Wheels within wheels

One of the neat things about D&D Next is that many of the Classes aren’t so much Classes in their own right as meta-Classes containing a slew of subclasses inside them. This is solid AD&D-style thinking, but brought bang up to date. It pulls what would otherwise be different Classes in their own right into using the same core mechanics and concepts, but differentiating sufficiently so that each has a flavour all of its own.

That’s darned clever, that is.

The most obvious example is the Paladin where the character’s Oath dictates whether they are a Cavalier, Warden or Blackguard. In previous editions these would have been three entirely different classes (and indeed have been at one time or another) but now they all fall under the banner of the Paladin class. The common ground between all three divinely inspired martial classes are shared but they differ in choice of alignment, use of Channel Divinity and their Domain Spells. That might seem like minor tweaks, but the Blackguard with Divine Smite, Dreadful Aspect, Rebuke Undead and Inflict Wounds is a world apart from the nature-loving worshiper of the old gods Warden who gains Lay on Hands, Nature’s Wrath, Turn Undead and Entangle. They (and the Cavalier) are all Paladins who represent the martial epitome of their faith but each subclass is an entirely different beast in play.

It’s the same for many other classes too, and especially the “big four” classes – the Fighter, Cleric, Rogue and Wizard. The Rogue’s choice of Scheme makes your character an Acrobat, Assassin, Rake, Scout, Thief, Treasure Hunter or Trickster (along with the Skills, Feats and Special Abilities to carry out those roles) while the Fighter’s Death Dealer (hate that name) and Superior Defense choices are dictated by whether they favour two-handed weapons, sword-and-board or missile weaponry. Likewise the Cleric’s Deity and the Wizard’s Tradition (the Wizard badly needs updating though) add unique features that twist the Classes in different directions.

For the other classes only the Barbarian stands subclassless, perhaps as befitting his simple and direct nature. The Druids have their Circle, the Monks their Tradition and Rangers their Favoured Enemy, all of which make the number of choices (and subchoices) far more exciting and flexible than would first appear.

Here’s how the Classes and subclasses break down in total. It’s quite a lot.

  • Barbarian
  • Cleric
    • Arcanist
    • Lifegiver
    • Lightbringer
    • Protector
    • Reaper
    • Stormcaller
    • Trickster
    • Warbringer
  • Druid
    • Circle of the Oak
    • Circle of the Moon
  • Fighter
    • One-Handed and Shield
    • Two-Handed
    • Ranged
    • Warlord
  • Monk
    • Path of Mercy
    • Path of Phoenix
    • Path of Four Storms
    • Path of Stone’s Endurance
  • Paladin
    • Cavalier
    • Warden
    • Blackguard
  • Ranger
    • Brute Hunter
    • Dragon Slayer
    • Giant Killer
  • Rogue
    • Acrobat
    • Assassin
    • Rake
    • Scout
    • Thief
    • Treasure Hunter
    • Trickster
  • Wizard
    • Scholarly Wizard
    • School of Evocation
    • School of Illusion


It’s the same with Races too with most (but not, notably, the Human) Races having a choice of two subraces to pick from. Add the choice of Specialty and Background into the mix and no two Rogues (or Fighters or Clerics or…. you get the idea) need ever be the same.

What’s great about this design is that it makes it simple to expand in the future. Rather than create a new class dedicated to fighting Drow and other Underdark races, for example, just add a new Favoured Enemy to the Ranger and you’re done. Likewise adding Wild Magic to a campaign could be as easy as inventing a new Wizard Tradition. Want a Gladiatorial option? Give the Fighter some Death Dealer (hate that name) and Superior Defense options specific to arena fighting, and you’re ready to play. The number of core Classes (and hence the amount of errata) is kept to a minimum. That’s definitely a Very Good Thing indeed.

This ‘wulf approves.

4 Comments on “Wheels within wheels”

  1. For all intents and purposes you can add Warlord to the list of fighter subclasses – Strike Command, Warning Shout, Attack Orders, Bolster Allies.

  2. I was one of those old and grey idiots who couldn’t work out the D&D Next sign-up system :) so I am very glad that you published this.
    Like many I have been concerned that WotC would pull another 4th out of the hat. I read 4th but ended up staying with 3.5 because honestly it seemed aimed only at the World of Wusscraft fratenity.
    What you have outlined above seems to have a nice thread of sense running through it and I look forward to seeing more of your reviews as it progresses.

    1. D&D Next really does a great job of pulling what’s best from all editions and I’m sure you will find plenty to like (and not a lot to dislike) in the latest playtest packet. I highly recommend you download it and give it a try.

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