Let’s continue with the challenge laid before me by wickedmurph on describing what I’d have done to redesign D&D as opposed to just griping about where I think it’s headed.
For reference, let’s take a quick look at what we’ve already proposed:
- We’ve already eliminated Vancian magic and overhauled the magic-user.
- In the ensuing discussion on magic items we’ve handled how certain treasures would be handled in our new magic system.
- We’ve addressed the cleric and how to restore the place of the faithful class in D&D.
- We left the majority of the class bloat on the cutting room floor as we took a look at putting the fight back in the fighter.
- We altered how attributes are determined and removed them from the final character sheet leaving only what they represent instead.
- We removed feats and skills as unnecessary, constricting choices.
- Finally, we removed racial bonuses, penalties, and favoritism as an archaic and unnecessary balancing act.
Phew, you’d think we’d be done by now, but we’re just getting warmed up. For now we need to go back and address something tied to the classes in D&D.
But first, let’s review the usual ground rules:
Try to remember that this is just an exercise in what I would have done. Everything here is opinion. Feel free to disagree, consider me an idiot, whatever. If 4E works for you and your gaming crowd, then by all means play it to your hearts’ content. I applaud all fun had in this hobby. However, as I’ve stated numerous times, 4E doesn’t work for me or my gaming crowd. As a result of this, I would not have made the same changes to the game that WotC did. What follows is where I would have focused my changes and where I would have gone with the intellectual property.
My methodology in the process will be guided by a short list of principles:
- Rules should be simple guides, with options to be expand by the DM.
- Rules should lead to interesting options.
- Rules ignored should be rules removed.
- No Rule is sacred.
- No inspiration forbidden.
The Starting Point
For this process I’ve decided that my jumping-off point with be trying to turn 2E into a better version of 4E by removing the bloat of the 3.xE versions of the game.
Again a quick reminder of what we’ve already changed:
- How magic is handled.
- How to keep the cleric from being the everyman.
- We got a good start on determining which classes are available.
- How attributes are removed after creation and the bell curve is up-shifted to match player expectation.
- We removed feats and skills.
- We removed racial modifiers.
This post is about continuing to cut some of the bloat that classes brought to the table EVEN in 1E AD&D.
We have discussed some of the class bloat and removed all the sub-classes and prestige classes from D&D in our previous discussion about the Fighter. What we were really left with was after their removal was the four iconic classes of Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user and Thief.
Prepare yourself, we’re going to go further. Today we’re going to take the hatchet to…
Were I redesigning D&D, multiclassing would be cut from the game with all those prestige and sub-classes. Instead of being overloaded with options, a return to the (almost) original class listing would be in order. Players would choose from one of the four iconic classed (Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User and Thief) and that would be that.
As a quick aside, here’s the incorrect assumption some may presume as my reasoning for doing this: I would not remove mutliclassing as a means of keeping balance. Balance comes from this, but that’s not the impetus of my change. However, I would be doing this because the simple logic of how multiclassing should work is important and leads us to the realization that it’s an unnecessary option that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.
I should also point out that this removal includes dual-classing but it gets cut for an entirely different purpose in addition to being unnecessary. I’d let the cat out of the bag but I’m guessing this post would become about that reason instead. Suffice to say that reason is coming. – KO
To begin, let’s take a simple look at how a multiclass should operate:
In order to prevent the everyman, and taking into account that the norm of the classes is the Fighter, each other class has drawbacks that it assumes in order to balance the benefits that it brings to the table.
As a simple example, consider the magic-user which has access to arcane spells at the expense of hit points, weapon and armor choices, and a lower chance to hit an opponent in melee.
So if we consider the fighter as the “norm”, and that each class added to it causes the fighter to take on the drawbacks of the new class in order to gain access to the benefits of that class, we are faced with the following conundrum: What makes the Fighter/Magic-user any different from a simple Magic-user? The Fighter/Magic-user can cast arcane spells, only use light weapons and no armor, have less hit points and a lower chance to hit opponents in melee… Wait a second, that sounds familiar… in fact, that sounds an awful lot like the simple Magic-user to me.
Perhaps a chart will make this easier to follow:
|Magic-user||Lower HP||Arcane Spells|
|No Armor or Shield|
|Lower chance to hit|
So why would anyone ever play a Fighter/Magic-user if it’s basically the equivalent of playing a simple Magic-User?
By repeating the same logic we eliminate all multiclass combinations that include the Fighter since Fighter + any other single class yields the same result as that single class and remove any benefit of the Fighter class being present.
Next, lets turn our attention to those multiclass combinations not containing the Fighter and discover the reverse problem in that any combination of any class + Magic-user is better than a simple Magic-user since the drawbacks of the Magic-user still exist, but the benefits of thieving skills or divine spells is added to the character.
Finally we do the same for the Thief and the Cleric and then we hit the ultimate class option in Cleric/Magic-user/Thief and realize what we’ve really done is to eliminate all but two class offerings for our game. End result, players should choose to be classed as either Fighters or Cleric/Magic-user/Thieves… and that’s not a very interesting choice.
So multiclassing is out as a means of retaining interesting choice and protecting class niche. Because if you’re going to have classes as choices, you have to protect them from being meaningless choices. What we’re left with is the core (non-racial) classes from the B/X version of D&D. In fact, what’s left is the true iconic classes of D&D.
I know this seems to have been a circle right back to the core classes, but this analysis shows that multiclassing is unnecessary at best, and creates false and non-interesting choices at worst.
Doesn’t that just feel right to leave it behind as a wrong design choice?