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 .

TheSword

Explorer
I see the sub classes fulfilling very similar roles to the kits of earlier editions. They allow for powerful themes to come through.

I don’t think the game needs more classes personally. Even speciality worlds classes like defilers and artificers are probably best developed through sub-classes, with maybe the exception of the psionicist.
 

UngeheuerLich

Adventurer
In hindsight, subclasses at level 3 have some problems as do subclasses at level 1.
Maybe the Idea of one choice at level 1, a second one at level 3 like the warlock class would have been a great idea. Then every subclass has a feature at a certain level.
Paladin, fighter and ranger could have been a subclass of the same warrior archetype. At level 3 everyone of them could chose a pet. Beastmaster, cavallier, paladin steed could all be the same speciality of a warrior class. Eldritch knight, spellcasting ranger and paladin could be the magical option.
Maybe there would be a different way to do it. But I think that would have been a slightly superior approach.
Maybe there could have been a choice at level 2 too.
Level 1 needs to give you all proficiencies you need and main class features like spellcasting or weapon training.
Level 2 and level 3 should only add to that.
That said, I still think most conceptd can be done with fewer classes and the right subclass so I think they are needed in 5e because we don't want too many classes.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
"Need" is such a loaded term. We don't "need" more than a single class much less subclasses, if you want to be technical.

Do subclasses give us a design space that makes it easy to balance and expand? Yes. Do we "need" that? No - we could easily play a worse game or a game that's more expensive because it needed more playtest time.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
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."
Both are very good classes, BTW.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
I need subclasses because all the classes that are currently in the game use them. And if you don't use a subclass for one of those classes, you are down 3-5 levels worth of features that other PCs who have taken subclasses will have.

Now if you are asking if a newly-created third party class needs to have subclasses as part of the class design (of if the class can just be it itself), my answer would be "I don't even want or need your new class being designed, so that goes double for the potential subclasses for it." ;)
 

Myzzrym

Explorer
I mean... I feel like sub-classes kind of fill the role of the old Prestige Classes. Often you wonder what your character will look like at higher levels, and I remember in 3.5 scouring the multiple books for cool Prestige Classes, but then you'd have to look at all the requirements and plan accordingly, which could be a huge pain in the butt.

In 5e, sub-classes fill that roll in a much simpler fashion - at level 2 (or 3) of most classes, you get your sub-class with its own set of cool abilities but with a shared common tree (which, if we're to be totally honest, was often what Prestige Classes would do in 3.5 - have a lot in common in a few other classes, but with a few special features on top of it).

So do we need Sub-classes? Not necessarily in that particular form. But we do need what they represent - customisation and specialisation (since one could argue customisation could simply be achieved through multiclassing).
 

Dausuul

Legend
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."
XP and mad props for the dragon class, which is really well done. (Haven't looked at the vampire class yet.)
 
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.
Sub-classes make up for 5e's relative (to 3e & 4e, which is maybe not that fair a comparison) lack of player-side options, especially if the DM isn't using any optional rules. Heck, without optional MC rules, sub-classes backfill classic D&D character types like the elf fighter/magic-user (Eldritch Knight or Bladesinger).
A sub-class is a package-concept that gets close to what you might have done with feats, multi-classing, PrCs, backgrounds, themes, PP/EDs, hybrids, gestalts, or whatevertheheckelse was (and still is, thanks PF) available at the height of D&D's player entitlement phase.

The more you homebrew & 3pp in player side options, the less the few-sizes-fit-enough model of the sub-class matters. You can't get rid of it, per se, because it's integral to the 5e class designs, but you could overwhelm it pretty completely.
 

the Jester

Legend
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.
Just because some guy on the Internet publishes a class doesn't mean I'm letting it into my game.

In my opinion, to justify adding a full class, it has to have a strong, coherent identity that can't be properly created with existing options. It has to be a big concept, too- big enough to contain subclasses. If it isn't, it's better designed as a feat or subclass.

Not every concept deserves or needs a full class.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
In my opinion, to justify adding a full class, it has to have a strong, coherent identity that can't be properly created with existing options. It has to be a big concept, too- big enough to contain subclasses. If it isn't, it's better designed as a feat or subclass.

Not every concept deserves or needs a full class.
How do you reconcile that with something like the druid, though, whose identity is easily replicated with a nature cleric? Do you not use them in your game? Or is it grandfathered in, even though it shouldn't rightfully qualify?
 
