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 .

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
As an OO software developer subclassing is a great way to avoid redundancy. A proliferation of top-level classes looks like poor design and the same must be true in D&D classes. There has to be tremendous overlap. In fact it would probably be nice to see a class tree of the D&D classes and sub classes just to see if the core classes could actually be simplified further, then add back in sub-classes and sub-sub-classes :) I mean - the barbarian, paladin & monk are really kinds of fighters? Just like the sorcerer and warlock are special kinds of wizard. But what the frack is a bard? :)
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
As an OO software developer subclassing is a great way to avoid redundancy. A proliferation of top-level classes looks like poor design and the same must be true in D&D classes. There has to be tremendous overlap. In fact it would probably be nice to see a class tree of the D&D classes and sub classes just to see if the core classes could actually be simplified further, then add back in sub-classes and sub-sub-classes :) I mean - the barbarian, paladin & monk are really kinds of fighters? Just like the sorcerer and warlock are special kinds of wizard. But what the frack is a bard? :)

Based on casting higher level spells and the amount of sneakiness built into the classes, I think you could make the point that the bard is more of a Mage than the warlork, and the warlock is more of a Trickster than the bard.

I tend to think of monks and barbarians as Enhancers (not very fantasy, but I haven't thought of a better name), where you are a more-or-less normal humanoid that can, through magical, mystical, or psychological means, temporarily become supercharged. I wouldn't mind stick psychics in there too--instead of your body becoming supercharged, your brain does.
 

ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
I was not completely honest and accurate in how I framed the question, I suppose. What I really meant to ask was "Does the D&D5E ENGINE require Sub-Classes to work or can it get by on just classes?" which would have culled out a lot of less-than-relevant references to D&D specifics and even the D&D specific meta. But then again if I'd asked what I'd actually meant I feel like it'd have been inviting a bombardment of "well I dunno, how are you hacking it?" which wasn't a conversation I was looking to have here and now in this poll. (For what it's worth, in what I'm working on each of the seven playable races also has a 20-level progression, which to my thinking makes sub-classes less necessary.)

Anyway regardless I want to thank you all for your opinions, they're educational.

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.
Generally, the buzz I've heard from players at my FLGS is that the Ranger is just ridiculously awful, period.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
What I really meant to ask was "Does the D&D5E ENGINE require Sub-Classes to work or can it get by on just classes?"
This is how the game is designed. The real question here is whether a new class is warranted. The game is designed to allow for new subclasses, but the room for new classes is extremely limited.


Generally, the buzz I've heard from players at my FLGS is that the Ranger is just ridiculously awful, period.
Group think is a thing. While the Ranger is the least liked class, the majority of 5e players still like it just fine. Something has to be least popular, that doesn't mean it is bad.
 
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.
So, all the classes in 5e have a history in prior editions. The Warlock is the 'youngest' being introduced in 3.5 and appearing in a PH only in 4e, followed closely by the 3.0-vintage Sorcerer, and more distantly by the 1e AD&D Unearthed Arcana Barbarian. Everything else in the 5e PH goes back to the 1e PH, at least as a sub-class or proto-PrC-like-classoid. And, everything in 1e PH was introduced in some 0D&D booklet at some point.

Even so, some of them were seemingly created just to introduce mechanics - the Thief (rogue precursor) brought de-facto dungeoneering skills, labeled 'special abilities,' to the game way back in the Greyhawk supplement, the very first of the booklets to follow the original boxed set, the Illusionist introduced specialization to the Magic-User. But others were character concepts - the Ranger was Aragorn, the Monk was Quai-Chang Caine, the Paladin was Lancelot & Percival/Galahad, the Barbarian, obviously, Conan.

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?
The Sorcerer isn't there to express the wonder of sorcery points, it's there to differentiate the sorcerer form the other spell-casting classes (which is all of them, now), mechanically. The Sorcerer's a particularly egregious example, though, because if you go back two eds to it's origin, it sure looked like it was created soley as a vehicle to introduce spontaneous casting as an alternative to the much-criticized 'Vancian' model - an alternative that wasn't as utterly broken as the popular un-official spell-point/mana variants that proliferated back in the day.

