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Author Topic: Lets talk character classes  (Read 2256 times)

Charon's Little Helper

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2021, 02:02:37 PM »
Another class option I always thought might be interesting as an overlay to a skill-based system would be in the form of discounts to certain skills.

So, while any class could improve fighting skill, Fighters could do it for less. Any class could similarly learn magic, but the cost for wizards would be less.

If you had a normal cost of say Rank x 4 to improve, you could then have say a Rank x 3 and a Rank x 2 option so you could have a mix of specialists (mostly x2 in a tight area) and generalists (mostly x3 in a broad category).

So, for example; the Fighter would get x2 to weapon and armor use, but x4 to everything else. The Rogue would get x3 to everything except magic (which is x4). The Wizard gets x2 to magic-related skills, x4 to everything else. The Cleric gets x3 to weapons/armor and magic, but x4 to everything else.

This definitely creates paths of easiest advancement, but doesn’t 100% close off any path to anyone. “Multi-classing” would just be picking skills that don’t get the discounts for your chosen class.

That's basically how Anima works. (Which is a system I don't really want to play - but it has a lot of interesting ideas. I like the vibe, just not the execution so much.)

The space western game I'm working on (Space Dogs) does it to some degree as well. (Someone actually aimed me at Anima as being similar after they saw a very early draft.) Classes each have a signature ability, but probably a bigger differentiator is that your class determines your two primary attributes - which are then cheaper to increase, and at character creation you also decide which of the remaining 4 attributes are either secondary or tertiary (costing x2 or x3 attribute points respectively).

Skills work the same way, with your background skills costing more with each point on an quadratic increase (same as attributes) and all other skills costing x2.

So, while Space Dogs has classes, I consider it to be something of a hybrid. It has most of the advantages of a classical class system with some of the advantages of point-buy mixed in.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2021, 02:05:30 PM by Charon's Little Helper »

Wicked Woodpecker of West

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2021, 05:11:45 PM »
I must say I sort of like classes mostly in fighting-tactics heavy games akin to D&D - and later D&D tbh. Sort of like various variant of those almost wuxia-superhero-people, tactical option, but also then like 90% of class abilties should be combat based - now of course casters gonna make it bit problematic due to utility spells, and problem of realism of like why all spells are battle-only, but even then I think it can be somehow fixed. Nevertheless overall I prefer 3rd stance that class and skills are separate things - and shifts like from thief to rogue - because thief is more skill based profession - rogue is dirty fighter/assassin type. Conan was no rogue, but he definitely knows lot of thievery, so I find kinda cool that you can shift those elements around.

Just like Chris with many numbers and his system with Class + Background combo (dunno about skills), or someone's homebrew where you have separatedly counted: Combat, Social and Exploration/Background roles, so you can combine them in multiple ways. Now of course because 3,5 was still stuck to constantly evolving and self-referential D&D meta-lore their system is sort of flawed - like all assumptions about ranger closeness to nature - while really ranger should be scrambled to skill based roles, and some dunno Archer/Hunter/Sharpshooter class raised in his placed - without assumed nature like background.

For other things I prefer more skill/expertise/talent based systems like CoC, like Warhammer, and others, and I'm ultimately not that much into niche protection. In fact I prefer game where team of 4 fighters, 4 thieves or 4 clerics are all playable decent choices (maybe not for every campaign but generally), and well skill based games are generally much into it.

Other games with niche protection from different angles are most of Powered/Forged games with assumptions each player in team have to use different playbook. In some - like Monster of the Week, strongly inspired by TV shows I think it can be fine, working for TV-series vibe is cool, but on the other Hand - game like Blades in the Dark, could probably easy scramble its mechanics to playbook-less open choice format.

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Wizard, sorcerer, druid, witch/warlock, shaman, priest, cleric...these I felt were essentially the same class separated only by the particulars of how they fuel their magics,

I agree with ranger as separated class, but with magicals I'd say it these way - thing is to make those various magickes different in terms of powers - I think they will always be harder to divide between Combat/Background archetype - but maybe it's possible. For instance making arcane magic more from down to up int terms of complexity, while priestly from up to down - allowing wizards to just learn any art, and limit priestly miracles with strict spheres of their deity therefore limiting matter of priest as healer. Give warlocks like 5e powerful boons of patron's power. And so on.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2021, 05:36:37 PM by Wicked Woodpecker of West »

Slipshot762

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #17 on: February 16, 2021, 07:14:40 PM »
So far I'm liking the notion of a wide or vague start that narrows to the specific with leveling, think 2e's 4 core classes that sub-divide into specifics under those categories. According to what I can find, the cleric being a class by itself is sort of a quirk arising from the particulars of Dave Arneson's game, and really did not exist as a stand alone concept before that. I am reminded of how Thulsa Doom is referred to as "a sorcerer who can summon demons" in the Arnold Conan movie of the 80's.

