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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Eric J. on May 20, 2002, 06:00:58 AM



Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Eric J. on May 20, 2002, 06:00:58 AM
In my experience, classes only serve to steriotype characters and limit abilites, in creativity and realism. Their intrensic function in many RPGs is simply based off of their use in D&D (original).  My belief is that RPGs only use should be to simplify effects of reality to game mechanics.  In which case, I don't belive that classes have virtually any practical use.  Abilites granted by classes don't need training.  No one, in reality, neatly fits into the classes. Class descriptions are usually a reflexion of a sterotyped character. D20 sucks (I can't help but mention this). Any comments? I'm creating an RPG right now, and I'm using levels but not classes which goes against my original idea to use classes but not levels! I, however, feel justified in my desision. Comments?


Title: Re: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on May 20, 2002, 06:21:37 AM
Quote from: Pyron
Their intrensic function in many RPGs is simply based off of their use in D&D (original).

I can argee with you here in that classes were in D&D and thus, many RPGs that followed use classes or something very much like classes regardless of what they are called.
Quote
My belief is that RPGs only use should be to simplify effects of reality to game mechanics.  In which case, I don't belive that classes have virtually any practical use.  Abilites granted by classes don't need training.  No one, in reality, neatly fits into the classes. Class descriptions are usually a reflexion of a sterotyped character.

Now you're not making sense. If an RPG is supposed to simplify the effects of reality into game mechanics, what could be more simple than a stereotyped character?

You appear to be of two minds on this. You seem to thing that an RPG should be a simplification of reality but that classes are too simple. So just go in the middle for yourself and let those who enjoy classes have their fun.
 
Quote
D20 sucks (I can't help but mention this). Any comments?

Yes. Comments like these are the opposite of useful discussion. Here we try to cultivate only useful discussion. Please refrain from any "(BLANK) sucks" comments unless you are prepared to back them up and, more importantly, they are appropriate to the thread you're posting in.

Quote
I'm creating an RPG right now, and I'm using levels but not classes which goes against my original idea to use classes but not levels! I, however, feel justified in my desision. Comments?

This is something more for the RPG design board here, and should probably be continued in a new thread.

I must say that your position and design decisions confuse me to no end, though. How a project that started as classes but no levels became levels but no classes beats the heck out of me. After you comments on the value of classes, I'm surprised that you do support levels which are just as much a simplification on the order of classes.

In short, I have no idea what you're getting at unless it's just d20 sucks and therefore classes suck. If not, please clarify. If so, we've heard this before. Thank you.


Title: Re: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 20, 2002, 07:01:54 AM
I find myself agreeing with Jack (how strange).

Quote from: Pyron
My belief is that RPGs only use should be to simplify effects of reality to game mechanics.  


That's quite an assumption. Lot's of people believe that RPGs are all about other things. Which may make classes useful. If you are saying that for your tastes of for this project that simulation of "reality" is your only goal, then great. Just realize that other peole have other very legitamate goals for their RPGs.

Quote
No one, in reality, neatly fits into the classes.
No one in reality is an Elf. Perhaps in a particular fantasy world classes would make sense. Game reality is not our reality. Now, I agree that classes seem so arbitrary and selected for Metagame reasons, that they might be hard to be believeable as fitting in any setting, but it's not impossible.

Quote
I'm creating an RPG right now, and I'm using levels but not classes which goes against my original idea to use classes but not levels! I, however, feel justified in my desision. Comments?


Um, what's "Realistic" about levels? Or rather what makes them acceptable if levels are not? If comparing to our reality, levels are so far from how people in the RW learn, that I have a much harder time accpeting them than I do classes. People do not experience things on and on, and then just suddenly get a bunch better at a whole bunch of things. They learn gradually, sometimes about a number of things, and sometimes about just a single thing at a time.

What's the rationale for your decisions?

BTW, D20, while being far from my favorite system, accoplished it's design goals rather admirably. You and I may not like those goals, but then the game probably wasn't designed for us.

Mike


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Valamir on May 20, 2002, 09:16:00 AM
Ok, this seems like a good place to inject a little actual discussion into classes.

What are classes trying to accomplish and what effect does that have in game design?

Lets assume for the sake of discussion that we are talking about a game where classes were used for a percieved reason, not a game which has classes simply because D&D had classes.  We are interested in discussing the pros and cons of classes, not the pros and cons of derivative design.

Now it has been said that classes aren't realistic.  This statement has no meaning, because only reality itself is real.  The very word realistic indicates something that's "similar to but not quite real".  Therefor "realistic" needs a qualifier to have any meaning.  In other words: classes aren't realistic compared to what?

