D&D 5E D&D Next Q&A: Warlock Pacts, Patrons, and Iniate Feats

MarkB

Legend
Well, getting back to the crux of the thread, how does one create a consistent, readily comprehensible class when within a single class you can have

* substantial melee combat powers, or

* a comprehensive spell list, or

* pet summoning?

Ask a Druid.
 

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DreamChaser

Explorer
So if I inferred that you were in favor of essentially a 3 class system: caster, warrior, skill monkey (to be reductionist), would I be inferring accurately? It sounds like you don't appreciate a difference between even wizard and cleric, since both are just casters...one has more weapons and armor but you don't seem to think that is enough to differentiate. The presence of Channel Divinity, which is just a spell divorced from spells also doesn't matter.

Presuming that the warlock's core schtick remains "case few spells endlessly" then hexes/curses/favors become the more potent limited resource. You can do this one cool thing, but only once per encounter (need to reconnect with patron to recharge).
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
So if I inferred that you were in favor of essentially a 3 class system: caster, warrior, skill monkey (to be reductionist), would I be inferring accurately?

Not inferring inaccurately, but with a limited scope. Caster, warrior, and "skill monkey" (I prefer "operative") are definitely what I would call class archetypes. I would add to the list: healer, shifter, mentalist, and summoner. I am starting to rehash stuff I wrote in this thread -- you might want to check that out.

It sounds like you don't appreciate a difference between even wizard and cleric, since both are just casters...one has more weapons and armor but you don't seem to think that is enough to differentiate. The presence of Channel Divinity, which is just a spell divorced from spells also doesn't matter.

I would say that the archetypal difference between caster and healer is spell-list based. Historically there has been a lot of overlap and I think that's a mistake; the healer should be characterized by healing and buffing while the caster is characterized by damage and debuffing. Even that is not entirely accurate, because you obviously have clerics who do not heal, but use their ability to channel divine power to help in other ways or even harm, but the important takeaway is that it is possible to have two (or more) caster archetypes if they are differentiated through their access to certain kinds of spell.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
DMZ2112 said:
healer, shifter, mentalist, and summoner

Those all pretty much sound like kinds of spells to me...? An OD&D magic-user could do all of that. Reasonably confident an OD&D fighting-man with the right magic items could, even. ;)

I would say that the archetypal difference between caster and healer is spell-list based. Historically there has been a lot of overlap and I think that's a mistake; the healer should be characterized by healing and buffing while the caster is characterized by damage and debuffing. Even that is not entirely accurate, because you obviously have clerics who do not heal, but use their ability to channel divine power to help in other ways or even harm, but the important takeaway is that it is possible to have two (or more) caster archetypes if they are differentiated through their access to certain kinds of spell.

I think where this gets weird for me (and D&D itself for most of its history) is that none of these things are at all really related to what kind of character you are in the world, in the story, or in the fiction. To pick one, there's no reason that worshipping a god (cleric fluff) = healing and buffs (your ideal cleric mechanics).

Those who worship gods might be mechanically more like damage-dealers calling down fire and plague and making the earth quake. Or they might mechanically be more like summoners, calling upon angels and divinities. Or they might mechanically be more like shifters, calling upon the deity to inhabit their body and work through them.

Meanwhile, buffing and healing isn't necessarily linked to any particular character story. You can be a cloistered scholar who uses medicine and monster lore. You can be an inspiring warrior who keeps her allies fighting on. You can be a skulking thief who knows how to gang up and patch up. You can be a wilderness-dwelling hermit with knowledge of plants and herbs. You can be a powerful summoner who calls upon creatures that your allies use as mounts and tools and extra HP pools.

D&D has loosely tied the two, but the former has proven much more enduring than the latter. Clerics in every edition are wielders of divine magic. They are only mechanical buffer/healers in some certain incarnations. So we're left with me wondering what the benefit of defining class by this narrow mechanical criteria really is, because it's not helping you choose a character whose story you like. If I want to be a healer/buffer without worshiping a god? Or to be a cleric without being a healer/buffer? Why isn't that OK?
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
Those all pretty much sound like kinds of spells to me...? An OD&D magic-user could do all of that. Reasonably confident an OD&D fighting-man with the right magic items could, even. ;)

Dammit, KM, why can't you just acknowledge that my opinions are law and have done with it?

I don't see a shifter as being a spellcaster, necessarily. I see him as having one power that lets him change his form into things that have situationally useful abilities. I suppose you could call it a spell, but it doesn't really necessitate a spell /list/. In D&D, the druid has traditionally had a spell list, but that spell list has also traditionally been the cleric's spell list, so it's not really a point of differentiation.

Also, the wizard's spell list has traditionally permitted shapeshifting, but only in a limited capacity. The concept of a "transmuter" from the earlier editions of D&D depends less on shapeshifting and more on changing the attributes of other creatures and objects.

Regarding the mentalist, I'm not the biggest proponent of psionics in the world, but if they were to have a presence in D&D5 I'd like to see a return to a ruleset like the one from 1st Edition, where psionics had their own set of mechanics rather than relying on a variation of the wizard's shtick.

