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Author Topic: Lets talk character classes  (Read 2253 times)

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #30 on: February 17, 2021, 01:01:52 PM »
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.”

It helps a great deal if the designers don't start with preconceived ideas about the classes.  That's back to the downside of gating abilities in a class for niche protection.  If a class has an ability, you'd better make darn sure that only that class should have it OR have a means for several related classes to all have that same ability.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the Fighter concept in 3E.  Starting with a clean design, it could be made to work.  It could not, however, work once the decision was made to have skills as separate things (with fighter not getting many) and feats as separate things (with fighter getting bonuses but then largely nullifying that advantage with feat trees) and several other martially-oriented characters with similar hit points, attacks, etc. and magic being so wide-open with almost everyone else having it and removing or sharing all of those saving throw and equipment advantages from 1E/2E.  Having done all of that, the proper answer was to recognize that now the "fighter" isn't a class that fits in the design.

Or put another way, if you change the underlying assumptions that made fighter, wizard, and cleric good choices.  Or change the assumptions that made fighter, wizard, cleric, and thief good choices.  Or for that matter, elf, dwarf, and halfling:  Then eventually you need a different set of classes to fit the new design. 

Pat

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #31 on: February 17, 2021, 01:08:32 PM »
Quote
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.

Specifically, the Hammer Horror vampire hunter. And Moses. Half the spell list seems to come from Exodus.

Armchair Gamer

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #32 on: February 17, 2021, 01:13:00 PM »
Specifically, the Hammer Horror vampire hunter. And Moses. Half the spell list seems to come from Exodus.

  Signs and wonders are far less common in the OT than a lot of people think--they show up primarily around Moses, Elijah and Elisha. Given that, it's no wonder that Gygax pulled a lot of magical effects from there. As well as some more dubious sources--speak with dead might be the Witch of Endor or Hammer seances, I couldn't say, and I don't know if animate dead is just 'give EHPs a means to make skeletons and zombies' or a very bizarre reading of Ezekiel.

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #33 on: February 17, 2021, 01:22:04 PM »
Specifically, the Hammer Horror vampire hunter. And Moses. Half the spell list seems to come from Exodus.

  Signs and wonders are far less common in the OT than a lot of people think--they show up primarily around Moses, Elijah and Elisha. Given that, it's no wonder that Gygax pulled a lot of magical effects from there. As well as some more dubious sources--speak with dead might be the Witch of Endor or Hammer seances, I couldn't say, and I don't know if animate dead is just 'give EHPs a means to make skeletons and zombies' or a very bizarre reading of Ezekiel.

Heh, I think that is a more a case of combining into one class all of the Biblical sources previous mentioned with the standard "evil high priest" from various pulps and other sources. 

Pat

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #34 on: February 17, 2021, 01:36:01 PM »
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.
They're distinct archetypes, though. The paladin is clearly intended to represent someone like Galahad, who is perfect and saintly and virginal and all that, but not a priest. Whereas the cleric is supposed to represent the holy warriors like Turpin, who are ordained priests. While part of the problem is the D&D classes mix the two up, the bigger issue is what they drop: It's really hard to draw a clear distinction without talking about sacraments, ordination, and purity for instance.

Because most of the spell list is Old Testament miracles, I think the cleric is better envisioned as a prophet. Priests would still exist, and have magical powers, because things like consecrating ground, blessings, and sacraments should have real power in a world with fireballs. But they wouldn't have regular access to miracles, which would be reserved to those chosen by [God/gods/whatever]. Holy warriors who aren't priests would exist, but they'd vary quite a bit from culture to culture. So much so that there might be no way to make an archetypical class to cover them all. Holy and warrior aren't inexorably linked, either; there could be holy people of all classes. I also really like the idea of specialty priests, though I wasn't terribly impressed with 2e's implementation. But a baseline generic priest from which specific priest classes are built should probably be closer to the Shinto than a Catholic priest.

RandyB

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #35 on: February 17, 2021, 01:41:29 PM »
Specifically, the Hammer Horror vampire hunter. And Moses. Half the spell list seems to come from Exodus.

  Signs and wonders are far less common in the OT than a lot of people think--they show up primarily around Moses, Elijah and Elisha. Given that, it's no wonder that Gygax pulled a lot of magical effects from there. As well as some more dubious sources--speak with dead might be the Witch of Endor or Hammer seances, I couldn't say, and I don't know if animate dead is just 'give EHPs a means to make skeletons and zombies' or a very bizarre reading of Ezekiel.

Heh, I think that is a more a case of combining into one class all of the Biblical sources previous mentioned with the standard "evil high priest" from various pulps and other sources. 

Yes. D&D was, and is, a smorgasbord of many sources. Recursively.

Pat

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #36 on: February 17, 2021, 01:45:21 PM »
Specifically, the Hammer Horror vampire hunter. And Moses. Half the spell list seems to come from Exodus.

  Signs and wonders are far less common in the OT than a lot of people think--they show up primarily around Moses, Elijah and Elisha. Given that, it's no wonder that Gygax pulled a lot of magical effects from there. As well as some more dubious sources--speak with dead might be the Witch of Endor or Hammer seances, I couldn't say, and I don't know if animate dead is just 'give EHPs a means to make skeletons and zombies' or a very bizarre reading of Ezekiel.
This is D&D. Singular mythological monsters are turned into entire families, and effects mentioned once become routine and everyday things that can be performed many times a day.