Wicked Woodpecker of West

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #18 on: February 16, 2021, 07:43:57 PM »
I'm devout Catholic - but really this old design of Cleric alive through all editions, with full spellcasting but being still armoured warrior but without bladed weapon, due to this fake notion of weapon spilling blood, that was never really a thing, aside of few stories. Give me just good Priest and Champion classes and I'll be fine.

Armchair Gamer

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #19 on: February 16, 2021, 08:15:09 PM »
  The cleric makes a good Knight Templar or paladin class if you remove the weapon restrictions (there are probably ways to balance this), but its expansion to 'priest' and integration with Symbiotic Monopolytheism really causes a lot of headaches.

   The Catholic presence on TheRPGSite has grown notable. :)

Pat

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #20 on: February 16, 2021, 08:23:42 PM »
I'm devout Catholic - but really this old design of Cleric alive through all editions, with full spellcasting but being still armoured warrior but without bladed weapon, due to this fake notion of weapon spilling blood, that was never really a thing, aside of few stories. Give me just good Priest and Champion classes and I'll be fine.
Stories matter. One Bishop Turpin is worth far more than 1000 doctoral theses.

Though the cleric isn't just weirdly specific adaptation of a specific tale, it's also weirdly specific to the medieval Catholic faith, via its legendarium. The fighter can cover anything from samurai to Arthurian knights. The thief can cover anything from Ali Baba to The Grey Mouser. The magic-user is oddly specific, but also very generic. But not the cleric. It's not a good stand-in for a generic priest.

Wicked Woodpecker of West

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #21 on: February 16, 2021, 08:50:11 PM »
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  The cleric makes a good Knight Templar or paladin class if you remove the weapon restrictions (there are probably ways to balance this), but its expansion to 'priest' and integration with Symbiotic Monopolytheism really causes a lot of headaches.

I mean TBH it's integration with proper Catholicism would also cause a lot of headaches - just imagine guy in chainmail with flaming morgenstern in every parish XD.

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Stories matter. One Bishop Turpin is worth far more than 1000 doctoral theses.

Clearly you have not been beaten enough into head with Complete Hardcover Edition of Summa Theologica, young man. But well there's still hope.

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Though the cleric isn't just weirdly specific adaptation of a specific tale, it's also weirdly specific to the medieval Catholic faith, via its legendarium. The fighter can cover anything from samurai to Arthurian knights. The thief can cover anything from Ali Baba to The Grey Mouser. The magic-user is oddly specific, but also very generic. But not the cleric. It's not a good stand-in for a generic priest.

Yes. And it was immidiately made to be all the priest of all the wacky gods. And it was kept that way - well at least till 3e, where certain elements become more generic - but still - it's Templar Warpriest as basic divine spellcaster.

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   The Catholic presence on TheRPGSite has grown notable. :)

As we know where 3 Catholics are there are 4 opinions about politics, 5 opinions about proper roleplaying systems and 7 opinions about details of molinist-thomist controversy.
Now this board is truly doomed.

Armchair Gamer

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #22 on: February 16, 2021, 09:25:46 PM »
I mean TBH it's integration with proper Catholicism would also cause a lot of headaches - just imagine guy in chainmail with flaming morgenstern in every parish XD.

  The theological and canon law problems of turning a parish priest into an adventurer are horrific, even without the spell casting.

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Stories matter. One Bishop Turpin is worth far more than 1000 doctoral theses.

  Turpin used a sword. :) The mace appears to be urban legend based on the Bayeux tapestry and a very strained reading of the canons of the Fourth Lateran Council.

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Clearly you have not been beaten enough into head with Complete Hardcover Edition of Summa Theologica, young man. But well there's still hope.

