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5E Strip Background out of subclass

Classes and Subclasses should have

  • backgrounds removed as much as possible

    Votes: 29 56.9%
  • backgrounds in them

    Votes: 14 27.5%
  • I dont care, explain

    Votes: 8 15.7%

  • Total voters
    51

Sadrik

Villager
So back in the day prior to subclasses I started a thread entitled strip background out of class. I think this is just as relevant today, though I think stripping background out of subclass is the important one now. This has been hit before in threads but I think it needs to be called out in its own thread.

So, backgrounds are an excellent addition to the game, you can be all kinds of backgrounds that add a layer to your character that I think is very cool. With the advent of subclasses though some of the background stuff is being sucked back into the subclasses. I would like sublasses to be independent of setting and more focused on the how than the why. Then let the backgrounds subsume the why. A couple of examples: the knight, this should be renamed to something else, knight should be a background and have nothing to do with a subclass. Call it the defender or anything else sufficiently generic. Now for casters I think this is a little different the how you get your magic (domain, pact, bloodline, study) should be your subclass, then you can apply a background that is of your devising.

So who agrees with this approach?
 

Kobold Stew

Adventurer
Backgrounds are a wonderful innovation for the game, allowing members of any class to be a "thug" or a "guide" -- it makes as much sense now for the mage or the fighter to be a "priest" as it does a cleric. This is a rich, rich opportunity, and my priority is to maintain this opportunity.

I suspect that your suggestion will accomplish that goal; I voted "don't care" because as long as the richness of the background mechanic is not lost, then I will be content.
 
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1of3

Villager
Classes should be meaningful. A class is the game's answer to "What character do you play?". You can have a class without many mechanics (V:tM clans), you can have a class without its own mechanics (Shadowrun Archetypes), but you cannot have a class with a meaningful image and story. Or maybe you could, but that's bordering on board game.

Now subclasses are becoming the true class in Next. So they should have their own image, their own story.
 

Falling Icicle

Villager
I totally agree about the knight. I think the fighter subclass should be called the "defender" and the knight should once again be a background. Knighthood is a title. It's a social thing, and it shouldn't be limited to just fighters. There's no good reason why a paladin can't be a knight, or even a wizard. Sir Elton John is a knight in real life, and he's a bard. :)
 

Rhenny

Adventurer
I agree about the knight and the gladiator, to me they are both more like backgrounds, or knight becomes a title that has to be earned through game play (that's another issue). If you really want to strip away all aspects that are more background then you might even have to examine thief and assassin. Both of those are things any class could conceivable do. A fighter who steals or kills for a living could be either of the two. Heck, a mage could also. There may be more sub-classes that really should be backgrounds, or titles that are earned through game play. I'm even one of those people who think that Barbarian should be a background rather than a class.
 
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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Re: knight. Well, that's just a name thing. Renaming "Knight" to "Cavalier" or "Mounted Armoured Character" doesn't really make any difference to the game. If you prefer the latter word, I guess you could use it instead.
 

variant

Villager
Sorry, but I can't imagine a 0-level Knight or Gladiator. When Knight was a background I repeatedly commented that it didn't belong as a background at all because it isn't a background. A Knight is a trained and veteran warrior, as is a Gladiator.
 
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KidSnide

Villager
I understand the motivation behind separating out backgrounds from the sub-class names, but I don't think it's worth the price is genericness. I don't want a fighter subclass called the "defender". That's more of a mechanical concept than a game world thing and I'd like my mechanics to have more meaning in the game world. When a new player reads "knight" they have a concept of what that means. So long as the mechanics accurately embody that idea, then I think the game should use the term. I came to dislike the separation between mechanics and game world concept in 4e and I wouldn't like to see it repeated in D&DN.

Sorry, but I can't imagine a 0-level Knight or Gladiator. When Knight was a background I repeatedly commented that it didn't belong as a background at all because it isn't a background. A Knight is a trained and veteran warrior, as is a Gladiator.
I think it's worth noting that the Path of the Knight feature for fighters captures this nicely, as a fighter doesn't become a knight until 3rd level. (You can argue about whether 3rd level is "veteran" or not, but it seems like a plausible level for a newbie knight to me.)

-KS
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Sorry, but I can't imagine a 0-level Knight or Gladiator. When Knight was a background I repeatedly commented that it didn't belong as a background at all because it isn't a background. A Knight is a trained and veteran warrior, as is a Gladiator.
Nothing about either requires training or being a veteran. Plenty of gladiators die in the arena long before they became veterans.
 

