D&D 5E Broad vs Narrow Classes

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
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.

I think this is also where some of the wackiness and imbalance of subclasses comes from.

The Broad classes like Fighter have a ton in their umbrella so TSR and WOTC had a ton of directions to go with kits and subclasses at the expense of doing them all poorly.

The Semi-narrow classes were planned with only so many subclass ideas and once they go passed that number, the designers struggled for ideas and this is where you got broken and boring stuff like Twilight/Peace clerics and CODzilla.

And the focused narrow classes had planned splits so they had well made flavorful and balanced subclasses as long as you don't force an idea into the class without the design space (Beastmaster/Way of the 4E).

Narrow just seems objectively the best option but (current) WOTC and many fans just hate the idea of new classes.
 

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TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Kill the sacred cow. Remove classes completely.

Offer pre-determined archetypes (like Tasha's did with Battle Masters) for new players or players who have a concept.

Otherwise, select what your PC does at each level, allowing your PC to grow organically.

If I have to choose, closest would be "broad" I guess.
This.

If you have to have classes, I'd prefer narrow, specific classes of limited power; most of the character's growth should still come diegetically rather than through mechanical structure.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Broad with more options than a try hard pizzeria.

I feel that a class should be a toolbox or ability set for an archetype, not a Thing What Is Literally Your Fantasy World Job.

So the rogue contains all skill monkies, the wizard warlock is all magicky folks including clerics, the fighter is all the fighty types, and the bard allows the three nations to live in harmony as the blend class.

And then, feats. Thousands of them, letting you build out your paladin from a fighter or god-lock or even bard (for that shining hero who is good for goodness sake), your wilderrogue ranger, your mystic or martial arts mage monk, etc.
 

Aldarc

Legend
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.
My quibble here is that I see the Wizard as being broader than the Sorcerer. The Wizard basically amounts to a mage with a book who can cast all arcane magic.

This.

If you have to have classes, I'd prefer narrow, specific classes of limited power; most of the character's growth should still come diegetically rather than through mechanical structure.
Feats could even cover some of the broader thematic aspects of multiclassing. Need martial armors and armor? Take the feat for that. Need more skills? Take the feat for that.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I often see people "Broad and Reduce the Classes" but that always seemed like a pipe dream to me.

I've never seen it work outside of OSR. And OSR tends to remove the crunch of most of the subclasses. And I believe there is a good reason for that.

It's easy to say "Choose Warrior and then choose Barbarian, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger"
It's hard to make Rage, Weapon Specialty, Smite, and Favored Enemy equal in power and lore.

The only way to do it is link everything together and you end up creating the same narrow classes all over again.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I often see people "Broad and Reduce the Classes" but that always seemed like a pipe dream to me.

I've never seen it work outside of OSR. And OSR tends to remove the crunch of most of the subclasses. And I believe there is a good reason for that.

It's easy to say "Choose Warrior and then choose Barbarian, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger"
It's hard to make Rage, Weapon Specialty, Smite, and Favored Enemy equal in power and lore.

The only way to do it is link everything together and you end up creating the same narrow classes all over again.
I mean, I did it. Except Favored Enemy, which I think is pretty crumby.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
My quibble here is that I see the Wizard as being broader than the Sorcerer. The Wizard basically amounts to a mage with a book who can cast all arcane magic.
Which one of Warlock, Sorcerer, and Wizard is more broad is dependent on the lore you give them.

D&D tends to link
  • Warlocks to Highest Nondeirty Arch-Beings (Archfiends, Archfey, Gentie Sultans, Greatest Undead, GOOs, Dead Gods)
  • Sorcerer to Strong Nondeity Magical Monsters and Effects (Dragons, Mindflayers, Every Plane, Wild Magic, Storms Phenomenon, Cosmic Phenomenom)
  • Wizards to Spell School (8 official ~5 unofficial)
Sorcerer has most to go with as there are monsters and planes than schools of magic.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I mean, I did it. Except Favored Enemy, which I think is pretty crumby.
Is it balanced though?

