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D&D General Class or Subclass importance

Where do you prefer the majority of design space and focus go?

  • The Parent Class (Warrior, Mage, Priest, etc..)

    Votes: 8 15.1%
  • The Child Class (Fighter, Wizard, Cleric, etc)

    Votes: 11 20.8%
  • The Grandchild Subclass (Berserker, Illusionist, Life Priest)

    Votes: 8 15.1%
  • Split between Parent and Child Class

    Votes: 3 5.7%
  • Split between Child class and Grandchild Subclass

    Votes: 21 39.6%
  • Split between Parent Class and Grandchild Subclass (the Spoiled Pac)

    Votes: 4 7.5%
  • Split between All Three

    Votes: 6 11.3%

  • Total voters
    53

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I don't think parent classes are bad. However I don't think all the common expanded archetype in Modern D&D can fit into 3 or 4 parent classes without glut and bloat.

Monks, alchemists, tinkers, beastmasters, tacticians, scholars, jaguars, and artificers don't fit the fighter/caster/thief nor fighter/priest/mage/thief without extremely tilting the parent class and forming child and grandchild subclasses.

The "Everyone fits into these 3/4 archetypes" only works if you limit the typesof characters to very old school settings.
Fighter, caster, rogue (aka skills expert). Everything in 5E fits one or more of those three or is a reskin of those. There’s a huge difference between the skin and the mechanics. I’m talking about the mechanics.

There’s 13 classes. Fighter, wizard, rogue are the base three. So that leaves ten. Artificer is a caster/skills expert. Barbarian is a fighter without armor. Bard is a caster/skills expert. Cleric is a caster with a little fighter for the arms and armor. Druid is a nature-based caster. Monk is a fighter/skills expert without armor. Paladin is a fighter with a little bit of caster for the smites. Ranger is a nature-based fighter/skills expert. Sorcerer and warlock are casters with funky mechanics.

For an example of skin, look at the rogue and the ranger. They’re nearly identical, the only difference is one plies their trade in the cities and towns while the other does so in the wilds between them. What’s the skin difference between a tinkerer and an alchemist? Which tools they focus on and how what they produce is described. The 13 classes in the game, even with the subclasses, aren’t really that wide ranging and diverse.
 

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DEFCON 1

Legend
I think that the issue (or one of the issues) with Arcane/Divine with Primal/Psionic off to the side or ignored is overlap. For instance, for Primal I'm assuming you view that as elemental/nature/spirit stuff, yes? Those things are also covered in divine, if only because there are always gods of nature and the elements, and gods of death and undead. And most of the stuff that counts as Psionics are very similar to the things wizards do. The list of psionics in 3e had a bunch of powers that were called "psionic [wizard spell]". (There's also the issue that many psionic powers are very anachronistic seeming, but I admit that's more a matter of taste.)

So if arcane, divine, primal, and psionic abilities all appear in the same product, then there needs to be more of an effort to make their abilities differentiated. Whether that's by having each list of spells/powers be mostly unique with little overlap, or by having different methods of casting, or very different effects depending on power source, or something else, I dunno.
To add onto your point about being covered under divine... there are gods of magic. So arcane magic shouldn't be its own thing either if primal and psionic shouldn't be (per your supposition.)

Now that being said... I do happen to agree with you that I think ALL magic classes would be better served if there was much more separation in what they could do. If every class had its own unique spell list (and this includes all the subclasses like each Domain, School, Land Circle, Patron, College, Origin) then you could really gives classes differentiation. Heck, I'll go to my grave insisting that if you are going to bother having a Sorcerer at your table, you do that player a disservice if you DON'T make a custom spell list for them to really drive their Origin home. Otherwise... the player just ends up taking the same half-dozen power spells (since they don't get to swap them out), most of which do not thematically apply to whatever their Origin probably was. You get Black Dragon Sorcerers taking Fireball because it's the "best" 3rd level spell to take.

*****
[This is now me expanding further on the topic, but not in relation to Faolyn's comment.]

And this is why I think the top tier of Parent class isn't useful, because there's nothing descriptive of character about it. In 5E we could say that Bards, Druids, Clerics, Sorcerers, and Wizards all have the same Parent class, because they all use the exact same spell slot table-- same number of spell levels, same character levels when they get new spells, same character levels when they get new spell levels. They are all in the same "Full Spellcaster" Parent class based on that one mechanic.

