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Author Topic: Lets talk character classes  (Read 2289 times)

Wicked Woodpecker of West

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #90 on: February 19, 2021, 11:15:46 AM »
Quote
My preference then is to start with skill based mechanics and try to recreate the strengths of class systems.

Providing optional, initial templates helps with most of these, and I consider these pretty much essential for a skill based system.

Sort of good middle-system in theory at least is Warhammer system of professions.
Especially in 4e where certain weird limitations were removed.

You have a job in reinessance society - job you use for living. You have list of skills, talents and attributes you can upgrade point after point (each 1% bought separatedly) linked to your occupation. You can go beyond your occupation and buy new skills for higher price, or same price but with money cost for training.
You can shift occupation, while keeping all you can from previous one.

Pat

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #91 on: February 19, 2021, 02:43:45 PM »
I’m sorry you misread those remarks as anything other personal bitterness at specific past experiences and took them instead to be a blanket dismissal of all who like the older editons of D&D. It seems to have been the root for your choice to read everything that followed in the most uncharitable ways possible.
And my view on that is connected too with my other source of bitterness at D&D in a general sense; the utter disdain shown by nearly everyone towards MY favorite system (other than my own which is a love letter to it); 4E. I have repeatedly expressed that I don’t begrudge others their preferences, but I am almost never afforded the same
courtesy... not only is the system bad, they say, you’re a bad person (and probably an SJW) for even liking it.
Thanks, I understand where you're coming from. But why not just drop all of that? Even if someone poisoned the waters of one well for you in the past, or certain people continue to sneak in and poison your well, why preemptively poison the well of new conversations with completely different posters?

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and abused the poor innocent word word "tautology" (3 times).
Abused? Words don’t have feelings. I felt that word for a thing named for itself feels apt for what D&D has become... a text almost completely self-referential with almost nothing outside it allowed to be added to it.
That was a joke, I was just making fun of how many times you used it. It's one of those words that everyone knows, but it's unusual enough that it stands out when you use it repeatedly. Especially when you're the stretching the definition a bit.

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while using very loaded terms that portrayed everything as a binary choice between your (right) way and the (wrong and monolithic) way that other people play games.
No. That’s how you chose to read it; in the least charitable light because something triggered you and you were looking to be offended.
You literally accused people of One True Wayism. That's not me being uncharitable. And if I were triggered and looking to be offended, wouldn't I be telling you what you think and making personal attacks instead of analyzing the specific words you used and how you used them, and explaining how that makes it hard to have a conversation?

Pat

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #92 on: February 19, 2021, 04:02:35 PM »
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My preference then is to start with skill based mechanics and try to recreate the strengths of class systems.

Providing optional, initial templates helps with most of these, and I consider these pretty much essential for a skill based system.

Sort of good middle-system in theory at least is Warhammer system of professions.
Especially in 4e where certain weird limitations were removed.

You have a job in reinessance society - job you use for living. You have list of skills, talents and attributes you can upgrade point after point (each 1% bought separatedly) linked to your occupation. You can go beyond your occupation and buy new skills for higher price, or same price but with money cost for training.
You can shift occupation, while keeping all you can from previous one.
How do Warhammer professions work? Do you just shift what skills you can learn, or is it more complex?

I think it's interesting that the most important skill system in old school D&D is rarely even recognized as a skill system: But that's what the magic system, and how you learn new spells, is. We've talked a bit about how the expansion of the spell list has caused a lot of problems, and I definitely think restricting the spell list is one of the most important ways to balance spellcasters. But how to go about it? If we take the schools of magic to represent academic specialities, then magic-users would be stuck with a specific and fairly narrow progression of spells, e.g. they'd know at 1st level what spells they have to chose from at 9th level. But that gets back to the build mentality where too much has to be pre-planned and there's little opportunity for emergent or adaptive changes, so there needs to be a way to switch or mix it up. Buy by the same token, there need to be real, hard limits or you're back to the infinite spell problem. And it's very difficult to allow variation while still enforcing a theme in a progressive level system -- if you switch to fire magic at 5th level, do you have to start at 1st level and build back up, or can you suddenly cast fireballs? D&D's always struggled with multiclassing, because the level system is built around progressive specialization. So if other systems do it well, it might be illuminating.