The fundamental truth of all RPGs is that they are a model of reality (ours or a fictional one).  The very definition of being a model is something that is simplified from reality in order to make analysis feasible.  What is simplified more and what is simplified less depends on what aspect the modeler is attempting to analyse.  In other words every set of RPG rules is nothing more than a model, the real question is then what is the purpose of a given model and does it meet that purpose.

So, the issue that becomes not "are classes a realistic portrayal of reality", but rather "are classes an effective means of modeling reality for a specific purpose".

Lets start with how they model reality.  Classes are an excellent means of modeling reality from a certain perspective.  The idea that "there are no classes in the real world" is a nice bit of wishful thinking but the fact of the matter is yes there are.  Go to any book store, pick up any of the zillion books on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.  Those aspects that you'll see repeated time and again are characteristics of being an entrepreneur.  If we label someone as an entrepreneur we'd expect them to have all or most of those characteristics.  Voila, a real world class called "Entrepreneur".

We could repeat this excersize ad naseum "Career Soldier", "Computer Programmer", "Professional Athlete", etc.  In each case we can come up with a list of features that we would expect each such individual to have in order to qualify for the label.

Is it possible that every single individual in the world could be fit into a "class"...I think so.  It may be a fairly small class, but you'd be hard put to find anyone who doesn't have a dozen or so similiarities with someone else who could be combined in the same class.

Conversely is it possibly that a class would define EVERY single feature or trait of all of its members.  Absolutely not, not any more than every feature of an animal is defined by knowing its species.  

What a class does is codify the central features of an individual into a "standard" form.  Most games that employ classes then provide some mechanism for differentiating one member from another (D&D 3E to a far greater extent than its ancestors).  Even then is it possible to create every single possible combination of individual features within a "Class + differentiators" model.  No, it isn't.  No one would reasonably claim that you can.

Now we are reaching some actual analysis.

So here then is the distinguishing feature of a class based character model.  As we know all models are simplifications and what the modeler chooses to simplify depends on what he wants to use the model for.  The class based model chooses to simplify individuality.  If your goal as a player is to create the most individualized character you can concieve of, than that goal is not going to be met by a class model which abstracts individuality.

So what is a class model good for.  Simple, it can be shown (although I won't attempt it here) that the more "average" or "typical" an individual is the better they will "fit" within the standards of a class.  The more "unique" or "fringe" an individual is, the less well that the standard class will fit.  We have a word to describe these "typical" or "standard" individuals.  We call them archetypes.

So what a Class model does is say simply "In this game we are not concerned (as much) with you playing individuals.  We are more concerned with you playing archetypes.  We have determined the selection of archetypes that we think this game is designed for best and have included them as "classes".

Is there an inherent superiority over characters as individuals to characters as archetypes.  Well, YMMV, but I say absolutely not.  Much work has been done to show the "archetypical" hero as repeated time and again throughout history and across cultures, so the idea of there being "archetypes" and that those archetypes are "valid" and "worthy" as heroes I think is proven (to my satisfaction at least).

So to say "Classes are Stupid" is simply to demonstrate a complete and total lack of understanding; and to committ that most heinous of fallacies...assuming that personal preference equates to some fundamental truth.

So the final question would then be to evaluate the various class models on their own merits.  Is the game one for which the archetype approach is appropriate?  What categorization rules are to be used; are classes based on profession, social standing, race or ethnicity, literary role?  Does the particular set of class based rules succeed at achieving the design goal or does it fail?  Note that showing how a particular class based implementation fails is no more prove that classes are bad than showing how a particular combat system fails is prove that to-hit rolls are bad.  Any set of rules can be designed poorly.

Hopefully, Pyron, this post begins to address your topic "Classes vs Realty" which is a good and worthwhile topic, as distinct from your actual post, which was not.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 20, 2002, 09:42:43 AM
Hey,

Well, let's back up a little now and see whether you guys have left any meat on the bone. In Pyron's favor, he (or whatever) did bring up a valid topic and did start it on the right forum, which isn't exactly common. And although I agree with all the comments Jack, Mike, and Ralph made on the topic, it also couldn't hurt to say "Welcome to the Forge" and raise one objection at a time, in a discussion-encouraging way.

So, Pyron, welcome to the Forge, and (apparently) to some of our more ... motivated members.

The rest of this post is intended to accompany the thread Have a little class, people (http://indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2179) which has a bunch of amazing stuff in it.

"Realism" really isn't the issue. It might an issue, depending on how it's defined, but it's not the issue. I think the real problem is that many people have been burned by games whose class-categories have channelled play far more than the players wanted to be channelled. I don't think it's hard to recognize that class-based character creation may, in some forms, be a form of railroading.

