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5E Sometimes Less Is More...or am I the only one who thinks so?

ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
So, I think there are a few too many sub-classes in what I think of the core D&D rules (which to me consist of the three core rulebooks plus the trilogy of Mordenkainen's, Volo's, and Xanathar's). Namely, I think that there are few places where subclasses feel very redundant in the face of existing classes and class combinations. Colloquially, there have been a lot of conceptual fixes to stuff that simply wasn't broke in the first place.

Oath of the Ancients Paladins are the first one on the proverbial chopping block. There are already multiple ways to explore this exact character concept across other classes. Namely, cross-classing between Fighter and Druid, or the entire Ranger class and any subclass in it.

Path of The Zealot Barbarians is another character option that I don't think really needs to exist. I think that players wanting to go with this kind of character should just be Paladins, or if they really want rage, Paladins with a dip into Barbarian.

To me the Celestial Pact Warlock, and to a (much) lesser degree the Divine Soul sorcerer, should not exist because the sub-class contradicts what I consider the critical fluff of the bass class. Warlocks are supposed to be sinister and suspicious, distrusted by everyone. Warlocks have always been a sinister and "dark" class option with the implicit understanding that other characters will be suspicious of the dark pact you've made with an outside force. Celestial Pact warlocks screw this up all over the place. Also, Celestials don't strike me as the kind of beings that grant power in exchange for some kind of deal (a "Pact") or more accurately, it strikes me that "deals" characters might make with the forces of heaven are already codified in the form of the Paladin and Cleric classes.

In most of my settings, non-spellcasters, especially warriors and commoners, are extremely distrustful of magic. Particularly of Sorcerers, who can just DO magic as opposed to Wizards which have to get a PhD in it first. Also Divine Souls as arcane rather than, well, DIVINE, casters, since they have DIVINE in the friggin' name, are weird and awkward.

Finally, while many sub-classes are re-imaginings of what used to be prestige classes, such as the Arcane Archer, Arcane Trickster, Eldritch Knight, Assassin and Horizon Walker, the only one of these former prestige, now sub classes that feels inappropriate in its new role to me is the Mastermind roguish archetype. And I am by no means sure that there was ever a mastermind prestige class, but that's neither here nor there. (For the record, I LOVE that Eldritch Knight and Arcane Archer are options for fighters, especially Eldritch Knight; it was extremely difficult to build a competent "gish" build in 3.X.)

I am totally fine with a rogue being called an assassin, an arcane trickster, inquisitive, scout, or swashbuckler by Level 3; I'm even cool with a rogue being on the path of a Master Thief, but for whatever reason, a rogue being a "Mastermind" by Level 3 bothers me. Mastermind, more than any other subclass, even if it never WAS a prestige class in 3.X (closest thing I can think of is "Spymaster"), feels like a completely inappropriate label to put on a 3rd level Rogue. There is a fairly intractable part of my mind that is diametrically opposed to Rogues being "Masterminds" before 10th level.

Contradicting myself somewhat, I think we need more Cleric Domains.

Then there's races. There are no Dragonborn in my Greyhawk campaign because AFAIK there are no Dragonborn in the world of Greyhawk. I feel more certain that there are no Dragonborn in Krynn because Draconians are a thing. But beyond the very reasonable decision as a DM not to allow players to play races that don't exist in the campaign setting, sometimes I find myself disliking the huge variety of PC races available. On some primal OSRtard level, I prefer parties composed at least mostly of the "classic" races and classes that have been around in one form or another since the 80s: humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes (okay, I will admit here that I think halflings and gnomes should be combined into one race called GNOMES), fighters, clerics, rogues and wizards. Like, if one party member is a Tortle Gunslinger, whatever, but once you start adding a Dragonborn Warlock on top of that, and/or a Tabaxi Drunken Master (I've always hated the Drunken Master concept in D&D: too many D&D players are teetotalers that have no idea how to roleplay being drunk which is just annoying, also I'm a child of an alcoholic and the idea of booze giving you super powers other than liver damage is very slightly offensive to me) or whatever, the entire party becomes "monster mash" and I really can't stand it.

Now, I want to have players so I don't actually pose anywhere near the restrictions I would if I knew all potential players would be okay with those restrictions in perpetuity, which would take a miracle. I don't actually restrict all THAT much. In my current campaign I've only forbidden the character options mentioned above +1 campaign specific forbid. So, Dragonborn cuz they don't exist, Oath of the Ancients Pallies, Drunken Monkens, Celestial Path Warlocks, Mastermind Rogues, and Great Old One Warlocks--this last one is campaign specific, not just campaign setting specific. The main antagonists will be GOOs and their agents, including many GOO Warlocks, so I obviously didn't want PCs to play as what they'll ultimately be fighting against.

