D&D 5E Challenge: Invent a PHB Class List with 6 Classes

squibbles

Adventurer
A while back there was a thread called "What Would Your Perfect 50th PHB Class List Be?"

It had an interesting exchange in it:
[...] Class reorganization tends towards two extremes: a large collection of micro-classes (very specific classes that hold to a single concept, often split off of current classes) or very broad overclasses that can absorb multiple current classes into them, differentiated by openly flexible class features. There is a group of people who prefer the system as is (plus or minus a few classes) but most pipe-dreaming ends up on either end of the scale. [...]
why does no one go with five or six then?
Lots of people stop at different points. [...] My point is that any attempt to pair down class lists based on anything other than personal like/dislike of a class ends up with a clear path towards a customizable classless system. Once you try to combine classes into mega classes that have multiple choice points and can replicate dozens of archetypes you're on your way. The broader the mega-class, the closer you are. [...]

To the challenge then!

Can you come up with a list of 6 mega-classes that elegantly contain the essentials of every existing PHB class? (bonus points for including artificers too)

How would you collapse classes? What are the essential parts of each class? What do you do with the existing subclasses that are very thematically strong (beast master ranger) versus thematically thin (hunter ranger)?

Be as opinionated about the PHB classes as you like (read bard-hating), but make sure to get all of them in. And remember, the challenge is to get down to 6 classes not to the "core four"--that's what makes it a challenge.

Also, apologies to @Remathilis and @Mind of tempest for quoting you both out of context, I hope you don't mind.
 

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
You only need three. Fighter, magic-user, and thief.

Everything else in the game is a minor variation of those three.

Cleric, divine magic-user crossed with fighter.

Paladin, fighter crossed with divine magic-user.

Ranger, nature-focused thief crossed with fighter.

Barbarian, fighter with more hp and dps but less armor.

Bard, fighter, magic-user, thief.

Artificer, item-focused magic-user crossed with thief.

Monk, fighter crossed with thief.

Druid, nature-focused magic-user.

Warlock, pact-focused magic-user.

Sorcerer, the “I’m special” magic-user.
 


vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Easy.

Warrior, the fighter. Covering all weapon focused themes: Weapon master, Guardian, Berserker, Cavalier, Hunter)

Warden, the protector. Half-spellcaster dedicated to protect something: Knowledge ala Bard, Freedom ala Ranger, Goodness ala Paladin, Oppressive rulership ala Blackguard etc

Warlock, the delver. Those seeking lost knowledge, walking the thin line between curiosity and madness: wizards, witches and warlock.

Seeker, the rogue. Scholars and thrillseekers, treasure hunters, beast masters and generic travelling adventurers.

Priest, the fated. Pick a domain (nature, healing, magic, war) and the way you defend you faith (war priest, monk faith healer, oracle, tongue of fire & hexes etc)

Scion, the heir. Those born with an inner reserve of power. Psions and sorcerers.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
Either we need to increase the power of the classes a little or load more onto the subclasses.

Fighter: Fighter, Barbarian, Ranger, Paladin, Monk

Fighter is already a blank slate and Battlemaster is a great template for adding lots of abilities with resource costs. Easy to slot in the other tough classes with subclass abilities and limited spellcasting.

Monk can be fueled by Superiority Dice.

Sorcerer: Sorcerer, Bard

Sorcerer has the theme of innate casting. While Bards train to weave magic through performance that is ultimately not how they learn spells. Both use Charisma and Sorcery Points can be repurposed to be Bardic Inspiration.

Wizard: Wizard

Cleric: Cleric, Druid

Remove some core cleric features to load onto some subclasses, ditch Nature and replace it with Druid. Wildshape uses Channel Divinity.

Rogue: Rogue

Warlock: Warlock


Monk is the only one I struggled with. Ultimately though it just needs alternate armour and unarmed attacks which don't take up much of a budget when the base class has full weapons and armour to start with and a Ki mechanic with special abilities which Superiority Dice already do. They will be happy with more hit points.

