D&D 5E What if everyone in the setting had a [Class]?

TwoSix

Dirty, realism-hating munchkin powergamer
Of course the Theive's Guild wouldn't be filled with 15th level rogues, because in DnD terms that is crazy strong. But why can't it be filled with level 2 rogues, fighters, rangers, and two artificers?
I mean, I would do something similar.

But I'm thinking of a game like B/X, where a 9th level thief can build a hidden building and then suddenly find 2d6 level 1-2 rogues in town ready and willing to work for him. That, to me, implies the town has quite a few classed individuals!
 

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Pedantic

Legend
I mean, I would do something similar.

But I'm thinking of a game like B/X, where a 9th level thief can build a hidden building and then suddenly find 2d6 level 1-2 rogues in town ready and willing to work for him. That, to me, implies the town has quite a few classed individuals!
I've always proposed that PCs are primarily differentiated from NPCs in that they get their encounters in roughly level appropriate order. That's the leg up that puts them on a steady climb up the pyramid, while most thieves in your average town can run a gang at level 2 with a solid edge from those extra hit points and skill bonuses.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Of course the Theive's Guild wouldn't be filled with 15th level rogues, because in DnD terms that is crazy strong. But why can't it be filled with level 2 rogues, fighters, rangers, and two artificers?

Generally, when I take on this sort of challenge, If they are doing something on the level of a guardsmen or a soldier, they are between levels 2 and 3. Level 5 is for notable people. The Captain of the Town Watch, the Bishop of the City. Level 11 is for people who are IMPORTANT on a geo-political level. The King's Champion, the Sage of the Northern Winds, The Kingpin. Beyond that, you are dealing with multi-generational legends.

I think this does vary between editions and even campaigns. One of Eberron's impactful design elements was that there aren't high-level NPC's, for instance (contrasting your Elminsters and your Mordenkainens). While in AD&D, mid-level spellcasters are common enough in general that you can pay to have a spell cast on your behalf. And 5e would not define those NPC's using class at all, really - a Captain of the Town Watch might be CR 5, but she wouldn't be a 5th level Fighter (probably), so your PC fighter wouldn't really compare notes on specific abilities.

If you want to build your thieves' guild with level 1-2 rogues and your apprentice wizards with level 1-2 wizards, that does make low-level PC's feel much more "a part of the world" than exceptional to it, though they may be exceptional in other ways (higher stats? PC-specific mechanics like feats?). The major barrier to that I see is that there's a lot of complexity in building PC's that there isn't with an NPC statblock, which is why most editions (all except 3e, I think?) prefer that approach. An NPC thief doesn't need [Rogue] class levels. The captain of the town watch needn't be a [Fighter]. But if what you want to do is set the PC's within a setting as part of that setting, that's an effective way to do it!
 

The major barrier to that I see is that there's a lot of complexity in building PC's that there isn't with an NPC statblock, which is why most editions (all except 3e, I think?) prefer that approach. An NPC thief doesn't need [Rogue] class levels. The captain of the town watch needn't be a [Fighter].

Pretty sure I had a ton of official 1e and 2e modules full of level X Fighters and Yth level Rogues.

There is an advantage to that as it is also a shorthand to the GM. If the adventure is for PCs level 6-8 and there is a 2nd level Wizard, the wizard isn't expected to be impressive, but a 12th level wizard might need to be feared. That means if I'm rescaling the adventure I can quickly rebuild those NPCs.

There were probably also a ton of npcs that merely said "0-level" or "commoner" and didn't even have a stat block or shared one common (heh) stat block.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I mean, I would do something similar.

But I'm thinking of a game like B/X, where a 9th level thief can build a hidden building and then suddenly find 2d6 level 1-2 rogues in town ready and willing to work for him. That, to me, implies the town has quite a few classed individuals!

Yeah, and this is one of the reasons I like having the classes be a bit more ubiquitous in my games. If I assume that most thieves are levels 1 or 2, then all that is saying is "after building a hideout in a prosperous town, you find seven successful thieves looking to join your crew" which, isn't THAT many if it is a big enough town/city.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I think this does vary between editions and even campaigns. One of Eberron's impactful design elements was that there aren't high-level NPC's, for instance (contrasting your Elminsters and your Mordenkainens). While in AD&D, mid-level spellcasters are common enough in general that you can pay to have a spell cast on your behalf. And 5e would not define those NPC's using class at all, really - a Captain of the Town Watch might be CR 5, but she wouldn't be a 5th level Fighter (probably), so your PC fighter wouldn't really compare notes on specific abilities.

Agree

If you want to build your thieves' guild with level 1-2 rogues and your apprentice wizards with level 1-2 wizards, that does make low-level PC's feel much more "a part of the world" than exceptional to it, though they may be exceptional in other ways (higher stats? PC-specific mechanics like feats?). The major barrier to that I see is that there's a lot of complexity in building PC's that there isn't with an NPC statblock, which is why most editions (all except 3e, I think?) prefer that approach. An NPC thief doesn't need [Rogue] class levels. The captain of the town watch needn't be a [Fighter]. But if what you want to do is set the PC's within a setting as part of that setting, that's an effective way to do it!

