D&D 5E The Quest to Reduce "Sameyness" (+)

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Serious observation here: one of the biggest drivers of sameyness is only accepting things that you personally like.

And the more you reduce the spell lists the more likely it is that all members of a given class feel samey.
The discussion isn't how to make characters within the same class less samey, though. It's how to make the classes less samey from each other.
 

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Advenruting NPCs are DMPCs and they're not a problem in the least IME.
I believe that when people talk about DMPCs in the negative, they're usually referring to either the stage hog or plot helmsman varieties where the DM ends up taking up the spotlight (because the NPC is so awesome) or essentially makes plot decisions on the players' behalf, leaving the PCs as just passengers along for the ride. It probably isn't as big a problem in old school dungeon or hex crawls.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Serious observation here: one of the biggest drivers of sameyness is only accepting things that you personally like.
Considering I am the one doing the work, I'll take that as my prerogative. ;)

And the more you reduce the spell lists the more likely it is that all members of a given class feel samey.
I'd rather have PCs of the same class feel samey (which makes more sense) than PCs of different classes feel samey.

Obviously you disagree (again, not the first time for us, huh? ;) ), but since this is a (+) thread and the premise is:
This thread is going to the heart of something that really irks the Libra in me---too much sameyness between classes.
Please focus comments on removing the sameyness between classes, not within them (which, FYI, isn't an issue for me, personally...).
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
The discussion isn't how to make characters within the same class less samey, though. It's how to make the classes less samey from each other.
Nailed it. I'll update the OP to reflect that and stop any further confusion some people might have about the intent of the thread. 🤷‍♂️
 

The one follows from the other though. If there is lots of variation within classes, it doesn't matter if there are similarities between classes, since its easy enough to build a wide range of characters. How that variety is achieved mechanically doesn't matter, so long as it exists. For example, if if I can build a ranger as a spellcaster with a pet, they aren't samey to a fighter. If I can build a ranger as an ace swordsman they aint samey to a druid.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
The one follows from the other though. If there is lots of variation within classes, it doesn't matter if there are similarities between classes, since its easy enough to build a wide range of characters. How that variety is achieved mechanically doesn't matter, so long as it exists. For example, if if I can build a ranger as a spellcaster with a pet, they aren't samey to a fighter. If I can build a ranger as an ace swordsman they aint samey to a druid.
Maybe, but it works the other direction, too: by keeping the classes more unique, you don't need options within them to keep one class from feeling like another.

Now, I've posted threads about adding more decision points and options within classes to help keep individual PCs from feeling too similar because others felt that. I never did because I currently feel there are presently enough to keep that from happening. Regardless, those attempts didn't receive much contribution from the forum so I dropped them.

That I was doing to try to help others, this I am doing primarily for myself and for others who happen to feel the same.

For example, if if I can build a ranger as a spellcaster with a pet, they aren't samey to a fighter.
They are samey to a wizard with a familiar.

If I can build a ranger as an ace swordsman they aint samey to a druid.
They are samey to a fighter who is an ace swordsman.
 

The one follows from the other though. If there is lots of variation within classes, it doesn't matter if there are similarities between classes, since its easy enough to build a wide range of characters. How that variety is achieved mechanically doesn't matter, so long as it exists. For example, if if I can build a ranger as a spellcaster with a pet, they aren't samey to a fighter. If I can build a ranger as an ace swordsman they aint samey to a druid.

I don't think that's necessarily true within the scope of this topic though. Another way of phrasing what OP wants is "how can we make each class distinct?" It's a separate question from characters, because there are a number of ways to make characters themselves unique, not the least of which is simply roleplaying them differently, which requires no mechanical distinction at all. The question does require that you are able to roll with the idea that having classes stand out from each other mechanically is a good thing. I'm getting that some people don't care as much about that, but then that's what the (+) is for: to keep the whole thread from devolving into bickering over whether the base premise is worth discussing in the first place.

So as for making classes distinct. I think there are two basic approaches you can take. First is niche protection. This I think is an easier if limiting way to do it since there are only so many classes you can make this way before you either get duplication of niches or a blurring of lines, both of which contribute to the homogenization of classes. It really means you go back to TSR era classes, maybe even pre-AD&D. It's workable, but I think at that point, you may as well be playing an OSR game.