(Especially for games with the Chinese-menu method: Vampire, L5R, UnderWorld, and many others. These lookhighly customizable but in many ways are not.)

Only some of us remember the early days when customized-characters were not possible at the outset of play. You had D&D, in which classic cases were the way to go; early RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu, in which characters were defined largely through play (later CofC changed this radically); and the exception, TFT, which hardly anyone knew about. When Champions came out, bam - the world turned upside down. All of a sudden concept was everything, or so it seemed. When GURPS purported to do the same (almost simultaneously with Fantasy Hero, from Hero Games), it seemed to us at the time as if we'd shed horrible shackles called "character class" and Universal Role-playing was at last ours.

[Side note: Interestingly, fantasy role-playing never got there. In application, GURPS Fantasy, Fantasy Hero, Rolemaster, and many others ended up with overt or covert character classes. Arguably, such play didn't appear until people used The Window or later, The Pool, for fantasy role-playing.]

So I'm reasonably sympathetic to the situation which prompts enraged cries of "Classes suck!" The cry itself isn't very useful or fair. The situation, though, is worth investigating.

Best,
Ron


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Walt Freitag on May 20, 2002, 09:53:08 AM
Pyron, in this earlier thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=14916&highlight=#14916) you objected to the concept of completely free-form character creation systems because, you pointed out, some people need guidelines. One purpose classes can serve is to provide such guidelines.

Now clearly, you don't feel that classes are a good choice for this purpose, and you've mentioned a few reasons why. My question is, what alternative means do you prefer for providing character creation guidelines for players who need them? (Or have you changed your mind about players' need for guidelines? If so, what changed your mind?)

- Walt


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Fabrice G. on May 20, 2002, 10:32:09 AM
Hi Valamir,

just a note:
Quote
What a class does is codify the central features of an individual into a "standard" form


That's really the definition of archetypes (or prototypes in cognitive psychology). Perfect models.
So a class would barely indicate the social group/profession of the character, the archetype being the idealised representation of that social group/profession.
But then, what's the difference between a class trait and an occupation/social group one ?

So I guess in this reguard you can use either of the terms.

My problem with the use of classes has more to do with the uses that had been made of classes, and the consequances of the attacjed improvement system. Then classes become something too rigid and dictate too much of the evolution of the characters.

Fabrice.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 20, 2002, 10:39:55 AM
Hi Fabrice,

I think the issue here partly concerns what "class" means anyway. Jared rightly pointed out in the other thread that it usually ends up meaning Role, in player terms. That's largely due to the reward-system consequences that you mention, I think.

"Class" in the sense of a role does not necessarily correspond to "character's job in the game-world." That's a serious issue and has been confounded for decades. It's why playing D&D is so aggravating when characters say "magic-user" in-character, as if that were an in-game-world term. It's why people get confused in Hero Wars and think that Occupation as a goat-herder means that your character will herd goats for the rest of the game.

It seems to me that the faster we pull the metagame concept of Role away, mechanically, from the in-game concept of the character's job, the better off we'll be. Or rather, we should choose whether, for a given game, they are the same thing (e.g. "Spy").

Best,
Ron


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Blake Hutchins on May 20, 2002, 10:42:25 AM
Y'know, I have little objection to classes as starting concepts.  You could argue, for instance, that the Occupations in Hero Wars are classes in this wise.  It's an interesting topic.  At the risk of muddying the waters, the notion of Class has always seemed to me to be "horizontal" stratification (as opposed to Level, which I conceive of as vertical stratification), and its impact in play depends whether the limits imposed by the class are hard or soft.  DnD has, for example, hard, almost bright line limits whereby you're seriously hampered if you try to step outside the task focus of the class.  However, GURPS, Ars Magica, and (arguably) Pendragon have what I'd call softer classes, in which there's a great deal of customization possible within the original framework.  Finally, games like Sorcerer, The Pool, and The Window seem to take a sort of "null" class approach where there are no limits imposed by class or wherein the selection of horizontal constraints are so fuzzy/open as that the player really gets to select possibilities for the character rather than limits.

Practically speaking, I think classes evolve in response to player specialization when the focus of the game is on task resolution as a means of driving the story/action.  I've a friend who takes it a step further and argues that classes (hard or soft) evolve as players fill specialized roles necessary for a well-rounded team.  I disagree with his position because it comes from a perception that all "real" RP requires each player have a unique slot to fill in a team (viz. DnD or Shadowrun and the tendency for groups to consist of assemblies of specialists).