In a sense, it failed, because wizards &c never stopped memorizing/preparing spells, in another it succeeded wildly, since everyone now casts spontaneously in 5e.

Is this a situation like the board game Root, where there needs to be different mechanical interactions for each class? Why is this required?
It's not required, it's at worst, perhaps, expected. It's a pat sort of game-design approach. Why is character A different from character B, because it uses mechanic X instead of mechanic Y.

What drives the need for a Sorcerer to exist when the Wizard class handles the magic spell-caster with tremendous versatility, already?
Prettymuch just the fact it existed in 3.0, really.

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.
It does mean the game is more complex than it might otherwise need to be, sure. But, 5e, at least, has avoided some of the fall-out for such needless complexity by holding the line and not introducing new classes, spells, and the like at a breakneck (or even slightly neck-bending) pace.

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?
5e isn't adding a lot of new mechanics as it goes. It kinda just dumped them all in the PH, and is letting them ride. Psionics has taken years to roll out and still hasn't appeared in print, for instance.
 

ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
This is how the game is designed. The real question here is whether a new class is warranted. The game is designed to allow for new subclasses, but the room for new classes is extremely limited.
Again, though...that may be how the "game" is designed but I think I just explained I was talking more about the ENGINE than the game. I don't know that it's necessarily how the game engine is designed that the room for new classes is extremely limited: I think that's an artifact of WotC's marketing strategy for the GAME, not a feature of the engine. The real question here is not whether a new class is warranted---NONE of the classes from the PHB will be in what I'm working on so the new classes I'm designing are certainly warranted. The question is if they (all) need sub-classes. Sub-classes make a lot of sense for my Cleric equivalent and my Warlock equivalent, but don't seem to make as much sense for my magic-user, fighter, and rogue classes.

Group think is a thing. While the Ranger is the least liked class, the majority of 5e players still like it just fine. Something has to be least popular, that doesn't mean it is bad.
I was handed a ten page packet by the Ranger player of a something-something Arcana version of the Ranger. It just seemed way too complicated. "Rangers have advantage on attack rolls against their favored enemies" was a one-sentence hot-patch that fixed MY issues with the Ranger class, although I understand the ten page print out had primarily to do with the Ranger's Terrain mastery features. Anyway if there's one thing I can definitely unreservedly agree with it's that groupthink is indeed a thing.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen... Be nice plz n_n
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?
The thing is, the sorcerer is still necessary despite the mechanical improvements on the wizard. Something that is easy to miss is that things are as defined by what is in them as are by what isn't. The Magic User of old was a very specific type of spellcaster regardless of the actual mechanics. That class saw magic as a goal all by itself, and always as something acquired and desired by the caster, earned through hard work, but an externality none the less.

There was a problem with this one though. What happens if I want a caster that doesn't actively desire for magic? what if I have a caster that is just meant to be fun and not about hard work? what if I want to play a demigod(dess)? What if I want to play Samantha, Jeannie or Sabrina (OG Sabrina, that had to deal with magic in a similar way teens learn to deal with their changing bodies), what if I'm inspired by Elsa or Circe? In the local folklore of my country magic is either an innate gift that one has to understand or a boon granted by a dark entity. I bet that it is similar in many places. Be it any way like that, the Magic user is completely inappropriate for any of them by both mechanics and themes.

