D&D 5E Class vs. Subclass vs. Feat Track

pemerton

Legend
I consider the differences between the cleric and the paladin to be almost entirely thematic, with little mechanical difference, which is why I don't think we need two sets of mechanics to represent the same theme. My position is that if you're going to have a system with both warrior-priests and holy knights, you need to set them apart more clearly than D&D ever has. Paladins ought to rely more heavily on innate holy combat abilities, and clerics ought to rely more heavily on their spell list.
What you are calling for here seems to me to be more mechanical differentiation - spells compared to "supernatural" abilities. But thematically, what is the differene between having +2 to save as an innate holy ability, and having +2 to save because you cast a holy spell of resistance? I personally don't see it.
 

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DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
What you are calling for here seems to me to be more mechanical differentiation - spells compared to "supernatural" abilities. But thematically, what is the differene between having +2 to save as an innate holy ability, and having +2 to save because you cast a holy spell of resistance? I personally don't see it.

This conversation is so fascinating!

I don't see the mechanical difference between a +2 to save from a spell and +2 to save from an innate ability, but thematically, one is the result of a pact with a deity wherein the deity agrees to meet the requirements of the supplicant on an as-needed basis in exchange for relatively minor devotions, while the latter is the result of a pact with a deity wherein the deity agrees to meet the requirements of the supplicant on a permanent, ongoing basis in exchange for substantial devotions.

I am proposing mechanical differentiation, because I don't feel the thematic differences between cleric and paladin are, or could ever be, sufficient to warrant two separate archetypes.

I think where I may have confused the issue is in saying that the differences between the cleric and paladin are largely thematic. What I did not specify is that I feel what differences there are are minute, and poorly served by what is essentially the same mechanical approach.

What it really comes down to, for me, is the spell list. If the paladin is what the paladin is supposed to be, he oughtn't use spells. That ought to be the difference between the cleric and the paladin, it seems to me.
 

pemerton

Legend
I don't see the mechanical difference between a +2 to save from a spell and +2 to save from an innate ability, but thematically, one is the result of a pact with a deity wherein the deity agrees to meet the requirements of the supplicant on an as-needed basis in exchange for relatively minor devotions, while the latter is the result of a pact with a deity wherein the deity agrees to meet the requirements of the supplicant on a permanent, ongoing basis in exchange for substantial devotions.
That makes sense. That is fundamentally different from how I see (and play) clerics, but I think I understand it. Let's check, though - on your version of clerics, it seems to me that a warlock and a cleric are very similar in metaphysical terms (though they might have different attitudes - a cleric reveres his/her patron, a warlock often fears his/hers). Is that right?
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
That makes sense. That is fundamentally different from how I see (and play) clerics, but I think I understand it. Let's check, though - on your version of clerics, it seems to me that a warlock and a cleric are very similar in metaphysical terms (though they might have different attitudes - a cleric reveres his/her patron, a warlock often fears his/hers). Is that right?

Thematically, yes, a warlock and a cleric have clear similarities, although I would put the warlock into yet a third category: his pact is somewhere between the cleric's and paladin's -- the warlock's patron grants a permanent, regenerating pool of power, but it is up to the warlock how to use that power moment to moment. Similarly, devotions are not demanded of the warlock contemporaneously -- rather, a delay in compensation has generally been negotiated, usually involving the warlock's immortal soul.

Ultimately, that's not important to this model. What matters to this model is whether or not they play similarly.

The cleric and paladin have very similar playstyles. They are mid- to front-line combatants with healing and buff spell-like abilities. The warlock, on the other hand, is squishy and focuses mostly on debuffs and damage. That puts him solidly in the wizard camp.

Despite his cleric-like play, the paladin is a feat track because the cleric already has a combat subclass (the war domain), and while it would be completely possible to make paladin a subclass of fighter, I think it adds a lot more to the game for paladin-like abilities to be an add-on to any class. There's nothing about the fighter that suggests a buffing/healing subclass any more than there is for any other class, and opening it up into a feat track permits emulation of narrow concepts like the invoker and avenger with a minimum of superfluous rulesets.

Why isn't the warlock a feat track? What it really comes down to, again, is the spell list. A warlock without a spell list is an odd bird -- at least, it seems so to me.
 

