I love to run polls on Gaming Tonic and my last poll had a lot of feedback because the whole D&D Next thing has really increased the traffic. The last poll that I ran was “What Class Can 5th Edition D&D Do Without?” In my most recent interview with Mike Mearls I asked him about having fewer classes in Dungeons & Dragons and instead use another mechanic to represent certain builds. In the interview I reference warlock, but it can apply to a lot of these classes. Still perhaps some gamers just want a certain class to just go away, and that is the question asked in the poll. Today I want to look at the results of the poll and see if the class just needs to go away or if it can perhaps be better represented with a different mechanic.
By a surge near the end of the poll, assassin overtook warlock and according to the fans is the class D&D can do without. I happen to agree with this because any class can be an assassin. Any character can be an assassin. Looking at the pregen character sheets provided with the playtest we can see that assassin could look something like this and any character could be an assassin.
You have been trained in the art of assassination. The exact tools of the trade vary from assassin to assassin, but certain abilities are common to get in to a position to get the job done. You have training in the skills listed below and, and you gain any indicated bonus on any check involving that skill.
You also gain the background feature called Contraband
Contraband: If there is something that you is illegal in an area such as a certain poison, drug, or concealed weapon, you know just the spot where you might be able to find such an item. Usually these items come at a hefty price but it is a small price to pay to get the job done and beneath the notice of witnesses or authorities.
This sort of build allows any character to use a poison, be stealthy, and able to talk their way in and out of situations which could expose their true mission. Any character that kills for a gain of some sort could be an assassin, at least as we have come to use the term in D&D over the editions. Now a cleric could have an assassin background and perhaps converted to her faith after having a change of heart. A fighter could have been raised by a clandestine league of killers and ran away to join a militia and forget his roots. The wizard could have been nearly successful in slaying a mage of some power who saw the potential for magic arts in them and took them under their wing and trained them in the arcane. The rogue gets even better at getting in and out of places and is an obvious match for the background.
I told you before that warlock were the second most popular choice to not appear in D&D Next. The idea that any character should be able to sell their soul to a greater power is something that I have had many discussions about with my group and other gamers online. Using the same background formula as we have seen on the pregen character sheets we can apply the same idea we used for assassin to warlock. Now we can’t tell if there will be something similar to feats in 3rd and 4th Edition that may come along that will allow for further customizations of characters. If there is some sort of feat then that is where a character could concentrate on increasing the power and range of the warlock part of the build.
Bard came in third and that doesn’t surprise me. From the early days the bard has been a hodgepodge of other classes. Check out the rules in 1st Edition for becoming a bard to see exactly what I mean. When I was doing the Friends & Family playtest I did see a theme (pretty much changed to background in open playtest material) called the minstrel. That combined with some multi-classing could simulate what we have come to expect from the class. Producing a bard character in this way allows one bard to be a master of the rapier and a poet of some skill. Another, master of bits of information and lost lore that plays a pleasing lute and many songs from his travels.
Right behind bard in the voting was paladin. A fighter/cleric multi-class with a paladin background could go a long way to capturing the feeling of the holy warrior. I think that the paladin is such a part of Dungeons & Dragons at this point that we are guaranteed to see it for the next edition. This blog by Bruce Cordell pretty much confirms it. So does Mike Mearls in my interview, as well as the ranger. The Paladin in Hell is the image that my mind conjures when I think adventuring in other dimensions and fighting true evil.
The druid rounded out the top five responses. The druid is a difficult character for lots of campaigns to deal with for one reason or another. I am not surprised to see the druid get so many votes. In early editions the druid was difficult because of the requirements and constant battling to climb to the highest levels of the class. They also had many abilities that were tied to specific environments which can always diminish the usefulness of a class. I don't think the druid has really had the popularity over the editions as some of the other classes and I don't really expect that to change in the 5th Edition. I did really like the idea and implementation of the swarm druid in 4e, that is all I have to say in defense of the druid.
The seeker, psion, monk, hexblade, wizard, and warlord all got a vote or two. I am surprised to see anybody vote for wizard or warlord. The wizard is a class that is D&D, but I get that a couple people have grown to dislike them over the editions. The warlord is the one class besides fighter, wizard, cleric, and rogue, that the next edition needs to have. It is the class that was missing from earlier editions and one of the best contributions that 4E has made to the game. The seeker was a poor idea with poor implementation. I am not a fan of psionics so the psion is no loss to me really. D&D hasn't ever nailed the psionic mechanic in any edition, in my opinion. Either two powerful or two bland, depending on which edition you were using. The monk surprises me really. I can accept the class in my games for some reason although I am not a fan of the class. In thirty years I have never played one nor desired to. I can see the wandering foreigner in the fantasy medieval setting working with relatively little work in almost any game. I hope you enjoyed and if you didn't vote or have something to say, please leave a comment. Until next time, Roll Hard!
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