We’ve looked at the “Big Four” of D&D 5e (Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard) and what unique mechanics they bring to the table. For this post, let’s go through the other classes and see what they have, shall we?
- Barbarian: This class is all about the Rage. Although it’s limited in duration (and there are some other minor features that make the Barbarian effective outside of it), almost everything in the class is based around it. Reckless Attack is probably the next closest thing the Barbarian has to a defining feature.
- Bard: This class gets a lot: both a block of support abilities (Bardic Inspiration, Song of Rest, Countercharm) and some versatility features (Jack of All Trades, Expertise, Magical Secrets).
- Druid: Wildshape is the real thing here. It’s only one feature, but it’s flexible and forms a large part of what they can do.
- Monk: Ki points are the overall mechanic, and a lot of unique things are attached to it (Flurry of Blows, Step of the Wind, etc.). Additionally, Monks get a number of features to reinforce their unique fighting style and ensure that they can keep up with both those who do use equipment and those who wield magic. They have a lot of things, but mostly it just establishes and reinforces their unique niche.
- Paladin: Paladins also seem to have a lot, if you ask me. Lay on Hands is somewhat iconic, but they also get Divine Smite and auras. Divine Sense is nice for flavor but not much more than a “ribbon.” They also get some unique spells to support their spot.
- Ranger: Saying this is probably controversial, but Rangers are well-designed. I think most of the hate they get is for their iconic features being geared more to the exploration and interaction pillars of D&D: Favored Enemy, Natural Explorer, and Primal Awareness don’t have much combat application, but they’re things that others can’t really replicate. Most of the combat flavor comes from the class options and spells, which I will admit is a bit boring.
- Sorcerer: Sorcery points (and their associated metamagic) fit the bill here. I quite like their implementation.
- Warlock: Another one that has a lot. Pact Magic (and Mystic Arcanum), two class options choices (Pact and Patron), and Invocations. I like Invocations because they remind of previous editions’ Feats.
A few thoughts to conclude this overview. Although all of these mechanics are distinct, we can nevertheless group most of them in the following categories:
- State changing: Rage and Wild Shape provide limited duration boosts that greatly enhance a character’s power.
- Point-based: Ki and Sorcery Points fit here. It’s worth noting that both of these invoke supernatural or magical powers, though there’s nothing that would inherently require this. Lay on Hands is also fairly similar, though it’s not a pool that equals the paladin’s class level.
- Expertise: Bards, Rangers, and Rogues from our last entry all get bonuses to skills. Barbarians get a similar feature with Strength checks.
- Magical modifiers: Sorcery Points, Metamagic and Divine Smite are good examples of features that let you use spells more flexibly.
Looking at the class options, we can see some of these expanded or reinforced. Knowledge Domain Clerics, for example, can get Expertise on Intelligence skills. The Paladin Oath capstone gives a state change like Rage. Moon Druids can consume spell slots for healing while in Wild Shape.
Next time, we’ll ponder some of the potential gaps in design space for new mechanics.