The other approach I can see, and the one I'd prefer, is fiction emulation. You take a concept, imagine how you'd want it to play out in a story (or just look at actual literature that is close to what you want), and then find a way to work that into the core mechanics. Instead of saying that a necromancer is a caster so it's built like a caster, you get rid of the idea of casters being standardized in the first place, and you look at what a necromancer is supposed to do. You do the same with the fighter. Is the fighter a duelist? A soldier? A commander? Would all three be built the same way? How might a warrior class structure work differently than a caster class structure? In what ways to martial characters in fiction change throughout the story?

This approach might be harder to balance since it combines the possibilities of a larger number of classes with a wider variety of class designs, but it also allows some roles to have redundancy without feeling redundant. A cleric, a warlord and certain interpretations of a necromancer could all keep a party on their feet, but they would do so in completely different ways. A duelist might lock down a powerful opponent down, while a paladin might keep movement in reserve to keep themselves between a vulnerable party member and any opponent who tries to approach.
 


DND_Reborn

Legend
I don't think that's necessarily true within the scope of this topic though. Another way of phrasing what OP wants is "how can we make each class distinct?" It's a separate question from characters, because there are a number of ways to make characters themselves unique, not the least of which is simply roleplaying them differently, which requires no mechanical distinction at all. The question does require that you are able to roll with the idea that having classes stand out from each other mechanically is a good thing. I'm getting that some people don't care as much about that, but then that's what the (+) is for: to keep the whole thread from devolving into bickering over whether the base premise is worth discussing in the first place.
Well said! I will add that while I am for uniqueness, some degree of overlap is going to happen, even essential really, for the game to function. I just don't see the need for so much overlap when things could be easily more distinct.

So as for making classes distinct. I think there are two basic approaches you can take. First is niche protection. This I think is an easier if limiting way to do it since there are only so many classes you can make this way before you either get duplication of niches or a blurring of lines, both of which contribute to the homogenization of classes. It really means you go back to TSR era classes, maybe even pre-AD&D. It's workable, but I think at that point, you may as well be playing an OSR game.

The other approach I can see, and the one I'd prefer, is fiction emulation. You take a concept, imagine how you'd want it to play out in a story (or just look at actual literature that is close to what you want), and then find a way to work that into the core mechanics. Instead of saying that a necromancer is a caster so it's built like a caster, you get rid of the idea of casters being standardized in the first place, and you look at what a necromancer is supposed to do. You do the same with the fighter. Is the fighter a duelist? A soldier? A commander? Would all three be built the same way? How might a warrior class structure work differently than a caster class structure? In what ways to martial characters in fiction change throughout the story?
While I mostly agree, I will add a third approach, which is what I believe WotC meant to accomplish and to a certain degree, did well:

The things between classes that are not meant to be samey involves a certain degree of niche protection. Returning to the basic core classes does this well: Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard. Each is more than distinct enough to avoid sameyness IMO. This is your first approach.

The second approach is the inclusion of subclasses. This is what is meant to make individual PCs of the same class feel less samey from another PC of the same class. This to a degree is really more your second approach.

Where WotC failed IMO is allowing too much overlap in the core classes and not providing enough distinction in the subclasses. With some classes, the subclasses are basically an after thought.

Now, they did well in some ways, with each class having its own "thing" (Barbarians rage, Sorcerers have metamagic, etc.) but with Tasha's some of that even has been stripped away (not good if you want to reduce sameyness!). Spell lists are a travesty of sameyness, with less than 30% unique spells with the sources I have. Again, Tasha's increased the spell lists for many classes, increasing overlap even more! I mean, Sorcerer's had only ONE unique spell (Chaos Bolt) and all their other spells were Wizard spells. That is pathetic design IMO and shows a horrible lack of concern for keeping classes feeling as distinct as possible.

A lot more could also have been done with Backgrounds, IMO, to allow distinction between PCs of the same class, but instead of being a core component of your PC, it was boiled down to basically bonus proficiencies for your class.

Otherwise, it comes down to how you play your character.
 

Shadowedeyes

Adventurer
Thoughts on reducing sameness....

I guess the first question I would have is what qualifies sameness? Is it a diversity of mechanics, a sort of identity tied to each class or a distinctive feel in play for each class? Or is a combination of these things, or, perhaps, something I am completely off the mark of?

Niche protection was used in previous editions, namely the pre 3e era, but also surprisingly in 4e as well. While it has it's strengths, it also has the downside of potentially having necessary classes. Without a healer in 2ed, for example, you're going to have to have huge amounts of downtime to heal up your hit points. So you end up with pressure for someone to play a cleric, even if no one really wants to. In comparison, some niches may not be necessary, and so the classes that fill those are less likely to be played, at least until the important roles are filled.

