OneDnD Subclasses should start at 1st level

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yes. You cannot 'be a skilled warrior that blends bladecraft with spellcraft with absolutely no spells.

I can't get spells by just pretending to have them.
It's far easier to add than subtract, though. There are feats and races that have spells, or you could get DM permission to bring some of the magic down to 1st level. If you build in the magic from 1st, though, you take away peoples ability to grow into a concept.

If I were to play an eldritch knight and wanted to have fighting and magic from 1st level, I'd pick ardling, Elf, gnome or tiefling, since those races have built in magic. Then I'd pick Cultist, Sage, or make up a background that has Magic Initiate(Arcane) so I can grab some battle cantrips. Poof! A skilled warrior that blends bladecraft and spellcraft, and who will get better at it at 3rd level.
 

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clearstream

(He, Him)
What’s the problem? If 1st level class features can be made safe for multiclassing,
They can't. Multiclassing 1/1 is already hard to balance for. While 3/1 and 3/3 are moderately balanced against 4 and 6, 1/1 is not balanced against 2.

then 1st level subclass features can be too.
So this can't happen. A feature of game systems is what's called "designability", meaning how robustly future content can be designed for it. Subclassing at 3 has high designability. At 1 it has low designability.

In fact, they already exist for the classes that currently get their subclass at 1st level.
They do, and those represent some of the most problematic design space for classes. An example that makes the point strongly is the hexblade.

All that will happen is that subclassing from 1st will put a dampener on what can be offered with subclasses.
 
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Horwath

Hero
Eldritch knight subclass from 1st level:

Level 1: Weapon bond, one cantrip known
Level 2: extra cantrip known, 1 spell known, one 1st level slot
Level 3: 2 more spells knows, extra 1st level slot

rest as normal.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Cleric, Sorcerer, and Warlock choose the subclass at level 1.
There's a reason sorlocks often appear in charop threads.

Druid and Wizard choose the subclass at level 2.
Barbarian, Bard, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, and Rogue choose it 3.

It is better for the game to standardize the subclass at level 1, the way Cleric, Sorcerer, and Warlock do.
Why not standardise to 3?

Subclass at level 1 makes more design space possible, both for the designers for future subclasses, including cross-class subclasses, and for the players for character concepts.
I agree that it broadens the design space (far more permutations.) Unfortunately, that makes the game harder to design for with the perverse effect of narrowing actual designs.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Heh, having had a full long-rest refresh.



The Character Advancement Table for leveling can schedule:

Race and Background
Level 0

Feats
Levels 0 (Background), 4, 8, 12, 16, and 20 19

Boons
Levels 20 and up

Subclass Features
Levels 1, 2, 6, 10, 14, and 18

Class Features
Levels 1 (x4), 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17

Note, the Warrior classes can use a class level for a Warrior feat. The third casters like Eldritch Knight and Trickster instead gain their spells at Subclass levels, unlike the full and half casters that gain their spells at Class levels.



Level 1
Level 1 has a design space of about 5 feats: Simple Combat, Class Saves, Subclass Features, and a 2-feat space for Class Features.

SIMPLE COMBAT
• d8 Hit Die (improves from d6)
• All Simple Weapons
• Light Armor

Note, the Wizard irregularly swaps out the Simple Combat design space for more magic. Because the Wizard can fight with cantrips, I suggest the Wizard class doesnt even get Simple Weapons. However, a Wizard player can optionally choose to swap out a cantrip to gain: either All Simple Weapons or Light Armor. Narratively, the character showed an aptitude for magic at a young age, and while other teens were training for defense with armory, these Wizard apprentices were training separately for defense with magic. But a few individuals got a smattering of armory training, before dedicating themselves to magic training.

CLASS SAVES
• "Strong" Save
• "Weak" Save

SUBCLASS FEATURES
• A design space of about one feat to establish the subclass.