Wizard, Rogue, and Warlock all need to be on their own. Wizard studies spells and uses Intelligence. Rogue does not use limited resources. Warlock has a special casting mechanic which makes it incompatible with Wizard.
 

Scribe

Hero
Which of those classes subsume which parts of the other 7? i.e. is barbarian being collapsed into fighter?
Fighter > Barbarian/Monk.
Rogue > Bard.
Wizard > Sorc/Warlock
Druid > Ranger.
Cleric > Paladin.

I would drop Artificer into the Rogue list, but it's a requirement of the challenge. ;)
 

squibbles

Adventurer
You only need three. Fighter, magic-user, and thief.

Everything else in the game is a minor variation of those three.

Cleric, divine magic-user crossed with fighter.

Paladin, fighter crossed with divine magic-user.

Ranger, nature-focused thief crossed with fighter.

Barbarian, fighter with more hp and dps but less armor.

Bard, fighter, magic-user, thief.

Artificer, item-focused magic-user crossed with thief.

Monk, fighter crossed with thief.

Druid, nature-focused magic-user.

Warlock, pact-focused magic-user.

Sorcerer, the “I’m special” magic-user.
I don't disagree. My Ideal class list certainly would not consist of 6 classes.

But getting from 3 which make sense to 6 that make sense is the challenge :)
 

jgsugden

Legend
I would never do this in reality, but if you're going to do it for academic purposes, here is the way I'd break it down.

1.) Scout - Strengths: Exploration abilities. They'd be decent in combat, but in peculiar ways that drew upon their exploration abilities. Rather then great defenses or great damage, they'd have eccentric abilities to augment them in combat. While some would be stealthy, not all would be.
2.) Spellcaster - Strengths: They'd be the only full casters. You could be a divine, nature or arcane based, but they are the most powerful spellcasters.
3.) Defender - Strengths: They'd be the ones capable of enduring combat, and dictating options to enemies through control powers. They'd be the ones that set the stage in combat through limiting enemy options opening options for allies, and taking hits.
4.) Beater - They'd be the best concentrated damage dealers. They'd be less reliable to hit, but hit much harder.
5.) Striker - They'd be capable of selecting targets better than other classes, as well as being more reliable with their damage. They might be archers, martial artists, combat rogues, etc....
6.) Leader - They'd have abilities that augment their allies. While a defender creates opportunities for allies, leaders influence their allies more directly by issuing commands, giving abilities, etc...

Many existing classes would be split up into these 6 different role baed classes. Any of the 6 could have spells, but only the spellcasters would be full casters.
 

squibbles

Adventurer
I would never do this in reality, but if you're going to do it for academic purposes, here is the way I'd break it down.

1.) Scout - Strengths: Exploration abilities. They'd be decent in combat, but in peculiar ways that drew upon their exploration abilities. Rather then great defenses or great damage, they'd have eccentric abilities to augment them in combat. While some would be stealthy, not all would be.
2.) Spellcaster - Strengths: They'd be the only full casters. You could be a divine, nature or arcane based, but they are the most powerful spellcasters.
3.) Defender - Strengths: They'd be the ones capable of enduring combat, and dictating options to enemies through control powers. They'd be the ones that set the stage in combat through limiting enemy options opening options for allies, and taking hits.
4.) Beater - They'd be the best concentrated damage dealers. They'd be less reliable to hit, but hit much harder.
5.) Striker - They'd be capable of selecting targets better than other classes, as well as being more reliable with their damage. They might be archers, martial artists, combat rogues, etc....
6.) Leader - They'd have abilities that augment their allies. While a defender creates opportunities for allies, leaders influence their allies more directly by issuing commands, giving abilities, etc...

Many existing classes would be split up into these 6 different role baed classes. Any of the 6 could have spells, but only the spellcasters would be full casters.
Interesting, that's a much different balance of full casters to non-full casters than 5e has currently.
 