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #93 on: February 19, 2021, 04:58:52 PM »
I think it's interesting that the most important skill system in old school D&D is rarely even recognized as a skill system: But that's what the magic system, and how you learn new spells, is. We've talked a bit about how the expansion of the spell list has caused a lot of problems, and I definitely think restricting the spell list is one of the most important ways to balance spellcasters. But how to go about it? If we take the schools of magic to represent academic specialities, then magic-users would be stuck with a specific and fairly narrow progression of spells, e.g. they'd know at 1st level what spells they have to chose from at 9th level. But that gets back to the build mentality where too much has to be pre-planned and there's little opportunity for emergent or adaptive changes, so there needs to be a way to switch or mix it up. Buy by the same token, there need to be real, hard limits or you're back to the infinite spell problem. And it's very difficult to allow variation while still enforcing a theme in a progressive level system -- if you switch to fire magic at 5th level, do you have to start at 1st level and build back up, or can you suddenly cast fireballs? D&D's always struggled with multiclassing, because the level system is built around progressive specialization. So if other systems do it well, it might be illuminating.

Pat, I suspect that there isn't really an answer to those thoughts that isn't specific to the game and maybe setting.  For example, AD&D has a wide open wizard theme due to the expansive nature of the spell lists.  However, there are limits on which spells the wizard can cast--not least determined by what they find in play.  So it is up to the GM to limit that list to get the feel they want.  Maybe Joe Fire Wizard is a fire wizard not because that is his skill set but because those are the spells he has located, learned, and found to be useful.  Joe could have turned out different.

For me, I've always found the D&D wizard too broad and the "schools" too narrow.  All those spells that cross lists and different lists and so forth that is part of the game is both a way to support hybrid characters and a way to limit that.  In contrast to, say, something like Dragon Quest is systematically narrow and Runequest simple magic is systematically limited.  I've done Fantasy Hero where "anything goes" as long as it is within the casters concept (e.g. GM approval) and also done it where the caster signed up for a particular set of spells based on a magic skill (or maybe learned several magic skills, each with different set of spells).

When I set out to do my own take on something D&D-ish, for magic I did several things that mitigate the issues you are discussing, at least in the ways that affect my priorities. Heh!

  • Have a divide between three types of magic instead of the divine/arcane split.  Each one a little more narrow than D&D clerics and wizards, accordingly.
  • No crossover spells.  For example, there is a form of wizard healing, but it works completely different than the cleric options.
  • While the base mechanics for casting are the same for each type (I'm not that much a glutton for punishment), there are special cases for each type that changes the feel.
  • Made a distinction between common spells that almost any caster can learn eventually and more rare ones that are back to the AD&D find it limit.

That last bullet does put it back on the GM, but the "common" spells and the magic type difference already provide a distinct theme (more narrow than D&D casters, broader than schools).  And they are also sufficient for the character to work.  It would be perfectly OK for the GM to be stingy or generous with the rare spells, same as as GM could with magic items.  As long as that is what the GM wants.  I've also put in some mechanics for learning spells that heavily favors getting as much information as possible about the spell from multiple sources.  Much easier to do with common spells.  A rare 1st level spell could take several weeks to learn, and it expands rapidly from there. 

Just reading between the lines, you can see that what I'm doing in no way would satisfy all your criteria for all games.  It wouldn't even come close.  It does, more or less, mitigate those issues for my purposes, at least to the point where I don't mind GM fiat stepping in to handle the remaining parts.  Other GM's would likely say that I'm not solving the boundary cases they want solved and putting in details that solves something not important to them.