  Need to borrow my set?  ;)

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Though the cleric isn't just weirdly specific adaptation of a specific tale, it's also weirdly specific to the medieval Catholic faith, via its legendarium. The fighter can cover anything from samurai to Arthurian knights. The thief can cover anything from Ali Baba to The Grey Mouser. The magic-user is oddly specific, but also very generic. But not the cleric. It's not a good stand-in for a generic priest.

  It’s two or three different myths— Knight Templar meets Van Helsing meets prophet/saint/wonderworker. Kind of like the magic-user, except even more disparate.

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As we know where 3 Catholics are there are 4 opinions about politics, 5 opinions about proper roleplaying systems and 7 opinions about details of molinist-thomist controversy.
Now this board is truly doomed.

Well said.   ;D

Chris24601

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #23 on: February 17, 2021, 08:45:42 AM »
As we know where 3 Catholics are there are 4 opinions about politics, 5 opinions about proper roleplaying systems and 7 opinions about details of molinist-thomist controversy.
Now this board is truly doomed.
As one of the Catholics here, I definitely add to two of the three (politics outside of RPG matters being off limits to the main boards).

In the case of the D&D Cleric, I haven’t really been comfortable with it since D&D went from the standard of having undefined celestial powers by default(such as described in the Red Box) to pushing its weird brand of henotheism with specific gods, and I generally consider the Forgotten Realms to be a theological horror show (which is why I am largely unsurprised it’s been made the default setting by the Godless Left).

Frankly, I think the biggest mistake made with the D&D cleric was the addition of the Paladin class which pretty much entirely consumed the original concept of the cleric as martial holy crusader and caused cleric to need to be redefined (which is where the idea that they’re just “priests” started to develop because they were no longer the holy warriors). The second biggest was making vancian spells out their miracle working.

The way I largely get around these matters in my own setting is that, first, there is a notable difference between ordinary NPCs with the Religious background (i.e. you normal priests who number about 1-in-100 in the general population, most of whom don’t even have magic) and the Theurge or Mystic classes who are rare exceptions with combat capable magic (c. 1-in-10,000).

Second, the setting supports expeditions to pre-Cataclysm ruins as boons to civilization (vs. selfish profiteering) and, unlike the WotC-era D&D, has options which actively encourage bringing companions and hirelings as part of the expeditions even at low levels. A priest being sent along on a months long expedition of twenty men seeking to recover lost knowledge for the benefit of civilization to see to their spiritual needs isn’t nearly so strange when you consider that priests also participated in various real world expeditions of discovery (and even military conquest... hence Chaplains*).

Third, I spent time with the primary astral religion to develop various martial orders within the larger faith; ex. The Scribes of Verax (who despite the name are more like Indiana Jones plumbing the depths of ruins to recover lost knowledge), the Templars of Bellos, the Knights of Viatus (forge and protect travel routes in the name of the god of travel, hospitality and commerce) or The Order of Venetrix (hunters of the undead).

Related to that was the decision with the elves to go the priest-king route and unify the aristocracy with the religious hierarchy. Thus, the priests are, by default, also warriors who lead their houses into battle.

Finally, The Old Faith very much runs on the Old Testament Prophet and Judge model where they wander where God leads them and beating occupying Philistines to death with your supernaturally gifted strength and the jawbone of an ass or raining down fire on Jezabel’s priests is a thing.

The PC class associated with that religion (the Mystic) has as its basis that you didn’t choose the power, The Source chose you to wield it. Other people could engage in the exact same practices and never receive the gift, others are born with it having never done anything to earn it beforehand. The only commonality is that they always find themselves in situations where the divine gifts will be needed for the good of others.**

But in terms of fixing D&D, I’d start by merging the Paladin back into the Cleric and then add an NPC class akin to the 3e Commoner, Expert and Warrior just to make it clear that Clerics are NOT the average priest or anything close to it.

* The position of Chaplain itself grew out of a military tradition of having a priest carry a holy relic (originally the cloak of St. Martin of Tours... chaplain meaning “cloak bearer”) into battle so as to carry the favor of God. The priest didn’t fight, but rather like Moses holding his staff aloft, was believed to have provided the men with supernatural assistance in battle. For a while my concept of a priest class in my system actually made their primary class feature “mantles” - auras of divine power that buffed allies or hindered enemies which the priest directed during combat (giving them something tactical to do without needing to engage in violence themselves).

** basically, Mystics are ALWAYS PCs or named NPCs; 1-in-a-million men/women capable of performing miracles. And because there’s no way to either aid or restrict access to the power like the formalized astral pacts (the magic of Theurges) or arcane study (the magic of the Wizards) it’s also the most feared among societal elites.

