I spent a happy couple of hours transferring all the 4e Essentials martial classes into a spreadsheet. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. It’s amazing how many similarities they share. Maybe that’s obvious, what with them all being the same power source, but they do all have different roles. I’m not going to add in some of the newer classes like berserker and skald from Heroes of the Feywild, and see what they bring to the party. (Skald seems to be the closest we’re going to get to an essentials warlord now, shame.)
I did also get stuck into the original martial classes. I tell you what, the PHB looks really strange after 4 years. I don’t think I’ve opened it up that much in the intervening years. I was actually surprised at how cool that book still is. For the anti 4e brigade this has been an object of derision, but I think it still stands up as a great one book DnD. The fighter, ranger, rogue and warlord all have their own flavour, despite the same underlying structure. Putting them next to the Essentials classes shows up a few differences, but they still have a bunch in common. (the essentials ranger is way more magical than its classic brethren).
I’m now getting really close to a class structure for my Commando martial only game. I think the ranger will be the spine, and from there it will be free multi classing into fighter, rogue and/or warlord (tough, quick and command in Commando parlance).
There’s a bunch of reskinning to do, but not quite as much as I first thought. There’s a lot of overlap with powers, and I don’t see any mileage in that much differentiation. I’m likely to plunder the two Martial Power books for more inspiration too. There’s a lot in there to like, martial practices for one.
Now, how am I going to do grenades?