BoxCrayonTales

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #94 on: February 19, 2021, 08:15:04 PM »
As others have mentioned, I see the strengths of class based design as

1)   Learning a game and getting to play quickly
2)   Easy character creation
3)   Reduce decision overload
4)   Easy character advancement
5)   Niche protection
6)   Support familiar archetypes (“I want to play Han Solo...”)

and the weaknesses as

1)   Difficulty or inability to create certain imagined characters with existing classes/mechanisms
2)   Limiting imagination in character design/development
3)   The work of creating new classes when necessary
4)   Illogical and unintuitive mechanics ( “I can’t hold a sword because I’m a magic-user?!” )
5)   Limiting character development choices

My preference then is to start with skill based mechanics and try to recreate the strengths of class systems.

Providing optional, initial templates helps with most of these, and I consider these pretty much essential for a skill based system.

For the rest of it, my preference is to include mechanics that reward taking and improving skills that are related.

In a previous, abandoned game design project, I did this by adding bonuses and reduced learning costs for skills depending on the ones you already had.  There were “tight groups” for closely related skills and “loose groups” for those somewhat less so.  As an example, If you had +10 skill in a long sword, that gave you a bonus +2 skill in any other sword and a bonus +1 skill in any weapon.  Similar mechanics affected the XP costs of learning related skills.  Like much of the rest of that system it’s mathematically elegant and produced exactly the results I wanted, but was more work than I cared to do at the gaming table.

In my current project, there are 6 talents, akin to D&D’s ability scores, which are attack, defense, athletics, magic, guile, and perception.  A combination of 1 or two of these gives a rough match for most archetypes I can think of.  Each skill depends on exactly one of the talents, so it usually makes sense to develop skills that are related to the ones you already have, which provides niche protection.  For example, if you’re a sword striker then getting another +1 in sword skill provide a really important increase in your primary function.  Putting that skill point into a magical art instead will might mean going from useless to slightly less useless in that skill.  That’s something you might want to do occasionally for flexibility or a specific problem, but usually an inferior approach.  It provides much the same benefits mechanically as the other system and is much simpler to implement.

Have you looked at Classic Fantasy for Mythras? It uses skill-based BRP to replicate OSR-inspired gameplay.

Wicked Woodpecker of West

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #95 on: February 20, 2021, 07:38:38 AM »
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How do Warhammer professions work? Do you just shift what skills you can learn, or is it more complex?

In 2 edition they have very strict rules - you had to add certain bonus to skills (three levels: trained, +10, +20 IIRC), you had to advance attributes to certain level compared to your starting one (so if you went through 3 professions with +10% to Melee you only advanced within first profession), and what talents. You finished it - you needed to move to next one.

4th edition changed it for better overall - because it assumes that profession is really your way of life, your trade, your social position, social duties, way you earn money.
Each profession now have 4 levels of sub-professions (in some cases it's bit unnecessary I think), and you can easily stay within your profession or advance into higher rank within the same trade like turning from Rat Catcher into professional Exterminator, or from Conscript Soldier into Sergeant of troop.
Each profession has basic skills, attributes and talents you can advance (talents are level specific, skills and attributes - you get new ones to advance on new levels while keeping all from previous levels avaliable).

There are usually no very specific things only one profession can do - aside of magic (though with some talents and other things you can do it), and you can learn skills and talents from other professions with either double XP cost - or by sacrificing one of endevours (resttime mechanics between adventures) - to get teacher and pay him - then pay normal as someone for whom it's profession skill.

And while there are certain limits in taking new rank within profession or leaving to new one - you can stay in one profession literally for ever - advancing skills, talents and attributes without upper cap. There is no more - as soldier you can uph your Melee just +10% to get +20 you need to become Veteran or something, no - these time you can just keep doing whatever job you are doing. The point is profession is not mere class it should be something your PC is really doing for life.

Zweihander sort of houseruled 2e (well very houseruled) by infamous Daniel D. Fox adds extra special talent for each profession just for them - though often it's something like free re-roll of two skills.

Pat

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #96 on: February 20, 2021, 03:32:07 PM »
Pat, I suspect that there isn't really an answer to those thoughts that isn't specific to the game and maybe setting.
I'm less interested in finding my perfect solution and more interested in talking about alternatives.