There's my nickel.  Anyone got change?

Best,

Blake


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Valamir on May 20, 2002, 10:54:37 AM
Fabrice,

Quite true.  For RPG purposes, I make no distinction between whether something is a "Class", and "Archetype", a "Template", etc.  They are all different game terms for the exact same thing.  The specific rules as to how to implement them might differ (in ways that don't necessarily have anything to do with the designer's choice of terminology), but they all serve the same function.


To extend the discussion.

The primary distinguisher between different types of class IMO is how the categories are divied up.  Take, for instance a room full of 100 people.  There are many ways to sort them into "Classes".  One could seperate by eye color, or by gender, or by degree of edjucation, etc.  Each division would result in different groups of people.  The choice is really which features are "class features" and which are individual features that lie outside of the scope of class.

Identifying the types of features that are class features is a big indicator the model being pursued.  D&D's classes are designed around dividing people up based on their utility for a dungeon haul.  Brave New World's classes are devoted entirely to which super power is my character based on.  WEG's Star Wars classes are based on which movie character your character is most like.

Even in open design games you have classes.  As soon as you sit down with GURPs to design a character who is a "dirty harry style cop" you are allowing your perceptions of the characteristics such a role would have to color your character choices.  Give 100 players the task of making such a character in GURPs and you'll get a lot of similiar (not identicle) choices.  Those choices that are repeated over and over are simply the "Class features" for Dirty Harry.  

The only difference between a class based game and GURPs is that the class based game would have made those features explicit, ideally for a specific design reason.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: lehrbuch on May 20, 2002, 12:35:38 PM
Hello,

Quote from: Ron Edwards
"Class" in the sense of a role does not necessarily correspond to "character's job in the game-world." That's a serious issue and has been confounded for decades. It's why playing D&D is so aggravating when characters say "magic-user" in-character, as if that were an in-game-world term.


I've played in several D&D-type campaigns where a character's class *was* an in-game term.  "Class" was used in these games as a synonym for caste.  Such usage began, I believe, as an attempt to justify why classes were restricted in certain ways, but evolved to become a significant factor in the game world.  A lot of game play revolved around politics between classes.  This was an important part of the process by which our game-play changed to become something other than Dungeon bashing.  Class was a mechanism by which our game play Drifted from Gamism to Simulationism (of a- not very plausible- caste based society)

Please don't be insulted by this, but I have often heard it said that some players dislike Class so much, because of their real-world national myths about the existence and desirability of "classless" societies.  Is real-world ideology significant in what we find acceptable and desirable in a roleplaying game?  A similar argument could be made about a player's preference for deterministic or random resolution systems, or for the sharing of narrative control amongst all players.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 20, 2002, 12:49:53 PM
Hi lehrbuch,

That's a good description of how one group dealt with the problem I mentioned. I've seen a number of similar solutions in fantasy fiction and in later D&D-imitative games, all of which have that kind of uncomfortable, "well it's more realistic but it isn't very realistic" feel to them.

You wrote,
"Please don't be insulted by this, but I have often heard it said that some players dislike Class so much, because of their real-world national myths about the existence and desirability of "classless" societies. Is real-world ideology significant in what we find acceptable and desirable in a roleplaying game? A similar argument could be made about a player's preference for deterministic or random resolution systems, or for the sharing of narrative control amongst all players."

I guess I'm puzzled by this, for a couple of reasons. First, I don't see a possible implied insult at all, and your basic question is a very good one. Second, I'm not familiar with the trend or profile you describe (regarding character class); it's totally foreign to me. Third, the topic has a lot of thread-derailing potential, so I suggest you start a new thread with it.

Best,
Ron


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Eric J. on May 20, 2002, 01:56:55 PM
All right,
I posted in my Information Tech. class this morning in the U.S. at about 9:00 Am. So; let me express the awe and suprise with the entheusiasm you all have displayed. Thank you for letting me know that there are other people, like me, out there. Anyway:

Quote
My belief is that RPGs only use should be to simplify effects of reality to game mechanics.
- It is unfair to say that I assume too much, when I started the statement with "My belief is."

Classes serve as an archetype, as you said. And yes, you COULD stereotype every character in history or present into classes. The problem is that when you start, when do you stop? Entrepeneur class could work, but what factors would that govern? In many RPGs that would be: Combat, skills, abilites, ability scores. Because this person starts a buisness he could suddenly gain: Learning adaptation to buisness-like skills, combat detriment or ability, or even a detriment on his other skills (be them martial arts, writing, or whatever). STOP. You could now argue that that only happens in a few systems, and mabee you would be correct. However, these are some of the basic conceps that classes use.