Note, each class will recommend a specific subclass. For example, the default Fighter is a Champion, the default Rogue is a Thief, the default Wizard is an elemental Evoker. Make sure the flavor for the default subclass is described separately from base class. More experienced players can choose whichever subclass they want.

Where the Eldritch Knight and Trickster only gain spells at the subclass levels, the schedule is as follows: level 1 (2x 1st Slot), level 2 (1st Slot), level6 (1st Slot, 2x 2nd Slot), level 10 (2nd Slot, 2x 3rd Slot), level 14 (3rd Slot), level 18 (4th Slot).

CLASS FEATURES
• A design space of about two feats to establishes the base class.

With three feats of design space being spent on Simple Combat, Class Saves, and Subclass Features, there are about two feats remaining to establish the Class Features.

For example, Warrior classes will use the design space for advanced combat, such as better Hit Die, Medium Armor, Martial Weapons, plus combat features that are distinctive to the class. The Rogue Class uses the design space for Sneak Attack with almost a half feat left over for other Rogue features.



It is useful and easy to establish Subclass features at level 1, as part of an overall Character Advancement Table that schedules the various features that each character gains while leveling.
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
Heh, having had a full long-rest refresh.



The Character Advancement Table for leveling can schedule:

Race and Background
Level 0

Feats
Levels 0 (Background), 4, 8, 12, 16, and 20 19

Boons
Levels 20 and up

Subclass Features
Levels 1, 2, 6, 10, 14, and 18

Class Features
Levels 1 (x4), 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17

Note, the Warrior classes can use a class level for a Warrior feat. The third casters like Eldritch Knight and Trickster instead gain their spells at Subclass levels, unlike the full and half casters that gain their spells at Class levels.



Level 1
Level 1 has a design space of about 5 feats: Simple Combat, Class Saves, Subclass Features, and a 2-feat space for Class Features.

SIMPLE COMBAT
• d8 Hit Die (improves from d6)
• All Simple Weapons
• Light Armor

Note, the Wizard irregularly swaps out the Simple Combat design space for more magic. Because the Wizard can fight with cantrips, I suggest the Wizard class doesnt even get Simple Weapons. However, a Wizard player can optionally choose to swap out a cantrip to gain: either All Simple Weapons or Light Armor. Narratively, the character showed an aptitude for magic at a young age, and while other teens were training for defense with armory, these Wizard apprentices were training separately for defense with magic. But a few individuals got a smattering of armory training, before dedicating themselves to magic training.

CLASS SAVES
• "Strong" Save
• "Weak" Save

SUBCLASS FEATURES
• A design space of about one feat to establish the subclass.

Note, each class will recommend a specific subclass. For example, the default Fighter is a Champion, the default Rogue is a Thief, the default Wizard is an elemental Evoker. Make sure the flavor for the default subclass is described separately from base class. More experienced players can choose whichever subclass they want.

Where the Eldritch Knight and Trickster only gain spells at the subclass levels, the schedule is as follows: level 1 (2x 1st Slot), level 2 (1st Slot), level6 (1st Slot, 2x 2nd Slot), level 10 (2nd Slot, 2x 3rd Slot), level 14 (3rd Slot), level 18 (4th Slot).

CLASS FEATURES
• A design space of about two feats to establishes the base class.

With three feats of design space being spent on Simple Combat, Class Saves, and Subclass Features, there are about two feats remaining to establish the Class Features.

For example, Warrior classes will use the design space for advanced combat, such as better Hit Die, Medium Armor, Martial Weapons, plus combat features that are distinctive to the class. The Rogue Class uses the design space for Sneak Attack with almost a half feat left over for other Rogue features.