But does that "Full Spellcaster" actually mean anything to the characters themselves? No. It's purely a mechanical representation and it's purely there for balancing purposes (to make sure all five of the classes are on equal footing), and ease-of-use. But I don't think anyone would claim that it in any way defines what each Child class is, who each character within that Child class is, what is important to them, and how and why they do what they do. There's no story to the Full Spellcaster mechanic. In story and in fiction the Full Spellcaster Parent class has no meaning. And thus I don't see any reason why this "tier" should be called out in the rules. And in point of fact 5E agrees with me, because the rules make no reference to alert players to the fact that there is only one "Full Caster" chart that these five classes use (or indeed that there are also only one "Half Caster" and one "Third Caster" chart.) It's just not important for players to know that. But the Child class (or what most of us just call the "Class") is important, because that's where the story of the class resides. There's where we can see what the Cleric believes in. What matters to the Druid. How the Wizard manipulates magic to do and get what it wants. And this is why I think Class is the most important thing, and why Subclasses should only provide the additional options needed to focus the Class towards the story the Subclass is trying to get across.
 
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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Fighter, caster, rogue (aka skills expert). Everything in 5E fits one or more of those three or is a reskin of those. There’s a huge difference between the skin and the mechanics. I’m talking about the mechanics.

There’s 13 classes. Fighter, wizard, rogue are the base three. So that leaves ten. Artificer is a caster/skills expert. Barbarian is a fighter without armor. Bard is a caster/skills expert. Cleric is a caster with a little fighter for the arms and armor. Druid is a nature-based caster. Monk is a fighter/skills expert without armor. Paladin is a fighter with a little bit of caster for the smites. Ranger is a nature-based fighter/skills expert. Sorcerer and warlock are casters with funky mechanics.

For an example of skin, look at the rogue and the ranger. They’re nearly identical, the only difference is one plies their trade in the cities and towns while the other does so in the wilds between them. What’s the skin difference between a tinkerer and an alchemist? Which tools they focus on and how what they produce is described. The 13 classes in the game, even with the subclasses, aren’t really that wide ranging and diverse.
Well technically Fighting and magic can be skills too. And when you make them skills, you leave talent and grants as option.

This is the trend growing in D&D as Barbarians, Monks, Sorcerer's, and Warlocks represent power not gained from skill.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Well technically Fighting and magic can be skills too. And when you make them skills, you leave talent and grants as option.

This is the trend growing in D&D as Barbarians, Monks, Sorcerer's, and Warlocks represent power not gained from skill.
That must be a typo. Monks are the epitome of gaining power through skill.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
The parent class is the only one that matters. The rest are just details. You could have three classes in D&D, fighter, caster, thief, and most people wouldn't notice a change. Instead of designing an infinite number of child or grandchild classes, they should build three solid parent classes and leave the rest up to the table. Child and grandchild classes could easily be covered in a similar light-weight and modular fashion as backgrounds or lineages/races are as of Tasha's.
Your choice of three classes is just as arbitrary as any other number. Why three? Why not two classes-- spellcaster and non-spellcaster? Why not four-- warrior non-caster, warrior caster, expert non-caster, expert caster?

The reason why the game doesn't do this is because those definitions only define one or two things about the character... and they are both related to what game mechanics they will have-- Whether they fight well or not, and whether they use magic or not. But there's nothing in those things about who they are. Why they do what they do. What is important to them. How do they do what they do. Basically anything that defines them as a character.

At least when we get up to the point we have in 5E with the 12 classes there are a lot of words written about all those things. Definitions becomes more more set. We know the story of the Cleric and how it is different than the Monk is different than the Wizard is different than the Barbarian. Now there's not as much differentiation between two Barbarians... but that is where the Subclasses come in. You add Subclasses and the definitions become even more individual (for the most part.) And then even more individuality then comes down to the players then creating personalities for their individual characters to separate one Wildfire Druid from another Wildfire Druid.

But to me... any grouping that is made purely due to game mechanics being their defining reason for the division doesn't really serve a useful purpose in my opinion because we really don't need it. We don't need the game to put all Full Spellcasters into one bucket just to tell us they are the Full Spellcasters... we pretty much can get that just by looking at them. :)
 

Faolyn

Hero
To add onto your point about being covered under divine... there are gods of magic. So arcane magic shouldn't be its own thing either if primal and psionic shouldn't be (per your supposition.)
Not really. I'd think that's a god that represents magic. Now, clerics of that god shouldn't be treated as wizards, and even if they cast wizard spells (using divine spell slots), I think that those should count as divine spells that mimic arcane spells, but aren't actually arcane.