Finally, the summoner is characterized by having a permanent pet, which embodies most of the class' capabilities. Again, not necessarily a list-based caster. The summoner really has no current D&D equivalent, unless you count the ranger and druid from earlier editions, neither of which are really defined by their pets, or the summoner from Pathfinder.

If I want to be a healer/buffer without worshiping a god? Or to be a cleric without being a healer/buffer? Why isn't that OK?

To answer the question directly, it's absolutely okay; classes need flavor to fill an expository role, but that doesn't mean the provided flavor should be anything but a default setting. If you want to roll up a healer with no god, roll a cleric and give him a different backstory. If you want to roll up a caster who gets his spells from a god, roll a wizard and give /him/ a different backstory.

All I'm trying to say is that if you're writing RPG rules, and your system is class based, then maybe your classes ought to have rules impact. You seem to want a system where classes are non-binding, and I just don't understand how such a system is class based to begin with.
 

TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
To answer the question directly, it's absolutely okay; classes need flavor to fill an expository role, but that doesn't mean the provided flavor should be anything but a default setting. If you want to roll up a healer with no god, roll a cleric and give him a different backstory. If you want to roll up a caster who gets his spells from a god, roll a wizard and give /him/ a different backstory.

All I'm trying to say is that if you're writing RPG rules, and your system is class based, then maybe your classes ought to have rules impact. You seem to want a system where classes are non-binding, and I just don't understand how such a system is class based to begin with.
I'm with you that classes should have mechanical skeletons, not flavor ones.
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm with you that classes should have mechanical skeletons, not flavor ones.
I think the role of fictional positioning in adjudicating the results of actions is key to the difference between and RPG and a boardgame/wargame. Therefore I think that mechanics for an RPG have to be affected, in their resolution, by fictional positioning, and have to produce as consequences changes in fictional positioning.

This doesn't have to be all at once - fortune in the middle, for instance, is quite acceptable - but I think there has to be some link. In a class game it's natural to see this link in terms of archetypes (this class is the mystic, or the warrior, or the paladin) or perhaps competence in a fictional situation (this class is the tracker/survivor, or the urban assassin) - and those two domains (archetype and situation-of-competence) of course overlap. But the link has to be there. Therefore I think class mechanics have to have some link to the fiction. And this will bring some flavour with it.

The reverse is also true, of course. If your class flavour is "unstoppable warrior", but your mechanics mean that the character can't produce such an outcome in the fiction, that's an obvious failure of design in my view. (Though I believe that not everyone agrees. Some players I think value the numbers on the sheet more as markers for or signals of flavour points rather than as resources to be deployed via the game's mechanics.)
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
I think the role of fictional positioning in adjudicating the results of actions is key to the difference between and RPG and a boardgame/wargame.

...

Therefore I think class mechanics have to have some link to the fiction. And this will bring some flavour with it.

I think we've moved on to another topic. For anyone who doesn't know, the Big Model Wiki defines 'positioning' as "behavioral, social, and contextual statements about a character." So in this context, the question is really whether a character's class makes a statement about that character. To me, this seems contentious in the extreme, and therefore best avoided.

Class flavor as a part or positioning is best left up to individual roleplaying groups, or even individual /players/. Some players will want their characters to be positioned by their class, while others will find that idea absurd. I would be incredibly uncomfortable tying my vision of how a fighter is positioned in the setting into the mechanics of a mass-market RPG, and I actually come down on the side of this argument that thinks D&D classes /ought/ to be positionable.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
DMZ2112 said:
To answer the question directly, it's absolutely okay; classes need flavor to fill an expository role, but that doesn't mean the provided flavor should be anything but a default setting. If you want to roll up a healer with no god, roll a cleric and give him a different backstory. If you want to roll up a caster who gets his spells from a god, roll a wizard and give /him/ a different backstory.

All I'm trying to say is that if you're writing RPG rules, and your system is class based, then maybe your classes ought to have rules impact. You seem to want a system where classes are non-binding, and I just don't understand how such a system is class based to begin with.

See I think you got this backwards.

A cleric in OD&D, 1e, 2e, 3e, 4e, and, presumably, 5e, is a wielder of divine magic, granted by the gods.

That is the thing that is consistent -- definitional. That is not mechanical, it's purely, entirely, and completely story-based. It's about the cleric's role in the narrative of the world, the kind of hero the cleric is, how the cleric relates to the powerful forces of the universe...all story things.

They don't need flavor to fill an expository role, they are 100% expository, almost the only thing that has been true about the cleric in all incarnations is its exposition.

That, to me, means that that is the most important thing about the class. That is what a class does: it gives you an expository role.

What mechanics go on under the hood there -- whether you're a caster or a summoner or a healer -- are subordinate to the story. Mechanics is not really what a class does, speaking about D&D in general (it might be what a subclass does!) -- mechanics are only there to support a given story. A cleric is a healer because "healer" is a great mechanical representations of "a heroic character who gains powers from the gods." It starts with the story, and gives mechanics to support that story.

The other way around (healers are clerics because a hero gaining power from the gods is a great story representation of the healing mechanic) is flawed because it fails to embrace the story as its core element, and so leads to a design philosophy centered on making "healers," rather than making divinely sanctioned heroes. And when you play D&D -- especially when you're a n00b to it -- the mechanical role is not as relevant as the story role.
 

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