Review: Classes of Distinction

Classes of Distinction‘ is a non-official supplement for D&D 5e, containing new class archetypes for several classes. It’s by Dan Coleman, who also produced the excellent ‘Dungeons on Demand’, which is well worth checking out.

Here’s an overview of what’s in this brand-new publication.

Barbarian – Path of the Alpha

This gives the barbarian the ability to make ‘war cries’ which support their allies and grant things like temporary hit points, or extra movement.

It’s nice idea, and suggests a barbarian as a party leader (well, I’m sure they all see themselves as that), who can support their allies while also murdering everyone. Some of the cry effects are a little situational however, and I’d have preferred to see some other abilities to go alongside them (like the Totem Barbarian’s Commune with Nature for example).

Bard – College of the Muse

College of the Muse powers up a bard’s inspiration, ensuring a minimum value for a roll and even letting the bard inspire themselves.

This archetype is pretty uninspiring (geddit?), and I can’t see any real reason to choose this over one of the other colleges. Powering up the inspiration is nice, but it doesn’t let you use them to effect enemies (like a lore bard’s cutting words) or to improve damage or AC (like a valor bard’s combat inspiration). Plus you’d also be missing out on the extra attack or magical secrets, in exchange for just more inspiration. Nah.

Stay classy...archetypes.
Stay classy…archetypes.

Druid – Circle of Ruin

A ruin druid is an offensive druid. They can wild shape into a super-saiyan form, giving them better defences while still being able to cast spells, and gain most benefit while in the thick of action.

I think this does what it sets out to do – strike a balance between the magic of a land druid and the wild-shapiness of the moon. Whether that’s something that needed to be done however…? I quite like the feel of it, I imagine it plays similarly to a Storm Cleric where you wade in battle unleashing destruction on everything.

Ranger – Trapsman

A sneaky ranger, who sets traps for enemies, and fights best when they’re hiding around the corner.

I really like this idea, although how useful each of the traps would be depends on the campaign you’re playing. I’m also not sure about the balance of some of the traps – those that cause damage seem to vary between 2d4, 1d10 and 2d6 (with saving throws to reduce damage). Why would anyone choose the 2d4 version? Also, at higher levels I’d have the traps affect multiple creatures – it’s no use dazzling one orc when his 6 friends are right behind him.

Rogue – Vigilante

Your character is now Batman, or Kick Ass, the Green Arrow, or any other masked superhero you’d like. You can create an alter-ego, and get bonuses to use improvised weapons and restrain incapacitated foes.

This is a really cool idea, and offers a lot of roleplaying potential. However it also demands a lot of roleplaying, and most of it won’t fit in with what the rest of your party is doing. Also, isn’t there already a feat that makes you better with improvised weapons?

Sorcerer – Blood Magic

A blood mage draws on the power of their own life to fuel their spells, doing enormous damage at enormous cost to themselves. Essentially you trade hit dice for extra damage and/or spells and can do things like prepare spells by self-harming.

I love this origin, even if it is a bit emo. It’s a great addition to the sorcerer options, and has great risk-reward balance. This is now allowed in all campaigns I run!

Wizard – Chronomancy

This arcane tradition give the character control over time. You can move faster, fall slower and even avoid being hit a the last second.

Meh. Although it sounds cool, this option just doesn’t do it for me. I think because the other options are tied to an actual school of magic, so it feels more like you’re the master of that field. Probably a good option for multi-classers though, this seems like a good adventurewizard.

Final Thoughts

Overall I think this a good supplement for any 5e gamer. Some of the archetypes are great, some good, some not so much, but they’re all interesting, and I’m sure a committed player (or DM) could make any of them work. More options are always good! Most importantly, none of them are so over- or under-powered that they’ll break the game or prevent anyone else from having fun.

Classes of Distinction is available at DriveThruRPG and it’s pay-what-you-want, which means exactly that! Even if you use just one of these archetypes, that’s got to be worth a quid (or dollar or whatever).

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