I’ve often seen old schoolers talk about stat inflation when it comes to successive versions of D&D. Those with experience with later editions will no doubt find that things really do develop rather quickly. As soon as one jumps from D&D to AD&D the average number for ability scores goes up by 2 (according to the Rules Cyclopedia). Hit points likewise tend to increase. Then, in 2nd edition, a whole host of alternate rolling methods were introduced, bringing with it more stat inflation. Now, it’s not uncommon for players not to roll stats at all, but rather to assign them using point buys or stat arrays, bringing with it yet more stat inflation.
While these things are bothersome to me, something that’s been getting under my skin lately is class multiplication. It seems that with each successive version of D&D we see more and more classes. While I personally think the addition of thieves was a good idea in order to capture a popular trope which was missing in the game (although, it wasn’t difficult to get by without them), I can’t say I much like what many newer RPGs are doing (and forget about keeping track with the addition of “prestige classes”!).
For example, just before I quit playing Pathfinder (I apologize for always using Pathfinder as an example, but it’s the only modern fantasy RPG I’ve played in the last year or two), Paizo announced the addition of several new classes with the advent of their Advanced Player’s Guide: Alchemists, Cavaliers, Inquisitors, Oracles, Summoners, and Witches. The next book Paizo will be releasing is Ultimate Magic, which will see yet another new class in the form of the Magus (a wizard/warrior hybrid). This officially brings the number of classes you can play up to 18! I can’t help but wonder when (if) the number of classes will top out.
One of the things I appreciated about 2nd edition was that it sought to put an end to class multiplication. Yes, I know that people enjoy classes like the barbarian or the cavalier from 1st edition, but 2nd edition ditched them. Why? Because, properly speaking, barbarians and cavaliers are really little more than specialized warriors. So why not play a warrior from the frozen plains as a barbarian? Why not play a warrior who excels in mounted combat as a cavalier? Why the need for new classes? That is, of course, how 2nd edition handled these classes. True, the addition of specialized kits from TSRs line of “The Complete * Handbook” of splat books probably isn’t very popular today (among old schoolers and new schoolers alike) but I at least appreciated the fact that TSR saw a potential problem and tried to handle it (even if their “solution” was just as complicated as the problem they sought to avoid).
One of the things I’m enjoying about getting back to our roots is ditching so many of the extraneous classes. Not because I don’t like tropes such as witches or oracles but because I think those tropes can be attained using the core classes, with a little imagination and roleplaying. I’m quite certain that there are inventive DMs and creative players who enjoy the new classes. However, the more I dig into our history, the more convinced I’ve become that the multiplication of rules/classes was little more than an accommodation to inept DMs and unimaginative players.