I'd seen it done often but it is often obviously visibly unbalanced or just recreations of the class and making the "broad base class" meaningless or OSR where classes don't have many mechanics.


That's why I call it a pipe dream.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Which one of Warlock, Sorcerer, and Wizard is more broad is dependent on the lore you give them.

D&D tends to link
  • Warlocks to Highest Nondeirty Arch-Beings (Archfiends, Archfey, Gentie Sultans, Greatest Undead, GOOs, Dead Gods)
  • Sorcerer to Strong Nondeity Magical Monsters and Effects (Dragons, Mindflayers, Every Plane, Wild Magic, Storms Phenomenon, Cosmic Phenomenom)
  • Wizards to Spell School (8 official ~5 unofficial)
Sorcerer has most to go with as there are monsters and planes than schools of magic.
Broad in the sense of less thematically focused. The schools of magic are pretty darn broad as well. The Wizard is the direct descendant and heir apparent of the Magic-User. Its purpose is to be blank slate mage in the same way that the fighter is the blank slate warrior or the rogue is the blank slate expert.
 

This is one place where I think 5e gets it right; broad classes that contains multiple much more narrow subclasses (with some subclasses being narrower than others).

And one of the huge advantages of a class system is that different classes can and should be built different ways; it isn't a one size fits all thing.
 

My quibble here is that I see the Wizard as being broader than the Sorcerer. The Wizard basically amounts to a mage with a book who can cast all arcane magic.
That's IMO pretty narrow in a perverse way. "Can cast all arcane magic" (never mind that the bard's busy healing and the artificer has recently joined in) is a very simple non-detailed concept, and it's something that can apply to all wizards. All wizards are fundamentally the same this way and only differ significantly in the equipment they use (i.e. their spell book)

Meanwhile there's more variation between sorcerers because two different sorcerers might not have a single spell in common, with a shadow sorcerer possibly playing entirely differently from a storm sorcerer.

And this is why I don't just agree with @DEFCON 1 but I'm not entirely joking when I suggest that the wizard should be a subclass of sorcerer, with the wizard's gimmick being that they can cast all (sorcerous) arcane magic and use Intelligence to do so.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Broad in the sense of less thematically focused. The schools of magic are pretty darn broad as well. The Wizard is the direct descendant and heir apparent of the Magic-User. Its purpose is to be blank slate mage in the same way that the fighter is the blank slate warrior or the rogue is the blank slate expert.
The wizard is the most compelling argument I can imagine for narrow classes.
 

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.
it had the problem thay all looked similar.

they have often fairly dull names.

and many do not feel truly iconic just being slot-filling, which is not bad but could be better.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Broad in the sense of less thematically focused. The schools of magic are pretty darn broad as well. The Wizard is the direct descendant and heir apparent of the Magic-User. Its purpose is to be blank slate mage in the same way that the fighter is the blank slate warrior or the rogue is the blank slate expert.
The wizard stopped being the basic Magic user in 3rd edition.

The community went for Nature (Sorcerer) vs Nurture (Wizard) vs Borrowed (Warlock).

Only those who are not sold on this could think to jam them back together.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Is it balanced though?

I'd seen it done often but it is often obviously visibly unbalanced or just recreations of the class and making the "broad base class" meaningless or OSR where classes don't have many mechanics.


That's why I call it a pipe dream.
What do you consider balanced?

The way I've broken out the former class abilities into feats, the fighty guy will always have a weapon specialization even if it's improvised weapons or what's at hand and then they can have rage or smite or both. So the broad base class isn't meaningless and there's certainly mechanics.

It was pretty easy, barely an inconvenience.
 

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.
The problem with 4e wasn't that the classes weren't good. It's that they were all good for the same definition of good. If you liked one 4e class (especially pre-Essentials) you'd probably like almost all of them. And if you didn't you wouldn't. The advantage of having a class system is that if you have entirely different tastes you can still each have some classes.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
What do you consider balanced?

