I haven’t paid that much attention to 4th Edition so far, either I’ve been too busy or I’m really looking forward to having some surprises when it finally comes out. Back when Dave posted his first impressions of it I became really excited because it seemed, against all odds, that the designers at WotC were actually paying attention to game design and making decisions which could enrich play experience and enjoyment. I was quite surprised to see reactions to what players consider the “sweet spots” of D&D, and potential solutions for a lot of things that have bugged me in 3rd Edition. You would think hearing all of these good things would have caused me to pay more attention for more news, but apparently I’ve missed a lot!
After Dave’s post today with some of the new book covers released, I started checking out EN World’s superb 4th Edition page and was quite surprised at how much had been discoverd, investigated, overheard, and deduced about the coming changes to our favorite activity. What caught my eye the most was a preliminary and very speculative list of possible classes included in the 4th Ed. PHB:
-Fighter -Ranger -Paladin -Cleric -Wizard -Warlock -Rogue -Warlord
My immediate reaction was anger, obviously, because some things I’ve really come to love are missing. *cough*monk*cough* However, there is a lot of discussion and debate about whether or not they are sticking to 8 core classes or if there will be more / less. With the elimination of Druids, Monks, Bards, Sorcerers, and Barbarians I would say they are trying to trim down the classes which are ‘similar’ to some of the core classes – Sorcerer to Wizard, Barbarian to Fighter – but arguably the Bard, Monk, and Druid are pretty distinguished on their own from any of the other classes. A lot of people lump Bards into the Rogue/Thief category, I did until just a few months ago when I started playing one for the first time in years, but really they stand on their own.
I began to think that they might insert new rules that allowed you to essentially play these missing classes, such as being a Warlord with the ability to inspire through singing or a Cleric of Nature essnetially being a Druid in every way. Having played lots of table top systems, I obviously like to see the ability to costumize a class and not be pigeonholed from the beginning just by one simple decision. This lingered in my mind as I kept reading, then I found this list at EN World’s site that talks about supposed four main roles that every class will be able to fit into one of:
- Defender: fighter & paladin classes
- Leader: cleric & warlord classes
- Controller: wizard class
- Striker: rogue & ranger classes [later info confirms the warlock is also a striker]
I like these distinctions, as it lends a more structured view and really encourages the players (throws it in their faces) to focus on how the party functions as an entity. I’m a bit skeptical about Clerics being lumped into the leader role, but I suppose faith and purpose can justify that, and I’m also noticing a lack of options as far as being a “Controller” with the only choice being wizardry. Either this is an attempt at making Wizards more common / desirable, or they’re waiting to fill in the gap with something new or revised.
Then my previous contemplations came full circle and I questioned, “Why aren’t they just using these as four classes?” There is definitely a view that more classes equals more class, but there is little difference to me between a Fighter and a Paladin when you consider the variation between a Rogue and a Bard, or a Cleric and a Druid. Even a class called “Warlord” seems in essence a far cry from what your typical Bard might be. If they incorporate any of this route of thinking, they are essentially building on what 3rd Edition fighters became as a typical class that encompasses a varied range of characters and abilities.
One of the advantages to not doing this kind of organization is you reduce the player’s options and essentially make the game system easier on itself – you reduce the player’s ability to combine different abilities and therefore break the game or accomplish things that were not intended to be done. If there were only four base classes, and the rest of your character were customized via skills, feats, proficiencies (or what have you) then I could easily see a munchkin’d out Defender with spells out the wazoo, party buffing musical talent, and one killer sneak attack. The information presented does say that these four classifications are mostly (if not entirely) combat oriented and that OOC your character may not fall into any one of those roles, but I find it quite interesting where WotC is drawing the lines at how much distinguishment is enough and how open they want their classes to be. I’m most anxious to see where the classic Bards and Druids fall into the puzzle, or if they’re being left out in the cold for good.