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

Ok, my take on the OP's question:

Fighter
Priest (divine caster)
Rogue
Wizard
Shaman (see below)
Monk

"Shaman" is my catchall for a caster class that doesn't get there through study (that's Wizard) or prayer (that's Priest) but through some kind of dangerous connection to supernatural entities. So Witch, Druid, and Warlock would all fit under there. Also Witch-doctor, but I have a gut feeling that archetype is considered insensitive now, which would be too bad.

I know Monk isn't popular, but I just don't see it fitting well under Fighter or Rogue, and I love monks. So, yeah, it gets a whole class to itself.

Here's how other archetypes would manifest
Paladin: back to being a sub-class of Fighter
Ranger: not a class or subclass. If you want to play one, multiclass rogue and fighter and take feats.
Sorcerer: Wizard with different fluff
Bard: rogue subclass for the basic chassis, then multiclass and feats
Cleric: Priest/Fighter multiclass
Barbarian: Fighter subclass, plus feats.

In general I think a lot more feats could allow for the expression of more archetypes.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Due to this each could only ever be played as single-class characters, so as to avoid dipping to get access to these mechanics.

That's an interesting concept.

Oh, although I like very little from 3e and 4e, I think something like prestige classes...which I think of as "templates"...would be cool. That is, classes which can only be used for multi-classing, not a base class. "Woodsman", "Barbarian", "Lycanthrope", "Holy Warrior" etc. would enable a bunch of archetypes to be layered onto various classes. Why shouldn't a Wizard be able to rage? Or a rogue to strike holy blows against undead and demons?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Oh, although I like very little from 3e and 4e, I think something like prestige classes...which I think of as "templates"...would be cool. That is, classes which can only be used for multi-classing, not a base class. "Woodsman", "Barbarian", "Lycanthrope", "Holy Warrior" etc. would enable a bunch of archetypes to be layered onto various classes. Why shouldn't a Wizard be able to rage? Or a rogue to strike holy blows against undead and demons?
Ma-aybe?

My first thought is this idea, while good in principle, might be an absolute minefield in practice when it comes to trying to keep it all at least vaguely in balance.
 

Ma-aybe?

My first thought is this idea, while good in principle, might be an absolute minefield in practice when it comes to trying to keep it all at least vaguely in balance.

That's definitely true. It would be hard. Have to keep it simple (which would be facilitated by a shorter class and sub-class list) and use lots of playtesting.
 

squibbles

Adventurer
More misc. thoughts/comments:

[...] Warden, the protector. Half-spellcaster dedicated to protect something: Knowledge ala Bard, Freedom ala Ranger, Goodness ala Paladin, Oppressive rulership ala Blackguard etc [...]
One thing I noticed in fiddling with the 6-class challenge myself is that half-casters don't fit in it very well. All the existing half-caster classes have a very strong theme and half-casting is too powerful to add as a subclass level feature if the balance of the ammended classes is equivalent to current 5e. What you did there is interesting, a new class with its own relatively strong theming--stronger theming than the fighter or rogue anyway--but with even more strongly themed component subclasses. (I assume you are thinking in terms of subclasses--the mechanics these many class collapses and how they're organized mechanically is generally unstated, so I'm just thinking of how I'd do it)


[...] 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. [...]
So many people leaving the Rogue in. First thing I would do is merge them with the Fighter to create a proper martial hero class. One that can function in combat and out of combat.
Considering how strongly 5e leans toward classes using magic, maybe putting everything that doesn't use magic into the widely-thought-to-be-bland fighter class is a good solution to the challenge. 1/6 non-inherently-magic classes isn't a whole lot less than 4/13 non-inherently-magic classes. (yes I know neither of you suggested that, I'm just musing)

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.
If those two classes became one with a unified set of mechanics, it would say something curious about the nature of magic in the implied setting. I'm not sure exactly what, but it'd make the bard less of a one-off musician who also knows arcane magic (with explicitly called out colleges) to music being inherently sorcerous or sorcery being inherently musical.
 


squibbles

Adventurer
[...]

"Shaman" is my catchall for a caster class that doesn't get there through study (that's Wizard) or prayer (that's Priest) but through some kind of dangerous connection to supernatural entities. So Witch, Druid, and Warlock would all fit under there. Also Witch-doctor, but I have a gut feeling that archetype is considered insensitive now, which would be too bad.

