D&D 5E Options past 3rd level

I liked the idea of the alternate class abilities UA, but in practice most of the options were “add on a free ability or don’t,” which is really a non-choice on the player’s side. There were a few cases, like the Barbarian, where the options felt like they actually offered some player choice, but most of them felt like fixes for design issues disguised as DM options.
I didn't get a chance to look at them myself, which is why I limited it "the concept." In theory such a thing is good, but it requires reviewing existing abilities, including sub-classes, to ensure the overall balance of the alternate ability is nearly on par with the existing one. In addition (at least in theory) they'll need to make sure new sub-classes don't upset said balance, but I know they already don't do that.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I didn't get a chance to look at them myself, which is why I limited it "the concept." In theory such a thing is good, but it requires reviewing existing abilities, including sub-classes, to ensure the overall balance of the alternate ability is nearly on par with the existing one. In addition (at least in theory) they'll need to make sure new sub-classes don't upset said balance, but I know they already don't do that.
The thing is, it’s not even that the abilities are unbalanced. It’s that the majority of them literally don’t replace anything. They’re just more abilities for free. That’s why I say they’re not really player options, they’re DM options.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I liked the idea of the alternate class abilities UA, but in practice most of the options were “add on a free ability or don’t,” which is really a non-choice on the player’s side.

Yeah there were actually 2 separate kinds of material on that UA: alternate features and free enhancements.

I loved the first and hated the latter. Unfortunately the public loved the free enhancements (obviously because they are free) so I am prepared to avoid the book even if it means not to get the parts I like.

There are definitely times where simple is best, having additional switches so that you can go between them as needed would be a nice addition to the game, even just a little more choice as your character grows would be nice.

There is room for both simple and complex in 5e. Having both options was actually a big point in the design of the edition. That's why we have some simple archetypes and some complex ones.

But what if someone likes the concept of an archetype (or base class, or even race) but not its default level of complexity?

Well it actually ain't that hard... To make a simple (sub)class/race more complex you need variant features, to make a complex archetype simpler you need suggested selections. I think the PHB already allows a certain amount of dialling but releasing alternate class/race features can certainly help.
 

Oofta

Legend
It absolutely has, and with good reason. I even prefer it over 4e, and I was an enormous fan of 4e. But I think it would be a mistake to assume that its success relative to 4e is due solely to the design ideas from 4e that it didn’t include, or that it couldn’t have been even more successful had it included more of them.


Very, very little was ported over from 4e, and most of what was ported over has been majorly flanderized from its original design purpose, and/or poorly disguised to obfuscate the 4e influence.


The thing is, the players surveyed at the time are no longer representative of the 5e player base, thanks to the afformentioned growth patterns. There are a lot of design decisions that were made at the time because lapsed players from past editions made up a significant voting block (possibly the most significant voting block) that are far less popular with the current fan base which is made predominantly of new players, that WotC has been trying to address without invalidating any existing material. Moreover, popularity is not always a strong indication of quality. I think embracing more of the things 4e did well would have resulted in an overall higher quality game, which would still be as successful, if not more successful today.

No game works for everyone, some games are going to work better for some people than others. I think 4E was a fine game in some ways, but I think it lost something from previous editions that was brought back in 5E. As far as 5E's popularity, it's the single most popular TTRPG ever. Could it be more popular? Sure. Anything is possible. I just don't think making it more like an edition that for the first time ever lost it's rank as the #1 TTRPG* would have been the way to go.

As far as quality and popularity ... it's a game. The goal of a publisher is to attract the most players possible. So while it's complicated, I do think quality and popularity are closely aligned. The playtests may have been dominated by a different demographic, but the public at large have voted with their wallets by making 5E far more popular than 4E is still growing years after it's introduction.

But that's all I want to get into edition wars. I get that you like 4E, I just disagree with saying that 5E would be better if they had made the same mistakes they made with the version of the game that came close to being the swan song for D&D as a brand.

*Yes, I know this was after 5E was announced, but the fact that PathFinder was even within striking distance before 5E was announced was a strong indication of issues.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
But that's all I want to get into edition wars. I get that you like 4E, I just disagree with saying that 5E would be better if they had made the same mistakes they made with the version of the game that came close to being the swan song for D&D as a brand.
You’re disagreeing with a position I’ve never espoused. I don’t think 5e would be better if they had made the same mistakes they made with 4e. Obviously - the mistakes they made with 4e harmed the brand, and addressing them was a big part of the point of making 5e. I do, however, think that a lot of good design ideas (not mistakes) got thrown out, just because they came from 4e. I think that 5e could have been better if it had been more concerned with taking the best parts of each edition and discarding the worst parts than with making a show of doing away with 4e. I’m not saying 5e should be just like 4e. I’m saying there were some design innovations made by 4e that could have improved 5e, but got left by the wayside simply because they were from 4e.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
The Adventurer's League started to allow higher level customization through advancing in Factions and associated minor benefits from higher level reputation with those factions. I think there are 5 reputation levels to begin with?

This concept has leaked into mainstream non-AL games through adventures like Dragon Heist, where factions are present and PCs advance through the reputation ranks of them.

It seems to me the intent is for Factions to replace Prestige Classes, and that concept is evolving over the years as WOTC is essentially playtesting the idea in AL. Emerald Enclave, Harpers, Order of the Gauntlet, Lord's Alliance, Zhentarim, etc.. The benefit system from increased reputation is slowly coming out through the adventures.
 

