Really concerned about class design

Einlanzer0

Explorer
So.... I've been feeling this for a while. While, granted, we got the Artificer in the Eberron book, there's been a long term dearth of new classes for 5e. Especially in light of the new UA, it really worries me that it appears to be because WotC thinks they can/should simply turn every new class concept into a subclass for one of the existing classes.

I love subclasses, but I think that's a terrible approach, and it really needs to get called out as a problem IMO.

First, it attempts to solve the (hypothetical) problem of class bloat by adding clutter within classes, which really doesn't make much sense. 5e already addresses class bloat as a potential problem by having subclasses at all, but when the theme or fantasy represented within a class starts to take you all over the place with subclass options, that's an indicator we've departed from "elegant" and landed at "sloppy". As a practical concern, this makes it more difficult for players to digest what their options really are. They have to reverse engineer a concept or go through a layered path-choosing process.

Second, subclasses aren't multi-class friendly, so tying more and more class options to them inhibits the leveraging of multi-class rules to create a unique class concept. In other words, they result in less customization, not more.

Third, there are numerous areas where it just doesn't really make thematic sense, either in terms of edition history/lore or in terms of verisimilitude. I can easily get on board with Psychic Warrior being a subclass for Fighter - because it's a perfect use of the subclass system to expand options without class bloat. I cannot get on board with the base Psion being a "Wizarding tradition" because it is not. One of many reasons for this is the thematic need for psionics to exist as a full-enough system to potentially replace traditional magic in a more sci-fi setting based on precedents established in previous editions.

Fourth, it just feels like a lazy way to develop the system that players have weirdly adopted as a good approach when it isn't (sort of a rationalizing-the-status-quo bias). If they had started with only 4 or 5 classes, this approach might have made the most sense, but they didn't & that ship has sailed. So drawing a line now and de-emphasizing classes in favor of subclasses is starting to make the whole edition feel sloppily executed.

The bottom line is that if the concept that you're imagining is a.) very interesting, and b.) broad enough that you can easily mentally conjure many different subtypes within that class, there is no reason to not take the time to develop it into a full class instead of band-aiding it as a nonsensical subclass tacked on to an arbitrarily chosen class. My personal favorite examples of this are the witch and the shaman, but there are tons of others.
 
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Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
there's been a long term dearth of new classes for 5e.
Yes, since the PHB was released Artificer is the first new one. I guess that qualifies as a "long term dearth".

it really needs to get called out as a problem IMO.
Submit your feelings when the survey for the newest UA, specifically the Wizard (Psionicist) is posted!

it just feels like a lazy way to develop the system.
See, to me it feels like a streamlined and elegant way to develop the system without cluttering up the number of classes themselves, which was a huge issue for me in 3.5

the witch and the shaman, which would not be adequately represented by any existing class.
What in the witch and shaman concepts/tropes can't be represented by existing classes in your opinion? What are you missing?
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
Yes, since the PHB was released Artificer is the first new one. I guess that qualifies as a "long term dearth".



Submit your feelings when the survey for the newest UA, specifically the Wizard (Psionicist) is posted!



See, to me it feels like a streamlined and elegant way to develop the system without cluttering up the number of classes themselves, which was a huge issue for me in 3.5



What in the witch and shaman concepts/tropes can't be represented by existing classes in your opinion? What are you missing?
I think cluttering subclass choices with concepts that are thematically all-over-the-place is much more inelegant than periodically releasing new classes with their own full sets of coherent options.

I think the fact that i can easily think up new mechanics and about 10+ subclasses for a witch class means that it can't be represented well as a subclass.
 

Gadget

Explorer
Can't say I agree. They've made a conscious effort to cut down on the splat content this edition, probably for business reasons, and I've applauded them for it. In any event, the Artificer shows that they aren't totally opposed to the idea.

That said, I bet they wish they could go back and tweak the design of some of the classes in the PHB to make them more expandable and work better.
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
Can't say I agree. They've made a conscious effort to cut down on the splat content this edition, probably for business reasons, and I've applauded them for it. In any event, the Artificer shows that they aren't totally opposed to the idea.

