One D&D Expert Classes

DnDBeyond released the next Playtest material for One D&D, this one on Expert Classes. The previous one was all about your Player Character’s Race and Background, as well as Feats, since that comes with your Background now. This one follows what they call Expert Classes, which before I even get into the Classes themselves, I like the categories.

In the last review, I mentioned that this new version I’m calling 5.5e, however with the amount of foundational changes, it really seems like this is more like Sixth Edition, which is a bummer, because I have my own wishlist of fundamental changes I’d like to see in the game, and it doesn’t seem we are going in that direction. Maybe I’ll make that article soon anyway.

In the D&D video, they mention that all 12 classes will be split into 4 groups, which can be used to easily make a classically balanced D&D party. The four categories are Warrior, Mage, Priest, and Expert.

  • Warriors – Fighter, Barbarian, Monk
  • Mages – Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
  • Priests – Cleric, Paladin, Druid
  • Expert – Ranger, Rogue, Bard

What I love about this is it makes decisions easier for new players. Instead of giving them a list of 12 classes, they instead get a choice of 4 easy to understand categories, followed by a choice of 3 narratively unique classes. Having more decision points but with fewer options is much easier to someone getting into the game. There are a couple of other points in this Playtest that show they want to make decisions easier for new players.

I think it’s difficult to tell exactly what is going on since they started with Expert, which seem almost like the Miscellaneous category. I wish they went in the order I listed above, because then we can see what the entire Combat system is supposed to look like, then the entire Spellcasting system, etc.

I’m not going to go line by line like I did before, but really focus on the ideas that I’m seeing, and whether or not I agree with it.

General Updates

On a larger scale, it seems that there are two aspects of Class design that are more intentional in this new version of the game, and that’s the signature aspects of the class. Every class can have a definitive aspect of the class (like Barbarian Rage or Druid Wild Shape) and there will be one subclass that focuses on being the penultimate version of that class (like Champion Fighter or Fiend Warlock).

Then, each spellcaster will have a list of suggested prepared spells, so if you don’t want to flip through all of the spells at character creation or each level up, you can just pick the suggested list and move on. Then, as you’re playing, you can always change your prepared spells during any Long Rest, making it a very easy change once you have time to know what the spells do and what you are doing with them.

Lastly, each classes 20th Level Feature, sometimes called Capstone Ability, has been moved to 18th Level, with 20th Level instead getting an Epic Boon option. This is great, because while I have only played in one game that got to Level 20, it was really the reward, and I think we only had a single session at that level, meaning no one got to use their cool Capstone Ability. Now, you will have at least two levels to play with it.

Boon of Rage!

Something else I’ve noticed, is a lot of design regarding how many times you can do a thing has now been turned into “an amount of times equal to your Proficiency Bonus” which I like because it scales naturally with your level. However, as someone pointed out, this can run amok with multiclassing. You can dip into a class for a single level, get their Signature Ability, and use it up to six times by Tier 4 (Levels 16-20), even though you have barely explored that class. I think your Proficiency Bonus for different Skills/Abilities should be tied to the class that you get it from. This would mean that you have multiple Proficiency Bonuses though, and that can be really confusing and difficult to keep track of.

Bard

The signature Bard ability is Bardic Inspiration, and the signature subclass is the College of Lore.

Bardic Inspiration is now allowed to be used as a Reaction, after the result of a d20 Test has been revealed. This is what I, and many other tables, were doing anyway, because it keeps people from feeling like they wasted it. However, now they can use it a Proficiency Bonus amount of times as opposed to your Charisma modifier.

The spellcasting system is weird though, and again this is why I wish we had started with the primary spellcasters first, but now Bards have to choose their spells not only from the Arcane list, but specifically from the Divination, Enchantment, Illusion, or Transmutation schools. This means you have to cross reference all the Arcane spells to make sure they fit, which is more work than just having a spell list for each class.

Ranger

The Signature Ability is Favored Enemy, and the Signature Subclass is Hunter.

