efore I dive into this week's Legends & Lore, I want to take a moment to thank Dave Christ, Robert Altomare, and all of the DMs who ran our tabletop gaming events at Gen Con and PAX Prime. Those conventions are an important part of what makes D&D work. Every year, thousands of gamers take their first step into D&D at those shows. Thanks for all your hard work!
This week, I'd like to talk about classes and subclasses, and explain how they allow us to manage complexity in the game.
From a player's point of view, subclasses are the most powerful tool we have to slide from a simple game to a more complex one. The fighter's Path of the Warrior is a great example of this, since it allows you to opt into a fairly simple fighter. In comparison, the Path of the Gladiator offers a lot more options each round.
That said, subclasses also play a key role from the DM's side of things. The subclasses you allow into your campaign say a lot about your world. For that reason, we're looking at subclasses shouldering almost the entire burden in D&D Next, which were previously handled by character classes.
When we introduce new types of magic into the game in the future, we won't need to add a set of new classes to the game. Instead, we can present subclasses that tap into that power source. The shadow dancer can be a rogue subclass that dabbles in shadow magic, while the hexblade does the same for the fighter class. Psionics can fill a similar role, with subclasses that tie into it granting access to its powers and abilities.
This line of thinking illustrates the principles behind the design of the mage class in D&D Next. By making the wizard an option under the mage, we open up space for the warlock, sorcerer, psion, artificer, and other casters without having to reinvent the wheel for each caster. They can share spells, magic items, and feats as necessary, allowing new design to focus on the elements that make them unique and interesting.
It's important to remember that while these casters share the same base class, that doesn't mean they share the same casting mechanics. The entire point of this change is to focus on what makes those classes unique. The same goes for subclasses. Although the hexblade might be a fighter subclass, it can still gain access to spellcasting. The shadow dancer as rogue can still teleport between shadows and use overt magic.
This approach ties back to subclasses and their role as a DM tool. If you run a low magic campaign, you simply eliminate the hexblade and shadow dancer from the list of subclasses in your game. If nonmagical healing runs counter to the tone of your game, strike the warlord from the fighter's list.
So, that's the basics of subclasses in D&D Next. They help us regulate complexity for players, and they are a powerful tool that allows DMs and groups to determine the tone and feel of their campaigns.
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He led the design for 5th Edition D&D. His other credits include the Castle Ravenloft board game, Monster Manual 3 for 4th Edition, and Player’s Handbook 2 for 3rd Edition.