Arctic Wolf

First Post
I would have to say that the reason why I think the Paladin is a theme of the cleric is because to me, if you were trained in this church or whatever that god uses, you would learn the religious teachings first before learning about how to fight (depends on the god I know but my opinion). I just feel that the Paladin is one of the subclasses of the Cleric because of that. I have some other opinions on stuff but it isn't suited for this thread I think heh.
 

Madmage

First Post
Hey, that list looks a lot like mine! How do these categories affect play, though? I mean, between mentalists, primalists, and arcanists, there's a lot of "manipulation" going on. What makes each type worth playing over the other two? Or are you relying completely on flavor to influence player preference?

Well we envisioned it both as flavor and some mechanical difference in spell lists, skills and some abilities they use. A "primalist" would have certain benefits related to being out in nature whether it's an ancient pristine forest, the top of a mountain or a barren desert. Spell components come from what can be found in nature like herbs, plants, or come from animals. They draw power from places of magical power where they can attune themselves to the Land. While being a spontaneous caster, the spells at their disposal would be affected by the environment they found themselves. A summon nature's ally type spell would draw a creature that would normally be found there. An entangle spell would simply not work in a desert or arctic setting. From a mechanical and playstyle point of view, the player character will have to be very thoughtful of the terrain they are in.

Mentalist's spells/powers would be more along the lines of self-buffs or effects against 1 target. Very rarely would they require spell components except for certain foci for extremely powerful or long running effects to help them maintain their concentration. One thing we did think of was they could cannibalize their own bodies in a way to go beyond some of their limitations (like say taking temporary or even permanent con/wis damage to eke out more spells when in a tight spot).

Arcanists would be the straight up wizard/mage types that study magical phenomena from the point of view of scholars trying to learn the secrets of manipulating the universe. There would be more emphasis on magical formula, exotic materials and even metamagic to alter their effects. While they would be the only spellcasters to follow a vancian magic model, they would rely more heavily, and be the masters, on rituals.


This goes back to @Madmage 's list, above, too -- a mentalist/primalist, primalist/arcanist, and arcanist/mentalist are all going to be very similar in theme. That doesn't mean they shouldn't all exist, necessarily, but I personally feel they need some kind of mechanical difference that sets them apart and gives players a reason to play one over the other two besides flavor preference. Otherwise you're just talking about reskins.

Which is why my archetype list is so focused on core mechanics (whether those mechanics are numerical or game concepts like a spell list).

Honestly, we didn't go into defining all mechanics because it was more of a discussion that spawned from the sub-themes presented in D&D Next but also existed throughout the history of D&D through either kits, prestige classes, etc. My gaming group has played about a dozen different gaming systems over the years (I don't count different editions in that list) so for us the idea was really to give players, both old and new, flavour to inspire them and make characters that are different and yet consistent within the system/setting.

That's interesting; I consider the differences between the cleric and the paladin to be almost entirely thematic, with little mechanical difference, which is why I don't think we need two sets of mechanics to represent the same theme. My position is that if you're going to have a system with both warrior-priests and holy knights, you need to set them apart more clearly than D&D ever has. Paladins ought to rely more heavily on innate holy combat abilities, and clerics ought to rely more heavily on their spell list.

My experience with 4th edition was very limited but 3rd edition really dropped the ball on clerics when compared to the specialty priests provided in the various gods or setting books of AD&D 2nd edition. The 3rd edition clerics were too similar except for the domain powers/lists. In the previous edition, their armor and weapon proficiencies would change, they would gain unique special powers akin to to the domains as well, and occasionally non-weapon proficiencies (or skills) would be thrown in to really add flavour and differentiate one another. Personally, I'm glad to see somewhat of a return to that with the new domains in Next and this would go a long way in establishing a clear cut line of demarcation between Paladins and all but the most martial of clerics.
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
I would have to say that the reason why I think the Paladin is a theme of the cleric is because to me, if you were trained in this church or whatever that god uses, you would learn the religious teachings first before learning about how to fight (depends on the god I know but my opinion). I just feel that the Paladin is one of the subclasses of the Cleric because of that. I have some other opinions on stuff but it isn't suited for this thread I think heh.

