Friday, June 22, 2012

Classes for D&D Next

I've discussed what makes a class, and some class options here before, but when I lay my ideas out, they don't look too bad. This is the latest version of my list of the best classes to include in D&D Next, or any retroclone. I've put the list together here and broken it down into four categories: basic, intermediate, advanced, and later-on. These could have just as easily been basic, expert, master, optional, or common, uncommon, rare, unique. The labels for the four classes aren't particularly important, they just show a ranking of what is probably core to every D&D game, moves onto traditional classes, then some less-traditional or non-western classes, and some others that could be added.

There are lots of classes out there for various versions of D&D. Some are well done (thematic and make balanced or at least useful party members), others less so. Many are designed for PCs, while others are for NPCs. I've tried to narrow the list down to the classes that I think offer broad coverage of character archetypes and are appropriate for PC use. Each of these probably can be built with a customizable "build" option, so fighters might have fighting styles, rogues have their talents, clerics their domains and deities, and wizards their specialty schools. Likewise, druids might venerate specific forces, sorcerers might have their bloodlines, warlocks their pacts, ans so forth.

Just about every game will have the four basic classes. The intermediate classes add some more options, but don't really stray from the realm of standard (A)D&D fantasy. Advanced classes do dip into some non-western options, and options that might provide more moral dilemmas and may not be appropriate for every heroic game. Finally, I have a few concepts that are probably class-worthy, but might be better added in specific campaign settings. This simply follows some of the class ideas laid out by the D&D Next designers, its not my innovation at all.

  • Cleric
  • Fighter
  • Rogue
  • Wizard  
  • Bard
  • Berserker (Barbarian)
  • Druid
  • Paladin
  • Ranger
  • Sorcerer
None of the intermediate classes are really controversial. They all appeared in the third edition players' handbook. They could substitute for one of the basic classes or be optional classes. Each is still quite distinct.

  • Ardent
  • Monk
  • Psion
  • Shaman
  • Warlock
  • Warlord
This tier of classes includes some potential outliers. I include the Ardent here not as the 4e version, but similar to the 3.5 Ardent and Divine Mind combined. My ardent draws psionic power via belief, so he's a priest of philosophies, rater than of forces (druids) or gods (clerics).

I've argued elsewhere that the Shaman is useful in the game. I think the warlord also has a dedicated set of fans as well as a solid conceptual niche, just like the psion.

Later On:
  • Assassin*
  • Invoker*
  • Runecaster/Runepriest
  • Artificer
  • Sha'ir
  • Duskblade/Bladesinger/Swordmage
The Later On tier of classes is the sort of thing you expect to find as optional classes, either released online or in specific campaign settings.

I'm open to moving the Assassin and Invoker up to the Advanced tier of classes, or perhaps doing away with them entirely. The Assassin could easily be folded into a well-designed rogue, but could stand on its own as a concept. The Invoker fills the role of the prophet or oracle, and I think that's potentially quite distinct from the cleric's role. The main reason I've moved them down to the Later On tier is because I think the Shaman really should be included in the basic game, and I'm trying to keep the list as minimalistic as I can while including a broad range of coverage. Frankly, an old-testament prophet or hired killer could be covered by the rogue or cleric, depending on the implementation of those classes. I think they're great concepts, but perhaps not as broad as the Shaman.

Each of the other classes is a distinct type of spellcaster, just like Wizards, Warlocks, and Sorcerers are. That's the sort of thing that covers some specific conceptual ground, and might warrant being a class, particularly if its properly tied into the setting.

I guess we'll see what the designers of D&D Next think, but its hard not to arrive at some similar conclusions for which classes they'll include. The only big difference is my strong support for the shaman, and inclusion of some psionics (Ardent and Psion) as advanced classes.

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