Sadrik

Villager
When a new player reads "knight" they have a concept of what that means. So long as the mechanics accurately embody that idea, then I think the game should use the term.
Will it confuse a new player to select warrior subclass (the planned simple one) and then the new player looks at his background options and sees knight and goes that is what I want... I think the knight concept does not have to be placed in a class to make sense to a new player. I think a new player will appreciate that he could be a paladin or even ranger knight more.

I came to dislike the separation between mechanics and game world concept in 4e and I wouldn't like to see it repeated in D&DN.
This is just it, the background should be where the campaign setting hits the ground. It should not be the class or the subclass. For instance a samurai, a wugen, a ninja all should be backgrounds not subclasses. A samurai might be a fighter/warrior, a wugen might be a wizard/warlock, a ninja might be a rogue/assassin. So separation of game world from subclass, yes. Separation of background from game world impossible.
 

variant

Villager
Nothing about either requires training or being a veteran. Plenty of gladiators die in the arena long before they became veterans.
A knight has to prove himself to be knighted or go through a squireship. Someone isn't really a gladiator if he can't actually survive in the arena. He might be a slave, but not a gladiator. Gladiators went through intensive training before they ever stepped into the arena. If he survived even one fight, he isn't 0-level. The only time an untrained person would ever be thrown in the arena is if they had previous training, natural skill, or as fodder for a gladiator. The former two would be represented by levels, and latter would be some untrained slave.

This is just it, the background should be where the campaign setting hits the ground. It should not be the class or the subclass.
A background is your history before you became trained or became an adventurer. It is not a specialization. A ninja is someone that has become extensively trained to become a ninja and there is no way that can truly be represented in a simple background. Someone might have been a nina's apprentice, but no way would someone be a trained ninja and be 0-level.
 
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Kobold Stew

Adventurer
For instance a samurai, a wugen, a ninja all should be backgrounds not subclasses. A samurai might be a fighter/warrior, a wugen might be a wizard/warlock, a ninja might be a rogue/assassin
This misses the virtue of backgrounds to me -- all of these examples are too directly relevant to the class choice. Unless you a druid ninja or a barbarian ninja as equally viable, then "ninja" isn't a background -- it's a subclass, or a label attached to a subclass.
 
For instance a samurai, a wugen, a ninja all should be backgrounds not subclasses.
I can see what you mean as Samurai is a social status, Ninja are part of a clan, but I could see those two being the sort of subclasses you would see in a OA type product.

Fighter (Samurai).
Rogue (Ninja).
Mage (Wu-Jen).
Cleric (Shukenja).
 

Pickles JG

Villager
My initial reaction was that I did not like backgrounds tied in especially for rangers.
However with the tinkering rules for sub classes mentioned I do not care.

I think it allows stronger archetypes to be written if they are tied in like the Samurai fighter or Ninja Rogue. I you want something less obvious you can tinker.
Knight should probably be with Paladin as a default though :)
 

steenan

Adventurer
For me, two approaches are acceptable: either tying subclasses strongly to in-fiction roles and archetypes, with mechanics that support it, or moving the fictional side entirely from subclasses to backgrounds and leaving subclasses as purely mechanical constructs.

What I don't like is mixing them: giving subclasses names meaningful in fiction, giving them story elements, but at the same time using them as silos for mechanics that have little to do with the fictional role.

But I'm afraid this fight is already lost. There is too much historical baggage and tradition of inconsistency in D&D.

If the developers tried to give classes/subclasses strong story roles, people would protest against the restrictions and loss of flexibility ("they left no place for my character concept!"). If they tried to make classes/subclasses fully abstract and mechanical, it would be called anti-immersive and boardgamy. Either way, they lose a significant number of customers.
 
For me, two approaches are acceptable: either tying subclasses strongly to in-fiction roles and archetypes, with mechanics that support it, or moving the fictional side entirely from subclasses to backgrounds and leaving subclasses as purely mechanical constructs.

What I don't like is mixing them: giving subclasses names meaningful in fiction, giving them story elements, but at the same time using them as silos for mechanics that have little to do with the fictional role.

Yes, that's the fine line, and subclass bloat, as we had with PrCs (Golden Servant of the Vengeful Flame, etc).
 

Li Shenron

Adventurer
So back in the day prior to subclasses I started a thread entitled strip background out of class. I think this is just as relevant today, though I think stripping background out of subclass is the important one now. This has been hit before in threads but I think it needs to be called out in its own thread.

