For DMs: Do you ban certain classes/ subclasses in your games?

Question @ the DungeonMasters, are there any specific builds/ classes/ subclasses that u personally (beyond V.A.L.U.E. rules) ban in either ur oneshots on fridays and/or personal campaigns?

Thinking of stuff like charisma classes taking a Hexblade dip, Zealot Barbarian, Twilight Domain Cleric, Chronurgy Wizards?

Heard that some DMs ban (multi)classes like these and am just curious how some of you guys n girls handle such builds :slight_smile:

For me, for homegames, it always depends on the party. If a build would create a massive power imbalace within the party (read as: One player clears all battles before the others have any chance to act/contribute) then yes (sort of).

I usually try to work with that player to figure out what aspects they want to have for their character and how we might make it work. So while I try not ban - I do homebrew and nerf if necessary.

Not a 5th ed DM, but yes. Sure.

Not all published stuff is good stuff.

I usually don’t ban anything, I much rather homebrew adjust the things that just don’t work. Eg make silvery barbes useless against bosses because they aren’t distracted that easily.

Edit: the question was about (sub-)classes but the concept still applies

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typically we find a way

as ThatGuyTed said, this def. depends on player composition

sometimes, I also “ban” stuff for a campaign, 'cause it would not fit into the themes / setting

Typically I don’t ban stuff as a DM. Even if a class/subclass does not thematically fit the campaign, it can almost always be reflavored.

As ThatGuyTed said, if there is a big power imbalance, it should be first talked about with the player in question to find a solution.

Regarding multiclasses, I don’t ban them either, it is more like thr opposite for me. I am a big supporter of the mantra “Flavor is Free”, and if a multiclass gives you the mechanics you need for your character concept, then go for it - even if that means you take warlock levels without having a patron, if you take cleric levels without praying or if you play a fighter as if they were a paladin.
In general, I like to work with my players to help them to bring their character to life, even if homebrew adjustments are needed - like allowing them to learn certain spells not on their spell list or allowing them to switch their casting stat (especially Int warlocks, Wis ancients paladins or Cha arcane tricksters come to mind).

Races are a different beast though, if a setting does not have a certain race, then banning it makes sense; although sometimes a race can be reflavored - such as a fire genasi fire-themed caster just being a human or elf with all the fire abilities coming from their magic/sorcerous bloodline rather than their race.

I often balance stuff in a setting with flavour

e.g.

  • when someone plays a sharda-kai, you can give them a “interesting” history in your setting (looted the idea from an excellent DM^^)

  • or a Peace domain cleric must promote peace, else that character fails their god

this is especially true if there are combinations …

e.g.

  • a Paladin/Warlock has to keep their oath as well as their pact

in some settings some classes just don’t exist (in Krynn’s history there is a long time period, where there were no clerics)

I like these ideas too, but I would not enforce them as a DM, I would instead leave that up to the player’s decision.

About your examples,

  • Maybe they want to use the Shadar-Kai race for some other kind of elven character, like a chronomancer, and flavoring the teleport as slipping through time?

  • maybe someone wants to play a character for whom the mechanics of the peace domain work really well, but in terms of flavor they are a cleric following a god of war? (such as using the emboldening bond to inspire their brethren for battle, like a battlecry)

  • maybe the warlock powers are just part of their oath? A good example here would be a conquest paladin taking a level or two of undead warlock for the Form of Dread ability, which can easily be flavored as being part of his oath - after all the oath of conquest is already all about instilling fear and culling the weak.

  • Lore-wise clerics in Krynn might not exist, but I would still allow someone to play something like a knowledge or arcana domain cleric flavored as a wizard who studies theurgy. Limiting the amount of cleric spells they can learn (and giving them more wizard spells in place) could work here, if the player is fine with that.

then I would find something else … meddling with the time-stream has terrible consequences anyway :butterfly:

no … Peace and War are not the same thing

in my headcanon … classes have a “ground-flavour” (for lack of a better term)
a cleric get’s their power from their god … a warlock from their pact

no, there are reasons why the gods went silent … and the lack of magic healing is one of the core features of that time period
… still … there are ways to pull playing a cleric in Krynn (in that time period) off … but that is very likely tied to the story of the campaign (e.g. you are the first cleric of X)


What would be the point of the return of the clerics then?

I see, we simply have very different approaches to DMing ^-^

I think, like most others, there’s a difference between banning for power, and banning for story.

At VALUE:

For power: No, that’s why we have VALUE rules.

For story: I can see doing this, although I haven’t had occasion yet. Much like everything we’ve already seen with the evil or Dragonborn sessions, it gives people the chance to experience something different. So communication ahead of time, and I thought @Darthbinks bringing the pre-gens is a nice way of helping out players who might not be able to prep.

In Campaigns:

For power:

Classes/subclasses, no. Because it doesn’t solve the problem. If someone wants to power game, they’re going to do it, I’m not going to read dozens of books to try to stop them. I think as the others described, it’s better to work with the player to achieve the right balance within the party, and if needed tone things done on an individual level with agreement from the player. So long as the party agrees with what level of strength they’re aiming for (a Tomb of Horrors party may be differently balanced than a standard one), then it’s not an issue.

