Monday, July 28, 2014

Character Class Options in D&D 5e

Here's the full list of classes.  Wow, that's a lot to work with.  Not only because players have a whopping 12 character classes, but now each class has a variety of kits or sub-classes, emphasizing a specific aspect of that class.  Let's take a closer look at each package...

Barbarian: A barbarian picks a primal path that reflects the nature of the character's rage. The two options in the Player's Handbook are the Path of the Berserker and the Path of the Totem Warrior. The berserker fights with an implacable fury, while the totem warrior channels the magic of beasts to augment his or her rage.

That's cool.  I kind of wish there had been three sub-classes instead of just two, but hey... two is better than one.  How about something reflecting Thundarr or Conan - if I come up with something awesome, I'll do a separate write-up.

Bard: Each bard is inspired by a college—a loose affiliation of like-minded bards who share lore, stories, and performances. The Player's Handbook presents the College of Lore, which focuses on knowledge and performance, and the College of Valor, which focuses on inspiring bravery on the battlefield.

Is it me, or does the Bard seem to be less a watered down Fighter/Wizard and more its own thing now?  I think that's a good thing.  For too long the Bard was just a cool sounding name with wasted potential.  The whole College thing adds roleplaying and setting/campaign possibilities.

Cleric: Cleric domains reflect the nature of the gods and shape the magic a character wields. The domains in the Player's Handbook are Knowledge, Life, Light, Nature, Tempest, Trickery, and War.

My first thought - why is Tempest italicized?  My second, are Life, Light, Nature, and Trickery really the best lowest common denominator domains for Clerics?  War is a no-brainer but Life and Light just seem like two generic sides of the same coin, and Nature makes me think he'll encroach onto the Druid's territory (perhaps literally).

Druid: A druid joins a circle—one of a number of loose alliances of like-minded druids who share similar outlooks on nature, balance, and the way of druidic magic. The Circle of the Land allows a druid to select a type of terrain from which he or she draws magic. The Circle of the Moon augments a druid's ability to transform into various beasts.

I love the "type of terrain".  Having desert druids and swamp druids and mountain druids makes sense and enriches the setting / campaign world.  Kudos for the outside-the-box Circle of the Moon... a were-druid?  Awesome!

Fighter: All fighters select a martial archetype that reflects a specific approach to combat. The Champion is a mighty warrior who scores deadly critical hits in combat. The Battle Master is a flexible, cunning tactician. The Eldritch Knight masters magic that allows him or her to protect allies and devastate foes.

Sweet!  Low maintenance old school types can have their closer-to-1st-edition Fighter in the Champion.  WotC D&D fans can have their special move heavy Battle Master along with Figher/Wizard hybrid that I'm sure will have its own exotic flavor. 

Monk: A monk commits to a monastic tradition, defined by a specific form of martial arts that helps channel and shape the use of ki energy. The Way of the Open Hand augments a monk's unarmed strikes and allows mastery of the deadly quivering palm technique. The Way of Shadow turns a monk into a stealthy warrior who manipulates darkness to confuse and confound enemies. The Way of the Four Elements allows a monk to channel ki into spells and blasts of elemental energy.

Sometimes, fantasy RPGs give the Monk everything but the kitchen sink.  Other times, he gets just the essentials or is simply left out altogether.  Its hard to know what Monks deserve since one extreme or the other is usually too far in either direction.  After all, what is he?  Martial artist?  Wanderer?  Mystic?  Unarmed Cleric?  The sub-classes of Open Hand, Shadow, and Four Elements sharpens the focus, getting the grab back proportional.  I think 5e is doing great things with the Monk and Bard.

Paladin: All paladins take an oath—a pledge to a code of conduct that guides their lives and shapes their abilities. The Oath of Devotion binds a paladin to the ideal of justice, virtue, and order. The Oath of the Ancients pledges a paladin to protect the natural world and preserve hope across the land. The Oath of Vengeance turns a paladin into a deadly avenger who seeks out and punishes wrongdoers.