[...]
I recognize it's not the gist of your post but, incidentally, "shaman" is considered insensitive in some quarters as well--they even made it to the Wikipedia page :p
 


I recognize it's not the gist of your post but, incidentally, "shaman" is considered insensitive in some quarters as well--they even made it to the Wikipedia page :p

Yeah, I'm not totally happy with the name in any event. "Spiritualist" has both the wrong connotations and just sounds bland.

I mean, I guess "Witch" could be the base class. If you expand it to mean more than just Fairy Tale witches, I could see Druid* and Warlock both fitting. But that then leaves open the question of what you call the Fairy Tale subclass.

In any event, I wish the "scary caster with supernatural friends" archetype was its own thing.

Although, truly, if Templates were a thing, I could see Shapeshifting (as a different template from Lycanthropy) being one of those Templates. So the Druid is implemented by being a Nature Priest with a Shapeshifting Template. That way Barbarians (Fighter subclass) could shapeshift (Beorn?), Rangers (Fighter/Rogue multiclass) could Shapeshift, etc. All kinds of fun possibilities. And you only have to dip as far as you want. Just want to be able to turn into a cat? One level. A flying creature? Two levels. A brown bear? At least 4 levels.
 

squibbles

Adventurer
Yeah, I'm not totally happy with the name in any event. "Spiritualist" has both the wrong connotations and just sounds bland.

I mean, I guess "Witch" could be the base class. If you expand it to mean more than just Fairy Tale witches, I could see Druid* and Warlock both fitting. But that then leaves open the question of what you call the Fairy Tale subclass.

In any event, I wish the "scary caster with supernatural friends" archetype was its own thing. [...]
I know what you mean. It's hard to come up with thematic names for the broad categories that aren't already spoken for somehow.

I like diabolist as a name for "scary caster with supernatural friends." Invoker is also a perfect name for this when used in its traditional sense: Invoke—from the Latin “invocare” to call upon, i.e. call upon divine and otherworldly beings.
 

I know what you mean. It's hard to come up with thematic names for the broad categories that aren't already spoken for somehow.

I like diabolist as a name for "scary caster with supernatural friends." Invoker is also a perfect name for this when used in its traditional sense: Invoke—from the Latin “invocare” to call upon, i.e. call upon divine and otherworldly beings.

Oh, I kind of like Invoker. (Ties in well with the Invocations mechanic, doesn't it?)

Invoker: current warlock chassis including invocations
Witch subclass: get some cool Witchy features like brewing, charms, a familiar, and a rockin' cackle
Warlock subclass: get goodies from your patron,
Two other subclasses could be based on animal/nature spirits, and spirits of dead people.
All subclasses get extra invocations to choose from
 


Well, I am opposed to class reductionism solely for its own sake, so before I give any other answers, I wish to register my grievances with the fundamental concept. "Less is more" is only valid when you actually DO MORE with less.

But, because I don't just want to threadcrap and have actually been thinking on it, sure, let's do this thing--and because I can use a thing I've thought on before.

See, I like the idea of the MTG color wheel. It's interesting, and can be exploited for both thematic and mechanical structure. I'm a sucker for places where rich thematic structure is, at the very same time, rigorous mechanical structure. And it turns out, we have a rather handy tool for differentiating stuff; 4e called it "power source."

My "six" (really, "five plus one") options would thus be
Martial
Divine
Primal
Arcane
Shadow
+
Psionic

Or, if you prefer "class"-style names rather than "source"-style names (not my preference, but there's no real difference in this context), that would be Warrior, Cleric, Shaman, Mage, Shadow,* and Mystic. Each of these then can specialize in offense, defense, control, or support; so a support-focused Cleric is a Priest, a support-focused Mage is a Bard, a support-focused Warrior is a Warlord (or whatever term you prefer). The Psionic source/Mystic class stands out from the others because it has no specialization--its special feature is that it picks and chooses from the whole scope of Psionic options, in a "the Green Lantern Ring is the most powerful weapon in the universe" kind of way. This would be balanced by (a) giving the Mystic very minimal baseline class features, so they have to leverage the synergy of their abilities to "keep up with the Joneses," and (b) including some kind of resource mechanic and/or reduced amount of abilities, to ensure that the greater freedom does not directly translate to immediately greater power.