That said, I bet they wish they could go back and tweak the design of some of the classes in the PHB to make them more expandable and work better.
I'm not asking for ridiculous amounts of splat. I'm asking for sensible decisions to be made when a concept warrants being expressed as a full class vs a subclass.
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
Again, what about the witch is something that can't be represented?
By a single subclass? I don't even know where to start. Prophecies, shawls, covens, charms, potions, familiars, white magic vs black magic, etc. The list is endless, which is why it doesn't already exist as a subclass.

You might be able to cobble together some of these features into a frankenstein custom wizard or sorcerer, but it doesn't tie together into a coherent "witch" package that leaves a good presentation to players with plenty of room for customization, which is why nothing would make my eyes roll harder than seeing an official witch appear as a subclass instead of a full class.
 

Gadget

Explorer
I'm not asking for ridiculous amounts of splat. I'm asking for sensible decisions to be made when a concept warrants being expressed as a full class vs a subclass.
The question is: What is "sensible?" What "warrants" a full class vs a subclass? We've seen WOTC struggle with these questions over the edition's life cycle through design docs and Unearthed Arcana posts. I think reasonable people can disagree on these questions, particularly without context. There's probably some business reasons why they want to keep the number of classes down as part of reducing glut and mixing up the market place.

Edit: punctuation and spelling.
 
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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I know it boils down to a matter of expectation, or maybe preference. There's nothing wrong with the approach you outline here, it's just not my cuppa tea.

I'd prefer a design approach with fewer classes and dozens of subclasses. It feels like there is too much same-ness and overlap between the classes already, and I worry that adding even more classes would just muddy them further.
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
The question is: What is "sensible?" What "warrants" a full class vs a subclass. We've seen WOTC struggle with these questions over the edition's life cycle through design docs and Unearthed Arcana posts. I think reasonable people can disagree on these questions, particularly without context. There's probably some business reasons why the want to keep the number of classes down as part of reducing glut and mixing up the market place.
Right. But my argument is that isn't a great idea even if it seems to be on the surface. I think exploding the # of subclasses in all kinds of thematic directions rather than approaching every new concept with a comprehensive decision tree around when it does or doesn't warrant being a full class is the wrong, lazy way to go.

They clearly are doing this because they've released dozens of subclasses and 0 new classes until literally a few days ago.
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
I know it boils down to a matter of expectation, or maybe preference. There's nothing wrong with the approach you outline here, it's just not my cuppa tea.

I'd prefer a design approach with fewer classes and dozens of subclasses. It feels like there is too much same-ness and overlap between the classes already, and I worry that adding even more classes would just muddy them further.
See, this is precisely what doesn't make sense to me. What you're describing as a concern is exactly the effect of adding subclasses to existing classes ad nauseum instead of diligently defining new concepts as classes or subclasses and adding both in moderation.

If this was the approach they wanted to go with, we should have had fewer than 11 base classes.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
Prophecies, shawls, covens, charms, potions, familiars, white magic vs black magic, etc. The list is endless, which is why it doesn't already exist as a subclass.
But... none of this stuff has existed in any edition of D&D that I remember. So I'm not sure why you're surprised that any of this is missing in 5e?

2e had a Wizard kit but it didn't deal in prophecies or shawls or white/black magic.

3e had a potential "different" class as a witch in the DMG, but it was basically a lesser version of the druid/wizard mixed.

5e what you could easily do...
  • Prophecies = Wizard spells. Divination Domain
  • Covens = flavor
  • Charms = spells
  • Potions = herbalism kit, alchemist kit proficiency
  • Familiars = find familiar
  • White/Black Mage = .... no real analogue to this in 5e. 3.x had alignment based spells. shrug
You could do any of this as a Pact of the Tome Warlock with the find familiar spell and proficiency in the herbalism kit. Then put a shawl on.
 

dave2008

Legend
So.... I've been feeling this for a while. While, granted, we got the Artificer in the Ebberon book, there's been a long term dearth of new classes for 5e. Especially in light of the new UA, it really worries me that it appears to be because WotC thinks they can/should they can simply turn every new class concept into a subclass for one of the existing classes.

I think that's a terrible approach, and it really needs to get called out as a problem IMO.