Other things are not restricted but come with a fair warning about how they're likely to be received by other characters, namely Tieflings and Drow who will very understandably be killed on sight in many places. What I do do instead of restricting or forbidding (even more) character concepts is that I try to give some minor incentive players to players playing the "classic" races and classes, letting them start with inspiration or giving them slightly better gear. (FWIW I also standardized some things that are normally in nonplayable "ask the DM" territory, namely orcs and goblins which I've felt for some time should be core races. Although like Tieflings and Drow they will frequently have to deal with prejudice.)

So what do you guys think, both about my examples and about the general question of whether limiting player options somewhat is okay at least sometimes? Is it sometimes even a good thing?

* Bonus question. Thoughts on new classes w/o subclasses? I'm not talking about taking away existing subclasses from existing classes, I'm just asking how mandatory it is that every class I homebrew for D&D contain 2-3 subclasses, or can some of them just be "one track" so to speak?
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
I think it's time to start deleting classes!

For instance, the Sorcerer and Warlock could be bound together, as any origin could also serve as a patron (or vice versa). Also they would cover each-other's mechanical deficiencies. Think of the possibilities that a Sorcerer with access to Invocations could have for character building! Or how a Warlock could temper their "Always doing the same thing" problem with spell points.

Secondly, we should get rid of the Cleric, it's kind of vestigial at this point. A Cleric is basically a servant of the gods, who also happened to be the rules patch for fighting undead and healing because both of those were glaring problems with the earlier systems. Nowadays most of those rule patches are no longer necessary, and any class can be a servant of the gods now. Just give every remaining class a Divine subclass or two and you have basically all the "Cleric domains" you need, and a far better mechanical model of a diverse group of characters who are "heeding the call."

Thirdly, that Problematic Rogue. Rogues unfortunately attract bad faith players, "roleplaying" kleptomania at the expense of the rest of the group. Rogues originally existed to do mundane skills, unfortunately niche protection meant that the Poor Fighter was no longer allowed to excel at being a skillful mundane person. This niche protection has all but eroded now, thanks to Bard, but regrettably the Fighter is still lacking in the skills department. The quick and dirty solution is to just cut out the Rogue, give Expertise to the Fighter, and let everyone that belabors their old characters simply build a dex-warrior, which is what the Rogue has evolved into for the combat side of things anyway.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
My take on classes and subclasses is that it is a menu from which a DM can choose a selection suitable to their setting. For example for my Curse of Innistrad campaign (in waiting) my custom Player’s guide lists a selection of playable classes most of which have a single subclass as an option. Same with races, if you’re not carving out a suitable set of playable races for your setting (FR I’m looking at you :) ) then naturally things can get weird/ridiculous.

So I find the rich selection useful when trying to carve out an ideal set of options.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I am a fan of subtractive design to keep things uncluttered.

I am not as fond of "different mechanics for the same result" subclasses. Mind you, something like a Warlock and a Sorcerer are not the "same result", they play very different.

I'm also torn on the "hey, this is multiclassing if multiclassing didn't exist subclasses". On one side, I think there should be multiclassing so there shouldnt be a need for these. On the other side, they often give unique hybrid abilities that make the classes fit better together.

Of course, you get to a point where you need to think about what you are trying to accomplish. For example narratively one could say a Paladin is a Fighter/Cleric, but since we want them to have a different mechanical expression than either of them then it needs to be it's own class.
 
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Shiroiken

Adventurer
To be honest, 5E already is the "less is more" compared to 3E, and 4E to a lesser extent. With the slow release, we've avoided the excessive levels of splat that leads to hundreds of class types (such as prestige classes, paragon paths, etc.). With the release of XGtE, we have lots of options for the core game, but not to much.

As for duplication, a lot of that plays into the legacy aspect of the game. There was an attempt to replicate a lot of popular class options from earlier editions, while keeping the core classes close to the original game (AD&D plus sorcerer and warlock). For example, the Oath of the Ancients was the Warden, while the Battlemaster was (a poor) Warlord. If they were willing to ignore legacy, they could strip a lot of the classes down to just the core 4, then use sub-classes for everything else, but I feel too many players would have disliked this.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
I tend to be heavy-handed on race restrictions, since race and culture have such an impact on the overall setting. I'm happy to use some of the more out-there races as reskins, casting them as one-off magically impacted or mutated humans or other common races.

I run my games such that "class" isn't something that actually is recognizable in the game world, so having 4 different mechanical interpretations of a related concept is no problem for me. I'm also quite happy to switch around main stats for a class; if you want a studious spellcaster but really like the sorcerer mechanics, I have no problem letting your character use Int as their spellcasting stat as a sorcerer. (This is a RL example from my current game.)

That being said, I would've loved a game with only 3-5 generic classes and lots of options within the class. Or a game with dozens of simple classes that are hyper-specific.
 
