(Full disclosure: I was a Kickstarter backer for this. I also support EN5ider on Patreon.)
This book compiles together two other ENWorld collections, A Touch of Class: 7 New Classes For Your 5th Edition Game and A Touch More Class: 9 More Character Classes For Your 5th Edition Game. (I previously reviewed A Touch of Class individually, but I'm including parts of that review here for convenience's sake.)
The Masterclass Codex includes new character classes for D&D 5th edition, along with some related articles, all originating in ENWorld's EN5ider series. There are sixteen in all.
From A Touch of Class:
- Alchemist: A spellcasting class with a focus on bombs and potions. While I liked the class overall, they failed to clearly describe just what their spellcasting looks like, as distinguished from other classes like the wizard. (It's implied they use chemistry to generate spell effects, but I didn't see that spelled out.) They do, however, also include some cool alchemical items.
- Cardcaster: A spellcasting class that uses tarot cards. I loved the concept, but was disappointed with the execution - instead of a distinct class with flavorful powers based on each card, we get an upgraded diviner wizard with some thematic limitations. Some of the mechanics are also a bit odd, especially the King of Pentacles and its money powers. They also included a Jack of Beasts subclass, which is essentially a Pokémon trainer - fun, but it feels like it was thrown in, and doesn't feel particularly D&D. (Also, considering they added the Monster Tamer in A Touch More Class, it seems redundant to have both in this compilation.) I do admit I liked the Cardcaster better on a reread, but the above criticisms still stand.
- Diabolist: A class with fiend-related powers, clearly meant for evil characters. Honestly, it seems unnecessary when we have the warlock. They also include a section of "Conjured Horrors", but I only liked one, the tiny cacodaemon.
- Feywalker: A class with fey-related powers. Despite some neat abilities, like the "feystrike", I don't see why we need this when we have the archfey warlock. It also has the same Hit Die as the fighter, for some reason, which makes it feel like someone building a class just for their personal tastes.
- Morph: A dedicated shapeshifting class. It's OK, I suppose, but very specialized, and takes away one of the chief appeals of the druid. I also predict balance issues from the menu of shapeshifting options.
- Noble: A thinly veiled 5th Edition version of 4E's warlord. As such, it runs into the same problems 4E's warlord would have in 5E (explaining non-magical healing; the effects on combat from granting player characters extra actions; and the fact that most of the warlord's flavor and other features have been given to existing 5E options, like the battle master fighter). That all said, they do a good job of designing the class; I particularly like the Path of the Heart subclass, which reflavors them as a non-violent Disney-style princess. (Though giving them disadvantage in combat seems excessive and harsh.) I'm not sure I'd use this class, but I would understand if others did.
- Occultist: False advertising. This is built as a class, but it's not any sort of occultist - it's a way for players to be a constructed creature, a vampire, or a werebeast. These should have been presented as character race options instead.
From A Touch More Class:
- Bloodweaver: A class with powers based on the manipulation of blood. Many of said powers ("disciplines") are close to existing spells, which makes one wonder why they didn't just give them spells. However, some of the strongest disciplines are rather interesting (such as "amalgamate"). The class has an unusual structure, with a skill-tree approach to disciples, plus the requirement to damage yourself (though that also feels kind of edgelord-y). Overall, the class seems too specialized for many campaigns, but I imagine there are some that will embrace it.
- Fatebender: A class that gives you luck-manipulation powers, similar to superhero characters like Domino. Mechanically, it feels like a hybrid between a bard and the wild magic sorcerer. Looks like a lot of fun to play. The only issue is that it doesn't feel like much of a fantasy archetype.
- Gemini: A very odd class concept, based around creating duplicates to aid you, with a duality theme (young-old, etc.). It honestly feels like someone really wanted a character with duplication powers, and built a class just for that specific character; I can't see it fitting into most campaigns. (As written, it also sounds like it might be meant for a more modern-day setting.)
- Geomancer: Kind of a druid-monk hybrid, loosely themed around the five Chinese elements (earth, fire, metal, water, wood). The lore is pretty vague and doesn't seem to quite connect with the class's features. I was pretty disappointed, as the concept had promise, but never quite seems to gel.
- Gunfighter: A pretty good class, as long as you're fine with firearms in your fantasy. However, there's one big problem... they don't include rules for firearms! So it's unusable as written. (They apparently did include the firearms rules as bonus content with the PDF release... but not having them in the actual hardcover is inexcusable.)
- Lodestar: Another odd class, this one focuses on orbiting stones that can be used to strike enemies and for other effects. It feels like a gimmick you'd see in a video game, not particularly archetypal in any way. Another I can't see much use for in most campaigns.
- Monster Tamer: Basically lets you create a Pokémon trainer, but with D&D monsters. (There also seems to be a touch of Beastmaster in there.) This could be fun to play, and the pet rules seem solid, but teaming a tough PC (they even have a d12 Hit Die) with tough monsters could make this a little strong for many campaigns.
- Savant: An Intelligence-based class, which reminds me the most of Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes. Love the concept, though a few of the "tricks" seem very powerful. I would have also appreciated subclasses that weren't so reminiscent of other classes. This does seem like one of the more broadly useful options, however.
- Tinkerer: An ideal class for a world that mashes together magic and steampunk tech. Certain elements are clearly inspired by the comic Girl Genius. One interesting design feature - all the level 20 features are part of the subclass, rather than the main class. This could be a lot of fun in the right kind of campaign.
The classes in the first half (A Touch of Class) are more mechanically sound than the ones in the second half (A Touch More Class), though both function. Both halves share a problem that many class concepts are too specialized for many D&D campaigns, or redundant with other classes; specialization is especially a problem in the second half (again, I just can't see the gemini or lodestar being in many campaigns). I also wonder if some would have worked better as subclasses of existing classes, rather than classes unto themselves.
The alchemist and noble from the first half are definite highlights, and would work well in most campaigns. But even though I like some of the classes in the second half, I can't recommend any of them without some caveats. Most of the classes in both halves (but especially in the second) require you to change some fundamental D&D assumptions to fit them in. If you're up for doing that on a large scale, it may be worth buying the entire compilation. Otherwise, I'd probably sign up for EN5ider and get the classes' information individually. (Originally posted on Goodreads)