Last month, James over at Grognardia reflected on how the "4+3" structure of how B/X presents classes is simple, sturdy, flexible, and helps build a world that feels real.
While 5e is not my preferred rule-set (I would play 0e, Holmes, or B/X before I play any other edition), I think it is by far the best of the "new school" editions and (depending on the day) I might even admit that I would rather play it than 1e ADnD.
One of the reasons I am not enthusiastic about 5e is precisely the reason that it so radically departs from the 4+3 presentation of classes. If one looks merely at the core rules, there are 9 races each with at least two variants and 12 classes with at least two variants each. All told, there are thousands of different mechanical ways to represent a character. Add in the various splat books and this number goes up exponentially. In other words, the only descriptor that can still be applied to both BX and 5e is "flexible," though I probably prefer the word "chaotic" in the case of 5e.
As one might infer from reading my blog the over years, I take great delight in building worlds based on what can be inferred from the rules and mechanics of the game. BX is a fantastic vehicle for this approach. 5e makes such a project virtually nigh impossible due to information overload; however, one of the things I do like about 5e is that it does present all this information as optional. It empowers the DM to put limits on which rules get used and which do not.
Thus, it invites me to apply the "4+3" paradigm to the races and classes of 5e. What follows is, I hope, inspiring because what I consider to be the "core classes" is, in some cases, not what one might expect.
Note: I do have access to a pair of the splat books and am taking advantage of them due to some thematic elements found therein.
Paladin (Oath of Vengeance), Variant Human with Heavy Armor Master Feat
Barbarian (Path of the Zealot), Variant Human with Durable Feat
Rogue (Arcane Trickster Archetype), Variant Human with Ritual Caster Feat
Monk (Way of the Shadow), Normal Human
Barbarian (Path of the Berserker), Mountain Dwarf
Fighter (Eldritch Knight Archetype), High Elf
Rogue (Assassin Archetype), Stout Halfling
Sorcerer (Divine Soul Origin), Variant Human with Fey Touched or Shadow Touched Feat
Fighter (Rune Knight Archetype), Variant Human with Fey Touched or Shadow Touched Feat
Warlock (Archfey Patron), Variant Human with Fey Touched Feat
Rogue (Phantom Archetype), Variant Human with Shadow Touched Feat
Ranger (Fey Wanderer), Half-elf
Wizard (Blade Singing), High Elf
Wizard (School of Illusion), Forest Gnome
Cleric (Tempest Domain), Normal Human
Barbarian (Path of the Storm), Normal Human
Sorcerer (Storm Sorcery), Normal Human
Rogue (Swashbuckler Archetype), Normal Human
Warlock (Genie Patron), Dragonborn
Wizard (Blade Singing), High Elf
Warlock (The Fathomless Patron), Half-elf
Monk (Way of Mercy), Variant Human with Healer Feat
Monk (Path of the Kensei), Variant Human with Weapon Master Feat
Bard (College of Swords), Variant Human with Ritual Caster Feat
Rogue (Swashbuckler Archetype), Variant Human with Dual Wielder Feat
Rogue (Assassin Archetype), Half-orc
Bard (College of Whispers), High Elf
Rogue (Mastermind Archetype), Half-elf
What I love about this approach is that each world has a distinct feel, grounded in the mechanics of the classes themselves. One can start imagining reasons why each class has the mechanics they do. Speaking of the mechanics, since that is all they are, we are free to re-skin everything within a class to better explain them in context of the world in which they appear.
So, which world would you like to run or adventure in?
I just skimmed through the post on Grognardia, but I'm missing something entry level in your examples. What does Magic-User: Bard (College of Swords), Variant Human with Ritual Caster feat -mean-? The magic-user is a college of swords bard that can only be a variant human with the ritual caster feat? Or all Elves are High Elven College of Whispers bards?
It means that the Core Class that normally would be the Magic-user in the BX 4+3 class structure is taken up by a Bard who will follow the College of Swords variant in 5e. The Variant Human in 5e allows for a Feat at 1st level (in this case Ritual Caster).
Yes, all "Magic-users" in this case are Bards of the College of Swords with the Ritual Caster Feat and all "Elves" are High Elves that are Bards of the College of Whispers.
My intent here is to take one option of the overwhelming number of choices for classes in 5e and use it as one of the "4+3" classes one might find in an alternate 5e version of BX. Since BX is such a wonderful vehicle for world-building, I thought 5e could be as well given the same "limitations." Given these four examples, I think it can be.
Yup, that works. I've done something similar as a concept exercise, and while I don't limit races to (human plus) three, I keep a cap on them and swap in and out as it pleases me.
There could be also a bit different approach, where players make any characters they wish, but then the GM builds the world based on their choices. It would make players participate in the world-building.
I ran a test of this concept with my family. They chose the following characters:
1. Human Ranger (Beast Master)
2. Dragonborn Sorcerer (Draconic Bloodline)
3. Dragonborn Bard (College of Swords)
4. Monk (Sun Soul)
Given the above, I tried to fill in the blanks:
Bard (College of Creation)
Ranger (Beast Master)
Sorcerer (Clockwork Origin)
Monk (Sun Soul)
Ranger (Gloom Stalker) Lizardfolk
Sorcerer (Dragonic bloodline) Dragonborn (Chromatic)
Bard (College of Swords) Dragonborn (Metallic)
This paints a really interesting picture, no?
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