One other point is that I think that unless you go soft and very liberal on the classes, that all classes would only work with one to 10 people without mulit-classing.

Multiclassing: Another argument untouched upon. I believe that this was a way for designers to feel justified with using a class system and generate an illusion of flexability, that isn't really there.

Ah. Vilimer, who ripped apert my argument so nicelley:
Now it has been said that classes aren't realistic. This statement has no meaning, because only reality itself is real. The very word realistic indicates something that's "similar to but not quite real". Therefor "realistic" needs a qualifier to have any meaning. In other words: classes aren't realistic compared to what?

The fundamental truth of all RPGs is that they are a model of reality (ours or a fictional one). The very definition of being a model is something that is simplified from reality in order to make analysis feasible. What is simplified more and what is simplified less depends on what aspect the modeler is attempting to analyse. In other words every set of RPG rules is nothing more than a model, the real question is then what is the purpose of a given model and does it meet that purpose.

Quote
So, the issue that becomes not "are classes a realistic portrayal of reality", but rather "are classes an effective means of modeling reality for a specific purpose".


You are correct in that. However, I took great care to say that they don't qualify for MY objective. I take care when I speak to clearly state when I am voicing my opinion. I care to think that to conitnue the class philosophy, is to continue a philosophy that was created to steriotype characters for dungeon crawls. You can change it to steriotype something else, but doing so can REALLY limity the sytem.

Now for levels: I use levels with skill allocation. Skills dominate my RPG becasuse that is the main way objectives can be creativelley achieved. I also consider Levels a "Metagame design concept neccesity." This means that, like you guys are talking about, they are neccisary for the games objective to be carried out (mid-evil fantasy [like that hasn't been done enough]). HP must have use. Humans need an advantige. Because mid-evil fantasy games will be combat prioratised, and everyone would complain if I didn't, I added levels to increase combat skills. Instead purchasing HP with character points, they now increase with level. For the argument that characters should gradually increase skills: I agree completelley. A main objective of my system is to make creating a superhuman, after any amount of time, impossible (unless you aren't a human). Level advancement is gradual and is there only to controll the factors of a person that increase sub-contiously over time, and to simulate the wisdom that levels, to me, are supposed to represent.

I also feel that classes have a psycological impact in the way that the system is carried out. If there are 8 different potential classes, then about 1/8 characters will be every class. Another problem is that designers struggle to make all classes equal in power. I laugh at this. With the existance of Mages, Jedi, Paladins, ect. this is a joke. I do believe in making characters equal overall.  The classes should each emphasize in different things. Characters should start out as a theif, but could eventually, through character development, grow out of it.

Anyway, to sumerize: I once heard a quote from Dragon Magazine, "Tolkeins work is very hard to transelate into game mechanics." - When the emphasis is on character beliefs and development, instead of combat skills, it certainly would be.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Valamir on May 20, 2002, 03:16:29 PM
Quote from: Pyron
You are correct in that. However, I took great care to say that they don't qualify for MY objective. I take care when I speak to clearly state when I am voicing my opinion.


True.
But let me point out that there is a difference between a discussion/debate, and a manifesto/declaration of opinion.  Opinion stated without evidence to back it up cannot be effectively debated.  Opinion that cannot be effectively debated, that is essentially a statement of "this is what I believe" is a manifesto.  Manifestos have limited value.

For instance, I could post a list of all of my beliefs about RPGs...but no one would care.  For effective dialog to take place I have to be able to state my case about why I believe X, Y & Z; giving others the opportunity to comment, challenge, or agree.  

If someone disagrees with me, I can 1) attempt to change their mind, 2) have my mind changed by them, 3) work together to achieve some common accord, or 4) when necessary agree to disagree.  However, citing "my opinion" is not a valid tactic.


Quote
I care to think that to conitnue the class philosophy, is to continue a philosophy that was created to steriotype characters for dungeon crawls. You can change it to steriotype something else, but doing so can REALLY limity the sytem.


Much of the rest of your post includes alot of assumptions about "standard medieval" fantasy tropes and player expectations that illustrate a very limited experience in what RPGs are, have been, and can be.  I suggest searching through some older threads (Pale Fire's Ygg threads in particular) to see how we've discussed this issue here just recently.

Given that, I have to say that your experience with "class" as a design concept is limited solely to D&D and its derivatives.  Even so, I think you are missing the meat of my arguement.  We could discuss whether D&D was an effective *implementation* of classes (in that we would probably agree, there were alot of ideas in D&D that were not implemented effectively) but that would serve little purpose.  My point was that however horrible you think D&D is, that says absolutely nothing about whether classes are good, bad, or otherwise.  For some purposes they will be horrible, for others they are ideal.  