Bard should go back to being *the* prestige class, where you had to have a least 5 levels in every single class in order to play as them. Fit's the flavor a lot more.

what, it bars concepts that people have? get out of here with that, it's just a bard.
 

the Jester

Legend
How do you reconcile that with something like the druid, though, whose identity is easily replicated with a nature cleric? Do you not use them in your game? Or is it grandfathered in, even though it shouldn't rightfully qualify?
It's grandfathered in. Same as the ranger and paladin. But if I were designing the game today myself, I don't know that any of those would get the full class treatment.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
In the current design, they fit well. However, if they expanded backgrounds (sort of like in early playtest versions), then no, they wouldn't need subclasses at all. Pretty much every archetype could be a combination of a base core class plus an expansive background and/or feat package.
 
It's grandfathered in. Same as the ranger and paladin. But if I were designing the game today myself, I don't know that any of those would get the full class treatment.
Only the ranger is really lacking of the three.
Both the Druid & Paladin have strong identities from myth/legend/history that a 'mere' nature-priest or fighter/cleric wouldn't do justice too (if you even accept that the current classes do them justice).

(And the Barbarian is also pretty tenuous as a class - could be a Background. And the Sorcerer is a pretty weak effort, too, not doing the 3e vision of the class at all well, thanks to Spontaneous casting being ubiquitous in 5e.)
 

Monayuris

Explorer
Only the ranger is really lacking of the three.
Both the Druid & Paladin have strong identities from myth/legend/history that a 'mere' nature-priest or fighter/cleric wouldn't do justice too (if you even accept that the current classes do them justice).

(And the Barbarian is also pretty tenuous as a class - could be a Background. And the Sorcerer is a pretty weak effort, too, not doing the 3e vision of the class at all well, thanks to Spontaneous casting being ubiquitous in 5e.)
Your comment about the Sorcerer brings up a thought I've had regarding classes in 5E (and modern D&D).

I kind of feel like a lot of classes in 5E exist solely as a means to express a unique mechanic in the game.

I wonder if there is a chicken and the egg thing going on?

The Sorcerer is no longer necessary as Wizards get to spontaneously cast from their prepared spells. So they invent sorcery points to justify the existence of the Sorcerer as a class. Did the existence of the Sorcerer class force the creation of the sorcery point mechanic? Or was the sorcery point mechanic something that they wanted to be put in the game, hence it got stuck on the Sorcerer class?

Is this a situation like the board game Root, where there needs to be different mechanical interactions for each class? Why is this required?

What drives the need for a Sorcerer to exist when the Wizard class handles the magic spell-caster with tremendous versatility, already?

I'm ok with just the magic-user, but I do see why people want a little more differentiation. But why does the differentiation have to be so strongly expressed mechanically? Why does a warlock need a completely different mechanic to 'feel like a warlock' instead of a wizard?

Proliferation of classes, to me, really means proliferation of mechanics.

I often wonder what is the point? Why does D&D need to constantly add new mechanics? Isn't the idea of playing in an unlimited fantastic world of magic, monsters, treasures, and the unknown enough?
 
I often wonder what is the point? Why does D&D need to constantly add new mechanics? Isn't the idea of playing in an unlimited fantastic world of magic, monsters, treasures, and the unknown enough?
Well, for one thing, it's a roleplaying game. I've seen a lot of people talk about the roleplaying part of it, but the game part is just as important. Sometimes you come up with cool mechanics, so you have to come up with a story for it so you can roleplay, (For example, I think the design of a Druid type begins with Wildshape, and you come up with the story of someone/thing that can turn into animals) and other times you get the story first, and you need to come up with some mechanics to tie into that story. (even though it isn't out yet, I feel this is where the Artificer got it's start.)

Neither are bad ways to come up with... anything really. I've come up with characters using both ways, and it works out well for me.
 

Coroc

Explorer
As long as you are dm ing some sort of homebrew or official product not AL do not forget you are the absolute and undisputed overlord in your campaign. Feel free to restrict the players from any class /subclass or race that you see unfit for your world.
There, I did it again, eat my old school mentality you modern anything goes halfling mutant ninja pirate turtle goliath players😁

Other than that subclass are a built-into with 5e.
You even can emulate basic d&d stuff like elf class with 5e mechanics:
Just use an elven eldritch knight
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm not much of a "must/must-not" kind of guy. I will say that I think the system will work best for the players when the classes are general enough that they really call for sub-classes. If you've created a class that "doesn't need" subclasses, you should probably look at it like it was a class that had a subclass applied, pull it apart into its actual base and subclass, and see if you can add another subclass.

All my humble opinion.
 

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