Fighters, Rogues, Priests and Mages" or even "Fighters, Rogues, and Spellcasters" to make ALL the "Classes" be Broad. And then every "Subclass" or whatever designation you use becomes Narrow. It makes sense from a categorization perspective to do it that way. Make it so that none of the umbrella Classes have much flavor in and of themselves, where instead all of their unique story perspective and flavor comes from the subclass.

But I think the reasons WotC don't do that is because of tradition AND the fact that most of the Classes in the game have unique game mechanics to themselves. And as a lot of people want (ne DEMAND!) unique game mechanics for Classes (see the multitude of Psionics debates)... condensing Classes down into three or four Broad classes condenses the types of unique game mechanics you have for each of them (unless you start adding all kind of mechanics back in via Feats or somesuch.. but that'll piss off a bunch of people that way too.) So I suspect any sort of condensed mechanics or 'pick 'n choose' mechanics via Feats would be an anathema to a vast majority of the D&D populace.

At the end of the day, I personally would prefer Narrow classes, if for no other reason that it would force WotC to turn all the Fighter and Rogue subclasses into their own specific classes (like Pathfinder does for the most part)... thereby giving us a huge influx of Martial classes to add to the Caster ones... and thus finally ending the endless wall of complaints that WotC cares more about spellcasters than they do martial warriors.
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Hmmh. I would not go this far.
I think, a certain broadness enhances the multiclassing effect.

I think, the fighter might be a bit to broad, while the barbarian and the monk are a bit too narrow. I think, we could just scrap the paladin and the ranger amd make them proper fighter/rogue/druid or fighter/cleric multiclass.
The Fighter could be easily split into 3-5 classes.
The Cleric can be split into a Healbot, Warpriest, and Laser Priest.
The Druid can be spell into Wildshaper or Animal Lord
The Paladin can be split into a warrior/priest half caster smiter and a noncaster warrior with tons of abilities like WHFB Grail Knights
The Ranger can be split into a monster hunter, a beastmater, and a warrior/scout/druid.
The Rogue can be split into pure Expert and Expert/Warrior classes.
The Warlock could have the Hexblade pulled out into its own class

The Barbarian and Monk I agree are narrow as is. But the Totem Warrior and Elements Monk could easily be their own classes.


In a "general purpose" RPG like D&D, I prefer broad classes that you can mold to fit the thing you're trying to accomplish.

In a game trying to fit a more specific setting, it could be cool to have more narrow and flavorful classes – the kind that would have been covered by prestige classes (as originally intended) in 3e. So instead of a "wizard" class, perhaps a particular city has three competing wizard guilds, each of which has its own class and spell list. This also offers the opportunity of a somewhat higher power budget for the class, because you don't need to worry about combinatoric shenanigans since the class is mostly on rails. But that requires a specific setting, and probably a fairly narrow one or you'll get a veritable explosion of classes.

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
I prefer "broad" in the way I would define "broad," which is neither "narrow" nor "desultory." I suspect a lot of things I would consider "desultory" are what others would classify as "broad."

For me, a "narrow" class has a small number (say, 4 or less) rigidly fixed paths. You don't get meaningful choices, nor can you "drift" (if I'm using that term correctly) into other ways of doing things. E.g., if every Cleric is a heal it, but some are endurance healers (low rate but high volume), some are mitigation specialists, some have limited but huge heals (high rate but low volume), etc., and cannot become anything else, then I would call that too narrow.

Conversely, a "desultory" class is one that gives you zero structure or guidance. Instead of rigidly fixing you on one and only one path, it seems to go out of its way to eliminate any guideline you might follow. The 3.X Fighter is a great example here. The idea was supposed to be huge freedom and variability due to the massive pile of extra feats, but because good feats were almost always locked behind piles of bad (or at least boring) feats, the implementation was extremely poor. It's well known in 3.5e charop circles that building an effective Fighter is an extreme challenge, something only for real charop experts, because it is just SO easy to get it wrong and end up with useless crap.

A broad class avoids these pitfalls. It offers clearly-defined starting benefits and functional guidance on what to do, while offering real choice and internal diversity/variation without ironclad limits.

As far as I'm concerned, most 4e classes were "broad" by this definition. They gave you a reliable starting point and a good idea of how to move forward...but left it up to you whether to do that or to pursue something else instead. Between Themes, Paragon Paths, and the multiclass or hybrid rules, you could do just about whatever you wanted, and have a good idea of whether it would be worthwhile or not. Certain options, particularly later on e.g. Vampire, fell short of this goal.

For comparison, I find both the 5e Fighter and 5e Wizard to be desultory. They do nothing to set you on a productive path, they barely if at all support their theme, and they contain several "trap" options or flawed implementations. And with how shallow the mechanical elements of 5e are, it's hard to do much of anything to redirect things or alter your course.
The Sorcerer was about the same as the Fighter in that regard. Everyone felt like it was the "easy" Wizard, but in reality, with so few spell choices, you had to go over your spell list with a fine toothed comb to make sure you got the best options.

The last 3.5 Sorcerer someone came to the table with had multiple, redundant mobility spells, like levitate, spider climb, and fly, and all their feats were metamagic. shudders

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