It is useful and easy to establish Subclass features at level 1, as part of an overall Character Advancement Table that schedules the various features that each character gains while leveling.
Long-rest refresh, always helpful :)

A question that comes to mind immediately - what do I do as a player when I try a class for the first time (e.g. I try playing a Monk for the first time), and make my subclass level one pick, and then I find that the class doesn't play exactly how I pictured and I would prefer to play a different subclass now that I understand it better? Reroll?
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
There's a reason sorlocks often appear in charop threads.
sorlock is a thing because 1st level warlock gives you:

  • Eldritch blast
  • Hex
  • 1 slot that comes back on a short rest.
None of these come from subclass. Even then, to fully come online you need 3 warlock levels to gain an improved version of the sorcerer capstone and the boon. And for sorcerer is the same, you need three levels to gain metamagic, and it has no ingredients that come from subclass. Sorlock is only a thing at the very least at 5th level. Hardly the point you want to make.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Long-rest refresh, always helpful :)

A question that comes to mind immediately - what do I do as a player when I try a class for the first time (e.g. I try playing a Monk for the first time), and make my subclass level one pick, and then I find that the class doesn't play exactly how I pictured and I would prefer to play a different subclass now that I understand it better? Reroll?
Personally as DM, I allow the players to change features while leveling, but not during a level. To change an entire subclass is extreme, like creating a new character. I would allow it when the current subclass is impeding the fun of the game for the player. If possible I would encourage minimalistic changes. Maybe swapping out one feature for a different feature is enough to improve the players experience. Similar changes can happen when WotC publishes a new book or UA article with more options, and the players want to swap out some current options for the new one.
 

Clint_L

Hero
Just making 10% of the game a disappointment for both the people who want a genuine zero level and people who want to play their characters for the entire game?
What about the people for whom playing their character is how it works now? I like starting a character at a very basic level and having them become more specialized and gradually grow in power as they go out in the world. For many of us, getting to make the sub-class decision at level 3, when you have a bit of time into the character and a sense of where their adventures are taking them, is a feature, not a flaw.

Why are you assuming that only people who start with their sub-class and multi-class choices pre-determined are the only folks who are trying to play their character for the entire game? For many of us our character is a process, not a thing we have fully formed in our heads before the first adventure.

Edit: I think this discussion is being driven by folks who like to start a campaign with a really detailed idea of who their next character is right out of the gate. That's fine, but recognize that for new players, that isn't really an option, and also there are a lot of experienced players who prefer character building to be a more story-driven process. I'm not a min/maxer, and I make character decisions based on what actually happens in the campaign. I typically don't know what sub-class and multi-class decisions I am going to make until the story unfolds. Getting to pick the sub-class at level 3 is a super exciting moment and I have to think really hard about where this character seems to be headed.

I would like to see the system standardized so that every class gets to make that decision at level 3.

Edit: Someone previously mentioned World of Warcraft, where the only level that matters is the current level cap, and everything else is just seen as a the hassle of getting there. The game becomes about optimization. I think it's super unhealthy for an RPG. I think the journey and the important choices you make on the way are the best part of D&D.
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
By the way, the Character Advancement Table can look something like the following.

Each row represents the design space of about a feat.

The Background "1st level" feat (but more like a level 0 feat) is worth a half feat. With two skills and a tool set, the entire Background altogether is worth about a feat. The Ability Scores Improvement is about a feat. The race should have about a 2-feat design space.

5e is a robust gaming engine so it is unnecessary for designers to color inside the lines sotospeak. If the designers want an extra powerful feature at a certain level, it is normal to appropriate some of the design space from the level before or after it. So some levels look "weak" because the missing space is being moved to an "extra-strong" level. Remember, the Subclass is a separate design space, so an extra-strong Subclass level corresponds a weak Subclass level earlier or later.

Each tier has feats that have more design space than the ones of the previous tier.



