Do classes built for the 5E D&D *ENGINE* NEED sub-classes?

Do 5E Classes need Sub-Classes?

  • Yes, classes NEED sub-classes.

    Votes: 57 70.4%
  • It depends. (Please elaborate.)

    Votes: 6 7.4%
  • No, it's not mandatory.

    Votes: 18 22.2%

  • Total voters
    81
  • Poll closed .

ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
So, a classplosion is happening for D&D 5E, and it's overwhelmingly third party. Actually it's been going on for quite a while but I'm just becoming aware of just how many homebrew 5E classes are floating around as I develop my own homebrew classes. Now my own homebrew classes for 5E are not, strictly speaking, for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Some are for Dragonrun, and some will be for a more serious commercial project I'm developing using the 5E OGL but little or no Dungeons & Dragons specific content. With that said, personally speaking I wouldn't buy "10 new classes for 5E" for a dollar even if I recognized the names of the authors and thought they'd be balanced and fun, because personally speaking, I take a "less is more" approach to my D&D. To me, the amount of character options in the core rulebook was just right. Adding in the the three published WotC guides, and it went from just right to "plenty". I have no desire for any more character options.

One of the things I like about the core classes and sub-classes (besides the old school fanboy/grog in me that just plain likes things have been around forever like wizards and fighters better than new things) is that broadly speaking the number of them is just about right for a player to learn to play a few intelligently and while playing that character, also observe the combat capabilities of NPCs belonging to those same classes and learn the right tactics for fighting them invisibly. If you have enough character classes that there's no reason not to make every enemy NPC a special snowflake, so you can't have this kind of learning.

ANYWAY: it strikes me that the more classes become available, the LESS NECESSARY sub-classes become, as the point of sub-classes was to allow for ample character differentiation in a game with relatively few classes. Thus: poll.
 
Last edited:

Saelorn

Adventurer
Fifth Edition has always suffered from inconsistent granularity between the classes. Some classes (Fighter, Rogue, Cleric) absolutely need sub-classes, in order to define their identity. Other classes (Barbarian, Druid, Warlock) are already hyper-specific concepts.

Ideally, the solution would be a system with generic base classes and specialized sub-classes, where the hyper-specific classes became sub-classes of the generic base classes. Barbarian should be a Fighter sub-class, for example. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way.

When it comes to new classes, I would say that they absolutely do not need to have sub-classes within them, if the concept for that class is already as hyper-specific as the Barbarian or Druid. It would be entirely justified to include sub-classes for any core class that was as generic as the Fighter or Rogue, though.
 

Bacon Bits

Explorer
Ranger is ridiculously awful without a subclass because it loses all of it's damage output except for Fighting Style and Hunter's Mark. That's one of the reasons why Beastmaster is so awful; it adds the pet without adding any additional damage, so it falls way behind.
 

TiwazTyrsfist

Explorer
My opinion is this:

Sub-Classes are a Core Feature of 5E.

While most classes could easily be playable if stripped of sub-classes, or assigned a single sub-class with no options, the fact of the matter is, Sub-Classes are part of the design choice that was made for 5E, so any game that DOESN'T use sub-classes ISN'T actually a game of 5E, and any class that DOESN'T have sub-classes ISN'T a 5E class.

Either or both could be said to be 5E compatible, but because it doesn't use a Core Component of the system, it's not really 5E.

This isn't to say this makes them BAD.

Just that, IMO, in order to be a "5E Class" you MUST offer AT LEAST 2 subclasses, and really you should have 3-6.
 
Last edited:
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
Do they NEED subclasses? No.

But it serves several purposes:
It prevents duplicating abilities. A subclass can gain certain features of the base class without needing to rename, refluff or retool an ability that already exists and works.
It saves on design space. It allows us to make a "fighter, but different" without having to reinvent the wheel or have "Different Fighter Man" stepping on the toes of "Good Old Fashioned Fighter Man".
And of course, it keeps down splat bloat.

Creating a new class typically means attempting to justify some niche that isn't already covered by an existing class. Which is where subclasses shine, we don't have to justify a new niche, we can say this is a niche within a niche! It means more paper wasted on the same things, or very slight variants of the same things, instead of saying "it works just like this guy, except for here, here and here."

And really I think that's healthier than whole new classes.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
While most classes could easily be playable if stripped of sub-classes, or assigned a single sub-class with no options, the fact of the matter is, Sub-Classes are part of the design choice that was made for 5E, so any game that DOESN'T use sub-classes ISN'T actually a game of 5E, and any class that DOESN'T have sub-classes ISN'T a 5E class.
That makes it sound like you can't play 5E using the free rules which were provided to let you play 5E, just because it hard-codes each class to one sub-class.

