In which I design some DnDNext classes!

I know, exactly what you were hoping for. Hey though, we’ve got two new classes to look at and I am SO HAPPY that I could just about faint because, friends, because they have put in something that I love. That I yearn for. That tickles me in all the good ways. Classes which are mechanically DIFFERENT. Utterly so. Not just in the effects that they have, not in the roles that they play, but at a fundamental way: sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards are all arcane classes, they have the same life-goal (cast some spells) but they feel different from the ground up.

The three arcanists are all playing slightly different games, you see. The wizard’s is a game of prediction, planning, and the constant, low-level hunt for More Spells to satisfy their need for infinite flexibility… on a day-to-day level, at least. From moment to moment they are utterly inflexible, and rely on what they have on hand. The sorcerer’s game is simple resource management (they call it Willpower, but we all know its Mana), with this mutation caveat: they gain powers by losing mana and being transformed by their bloodline: better to give in now and be powerful or be cautious and remain flexible? The warlock’s game is about finding the right moment: he exists at all times where the others are near the end of the day: two spells from empty. But man, those spells are intense, and once he catches his breath, he’s back up to fighting speed.

It’s great! It’s a fantastic melding of mechanics and story, where one acts in service of the other. I LOVE when mechanics and story act in service of one another. I wrote a paper on it once. Good times.

This, I think, is what DnDNext is doing really, really RIGHT at the moment: making different classes feel really different. Can they keep this up?

… probably? I don’t know!  I’m excited to see, but you know what else? I’m excited to attempt. Yes, why not. I want to make some classes… call them Class Predictions for where 5E is going to go. SO. Who’s next? Well, who else would we consider to be core classes?

Paladin, of course. Ranger. Barbarian. Bard? Sure. Why not.

Paladin: Let’s get the easy one out of the way: non-Vancian divine caster. Bam, right here. I like the Paladin as something of a cross between the sorcerer and the warlock; that is, he gets a pool of mana (call it “Faith” or some such) that has to last him through the entire encounter, but he can renew it once he’s had time for a short rest and, most importantly, a short prayer. This keeps him encounter-focused, which makes sense for the Tank of the Gods. The biggest challenge is healing, if we want to make HP recovery difficult (which I think isn’t that great an idea, but I can see the trouble with an infinite HP-fountain). Simple solution: all his healing effects require the expenditure of hit dice on the part of the healed. BAM, so you can heal at increased effectiveness, but you can’t heal indefinitely. Optional: a negative effect which occurs when he spends his last Faith point.

Ranger: Okay, easy mode: expertise dice, but for rangery things! That’s really the easy mode for every martial-type class, so we’re not going to use it. We’re after mechanical differentiation. My inclination is to focus on the “hunter’s quarry” aspect of the Ranger: he focuses on one creature and can make its life hell. So, he chooses an enemy, spends an action observing it, and gains Advantage against it (rather like the 4E Avenger). So, middling damage, great hit percentage, good striker. Fun enough? No? Well here’s where we pull in an aspect of expertise dice: every time he rolls, he can sacrifice this Ranger’s Advantage in order to fuel a useful effect, such as a dual-weapon attack or a disarming shot or, better still, shout an order to his animal companion, depending on his ranger schema. Optional: favored terrain, favored enemy, all that rot which I can take or leave.

Barbarian: Another option where emulating expertise dice makes sense, only we’d call them RAGE DICE!!! or sommat. Boo to that. Still, the nature of the barbarian is to leap in and out of a berserker state, we need not change overmuch from 3.X… though I’d like to do away with the post-rage fatigue, because, man, what’s fun about that? Still, I want a better measure of berserk rage than flat bonuses and counting rounds, because tactical elements make things so much more compelling. So… rage dice. BUT, but, but, he starts with two or so, earns one a round, and can’t spend them until he starts raging. They recharge when he’s not raging, though he needs a critical mass to re-enter a rage state. Optional: self-destructive potential of rages. Being fatigued for a while is lame, but losing a hit die whenever you enter a rage is a more long-term worry.

Bard: Hm. Difficult one, because, well, what IS a bard? Pulling from D&D history, he’s been devine, arcane, mostly rogue, mostly wizard, loremaster, quick-wit, and so on. There’s too much to go on, so let’s start from scratch. Let’s challenge the basic assumption that Bards Cast Spells With Music. No, bards have some magic, but its minor, and supports their jack-of-all-trades aesthetic; useful but never game-changing. To me, this means cantrips; no mana, no limits, just a tone of level-0 spells. Bards are cantrip masters, like Swiss army knives: a million tiny tools, coupled with some skill bonuses and excellent performance ability. Optional: music-based buffs. If they’re included, they’re like stacking cantrips, or Pathfinder’s Words of Power: each round you add another tone, which causes a tiny effect which adds onto previous ones, up to a level-based maximum. Easy to disrupt, but potentially useful.

Okay, so, it’s August 21st as I write this; no further classes have been revealed yet. I’d like you all to note this, so that if the remainder get shown, and the Paladin/Ranger/Barbarian/Bard are exactly like I predicted, I can declare myself to be a prescient GENIUS.

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