This is partially effected by what your preferences as a player are and what you'd like to take out of the gaming experience, and it is partially effected by what the game designers purpose in the game was.  The designer very well may have had a specific goal in mind which classes met perfectly well.  That you don't like the game speaks to your personal preference, but says nothing about the quality of the game design.

You'll find that this issue is at the core of the Forge.  Search around, read some of the articles on GNS.  The entire purpose of GNS is to match player goals with games designed to meet those goals, and to recognize that a good game is one that successfully acheives its goals...even if those goals aren't your own.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Eric J. on May 20, 2002, 07:23:42 PM
LOOK. Give me a break. You can go floating around justifying things because "they meet the designer's goal in mind" but what I'm saying is that classes as a general princible don't help the designer's goals unless they are to make a simplistic game designed for the players to take on limited tasks using limited creativity.  I respect your view, and can give an example of a game that pulls it off. Quest for Glory I-V. It illistrates several quests and objectives that can be taken at different approches based upon your class or perspective.  This happens to be a computer RPG. The reason it has multiple classes is becasue of the need for replayabilty.  I made an allusion to a computer RPG because computer games can have only 4 types of characters and be fine. For a game that I could play for several months (in real time without sleeping) where the potenial exists to have more choices and individuality, I believe that classes are a bad idea for most systems and engines.

-And give me a break. Being inherintly hostile towards some one is irational.  My RPG ignorance comes from the fact that I didn't start playing untill I was fairly old and have only played for about a year.  I, however, have had time to develop a little wisdom even if it has been mostly personal experience. Being a "Stupid ass", as some would call it, has no impact on the logic of my argument.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Andrew Martin on May 20, 2002, 08:09:03 PM
Quote from: Blake Hutchins

There's my nickel.  Anyone got change?


I prefer game systems where character archetype arises as an emergent property of the game system rules. Then the players have maximum freedom of choice, and don't feel restrained by the rules. After that, the players and their character actions will create archetypes for their characters.

"Class", as implemented in AD&D, is a complex design that struggles to achieve the elegance of emergent behaviour generated from simple, but not simplistic rules.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Eric J. on May 20, 2002, 08:15:11 PM
That's exactly what I've been saying. However:

Quote
For instance, I could post a list of all of my beliefs about RPGs...but no one would care. For effective dialog to take place I have to be able to state my case about why I believe X, Y & Z; giving others the opportunity to comment, challenge, or agree.


Theoretically, because that is your opinion, it shouldn't be posted. I'm sorry, but he's agrivating me.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Seth L. Blumberg on May 21, 2002, 08:33:53 AM
Fabrice had an interesting point earlier, to which I'd like to return.

Quote from: little nicky
My problem with the use of classes has more to do with the uses that had been made of classes, and the consequances of the attached improvement system. Then classes become something too rigid and dictate too much of the evolution of the characters.

Thinking about my own reaction to the development of "classless" games, I have to agree.  Many of the problems I have with class-based character creation stem, not from classes per se, but from the extreme channelization that "old-school" class-based systems such as the first two editions of AD&D impose on character improvement.

It's hard for me to imagine what design goal is best served by such a narrow restriction of possible directions of character development; it might be a form of "niche protection," but if so, it's far too strong for its own good.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 21, 2002, 12:40:06 PM
Let's keep in mind that the solution to the "too narrow" class problem was Rolemaster. Funny, but eventually, through the course of seven Rolemaster Companion supplements you can see Rolemaster then evolve into GURPS. Fascinating.

Mike


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Valamir on May 21, 2002, 12:53:24 PM
Pyron, give ME a break.  No one here, least of all me, is trying to aggravate you.

You brought up a topic about which you voiced a strong opinion.  Since this is a discussion forum, it generated discussion.  You need to learn to separate people who disagree with you because they think you are wrong from hostile attacks.  

Let me be very clear.  Attacking you would be a waste of my time.  If I thought discussion with you had no value, I would simply ignore you.  Instead I wrote a reply to your post which has got to be close to 1000 words long.  That involved a commitment by me to respond to an issue you raised.  Get used to it.  That's how the Forge works.  If you bring up a topic, expect it to be debated.  If you don't want it to be debated, if you don't want people who disagree with you to explain why they think you are wrong, than don't post it.  

If you can handle discussion; if you can handle having your assumptions challenged if you can handle the realization that your entire life's experience with RPGs is just the tip of the ice berg; if you can handle having people who see things in ways that may seem down right radical to you shake up your role playing paradigm; then welcome to the Forge, because this place will do just that.

