Alternate Title: I’ve got some OPINIONS ya’ll.
I’d like to start this off with a few simple statements about my following ideas.
1. I am not a Game Designer. The ideas I express for RPGs are purely from experience as a DM and Player who hacks around with game systems a lot.
2. I’m not here to start a fight. I’m not doing this to “provoke” anybody, or call out any characters. Your character is your own, and frankly, I don’t care what you make! I hope you and your table have a good time with it.
3. All opinions are my own. Agree or disagree, there isn’t really a right way to do RPGs.
Alright, with all that out of the way, it’s time for another article that might make some folks a bit moved to words. I’ll be breaking up this article into a few big chunks that should be easier to swallow. Don’t forget to chew I guess.
My main idea here, the thesis for this article, is the following thought:
“5e would be better off without separate Rogue, Ranger, and Monk classes.”
Why? Well let’s start off with one that people seem to agree with me on.
(Yeah yeah, “All opinions are my own”, but I got inspired by someone, didn’t I?)
All Adventurers are Thieves
While technically, the class is called the Rogue (as of 3rd Edition), the basic idea of the Rogue is that of the Thief. A stalker through danger, desperate to take what they seek. Whether that be taking gold, a life, or some other valuable treasure. Rogues can be hired for their great skill, or use their great skill to act on their own plans. No matter the cause, the fun is the heist, the kill, or the exploration of the unknown.
Or wait, was that Adventurers?
Stalking through danger? Check.
Desperate to take what they seek? Check.
Killing stuff? Check!
Valuable Treasure? Do I even need to go on?
Adventures do all of the things that a Thief would, and they do them extremely well. They do the things an Assassin would, more than well, and even within their own class abilities and resources! They’re a well oiled machine, a team. Most importantly, they’re not a loner, desperate to do whatever they want, for whatever sort of pay, to cure the whatever lust for blood and gold they got when whatever tragedy killed their families.
The Rogue to me feels like an excuse. An excuse to be edgy, or go for the character who likes to break the rules and get up to trouble. An excuse to steal from other players, or plot against them. If I had a dime for every single time a player wanted to play their pirate, or bandit, or serial killer Rogue I’d be filthy rich. That doesn’t even include all the Thieves I allowed in who decided to steal from the other players or got the other players into trouble!
Even on their own however, without the troublesome Players we all sometimes have to deal with, the Rogue has some incredibly powerful abilities that would make the game better if they were spread across some other classes. Again, this is because the Rogue represents things that all the classes should be able to do. Similar to the “Grovel” ability of the Kobold, that I hate so damn much.
Because of their utility with any sort of character, Cunning Action and Expertise are both begging to be made Feats, and Sneak Attack would work perfectly as the basis for a Barbarian Subclass! The natural warrior getting an extra bonus of Damage if his buddy is nearby? Focus on your “pack” and how they can help you get nastier attacks on the enemy? Perfect re-flavoring and it fits in with the theme of the Barbarian, by being a better raw damage option than with Fighter, but giving you a similar feel.
Modify Arcane Trickster and it would make a fun Martial Wizard subclass in the same realm as the Trickster Cleric. The Scout would be yet another great Barbarian or Fighter subclass, and the Swashbuckler should be a Dexterity focused Subclass for Fighter.
Basically, the Rogue feels like a package of abilities that should have gone to other classes as if it had stolen them. This may be hilariously thematic, but is ultimately unneeded.
Aragorn wasn’t a Ranger
This almost feels like an easier fight, but still not a winning one apparently. The Ranger absolutely sucks, and that’s because it tries to eat both the Druid and Fighter’s lunch, but never really does either very well. Wizards of the Coast even realized how bad the Ranger was, and tossed out a version that is called the “Revised” Ranger. It hasn’t been printed, so I won’t say it’s canon, but frankly, that right there is admitting how bad it is.
Well, regarding my thesis, I’d prefer it if we split the Ranger down the middle and gave half of it to the Barbarian and half to the Druid. Favored enemy, I think, would be a Barbarian Path called the Hunter or something. Perhaps that Path would get Sneak Attack as well, or you could use Sneak Attack as the basis for the effects of Favored Enemy. Either way, Natural Explorer definitely goes to the Druid.