Even though the wizard has the mechanics that could support some of them now, it still has mechanics that actively undermine the concept , and while these can be ignored, it is only a little better than playing a feeble and frail waif with Con 19. And the wizard still represents its own distinctive -and rigid- archetype. For the sorcerer and warlock to be truly superfluous, the wizard would have to become more generic, to the point it no longer properly supports the D&D wizard/mage/MU
 
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Krachek

Explorer
For a rapid setup character can be made without subclasses.
Also real beginner starting at higher level can play without subclasses.
Npc can be build without subclasses. It make a simpler and a bit weaker version, but perfect for a none hero character.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
I was not completely honest and accurate in how I framed the question, I suppose. What I really meant to ask was "Does the D&D5E ENGINE require Sub-Classes to work or can it get by on just classes?"
All the engine really requires to be playable are the 6 stats, the number of Hit Die/Hit Points, and a list of things the character is proficient with. Everything else is really just codifying progression, power levels, and setting flavor.

They could have just as easily written every subclass as its own class, or combined classes into a core 4, or just had one "class" with a menu of feat options.

Outside of theoretical constructions, though, the established 5e ecosystem is for class design that has room for at least 3 subclasses with distinct options for at least 4 different levels.
 
Even though the wizard has the mechanics that could support some of them now, it still has mechanics that actively undermine the concept , and while these can be ignored, it is only a little better than playing a feeble and frail waif with Con 19. And the wizard still represents its own distinctive -and rigid- archetype. For the sorcerer and warlock to be truly superfluous, the wizard would have to become more generic, to the point it no longer properly supports the D&D wizard/mage/MU
5e spellcasting mechanics vary so little from one class to another - particularly in that all cast spontaneously - that it wouldn't've been any great trick to implement the Vancian wizard, pact-making warlock, and innate-power Sorcerer as sub-classes of a single class, or even backgrounds. Mage w/Sage background: wizard, for instance.

Conversely, the Sorcerer, as the Warlock was, could've been made /more/ distinct from the wizard. Sorcery points don't go very far in that direction.
 

Bacon Bits

Explorer
Generally, the buzz I've heard from players at my FLGS is that the Ranger is just ridiculously awful, period.
It's not that bad. If you know how the class works, Hunter is extremely potent. The level 3 and level 11 abilities are all good. Particularly when you go ranged, and doubly so when Feats aren't available. With Feats, Fighters are able to keep up a little too well.

The class itself has got four core problems:

1. Favored Terrain and Favored Enemy are the primary, defining abilities of the entire class, and they don't do anything. In the overwhelming majority of encounters and overland travel in the campaigns I've played in, they're functionally non-existent abilities. The DM often has to go out of their way to make them do something. Their benefit is that they eliminate penalties that usually get hand-waived away (Favored Terrain) or they grant benefits for rolls you essentially never need to know or for which you have to succeed (Favored Enemy, knowledge and tracking, respectively). Literally the best benefit of these abilities is the bonus languages that you learn. Amazingly, it's Rangers, not Bards or Wizards, that are the best linguists in the game.

2. Land's Stride, Hide in Plain Sight, Vanish, Feral Senses, Foe Slayer, and everything from Superior Hunter's Defense either a) never come up like FT and FE, or b) all come 5+ levels later than other classes get similar abilities.

3. The basic class design is far too narrow. With the exception of Hunter's Mark (spell) and Fighting Style, all damage boosting abilities this class gets come from the subclass. This means that every subclass they add needs to pack in essentially nothing but combat and damage dealing abilities. This is why Beastmaster is extremely poor in actual play. It spends all it's abilities making the companion able to kind of keep up, but then makes the Ranger burn all his actions to do anything with it. It's like an extremely bad Summon Monster spell that requires spending actions instead of maintaining concentration.

4. The class concept is wedged into an extremely small design space, and much of it isn't what players want anymore. The class is part fighter, part druid, part stealthy hunter. However, that means the class is stuck between Fighter, Druid, Rogue, Barbarian, and Bard (the other blended class). That's a very, very narrow design space. Simply put, there isn't much left to carve an identity out for the Ranger. The only remaining big concept is "pet class" because Druid gave that one up, and pets are extremely weak in 5e. It doesn't help that the iconic rangers are Drizzt and Robin Hood. Aragorn, the namesake, is kind of a blend of Fighter, Ranger, and Paladin. Who else do we have? Daniel Boone? Jim Bowie? Davy Crockett? Very few players care about exploring untamed wilderness like a frontiersman anymore. Our world has no wildernesses left to tame. Those that remain need protection, not exploration and subjugation.