CHARACTER ADVANCEMENT TABLE
LEVELPROFEATURETIER
0+1RaceCOMMONER (LEVEL 0)
0+1Race
0+1Ability Scores
0+1Background
1+2Simple CombatSTUDENT (HERO/BASIC)
1+2Subclass
1+2Class
1+2Class Saves
1+2Class
2+2Subclass
3+2Class
4+2FeatPROFESSIONAL (HERO/EXPERT)
5+3Class
6+3Subclass
7+3Class
8+3FeatMASTER (PARAGON/CHAMPION)
9+4Class
10+4Subclass
11+4Class
12+4FeatGRANDMASTER (PARAGON/MASTER)
13+5Class
14+5Subclass
15+5Class
16+5FeatLEGEND (EPIC/IMMORTAL)
17+6Class
18+6Subclass
19+6Feat
20+6BoonEPIC (EPIC/IMMORTAL)
(21)+7Boon
(22)+7Boon
(23)+7Boon
(24)+7Boon
 
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Eldritch knight subclass from 1st level:

Level 1: Weapon bond, one cantrip known
Level 2: extra cantrip known, 1 spell known, one 1st level slot
Level 3: 2 more spells knows, extra 1st level slot

rest as normal.

Or level 1:
Fighting style: eldritch bond
2 cantrips, weapon bond.
Rest as normal.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
In my ideal, there are optional zero levels for them.

That way they have the option they want without invalidating 10% of the game for me.
So only ~5%

Or maybe they should raise level cap to 22. Would that work for you?

EDIT: Or….if they raised the cap to 40 you would only be missing out on 5%, about the same as your idea for a level 0.

Then again, if we factor in how long it takes to gain levels, 1&2 are about 0.05% of the game.

Unless we are actually measuring likely levels actually played, in which case it’s more like 25%.
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
CHARACTER ADVANCEMENT TABLE
LEVELPROFEATURETIER
0+1RaceCOMMONER (LEVEL 0)
0+1Race
0+1Ability Scores
0+1Background
1+2Simple CombatSTUDENT (HERO/BASIC)
1+2Subclass
1+2Class
1+2Class Saves
1+2Class
2+2Subclass
3+2Class
4+2FeatPROFESSIONAL (HERO/EXPERT)
5+3Class
6+3Subclass
7+3Class
8+3FeatMASTER (PARAGON/CHAMPION)
9+4Class
10+4Subclass
11+4Class
12+4FeatGRANDMASTER (PARAGON/MASTER)
13+5Class
14+5Subclass
15+5Class
16+5FeatLEGEND (EPIC/IMMORTAL)
17+6Class
18+6Subclass
19+6Feat
20+6BoonEPIC (EPIC/IMMORTAL)
(21)+7Boon
(22)+7Boon
(23)+7Boon
(24)+7Boon
I like this table (other than our disagreement about where subclass should start.) I'd designed a 0th-level for my campaign and it is very similar to what you have. You need to include the hit die however (add a column.) For instance, analyse Barbarian excluding the hit die... you'll notice that some of Barb's feats are invested in that d12 (based on toughness, we can call each step up from 1d6 a half-feat.)
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I like this table (other than our disagreement about where subclass should start.) I'd designed a 0th-level for my campaign and it is very similar to what you have. You need to include the hit die however (add a column.) For instance, analyse Barbarian excluding the hit die... you'll notice that some of Barb's feats are invested in that d12 (based on toughness, we can call each step up from 1d6 a half-feat.)
In the Character Advancement table, the hit die at level 0 is d6, and this hit die generally represents Humanoid noncombatants.

At level 1, the Simple Combat level improves the hit die to d8. (Except for the Wizard class that swaps out the Simple Combat for magic features.) This d8 is typical for any Humanoids that player characters encounter in combat encounters.

Also at level 1 are two "levels" to further detail the class features. Some classes, like Fighter, Paladin, and Ranger, will use part of one of these class features to improve the hit die from d8 to d10. The Barbarian class will actually use a full class feature to improve the hit die from d8 to d12.

There doesnt need to be a column for the hit die because whatever the hit die is is established during level 1. From then on up, it is always that hit die for every level (unless multiclassing).
 



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