I will say this: I’ve learned that a party doesn’t need to be completely balanced in combat. Maybe even “shouldn’t” be. It took me awhile to learn that as a DM. Characters are more than their damage output. Ideally, each character in a campaign has their own strength, whether it’s combat (ranged or melee), stealth, intelligence, jack-of-all-trades, or whatever. In one event, maybe the strongest combat player shines. But maybe in the next one, they have to hold the line against the big evil monster, but the actual most important thing is that rogue who has to make balance checks to get across the beam to reach the artifact. Or the high intelligence scholar who has to quickly decipher the script to banish the demon (did I just slip into Cthulu? Sorry). As long as each person in the party believes they have their own role to play, it works out.

For Story: Yes, I have, to make for a better story for players. Since it’s conveyed before players ever make characters, I’ve never really had anyone fight too hard against it. Probably because it’s done to make for a better story for the players, not for a DM’s personal amusement. Re: Krynn, if I was running that era as a campaign, I’d ask for no clerics/paladins for that purpose.

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actually I did not do that^^

I suggested that it would be good to play a dragonborn, else they can only be a wingman
… and actually one player played a human :slight_smile:
(and brought 3 pre-gen dragonborn in case someone drops in, who would enjoy the romance part)

(the only thing that would not have worked in that story, would have been a dragonborn, who worships Bahamut or Tiamat)

excluding stuff for plot/story-reasons in advance (e.g. your character cannot be allied with the Red Wizards of Thay), I already did at VALUE in the past

very limiting stuff like “drow only” is better for home campaigns I think


well if power imbalance becomes so big, that one character constantly overshadows another character (or more), than it becomes a problem … but stuff like this can … or at least should … be talked out

It may not solve the problem, but asking players to play suboptimally also feels weird, especially in something like modern D&D that emphasizes system mastery. If power gaming is a problem, it’s probably an issue with the game as a whole, and you might need a new system.

I can definitely see that. Balanced systems lead to less policing, and I’ll definitely not claim that 5e is perfectly balanced. The larger anything grows, the easier it is to find something game-breaking. I’ll admit to loving the older versions myself.

But the decision on how serious to play is one that people face for any kind of game. If you’re playing a sport, do you throw your body into it, knock people down, try your absolute physical best to score? Or are you playing for fun, laughing with friends, making jokes, maybe have someone’s 4 year old child running around the field? Both are equally fun in their own way.

The problems start when someone is throwing their body into knocking down that 4 year old running around the field. A.k.a. the single power gamer in a group playing for fun. Or the reverse; the single player deliberately causing trouble and playing for fun in a group that’s trying their best to problem-solve a dungeon. Thus, for me, it’s better to try to talk it out and get everyone onto the same mood.

It definitely does become a problem. I had a player with a min-maxed minotaur fighter who was an issue… after talking through why it was bad for the party, they switch to… a mix-maxed elven warrior with even better stats. For me, I’ve since learned to try to fix the base decision to power game vs not, rather than the actual outcome (a specific character class). As long as everyone in the party agrees with the same thing, it can work out either way.

I basically agree with all this, Xyathn. I’m just drawing a slightly different conclusion.

The answer to this question:

… is straight up yes. If you’re playing a sport, you try your best to score.

Anything else isn’t a sport - it’s horsing around. And horsing around is fine; I love shooting hoop with little kids running around. But if you’re going to call something a sport, then everyone should be trying their best (with certain exceptions, just to head off the objections.)

If you don’t like people being knocked down in a sport, there are two things you can do. You can play a no-contact version (the equivalent of banning certain things in RPGs), or you can play a different sport (i.e. playing a different system). You can’t really ask somebody not to do something that the rules allow.

In RPGs, well, there’s that G part. These are games, and games imply playing to win, even if winning is more malleable than in most other games. And I really have a hard time telling players not to do things that the rules say is ok, even if I don’t particularly like min-maxing in RPGs and all that goes with it myself. Why not just amend the rules instead?

Is balance a part of this issue? I don’t know. Fifth ed. certainly tries hard to achieve balance. But I’d also point to the importance of system mastery in a game. If you have an RPG, like new school D&D, that prioritizes system mastery, then you’re going to get players who try to master the system, especially if a lot of the strategy is front-loaded to ‘building’ a character. And who can blame them?

I think it becomes only a problem if one character overshadows the “shining specialty” of another

e.g. in D&D 3E a Druids beast companion could be stronger than the party’s fighter … and that was in addition to Wild Shape and full spell casting

in other cases, where they are super-strong, but don’t encroach in other playercharacters “shining specialty”, this is fixable

not really … 4E did (but that was mostly because 3E was really bad)

Well, balancing characters was a stated design goal.

(I’ll defer to your judgment on whether that goal was achieved.)