  • Have a divide between three types of magic instead of the divine/arcane split.  Each one a little more narrow than D&D clerics and wizards, accordingly.
  • No crossover spells.  For example, there is a form of wizard healing, but it works completely different than the cleric options.
  • While the base mechanics for casting are the same for each type (I'm not that much a glutton for punishment), there are special cases for each type that changes the feel.
  • Made a distinction between common spells that almost any caster can learn eventually and more rare ones that are back to the AD&D find it limit.

That last bullet does put it back on the GM, but the "common" spells and the magic type difference already provide a distinct theme (more narrow than D&D casters, broader than schools).  And they are also sufficient for the character to work.  It would be perfectly OK for the GM to be stingy or generous with the rare spells, same as as GM could with magic items.  As long as that is what the GM wants.  I've also put in some mechanics for learning spells that heavily favors getting as much information as possible about the spell from multiple sources.  Much easier to do with common spells.  A rare 1st level spell could take several weeks to learn, and it expands rapidly from there. 
I think multiple types of magic with distinctly different effects, and distinctly different ways of casting, would be an interesting approach. Broken as it is, that's effectively what the psionic system is, a parallel magic system with different "spells" and a different method of casting. If we scale back the generalist mage, I think creating new methods of casting would be easier than you think, it's a matter of balancing the degree of difference. For instance, sorcerers and wizards in 3rd edition simply weren't different enough to really feel like a new magic system, and neither were memorize and forget clerics. But having spontaneous divine casters and prepared spells of arcane casters does feel different. And so do warlocks. It wouldn't be hard to come up with a list of different methods, then pair them to different sets of spell effects. The trick is making each coherent and interesting.

Slambo

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #97 on: February 20, 2021, 06:08:23 PM »
Pat, I suspect that there isn't really an answer to those thoughts that isn't specific to the game and maybe setting.
I'm less interested in finding my perfect solution and more interested in talking about alternatives.

  • Have a divide between three types of magic instead of the divine/arcane split.  Each one a little more narrow than D&D clerics and wizards, accordingly.
  • No crossover spells.  For example, there is a form of wizard healing, but it works completely different than the cleric options.
  • While the base mechanics for casting are the same for each type (I'm not that much a glutton for punishment), there are special cases for each type that changes the feel.
  • Made a distinction between common spells that almost any caster can learn eventually and more rare ones that are back to the AD&D find it limit.

That last bullet does put it back on the GM, but the "common" spells and the magic type difference already provide a distinct theme (more narrow than D&D casters, broader than schools).  And they are also sufficient for the character to work.  It would be perfectly OK for the GM to be stingy or generous with the rare spells, same as as GM could with magic items.  As long as that is what the GM wants.  I've also put in some mechanics for learning spells that heavily favors getting as much information as possible about the spell from multiple sources.  Much easier to do with common spells.  A rare 1st level spell could take several weeks to learn, and it expands rapidly from there. 
I think multiple types of magic with distinctly different effects, and distinctly different ways of casting, would be an interesting approach. Broken as it is, that's effectively what the psionic system is, a parallel magic system with different "spells" and a different method of casting. If we scale back the generalist mage, I think creating new methods of casting would be easier than you think, it's a matter of balancing the degree of difference. For instance, sorcerers and wizards in 3rd edition simply weren't different enough to really feel like a new magic system, and neither were memorize and forget clerics. But having spontaneous divine casters and prepared spells of arcane casters does feel different. And so do warlocks. It wouldn't be hard to come up with a list of different methods, then pair them to different sets of spell effects. The trick is making each coherent and interesting.

What do you think about roll to cast for divine casters and spell points for arcane casters. Personally i dont like the divine/arcane divide but its a really minor thing to me. In this case clerics are praying for their gods attention and they may get it...but theres a ton of other people drawing from the god at the same time so results may vary, while spell points fit the "magic as science" aesthetic some people other than me like.

