Dungeons & Dragons 5e does a very good job of covering broad fantasy archetypes in its different classes. You could very happily play the game for years and find that most of the character concepts you want are (broadly) covered by the existing choices. I am not, however, one of those easily satisfied people, so I have given some thought as to what unique mechanics might be introduced to justify creating new classes.
If you remember from last post, I was discussing how the major unique class mechanics seem to fall into these categories:
- State changing, like Rage and Wild Shape.
- Point-based, like Ki and Sorcery Points.
- Expertise for skill bonuses.
- Magical modifiers, including Sorcery Points, Metamagic and Divine Smite. Pact Magic should also probably be included here.
For the rest of this post, I’m going to ponder a few options that aren’t really represented at the moment and what new mechanical implementations might look like. Here’s my list:
- Proficiency-based resources
- Multiple in-class options
As unified a mechanic as proficiency is, it baffles me that it doesn’t intersect with unique class mechanics more. Expertise aside, the Barbarian (with its Rages) is the only one that has proficiency tied to numerical uses (until its capstone, at least). When looking at other limited-use class features, they’re either tied to the binary short / long rest refresh or some sort of ability modifier. Both of these are fine mechanics, but what about another class that “transforms” a proficiency modifier number of times per day? Or how about a class that has the strength of its features based on proficiency (3e’s Incarnum is a good fit here)? The power curve for these features would look differently, certainly (weaker earlier and probably stronger later), but it’s interesting that it hasn’t been much used.
Two class options focus on “pet” use (that is, an NPC controlled by a PC as a class feature): Beastmaster Rangers and Pact of the Chain Warlocks. You also have the find familiar and find steed spells that provide pretty good representation for these features at a weaker level, but what if I want to have a pet from 1st-level? I imagine people might enjoy a Beastmaster or Cavalier class on the mundane level or a Summoner for a more magical approach.
Multiple In-Class Options
The Warlock does this in that you can choose both Pact and Patron, but none of the others really have this kind of flexibility. I definitely understand this, as it makes it harder to balance multiple options and their interactions, but I’m sure you could think of other classes. A servant of the gods, for example, might have features based on alignments or ideals as well as a desired class-option role. Anything new here will need to be careful, but there’s potential.
You could find other unique mechanics not represented effectively. New magic systems would likely be the most obvious–runic magic should probably be different, as might name-based magic or a skill-based system. But we can save those for another post. Are there mechanical options that you find overlooked in the current Player’s Handbook, or do you think the classes are distinct enough and mechanically diverse enough to not warrant new classes?
Next time for Classy Considerations we’ll continue talking about what could justify creating new classes in terms of roles.