D&D 5E Should All Subclasses Be Gained at 1st Level?

Would you like to see all classes choose their subclass at 1st Level?


This is something I go back and forth on, like much of 5E. ;)

I can understand having subclasses at 3rd level, or having them at 1st level, or even 2nd... but it seems strange to me this isn't uniform. Now, I've already adapted all classes to gain subclasses at 1st level, but I was wondering how others might feel about it outside our group.

So, would you like to see all classes choose their subclass at 1st Level?

Thanks for your input!

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Dusty Dragon
I think that if you look at the classes, the ones that start at level 1 make a lot of sense. Like if you are sorcerer because of draconic blood... that's build in. Same as being a cleric of a god of thunder. The source of your power is right there from the get go, there is a sort of "logic" there.

Other classes you start as a generalist a bit and you then specialize. What I don't get however is why some are at level 2, and others at level 3? There is NO logic to that one.


I think all classes should gain their subclass at level 1 and also follow the same general structure, gaining their subclass abilities at the same level. Had they done that then those strixhaven cross-classed subclasses would have actually worked.


I would prefer them all to be at least level 2 - the fewer choices are locked in at 1st the better, IMO.

However, I don't see any need for them to be uniform. Nor do I think there's any argument for any subclass choices being at 4th level or higher (so only 2nd and 3rd would be options.)


Subclasses given at level 1 have different design constraints than those given at level 2/3.

5e failed to obey those design constraints quite often; but we live, we learn.

Classes with delayed subclass choices give lots of benefit; among other things, it is one less choice to make for a new character. And a simplified new character experience has value.

Another issue is the power budget. Subclasses that are picked at 3 gives more room for the baseline class to get character defining features online quicker, like the Paladin.


Really the problem is only one class.

The Cleric

Cleric Domains alter the look of low level clerics the most of all classes. You have the

  1. Medium Rez Cleric in Grave
  2. Heavy Heal Cleric in Life
  3. Medium Lazer Cleric in Light
  4. Heavy Druidic Cleric in Nature
  5. Heavy Thunder Axe Clerics in Tempest
  6. Utter Brokeness in Twilight
  7. Heavy Fighty Sword Cleric in War

One would have to wait 2 levels to get access to their deity's portfolio.

And once you allow one class to do it differently, you no longer have any reason to commit subclasses to the same levels.

However in the grand scheme of things, it might have been better for clerics to get Divine Domains at level 3.

Level 1.

Right now, there's not really any easy space in most classes to implement a subclass that messes with the base assumptions of the class re ability scores.

WotC wrote the Hexblade to have a way of implementing a melee-focused warlock without necessarily requiring that warlock to have a very high Str or Dex. They created a subclass that used Cha as the melee stat, but they were able to do that functionally because warlocks take their subclass at level 1. And this sorta worked.

For instance, if i write an ironskin monk subclass, a subclass focused on absorbing or resisting damage rather than evading it, that keys some of its monk abilities off Str and Con rather than Wis or Dex - a PC planning to take that class will presumably put higher scores into Str and Con. But that means they're going to be crippled until level 3, relying on sub-par Dex and Wis scores until they gain the first subclass ability.

Same if I want to implement a whirling dervish type barbarian subclass, that emphasises speed and the use of light Dex-based weapons rather than Str. If I want to have a subclass ability that allows the rage damage bonus to apply to Dex weapons (pretty fundamental for a class like this), that ability won't apply until 3rd level. The PC will be badly hamstrung in the early game (which is where PCs are already most vulnerable).

You can see a bit of the same going on with the armorer artificer. At level 3 they get proficency with their special armour, which will normally be heavy and not allow dex modifiers to AC. So in the long run, putting a high ability score into dex will largely be redundant. But if the artificer does this, then for the first couple of levels they're stuck being extremely vulnerable with an extremely low AC.

Personally I'd like a bit of a rewrite of most classes to be more flexible about which ability scores they key off. An int-based, low-cha warlock is almost a classic archetype of the sort of person who would make a warlock pact, plus I think there's plenty of room for wis-based sorcerers, big brutish str-based rogues etc etc. But that seems distinctly unlikely to happen, so in the meantime, more space for convention-breaking subclasses that can do the job instead, please.


Limit Break Dancing
This is usually where I would climb up on my soapbox about needing only 4 "core" classes and making everything else a subclass, but I've been babbling about that already in another thread:

No (other).
I would prefer only four classes: Warrior, Mage, Priest, and Sneak. Everything else (including Assassin and Monk) should be subclasses of those four.
I flip flop between 4 or narrowing it down to two or three. Obviously that would require a complete rewrite of the classes / class structure so I haven't put in the effort. But I would really like to see a 5.5 / 6e that took this approach.
Okay, ya'll hear me out.

If "Warrior" is shorthand for 'martial focus'...
and "Mage" is shorthand for 'full caster'...
and "Priest" is shorthand for 'half-caster'...
and "Sneak" is shorthand for 'skill focus'...

You could build some excellent combinations. A Warrior with the Druid subclass would play more like a ranger or barbarian, a Priest with the Druid subclass would play a lot like a shaper-druid, and a Mage with the Druid subclass would play more like an elementalist, for example.

Sure, a Sneak with the Assassin subclass would be the stereotype, but what if!

But to the point of this thread: I think these subclasses should become available at 3rd level as a matter of personal preference, but the DM could easily tweak that number to anything between 1 and 10.


B/X Known World
Some subclass picks only make sense at 1st level, like warlocks and sorcerers.

Some can make sense later, like just about everyone else. But I don’t think there’s any subclass that makes absolutely no sense at 1st. Any of the current 3rd-level subclass classes could easily be switched to 1st. Rebalance things, of course.


Level 1.
You should be competent from your "basic" training.

also, subclass features could be little more standardized across levels.
getting features at levels 1,2,3,6,10


It's funny how people both want all their goodies at level 1 and still want significant progression and choice at all levels after... ;)
I'm all for getting most features by levels 5/6 then just getting upgrades/more usage of the features.

Big fan of @DND_Reborn variant of faster class features, getting capstones at 10/11th level


Limit Break Dancing
It's funny how people both want all their goodies at level 1 and still want significant progression and choice at all levels after... ;)
Maybe it's two different groups: one group wants all the toys immediately, and the second group wants all the toys spread out over 20 levels? But I bet there's a LOT of overlap in that Venn Diagram...

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