D&D 5E The philosophical changes in class design in Tasha's

Given the ongoing kerfuffle over Tasha's I thought I'd go through class by class and see what I can glean from the new subclasses and optional class features in Tasha's as to what had changed. I'm ignoring racial changes as there are reams written there - and I'm also ignoring the artificer as it was de facto new.

Barbarian. Honestly there doesn't seem much here. The Primal Knowledge extra skills known are part of a trend to have more skills for the non-casters. But Wild Magic and Beast Path are honestly so different that other than that Bolstering Magic would work 1/short rest before Tasha's I can't really pick commonalities here.

Bard. I don't know 5e Bards as well as I do most other classes - but there seems to be little of an overarching change here. The only optional class feature is the ability to retrain some things. I think that there's understanding that the bard is near top of the power curve here.

Cleric. The Peace and Twilight domains are both top tier buffers that lean in to the hit point protection of the cleric. The Twilight Cleric's big thing isn't that it is embarrassing, but like the Artificer Artillerist's force field it is incredibly annoying to deal with these protoss-shields every turn. I think it does lean into tuning up the cleric but nothing fundamental. I don't think that there was any intent to change here.

Druid. The least popular 5e class (ignoring the artificer) has a pretty substantial change; all of the Spores, Stars, and Wildfire druids are not expected to wildshape. Instead they get a different use for their wildshape ability (Wildfire gets a summon - and summons are changed in Tasha's, Spores get a cloud of Spores, and Stars get a choice of buffs). I don't think there's substantial power creep here so much as a substantial change to what you need or want to track. (TBH I could barely remember what the Xanathar's druids were; dreams for healing and shepherd for summoning (but it's arguably a better healer thanks to the Unicorn spirit) - and Land is pretty uninspiring). A clearer thematic design and easier to use mechanically looks both like a change in design to me and a huge win. (And giving Druids the option to use wild shape for a temporary familiar is nice)

Fighter. There are two major changes to the fighter subclasses (and the Wildemount Echo Knight fits the pattern perfectly). The first is that all the new fighter designs are all magically liminal; they are supernatural without being spellcasters (the Echo Knight clearly is supernatural, and both the Psi Warrior and the Rune Knight are supernatural). The second is that thought has been put into the non-combat effectiveness of all three subclasses - and the battlemaster has been given some nice non-combat maneuvers. All of them have significant boosts to their out of combat potential which is something I want to see continue. I don't know whether the "all the new subclasses are liminal" is a deliberate change in design (the arcane archer and cavalier were in Xanathar's) or the result of most of the obvious non-liminal choices being taken, but I like it.

Monk. I don't think I need to point out that monks need help. The optional features of Dedicated weapon, Ki Fueled Attack, Quickened Healing, and Focused Aim are all cute but only quickened healing really changes anything - and none of them solve the level 7-10 flabbiness of the class. The Astral Self monk is one of many psy-types in Tasha's, a telekinetic in this case. Mercy's a healer that uses chakras and meridians. I can't honestly see any significant changes here; no mundane subclasses but we already have Open Fist and Drunken Master.

Paladin. So far as I can tell WotC thought that the paladin was fine as it was.

Ranger. Clearly the ranger got buffed - but the subclasses were buffed in Xanathar's rather than Tasha's. The beastmaster moved into line with the new summoning paradigm.

Rogue. Steady Aim just cuts out the middle man. But far more important is that the Phantom and the Soulknife both use liminal magic - while (other than the Arcane Trickster) the previous rogue subclasses were almost aggressively non-magical. This is a huge jump - but after six subclasses that are all about buffing specific skills it might be running out of options. However this is pretty much the way the fighter went, establishing a pattern.

Sorcerer. A clear and obvious buff here to an underperforming class; the PHB sorcerer knows only as many spells as a warlock and has fewer than the wizard has prepared at any one time. A PHB ranger with a Xanathar's subclass knows about as many spells. Tasha's subclasses basically double the number of spells known for sorcerers and widen the spell list; a much needed buff that needs back-porting.

Warlock. This one's hard to tell other than that the genie gets the Tasha's easy access to flight. I think that the idea that all subclasses should come with a damage buff was in Xanathar's - but they gave the Celestial Warlock healing instead (which a lot of cleric options do). Either way the only warlock subclasses without a regular damage buff that kicks in at low level or significant healing are the Archfey, the GOO, and the Undying (which is more or less obsolete with the Undead in Van Richtens).

Wizard. There is only one new subclass in Tasha's (Bladesinging is a reprint). The College of Scribes. And honestly it feels like "we have all the schools, now we've got to do something. Let's give the spell collectors one." It's not that great as subclasses go (it's not terrible, but it's no Diviner never mind a Chronurgist).

So there were definitely some changes outside the obvious ranger ones and the ones to summoning. The fighter and the rogue in particular got a lot more liminal magical non-spellcaster subclasses. The fighter gained a lot of out-of-combat potential with its subclasses. The sorcerer gained spells (and I hope the 2024 revision buffs the old subclasses). And the druid got drawn away from wildshaping into doing other mid-term buffs.
 

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ECMO3

Hero
The bladesinger is not a complete reprint, they changed it a bit, one way being Tasha's Blandesinger 6th level extra attack, which is the best extra attack in the game.
 

kapars

Explorer
The biggest change to Monks was Focused Aim. It’s a version of precision attack from the BM that allows the Monk to attempt builds based on Sharpshooter and Great Weapon master. Not what most people are thinking when picking the class necessary but that’s how it is playing out in communities focused on optimizing for combat.

I’d love some out of combat uses for Ki but there’s not enough of it as it is.
 

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