Lord Mhoram

Adventurer
Mine would be:

Fighter
Wizard
Rogue
Cleric.

I'd look to add in something outside the box than those.
Psionic
Artificiar.

Now the other thing I would do - is that with each class is so broad, There is really strong support for multiclassing so you could build a Paladin with Cleric/Fighter. Feats or special abilities or something that come online when you have 2 level in each class (Smite evil in my example).

While the core mechanics are d20, saves, hit point, attack, damage all stay the same - the specific mechanics for each class is separate.

Fighter gets the 3.pf idea of a smaller pool of points to power special abilities (think Ki like Monk)
Wizard has vancian casting.
Rogue has backstab, and at later levels get abilities from skills more than just the skill roll that other classes don't get.
Cleric has a different way to cast spells than the wizard, and really push channel energy.
The Psionic uses spell/psionic points
Artificer has a special relationship with equipment.

That way each class not only has a flavor and ability niche protection, but also mechanic niche. Helps make playing a different class something different so you don't get that "cleric is a wizard with a different spell list"

Maybe have all the casters be the equivelent of 6 level casters (like Starfinder did).
 
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Vaalingrade

Legend
Fighter
Includes Warlord, Archer, Sword and Board, TWF, Great Weapon, Bastion, Martial Artist and Wrestler

Rogue
Includes Face, Thief, Swashbuckler, Acrobat, Ninja, Expert, Alchemist, Sniper, Duelist and Tinker

Bard
Includes Charlatan, Loremaster, Musician, Dancer, Magical Warlord, and Mindbender

Warlock
Includes Pact, Book, Ancient Secrets, Nature, Clerical, Oath, and Petmaster

Sorcerer
Includes Dragon, Outsider, Angel, Demon/Devil, Mutation, ANCIENT EGYPT (for some reason), shadow, fey and absolutely never the far realm as bloodlines.

Free Space
Just feats that let you mix and match the abilities of the others to roll your own.

A feat set will let you graft psionics into any of these.
 

Mr. Wilson

Explorer
The three points of the triangle: Combat Specialist (Figher), Skill Monkey (Rogue), Magic User (Wizard).

The Three points between the triangle:
Combat Specialist-Magic User: Cleric
Combat Specialist-Skill Monkey- Ranger
Skill Monkey-Magic User: Bard or Artificer
 

The OSR game I play, Whitehack 3e, has three very open-ended classes: The Strong, the Deft, and the Wise. Classically, Fighter/Thief/Magic-User, but the system is open enough that you can easily customize in conversation with the gm. For example, the deft starts with two "attunments," described as follows:

As they advance, the Deft get slots, each of which they permanently associate with two attunements. A deft attunement must be a teacher, an item, a pet or a place. For example, a ranger could have a well trained dog or be attuned to her ancestral lands. A monk could have a famous master or be attuned to her bow.

For something with a classic feel that is more 5e-adjacent, I like the way Five Torches Deep does it, which is four classes with modular archetypes: Warrior (Barbarian, Fighter, Ranger), Thief (Assassin, Bard, Rogue), Zealot (Cleric, Paladin, Druid), and Mage (Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard).
 

Liane the Wayfarer

Frumious Flumph
Hmmm....
  • Controller: controls the environment, i.e. with spells (wizards and druids go here).
  • Defender: action-oriented, primarily defends the party from threats (fighters and paladins, definitely).
  • Leader: inspiration, healing, and aid of other party members; the primary support class (clerics, some monks, some bards).
  • Striker: surgically-precise elimination of hazards and obstacles, so by dealing with one foe in a fight, or disarming a trap, bribing an official, etc. (barbarians, rogues, rangers, some monks, assassins, some bards).
 