Okay, but now you are talking about two different things.

On one hand, you have "everyone has a class" and in this model of the world, you can talk about classes as objective things. The Captain of the Town Watch is a Level 5 [Guardsman] with the subclass [Captain] and they can speak to you about your levels and abilities, just like you talk about your character sheet.

And on the other hand, you have how you handle that mechanically. I might just grab the CR 5 Gladiator Statblock, or I might just make a dirty block that has X hp, two attacks, a second wind, and a feat or two. The first idea does not require building a character with levels.

Now, one thing I would say, is that it is REALLY interesting to take low CR statblocks, and add racial and class abilities to them. Sure, the Thief doesn't need rogue levels, you can just use a Master Thief or something else. But you can go ahead and add some rogue abilities. Give them some of the soulknife abilities, or some arcane trickster spellcasting. Or some bard or fighter abilities. That's just flavor and making the statblocks more interesting.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Pretty sure I had a ton of official 1e and 2e modules full of level X Fighters and Yth level Rogues.

There is an advantage to that as it is also a shorthand to the GM. If the adventure is for PCs level 6-8 and there is a 2nd level Wizard, the wizard isn't expected to be impressive, but a 12th level wizard might need to be feared. That means if I'm rescaling the adventure I can quickly rebuild those NPCs.

There were probably also a ton of npcs that merely said "0-level" or "commoner" and didn't even have a stat block or shared one common (heh) stat block.

I think this is a really important idea that I want to focus on. Part of the reason, besides it being fun and interesting, to give everyone "levels" is as a shorthand for the world. If I conceive of a town Guard Captain who is level 5, even if I don't give them a statblock, this concept of them frames them in relation to the rest of the party and the world.

It is a shorthand for what the kinds of things I might expect this guy to do, compared to the people under his command, or the people far stronger than him. It makes it an easy shorthand to consider what is possible in the setting, and what might impress them.

Giving everyone a class in the fiction of the game world is more of a matter of strongly declaring that this is how this world works, and that the things you are doing are not unheard of. People may be aware of the types of things you can do, and how much they can expect from you, because the things you can do and the way you function, are native to how the world works. Each tool serves a different narrative or mechanical purpose.
 

The big NPC change in 3e, IMO, was not giving classes to NPCs (as the 1e/2e modules were full of that) it was that they added less-special NPC classes. It was a way of differentiating an "average" person from an "elite" one, even if if they have similar experiences.

Imagine a young lordling (noble2) takes 3 retainers on a quest (fighter1, 3x Warrior1). At the end of the quest all are 6th but the Fighter is operating at a different level. Their attacks hit more often and harder, they may get more attacks or take more abuse because of feats. The Warriors are great in a fight vs goblins and orcs but they know 1 on 1 the Fighter will trounce them. The Fighter is "a natural".

Same goes for a cleric/ divine adept, wizard/Arcane adept or a rogue/expert. They can fight the same battles, stand shoulder to shoulder but where the NPCs endured, the PCs thrived.

It also improves verisimilitude a bit. The odds aren't great for an army of 20,000 commoner(0) against 20,000 Goblins. And where do you get 20k, heck, 10k Fighters?

But 11k Warrior1, 5k Warrior2, 2k Warrior3 and 1k Warrior4 plus 1k "irregulars" (mostly nobles, adepts & experts of similar levels with a couple dozen "hero" classes to spice it up), that feels more coherent. The PCs are exemplary, heroic even, but not surrounded by keystone cops.

And that plausible army has serious potential against a goblin army, even if it includes bugbears, gnolls, and hobgoblins.
 

Yaarel

He Mage
I love reskinning, I do it all the time. But, don't the idea of "reskinning" and the idea of "classes as fictional element" exist in opposition to each other?
It depends on how versatile the class is, and its class mechanics.

For example, the 5e Paladin class is surprisingly versatile. With spell selection, it can represent anything from Tolkien Gandalf, Norse Thor, drow priestess, and many other character concepts. Especially if allowed to swap the damage type of its main Smite feature, it can be Jedi Knight, Elementalist, a Thor wielding lightning-thunder, Death Knight, and so on.

Heh, given the cookie-cutter origins of the Paladin class, the versatility of the 5e Paladin is stunning.
 

Yaarel

He Mage
The mindset I'm trying to understand is "There are thousands of people in the world who are clerics. All of them can turn undead, and cast 2 1st level spells. If you see someone cast spirit guardians, you know they must be a 5th level cleric, and your character knows that, not just you. If that person who cast spirit guardians in only actually 3rd level and has 7 HP, you're cheating, because everyone who can cast spirit guardians is a cleric."
Because "Turn Undead" is a specific Channel Divinity, the Cleric class can easily replace it with a different Channel Divinity instead.

With this variant, not all Clerics can turn Undead.

Similarly, spell selection can help, especially Domain spells.
 

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