Spawned from another 5e gripe session, the Tiered Subclass Variant came about as an attempt to solve a few 5e complaints I have. Primarily, 5e characters don’t get a lot of choices when they level up, especially late games. Secondarily, some subclasses are effective but boring. Picking other options feels bad from an optimization standpoint, even if the fluff is what you want. This variant’s going to be totally unusable with my Kit variant, but both bring a lot of utility to characters. Kit’s probably more utility, and Tiered subclasses probably more power. Pick the one that solves the problem your group has.
When selecting a subclass, do so as normal. When that subclass gives you a second feature, gain it as normal. AND pick a 2nd subclass. You gain that second subclasses 1st level features. That second subclass then progresses at the normal rate of subclass features for you. When your original 1st subclass gains its third feature, gain it as normal, but add a 3rd subclass. And so on. It sounds complicated, but I put some examples together.
- Fighter 20:
- Level 3: Arcane Archer I
- Level 7: Arcane Archer II, AND Battlemaster I
- Level 10: Arcane Archer III, AND Champion I
- Level 11: Battlemaster II (Because the second arcane archer feature is 4 levels after the first. The second Battlemaster feature is also 4 levels after)
- Level 14: Battlemaster III, Champion II
- Level 15: Arcane Archer IV, Rune Knight I
- Level 17: Champion III
- Level 18: Arcane Archer V, and Echo Knight I
- Level 19: Battlemaster IV, Rune Knight II
- Sorcerer 20:
- Level 1: Aberrant Mind I
- Level 6: Aberrant Mind II, Clockwork Soul I
- Level 11: Clockwork Soul II
- Level 14: Aberrant Mind III, Draconic I
- Level 18: Aberrant Mind IV, Wild I
- Level 19: Clockwork Soul III, Draconic II
- Paladin 10/Warlock 10:
- Paladin 3: Glory I
- Paladin 7: Glory II, Crown I
- Warlock 1: Hexblade I
- Warlock 6: Hexblade II, Fiend I
- Warlock 10: Hexblade III, Genie I
You will find classes start to fill out those late game dead levels starting around 10 and leave low levels mostly alone. Some classes are going to get more of a buff from this than others, but the mechanical boost isn’t all that much. Instead, folks are gaining utility powers and options.
You’ll also notice the multiclass character has a few less than the others, but multi-class characters often have more utility than a standard character as is. So It’s not a huge problem in my opinion.