The way I've broken out the former class abilities into feats, the fighty guy will always have a weapon specialization even if it's improvised weapons or what's at hand and then they can have rage or smite or both. So the broad base class isn't meaningless and there's certainly mechanics.

It was pretty easy, barely an inconvenience.

I mean
Rage =/= Smite

So you'd have to split Rage into 3 feats and your level 1 barbarian won't have barbarian features.

You'll basically have to make a feat based class system like PF2E then create a way for you dip.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I mean
Rage =/= Smite

So you'd have to split Rage into 3 feats and your level 1 barbarian won't have barbarian features.

You'll basically have to make a feat based class system like PF2E then create a way for you dip.
So here's what happens: Rage does all the rage things and levels its features up and the extra uses cost a feat. Smite gets per encounter uses and new smites + uses for more feats.

You get class + universal feats every other level +1, and a freebie feat every off level where you can spend it on any feats. And The universal feats contain things that steal from the other classes like the fighter-type's Weapon of choice, spells, or bard schools.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
So here's what happens: Rage does all the rage things and levels its features up and the extra uses cost a feat. Smite gets per encounter uses and new smites + uses for more feats.

You get class + universal feats every other level +1, and a freebie feat every off level where you can spend it on any feats. And The universal feats contain things that steal from the other classes like the fighter-type's Weapon of choice, spells, or bard schools.
So exactly like I said.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
My quibble here is that I see the Wizard as being broader than the Sorcerer. The Wizard basically amounts to a mage with a book who can cast all arcane magic.


Feats could even cover some of the broader thematic aspects of multiclassing. Need martial armors and armor? Take the feat for that. Need more skills? Take the feat for that.
I think understand what you are saying. What I'm getting is you are thinking "Broad" in terms of what the Wizard can do-- with such a large spell list, the Wizard can cast almost anything and thus be almost anything. And I don't disagree with that necessarily. But that appears to me to be coming from a mechanical expression, rather than a thematic one.

From a thematic expression I see the Wizard to be very constrained. The class is all about bookworms. Scientists. The smartypants who has to sit in their laboratory working out formulas to figure out how this magic stuff works, and then writing it all down in their spellbooks. And even their Subclasses don't actually change this identity, all they do is tell us what Major they took when they went to school (to incorporate a metaphor.)

From my perspective... for the Wizard to be Broad like the Fighter and Rogue... we would need to be able to name all manner of different types of magic-users and they should fit in nicely under the Wizard umbrella-- the same way we can name all these different thematic identities like Thief, Assassin, Mastermind, Swashbuckler, Inquisitive, Scout, etc. and they all fit under the umbrella of 'Rogue'. But if we start going through a lot of the different caster identities? The ones we already don't have full classes written up for? The thematics of the Wizard doesn't really fit them.

The Witch? We'd use a different class than Wizard.
The Shaman? Different class than Wizard.
The Psion? Nope.
The Summoner? Would depend entirely on the things being summoned-- Druid and Warlock also apply.
The Binder? Okay, possibly. But an argument could be made for the Warlock depending on what was being bound.

Now that being said... the Wizard DOES get used as the generic "Arcane spellcaster" archetype when it gets attached to other classes for multiclassing purposes (either subclassed like the EK / AT or actual multis.) But when that happens pretty much most of the thematic identity of who a Wizard is gets wiped away anyways. They are Fighters who use magic, or Rogues who use magic, or Monks who use magic... they are never really identified as Wizards who use weapons or sneaky Wizards, or Wizards who fight unarmed. Although let's be honest here... for both the EK and AT I think the Sorcerer-- the magic user who can just "do" magic without all the rigamarole of science and spellbooks and discovery and all that crap-- actually makes more sense as the class paired to the Fighter or Rogue as the way to gain magic when fighting. The magic-using warrior doesn't want to have to cart a spellbook around and study it every morning, they want to just sling spells when fighting with their weapons. And that's more the purview of the Sorcerer if you ask me.
 

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