Just keep in mind that many of us have been doing this since before you were born, Many folks here have successful games published both on the internet and in print.  Most of us have been discussing these topics in great detail for a long time and know what we're talking about.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 21, 2002, 02:04:57 PM
Hey,

I think it's time to say, "Bloody noses? Good. All done," and return to topic discussion.

Best,
Ron


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Ian O'Rourke on May 21, 2002, 02:37:43 PM
Quote from: Pyron
LOOK. Give me a break. You can go floating around justifying things because "they meet the designer's goal in mind" but what I'm saying is that classes as a general princible don't help the designer's goals unless they are to make a simplistic game designed for the players to take on limited tasks using limited creativity.


Mmmmm, this does not overly ring true for me. If we continue using D&D as an example, as I think most people would agree it is one of the most widely known class-based games (of course) and it is arguable one of the most strongly typed. I have found repeatedly with D&D, even though all the characters are off the same class; they are certainly not the same character. The majority of things that make 'the character' are not even on the character sheet. The character is his relationships his upbringing and his beliefs - these are rarely components of character creation in the majority of systems character creation or otherwise.

I tend to find gamers feel the need to design the character they want in terms of physical stats, skills, and whatever else - but in reality they are doing little do define the actual character. What defines the character is, the majority of the time, external to the system because the system does not codify those facets. A few games do try and do this, some better than others. As an example, Hero Wars is probably a good example of this in action, while the advantages and disadvantages of games such as GURPS are bad examples.

So, in short, I don't have a problem with the limiting aspect of classes, because the majority of the time the essentials of my character are not overly represented by the system anyway.

Also in some games the classes are a good thing, take the game Fengshui - the game about Chinese Action Movies. There is no point at all having a totally, create anything you want, character creation system for that (note I don't say that would be a complicated character creation system) because at the end of the day the game is about action movies. This does not mean you have to have a simplistic character (both Die Hard and Face Off have characters that are strong enough to meet 90% of most role-players needs) but you can make a number of assumptions about the types of characters in those movies and that they can all kick-ass to some degree.

Limiting - or just a focus on the games whole reason for being?

Not all games need you to be able to create every sort of character, and even games that do allow it, I would argue codify a lot of pointless crap - the essentials of the character actually come from the player and his concepts which are rarely codified in rules.

As a final note, I think you might be missing the point of the discussion to some degree. First, no one is being confrontational; they are just being honest in their approach to the debate at hand. The Forge is not like a lot of other discussion sites, people can say some pretty frank stuff to each other about their views and theories - this is the nature of discussion - but they put it in such a way not to offend and also assume that the guy on the receiving end is of strong enough character to pause, think and reply in kind. Second, this is not so much debate about making people believe classes are a good thing or bad thing, but through discussion one might learn to alter ones opinion slightly in either direction (radical shifts rarely occur).

Edited: I wrote this post before I realised there was a whole other page of posts. I decided to leave it intact though.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Bankuei on May 21, 2002, 02:42:40 PM
I have to be in support of classes if they fufill niche protection or provide a necessary guidance for the players in terms of the intended gameplay.  

For example, there are no "classes" per se in Sorcerer, but everyone is a sorcerer, period.  Likewise with Inspectres, there are no classes, but everyone has the same profession(bustin' ghosts).  These games unify characters under a single qualification and leaves it open for players from there.  Everyone knows what they're supposed to do, and what the point of the game is.

In games such as D&D, classes effectively limit the choices of characters, they provide the structure that will result in D&D style gameplay.  I have found games without any structure often lead to fuzzy concepts, or else, everyone's characters slowly drift closer into style and skills rather than retain individuality.  These open systems in reality often have only one "effective" means of play, and the reward system encourages folks towards this singular archtype.  

For example, in any campaign filled with combat, it won't be long until the non-combat types have to get combat skills just to have an effect in game.  In a political intrigue game, it would be political skills.  In a class based game, you can rule out certain classes and overtly let the players know what this is going to be about.  Likewise, when a player chooses a certain class, they're letting you know what they want to play.  A fighter is an obvious choice.  Period.

Classes are also a great way to encourage conflict between the players and characters by use of political division, which has been Whitewolf's preferred gimmick.  Again, since much of their games are about political strife, this helps encourage the type of gameplay that they desire.

On the other hand, you have games which are "classless" but make you decide on your character's foundation.  Over the Edge and Donjon are two that come to mind.  You can create any character you imagine, but your traits or skills are fairly locked from creation.  This makes you have to stay within your concept, which I approve of.  No matter what incarnation you're dealing with Conan as; barbarian, pirate, or king, you never lose his personality or his character.  He's still gruff and a pragmatist.  

