D&D General What Should Today's Archetypes Be

  • Cleric because mythology-inspired settings need gods and religion
  • Monk because of Asian influences on modern fantasy, especially shonen manga
No way would either of these happen.

Monks are pure 1970s. Absolute pure 1970s. There is no other decade in the 20th or 21st centuries where that class could have been developed. Not one. Even if we just shifted to the 1980s, Monks would be out, and the "martial arts" class would be Ninjas.

Instead if it was like, any time in the last 20 years, we'd have some kind of martial-artist class, but one that owed vastly more to - yes shonen manga as you say, and to videogames like the Street Fighter series. They would be absolutely nothing like D&D's Monk except that they'd fight unarmed and unarmoured by default. They wouldn't necessarily fast or agile, particularly - many of these characters are big bruisers - they wouldn't all have similar abilities at all - they'd probably have a large array of abilities to customize themselves with, and could probably be STR or DEX-type based (or whatever similar stats the game used).

Clerics would never happen. They're a freak of nature. D&D does not have them because you need gods and religion, and gods and religion don't require heavily-armoured mace-wielders with massive magical powers. They only happened in D&D because there was a Vampire PC (he had his own class and everything), and another player wanted a class to counter him, so they sort of mashed up Bishop Odo and Van Helsing and ton of largely Abrahamic myth for the spells. This worked unexpectedly well so we have Clerics today and whilst D&D has revisited a Vampire class (in 4E for example), it's not been a permanent addition.

You might have a priest-type spellcaster, but they'd be a robe-wearer, and probably have a lot more in common with the Warlock than they do with any form of priest/cleric character in D&D.

Otherwise I think a lot of your guesses are not bad at all!

Barbarian/Fighter/Rogue could very easily be one class picking abilities too - the sort of characters in fiction who fit that have massive crossover with each other.

I think one thing people are missing is a Dark Knight/Vampire Knight-type character - this concept predates D&D by a fair way, and it often pops up in quite non-D&D-ish fantasy. It's actually weird as hell D&D doesn't have one, I think because "bad Paladin" often occupies similar thought-space.
 

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If we assume that all the things derived from D&D (like Final Fantasy, Elder Scrolls, etc.) remain even though they wouldn't exist without D&D having existed first...
  • Humans are a no-brainer.
  • I'm obviously very biased, but "dragon-person" is a fairly popular concept. It might not have cashed out in the very specific way that it did, e.g. there might be a gracile subrace (along the lines of the "spellscale") and a beefy subrace (akin to what we have now), but some kind of reptilian option seems pretty likely, and tying it to dragons is a no-brainer for popularity.
  • Elves have staying power. 'nuff said.
  • Instead of dwarves, we might have gotten some kind of beastkin (cat-people are pretty popular, but wolf-/dog-/fox- or ungulate-people would both be reasonable options.)
  • Plant-person and construct-person might also be a thing.
  • Could use a hyperintelligent race...perhaps an energy-being of some kind? Or maybe this is where the "catgirl"-type species goes, the ones that aren't really beast-like but have just a light touch of non-human characteristics.
  • One of gnome, goblin, or kobold would likely also fit. Kobolds have a surprisingly ardent following online these days, and PF shows that goblins can be well-loved. Gnomes can be kind of irritating but they too have some ardent fans (and, as the ridiculous 4e gnome brouhaha shows, sometimes it doesn't matter if it's actually liked or not...)
  • Changeling might fit in well, especially with the modern emphasis on the fluidity of identity and embracing LGBTQ+/nonbinary/etc. characters.
  • Tieflings are probably another no-brainer, mixed demon and human blood is an ooooold trope for both East and West. Might even have aasimar, tiefling, genasi, etc. as all one single race with varying magical bloodlines attached.
  • Therianthropy is a popular trope, again in both East and West, with numerous representations in film/TV and video games, so I can't imagine there not being something like that, though whether it would cash out as the Eberron "shifter" option is much more debatable.
  • Half-vampire--again, beloved East and West, edgy but flexible. Hard to go wrong there.