The aforementioned specializations are something you choose early on, giving you a clear and defined facility with that aspect of play. All characters have the potential to grow into/"officially" acquire other specialties, or blend the benefits of two specialties in a way that supports both. All sources/classes except Psionic have an innate lean toward one of the specialties, and some options may require that you have a certain specialty in order to use them (or may get stronger because you have that specialty). E.g., a "Paladin" is a defense-specialized Divine character, with a variable side of healing mojo; by investing further into other support-related things, said Paladin may also pick up a minor or reduced form of support specialization, which when coupled with the innate support leaning of Divine characters, may allow him to be both an excellent protector of his team and an excellent provider of healing, restoration, and force-multiplication.

Loosely, each of the six associates with certain ability scores. Martial with Strength (or Dex), Divine with Wisdom (or Cha), Primal with Con (or Str), Arcane with Int (or Cha), Shadow with Dex (or Int), Psionic with Cha (or Wis). Doesn't mean other ability scores couldn't be relevant, just that those are loosely understood to be useful to most characters of the given source/class. E.g. a "Paladin" (defense-specialty Divine character) values Charisma, but also values Strength and Constitution because those are useful for wearing heavy armor, using heavy weapons, and taking hits. A "Ninja" (defense-specialty Shadow character) values Dexterity, but also values Wisdom and Constitution, because their fighting style is about observation, pinpoint strikes, and never getting hit in the first place (but being able to take it when a hit does land).

*Normally I'd prefer something else, but this power source is rather diverse, combining "dark wizard" types, ninjas, assassins, demonologists, necromancers, and alchemists under one roof. And most synonyms are either excessively bland, obscure (like "Larrikin"), or overly-specific (like "Spy" or "Ruffian").
 

squibbles

Adventurer
Now that the thread has been going for a little bit, here is my entry:

I organized the casters into broad themes (maybe more like tones) and the martial casters mechanically. New classes are in orange, places the current classes go are in blue.
  1. diabolist—casters with dark and ominous powers; intelligence caster with pact magic, known spells, and eldritch invocations
    • sorcerer, no additional subclasses included (being born with magical powers because you're descended from a supernatural entity always struck me as being inherently ominous)
    • warlock with a couple variations for its subclasses representing different entities
    • necromancer wizard
  2. enchanter—casters that manipulate minds and have a fey or playful aspect; charisma caster with known spells
    • bard, no additional subclasses included
    • beguiler (i.e. enchanter wizard since the name is already taken for the class)
    • illusionist wizard
  3. warrior—catchall for the fighty classes (it could also be named fighter, I'm agnostic, but calling it a warrior helps to mark it as different)
    • barbarian, no additional subclasses included
    • paladin—1/3 caster, no additional subclasses included
    • open hand monk
    • beastmaster ranger (a non-casting one)
    • the most thematic fighter subclasses
  4. rogue—catchall for the skilled and sneaky classes
    • ranger (a non-casting one), no additional subclasses included
    • way of shadows monk
    • the most thematic rogue subclasses
  5. thaumaturge—casters with religious overtones; wisdom caster with prepared spells
    • cleric with variations for its most thematic subclasses—life, light, death, etc.
    • druid with variations for moon and not-moon druid subclasses
  6. wizard—the book-learnin' casters; intelligence caster with prepared spells
    • artificer—rebalanced as a full caster… somehow
    • remaining wizard subclasses

I have two martial classes and four caster classes. I don't include any half-casters. I have at least one caster class for every mental ability score. I have two prepared casters and two known casters. I have one pact magic caster. Most of the names are thematic, thaumaturge is the only one that feels a little iffy.

Is it needlessly complicated? Yes, absolutely! :oops:
 
Last edited:

see

Pedantic Grognard
I'm going to throw in two additional restrictions on my approach. First, the resulting class list has to look to someone who played AD&D like it is an evolution of the game they played, rather than something invented whole-cloth anew. Second, it has to involve minimal changes from what 5e actually did. That is, something that would look like what the actual designers of D&D 5th would have done if they'd been under a "six classes and no more" restriction.

Under those restrictions . . .

The first consolidation is easy enough; Barbarian, Paladin, and Ranger all become various subclasses of the Fighter. The ones that cast spells even use the same one-third caster table as the Eldritch Knight. The 5e fighter's extra ASI/feats move over into the subclasses, so they can be swapped out for subclass-specific features as necessary. The biggest change from general 5e design is that the spellcasting subclasses are given their own spell lists instead of using a class list. Consolidating the half-caster lists into third-caster lists might also require going back to the older editions' approach of spells having different levels on different spell lists.