For one, it clutters up the existing classes to the point of making it harder and harder for players to define a path for themselves within a given class once one is chosen. It doesn't help that subclasses aren't multiclass friendly, meaning you can't hybridize concepts between different subclasses for a given class and must choose exactly one out of a perpetually growing list of options.

For two, there are numerous areas where it just doesn't really make thematic sense, either in terms of history/lore or in terms of verisimilitude, such as psionics being an arcane tradition of wizards. I can get on board with Psychic Warrior being a subclass for Fighter. I cannot get on board with the base Psion being a "Wizarding tradition". As it has been in previous additions, psionics should be a fully fleshed out system that can replace traditional magic where appropriate.

For three, it just feels like a lazy way to develop the system. Using the Psionics UA as an example - Psionics really wants to be a complete system that, if needed, can replace magic altogether in a given campaign setting. Setting it up as merely an arcane tradition is absolutely wrong-headed given the history of psionics in D&D.

The bottom line is that if the concept that you're imagining is broad enough that you can easily mentally conjure many different subtypes within that class, then it deserves to exist as a full class and not a subclass. My personal favorite examples of this are the witch and the shaman, which would not be adequately represented by any existing class.
I am of the opposite opinion. I think there should be fewer classes. For instance i see no need for ranger or paladin. I think the can work as subclasses of the fighter and cleric respectively. In reality I would like 2 or 3 classes max. Warrior, Arcanist, & Cleric. Everything else would be archtypes, subclasses, prestige classes, etc.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
See, this is precisely what doesn't make sense to me. What you're describing as a concern is exactly the effect of adding subclasses to existing classes ad nauseum instead of diligently defining new concepts as classes or subclasses and adding both in moderation.
I didn't intend to describe anything as a concern, I was just sharing my own preference.
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
But... none of this stuff has existed in any edition of D&D that I remember. So I'm not sure why you're surprised that any of this is missing in 5e?

2e had a Wizard kit but it didn't deal in prophecies or shawls or white/black magic.

3e had a potential "different" class as a witch in the DMG, but it was basically a lesser version of the druid/wizard mixed.

5e what you could easily do...
  • Prophecies = Wizard spells. Divination Domain
  • Covens = flavor
  • Charms = spells
  • Potions = herbalism kit, alchemist kit proficiency
  • Familiars = find familiar
  • White/Black Mage = .... no real analogue to this in 5e. 3.x had alignment based spells. shrug
You could do any of this as a Pact of the Tome Warlock with the find familiar spell and proficiency in the herbalism kit. Then put a shawl on.
You did what I outlined above. I can literally reflavor anything as anything else. I guess that means we're done with new material of any kind, right? Yay!

No, sorry, that doesn't work. The wizard package as it exists in D&D does not at all fit into witch archetypes from common fantasy, which is why it was created as an alternate class in 4e.

Also, you're mistaking my point. I'm not surprised it doesn't exist in 5e. I'm merely using it as an example of a concept that can easily be developed as a full class and it would thematically serve the concept better than pigeonholing it into an existing class. There are numerous other examples of this, the witch just happens to be my personal favorite.
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
I am of the opposite opinion. I think there should be fewer classes. For instance i see no need for ranger or paladin. I think the can work as subclasses of the fighter and cleric respectively. In reality I would like 2 or 3 classes max. Warrior, Arcanist, & Cleric. Everything else would be archtypes, subclasses, prestige classes, etc.
If the system had been built that way, I would have had no problem with it. But it wasn't. We have 11 classes, some of which are tied to quite specific concepts.

I see no legitimate reason whatsoever to just draw a line now and refuse to build on it. It really feels like a lazy "just because" that players have mindlessly adopted.
 
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Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
The wizard package as it exists in D&D does not at all fit into witch archetypes from common fantasy,
A Fiend Patron Tome Pact Warlock fits the witch archetype pretty well IMO.

I'm merely using it as an example of a concept that can easily be developed as a full class
I get what you're saying, but throwing a bunch of new classes out there doesn't fit the WotC business model for this edition.

It's about accessibility for the masses, not pleasing the niche concepts.

Especially when most players are perfectly happy not having all the boxes ticked and doing a reflavor/fluff version of a wizard or a warlock to fit the concept.

If you want something different as a full class, design your own and release it on DMsGuild! I'd take a look at it.
 

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