Restrict access to weapons and armor and any Fighters will be hindered compared to your professional soldiers. Keep the population uneducated and no Wizards or Gadgeteers will arise among them. Restrict the knowledge of the proper ritual forms and you’ll never fear a Theurge rising to make trouble. But a Mystic can come from anywhere; anyone of any station might arise at any time with the power to challenge any you’ve gathered for yourself.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2021, 08:49:45 AM by Chris24601 »

Slipshot762

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #24 on: February 17, 2021, 10:30:36 AM »
Yes as mentioned above the line gets blurred further by comparing paladin to cleric, gives me a brain itch in a big way, wrt paladins I always felt them having the same canned powers made little sense, 2e had speciality priests (of which druid was one) that customized abilities by order or diety, I would have thought paladin abilities would follow the same paradigm rather than all paladins getting a holy war horse, disease immunity, and lay-on-hands.

Anytime I run a game set on earth I treat "god" as the creator, A/O, the most high, and all other "gods" as lesser divine/celestial/infernal beings that operate under that umbrella, making in a sense something like an archangel the equivalent of a FR greater power. I've never understood the impulse many have to include pagan gods like Thor while bending over backwards to avoid or rename christianity's concept of a creator god above all. Like, there are gods, and then there is GOD. No sympathy for the offended.

Along this line I'm told now that paladins are starting to be changed such that they no longer have alignment restrictions as they once did and one can be a paladin of an idea rather than of a diety; if I'm not mistaken the cleric in 3e had an official option to be godless as well; to me, if these classes are going to be included in any prevalent way, they become watered down anime crap w/o a god or gods to serve.

In FR before 4e, there was this concept of the faithless and the false and their ultimate fate in the city of the dead, which kind of gave us an in-universe reason for clerics, but which I am now told is deemed hair pullingly offensive for the new age kiddies. I would not allow paladin or cleric if I am restricted from having gods and mortal judgement over souls/alignments in the setting because someone gets offended. Talk about wanting to have your cake and eating it too.

But forget entitled new age weeb gamers for a moment; I still think a caster is a caster and witch/cleric/etc are just mechanical hairsplitting, like making easy bake oven and toaster oven separate classes.

Wicked Woodpecker of West

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #25 on: February 17, 2021, 10:32:27 AM »
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The theological and canon law problems of turning a parish priest into an adventurer are horrific, even without the spell casting.

I mean I'm not sure what's current state, but clearly our Eastern Schismbros still keep custom of strict no-killing rules for priest or candidates for priest (I've seen even car accidents discussed by them in this regard) but I'm quite sure few centuries ago it was simmilar in Latin world - considering case of this seminarian that needed special dispensation to be ordained because he was - apparently bit by ignorance - witness in a prosecution case that ended with execution. Oh, boi now smite this goblin with a mace, aye! No blood spilled.

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  Turpin used a sword. :) The mace appears to be urban legend based on the Bayeux tapestry and a very strained reading of the canons of the Fourth Lateran Council.

I must say I vaguely remember him using his bishop's staff in my school library version of La Chanson de Roland.

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  Need to borrow my set?  ;)

It would be most useful, thank you. I was worried beating this heathen with my PDFs would not be enough to break his stubborness.

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  It’s two or three different myths— Knight Templar meets Van Helsing meets prophet/saint/wonderworker. Kind of like the magic-user, except even more disparate.

Aye. And Knight Templar is shared with Paladin for even more confusion really.

Wicked Woodpecker of West

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #26 on: February 17, 2021, 11:30:57 AM »
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and I generally consider the Forgotten Realms to be a theological horror show (which is why I am largely unsurprised it’s been made the default setting by the Godless Left).

Now TBH I think reason why FR turned out to be defaul setting is quite simple - good old cRPG games - Icewind Dale, Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights. (And this brand of weird henotheism is common across many many D&D settings. I think it's simply because it's allow for easy dividing various clerics/sects/cults and so on in nice little niches, and especially dark gods each with special twist make as fine villain patron - so you want them many). And really if they did not tamed and NP-13-yined FR in publishing it would probably be much much... worse... or at least weirder and wacky. (Magical pregnancies of Alustriel Silverhand, oh, boi).