The second is also easy enough; Sorcerer is just an Innate Wizard instead of a Book Wizard. The school-based subclasses of Wizard mostly get dropped or substantially reworked in the process.

The third sees Druids and Warlocks basically converted into Cleric domains. This will disappoint fans of the ultra-flexible-customizable Warlock options, but all we're after here is the "essentials" of each class, and the core here is that your power comes from some sort of outside force that has chosen you. One further change might be breaking down the cleric spell list into a handful of spheres, and giving each domain a different set of them.

And, oh, hey, we've already reached six: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard. Reworking Monk and Rogue into one lightly-armored skilled striker class doesn't even need to be tried.
 


Greg K

Hero
Best I can do is reduce down to nine

Courtier
Crusader
  • Oathsworn
  • Paladin
  • Templar
Hunter
  • Monster Hunter
  • Scout
  • Witch Hunter
Mage
  • Enchanter
  • Sorcerer
  • Abyssal Warlock
  • Fey Warlock
  • Infernal Warlock
Martilal Artist: Light and no armored fighters. Maneuvers and Precise Martial Strikes
  • Brawler
  • Corsair
  • Duelist
  • Gallant
  • Musketeer
  • Kensei
  • Swashbuckler
Priest: Robed and Light Armored Holy People
  • Monk
  • Oracle
  • Shaman
Scholar
  • Alchemist
  • Artificer
  • Astrologer
  • Sage
Thief: Backstabby sneak attack rogues
  • Assassin
  • Burglar
  • Charlatan
Warrior: Medium and Heavy Armor warriors
  • Knight
  • Soldier
  • Warlord
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I'm surprised how many people think Bard needs to be its own class. I mostly think of it as a rogue with a lute. If you also want a bunch of spells, multi-class.

You wouldn't even need to multi-class. Bard as a rogue subclass could have spells as part of its design. If you want more spells (like, for example, closer to what the current 5e bard has), then yeah, you multiclass Wizard. I mean, in current 5e you could make a Rogue-Wizard with an Entertainer background that would play almost entirely like a bard.

I feel the same way about the Paladin. It's mostly a Fighter/Cleric is it not? Does anyone ever bother to make a Fighter/Cleric? They just play a paladin if they want that combo, don't they? I think there's a reason there's not a lot of ideas for Paladin subclasses. It pretty much IS a subclass. Or a multiclass. Or both.
 

squibbles

Adventurer
Man, thanks for the great and varied responses guys--one departing drastically from precedent and another doubling down on it.

Well, I am opposed to class reductionism solely for its own sake, so before I give any other answers, I wish to register my grievances with the fundamental concept. "Less is more" is only valid when you actually DO MORE with less.

But, because I don't just want to threadcrap and have actually been thinking on it, sure, let's do this thing--and because I can use a thing I've thought on before.

See, I like the idea of the MTG color wheel. It's interesting, and can be exploited for both thematic and mechanical structure. I'm a sucker for places where rich thematic structure is, at the very same time, rigorous mechanical structure. And it turns out, we have a rather handy tool for differentiating stuff; 4e called it "power source."

My "six" (really, "five plus one") options would thus be
Martial
Divine
Primal
Arcane
Shadow
+
Psionic

Or, if you prefer "class"-style names rather than "source"-style names (not my preference, but there's no real difference in this context), that would be Warrior, Cleric, Shaman, Mage, Shadow,* and Mystic. Each of these then can specialize in offense, defense, control, or support; so a support-focused Cleric is a Priest, a support-focused Mage is a Bard, a support-focused Warrior is a Warlord (or whatever term you prefer). The Psionic source/Mystic class stands out from the others because it has no specialization--its special feature is that it picks and chooses from the whole scope of Psionic options, in a "the Green Lantern Ring is the most powerful weapon in the universe" kind of way. This would be balanced by (a) giving the Mystic very minimal baseline class features, so they have to leverage the synergy of their abilities to "keep up with the Joneses," and (b) including some kind of resource mechanic and/or reduced amount of abilities, to ensure that the greater freedom does not directly translate to immediately greater power.