Oofta

Legend
You’re disagreeing with a position I’ve never espoused. I don’t think 5e would be better if they had made the same mistakes they made with 4e. Obviously - the mistakes they made with 4e harmed the brand, and addressing them was a big part of the point of making 5e. I do, however, think that a lot of good design ideas (not mistakes) got thrown out, just because they came from 4e. I think that 5e could have been better if it had been more concerned with taking the best parts of each edition and discarding the worst parts than with making a show of doing away with 4e. I’m not saying 5e should be just like 4e. I’m saying there were some design innovations made by 4e that could have improved 5e, but got left by the wayside simply because they were from 4e.

Let me rephrase then, I shouldn't have used the word "mistake". I don't think there is any indication that many of the design decisions made for 4E made the game better. By better I mean "increased sales in the long term". I eventually grew to dislike 4E because of many reasons, but the primary design decision to me seemed to be giving all classes a variation of Vancian casting on steroids with the various cooldown periods for most powers. Honestly? I hated it in the long run and I'm glad they got rid of it for the most part and modified it for casters in 5E.

They did keep some ideas from 4E. Short rests, cantrips, modified version of hit die, recharge abilities for some monsters, special options for boss monsters. I'm sure the there's more I'm not thinking off the top of my head. Not sure what other concepts you think should have been brought over.

But it's water under the bridge, 4E just wasn't the game for me.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Let me rephrase then, I shouldn't have used the word "mistake". I don't think there is any indication that many of the design decisions made for 4E made the game better. By better I mean "increased sales in the long term". I eventually grew to dislike 4E because of many reasons, but the primary design decision to me seemed to be giving all classes a variation of Vancian casting on steroids with the various cooldown periods for most powers. Honestly? I hated it in the long run and I'm glad they got rid of it for the most part and modified it for casters in 5E.
And those are not the things I think 5e would have benefited from bringing over. Go figure.
 



Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
So again ... what did they not bring over that you thought they should have?

Or just drop it, I don't mean to badger. :)
There are a number of things I think could have been brought over, but the one that’s relevant to this discussion is build choices throughout the character’s career.
 

Oofta

Legend
There are a number of things I think could have been brought over, but the one that’s relevant to this discussion is build choices throughout the character’s career.

But the way they did it was by giving choices of powers. It was fundamental to class design and balance. The fact that powers were encapsulated made a big difference. From a game design standpoint it made sense, I just think some things were lost in the translation (for me).

If 5E had kept the flexibility concepts while using the current style I think we would have ended up with some of the same issues we had with 3.5. The combination of flexibility with synergistic options lead to system mastery being so central to the game.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
But the way they did it was by giving choices of powers. It was fundamental to class design and balance. The fact that powers were encapsulated made a big difference. From a game design standpoint it made sense, I just think some things were lost in the translation (for me).

If 5E had kept the flexibility concepts while using the current style I think we would have ended up with some of the same issues we had with 3.5. The combination of flexibility with synergistic options lead to system mastery being so central to the game.
Whereas I look to examples like the 5e warlock or 13th Age and come to the conclusion that is possible to have both flexibility and customizability in a way that is user-friendly and does not lead to the game being dominated by players with high levels of system mastery. 5e largely fell short of that benchmark, and I think the aversion to anything that smelled even vaguely of 4e is a big part of the reason for that.
 

Jeff Carlsen

Adventurer
I think the Paragon Path and Epic Destiny of 4e was a broadly good idea. When you enter a new major tier of play, you make a choice that defines your character for that tier.

For 5e, having such a decision to make around 10th or 11th level would be good. At that point the game becomes much broader in focus. The options provided would reflect how your character relates to the larger world in some way.

Such a thing could probably be integrated into 5e via through a Prestige Feat, which is pretty much just a feat with prerequisites such as level, class, or in-world organization. They would probably often tie in with creating strongholds, having retainers or subjects, and generally exerting influence on the world. Examples include:

  • Guild Master (start or take over a small guild)
  • Warlord (start a military force geared toward conquering land)
  • Archmage
  • Templar
  • Inquisitor
  • Tax Collector
  • Forge Master
  • Magical Lab Owner
 

For the sake of customizing characters.

I am more interested in swapping class features in and out.

Archetypes solves most multiclassing needs.

In 5e, multiclassing feels less important to me.
 

I think the Paragon Path and Epic Destiny of 4e was a broadly good idea. When you enter a new major tier of play, you make a choice that defines your character for that tier.

For 5e, having such a decision to make around 10th or 11th level would be good. At that point the game becomes much broader in focus. The options provided would reflect how your character relates to the larger world in some way.

Such a thing could probably be integrated into 5e via through a Prestige Feat, which is pretty much just a feat with prerequisites such as level, class, or in-world organization. They would probably often tie in with creating strongholds, having retainers or subjects, and generally exerting influence on the world. Examples include:

  • Guild Master (start or take over a small guild)
  • Warlord (start a military force geared toward conquering land)
  • Archmage
  • Templar
  • Inquisitor
  • Tax Collector
  • Forge Master
  • Magical Lab Owner
Divide the tiers, according to the 5e proficiency bonus improvements.

Something like:

• 1-4 Basic (Student, Guild Apprentice, Page, Jack)
• 5-8 Expert (Professional, Adventurer, Guild Journeyer, Squire)

• 9-12 Master (Chief, Institutional Leader, Guild Master, Knight, Sire/Dame)
• 13-16 Official (Presider, Regional Leader, Archon, Arch, Guild Grandmaster, Noble, Lord/Lady, Great, Founder)

• 17-20 Legend
• 21-24 Immortal (Epic)
 
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