D&D General D&D is a Team Sport. What are the positions?


Uh ... yeah, I don't think I can agree with this.

Obviously, depending on how you define "differentiate," a person can make a good argument that different classes in 5e have more abilities than they used to. However, that's not really the issue. It's about niche protection.

In B/X (and OD&D/AD&D, which are better example), there was much more niche protection. Let's use AD&D as the example-

If you weren't a thief, you didn't have thief skills.
Weapons and armor were restricted by class. Magic users got daggers, Fighters got two-handed swords. Magic users got not armor, Fighters got plate.
Magic items were also class-specific, to a much greater extent than they are in 5e.
Hit points were less, and therefore the difference mattered a lot more. d4 hit points with minimal constitution as compared to d10 with up to +4 per level.
The highest strength bonuses were restricted to fighters.*

...and so on. So I can't agree with this statement; the amount of differentiation, in terms of niche protection, was much much greater back then.

*When I say fighter, I mean fighter and their subclasses.
I used B/X for a reason forbthat specific statement. That ruleset relies much more heavily on procedures and rulings than what's on the character sheet, even compared to AD&D which was significantly crunchier (yes, yes, no one actually played it that way...).

A 1st level cleric and first level fighter were almost identical, and a 1st level thief was not to far off. Everyone's hit points were low, everyone's damage potential was low, spells were an extremely limited resource and their abilities weren't much higher than the base 1 in 6 chance used for most actions outside of combat anyway.

My point, though, was that there was not (in my experience) as stark a mode shift between exploration and combat.

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Morkus from Orkus
Well, monks are clearly the wide receivers.

DM: "The frost giant goes long and you see a rather large boulder coming your way."
Monk: "I catch it!"
DM: "Okay." (clack clack clack) It does 37 points of damage."
Monk: "Deflect missiles! (clack) I stop 12 points."
DM: "You do indeed catch 25 points of damage to the face."

I think enough has been said about combat functionality, so I'd like to bring up non-combat in a bit more detail.

In 5e, which ostensibly includes focus on non-combat pillars of gameplay, and which siloes play in those pillars based on the skill proficiencies one possesses for the most part (also feats, background features, and tool proficiencies to a lesser extent), we can also see some of this need for teamwork and roles. @CreamCloud0 has mentioned what these might look like (albeit in the context of a more holistic view of roles).

If we split combat and out-of-combat into different categories, I would imagine that out-of-combat roles look somewhat like:
  • Lore gathering & investigation
  • Wilderness survival & exploration
  • Dungeon survival & exploration
  • Negotiation
  • Physical handling of obstacles is probably a secondary role, but it's IMO just distinct enough and can apply to both wilderness and dungeon environments to count as a distinct role, especially if the characters who are the "team leads" in those roles aren't good at it.

Ideally, at least one player character in a party is the "team lead" at one of these major roles, and at least one other player character can be a "backup" in any given role. Class archetypes are a bit less rigid here, but ability scores and class features to push some classes to certain roles over others:
  • Wizards tend towards Lore because of their high Intelligence.
  • Rogues tend towards Dungeon Exploration because of Dexterity, possible secondary emphasis on Intelligence, and default proficiency with thieves' tools.
  • The druid "class fantasy" naturally leads them to Nature, and rangers are good at it by default.
  • Charisma classes tend towards Negotiation.
  • Fighters and barbarians can usually handle Physical.

Magic can also point characters to certain roles in this direction, with quite a bit more discretion for players: divination spells for Lore, spells that can bypass certain kinds of obstacle or gameplay for everything else (tiny hut for Wilderness, knock or fly for Physical, find traps for Dungeon, among others).


I found the Fantasy Craft/Spycraft roles pretty solid.

Face- does the talking and persuasion
Backer- makes/buys stuff, provides buffs and advice and support
Combatant- kills stuff
Solver- solves physical/narrative obstacles with a set of specific abilities
Specialist- doubles down on specific skills, doing them best and applying htem broadly

They throw in "Wildcard" for flexible powersets that will depend primarily on player choices. Plenty of overlap between them, and you can imagine a party that is missing some, or focused more heavily on others, but they all point to a solid niche you could be filling.


B/X Known World
The in-combat roles are fairly well established across games.

Tank. DPS. Healer.

Variations on how you tank, dps, and heal are great, but the roles are largely unchanging. Melee vs ranged DPS. Magical vs physical DPS. Etc. Concepts like battlefield control are not new, but they're not well implemented in most games. At least not as stand-alone roles. Control is usually a secondary concern or spread across the other roles, like buffs/debuffs.

It's incredibly important to me that the roles stay in their lane, mechanically. I don't mind something like a tank than can deal a bit of damage, but a tank that's dealing as much damage or more damage than the dps is bad design. In an S + A-F ranking system, the given role should be the only S-tier pick. Any secondary stuff a class has should be B-C tier at absolute best. For example, a tank that can deal decent damage. Their tanking should be S tier and their damage should be no better than B-C tier.

I vastly prefer keeping the pillars in separate silos so PCs can be built around multiple roles. One combat role (tank, dps, heals). One exploration role (whatever they'd be). And one social role (whatever they'd be). Rather than muddying the waters by mixing non-combat roles into a character's combat role, see thief or rogue as the "skills" character. That has no real meaning in combat.
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I generally see talking and exploration as things for everybody to do in D&D, not niches for single players of the team. I really like 5e backgrounds and aid another skill mechanics really enabling that and encouraging a bit of team over solo action.

Mostly I see individual team positions and roles in combat, the 4e striker, defender, leader[healer/buffer], and controller are decent ones, with classes mixing a minor aspect of other roles with a primary role position.

I would even be fine with OE three class breakdown, melee [fighting man], range [magic user artillery], healing [cleric]. The healing role being a second string melee [good armor, decent but little less hp and no swords] and range spells [hold person, flame strike], and the melee role having a second string range one with bows being secondary to the artillery of magic user spells.

I really see the OE/Basic/AD&D thieves as generally poorly designed classes for D&D, doing OK as the ranged role with short bows and thrown daggers, but backstab being really poor and niche in play. They should have been based off the fighter chassis instead of the MU one trading armor for thief skills and higher damage.

Team sure. The game assume collaboration between players, but also with the DM.
Sport? Competitive play is more a choice of play style.

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