Now some of you may be saying “But Michael, what about the Beast Master? Isn’t the Ranger our only real Pet Class?”.
Well, yeah. It is. That’s part of the problem.
Any character with a high enough Animal Handling and a bit of downtime should be able to have a pet, and even one who can assist their character, fight, and yes, level up. A ton of DMs will let their NPCs join along on the adventure, and give them class levels so they don’t die. It shouldn’t be difficult, in that case, to just beef up a Pet with some extra health and damage every time it’s owner levels up. Bestial creatures like Owlbears should be easier to tame, while crazy stuff like Carrion Crawlers or Flail Snails should be much harder.
Hell, I’d love to make an Elemental Druid with a lesser Phoenix pet at some point. Could be fun.
Also, and this is besides the point, but the reason I would keep a class like the Barbarian, which some feel isn’t as fleshed out as other classes, is because I think it matches the Fighter in a “two sides of the same coin” kind of way. The Fighter is completely skilled, the Barbarian is all raw power and learning through doing.
It’s extremely similar to the dichotomy between Wizard and Sorcerer, where one character learned how to do what they can, and one was given this power. Plus, the Barbarian could use a few Dexterity options and more natural abilities, and the Ranger’s Favored Enemy is just one example of an easy trade-off.
Monks are a crutch
The Monk is cool as hell. Honestly. I love playing as the Monk, I love using a Monk, and I love to build Monk characters.
So why would I want to get rid of it? Well, for one, I only like the Monk because it’s good at punching stuff. Sure, it has a package of seemingly random abilities that only work in really specific circumstances, but come on! Punching stuff! It feels cool, right?
Well here’s a wild idea, what if the Fighter, which is a person seemingly training their entire life to be able to hit stuff really hard, could punch something really hard?
That’s sorta my plan of attack with the Monk. Cut off Martial Arts and Ki, make it a Fighter subclass, and then make all the extra abilities into Feats. Because, and I know this is true, despite how cool half of these abilities are, they are extremely situational.
For instance, how often have you wanted to use Deflect Missiles, but the ranged dudes are magic? How often do you even fight bow wielders and knife throwers? A good DM would probably sprinkle in a good amount of ranged attackers to make you feel special, but whats the point? Your main ability is that you can close the distance between you and the ranged attackers incredibly fast, so that you can punch them to death. Plus, you use your reaction for Deflect Missiles when it hits you, so it’s not even like you can save a few people from arrows or knives. Just yourself, and just once.
Sure, it’s rad as hell when a Manticore fires his spike at you, and you catch it like “Hah! Fuck you!” But then you throw it back, and it’s immune to it’s own poison, and then what? You sure looked cool for one moment, but you didn’t do much.
The rest of the Monks core abilities are stuff like being immune to poison and disease, which Paladins get, and then being naturally more evasive, which could easily be a feat or part of the previously mentioned Fighter Subclass. These don’t feel meaty or creative, and that’s because the Monk is completely propped up by it’s Martial Arts ability. Making the Monk the greatest one trick pony in D&D since the Banshee.
I also (and this is even more my own opinion than normal) see folks pick the Monk just so they can make an exotic character. There’s nothing wrong with exotic, but why are you picking the Monk for that? Why not make them a Wizard with cool and foreign spell designs, or a Paladin dressed in the banners and designs of that country? I absolutely love to make characters from places and ideals not my own, and I get the feeling of curiosity and discovery that comes from doing that. But the Zen Asian Monk is such a tired trope.
The subclasses of the Monk are also all pretty boring, and are too focused on the Martial Arts aspect of the Monk. With other Classes (except the Wizard), the Subclass is there to fill out a niche for the character. To make them even more cool and specialized and unique. The Monk subclasses boast things like Laser Punches and Drunken Brawling. Which really sound cool on paper, but are too generic or situational to be very useful.
While this all started as a rant, I do hope you read this with an open mind. I know some of these classes are well loved, and Vax and Vex fans might ask that I be hung off a high tower for this, but ultimately, it’s how I feel.
If you’d like to see my take on the subclasses I mentioned in this article, gimme a shout. I’ll throw something together and put it up on the site for free, just as proof of concept.
Thanks for the read!