Okay, this conversation started with my previous post… from an hour ago.

Now is the thing about character classes.

My group started playing 5e about a year after its release. My first outing was with a tiefling necromancer (“Venger”), and I’ve played a few other race/class combinations since then: a half-orc paladin (“The Law”), a halfling rogue (“Fuzzy Bobbit”), and most recently a tiefling bard (“Common”). I’ve seen most, if not all, of the races and classes in play by now.

And some of the classes are definitely better than others. Not just in the sense that they’re more or less fun to play, but like… the barbarian class for example, has scarcely changed since 3e. And it was kind of boring then. I shouldn’t have to point out that 4e did some interesting things with barbarians (notably in the Rage powers, and with the Berserker subtype), which were cast aside.

I’ve done some work over the last few months to peel away the layers of 5e classes.

In the process, I created five semi-unique spell progression types, because I’m developing a bunch of different spellcasting classes. Two of the types are “hedge” magic-users, who receive 15 spell slots throughout their career (but no cantrips!), and max out at either 5th- or 7th-level spells. Full “casters” receive 20 spell slots, and likewise cap out at either 5th- or 7th-level spells.

Wizards have a unique spell progression that carries them all the way to 9th-level spells, though they receive only 20 spell slots in total.

This follows a thought I had about 3e’s Base Attack Bonus: there were three “grades” of BAB at 1/2, 3/4, and 1/1, but only two of them really mattered. If you had a BAB progression of 1/2 what was the point of attacking? In that vein, I didn’t bother creating spell progression granting access below 5th-level, or that granted fewer than 3/4 your level in spell slots.

Hedge casters that lack cantrips though? Will generally have better non-spell options, or some kind of pet.

Then of course, there’s the matter of basic class feature acquisition. I’m doing a couple things differently that really mean that I’m going to have to… uh, do some things differently.

For starters, I’m merging race and class. I might have mentioned that before, but I have like a zillion reasons to do it now–the career/skill system is complex enough that it’s unnecessary to provide -SO MANY- character options. There will of course be overlap between races and certain classes–woodsy elves will overlap with the Ranger class, while dark elves overlap with Assassins, and high elves overlap with Wizards (or something).

It seems pretty clear to me that WotC put a lot of effort into recrafting and rebranding their warlock class into something special since it debuted in 3e. In 5e, the warlock gets to choose a patron and a special gift, plus some invocations that modify how their class features work–or grant them unique, additional effects. The warlock got… a lot of attention, it seems.

I figure I can take the basic format of what was used to make the warlock special and apply the same concept to the neglected classes (basically everyone else), which will do a lot to repair the damage that was done to these classes between 4e/5e… but there’s another problem that prompted me to go back and reread some of my previous posts about Utility powers in 4e…

The problem I noticed is that most classes don’t get any novel powers beyond 10th level–in fact, most don’t receive novel powers beyond 3rd level–which is a real drag all around. Well, except for magic-users, who arguably continue receiving new class features in the form of new spell levels well into the second half of their career.

Oh sure, the fighter might be better off in 5e than he’s been in previous editions (well, except 4e, where the fighter was arguably more effective than the wizard straight out of the Player’s Handbook), but without all the archetype stuff (and even with it…), there just isn’t anything all that -SPECIAL- about advancing beyond a certain point in most classes.

The monk class might receive a metric -TON- of class features, but how many of them really change the way the class plays? Same for the barbarian, the rogue, the fighter, the ranger, or the paladin.

Now, I’ll concede that a few of those classes (notably the paladin) have some things to help sustain them into the upper tiers of adventuring–being able to burn spell slots to power their smites helps make up for their dismal spell list–but the two barbarian archetypes feel like two halves of the same class: why does a player have to choose between them?

The benefits from either aren’t phenomenal. None of the listed effects are game-breaking, and they’re all… less than what a magic-user gets.

There’s a big letdown with “incremental” character advances, like getting “some more hit points,” or “another spell slot.” On the one hand, I’m aiming to reduce the number of “increment-only” class features, while also fleshing classes out so they aren’t quite as anemic.

Before I close here, I also want to say that I have no intention of padding out classes with ludicrous and trivial bonuses like Pathfinder. I read over a ton of material in preparation for this phase of development, and I found the Pathfinder classes ridiculously bloated and weighed down with utterly meaningless “filler” features. Skill bonuses? In 3e? Still? Who wants skill bonuses?