Armchair Gamer

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #37 on: February 17, 2021, 01:45:28 PM »
Yes. D&D was, and is, a smorgasbord of many sources. Recursively.

   The first is more true of old school D&D; the second is more 3E/5E, when the game starts becoming about 'being D&D' more than 'here's a bunch of cool fantasy/sci-fi/horror/pulp/history stuff!' Interesting outliers are 2E, which did some experiments in de-amalgamizing the various sources to produce stuff closer to specific originals, and 4E, which was more 'let's try to put a new spin on D&D fantasy.'

Pat

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #38 on: February 17, 2021, 01:55:07 PM »
Anytime I run a game set on earth I treat "god" as the creator, A/O, the most high...
Never made the connection before, but the Forgotten Realms overgod's name, Ao, probably comes from Alpha and the Omega, doesn't it?

Slambo

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #39 on: February 17, 2021, 01:58:17 PM »
Probably not, i dont think its been mentioned un a whioe but IIRC Ao is actually theservant of an even higher god...who is probably a representation if the DM shbge wouldnt really be the Alpha and the Omega.

Wicked Woodpecker of West

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #40 on: February 17, 2021, 03:03:41 PM »
I mean name Ao is probably dervied from it, but what is stated about Ao, even aside of higher authority he answers to - he seems more Auditor/Overseer of Reality than God in strict sense.

BoxCrayonTales

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #41 on: February 17, 2021, 03:26:02 PM »
Yeah, I totally echo the issue that classes have become these weird hodgepodges of many wildly contrasting genres. In particular, I think "linear warriors, quadratic wizards, geometric priests" is a complex problem without easy answers.

At its most basic, spellcasters simply have more versatility than martials owing to the classes being a mashup of many different genres. The fighter can hit stuff and the thief can sneak and steal and shit, but the cleric can perform miracles and the wizard can control the battlefield.

The way to fix this is to, putting it reductively, beef martials and nerf casters. For example:

RandyB

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #42 on: February 17, 2021, 03:35:42 PM »
Yes. D&D was, and is, a smorgasbord of many sources. Recursively.

   The first is more true of old school D&D; the second is more 3E/5E, when the game starts becoming about 'being D&D' more than 'here's a bunch of cool fantasy/sci-fi/horror/pulp/history stuff!' Interesting outliers are 2E, which did some experiments in de-amalgamizing the various sources to produce stuff closer to specific originals, and 4E, which was more 'let's try to put a new spin on D&D fantasy.'

Agree about later editions becoming more self referential.

In the earlier editions, the whole game was a smorgasbord. Recursively, the cleric was a smorgasbord, as were other individual parts of the game. It was a smorgasbord of smorgasbords.

BoxCrayonTales

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #43 on: February 17, 2021, 05:17:35 PM »
I wouldn't mind splitting the classes into more specialized kits that reflect their original inspirations. For example, splitting the cleric between monster-hunting inquisitor and miracle-working prophet/living saint.

A skill-based system might work better for this. Has anybody tried Mythras Classic Fantasy?

Pat

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #44 on: February 17, 2021, 06:23:10 PM »
Yeah, I totally echo the issue that classes have become these weird hodgepodges of many wildly contrasting genres. In particular, I think "linear warriors, quadratic wizards, geometric priests" is a complex problem without easy answers.

At its most basic, spellcasters simply have more versatility than martials owing to the classes being a mashup of many different genres. The fighter can hit stuff and the thief can sneak and steal and shit, but the cleric can perform miracles and the wizard can control the battlefield.

The way to fix this is to, putting it reductively, beef martials and nerf casters. For example:
I think it's important to remember that fighters and magic-users were fairly well balanced in OD&D, Basic D&D, and AD&D1e. Most of the problems in later editions (*cough* 3rd *cough*) were because they stripped away all the features that kept casters in check. There were radical changes to saves, spells per day, the size of the spell list, the number of spells known, the negative consequences of spells, how difficult spells were to cast, magic items allowed, and more. Magic-users always got more powerful at higher levels, but the idea that casters overwhelm everything isn't an innate feature. It's because they systematically removed all the limitations that kept them in check.

And I think that has less to do with genre mashing, and more to do with a lack of real world reference points. Fighters and thieves are limited because people have an innate grasp of human limitations, and for whatever reason the baseline of what should be possible is often based on real world figures, instead of the more wild and fantastical feats of the heroes of legend. Magic, on the other hand, is basically wish-fulfillment and wild imagination, and has no real world parallel. You simply can't compare what a wizard can do in D&D with real world wizards, because nobody can cast a fireball in real life. So any limits are arbitrary. And magic is often very powerful in stories, because stories don't need the kind of balance we need in a game. It's there to serve a plot purpose, and is controlled by the structure of the story and various meta tools, like having characters act dumb, make mistakes, or have moral codes that restrict certain uses. And even the in-story limitations tend to soft and vague; things like keeping the balance or negative consequences to your soul are a lot hard to quantify and systematize than a wall of fire as high as a castle wall. As a result, there's a strong tendency to focus on all the wondrous end effects, and ignore the implicit limitations.