5E Using Subclasses at Level 1?

dnd4vr

Hero
As an aside for multclassing since it seems to be a concern for many, I am not doing multiclassing RAW. You might have seen my other thread on it. I have an option for multiclassing there.

Anyway, another idea for multiclass is going old-school. You get both (or all three) classes at once, but you never get a subclass for any of them--all you get is base class features.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Because not all groups follow the level rate suggested by WotC that the first couple levels should only take a session or two. Also, I don't want players beginning with over twice the hp they would otherwise have.

I would be more inclined to simple roll up levels 1-3 (sans HP) into a "level 1" I suppose, but then that would make multiclassing (which I am not going to "just don't use it") an issue.
Then you are better off just not thinking of characters as "generic" types up until they get their first subclass feature. It'd be a lot easier to just rename the 1st level features to be in theme with the subclass. So a character isn't a Wolf Totem barbarian only when they gain their first Wolf Totem feature at 3rd level... instead they are a Wolf Totem barbarian from the very beginning whose first features are "Wolfen Rage" and "Hardened Wolf Pelt". And your Paladin of Vengeance gains "Inquisitor's Sense" and "Allied Restitution" at 1st level.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
Then you are better off just not thinking of characters as "generic" types up until they get their first subclass feature. It'd be a lot easier to just rename the 1st level features to be in theme with the subclass. So a character isn't a Wolf Totem barbarian only when they gain their first Wolf Totem feature at 3rd level... instead they are a Wolf Totem barbarian from the very beginning whose first features are "Wolfen Rage" and "Hardened Wolf Pelt". And your Paladin of Vengeance gains "Inquisitor's Sense" and "Allied Restitution" at 1st level.
This isn't about flavor or anything like that, so re-skinning the features isn't the issue. Also, I don't think of characters as generic anyway, especially my own. :)

And before you ask, in case you or someone else is going to, I am not "trying to solve a problem." A lot of people think threads often about addressing a problem and many are. I don't have any issue with the RAW, I am just considering bumping subclasses to level 1 because it makes more sense to me. I see most subclass features as less powerful than those otherwise granted at level 1 and 2.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
I like it, for many of the reasons you cited. Not sure I would do it on a whim though. I don't think it would have too many balance implications per se (5E is good like that) but it would result in some cascading issues (dead levels, larger separation between subclass abilities, mutliclassing concerns, etc).
 

dnd4vr

Hero
I like it, for many of the reasons you cited. Not sure I would do it on a whim though. I don't think it would have too many balance implications per se (5E is good like that) but it would result in some cascading issues (dead levels, larger separation between subclass abilities, mutliclassing concerns, etc).
The more I think about it the more I am inclined to do it. With a little shifting around, I can probably even avoid the dead levels.
 
If you're not going to use multiclassing, there'll likely be minimal issues.

If you are, you can limit the benefits of the subclass, at 1st to some sort of ribbon, or simply use the standard progression only for MCing into the class.

(I know its not what youre after, but, Just staring at 3rd is also a fine idea, in general, especially to create the best possible impression on new/returning players. You can have classic MC combos at 3rd, characters feel more competent, and encounters are more manageable than at 1st.)
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
The more I think about it the more I am inclined to do it. With a little shifting around, I can probably even avoid the dead levels.
Go for it. I'm curious to hear how it goes. For a home game, it's easy enough to monitor and address any balance issues. A published product would require something more regimented of course.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
I dislike that subclasses come so "late" for some classes as well, but It's never bothered me enough to try something like this. It'd probably be fine shrug, especially if multiclassing variant option isn't allowed, or if allowed it was limited to "no more than one" or something so you limit the # of dips.

It seems a little odd that the backstories are they are brand new lvl 1 beginning their adventuring careers... and already have access to advanced techniques and knowledge.
I'm having this debate in another thread right now. They may be beginning their adventuring careers at level 1, but they could not adventure and live their lives as skilled professionals per the PHB/DMG/XGE rules for "Working".

That + Backgrounds tells me that Level 1 PC's in 5e aren't supposed to be fresh to the world/naive PC's a la the Hero's Journey.

They are fresh to the world of Adventure, but not to their chosen profession (class) or how they grew up (background). In those things, they are already proficient enough to actually earn a living doing them.

EDIT: sure, you could play them as young fresh-faced people, but then I'd limit the background options in some way for skills/tools/etc. Dunno. There is a cognitive dissonance for me between the fact that level 1 PCs in 5e are able to make a living with their skills/abilities at a Comfortable lifestyle level and the classic "hero's journey" from fresh faced farm person (Star Wars, Wheel of Time, etc. etc, etc.), so I err on the rules side and assume older people as PC's.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Why not just start at level 3?
I know this doesn't help the OP since he/she already addressed this, but that's actually what starting at level 3 was designed for.

When the game came out, the design team mentioned several times how the first 2 levels were to allow players who liked the zero to hero style to be able to do that, and for those who wanted their PCs to start as more heroic, could start right at level 3.
 
If that was true, no one would EVER house-rule a thing. 5E plays perfectly well strictly RAW.
I disagree. Because the way people play varies significantly, so what plays perfectly well at some tables may cause problems at others. Which is why house rules are core rules.

If, at your table, choosing a subclass later than 1st level caused a problem, then I would say that house-ruling a change is a good idea.

