Review of the 5e Player’s Handbook (Classes)
I thought I could bang out a quick review of the 5e PHB as I did with the Monster Manual, but there is just far too much ground to cover. So I’ll give you my take on the classes first. I am happy with all the base classes in fifth, they seem balanced and the archetypes give them serious re-play value. Here is a brief break down:
Not much different here, this class will feel very familiar. The rage mechanics are far simpler as you no longer add stat points mid combat. Instead, you take less damage and do more damage. The barbarian has two paths; one that heightens the rage ability and one that is more spiritual and offers magical abilities (though not spell slots).
The bard gets a pretty big power bump in 5e as they now have access to spells all the way to ninth. As far as archetypes, they bard has two colleges to choose from, one that focuses on being in the thick of combat and rallying forces, and one that focuses on knowledge. Bards look cool to me for the first time (sorry to the three bard fans out there).
Largely unchanged, again this class will feel very familiar to pre-fourth players. Clerics only have one domain as do most gods in 5e (Side note, the PHB lists nearly every god in D&D history: Forgotten Realms, Dragon Lance, Greyhawk, etc., as well as many Earth pantheons, Greeks, Egyptians, etc it is an impressive list to compile your pantheon from.). There are seven domains to choose from: knowledge, life, light, nature, tempest, trickery, and war. The DMG also contains the death domain for evil characters.
No big changes for the druid. They choose from two paths one of which offers a broader range of spells dependent on the land type the druid protects, and the second offers more wild shape options. It looks like the animal companion got chopped.
The fighter has always been my favorite class and they get a lot of attention in fifth. They have three archetypes to choose from: the Champion is an easy to play fighter that requires little thought (along the lines of the 3.5 fighter) he hits, and he hits hard. The Battle Master reminds me of the classes from the Book of Nine Swords or maybe a 4e warlord; he has numerous maneuvers and abilities that he can choose from that aid his party and make him extremely interesting to play. He is slightly more complicated than the standard fighter but a refreshing change for those of us that want a more dynamic melee character. Lastly, the fighter can choose to be Eldritch Knight, which, much like the 3.5 prestige class it’s derived from, is a fighter mage with spells up to fifth level. 5e fighters are amazing.
I’ve never been a fan of the monk class and feel that it really doesn’t fit into the western feel of a largely medieval game, but with that said, the 5e monk is pretty cool as monks go. They have three paths: one that focuses on hand-to-hand combat, one that is essentially a ninja, and one that gets spell like abilities (though no spell slots).
The idea of a non-lawful good paladin isn’t a new idea, there have been paladin variants around for over thirty years and have always been met with mixed emotions. The 5e paladin comes in three varieties: the pain in ass lawful good chivalrous knight we all know and love, a neutral good, nature knight (an elven knight from Middle Earth), and a badass, don’t get in my way neutral or lawful neutral knight of vengeance that is on a mission to destroy evil and cares nothing for law or goodness. The DMG also has an Oathbreaker path for evil paladins that have strayed from the path of good. Not sure how I feel about the third option, but the pally has options for players that don’t want to go the boy scout path. Paladin also get their spells much earlier, and cast up to fifth-level spells.
The ranger, like the pally, see increased spell casting, and has two options: the beast master with his animal companion, and the hunter (who should probably be called a slayer) who focuses on hunting a favored enemy.
Like the fighter, the 5e rogue gets a lot of attention and has three paths to walk: the thief (no explanation needed), the assassin (first edition fans rejoice), and the arcane trickster who is essentially a rogue/mage.
Earlier in the 5e playtest the sorcerer has a vastly different and new approach to a spellcaster (as was the warlock), but fans shouted that idea down and the final product is fairly the same as it was in 3.5 or pathfinder. The sorcerer has two possible bloodlines: draconic and the much-loved wild magic. My beloved 3.5’s attempt at the wild mage in Complete Arcane was a joke, but the 5e wild mage is more akin to its 2e roots, complete with wild surge chart.
The warlock is once again a base class (one thing 4e did right). The warlock has invocations, as well as spell slots. The warlock derives their power from three possible sources: fiends, fey, and great old ones (yup, Cthulhu and his homeboys).
Finally, everybody’s favorite blaster caster, the wizard. Like the cleric, the wiz doesn’t see much of a change. At creation the wizard must choose one of the eight schools to specialize in, but he isn’t barred from other schools as we was in the past, he’s just better at one school.
All in all, the 5e player’s handbook gives you 12 base classes (the most of any PHB in the game’s forty year history) that after archetypes is actually 40 (42 if you allow evil characters) classes. That is pretty cool. Sure we lost prestige classes (for now), but can play a lot of those role more quickly. I am especially impressed with the fighters, monks, paladins, and rogues.