So, backgrounds are an excellent addition to the game, you can be all kinds of backgrounds that add a layer to your character that I think is very cool. With the advent of subclasses though some of the background stuff is being sucked back into the subclasses. I would like sublasses to be independent of setting and more focused on the how than the why. Then let the backgrounds subsume the why. A couple of examples: the knight, this should be renamed to something else, knight should be a background and have nothing to do with a subclass. Call it the defender or anything else sufficiently generic. Now for casters I think this is a little different the how you get your magic (domain, pact, bloodline, study) should be your subclass, then you can apply a background that is of your devising.

So who agrees with this approach?
I have no idea... One year ago Backgrounds were a major part of 5e, we had this Race+Class+Background+Specialty setup and I think it was fine, a lot of people liked this structure. There has always been discussion on what Background means in narrative terms, WotC designers intended it mostly as "what you were before picking up the adventuring life", personally I preferred the "what you are when not adventuring (and how you make your living)" (which IMO fit very well with the mechanic), but both basically represent you role in society. However there were people wanting race or type of society (most commonly barbarian) to be represented by Background, so that some backgrounds would represent your whole society of origin instead of your role in it.

Either way, currently Backgrounds are very-slightly less important than before when skills were mandatory and Backgrounds were the main source of skills. Lores are mandatory but IMHO they tend to be ignored by some players, at least in the sense that tends to be used less proactively than physical skills. Proficiencies are more interesting, but you really get very few from Backgrounds.

IMHO the real reason for introducing backgrounds into the game was not really because the game needed a mechanic to represent your "life before adventuring" or "life when not adventuring". Narratively, it could always be done by those who wish, no rules needed, and only a few players really need mechanical benefits (don't get mislead by how many people say they love Backgrounds with mechanical benefits... of course almost all of us like such system once you have it, but before we had it only a minority of groups even thought they needed one). Instead, IMHO the Backgrounds were introduced mostly as a "delivery mechanic for skills" to allow more freedom in character creation (because unlike 3e it wasn't hard to get skills unusual for your class), inluding some options for "slight multiclassing" (e.g. nobody's playing a Rogue so I'll be a Fighter or Wizard or else with Thief background and I can disable traps).

Now they are a "delivery mechanic for lores and non-weapon proficiencies" but class also gives them, while OTOH subclasses have become one of the most important delivery method for both narrative and mechanical features, and also to dial character complexity... I think the problem you're pointing out is very real, but I am afraid it's starting to be late for re-thinking everything again. Overall, the edition is steered by wanting to be as inclusive as possible, so we have different cases of methods which overlap in terms of what they represent narratively and what they deliver mechanically...
 
I can see some 4th Ed classes being perfect subclasses: Avenger (un-armoured Paladin on speed), Battlemind (psionic Fighter), Warden (shifting ranger), etc.
 
A knight has to prove himself to be knighted or go through a squireship. Someone isn't really a gladiator if he can't actually survive in the arena. He might be a slave, but not a gladiator. Gladiators went through intensive training before they ever stepped into the arena. If he survived even one fight, he isn't 0-level. The only time an untrained person would ever be thrown in the arena is if they had previous training, natural skill, or as fodder for a gladiator. The former two would be represented by levels, and latter would be some untrained slave.
A background is your history before you became trained or became an adventurer. It is not a specialization. A ninja is someone that has become extensively trained to become a ninja and there is no way that can truly be represented in a simple background. Someone might have been a nina's apprentice, but no way would someone be a trained ninja and be 0-level.
Isn't it a good thing you don't pick your subclass until 3rd level, after having survived 1st and 2nd level as a squire, slave, prospective ninja, arcane initiate, altar boy of Zeus, or other "noob"?
 
If the developers tried to give classes/subclasses strong story roles, people would protest against the restrictions and loss of flexibility ("they left no place for my character concept!"). If they tried to make classes/subclasses fully abstract and mechanical, it would be called anti-immersive and boardgamy. Either way, they lose a significant number of customers.
This is the biggest problem with designing a class-based game.

I remember when Arcana Unearthed/Evolved came out and Monte Cook promised the names were going to be nonsensical in order to make them generic enough to accept any background or role. Unfortunately; that also described the assumptions from most characters as well. Green bond? Magister? Oathsworn? Warmain? These names mean nothing except "particular path of abilities I'm taking" and doesn't feel as descriptive as Druid, Warlock, Paladin, or Fighter does. Different strokes, I guess.

Still, I'd rather have subclasses have some flavor and role in the world than to become the generic compoundword game terms for a set of connected game mechanics.
 

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