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!

Yes, without a doubt.

The one thing that has consistently annoyed me about playing an Artificer, Bard, Rogue, Wizard, Barbarian, and so on is when your subclass gives you a proficiency, or grants you a substitute ability modifier (e.g., Battle Smith Artificer).

If it's armor or weapons, it means you have to buy new equipment. It can't be your starting equipment.
If it's a skill, tool, or language proficiency, it's probably something that should be pretty important to your character, so you really should know how to do it immediately.
If it's a substitute ability modifier, it means you're very likely to have terrible modifiers until you get it.

The real pain is that the only benefit to doing it like they did with delaying proficiency is the multiclassing rules. It really, really frustrates me when they make classes needlessly less playable at low level because if they don't then multiclassing is broken... when they should just fix the multiclassing rules. It's especially irritating because Cleric (Tempest, War, Order, etc.) still lets you abuse it! The delay doesn't even really matter!
 

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DND_Reborn

Legend
The delay doesn't even really matter!
No, it doesn't. And IMO even a delay to level 2 or 3 is hardly a big deal if you get features which really make your PC more powerful.

I have never been a fan of d20 multiclassing and prefer the multiclass as subclass option. I mirror subclasses like EK or AT if you take Fighter or Rogue as your main class and have Wizard become your subclass. But multiclassing is really a different beast. :)
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
The real pain is that the only benefit to doing it like they did with delaying proficiency is the multiclassing rules. It really, really frustrates me when they make classes needlessly less playable at low level because if they don't then multiclassing is broken... when they should just fix the multiclassing rules. It's especially irritating because Cleric (Tempest, War, Order, etc.) still lets you abuse it! The delay doesn't even really matter!
Yep, multiclassing has been a problem for as long as I can remember. It's better in 5E than it has been for a while, but it's still...
...well, let's just say I'm glad it's optional. How would you tweak 5E to fix multiclassing, assuming all subclasses are gained at 1st level?
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
I'm not sure I follow. Why would a subclass even need to fundamentally alter the base class so much that it no longer plays like the base class?

Let's say you have only four classes: Warrior ('martial focus'), Sneak ('skill focus'), Mage ('full caster'), and Priest ('half caster.'). These are the chassis that you will build your character concept on.

Now let's say that out of ten dozen different subclasses, you decide to go with Acrobat (the first one that came to mind, but it could be anything). If you choose the Warrior class, your Acrobat would be a martial focus and would feel more like a swashbuckler or skirmisher...but if you chose the Sneak class, your Acrobat would be more like a catburglar or ninja. If you chose the Mage or the Priest class, it would gain the appropriate amount of magical talent, making it feel more like a shadowdancer or assassin, or something entirely new.
While I think this is a cool idea, there might be a problem with certain class features. For instance, something like Rage. Would you want only a single violent rager archetype, or multiple types--and how would it work with a caster class? Or your Acrobat--why would anyone take a Warrior Acrobat over a spellcasting Acrobat?
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Yeah, especially since the default for 1st level is just 300 XP usually earning and leveled by the end of level 1.

But, it begs the question: if you can level out that quickly, why not just start with it done?
It's my understanding that most groups (or at least a large number of them) start at level 3 anyway, exactly because of this.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
While I think this is a cool idea, there might be a problem with certain class features. For instance, something like Rage. Would you want only a single violent rager archetype, or multiple types--and how would it work with a caster class? Or your Acrobat--why would anyone take a Warrior Acrobat over a spellcasting Acrobat?
That's where the game designers would have to come in (and I'm not one). These things will need to be mapped out properly, and would require significant overhaul from their current versions. But if they do it right, I think it could be the best character advancement system ever.

Your question about why someone would choose a particular option when there are better* options available: well that's a question for the ages, one that has been debated ever since the first Dwarf took a level of Bard. I'm not sure there will ever be an answer.


*for any given definition of the word... more optimized, more sensible, easier to play, more popular, more damage output, etc.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
It's my understanding that most groups (or at least a large number of them) start at level 3 anyway, exactly because of this.

I'm not sure where that information comes from, because at least the stats of DDB show that there are tons of level 1 and 2 characters there, and that most characters never go past level 5, which seems a very short range if you start at level 3...
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
It's my understanding that most groups (or at least a large number of them) start at level 3 anyway, exactly because of this.
I hear of it sometimes on this forum, but I've never encountered it IRL. If a group has a reason for beginning at higher level because the adventure demands it, that's one thing, but not because it is necessary to their character concept, etc.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
If the DM says we are starting at Level 3, I'm almost certainly going Warlock or Cleric.
It's probably not any more of a head-start, but it just feels like one.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
But, anyway, the purpose of the poll was to see if there was an sort of consensus, which of course there isn't. Sigh...
Honestly, I doubt there ever will be. And I suspect that's just because different players come to the table with very different approaches to developing PCs.

Just as a rough take, it seems to me there are two broad approaches. One is the player with a fairly well-defined character concept in mind, and they want to play that character in some form right off the bat. The other is the player who starts with a random schmo, and they want to see how that schmo develops solely in response to whatever happens in the game. Obviously, it's a continuum, but those seem like fairly dominant poles.

It would be kind of nice to see both approaches obviously supported in the game. It's not clear how possible that really is, though, especially if one table has players from both of those "poles."
 

Well the question is whether you should be allowed to be a spell casting fighter or spell casting rogue at level 1?

And if you answer is yes, the solution is not to make subclasses at level 1. It's to do the thing most dreaded

ADD NEW CLASSES!


thunderclap
lightning flash
bat squeaks
trees sway in wind
Wolves howl in the distance
An elephant trumpets...


everyone is confused why there's an elephant here.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
It would be kind of nice to see both approaches obviously supported in the game. It's not clear how possible that really is, though, especially if one table has players from both of those "poles."
Actually, this was what I was trying to achieve in some ways with my "Fewer Features" idea.