Pat

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #98 on: February 20, 2021, 06:22:37 PM »
Pat, I suspect that there isn't really an answer to those thoughts that isn't specific to the game and maybe setting.
I'm less interested in finding my perfect solution and more interested in talking about alternatives.

  • Have a divide between three types of magic instead of the divine/arcane split.  Each one a little more narrow than D&D clerics and wizards, accordingly.
  • No crossover spells.  For example, there is a form of wizard healing, but it works completely different than the cleric options.
  • While the base mechanics for casting are the same for each type (I'm not that much a glutton for punishment), there are special cases for each type that changes the feel.
  • Made a distinction between common spells that almost any caster can learn eventually and more rare ones that are back to the AD&D find it limit.

That last bullet does put it back on the GM, but the "common" spells and the magic type difference already provide a distinct theme (more narrow than D&D casters, broader than schools).  And they are also sufficient for the character to work.  It would be perfectly OK for the GM to be stingy or generous with the rare spells, same as as GM could with magic items.  As long as that is what the GM wants.  I've also put in some mechanics for learning spells that heavily favors getting as much information as possible about the spell from multiple sources.  Much easier to do with common spells.  A rare 1st level spell could take several weeks to learn, and it expands rapidly from there. 
I think multiple types of magic with distinctly different effects, and distinctly different ways of casting, would be an interesting approach. Broken as it is, that's effectively what the psionic system is, a parallel magic system with different "spells" and a different method of casting. If we scale back the generalist mage, I think creating new methods of casting would be easier than you think, it's a matter of balancing the degree of difference. For instance, sorcerers and wizards in 3rd edition simply weren't different enough to really feel like a new magic system, and neither were memorize and forget clerics. But having spontaneous divine casters and prepared spells of arcane casters does feel different. And so do warlocks. It wouldn't be hard to come up with a list of different methods, then pair them to different sets of spell effects. The trick is making each coherent and interesting.

What do you think about roll to cast for divine casters and spell points for arcane casters. Personally i dont like the divine/arcane divide but its a really minor thing to me. In this case clerics are praying for their gods attention and they may get it...but theres a ton of other people drawing from the god at the same time so results may vary, while spell points fit the "magic as science" aesthetic some people other than me like.
I think spell points are hard to balance against slots, due to the nova problem.

And I think the divine vs. arcane split is the wrong way of looking at it. It's too self-reflective. I want mad cultists who are endowed with a portion of their god's power, avatars of abstract concepts, little gods who grow in power, psychics who move things with the force of their mind, shamans who walk with the spirits, scholars who treat magic like a science to be uncovered, and poets who have studied the natural world so deeply that can cause wonders with words. I want them to be wrapped into the world and have meaning, history, and a coherent set of traditions and powers. Terms like arcane and divine are fine to codify some consequences of a magical system, but I think it's a bad idea to use them, backwardly, as precepts used to define a new magical system.

Slipshot762

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #99 on: February 21, 2021, 01:21:30 AM »
Been checking out how things are done in Pendragon; keep getting pulled off course by some of the tales, I've come to hate everyone but Mordred and Kay. What a bunch of naive petty fake ass bunch of phony pompous ass munchers these knights. And Lancelot, a munchkin chad who has a crisis of being at the first hint of mortal imperfection.

All that aside, seems to be a great setting echoing many of my own wants in a game if not rules, but it appears that for the most part there is only one playable class and that is kuh-nihget as they say in french, or knight as the bretons say. Needs more bully boys.

Aglondir

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #100 on: February 21, 2021, 05:26:42 PM »
I love classes, but I love skill-based systems too. My problem with classes isn't how they interact (or limit) player choice. It's that classes are typically designed with both a System function (mechanics) and a World function (fluff.) It's one thing to play a psychic warrior with a laser sword, but quite another to play a Jedi.

Point buy systems attempt to quantity the fluff via ads and disads, where class-based systems just assume the fluff works out OK. And for D20, the fluff is so ingrained it probably does for most folks. Funny thing is that players seem to vary with their involvement with the fluff. Paladin players are heavily involved, often to an annoying level. Warlock players usually aren't. I have yet to see a Warlock's patron make any demands of the PC. Or a warlock player who even role-plays the Faustian bargain. Or other party members that are concerned with it. The only factor seems to be "I'm a short rest Cha based caster" which is pure system.

