I’ve told you all how pleased I am with 5e. Now it’s time to start picking on the things I don’t care for so much. The top of the list for me is definitely Classes.

I’ve never been a fan of class bloat. That’s probably because I don’t see class as the defining aspect of a character. Instead, I view each character class as a set of skills and multi-classing as the norm instead of the exception.

In my game any character can wear any armor and use any weapon. They can all attempt to pick locks or disarm traps. Without training though, there may be penalties and of course the chance of success will be lower. If a wizard wishes to wear armor and use weapons effectively, she trains a few levels as a fighter. If a fighter wants to have a better chance at disarming traps, she trains a few levels as a thief. Through multi-classing, and with the right feats, a character can become any archetype with just the four basic classes: Fighter, Thief, Cleric, and Wizard.

That method works for my group but I can understand how some people prefer a more traditional approach. But how far do you take it?

Too Many Options

5e has 12 character classes: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard. None of these are new to 5e. Most have been around for decades. So my complaint isn’t with 5e so much (at least not over these 12 classes) but with class bloat in general.

Why is Druid a separate class? It is a Cleric of a nature god with unique spells and special feats. Why is Ranger a separate class? It is a multi-classed fighter/cleric (maybe thief as well). Monks and Barbarians are simply fighters with certain feats and different play styles.

Not everyone will see it that way and that’s fine. I’m a huge fan of every group running the game in whatever way works best for them. But 5e doesn’t stop at just 12 classes.

WAY Too Many Options

Each class also has branching paths to choose from. At an early level, each character must also decide which path to take, receiving additional abilities based on their choice. Each of these paths is essentially a separate class (at least as different as druid from cleric or barbarian from fighter).

That brings the total up to 37 separate classes (not counting clerical domains or wizard specializations as unique classes). I couldn’t even remember the names of all these options let alone the differences between them.

A Complete List of 5e Classes

  • Barbarian
    • Path of the Berserker
    • Path of the Totem Warrior
  • Bard
    • College of Lore
    • College of Valor
  • Cleric
    • Knowledge Domain
    • Life Domain
    • Light Domain
    • Nature Domain
    • Tempest Domain
    • Trickery Domain
    • War Domain
  • Druid
    • Circle of the Land
    • Circle of the Moon
  • Fighter
    • Champion
    • Battle Master
    • Eldritch Knight
  • Monk
    • Way of the Open Hand
    • Way of Shadow
    • Way of the Four Elements
  • Paladin
    • Oath of Devotion
    • Oath of the Ancients
    • Oath of Vengeance
  • Ranger
    • Hunter
    • Beast Master
  • Rogue
    • Thief
    • Assassin
    • Arcane Trickster
  • Sorcerer
    • Draconic Bloodline
    • Wild Magic
  • Warlock
    • The Archfey
    • The Fiend
    • The Great Old One
  • Wizard
    • School of Abjuration
    • School of Conjuration
    • School of Divination
    • School of Enchantment
    • School of Evocation
    • School of Illusion
    • School of Necromancy
    • School of Transmutation

Why Is This Bad?

The biggest problem with all this is that, because no one can be expected to memorize the details for 37 classes, everyone is forced to turn to the books (frequently) for clarification. This makes the books, not the DM, the final arbiter of the rules and this is what, in the past, led to the problem with rules lawyers. All these options also foster min-maxing and meta-gaming, all of which are imo detrimental to the game.

Another problem is how does a new player pick a class? It would take me hours to make an informed decision and I have some familiarity with d&d. A new player would be overwhelmed and possibly turned off to the whole game, viewing it as overly complicated and too much work.

Some players and DMs will certainly enjoy all the detail; others will not, but experienced DMs can easily trim away what they don’t like. However, I think offering up classes like this (as the default character generation method) was a poor choice on Wizard’s part. It is just too complicated and unweildy for new players (and new DMs). I think it would have been much better to introduce the additional paths (possible even some of the core classes themselves) in an expansion book.

I would add though that I think the various paths were pretty well done. My criticisms aside, I think they did a good job on what they were trying to accomplish. I never cared for Prestige Classes, from which I believe these paths were inspired. These paths are imo a vast improvement.