For example, if you could take your subclass at level 1, but choose a different feature instead.
Level 2 you take your level two feature
Finally, at level 3 the subclass makes since so you go back and grab the feature at level 1.
Theoretically, you could play your entire PC without ever picking up your subclass.
 

Yep, multiclassing has been a problem for as long as I can remember. It's better in 5E than it has been for a while, but it's still...
...well, let's just say I'm glad it's optional. How would you tweak 5E to fix multiclassing, assuming all subclasses are gained at 1st level?
If you make a further assumption (all subclass features are gained at the same levels and have the same amount of power), it's a lot easier - and a lot more limiting in some ways, since now non-multi subclasses have to adhere to the same strict-ish schedule of power.

It's one thing to make "and also a wizard, the subclass" balance with "and also a fighter: the subclass", but trickier to throw in things like berserker, thief-acrobat, and evoker in the mix. You can't have paladin oaths be more or less meaningful than sorcerer origins*

*well, not easily. Sorcerers might need to be built oddly, to separate origin from subclass. I could say similar things about clerics and warlocks...

On the other hand, some subclasses already make sense as being available to multiple classes, like beastmaster and assassin.

It's probably possible, but it's one of the more ambitious ideas to overhaul the class system I've encountered.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
I'm not sure where that information comes from, because at least the stats of DDB show that there are tons of level 1 and 2 characters there, and that most characters never go past level 5, which seems a very short range if you start at level 3...
Experience and Reddit. I don't know from DDB. Most of my games have gone on much farther than 5th level.
 

Yep, multiclassing has been a problem for as long as I can remember. It's better in 5E than it has been for a while, but it's still...
...well, let's just say I'm glad it's optional. How would you tweak 5E to fix multiclassing, assuming all subclasses are gained at 1st level?

Honestly, I'm not sure how I'd change multiclassing. I'm not much of a fan of the mechanic anymore. I just don't think it works very well as a concept. You can try to fix it, but I think the best solution to a-la-carte is called GURPS. That is to say, it fundamentally doesn't work.

One simple solution would be to adopt something like 3e favored classes, but not in the way most people remember them. Instead, the rule is: you can only increase a level in a given class if no other class you have is lower level. For example, if you're a Fighter 3/Wizard 4, when you reach level 8 you cannot gain a level of Wizard, because Fighter is lower level. You'd have to wait until level 9 when you're (presumably) a Fighter 4/Wizard 4. If you then took a level of Rogue, you'd have to wait until you got those levels equal before you could take anything else.

The drawback, of course, is that adds a severe hindrance to multiclassing, because it assumes each class level is of equal value. That's not true. Fighter 5, Fighter 11, and Wizard 5 are phenomenally more powerful than many other levels. The devs knows this already -- it's not a secret -- which is why they don't frontload levels 1 and 2 as much. However, this does mean that such a character needs to get to level 9 before they can get one level 5, and that's not worth it. It's too high of a cost. Even AD&D knew that, and that was when character levels didn't do very much of anything at all.

There are other simple solutions. You could apply a cumulative -1 penalty to the character's proficiency bonus (to a minimum of +0) for each class beyond the first. The drawback is that it has really weird side effects on incentives the more that you think about it. You could say that when you multiclass away from a class, you can never return to it. The drawback is that the really abusive builds aren't affected by that at all.

The other option is to invent something more complicated. A special multiclass class, or nuanced rules for abilities. The drawback there is the complexity itself. Multiclass rules are already fairly simple as possible solutions to the problem, but they're still one of the most complex rules in the whole game.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Experience and Reddit. I don't know from DDB. Most of my games have gone on much farther than 5th level.

That counts for nothing, online discussions and polls are at best hundreds of players, DDB has stats for tens of thousands of players at the very least. As for myself, absolutely all of our campaigns and the ones that I've heard of have all started at level 1, with just one at level 2.
 



Staffan

Legend
Going back to the original topic of the thread: I think that if a class-based choice will change how you use your ability scores, it should be made at 1st level. The typical example here is the Valor Bard, who needs a high Dex if they intend to do any fighting at the start but once they get their medium armor and martial weapon proficiencies can get by pretty well with Strength.

I would also like to see more choices made throughout advancement. Maybe not as big as the subclass choice, but decently-sized ones. As a good example, I present the Warlock: choice of patron at first level, an orthogonal choice of path (tome, blade, chain) at third, and then ongoing choices of invocations every few levels. As a bad example, I give you the Paladin: once they've chosen their Oath, they're pretty much on autopilot.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Going back to the original topic of the thread: I think that if a class-based choice will change how you use your ability scores, it should be made at 1st level. The typical example here is the Valor Bard, who needs a high Dex if they intend to do any fighting at the start but once they get their medium armor and martial weapon proficiencies can get by pretty well with Strength.

I would also like to see more choices made throughout advancement. Maybe not as big as the subclass choice, but decently-sized ones. As a good example, I present the Warlock: choice of patron at first level, an orthogonal choice of path (tome, blade, chain) at third, and then ongoing choices of invocations every few levels. As a bad example, I give you the Paladin: once they've chosen their Oath, they're pretty much on autopilot.
Well is that a subclass problem or the fact that too many 1st levels of classes don't have a class feature with options.
Like a bard should be able to choose between an extra cantrip, extra skill or medium armor at level 1.

You don''t need a whole stinking subclass to choose Armor,, Cantrip, or Skill.
 

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