At the risk of going Forgish, this might be a gamist vs Sim debate.

And thus it came to pass that the Silmarils found their long homes: one in the airs of heaven, and one in the fires of the heart of the world, and one in the deep waters.

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

Shasarak

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #101 on: February 21, 2021, 05:48:52 PM »
Point buy systems attempt to quantity the fluff via ads and disads, where class-based systems just assume the fluff works out OK. And for D20, the fluff is so ingrained it probably does for most folks. Funny thing is that players seem to vary with their involvement with the fluff. Paladin players are heavily involved, often to an annoying level. Warlock players usually aren't. I have yet to see a Warlock's patron make any demands of the PC. Or a warlock player who even role-plays the Faustian bargain. Or other party members that are concerned with it. The only factor seems to be "I'm a short rest Cha based caster" which is pure system.

Thats real old school, using a Players class as a roleplaying tool.

I did not think that you were allowed to do that anymore.
There will be poor always,
pathetically struggling,
look at the good things you've got! -  Jesus

BronzeDragon

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #102 on: February 22, 2021, 03:58:14 PM »
I did not think that you were allowed to do that anymore.

Nothing is allowed anymore.

It's why we do it.
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BoxCrayonTales

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #103 on: February 23, 2021, 02:25:01 PM »
I love classes, but I love skill-based systems too. My problem with classes isn't how they interact (or limit) player choice. It's that classes are typically designed with both a System function (mechanics) and a World function (fluff.) It's one thing to play a psychic warrior with a laser sword, but quite another to play a Jedi.

Point buy systems attempt to quantity the fluff via ads and disads, where class-based systems just assume the fluff works out OK. And for D20, the fluff is so ingrained it probably does for most folks. Funny thing is that players seem to vary with their involvement with the fluff. Paladin players are heavily involved, often to an annoying level. Warlock players usually aren't. I have yet to see a Warlock's patron make any demands of the PC. Or a warlock player who even role-plays the Faustian bargain. Or other party members that are concerned with it. The only factor seems to be "I'm a short rest Cha based caster" which is pure system.

At the risk of going Forgish, this might be a gamist vs Sim debate.

Yeah, I find the fluff in 5e to be fairly incoherent on occasion. e.g. Why is there a difference between a druid, a cleric of a nature god, and a warlock who made a pact with a nature god?

Slipshot762

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Re: Lets talk character classes
« Reply #104 on: February 23, 2021, 07:49:19 PM »
I love classes, but I love skill-based systems too. My problem with classes isn't how they interact (or limit) player choice. It's that classes are typically designed with both a System function (mechanics) and a World function (fluff.) It's one thing to play a psychic warrior with a laser sword, but quite another to play a Jedi.

Point buy systems attempt to quantity the fluff via ads and disads, where class-based systems just assume the fluff works out OK. And for D20, the fluff is so ingrained it probably does for most folks. Funny thing is that players seem to vary with their involvement with the fluff. Paladin players are heavily involved, often to an annoying level. Warlock players usually aren't. I have yet to see a Warlock's patron make any demands of the PC. Or a warlock player who even role-plays the Faustian bargain. Or other party members that are concerned with it. The only factor seems to be "I'm a short rest Cha based caster" which is pure system.

At the risk of going Forgish, this might be a gamist vs Sim debate.

Yeah, I find the fluff in 5e to be fairly incoherent on occasion. e.g. Why is there a difference between a druid, a cleric of a nature god, and a warlock who made a pact with a nature god?

Consider Thulsa Doom, referred to as a sorcerer but clearly a priest of Set (in the Arnold movies at least), the knee jerk response from my "inner DM who doesn't set foot outside D&D" would say "oh yeah multi-class, totally" but thats a narrow cookie cutter view; I'm using D6 system these days and really those are all the same "class" mechanically, differing only in fluff.