Monday, November 17, 2014

What's the point of different classes?

Again, thinking about 5E spell casters. 

Classes exist in the game to allow players to do different things.  In OD&D, Fighters fight.  MUs use magic.  Clerics do a little of both.  Yet even here, MU spells and Cleric spells are not the same.  Cleric spells help us.  MU spells hurt them.  OK both have utility spells and some of the other's main type.  But to break it down simply, the analogy works.

In 5E we get Bards, Clerics and Druids whose spells on the whole "help us" and Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards whose spells mostly "hurt them."

Do we really need this?  Would 2 caster classes be enough?


  1. Both bards and druids do other stuff beyond spellcasting w.r.t. wizards and clerics; spells are not their only focus. So if you are interested in "other stuff", yes you need them. If not, no you don't.

  2. once there's a host of options, backgrounds, and variants a surplus of options does seem to rear it's head. If individual character customations is rich/widespread enough a campaign could likely manage just fine with Adventurers and Adepts as two.classes.

  3. Sometimes I look at the class lists as a menu for worldbuilding. In fact I think it is a bad idea to have all classes in a single campaign. Deciding what type of heroes and traditions do and do not exists in your world says a lot about it.

    Magic more than any other area too.

    Say all magic in your campaign world is musical in some way - every spell is also a song (plenty of examples of this in fiction and more than a few from "historical" accounts of magic). You could allow Bard and disallow other magic users, or allow one or two other with some minor changes to fluff.

    Or suppose you run a campaign in a primeval, primitive, perhaps even stone age world. You would probably want to do without organised religion, so clerics and paladins are out. Druids would probably be the main spellcasters and barbarians, rangers and rogues would probably eclipse fighters.

    Anyway, you get my point, having some crossover lets you tailor the flavour of your campaign without breaking the game. Kitchen sink campaigns can be a lot of fun but seem to have become default - there's no need to order One of Everything each time you sit down to eat.*

    *wait how many metaphors did I even use in that sentence?

  4. Antonio, your point with the Cleric vs. Druid is a good one, and runs along with my line of thinking here. They have a lot of similar spells, but their other "magical" powers are different. Clerics get to wield positive energy, Druids get to shapeshift. They do some different things.

    Sorcerer vs. Wizard, however, doesn't have such a big difference. Sorcerers (in 5E) get metamagic and some draconic traits or wild magic. Wizards get to specialize in one area of magic (which is pretty much like metamagic effects) and a wider array of spells. But the spells are for the most part the same.

    There's a similar argument to be made about the warrior classes. Do we really need Fighters, Rangers, Paladins, Monks and Barbarians?

    Like Dan says, it's useful for running different sorts of campaigns. But in my experience at least, specialized theme campaigns like that don't tend to run very long. Kitchen sink campaigns tend to run longer.

    Anyway, I'm thinking Gavin Norman's idea to just use the core 4 classes with specialization options from the other classes available might be more to my liking if I ever run a 5E game.