Design Question: What's the point of having more than the four main classes?


General Discussion


I know, this seems like a silly question when we consider what game we're talking about, but I'm talking about something very specific here, and this serves more as both an examination of design choices as well as a thought experiment.

As most people might be aware of, Adventure Paths in PF1 are balanced around a Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, and Rogue party paradigm. One Martial, One Skill Monkey, One Full Divine Spellcaster, and One Full Arcane Spellcaster. This means any other unorthodox group, such as, say, Paladin, Bard, Barbarian, and Magus, will either underperform in some aspects (such as the spellcasting issues), but well outperform in other aspects (such as having knowledges and other skills at superior levels, plus a heavy increase in martial capability). So, this means that by design, the second party will be heavily imbalanced towards the options the Adventure Path lays out for them, and that they are actually more unlikely to properly finish the adventure (or break certain adventure interactions) than if they were the standard class makeup.

Based on numerous developer comments, this paradigm has not changed. Wizards aren't as powerful, but still have some utility to bring to the party. Rogues are the gods of skills (having twice as many trained and potential Legendary skills, plus twice the skill feats). Fighters are extremely capable of going toe-to-toe in physical combat, and Clerics are absolutely mandatory for properly fulfilling an adventuring day without it resulting in a TPK through their outrageous healing capabilities.

So, if the game (and by relation, the adventures) still always assume that a Cleric, Wizard, Fighter, and Rogue are being played, then why on earth do classes like Bards, Sorcerers, Barbarians, Alchemists, Paladins, etc. still exist if they are not something the game assumes players have? The game is busted and doesn't really function well if we go outside of the assumed design paradigm, and it's not like the adventure path assumptions have changed much in regards to class interactions (other than Clerics being the new God class now, but that's beside the point). Why do we have all of these other unnecessary classes for which the game, in my experience, actually goes out of its way to assume you don't have/use them?


Because those assumptions aren't that rigid nor mutually exclusive with the other classes. Many of the other classes are comparable to those primary classes. Many deficiencies can be overcome in play and are not prohibitive. There are often multiple ways to overcome certain challenges.

The simplest answer for why do we have them is because we as consumers demand more than the simplest classes.

Now, I wouldn't mind say fewer core templates and modular class features as opposed to distinct classes. Essentially a build your own class system.


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Quote:
This means any other unorthodox group, such as, say, Paladin, Bard, Barbarian, and Magus, will either underperform in some aspects (such as the spellcasting issues), but well outperform in other aspects (such as having knowledges and other skills at superior levels, plus a heavy increase in martial capability). So, this means that by design, the second party will be heavily imbalanced towards the options the Adventure Path lays out for them, and that they are actually more unlikely to properly finish the adventure (or break certain adventure interactions) than if they were the standard class makeup.

If the players choose to make a party that over-compensates in certain fields and underperforms in other fields, then by the process of iteration of a random/even distribution of challenges, they will eventually run into situations where they underperform more often than a party who covers all the major proficiencies.

That's not a problem with design, because no version of D&D or PF has ever assumed that randomly choosing classes for a party will result in an even level of challenge. There has always been "roles" a fantasy RPG party has needed, even if they haven't been explicitly stated in the rules. It's not always clear what those roles are, or which classes are good for which roles. But if you see multiple classes doing something well (magic, healing, fighting, social skills), then it's a clue that the system expects someone to be good at that. You can replace one class with another if they're both specialized in the same thing.

That's not to say that unusual groups can't work. They just need to know what they're good at, and push any encounter to favour those strengths. A group of a Bard, Rogue, Illusionist Wizard, and Divination Wizard can misdirect, sneak, and cajole, but should never start a fair fight.


Underperform or overperform at what? The adventures are not standardized. A party that fights against giants has different needs than a party that fights against ninjas or a party that fights against robots. Or a party that fights against goblins at 1st level and giants at 10th level.

In addition, fighters and wizards are two of the most unpredictable classes. I have run a campaign where the fighter was a steady tank, absorbing damage from all blows but dealing little, and another campaign where the fighter was a human cuisinart, chopping enemies to bits in a round. Wizards have a reputation for breaking games.

I presume that if all classes were variants of clerics, fighters, rogues, and wizards, then the alchemist would be a wizard archetype, the barbarian would be a fighter archetype, bard would be a cleric archetype, druid would be a cleric archetype, monk would be a rogue archetype, paladin would be a cleric archetype, ranger would be a fighter archetype, and sorcerer would be a wizard archetype. If the system is flexible enough that a bard can be built as a variant of cleric or rogue, then I am fine with that, but the arguments about standardization would fall apart.

My most recent campaign had a fighter/investigator, gunslinger/rogue, magus, skald, and bloodrager. They did not use the standard front line of armored fighter and cleric with the vulnerable wizard protected in the back and the rogue sneaking up unseen. Instead, they were fluid skirmishers, taking advantage of the mobility of the classes and the freedom of not protecting squishies. That was useful against most of their foes, who had powerful ranged weapons much more often than the typical adventure path. The non-traditional style in a non-traditional setting was fun.


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I don't think I've ever been in an AP with a group that maps neatly to "fighter/wizard/rogue/cleric" and we've never had problems completing them (in large part because PF1 APs aren't very hard usually). I figure this is even less of a pressing issue for PF2 because magic isn't as strong as it used to be, so missing the arcane caster (like we almost always are) is less of a big deal.