(Personally, I'd be fine if there were no gods of magic, or if gods of magic exist to produce magic or maintain the Weave or whatever but didn't have clerics, or if their priests were wizards but didn't gain clerical powers, or something like that, but that's me).

But anyway, the Arcane domain is just one type of cleric, as opposed to the entirety of the psion. If you go through the psionics power list for 3x, you'll find that probably most of the abilities are very similar to arcane spells, even ignoring the powers listed as <spell name>, psionic, like psionic disintegrate or psionic teleportation circle. What can be done about this, I don't know, unless there are strict rules in place about what each type of magic can do and what types of magic each caster can use.

Heck, I'll go to my grave insisting that if you are going to bother having a Sorcerer at your table, you do that player a disservice if you DON'T make a custom spell list for them to really drive their Origin home.
This I very much agree with. I haven't actually done that since nobody has played a sorcerer in a game I've run, but I'm sorely tempted to create custom lists. Or have custom damages, at least--there's no reason a black dragon sorcerer can't take fireball if the damage was changed to acid.
 


PhiloPharynx

Explorer
Part of this is related to the amount of customization that your game has. The expression of the rules changes the paradigm. For example, I play Pathfinder 2e and it is a whole different beast. Their classes give a base set of features, their subclasses offer a few more, but the bread and butter are class feats, which provide a huge amount of combinations. On top of this, you can use class feats for archetypes. Archetypes are based around themes and are available to any person who meets the stat and skill prerequisites. They range from classes to professions to combat types to rules variations.
 

ART!

Hero
I chose "All three". I'm always trying to think about these kinds of questions with new players in mind. A new player might not want to or have the time to figure out the child or grandchild levels of things. Having a robust parent class with just the most basic features seems like a good idea for such players. Characters would be just the parent class at first level, and then make a child class choice at 2nd, and a grandchild class choice at 3rd. Something like that.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I've said it before, and I'll say it again each time this subject comes up:

What I'd like to see in the next edition of the game, if they write one, are just four classes (Warrior, Mage, Priest, and Sneak) with a hundred subclasses spread out among them (Assassin, Paladin, Eldritch Knight, Monk, etc.) So using the naming conventions of the original post, what I want is just four Parents and their hundred spoiled Grandchildren.
 
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jgsugden

Legend
Why unnecessarily provide artificial restrictions? Why not evaluate the situation as it comes and make a case by case decision?

There is no reason to plan this out. Build organically and see what works on a case by case scenario.
 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again each time this subject comes up:

What I'd like to see in the next edition of the game, if they write one, are just four classes (Warrior, Mage, Priest, and Sneak) with a hundred subclasses spread out among them (Assassin, Paladin, Eldritch Knight, Monk, etc.) So using the naming conventions of the original post, what I want is just four Parents and their hundred spoiled Grandchildren.
May I ask why? What's the upside to making a paladin a kind of fighter?
 

The only time I found "parent" class remotely relevant was in 4e - and that using the roles (so defender rather than warrior) to provide a vision and benchmarks so the class design didn't end up with more junk classes that were good at nothing like the 3.X monk. I see a good case for that being useful but it's far from necessary.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
May I ask why? What's the upside to making a paladin a kind of fighter?
More versatility, and more streamlined design.

Say, for example, the Parent class determines what kind of caster the character is. No caster = Warrior, Half-caster = Priest, and Full-caster = Mage. (The parent class would have to determine so much more than the spellcasting format. It should also determine the number of skills, the types of weapons and armor proficiencies, the save throws, all that stuff. I'm only gonna focus on the spellcasting for this example.)

The Paladin subclass will give you the usual suite of abilities that we've come to expect from paladins over the years (auras, smiting evil, turning the undead, laying of hands, etc.) that augment and enhance the "parent" choice. And with this system, the Paladin can be a full-caster, a half-caster, or not a caster at all...whatever the player chooses.

If you want a full-caster paladin, use the Paladin subclass on a Mage chassis: you get all of the spellcasting you'd expect, with some extra auras and smiting abilities to infuse your spells with. Smite with your quarterstaff, or smite with an Eldritch Blast, its all good!

Or maybe you want a Half-caster paladin? Put the Paladin subclass on a Priest chassis. Now you've got a battlefield medic, tanking and buffing his friends with auras, healing the wounded, etc.

Maybe you want a No-caster paladin? Paladin subclass, Warrior chassis. Perfect for low magic/no magic campaigns, a charismatic and influential leader who inspires his fellow warriors to greatness, protecting them with auras and delivering terrifying blows from his longsword.