I was handed a ten page packet by the Ranger player of a something-something Arcana version of the Ranger. It just seemed way too complicated. "Rangers have advantage on attack rolls against their favored enemies" was a one-sentence hot-patch that fixed MY issues with the Ranger class, although I understand the ten page print out had primarily to do with the Ranger's Terrain mastery features. Anyway if there's one thing I can definitely unreservedly agree with it's that groupthink is indeed a thing.
Unearthed Arcana's Revised Ranger. There have been several versions. The first version was very OP and I don't think anybody should actually play with that version, particularly that version's Beastmaster. The second verison was much more fair, but the designers still didn't like it.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen... Be nice plz n_n
5e spellcasting mechanics vary so little from one class to another - particularly in that all cast spontaneously - that it wouldn't've been any great trick to implement the Vancian wizard, pact-making warlock, and innate-power Sorcerer as sub-classes of a single class, or even backgrounds. Mage w/Sage background: wizard, for instance.

Conversely, the Sorcerer, as the Warlock was, could've been made /more/ distinct from the wizard. Sorcery points don't go very far in that direction.
Maybe, but quoting an old book on my father's library "The more general something is, the least appropriate it is to do anything". A generic Mage class would indeed be able to cover the three classes, but only so much. It would either fail to cover what makes the D&D wizard iconic, or it would do a poor job covering sorcerer and warlock.(As was the case during the playtest, the Mage was tailored for the wizard, and would have saddled sorcerers and warlocks with a lot of wizard baggage) And what for? just to satisfy a minimalist impulse? to have subclasses with subsubclasses? to prevent multiclassing among the three classes?

Now, maybe having the classes be more different from each other could work, but that comes with its own set of problems. Warlock and Sorcerer are too much like the wizard in some aspects -causing a bunch of misguided "why bother?" comments-and too little like it in some others (preventing them from contributing and causing them to be less desirable to the party). Accentuating the differences could add more differentiation in the former, but could as well cause even more of the latter, making it harder to keep these classes balanced. And from experience designers historically have a tendency to overcompensate when it comes to innovate for the sorcerer.
 
Maybe, but quoting an old book on my father's library "The more general something is, the least appropriate it is to do anything". A generic Mage class would indeed be able to cover the three classes, but only so much. It would either fail to cover what makes the D&D wizard iconic, or it would do a poor job covering sorcerer and warlock.(As was the case during the playtest, the Mage was tailored for the wizard, and would have saddled sorcerers and warlocks with a lot of wizard baggage) And what for? just to satisfy a minimalist impulse? to have subclasses with subsubclasses? to prevent multiclassing among the three classes?
MCing among casters already necessitates a special sub-system to handle combining their casting advancement, so that doesn't sound like a terrible idea. Rather, a character who wanted to split the difference between, say, innate-talent Sorcerer and book-learn'n Wizard would take some combination of class options associated with each, rather than going all in one way or another. But, that's get'n super-hypothetical, since 5e doesn't offer that level of player-side customization.

Now, maybe having the classes be more different from each other could work, but that comes with its own set of problems. Warlock and Sorcerer are too much like the wizard in some aspects -causing a bunch of misguided "why bother?" comments-and too little like it in some others (preventing them from contributing and causing them to be less desirable to the party). Accentuating the differences could add more differentiation in the former, but could as well cause even more of the latter, making it harder to keep these classes balanced. And from experience designers historically have a tendency to overcompensate when it comes to innovate for the sorcerer.
The key problem I see with 'doing' the 3.x Sorcerer in 5e (the 5e Sorcerer does the 4e Sorcerer fine, it just needs to cover each 'build' with a sub-class), is, again, that lack of player options to customize the character. Each sorcerer you could have made in 3.x would require a sub-class tailored to it.
 

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