And then of course - I'm not by default against weird brand of monolatrism (henotheism let's remember is something else - it's something more akine to some Hindu belief all specific deities are aspects of one Divine - so metaphysical monotheism with polytheistic cult - D&D is absolutely opposite of henotheism - it's metaphysical polytheism with cults shaped like mono-priest) but well it needs to be well shaped within construction of the world - both below or above (or just ignore sociological and metaphysical logic like me running FR XD).

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Frankly, I think the biggest mistake made with the D&D cleric was the addition of the Paladin class which pretty much entirely consumed the original concept of the cleric as martial holy crusader and caused cleric to need to be redefined (which is where the idea that they’re just “priests” started to develop because they were no longer the holy warriors). The second biggest was making vancian spells out their miracle working.

I think Paladin + Priest is better combo than just Cleric overall. With Vancianism I think overall well I'm not big fan of Vancian magic aside of Dying Earth Setting (my fellow FR DM rewrote spellslots into mana points and we're using those) - but yes linking spellcasting of various class using supernatural abilities into different methods would be nice.

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But in terms of fixing D&D, I’d start by merging the Paladin back into the Cleric and then add an NPC class akin to the 3e Commoner, Expert and Warrior just to make it clear that Clerics are NOT the average priest or anything close to it.

Well there is Adept among basic 5 NPC classes. For a start rename him Cleric, rename Cleric Priest and we have some basics ;)

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Yes as mentioned above the line gets blurred further by comparing paladin to cleric, gives me a brain itch in a big way, wrt paladins I always felt them having the same canned powers made little sense, 2e had speciality priests (of which druid was one) that customized abilities by order or diety, I would have thought paladin abilities would follow the same paradigm rather than all paladins getting a holy war horse, disease immunity, and lay-on-hands.

Well later editions added various variants - kits, Paladins of Freedom, Slaughter and Tyranny in 3e, Champion class in PF2e, Paladin unbound by alignments in 4E, Oathbound paladins in 5e (which I generally very like - oath-power is good classical fantasy trope). But each time there was many defenders - this time I guess more conservative ones - whining about game taking away their special snowflake LG paladin, and making him less special by making another holy/unholy champions.

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Along this line I'm told now that paladins are starting to be changed such that they no longer have alignment restrictions as they once did and one can be a paladin of an idea rather than of a diety; if I'm not mistaken the cleric in 3e had an official option to be godless as well; to me, if these classes are going to be included in any prevalent way, they become watered down anime crap w/o a god or gods to serve.

Paladins are still based on vows in 5e, so sure Paladin of Vengeance can probably be evil, then Paladin of Devotion protecting specific church should rather behave in proper way.
Godless clerics are around since 3e at least, and aside of Eberron they never was really common or popular (though I remember one rabid atheist on Big Purple whining about no-godless-clerics in PF because she cannot abide playing by someone shackled this way) - I mean even in D&D streaming full of blue-haired pinko non-binary commies I think I see mostly godly clerics, TBH it's more fun and flavorous really, aside of political matters.


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In FR before 4e, there was this concept of the faithless and the false and their ultimate fate in the city of the dead, which kind of gave us an in-universe reason for clerics, but which I am now told is deemed hair pullingly offensive for the new age kiddies. I would not allow paladin or cleric if I am restricted from having gods and mortal judgement over souls/alignments in the setting because someone gets offended. Talk about wanting to have your cake and eating it too.

Well, newbie god of death also tried to abandon Wall of Faithless, so it's going back a long time.

Chris24601

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #27 on: February 17, 2021, 12:31:44 PM »
Now TBH I think reason why FR turned out to be defaul setting is quite simple - good old cRPG games - Icewind Dale, Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights.
No argument that the popularity of the novels and video games was the main factor, but if their most popular games/novels had instead been something that was basically Orthodox Christianity in terms of cosmology, I feel confident in saying that those in charge of developing 5e wouldn’t have used it for their default setting as such a world would run too counter to Leftist orthodoxy.

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Well there is Adept among basic 5 NPC classes. For a start rename him Cleric, rename Cleric Priest and we have some basics ;)
The problem with the Adept is it was also a spellcaster... and not only that but a spellcaster good enough to be in tier 4 of the 3.5e class tier list, beating out Fighters, Monks and Paladins and being considered on par with Barbarians, Rangers and Rogues for capability and usefulness to an adventuring party.

For an NPC priest class I’d want them down in tier 5 with the Expert, not as someone you’d pick ahead of a fighter to add to your party.