As they explain elsewhere, the concept of classes and sub-classes is a fundamental aspect of 5E, but none of the individual classes or sub-classes is fundamental. It's still 5E, even if the DM's setting only allows for human fighter/champions.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
Not at all. I could imagine a game using a strictly 5e chassis that had 60 2 page classes, with no subclasses at all. Maybe even no decision points at all, much like 1e and 2e classes.
 

Nytmare

Villager
Design wise, I wish they did, but at this point I think that the spectrum of classes is how things are going to go.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
So, a classplosion is happening for D&D 5E, and it's overwhelmingly third party. Actually it's been going on for quite a while but I'm just becoming aware of just how many homebrew 5E classes are floating around as I develop my own homebrew classes.


ANYWAY: it strikes me that the more classes become available, the LESS NECESSARY sub-classes become, as the point of sub-classes was to allow for ample character differentiation in a game with relatively few classes. Thus: poll.
There will probably only ever be 1, maybe 2, more non-setting specific classes released for 5E (some form of psion and maybe something completely new). They will probably make a few setting specific classes that could be transferred to other settings (such as the artificer for Eberron), but those are still going to be rare. Given the classplosion of 3E, and the resulting power creep, I strongly suspect that any new "class" they want to make will be done as a subclass if possible. Thus for 5E classes, sub-classes are necessary to allow variety and to create new character concepts.

However, you have added in homebrew and 3PP options to the mix, which creates an unbalanced equation for your question. They can add a billion new classes, making sub-classes unnecessary for any game that uses all of them. You can design homebrew or 3PP classes that don't have or need sub-classes, but that is not the design principle of 5E. Your question would be better stated as: do games that allow a lot of homebrew classes and 3PP classes really need sub-classes. In that case, sub-classes are probably irrelevant.
 

Mistwell

Hero
I am going to start ranting about people who post polls which are not public. What's up with that? You think your poll is only for your personal edification and has no utility to the rest of the community?

In fact...I'm clicking unvote. You don't think I should see what others think? Fine. I don't think you should see what I think then.
 
the game is designed with subclasses in mind, so yes, 5e needs subclasses.

I am going to start ranting about people who post polls which are not public. What's up with that? You think your poll is only for your personal edification and has no utility to the rest of the community?

In fact...I'm clicking unvote. You don't think I should see what others think? Fine. I don't think you should see what I think then.
It's entirely possible that people would start arguing about the poll itself than the reason for the polls existence.
 

Mistwell

Hero
the game is designed with subclasses in mind, so yes, 5e needs subclasses.



It's entirely possible that people would start arguing about the poll itself than the reason for the polls existence.
So? Right now the poll portion only has utility for ONE person, despite asking all posters to participate (apparently just for the benefit of that one person). That's rude.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
I am going to start ranting about people who post polls which are not public. What's up with that? You think your poll is only for your personal edification and has no utility to the rest of the community?

In fact...I'm clicking unvote. You don't think I should see what others think? Fine. I don't think you should see what I think then.
So? Right now the poll portion only has utility for ONE person, despite asking all posters to participate (apparently just for the benefit of that one person). That's rude.
Yep. I unvoted myself. Polls shouldn't be hidden after you vote IMO.

But, since in our group most people are very *meh* when it comes to subclasses, often not finding anything that really appeals to them. I think the overflow of subclasses smacks too much of "we don't think you can just play with your imagination, so we'll hand-feed you something you might like".

I know a lot of people like them, and for some classes they are more necessary for a balance point of view. I could do without them if they never started. They could just have easily offered X number of features at level A, Y number at Level B, etc. and it would have been fine.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
If you're making a class and can't think of any subclasses for it, then you should probably be making a subclass.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
Does the otter need the cactus?

If Gore-tex is so great, why didn't we evolve Gore-tex skin?

If a man is alone in the woods without his wife, and he has an opinion, is he still wrong?
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
(Sometimes people make poll results private by accident; the poll system here is kinda confusing. "Never attribute to malice," etc.)

In general, I'd say that any concept so narrow that you can't immediately think of several "subclass concepts" for it, is too narrow to be a class.

However, whether you actually deliver the mechanics for the "subclass concept" as an actual subclass or as some other kind of mechanics, depends on the class and your goals for it and the context in which it's presented. For example, both my dragon class and my vampire class had subclasses in their first iterations, but I removed them for the second versions. In the case of dragons, the dragon species fulfills much the same role as a subclass. For vampires, the class is already flexible enough to support several different "subclass concepts."
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
Unfortunately DnD is built on subclasses derived from the four basic classes of Fighter-Thief- Wizard-Cleric

but theses never been a consistent vision of Base Class plus sub-features which would be much easier to work with
 

Advertisement

Top