2019-09-28 Classes

I recently had a conversation with @PresGas and @linkskywalker. We were taking about “race as class” and whether dwarves should be player characters at all.

I said that these days I often think that maybe Carcosa is best: there are just fighters and sorcerers.

It really depends on what you want from the rules. Increasingly I find that smaller special abilities can be cool rewards in-game. Learn to punch like a monk from Lin Wu in the Silver Mountains. Larger powers can often be modeled as spells or magic items: cast fly, or wear the goggles of the miner. That leaves little space for class abilities. It leads to me wondering what the real difference between dwarves, half longs and fighters is, for the first ten levels. Does it even matter? Perhaps all that matters is “cast spells” vs “arms & armor”.

Dwarves and halflings get +4 to saves. Dwarves get to see in the dark. Neither gets to use two-handed weapons. Is that enough to even have a class?

Related posts about classes I removed from the game:

At one point I had removed thieves from my rules but then my wife rebelled and said thieves were cool. So I put them back, but they are essentially just bad fighters: no shields, no armor, bad at hitting the opposition, all they get is better skills rolls (see 2015-09-17 Thieves) and +4/×2 when hidden. I ended up adding a comment to my rules:

Since thieves don’t cast spells and don’t wear a lot of armor, playing a thief is a bit like playing on skill level hurt me plenty. You have been warned.



My own attitude is one similar to monsters. Not every monster needs to be in every campaign world, in fact the game is better if they are not.

If you have an urban-centered campaign, Thieves can shine. Otherwise they are a hurt me plenty fighter. And Clerics? they really need political intrigue and religious wars to shine.

– ruprecht 2019-09-30 01:06 UTC

Hm. I would say that “clerics” as a background needs political intrigue and religious wars to shine. Whether that needs an actual Cleric class with those Bible-inspired spells I’m not so sure.

I guess one could also argue that the OD&D cleric class actually needs powerful vampires in order to shine because apparently that’s how it got introduced: one of the players was playing a powerful vampire and another player had the idea of a special vampite-hunting class to counter that...

Perhaps that’s the best approach, anyway: develop new classes at the table as the game evolves. 🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2019-09-30 11:28 UTC

Classes are a shorthand for how players can roleplay and also telegraph the specialists in group dynamics. At my table, people like agreeing on when to turn to the bard, the druid, the cleric, etc.

J. Alan Henning 2019-09-30 12:57 UTC

Sure. I guess I just don’t see the need for codified specialists that much.

  • bard → magic users that can sing (like Xoralfona)
  • druid → magic users that can shapechange and likes trees (like Taurnalin or Hadrael)
  • cleric → magic user than can fight (like Moroson)
  • monk → magic user than can punch (like Darsim)

But yeah, I agree in principle: all of these special abilities could be modelled as classes instead of a spell selection. I guess I just feel it’s easier to create new spells than new classes. New classes also require me to think about hit die size, to-hit tables, skills, and saving-throws. And if those are always the same as some other class, then perhaps making them all spellcasters is valid.

I wonder if I reached my conclusions because I felt that spells were more “light weight” compared to classes. 🤔

– Alex Schroeder 2019-09-30 16:42 UTC

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