Bringing this back to a general discussion of classes though; I think this also highlights the need to at least pay some lip service to class balance.

Strong in different areas not easily compared is one thing... ex. AD&D fighters having MUCH better saving throws in addition to followers, better armor, weapons and even their own categories of magic items that other PCs couldn’t aquire has all sorts advantages not easily measured against a wizard’s spellcasting (particularly the much more difficult casting limits like automatically losing a spell being cast from a single point of damage landing between declaring the action at the round’s start and the segment it goes off).

Inferior at everything important is quite another; a couple extra hp/HD (with everyone getting the same Con bonuses and stat-boosting items allowing them to eclipse the value of the HD), a bit higher base attack bonus (which barely mattered for the first attack and the inability to move while attacking more than once and stacking penalty to iterative attacks making them almost useless... plus spells that could boost BAB to fighter levels) coupled with pitiful skill points/class skill list, only one good save and class features that were just more of what everyone can get with later picks just adding more of what you could have gotten on another path by level 6 while spellcasters get ever more potent spells... and its why many people called 3.5e “Casters & Caddies.”

Wicked Woodpecker of West

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #28 on: February 17, 2021, 12:42:10 PM »
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No argument that the popularity of the novels and video games was the main factor, but if their most popular games/novels had instead been something that was basically Orthodox Christianity in terms of cosmology, I feel confident in saying that those in charge of developing 5e wouldn’t have used it for their default setting as such a world would run too counter to Leftist orthodoxy.

Or they would just make it more liberal in terms of morality and social order.
But then if D&D was based on Eastern Orthodoxy, oh, boi - world of RPG could look totally different these days. And Satanic Panic would be thrice as bad, with all Baptists loosing their shit alltogether ;)

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The problem with the Adept is it was also a spellcaster... and not only that but a spellcaster good enough to be in tier 4 of the 3.5e class tier list, beating out Fighters, Monks and Paladins and being considered on par with Barbarians, Rangers and Rogues for capability and usefulness to an adventuring party.

Ah, yes, I forgot about that. Simmilarily Eberron Magewraiths.


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Inferior at everything important is quite another; a couple extra hp/HD (with everyone getting the same Con bonuses and stat-boosting items allowing them to eclipse the value of the HD), a bit higher base attack bonus (which barely mattered for the first attack and the inability to move while attacking more than once and stacking penalty to iterative attacks making them almost useless... plus spells that could boost BAB to fighter levels) coupled with pitiful skill points/class skill list, only one good save and class features that were just more of what everyone can get with later picks just adding more of what you could have gotten on another path by level 6 while spellcasters get ever more potent spells... and its why many people called 3.5e “Casters & Caddies.”

I definitely agree.

Pat

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #29 on: February 17, 2021, 12:59:44 PM »
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Stories matter. One Bishop Turpin is worth far more than 1000 doctoral theses.

  Turpin used a sword. :) The mace appears to be urban legend based on the Bayeux tapestry and a very strained reading of the canons of the Fourth Lateran Council.
Stories matter, whether they're true or not :)

Could just be a misinterpretation of "Almace" (the name of his sword). But I blame the Bayeux tapestry. It's a fantastic resource, but from symbolic instruments to stylized armor, it's been the source of a lot of misinterpretations. The whole thing is silly, anyway, because even if we pretend flanges don't exist, maces are still going to spill a lot of blood.

Though I wouldn't call it an urban legend, because it's surprisingly widespread myth that appears in authoritative sources. For instance, here's a quote about another archbishop:
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Absalon remains one of the most striking and picturesque figures of the Middle Ages, and was equally great as churchman, statesman and warrior. That he enjoyed warfare there can be no doubt; and his splendid physique and early training had well fitted him for martial exercises. He was the best rider in the army and the best swimmer in the fleet. Yet he was not like the ordinary fighting bishops of the Middle Ages, whose sole concession to their sacred calling was to avoid the “shedding of blood” by using a mace in battle instead of a sword. Absalon never neglected his ecclesiastical duties, and even his wars were of the nature of crusades. Moreover, all his martial energy notwithstanding, his personality must have been singularly winning; for it is said of him that he left behind not a single enemy, all his opponents having long since been converted by him into friends.
That's from Absalon's entry in the 1911 edition of the Encylopaedia Brittanica. (Emphasis added.)