How Many Classes Are Too Many?

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on March 17, 2009

Player’s Handbook 2 hits shelves today and in it are eight new core classes. Eight more! In my opinion, that’s too many. I don’t have the PHB2 yet – I wasn’t one of the lucky bloggers to get an advance copy. And you know what? I’m not sure if I’m going to buy it since the character builder will be updated with all the new classes, races, feats and powers at the end of the month anyway. But I have read the tidbits already released through the Dungeons & Dragons Insider and the abundance of new classes infuriates me.

How many classes are too many? There are already eight classes in the PHB and now eight more in the PHB2. Add to that the Swordmage for the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide and the Artificer coming this summer in the Eberron Player’s Guide – we’re up to 18 CORE classes now! We already know that the PHB3 is in the works and I can only imagine it will have even more core classes.

So with all these classes to choose from, when am I ever going to play these classes in any meaningful way? Consider that there are 30 levels to advance through, how am I supposed to experience multiple character classes and various different levels? I know what you’re thinking; Dungeon Delve. And you’d be right – to a certain extent.

The Dungeon Delve does provide easy-to-use adventures for all levels of play, without any bias or preference to class. This may allow me to try out different classes at different levels, and my gaming group plans to do this. However, I enjoy D&D for the role-playing as much as for the roll-playing. I like playing a character and advancing him up through the levels and having him grow in power. My current character, Ethan, is a human Rogue from Sharn. If you read his back story, you realize that he’s a character with a troubled past. I have a plan for how I want him to evolve as a person and in order to do that I have to play him through many levels.

So how do I choose between my desire to advance Ethan and my desire to try out all the different character classes? Simple; I can’t.

Most weeks I play in a long-term campaign using the same character. The only time I get to play a Dungeon Delve or LFR adventure is when my usual DM is unable to play.

Think about it another way: I play D&D once per week. At best, that’s 52 times a year. Take into account holidays, family obligations, vacations and illness and that number drops to maybe 40 gaming sessions per year. At three or four encounters per session and roughly ten encounters per level it takes three weeks to level. This means that over my gaming year I can expect to gain 13 levels. Assuming that I continue to play 40 weeks per year, and that there are no new classes added it would take me over 41 years to play all 18 classes through all 30 levels. And therein lies the reason why I’m ticked about the addition of eight new core classes: I’m never going to have the opportunity to experience more than a few of them in any sort of meaningful way.

When I consider some of the new classes I have to ask the question, doesn’t another class already do that? Think about the Warden, defenders of the wild. I thought Rangers and Druids did that? I mean, if I want to create a protector of the wilderness that is based on the defender template I’ll create a fighter and give him a back story that fits. Is a new class really necessary?

I recognize that Wizards of the Coast is a company and that they are in business to make money. I just don’t know that inundating us with eight new classes when most of us haven’t played much of the original eight is the way to go. I’d rather see them expand the content available through the DDI, but that’s a post for another day.

In the meantime I’m happy that the Bard and Druid have finally been released, I just don’t know when I will have the opportunity to play them.

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1 Emily Mottesheard March 17, 2009 at 6:53 am

I’m actually quite happy with the amount of classes available, with the promise of more on the way. I like a lot of choices in classes, and don’t really mind too much if I don’t get to play them all, as not all of the classes out there will appeal to the archetypes I like to play. I was bummed when one of the classes I like to play the most, namely the Bard, did not come out at the beginning of 4th edition. Having the bard back just really makes my day. Also, 3.5 wasn’t much more different as it had TONS of alternate character classes and what seemed like millions of prestige classes to choose from. I see your point in that perhaps 4th edition shouldn’t have come out with sooo much so fast, however for the most part I’m happy with it and am looking forward to the addition of the Monk, which is coming out with the rumored PHB3.

2 Mad Brew March 17, 2009 at 8:49 am

I’d say you are going to get about 10-12 new core classes a year, and I would also expect a ton of paragon paths too. The rules were designed for this type of expansion in mind.

Of course, the DM always has final say on what is “core,” so I always side with more is better as long as quality isn’t sacrificed.

3 Thasmodious March 17, 2009 at 10:48 am

No matter how many classes we end up with, there are just 4 roles and a limited number of power sources (so far, total # of classes/4). These are useful tools to categorize and narrow down a list of characters to play in a particular game. I like my choices as well and look forward to more classes to choose from, but I do think there is a point where its too much. 3.5, by the end of the run, had 175 base classes and 782 prestige classes (just from WotC material). 4e doesn’t need a list like that simply because, as you point out, there is quite a bit of freedom in the classes as they stand now, something I felt that 3e lacked (hence thousands of choices, like a crazy multiple choice test).

Now Paragon paths, I’ve no doubt we will seem them bloat in numbers like crazy, since they are so easy to design. It’s a relatively small suite of abilities around a single theme, so I imagine we’ll see lots of them.

4 Donny_the_DM March 17, 2009 at 11:47 am

I look at it this way: The no doubt 20 or so “core” classes we will end up with in the end, is still WAY better than the 900+ prestige classes we used to be stuck with 🙂

I have been heavily encouraging 4E multiclassing, and it has done absolute wonders for character customization. The players love it!

Now that i think about it, 20 sounds low. After Dark Sun and Planescape re-launch, as well as (possibly) Dragonlance, Ravenloft, and eberron, we may very well have 30 core classes! I like it, it just means we have to play more 🙂

5 Tom March 17, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Play the ones you like! Play the ones you can! Choice is good!

There’s no rule stating you should get to play every class, nor are their rules stating you must buy every book!

