Legends & Lore: Classic ComplexityPosted in 5th edition , classes , decisions , dnd next , game design , legends and lore
Gamers have different tastes, and those tastes can change over time, so if a game get lets you determine--among other things--character complexity on the fly then you are just increasing the odds that they will not only like your game, but stick with it when they feel like switching up the amount of book keeping they want to do.
If you have not checked out the most recent playtest, one of the big changes to fighters is that they choose a Martial Path at 3rd-level. The idea is that if managing abilities on a round-by-round basis will entertain you, go gladiator. If, when you come out to play, you do not want to deal with lots of decisions on a round-by-round basis, then warriors are a good choice. I think it is a good goal, but that they are also executing it poorly.
In 3rd Edition if you rolled a fighter you started with a bonus feat. Not much, but you could spend it to boost your attack bonus (usually my first choice), initiative, or saving throws, give yourself to increase your damage output or Armor Class, and more. There were several feat threes that you could go down that ultimatly let you do stuff like move, attack, and keep moving, attack every adjacent enemy, use various combat tricks without getting hit first, and more.
4th Edition really ramped up the level of customization by letting you choose from several class features at the start, as well as over four-hundred martial exploits.
In Next? You get Second Wind. Period. At 2nd-level you get Action Surge. It is not until 3rd-level that you get to choose from three Martial Paths. Three options is not much, but it is still something, except that this choice locks in five class features that you will get down the road. From then on you just get what the game decides you should have. The article mentions being able to build your own subclass with DM permission, but there is still a hefty chunk of the class that you get no say in.
I guess this is better than nothing, as the current subclasses do not make much sense. Why are maneuvers limited to gladiators? Why do you only get six of them, and stop getting them at 7th-level? Since you have to meet or beat the monster's ability score modifier on a d6 for a maneuver to work, does this not mean that as you get higher level and fight bigger/smarter monsters that the odds of them working go down? How come only knights can call someone out? This seems like something that a gladiator would be good at doing, too.
Why not let the fighter pick from a variety of options at 1st-level, trusting that players who want simple options to pick simple things, and let players that want more complexity do that? What if a player would rather start with a maneuver, or a d4 on Charisma checks? Both of those sound infinitely more interesting and about as simple (especially the Charisma bonus) than being able to regain half your hit points once per day. The subclasses would work just fine for builds/archetypes, but you can still let players choose.
Another thing I dislike is the statement "both race and background have more complexity early on but don't add anymore at higher levels". Umm...why not? I miss how in 4th Edition you had the option of making your race matter more if you wanted to, such as by taking Dwarven Weapon Training if you wanted to deal more damage with iconic dwarf weapons, Hellfire Blood for tieflings that wanted to add more oomph to their fire-power, and Fey Trickster if you wanted your gnome of any class to have a pair of neat wizard cantrips. Again, let players make the call as to how much their race affects their character.