But generally speaking the point of having more classes, like the point of having more of any kind of character options, is that it gives people ideas of a character they want to play. If limited to just those four classes, I don't know if I would have come up with the concept for any of my favorite PF characters.


The way PF2 is setup, it would lend itself well to just 4 classes, and everything else taken care of via Feats, Archetypes, etc.

Dark Archive

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Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
(other than Clerics being the new God class now, but that's beside the point)

Pretty sure Cleric has always been the God class :P


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LuniasM wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
(other than Clerics being the new God class now, but that's beside the point)
Pretty sure Cleric has always been the God class :P

It was a polytheistic pantheon in PF1, which the Cleric sharing its lofty position with the likes of the Wizard. Not to mention the demigod classes like sorcerer. We're in full monotheism territory now.

Lantern Lodge

After 30 years of play, I'm sort of tired of playing the base four classes. I like playing things that are different, even if that means I'm not the best at one of those core features.

More than that, roleplaying games are supposed to be ways that we can create stories... along with the other players and GM. It isn't just a what's the most effective thing to do, it's about what's the fun thing to do. If the story we want to have is about 4 bards who travel and snark at each other, then that should be a story we can play in Pathfinder. Yes, it will make some adventures harder than others, but that's by our own choice.

Boojum the brown bunny


More than 4 classes allows for more than 4 characters in a party. This is where the Bard shines, for example.

See also, NPCs.

Dark Archive

Dasrak wrote:
LuniasM wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
(other than Clerics being the new God class now, but that's beside the point)
Pretty sure Cleric has always been the God class :P
It was a polytheistic pantheon in PF1, which the Cleric sharing its lofty position with the likes of the Wizard. Not to mention the demigod classes like sorcerer. We're in full monotheism territory now.

No, I mean literally.


Mudfoot wrote:

More than 4 classes allows for more than 4 characters in a party. This is where the Bard shines, for example.

See also, NPCs.

True, bard is the classic 5th, and monk is up there.

In AD&D most of the Dragon mag classes were NPC-only.

...imagine if they tried that today...


Having a dozen classes each with its own set of features does seem at odds with the otherwise modular nature of PF2 and I had very much hoped we'd be seeing a reversion to the AD&D2 paradigm where you have Clerics, Fighters, Magic Users, and Thieves with the ability to use class feats to replicate other classes.


Crayon wrote:
Having a dozen classes each with its own set of features does seem at odds with the otherwise modular nature of PF2 and I had very much hoped we'd be seeing a reversion to the AD&D2 paradigm where you have Clerics, Fighters, Magic Users, and Thieves with the ability to use class feats to replicate other classes.

If anything, I would love to see the return of the term: Magic-User, really has a certain panache (1st Ed has great vibe).


Crayon wrote:
Having a dozen classes each with its own set of features does seem at odds with the otherwise modular nature of PF2 and I had very much hoped we'd be seeing a reversion to the AD&D2 paradigm where you have Clerics, Fighters, Magic Users, and Thieves with the ability to use class feats to replicate other classes.

Looks at AD&D PHB.

Sees Priest, Druid, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Thief, Bard, Mage

Arguably, they kind of did that with Priests and Mages - merging Illusionists as just one kind of Speciality Mage and giving different abilities to various kinds of Priests, but it didn't go much beyond that.
And the Mage differences were less than current School differences.


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thejeff wrote:
Crayon wrote:
Having a dozen classes each with its own set of features does seem at odds with the otherwise modular nature of PF2 and I had very much hoped we'd be seeing a reversion to the AD&D2 paradigm where you have Clerics, Fighters, Magic Users, and Thieves with the ability to use class feats to replicate other classes.

Looks at AD&D PHB.

Sees Priest, Druid, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Thief, Bard, Mage

Arguably, they kind of did that with Priests and Mages - merging Illusionists as just one kind of Speciality Mage and giving different abilities to various kinds of Priests, but it didn't go much beyond that.
And the Mage differences were less than current School differences.

There are also Kits, some can drastically change your caster (in the Sha'irs Handbook: Clockwork Mage, Spellweaver, Mystic of Nog, etc).


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thejeff wrote:
Crayon wrote:
Having a dozen classes each with its own set of features does seem at odds with the otherwise modular nature of PF2 and I had very much hoped we'd be seeing a reversion to the AD&D2 paradigm where you have Clerics, Fighters, Magic Users, and Thieves with the ability to use class feats to replicate other classes.

Looks at AD&D PHB.

Sees Priest, Druid, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Thief, Bard, Mage

Arguably, they kind of did that with Priests and Mages - merging Illusionists as just one kind of Speciality Mage and giving different abilities to various kinds of Priests, but it didn't go much beyond that.
And the Mage differences were less than current School differences.

Sorta. For stuff like proficiency, THAC0 and stuff, all the classes were bundled into four discrete categories: Priest, Rogue, Warrior, and Wizard. It proved surprisingly robust if sometimes counter-intuitive, but I think Psionicist was the only time they really added a new class after core that didn't fit one of those four categories in some way...

Edit: Also, the Player's Option line of books organized classes that way too, IIRC

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