6 Wimwick March 17, 2009 at 12:20 pm

@ Emily
Thanks for stopping by Dungeon’s Master, we hope that you enjoy the content that’s provided.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about choice and that might be part of my problem. I’m also jazzed about the Bard and I really like what Wizards have done with the class. You’re right that 3.5 had a gizzilion choices and I felt it really was too much. As you mentioned, I’d have prefered that Wizards waited a bit with this release.

@ Mad Brew
I agree, 10 – 12 classes a year sounds about right. I do find it to be a bit much and more than a little forced. Many of the new classes could have been created with the existing classes using a unique backstory. The Avenger, which I really want to check out, could have just as easily been a devout Rogue.

@ Thasmodious
Welcome to Dungeon’s Master!
You raise an interesting point with the role system. There are the four roles of defender, striker, leader and controller. One could argue that these are really the new classes and the character classes as we know them are just the flavour.
One thing I’m not a fan of is the power source, I find it arbitrary and a little forced. The exceptions being arcane and divine, which have an understood tradition within the game. The Ranger for example could easily be a primal power source, I would argue that most Rangers don’t recieve the formal martial training a Fighter or even a Paladin would receive. Similarly does the Rogue receive formal martial training?

@ Donny
I’d love to play more, think you can convince my wife that it’s a good idea!

@ Tom
As I mentioned above I have no intention of purchasing the PHB2, I’m waiting for the character builder to update with the new information.

7 Hammer March 17, 2009 at 8:12 pm

You didn’t play 3.x then?

I’m still feeling that 16 classes is far too few given all the options for multi-classing and advanced classes in 3.x. It’s probably what I miss most about the system.

8 Masamundane March 18, 2009 at 10:55 am

I am happy to see Bard and Barbarian back, but the others feel a bit like prestige classes made core to me. To be honest, with the prestige classes gone in 4.0, it won’t be too surprising to see many of the favorites of them (prestige) become core classes over the years.
I was more disappointed with the new races. Ok, yes I know they all showed up in 3.0/3.5, but did they need to return? Am I the only one feeling this?

It may be because I’m trying to world build from scratch here with 4.0, and don’t need to try to fit more races into the hierarchy. Also I have players more apt to switch out characters for ones with more exotic races than ones with new classes, so I see that coming already; my group is already consisting of a Dragon born, an Eladarin, an Elf, and a Shadar Kai.

Anyways, got distracted there. Sorry.

9 Swordgleam March 18, 2009 at 11:56 am

Just because a class is “core” doesn’t mean you have to play it. People are still pissed that the monk isn’t out, even though 20 other classes are. So Wizards can’t win – either people are mad that their favourite isn’t one of the few chosen, or people are mad that there are too many.

As to your logistical problem, my group solves it this way – one major campaign, where everyone plays their character and tries to advance them, and, when we have the time, one-shots where we can try out any character we like. Playing my lvl 14 tiefling warlock pretty pretty princess was a great time, and not something I’d have gotten a chance to do in the main game. Our fighter had a good time as a wizard, and so on. We’ll probably do another one once someone has the PHB2.

10 Wimwick March 18, 2009 at 12:15 pm

@ Hammer
I think the Paragon Paths give plent of options for diversity with the classes. 4e seems to have cut down on how much you can multi-class but it is still a viable option. I would take more Paragon Paths over core classes.

@ Masamundane
The only race that I don’t like too much in PHB2 (yes, I have read it, no I don’t own it) is the Goliath. I feel it’s attribute bonus is what the Half-Orc received in 3.5 and I’m wondering why adjust the Half-Orc for 4e.

As you mentioned players creating new characters is bound to happen and I don’t suppose that’s a bad thing at the end of the day. Though I’m sure some DMs will be thinking of creative ways to introduce the new character and maintain campaign continuity.

@ Swordgleam
Thanks for stopping by Dungeon’s Master.
My group solves the problem in a similiar fasion. In a couple of weeks we’ll be playing an Epic level Dungeon Delve which everyone is looking forward to.

My anger is somewhat tongue in cheek, yes I fell there are a lot of classes but I’m glad the Bard and Druid have been released. I’m also very excited by the look of the Avenger and the Sorceror. I guess you could say I have mixed feelings about it, but still do intend to check out the new offering of classes.

11 Dungeon April 1, 2009 at 10:48 am

But with so many classes, does it hurt role-playing?
you know how in 3.5 they had a Knight class in PHB2. Well, back in days of old (i once played 2nd edition d&d) if you wanted to be a Knight, all you had to do was role-play it. you know, become a squire, learn from a Knight, gain a sword,etc. what if all these new classes coming out are nothing more than stereotypes. what happens if you were a 14th-level fighter, but wanted to join the church and become a priest (cleric)? how would you make that transaction? how would a DM in 4th edition do that. can someone give me some suggestions.

12 Wimwick April 1, 2009 at 5:28 pm

@ Dungeon
I’m not sure that it hurts roleplaying, I’m a big believer that roleplay is really what you make of it at the game table. I do agree with you that if I want to play a knight I should create a fighter and give him the appropriate background.
Regarding moving from fighter to cleric during your characters career this is where multi-classing comes in. I feel the rules for this in 4e are put together nicely to provide some good balance.
My beef with the PHB2 is the timing. That we would see new classes was never in doubt, I would have liked to see WotC work on other aspects of the 4e experience first.

13 Dungeon April 2, 2009 at 8:25 am

@ Wimwick
What other aspects would you like them to work on? anything specific?

14 Wimwick April 2, 2009 at 9:12 pm

@ Dungeon
I’d like them to work on the DDI. Read my post on it here: Why Wizards Missed The Boat With The Insider.

15 Dungeon April 3, 2009 at 9:08 am

WotC should make DDI free. wait… you NEED the Players’ Handbook 2 to actually play 4th edition now? why can’t it be optional?

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