The aforementioned specializations are something you choose early on, giving you a clear and defined facility with that aspect of play. All characters have the potential to grow into/"officially" acquire other specialties, or blend the benefits of two specialties in a way that supports both. All sources/classes except Psionic have an innate lean toward one of the specialties, and some options may require that you have a certain specialty in order to use them (or may get stronger because you have that specialty). E.g., a "Paladin" is a defense-specialized Divine character, with a variable side of healing mojo; by investing further into other support-related things, said Paladin may also pick up a minor or reduced form of support specialization, which when coupled with the innate support leaning of Divine characters, may allow him to be both an excellent protector of his team and an excellent provider of healing, restoration, and force-multiplication.

Loosely, each of the six associates with certain ability scores. Martial with Strength (or Dex), Divine with Wisdom (or Cha), Primal with Con (or Str), Arcane with Int (or Cha), Shadow with Dex (or Int), Psionic with Cha (or Wis). Doesn't mean other ability scores couldn't be relevant, just that those are loosely understood to be useful to most characters of the given source/class. E.g. a "Paladin" (defense-specialty Divine character) values Charisma, but also values Strength and Constitution because those are useful for wearing heavy armor, using heavy weapons, and taking hits. A "Ninja" (defense-specialty Shadow character) values Dexterity, but also values Wisdom and Constitution, because their fighting style is about observation, pinpoint strikes, and never getting hit in the first place (but being able to take it when a hit does land).

*Normally I'd prefer something else, but this power source is rather diverse, combining "dark wizard" types, ninjas, assassins, demonologists, necromancers, and alchemists under one roof. And most synonyms are either excessively bland, obscure (like "Larrikin"), or overly-specific (like "Spy" or "Ruffian").
Thanks for being a good sport, it's all just a creative exercise in the end.

I like the list of classes you ended with even though the class names weren't your focus--Warrior, Cleric, Shaman, Mage, Shadow, and Mystic--I feel like a lot of information is communicated by evocative names (my earlier comment about Shaman notwithstanding). "Defense-specialty Martial character" for example doesn't have quite the same oomf as defensive Warrior. Likewise, the MTG colors are super evocative with a lot of room for nuance.

I'm going to throw in two additional restrictions on my approach. First, the resulting class list has to look to someone who played AD&D like it is an evolution of the game they played, rather than something invented whole-cloth anew. Second, it has to involve minimal changes from what 5e actually did. That is, something that would look like what the actual designers of D&D 5th would have done if they'd been under a "six classes and no more" restriction.

Under those restrictions . . .

The first consolidation is easy enough; Barbarian, Paladin, and Ranger all become various subclasses of the Fighter. The ones that cast spells even use the same one-third caster table as the Eldritch Knight. The 5e fighter's extra ASI/feats move over into the subclasses, so they can be swapped out for subclass-specific features as necessary. The biggest change from general 5e design is that the spellcasting subclasses are given their own spell lists instead of using a class list. Consolidating the half-caster lists into third-caster lists might also require going back to the older editions' approach of spells having different levels on different spell lists.

The second is also easy enough; Sorcerer is just an Innate Wizard instead of a Book Wizard. The school-based subclasses of Wizard mostly get dropped or substantially reworked in the process.

The third sees Druids and Warlocks basically converted into Cleric domains. This will disappoint fans of the ultra-flexible-customizable Warlock options, but all we're after here is the "essentials" of each class, and the core here is that your power comes from some sort of outside force that has chosen you. One further change might be breaking down the cleric spell list into a handful of spheres, and giving each domain a different set of them.

And, oh, hey, we've already reached six: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard. Reworking Monk and Rogue into one lightly-armored skilled striker class doesn't even need to be tried.
Awesome! Love the extra self-imposed restrictions, and all of your reasoning makes intuitive sense to me.

And yet, the final list of classes--Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Monk, Rogue, Wizard--feels odd from an a priori perspective. I would have never picked bard and monk for the final cut.
 

squibbles

Adventurer
I'm surprised how many people think Bard needs to be its own class. I mostly think of it as a rogue with a lute. If you also want a bunch of spells, multi-class.
Agreed.

[...]
I feel the same way about the Paladin. It's mostly a Fighter/Cleric is it not? Does anyone ever bother to make a Fighter/Cleric? They just play a paladin if they want that combo, don't they? I think there's a reason there's not a lot of ideas for Paladin subclasses. It pretty much IS a subclass. Or a multiclass. Or both.
Yeah, considering the Cleric's weird and gamist origins as a sort of a gish class that didn't get spells at 1st level and gained spell levels slower than a Magic User, the 5e Paladin and Cleric feel like they took that starting point, kept very similar theming, and went in different directions along the gish continuum.
 
Last edited:

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top