You can try to mitigate that I'm sure, but it is something that needs to be considered.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I guess the first question I would have is what qualifies sameness? Is it a diversity of mechanics, a sort of identity tied to each class or a distinctive feel in play for each class? Or is a combination of these things, or, perhaps, something I am completely off the mark of?
For me sameyness if having too many PCs being able to do the same thing or have the same feature options. I understand of course some degree of overlap is needed, but too much overlap is when the problems appear IMO. Also, as I stated in the OP, this is primarily about the sameyness between classes, not within a class (where I would expect it).

An example of acceptable sameyness is Fighting Styles. Fighters get them all. Paladins and Rangers have a reduced subset. Barbarians, Monks, and Rogues have none. This means if a PC has a fighting style, it might be a Fighter, Paladin, or Ranger, but I know it won't be a Barbarian, Monk, or Rogue.*

Extra Attack, however, went a bit too far IMO by allowing Monks to have it, so 5 out of 6 martial classes get it! :rolleyes: Monks already have Flurry of Blows for when they need the extra strikes, but it shouldn't be a default feature for them. And of course, your gish-style casters (e.g. College of Swords, Bladesinger) get Extra Attack as well, even if a level later, further increasing the sameyness of the feature. Those subclasses could have been given more distinctive features allowing for increased damage output without resorting to Extra Attack.

As I said in other posts, spells are a huge offender IMO and so I reworked the spell lists to create more unique spells.

Saving throws were just a side note in the process of reworking our 5E Mod. When I saw Clerics, Paladins, and Warlock all had the same saves, I thought "This is crazy? If they are so similar, why bother making them distinct classes?" Frankly, you could combine them all into a core class, Devotee or something, and make each distinct subclasses. But, in an effort to keep them distinct, I reassigned them new saves to decrease the areas they overlapped a bit more.

I wouldn't mind seeing different mechanics for casters instead of identical spell slot progress for Bards, Clerics, Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards. Like Extra Attack for martials, 5 out of 6 casting classes progress nearly identically. Only Warlocks are currently a stand out, which I believe is one reason why so many find the class appealing.

Within a class is where flavor, fluff, feel for a character is largely about your concept IMO, not the mechanics behind it. That might mean the mark was missed on the design for core classes a bit, with gaps that players are finding, but making more of everything the same for everyone only aggravates the problem and at that point, just get rid of classes because they no longer serve a purpose of defining what is unique about your PC compared to other classes.

*Tasha, of course, ruined this by allowing a Fighting Style as a feat. BOO! Bad form! :mad:
 

Shadowedeyes

Adventurer
So, mechanics then. I suspected so, based on the initial post, but figured I would try to clarify for my own sake.

The idea of changing saving throws doesn't really do anything for me personally in sameyness, but as you said, it's a side note. It doesn't really change much anyway, besides fighters maybe losing out slightly in the change.

The spell list changes are a far more interesting change, and one that I actually agree with in theory. in practice, deciding who gets what seems like a nightmare. There are certainly choices you made that I don't agree with. I suspect that would be a hard selling point between a lot people.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
The spell list changes are a far more interesting change, and one that I actually agree with in theory. in practice, deciding who gets what seems like a nightmare. There are certainly choices you made that I don't agree with. I suspect that would be a hard selling point between a lot people.
LOL it was, and some VERY hard choices had to be made, particularly with Wizards losing half their spells.

In our mod, other compensations have been made, though, and thus far even with our initial list months ago, no one has screamed yet LOL!

Granted, it is a hard sell, but one worth pitching IMO if you want magic to feel more magical and less common. ;)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I believe that when people talk about DMPCs in the negative, they're usually referring to either the stage hog or plot helmsman varieties where the DM ends up taking up the spotlight (because the NPC is so awesome) or essentially makes plot decisions on the players' behalf, leaving the PCs as just passengers along for the ride.
Yeah, I agree those aren't good. The problem arises when people automatically assume that any adventuring NPC in the party will by default be one of those, because this doesnt have to be the case.
It probably isn't as big a problem in old school dungeon or hex crawls.
It still can be; it all depends on how the DM manages her in-party NPCs.

As both DM and player, given the choice I'd rather the players run extra PCs than have me run NPCs, but I'm fine with either.
 

Irlo

Hero
First, I want to say that I love the idea of the focused and exclusive spell lists.