Again, the Parent class will determine so much more than just the level of spellcasting ability; this is just scratching the surface. But just looking at the spellcasting only (half/full/none), you can see how there would be so much more versatility.
 
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More versatility, and more streamlined design.

Say, for example, the Parent class determines what kind of caster the character is. No caster = Warrior, Half-caster = Priest, and Full-caster = Mage. (The parent class would have to determine so much more than the spellcasting format. It should also determine the number of skills, the types of weapons and armor proficiencies, the save throws, all that stuff. I'm only gonna focus on the spellcasting for this example.)

The Paladin subclass will give you the usual suite of abilities that we've come to expect from paladins over the years (auras, smiting evil, turning the undead, laying of hands, etc.) that augment and enhance the "parent" choice. And with this system, the Paladin can be a full-caster, a half-caster, or not a caster at all...whatever the player chooses.

If you want a full-caster paladin, use the Paladin subclass on a Mage chassis: you get all of the spellcasting you'd expect, with some extra auras and smiting abilities to infuse your spells with. Smite with your quarterstaff, or smite with an Eldritch Blast, its all good!

Or maybe you want a Half-caster paladin? Put the Paladin subclass on a Priest chassis. Now you've got a battlefield medic, tanking and buffing his friends with auras, healing the wounded, etc.

Maybe you want a No-caster paladin? Paladin subclass, Warrior chassis. Perfect for low magic/no magic campaigns, a charismatic and influential leader who inspires his fellow warriors to greatness, protecting them with auras and delivering terrifying blows from his longsword.

Again, the Parent class will determine so much more than just the level of spellcasting ability; this is just scratching the surface. But just looking at the spellcasting only (half/full/none), you can see how there would be so much more versatility.
Just to understand: you're suggesting a setup where the Paladin subclass is available to all the parent classes? That's definitely an interesting concept (though I suspect it would be trickier to balance than other setups.)
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Just to understand: you're suggesting a setup where the Paladin subclass is available to all the parent classes? That's definitely an interesting concept (though I suspect it would be trickier to balance than other setups.)
Yep, that's what I'm suggesting. The way that the subclass options are restricted to a single class never sat right with me. Why can't Warlocks be Arcane Tricksters? Why can't Rangers also be Champions? It feels like such a silly and arbitrary restriction.

It would be tricky to balance that idea in 5E, but I'm hoping that the next generation of the game makes them a little more modular.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Yep, that's what I'm suggesting. The way that the subclass options are restricted to a single class never sat right with me. Why can't Warlocks be Arcane Tricksters? Why can't Rangers also be Champions? It feels like such a silly and arbitrary restriction.

It would be tricky to balance that idea in 5E, but I'm hoping that the next generation of the game makes them a little more modular.
Outside of a powers based game system like 4e, I fear a system would be very very hard to balance, full of traps, and things that don't work..

But I think you could possibly make it work by creating multiple versions of the same grandchild classes with same or similar features in select parents..

Like the Warrior-Paladin-Crusader, Warrior-Fighter-Cavalier, Rogue-Avenger-Pursuer, and Priest-Cleric-Templar might all have Smites and Auras.
 

Absolutely prefer the vast majority of focus to be on the class. Classes are what are distinct things. Subclasses should be small flourishes or focuses, not the meat and potatoes of the class. "Grandchild" classes should not exist, or should only "exist" as an emergent property not actually intended by the designers (e.g. the "Lazy" Warlord in 4e).

Further, classes should be providing meaningfully distinct mechanics, so that you can point to something particular and say that's what makes you that class and not something else. Hence Swordmage is a distinct class from "Fighter" or "Wizard" because "a blend of swordplay and magic" is quite easy to give its own distinct mechanics from either "specialized in weapons" and "specialized in spellcasting."
 

Absolutely prefer the vast majority of focus to be on the class. Classes are what are distinct things. Subclasses should be small flourishes or focuses, not the meat and potatoes of the class. "Grandchild" classes should not exist, or should only "exist" as an emergent property not actually intended by the designers (e.g. the "Lazy" Warlord in 4e).
I think a lot depends on both the class and how big you allow small flourishes and focuses to be. To use 4e examples I'm more than happy with e.g. the Brawler Fighter as a de facto subclass despite the fact that its powers don't overlap that much with a PHB sword & board fighter - and I'm also more than happy with the warlock's patron having a strong influence over the powers. In both cases of course the brawler is meaningfully a fighter for a whole lot of reasons, and the warlock a warlock.
 

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