As the folks at WotC have said before, because multi-classing is an optional system in 5E, all the character creation stuff is written from the viewpoint that every character in a game will be single-classed. So that sub-class in your game which allows multi-classing that may seem redundant to you, is perfectly fine in other games where there is no multi-classing allowed.
 

Esker

Exploree
I run my games such that "class" isn't something that actually is recognizable in the game world, so having 4 different mechanical interpretations of a related concept is no problem for me. I'm also quite happy to switch around main stats for a class; if you want a studious spellcaster but really like the sorcerer mechanics, I have no problem letting your character use Int as their spellcasting stat as a sorcerer. (This is a RL example from my current game.)
This is how I think about it too. Your class choice is mainly about the mechanics you want, and need not constrain your character concept (much). Swapping around casting stats, as long as it's done in a single class build and not for multiclass munchkinism, seems totally reasonable too.
 

Esker

Exploree
As the folks at WotC have said before, because multi-classing is an optional system in 5E, all the character creation stuff is written from the viewpoint that every character in a game will be single-classed. So that sub-class in your game which allows multi-classing that may seem redundant to you, is perfectly fine in other games where there is no multi-classing allowed.
Yeah, this. And even if multiclassing is allowed (which it nearly always is in my experience), it incurs a significant cost and creates additional complexity that a player who has a concept that bridges two different classes shouldn't be required to deal with if the hybrid concept can reasonably be achieved in a balanced way with a subclass.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
I see where you're coming from, but I'm from the school of thought where more is more. My main group generally likes to offer additional options on top of official material.

That said, if someone decides that tieflings don't exist in their new campaign world, or that there cannot be clerics in a given campaign because all of the gods are dead, no one takes issue. In that group we're all DMs, so stylistic choices are respected, no questions asked.

However, at the end of the day, more is better in our view. In my friend's latest campaign (which takes place in a futuristic post-apocalyptic fantasy setting) he wasn't happy with the standard 5e offerings. So he banned all of them, and then homebrewed 35 new races as well as 25 original classes. The man likes his options! Admittedly, however, most of those classes and races don't have sub-options.
 

cmad1977

Explorer
I think the ranger should be broken into two or more subclasses spread throughout 2-3 of the other base classes myself. Not sure if that’s more is more or more is less or what.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Not every GM uses, needs to use, or should use, all the options in the PHB. Each DM chooses what batch of rules, races, classes and whatnot suit their game. There's no need to delete anything since the choice of which to use is already completely in the hands of the individual DM, right where it should be. Deleting bits you personally don't like is pretty counter to how the book is designed to be used. Why does it need to be deleted rather than just not used by DMs who don't want to use it?
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
At our table we don't use multiclassing. Personally, I think the subclass method is multiclassing done right.

So I am fine with subclasses which essentially multiclass the character like Eldritch Knight.

That being said there are subclasses in the extra books that I don't like and wouldn't want to play with. Hexblade is #1 on that list.
 

Krachek

Explorer
Basic rule present classes with only one archetype. So yes a home brew class can do the same. You do it for fun!

If a Dm sell well its world, he can add any restriction he want. If players argue at each one, Dm should review its sale pitch.

Don’t be too rough on mastermind, see it as “a mastermind in becoming”.
Level progression is a sacred cow in DnD, and often it imply acrobatic explain to make it fit your game.

But a wise DM can let players play what they want, but restrict how the rest of the world is manage. Being the only member of a given class or archetype can give a cool feeling to a player.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Too many subclasses? There aren't even enough classes, in my opinion!

Any class can be dressed in fancy clothes to look like something else. Stick a fighter in a samurai outfit or a musketeer's hat, and yeah, sure, that's a samurai or a musketeer if you say so.

I personally like more in-depth customization. A samurai substantially different from a fighter, both in flavour and mechanics. I want my fighter's abilties to be notably different to the guy sitting next to me.

We got some pushback with A Touch of Class and A Touch More Class, but I'll stand by them. Sure, you can mimic anything with a subclass, but only lightly. A full class lets you access far more depth into that concept.

So yeah... no, I can't side with the OP. I'm the diametric opposite.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Too many subclasses? There aren't even enough classes, in my opinion!

Any class can be dressed in fancy clothes to look like something else. Stick a fighter in a samurai outfit or a musketeer's hat, and yeah, sure, that's a samurai or a musketeer if you say so.

I personally like more in-depth customization. A samurai substantially different from a fighter, both in flavour and mechanics. I want my fighter's abilties to be notably different to the guy sitting next to me.

We got some pushback with A Touch of Class and A Touch More Class, but I'll stand by them. Sure, you can mimic anything with a subclass, but only lightly. A full class lets you access far more depth into that concept.

So yeah... no, I can't side with the OP. I'm the diametric opposite.
I’ve appreciated the additional options. Again not to just pile them on, but to expand the menu for a particular setting.
 

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