Here are a few half-baked ideas to decrease the sameness among the classes:

  • Curate available backgrounds by class so that PCs are effectively limited to skills and tools from their class list. That avoids stealthy Clerics and lock-picking Barbarians.
  • Remove subclasses that allow classes to encroach on others’ territories. You might end up with a very short list!
  • Further restrict fighting styles (removing Archery from the Fighter options, for example —leaving that for Rangers only).
  • Limit classes that can take advantage of Finesse weapons to Rogue and maybe Ranger (and maybe open to Elves of any class).
  • If you use Feats, assign class prerequisites to them.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
First, I want to say that I love the idea of the focused and exclusive spell lists.
Thanks! I am glad to hear it. We've been using them (in one form or another) for a while now. After some use/ play-testing, the ones I posted above are the (hopefully) final iteration. :)

Here are a few half-baked ideas to decrease the sameness among the classes:

  • Curate available backgrounds by class so that PCs are effectively limited to skills and tools from their class list. That avoids stealthy Clerics and lock-picking Barbarians.
  • Remove subclasses that allow classes to encroach on others’ territories. You might end up with a very short list!
  • Further restrict fighting styles (removing Archery from the Fighter options, for example —leaving that for Rangers only).
  • Limit classes that can take advantage of Finesse weapons to Rogue and maybe Ranger (and maybe open to Elves of any class).
  • If you use Feats, assign class prerequisites to them.
I like most of these, so I'll give it some thought and discuss the ideas with my players to get their feedback. Thanks again!
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The one follows from the other though. If there is lots of variation within classes, it doesn't matter if there are similarities between classes, since its easy enough to build a wide range of characters.
Except if it's to be a class-based game isn't it logical to expect that variation to largely be rooted in the classes themselves, with only sub-variations within each class?
How that variety is achieved mechanically doesn't matter, so long as it exists. For example, if if I can build a ranger as a spellcaster with a pet, they aren't samey to a fighter. If I can build a ranger as an ace swordsman they aint samey to a druid.
And one could argue neither is a Ranger any more. A spellcaster with a pet is a Wizard with a familiar. An ace swordsman is a Fighter.

My point is that to preserve and enhance difference between classes (as opposed to within them) your initial concept e.g. spellcaster-with-a-pet should point you directly to the class that does spellcasting* first; and that being able to also sneak Ranger abilities into this otherwise-already-strong-enough character without having to multiclass is a loophole in the design. It comes back to my point about having and eating cake at the same time: if you want to play a Ranger and a caster in the same character then you should have to multiclass, and accept the various drawbacks that multiclassing presents.

* - I should note here that I see Rangers as 1/4 casters at best; they might work better as non-casters but the 5e version would - as usual - need some help.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
First, I want to say that I love the idea of the focused and exclusive spell lists.

Here are a few half-baked ideas to decrease the sameness among the classes:

  • Curate available backgrounds by class so that PCs are effectively limited to skills and tools from their class list. That avoids stealthy Clerics and lock-picking Barbarians.
  • Remove subclasses that allow classes to encroach on others’ territories. You might end up with a very short list!
  • Further restrict fighting styles (removing Archery from the Fighter options, for example —leaving that for Rangers only).
  • Limit classes that can take advantage of Finesse weapons to Rogue and maybe Ranger (and maybe open to Elves of any class).
  • If you use Feats, assign class prerequisites to them.
The only one of these I'd personally not want to see is leaving archery as a Ranger thing, as that plays even further into the idea of a light-armoured high-Dex Ranger where my preference is and always has been the 1e-style tough quasi-tank Ranger who had four mid-high stat requirements of which Dex was not one.

As I noted just above I think there's room for Archer as, if not a full class in its own right, a clearly-distinct sub-class of Fighter.
 

ECMO3

Hero
plot helmsman varieties where the DM ends up taking up the spotlight (because the NPC is so awesome) or essentially makes plot decisions on the players' behalf, leaving the PCs as just passengers along for the ride.

It has been a consistent problems in games I play and this is the reason why. If you have a DMPC and that character is a core part of the party for balance/mechanics reasons there are really only 2 ways to play it.

1. One is the DMPC makes no decisions at all. In this case it is not really a character, it is just a set of skills the party uses to cover gaps. It rubber stamps whatever the characters do and the characters can use it however they want more or less. The party decides what magic items he gets, the party decides where they go, what they do. The character is essentially a party familiar or a meat shield.

2. The other type is the DMPC that makes core decisions and they can't really be vetoed because they need the DMPC to play the game. This is what you are talking about in the quote above. A realistic, fleshed out character is going to have opinions and there is going to be friction between that character and other characters, just like there is between PCs. As a DM though if you are playing this out there is a huge power imbalance.

An NPC that is part of the story is different. They are not there to round out the party, they are there for story purposes.
 

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