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March 18, 2012 / Wythe

Class: archetype vs. profession vs. party role

Here is the big, top-level problem with the concept of “class” in RPGs: Is “class” a representation—a distilled-down, easy-to-package, easy-to-craft-rules-around version of—

  1. Archetype (fighting-man, scout, rogue, spellcaster, e.g.; Bilbo, Drizzt, Han Solo, Gandalf, e.g.)?
  2. Profession (Han Solo works for the slug mob doing dirty jobs and flying people around backwater planets; Samwise is a gardener; Sherlock Holmes is an addict who works as a detective to pay for drugs, e.g.)?
  3. Function (Meta-Function?) AKA Party Role (DPS/magic/healing/buffing/tank; Bilbo is only useful in sneaky missions; Han Solo is great in a gun fight/seduction con, but he’s useless in fixing a supercomputer or using telekinesis to defeat Jerkface the Floating Sith Duke, e.g.)?

Thus the axis of tilt for class is not an axis, but are three axes: Archetype vs. Profession, Profession vs. Function, and Function vs. Archetype.

The Ranger may be a good Archetype but a shitty job: Most rangers, for example aren’t good at long-range fighting! They’re forest wardens, game wardens, but not snipers;—nor are they zoo workers who train animals. Rangers may know a lot about animals, sure. But the way in which various forms of the classic game wants Rangers to function as snipers/animal trainers/trackers (Function = DPS + a bunch of unrelated specialities) is just plain confusing.

At some point, when creating or re-tooling a class, you have to admit that you’re preferencing either Archetype, Profession, or Function. I think this is okay: It’s a matter of awareness, of knowing that you have the option to switch preference.

DEEP THOUGHTS, OUT!

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