As far as classes...
  • Paladin is pretty much a shoe-in, "knight in shining armor" is too classic. This might also end up absorbing the Fighter, who could have a purely personal oath/dedication/focus--e.g. the "Oath of the Champion" or the like.
  • Likewise, Bard, via things like the Final Fantasy Red Mage and the existing Rogue/Thief archetype
  • Sorcerer is a maybe, quite flavorful as a concept but perhaps cashing out in a rather different way (e.g. Clive from FFXVI is arguably a Sorcerer, just one who uses heavy melee attacks augmented with magic). Probably would have Dragon, Genie, Fae, and Demon/Devil/Darkness/etc. as choices.
  • Druid, leaning almost exclusively on shapeshifting with a touch of magic rather than magic with a touch of shapeshifting, specializing in specific forms for specific subclasses
  • Priest rather than Cleric--Cleric was very much a product of its time, and the really narrow "Van Helsing crossed with an ordained mendicant monk" thing probably wouldn't be a core thing, more likely a "grim and gritty" subclass of Paladin. Domains would probably still exist (they're a useful way to differentiate deities)
  • Monk, perhaps by a different name, very very likely--between the sustained popularity of martial arts films and things like Avatar the Last Airbender, there's plenty of appetite for such things
  • Instead of Rogue, something like "Ninja" or "Assassin," treated as a broader space that can hold more things inside, e.g. fully "mystic" Ninjas to capture the Naruto fanbase, "holy" Ninjas to capture the Assassin's Creed fanbase, etc.
  • Some kind of Wizard would probably still exist, but I would expect MAJOR influences from Harry Potter, Dresden Files, and EverQuest/World of Warcraft here, so they would not necessarily be the highly-complex class we know today.
  • If "Fighter" remains as a distinct class, it would be more focused on particular traditions of combat rather than being ultra-generic. E.g. the Samurai Fighter, the Swordmage Fighter, the Guerilla Fighter, etc.
  • Ranger probably sticks around just because "hunter" is such a classic concept and we'd still have the influence of things like Green Arrow and Legolas, but I would imagine it having less overt nature association (could possibly get absorbed by Fighter)
  • Barbarian definitely either continues to exist as its own thing (influenced more by things like Dragon Ball Z, Berserk, and superhero comics), or as a Fighter subclass
  • Artificer steps up to take the place of Wizard as the "big brain" class, drawing on Iron Man, Batman, MacGuyver, Sokka/the Mechanist, the Cids of every FF game, etc. Someone who uses magical tools, and magic as a tool. Alchemist, Battlesmith, Gadgeteer...all good subclasses, each with solid representation in video games and usually other media as well.
That's twelve races (counting plants and constructs separately) and twelve classes (if Fighter is neither absorbed by, nor absorbs, any other class). Seems pretty solid to me.
I think the idea was to go back to more of a year 0, so no influences from D&D’s offspring
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Monks are pure 1970s. Absolute pure 1970s. There is no other decade in the 20th or 21st centuries where that class could have been developed. Not one. Even if we just shifted to the 1980s, Monks would be out, and the "martial arts" class would be Ninjas.
I think a more mythical Monk, based on Avatar: the Last Airbender, is still quite possible.

I think the idea was to go back to more of a year 0, so no influences from D&D’s offspring
Then it is impossible to answer the question. Modern fantasy fiction works, particularly video games, are far too contaminated with D&D tropes. We cannot talk about what a completely D&D-less world would look like because we have no touchstones. You'd have to ignore pretty much all of Western and Eastern CRPGs, particularly MMOs, and much of the fantasy fiction written between (roughly) 1980 and now. What things would have sprung up in their place? Who knows! Harry Potter would probably still happen, but apart from that, it's almost impossible to say.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I mean, D&D does have Warlocks and they are arguably the "edge lord" caster so that's kind of happened.

I do think in general casters would lean significantly edgier and less wildly nerdy.
D&D Warlocks are pretty tame IMO. I don't think that you could use the 5e Warlock to play a WoW-style warlock or a Diablo and Guild War-style necromancer. It can only produce the most milquetoast version of Elric of Melniboné too. But I've also had many players walk away from the Death Cleric and Necromancer Wizard being sorely disappointed with their ability to live up to the archetype fantasy. Same with the Warlock. What's written on the tin versus what the class actually delivers in its play experience.

We already have that in the form of new games on DriveThruRPG coming out every day. Today, it's Wasted Lands: The Dreaming Age. Tomorrow it will be something different.
This means nothing to me.
 


I think a more mythical Monk, based on Avatar: the Last Airbender, is still quite possible.
They just wouldn't be a Monk though in any way that matters. They'd be a Sorcerer or other spontaneous caster, just instead of weapons training they'd have unarmed training.

