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D&D 5E Fluff & Rule, Lore & Crunch. The Interplay of Class, System, and Color in D&D

Classes, what do you think?

  • 1. Classes are designed to reflect both a certain set of rules as well as lore.

    Votes: 44 65.7%
  • 2. Classes are designed to reflect a certain set of rules, but all lore is optional.

    Votes: 16 23.9%
  • 3. I have some opinion not adequately portrayed in the two options and I will put in the comments.

    Votes: 4 6.0%
  • 4. I have no idea what this poll is about, even after reading the initial post.

    Votes: 3 4.5%

  • Total voters


I think its also fair to say that the fluff::lore ratio for classes is... inconsistent. Some classes have nearly no lore, others are inseparable. Which is why we get into the argument of what is/isn't a class.

On the one side, you have fighter, rogue, sorcerer, and wizard as classes that themselves have almost no lore but are defined by the lore of their subclasses. Wizard squeaks in by the thinnest of lines since its still bound (heh) by the concept of the spellbook, but otherwise has no great thematic link by itself. On the complete opposite are the classes that they themselves have tight lore and the subs are merely flavor: artificer, paladin, warlock, and monk. In the middle are the "connected to the lore, but subs can modify that to a great deal" classes of ranger, bard, barbarian, druid, and cleric.

The issue of course is that since each classes connection to the lore is different, you can't apply any overarching rule to them. For example, a fighter, a barbarian, and a paladin are all "dudes with hp and swords" but the fighter is painfully generic (enough so they can represent a bunch of different archetypes like knights, archers, and samurai) the barbarian is focused on a type of warrior (strong and primal warrior) with some wiggle room to include thewy pulp barbarians, Viking berserkers, gladiators, and religious fanatics) while the paladin is wedded to the "holy knight" lore that all you get to pick is the type of knight you are (white knight, green knight, black knight, Dark Knight, etc). It's hard to argue why, for example, Samurai gets a single subclass to represent all manner of (fictional) samurais while paladin gets a full class to do holy knight and given a variety of different types to play.

At this point, I think its tradition that carries the core class identities forward. Ranger is a class because people expect it to be. Monk is there because it existed in most editions (all if you count eventual supplements). Were D&D given a clean slate to unbind from tradition, I wonder if some (if not many) of the classic classes would be rolled into meatier subclasses or if the more generic classes would be brought up to at least match the middle-group in terms of "relative backstory" to give fighters or sorcerers more inherent personality without reliance on subclass. Its idle speculation, barring a radical shift in WotC's MO, I doubt the paladin will stop being a class anytime in my lifetime.

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Steeliest of the dragons
The ratio of fluff and lore to class power and complexity [a.k.a. mechanics or "crunch"] should be a direct 45 degree angle, imho.

As the class' niche becomes more specific and the mechanics/features of the class more specific and specialized, the fluff/lore of the class should be increasing.

A Fighter is the baseline. I hit well. I do good damage. I have a refurbishing hit point bucket. Use a sword? Sure. A bow? A spear? Yuppers. Leather, Plate, uber super chainmail? Shields, no shields, more shields? Any and all of the above. Pick/make the kind of warrior you wanna be.

A Cavalier/Knight type fighter is more specific in their mechanical features. I hit well, too. Very well. I do good damage. I have a refurbishing bucket of hit points. [completely non-canon off the top of my head for a knightly fighter] I'm a [let's call it] "commanding presence," too. Do I know how to ride a horse, you ask? Are you serious? I'm the best at riding horses...especially if I have a long pointy in my hand. Heavy armor? You mean the best there is, much like myself? Know shields? Better than you at that, too. Virtue mechanic? Inspiration? Save bonus of some kind? Sure, why not? Excellent. Now, in exchange for all of that, you MUST follow a particular ethos for your disciplined upbringing and training: Lawful. You have to adhere to some learned and idealized code of conduct: "chivalry," "honor," virtues/oaths, however you want it fluffed, but it needs to be there. You have a mounted combat mechanic, so you need a fluff/lore bit about learning/knowing about horses [mounts in general]. Maybe that requires you be of noble or aristocratic lineage...maybe it demands you being a part of a particular culture or trained by a particular order of knights/knightly warriors...

Point being, for all of those mechanical "extra" bits, some fluff/lore must be present which the baseline/default "Fighter" does not require.

So, to my mind/class creation philosophy, the fluff/lore to crunch/feature benefits should be directly proportional.

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