But you said there was not a problem. Ergo I would suggest changing it would be pointless tinkering at best, and cause an unforeseen problem at worst.
 
In the dnd next playtest all subclasses started from level one at some point, but then the designers decided that they wanted 1-2 levels to be introductory or tutorial levels where the character is not fully defined or has a specialization yet so they bumped them to level 3.

Following that there were complaints it didn't make sense flavor-wise for some classes like sorcerer, warlock or cleric to gain specialization at level 3 and we ended up with what we have.

if you moved subclass to level 1 it would probably unbalance the class, but hopefully in 5.5e or something all subclasses start from level 1 or at least gained at the same levels across classes.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
I dislike that subclasses come so "late" for some classes as well, but It's never bothered me enough to try something like this. It'd probably be fine shrug, especially if multiclassing variant option isn't allowed, or if allowed it was limited to "no more than one" or something so you limit the # of dips.
I would definitely limit multiclassing to one additional class.

I know this doesn't help the OP since he/she already addressed this, but that's actually what starting at level 3 was designed for.

When the game came out, the design team mentioned several times how the first 2 levels were to allow players who liked the zero to hero style to be able to do that, and for those who wanted their PCs to start as more heroic, could start right at level 3.
Maybe I could start the characters at level 3, but with level 1 HP? When they hit the xp to "level" I can just give additional hp as normal, until they reach level 3 and then will get their first ASI at level 4 as normal. But then of course I am more worried about having all the power so early on... I don't know but its a thought.

I disagree. Because the way people play varies significantly, so what plays perfectly well at some tables may cause problems at others. Which is why house rules are core rules.

If, at your table, choosing a subclass later than 1st level caused a problem, then I would say that house-ruling a change is a good idea.

But you said there was not a problem. Ergo I would suggest changing it would be pointless tinkering at best, and cause an unforeseen problem at worst.
Well, obviously I disagree with your disagree. ;)

People house-rule things often just because they want a change in a mechanic or rule, it doesn't mean it is broken or doesn't work RAW. If that was they case, no one would ever play it that way, but people do.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I am just curious if anyone plays with choosing subclasses at level 1 instead of waiting until level 3 (in most cases)?

I was thinking about it for our next game and wanted feedback from people who have tired it.

EDIT: (just to address the questions so far)

No, I am not thinking of adding anything at level 3 to replace the subclass choice/features.
I am thinking I might delay level 1 and 2 features to level 2 and 3, respectively.

Ex. Fighter:
1 - subclass choice and features
2 - fighting style, second wind
3- action surge

I might or might not do this.

Thanks!
Yes, absolutely. I allow swaps for appropriate level-1 abilities that give a nod toward the intended archetype.

For example, at Level 1, an Eldritch Knight can swap out proficiencies with shield and heavy armor, plus then spend the Fighting Style, to get always-on Mage Armor, plus a cantrip of choice.

So far, every class with the issue has found some way to actualize the archetype at level 1.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Just go ahead and do it. Even if it does unbalance some classes, the easier fights will just increase the speed of XP gain and everyone will blow straight through to level 3 and balance everything back.
 
People house-rule things often just because they want a change in a mechanic or rule
Only if they think the change will have an effect.

it doesn't mean it is broken or doesn't work RAW. If that was they case, no one would ever play it that way, but people do.
You haven't accepted different playstyles. This is a game that can be played VERY differently between different groups, even when each of those groups consider themselves playing RAW. What works fine in one game might cause problems in another.
 

Ruin Explorer

Adventurer
Maybe I could start the characters at level 3, but with level 1 HP? When they hit the xp to "level" I can just give additional hp as normal, until they reach level 3 and then will get their first ASI at level 4 as normal. But then of course I am more worried about having all the power so early on... I don't know but its a thought.
What's your goal with the HP? I ask because, having played an awful lot of D&D, including 5E, my experience is that L1 and L2 having low HP just makes the game very wonky in combat for L1 and L2. You hit 3 and suddenly the game feels like it's playing like it should play. Likewise spell slots (presumably you'd give them L1 and L2 spell slots?). It's L3 when it finally feels like you have enough to making real choices.

What is it you find attractive about having this brief period of different gameplay?

With less abilities it makes sense as a "get used to your character" period with the HP as a side-effect. But with the abilities, it seems like it's just a very brief "survival mode" before the game proper starts.
 

Ashrym

Adventurer
I would say "just start at 3rd level". Multiclassing is the only real issue I see (I haven't tried this) unless your games linger at 1st level.

Also, bards need to be in every game. ;)
 

dnd4vr

Hero
What's your goal with the HP? I ask because, having played an awful lot of D&D, including 5E, my experience is that L1 and L2 having low HP just makes the game very wonky in combat for L1 and L2. You hit 3 and suddenly the game feels like it's playing like it should play. Likewise spell slots (presumably you'd give them L1 and L2 spell slots?). It's L3 when it finally feels like you have enough to making real choices.

What is it you find attractive about having this brief period of different gameplay?

With less abilities it makes sense as a "get used to your character" period with the HP as a side-effect. But with the abilities, it seems like it's just a very brief "survival mode" before the game proper starts.
Actually, I feel the opposite, personally. I find as character acquire more HP the game becomes too easy, especially in 5E. Then it no longer feels like it is playing like is should play. To me, the entire game should feel like survival mode.

I'll talk to our group Saturday and see what they think.
 

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