cbwjm

Legend
I think I'd go with the following:
  • Warrior (could easily have subclasses for various flavours of paladin or ranger. I'd also use this for the monk and barbarian which would become any warrior that uses rage/internal energy to increase their damage potential)
  • Magic-User (folds in sorcerer, wizard, and warlock. Choices made at creation provide specific mechanics for your spellcasting ability)
  • Priest (cleric and druid. Could actually use the existing cleric class with the druid gaining Channel Divinity: wildshape)
  • Expert (rogue and bard, bard likely wouldn't be a full-caster. I'd probably put the artificer here.)
  • Mentalist (psion, psionicist, mystic, mind melter, whichever name of choice you prefer)
That's 5, coming up with a 6th class is kind of hard off the top of my head, I can't think of anything to really differentiate them.

In this system of 5 classes, I wouldn't need any half-caster base classes since I'd make any subclasses that gain magic half instead of 1/3rd casters. I'd probably have 5 subclasses based on each of these 5 as well that other classes can take as a subclass so that an eldritch knight or mystic the urge could take the magic-user subclass to add some magic to their class.
 

Raith5

Adventurer
Warrior (knight/barbarian/warlord)
Hunter (ranger/scout/witcher)
Rogue (thief/assassin/bard)
Mage (Wiz/Sorc/Warlock/artificer)
Priest (Druid/Shaman/Paladin)
Mystic (Monk/Psion)
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Easy. I just copy my 1e/2e heartbreaker.
  • Arcanist
    • Bard
    • Sorcerer
    • Warlock
    • Wizard
  • Champion
    • Gish
    • Paladin
    • Ranger
    • Warden
  • Priest
    • Cleric
    • Druid
    • Invoker
    • Shaman
  • Rogue
    • Assassin
    • Swashbuckler
    • Thief
    • Trickster
  • Scholar
    • Artificer
    • Alchemist
    • Smith
    • Warlord
  • Warrior
    • Barbarian
    • Fighter
    • Gladiator
    • Monk
 


squibbles

Adventurer
The OSR game I play, Whitehack 3e, has three very open-ended classes: The Strong, the Deft, and the Wise. Classically, Fighter/Thief/Magic-User, but the system is open enough that you can easily customize in conversation with the gm. For example, the deft starts with two "attunments," described as follows:



For something with a classic feel that is more 5e-adjacent, I like the way Five Torches Deep does it, which is four classes with modular archetypes: Warrior (Barbarian, Fighter, Ranger), Thief (Assassin, Bard, Rogue), Zealot (Cleric, Paladin, Druid), and Mage (Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard).
Oh, there are absolutely tons of ways remix and recombine classes and, as always, the OSR is full of strange variety. My favorite OSR-clone system, Simulacrum, has only two classes--warrior and mage. But, again, the challenge here is to get to 6 good classes. And 6, as opposed to 4 or 3, is a very tortured arrangement to arrive at.

One of the other posts by @Remathilis back in the What Would Your Perfect 50th PHB Class List Be? is as follows:
The typical method of pairing down classes always goes something like this:

  • There are too many/arbitrary classes in D&D. Let's fix that!
  • Well, we can combine similar classes into one, like making barbarian a part of fighter.
  • Well, we've paired them down to like five or six, but D&D has classically only had the Core Four, so we can make the outliers fit into them.
  • A.) OD&D only had three classes, we should replicate that and remove thief. B.) Magic is magic, let's combine mage and priest into one caster class.
  • Actually, all you need is sword user and magic user. Two classes.
  • Eh, screw it. Let's just go classless and allow you complete customization.

Not everyone gets to the final step: inertia to removing all guide rails is strong. But if you've gotten down to two, you just need balance magic costs and you can go full classless like M&M.

And so, the point of this thread really isn't "what are cool class lists in D&D?" and certainly not "what is the ideal class list in D&D?" it's "does there exist an elegant and thematic list of 6 D&D classes that includes everything most players would want from the game?"

[...]
Free Space
Just feats that let you mix and match the abilities of the others to roll your own.
Ha! you smuggled a classless system in at the last minute :LOL:
 

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