Favored Enemy has been improved somewhat, where instead of just tracking and knowing about monsters, they can cast Hunter’s Mark on an enemy. While this is finally mechanical in combat, I think it loses some of the flavor of a hunter who knows their enemy. Instead, it’s just someone focusing on a single target, which is part of what hunters do, but I’m not satisfied. I know the community as a whole doesn’t love the Ranger class, but I feel like we can still get that Geralt of Rivia the Witcher vibe somehow. Also, there’s no Natural Explorer, so again that preferred focus is missing, which some didn’t like, but I always thought was pivotal to the flavor of the class.

Rangers are now even more of a Spellcaster, as they get their first spells at first level. However, even though both Aragorn and Geralt of Rivia have magical abilities, I feel like magic was one of the main differences between the Ranger and the Druid. I think having a few spells in this setting is fair, something like Purify Food and Drink or Goodberry, but making them bigger spellcasters than they already were changes the vibe too much for me.

Rogue

The Signature Ability is Sneak Attack, and the Signature Subclass is Thief.

Many people will be pleased to know that Sneak Attack is largely unchanged, unless you’re me. If your MAIN thing has the word “Sneak” in it, it should have to involve your Stealth in some way. For me, Sneak Attack should be something you can only do if you are attacking while Hidden (a new condition in this packet), or from a surprise round of combat, and it deals a TON of damage. But that’s not how Sneak Attack worked before, so I’ll just stay unsatisfied.

More

We have gotten more, possibly all, of the Feats, including their level breakdown (the level is listed at the class level they get it at, take a note Spell Levels!), but they are still listed in alphabetical order, instead of BY LEVEL. I hate that WotC can only imagine listing things in alphabetical order.

Exhaustion has completely changed, in a really cool way! I hated the previous Exhaustion rules, as it changed one aspect of yourself in a strong way. Now, it’s a cumulative -[Exhaustion Level] from any d20 Test, and you die if you get to Level 10. This means we can use it more often, as it takes longer for it to kill you, and you the growing exhaustion feels like a natural increase. All I want now is to also subtract 5 feet of movement speed per level. We still get Speed reduced to zero before we reach death.

This was a terrible system, I’m so glad they fixed it

Help Action is still advantage, but only on something you are Proficient in. I wish Help used the optional Proficiency Die, where the helper rolled, because how well you are able to help someone else is not always consistent, depending on a number of factors. I also think then it could be stackable in a way that doesn’t feel like Skill Dogpiling.

Hidden [Condition], like I mentioned above, should have SOMETHING to do with Sneak Attack. Maybe if a non-Rogue successfully hits a target while Hidden [Condition] you get some cool bonus that’s more interesting than just Advantage on the Attack or Initiative.

Inspiration still hasn’t found it’s mark. First time around they suggested giving it when you roll a Nat20, now they are suggesting getting it when you roll a Nat1, but neither of those are rewards for making interesting choices. I understand that having the DM give out Inspiration for “good roleplay” rewards a style of play not everyone wants, but giving it away purely out of chance feels lame. In my game, the players reward Inspiration whenever another player at the table does something they believe to be remarkable.

We are getting more in the Exploration Pillar, with Search and Study actions getting specific skills depending on what information you are looking for, which is wonderful. However, they also tried to codify what rolls mean in Roleplay, specifically the Influence action, which makes NPCs feel more like video games, where if you get below 10 you fail, between 10-20 you get a partial success, and more than 20 a full success. That feels like oversimplifying natural conversation. Let Exploration be codified, but help Roleplay feel more natural. Honestly, if you really need to give a mechanic to Roleplay, I would say grant bonuses for using Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, the three Pillars of Rhetoric and Argument. That, to me, feels like mechanically rewarding natural influential conversations.

I haven’t read every word of this packet, but ultimately I really wish we had started with other classes first, because I don’t feel I can see the full picture, and that makes it hard to make judgements.

What did you think of the new packet? Let me know in the comments below!

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