D&D Monk chassis is just so tightly "Shaolin Monk" and even in Avatar, only the titular Avatar really has that Shaolin Monk vibe, the rest of them are just people who mix up magic and martial arts, most of them leaning pretty hard towards magic.

Talking of casters, one thing that the game definitely wouldn't have - spell slots or anything like them. It'd either have spellcasters getting tired by their spells, or MP or something similar.
 

D&D Warlocks are pretty tame IMO. I don't think that you could use the 5e Warlock to play a WoW-style warlock or a Diablo and Guild War-style necromancer. It can only produce the most milquetoast version of Elric of Melniboné too. But I've also had many players walk away from the Death Cleric and Necromancer Wizard being sorely disappointed with their ability to live up to the archetype fantasy. Same with the Warlock. What's written on the tin versus what the class actually delivers in its play experience.
I don't see any reason at all why you couldn't have a WoW-style Warlock with D&D's Warlock. They're fundamentally very similar. Just go Pact of the Chain, and the only differences would be because the underlying mechanics of D&D and WoW are different - it'd be same complaint that a WoW Warrior is cooler than a D&D Fighter. Sure, but like, not for thematic reasons, just because they're literally more powerful.

Re: Diablo-style Necromancers though absolutely. Early D&D never worked out a good way to deal with Necromancers, and neither has later D&D. That said, has any TT RPG really handled it well? I'm not sure it's really possible to do a mass-minion class of that kind in a tabletop RPG, not and get the same experience.

Guild Wars style Necromancer though hmmm, that is more possible as a tabletop class.

Not sure what you mean re: Elric. Elric is just a Fighter/Mage with a serious health problem and a very powerful magic sword. If he's milquetoast in D&D, it's because you didn't give him a good enough Stormbringer.

Definitely agree re: Death Cleric/Necromancer Wizard and I've seen the same. I haven't seen the same with Warlock, because they're an incredibly effective class (Fiend, especially).
 

What things would have sprung up in their place? Who knows! Harry Potter would probably still happen, but apart from that, it's almost impossible to say.
I don't think it's completely impossible. I actually asked this question myself, I think before the pandemic. D&D's influence isn't instant and everywhere, it's not until the late 1980s that it's really becoming hard to untangle.

Every fantasy novel up to the early 1980s, is basically free of D&D influence. Even into the modern day, the vast majority of literary fantasy, written fantasy, is not significantly D&D influenced. There is a minority which is, but we could put that to the side (Malazan for example is out entirely, as it was based on an AD&D then GURPs campaign).

I do think there would be significantly less written fantasy though, because an awful lot fantasy writers were RPG players before they got into fantasy writing, and it was part of their reason for doing so - most even of those don't actually reflect D&D tropes/ideas in their work, I note.

Videogames it's tougher, because fantasy videogames grow almost entirely from a D&D root. Without D&D there's no Final Fantasy, no Dragon Quest, no Ultima, no EverQuest, no Warcraft (or Warhammer as we know it) and speeding up to the modern day that for example means no Elden Ring, because it's ancestry goes back to Demon's Souls which is directly evolved from 1/2E AD&D influences and King's Field.

Anime/manga is also heavily influenced.

But looking at early trends, if there was no D&D there, I think videogames and anime/manga would have embraced fantasy, just of a more "Sword and Sorcery" vibe than a D&D vibe. So more musclebound barbarians, fewer armoured knights. Probably more weird races like cat and lizard people, fewer Tolkienian races like elves and dwarves. Probably more mythological influence too.

Moorcock would also probably be more directly known as an influence and I think steamage/steampunk stuff would have actually come into fantasy even more and even earlier as a result, as a ton of his work is steampunk/dieselpunk. There'd probably an Elric anime, for example.
 

Then it is impossible to answer the question. Modern fantasy fiction works, particularly video games, are far too contaminated with D&D tropes. We cannot talk about what a completely D&D-less world would look like because we have no touchstones. You'd have to ignore pretty much all of Western and Eastern CRPGs, particularly MMOs, and much of the fantasy fiction written between (roughly) 1980 and now. What things would have sprung up in their place? Who knows! Harry Potter would probably still happen, but apart from that, it's almost impossible to say.
It is not impossible to say, you just don’t have much, if any, certainty in what you say. But speculation and be fun and interesting.

One reason I haven’t answered the OP’s call is I am still wrapping my head around the premise and what would actually result from it.
 

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