Again, I like marrying the sub-classes to background elements like ideals, bonds, flaws, etc.  And this explains why Paladins don't have to be lawful good.  Regardless of alignment, it saves players from constantly having to define and reiterate that their character isn't the standard paladin but a paladin that seeks out the immoral or a paladin who's part of something like King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, etc.

Ranger: A ranger selects an archetype that reflects his or her ideals and relationship to nature. The Hunter stands guard in the wilderness, stopping threats before they can menace civilization. The Beast Master cultivates a powerful bond to creatures, fighting alongside them to bring down enemies.

Makes sense.  I like the class tying in with ideals.  And I'm really glad that if they aren't going to use "he" or "his" that they include both genders.  I never understood why so many RPG books starting using "she" and "her" exclusively.  Is there overlap between the Barbarian's Totem Warrior and the Ranger's Beast Master?  Probably, but I'm sure the execution will differentiate them enough - hopefully not just in a "power A vs. power B" way.  I want to see story/character/setting reasons for why things are the way they are.

Rogue: A rogue selects a roguish archetype that reflects his or her approach to crime and chicanery. The Thief is an evasive, sneaky trickster. The Assassin is a focused and quiet killer. The Arcane Trickster uses enchantment and illusion magic to enact his or her schemes.

That's awesome!  Now the old school has its Thief back... and their Assassin!  Also, 3rd edition fans can have a Rogue/Wizard type without the hassle of multiclassing.  Makes sense because there are so many different kinds of Rogues out there.  I could see WotC or a 3rd party creating a Scoundrel type sub-class.  Who doesn't want to see Han Solo in the local tavern wearing leather armor and holding a hand crossbow below the table?  Of course, you could do that with either the Thief or Assassin.  It'll be interesting to see how diverse these sub-classes get.  Will there eventually be dozens for each class, all with tiny details to differentiate themselves?

Sorcerer: A sorcerer's magic arises from a sorcerous origin—the event, ancestry, or quirk of fate that gifted the character with power. The Draconic Bloodline reflects a sorcerer's distant dragon ancestry, and grants powers that reflect a dragon's nature. Wild Magic imbues a sorcerer with the energy of raw chaos, producing unpredictable results from his or her magic.

I like it.  'Nuff said.

Warlock: A warlock's patron shapes this class's power. The Archfey grants beguiling magic useful for trickery and quick escapes. The Fiend imparts the power of destructive fire and diabolic resistance. The mysterious Great Old One grants telepathic abilities and chilling glimpses into the nature of the multiverse.

Ok, before getting into my favorite part (and filling my pants with a Lovecraftian load), I love the Fiend sub-class.  As divorced as 2e D&D tried to be from demons, the occult, and Satanism, this goes back to the sword & sorcery literature of Robert E. Howard.  Nice!  

The Great Old Ones!!!  From the days of yore... Deities & Demigods to 5th edition.  Every RPG from here to Albuquerque has dipped their big toe into the fetid subterranean lake that is H.P. Lovecraft.  Finally, the Cthulhu Mythos has come home!  Please let their be a large and monstrous illustration of the Dreaded One on that page.  Ia Ia Cthulhu Fhtagn! The only possible downside?  How can I be expected to play anything but a Warlock now?  Unless, the cleric can tap into the Great Old Ones as well...  Ok, I feel another write-up approaching.

Wizard: A wizard selects an arcane tradition—the specific approach to the study of magic that shapes his or her outlook and talents. Though many traditions exist, the Player's Handbook focuses on the established schools of D&D magic—Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, and Transmutation.

The third and final dedicated spellcaster class looks pretty standard.  This must be a world filled with magic!  Not only do you have Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard but Arcane Trickster and Eldritch Knight along with the Cleric, Druid, and possibly Bard.

So, there you have it.  Got something to say?  Leave a comment.