I think your logic is sound, but that approach makes me nervous for a few reasons. Here's the big one:

Taking a subclass ought not make you unable to fulfill the responsibilities and duties of the main class. I don't think there's ever been an edition of D&D where the paladin could replace a cleric, but in most editions he has been a serviceable substitute for the fighter.
 

I'll first say that the history of D&D is inconsistent and contradictory. We all have to make decisions about which parts are going to bare more weight to us.

If you see the old school mace and shield cleric as primarily a warrior, sure, I'll admit it isn't conceptually far from a paladin. But that isn't how I see it. It all comes down to one thing: Strength score. A traditional cleric wasn't focused on one. He didn't need it. He became defined as a priest, and only a warrior-priest if one chose to make him that way. On the other hand, a paladin is a warrior first, and usually not even a priest at all.
 

Arctic Wolf

First Post
I think your logic is sound, but that approach makes me nervous for a few reasons. Here's the big one:

Taking a subclass ought not make you unable to fulfill the responsibilities and duties of the main class. I don't think there's ever been an edition of D&D where the paladin could replace a cleric, but in most editions he has been a serviceable substitute for the fighter.

I think Cleric is too broad a term to say what the class really is. I mean for me, a Cleric is someone who worships a god, and uses the power that their god grants them for their god's beliefs.

Going back to my earlier statement about the Paladin, they would be religious warriors for that god and defend the church or whatever, while the Priest (another subclass of the Cleric), stays within the church and teaches people who pass by about their god's belief and heals those who need it.

I can see where you are coming from though.
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
While being a spontaneous caster, the spells at (the primalist's) disposal would be affected by the environment they found themselves. A summon nature's ally type spell would draw a creature that would normally be found there. An entangle spell would simply not work in a desert or arctic setting. From a mechanical and playstyle point of view, the player character will have to be very thoughtful of the terrain they are in.

Ah, the TABLEMANCER! Does he get his own hardback? :) I kid -- while this idea does have some pretty tall logistical hurdles to execution, I think it, and your divisions between mentalists and arcanists, are great ideas. I definitely come down with you on spell list specificity, I think -- one of the most important ways to differentiate classes with spell lists is that their spell lists should do things that support their archetype and not do things that do not support their archetype.

Personally, I'm glad to see somewhat of a return to (AD&D2-style specialty priests) with the new domains in Next and this would go a long way in establishing a clear cut line of demarcation between Paladins and all but the most martial of clerics.

I could not agree more!

If you see the old school mace and shield cleric as primarily a warrior, sure, I'll admit it isn't conceptually far from a paladin. But that isn't how I see it. It all comes down to one thing: Strength score. A traditional cleric wasn't focused on one. He didn't need it. He became defined as a priest, and only a warrior-priest if one chose to make him that way. On the other hand, a paladin is a warrior first, and usually not even a priest at all.

I am absolutely in agreement on this point; the Knights Templar and Hospitaler and other orders sponsored by the Church were said to be "twice-armored," meaning that both steel and their faith protected them, but the knights did not have any religious powers or responsibilities vested in them by that sponsorship.

Within the game, I definitely feel that the most important characteristic of a class archetype should be the way it plays, and your assessment of the importance of STR to the paladin vs. the cleric is exactly the sort of thing I mean, and the reason why I don't place it under the "cleric" banner.

...I don't place it under "fighter," either, but that's only because I don't see any reason why the paladin power suite can't be equally as easily applied to a rogue or mage. My thinking here was, why have one subclass (paladin), when you can have seven or eight class variants benefiting from the same feat track?

I think Cleric is too broad a term to say what the class really is. I mean for me, a Cleric is someone who worships a god, and uses the power that their god grants them for their god's beliefs.

I think that is very sound, but the question it raises is what does that look like on paper? I can think of half a dozen examples without really stopping to consider it, and they would all play vastly differently. I could easily reskin any of the seven or eight archetypes I've proposed such that they relied on a deity's power to achieve their class goals.

My point is not that all clerics are healers with a spell list -- only that all D&D Clerics are. Some compression is necessary to effect playability.
 

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