In total, classes are only as useful as their function as fufilling the game design needs.  Do they reflect reality?  Hardly.  Unless each of us gets a new level every six months :P(along with that shifting alignment...)

Chris


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Eric J. on May 22, 2002, 04:35:53 AM
My view, is that classes should only be used, if the gameplay makes it a neccecity.  This would be an RPG where your options are very limitid (which isn't always a bad thing) as you role in society.  In systems where your duty is to explore a chosen world and fill a role of society, be that adventuring, treasure hunting, or stealing, your class options should be unlimited. However, if a game is strictly about Wizards, you could make every one a specialist mage, to simbolise the diversity in training and make each party more unique.  When you have the options to explore entire societies and do whatever you want, classes seem irrational.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Walt Freitag on May 22, 2002, 04:50:11 AM
Now that Chris has brought up the issue of character classes "providing a necessary guidance" for players, I want to try the question I asked earlier one more time.

Pyron, in a previous thread (see my previous post for a link to that thread), you pointed out that some people need guidelines, as an argument against character creation systems that are too open-ended.

Classes are one way, but of course not the only way, to provide character creation guidelines for players who need them. Let's say you have a game such as you describe, where players have the options to explore entire societies and do whatever they want. Without character classes, what mechanisms do you think should be in place for providing that guidance?

- Walt


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Eric J. on May 22, 2002, 05:39:37 AM
A very good point. I know that I'm contradicting my earlier posts. Truley, I'm suprised any one remembered anything I said. Anyway, for instance, in my system skills work differently.  Skills require proficiancy before they can be used.  In most systems, skills are simply modification of an Attribute (ability score). I find that this is flawed, and that you maintain much controll by making the purchase of the skill originally, high.  This will decrease the versatility of characters to a desent level. For example:

Bob the diplomat is a Lv. 1 equivelant and has 7D in Diplomacy (in my system diplomacy is a skill category). He has 0D in Starship combat. In most systems, improving 7D to 8D costs like, 7 points and to improve from 0D to 1D costs almost nothing.  I make skills harder to improve at higher ammounts but I also make you pay an amount to get the skill originally.  This will force characters to be versitile and concentrate on matching skills with the character's personality.  Other guidelines include making the GM the final judge if the skill is appropriate.  This is obvious, but you would be supprised how many GMs don't stop maximization before it's too late.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 22, 2002, 06:13:09 AM
I don't know Pyron,

While you suggested system will make players focus on particular things, how will that get them to actually create a role that goes with the game? How will it be a guideline for what the player should take? It says, pick carefully, but pick anything you want.

In addition it also does not provide for niche protection. What's to stop two different players from creating characters that cover the exact same skills. With classes, you can say, "OK, Bob is a fighter, I'll be a wizard." and the problem is solved. With your system, won't players occcasionally make characters that eclipse each other? There's nothing worse than taking 6D Starship Piloting skill only to find that Bob took 7D Starship Piloting Skill. Many times a character's coolness (what we often call protagonism around here) is based on his highest stat or skill, and having someone with a higher stat makes the character seem ancillary.

One cool way to create niche protection with a system like yours is through round-robin character generation. Lesse, for a system like yours it would look like this. Each player secretly bids a number of dice from the pool for character creation (or points or whaever you use), and adds one for free to the bid. Each player reveals his number of dice, and rolls them all. High roller goes first, then the next highest, and so on, re-roll all ties using all dice for each tying player. Dice bid are spent and cannot be used for character generation. Starting with the first player and going down the order, each player selects a stat or skill or whatever, and assigns a number of dice to it. After that, no other player can assign that stat to his character at a level higher than the level at which it has been assigned for a previous character (you can assign lower so as to get second or third place if you want). Go around for three rounds, and then just go off and finish the characters individually spending the rest of your dice/points.

This is inspired by the method from Amber Diceless. In this way, players can try to ensure that they get the character that is cool in the way they want it to be. There are other methods as well (the most obvious being group discussion), but I like this one, as it means that players are forced to think of their character in the context of the other characters being developed.

Mike


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Walt Freitag on May 22, 2002, 07:03:54 AM
Actually I don't see a contradiction. It's perfectly consistent to believe that some players need guidance, but character classes are a poor choice for providing such guidance. (And I certainly wasn't trying to pull a "gotcha!" by bringing it up.)

However, if you have changed your mind about the amount of guidance most players need, I'm curious about why. Was it something you observed in play-testing your new system (or earlier versions of it)? You also mentioned that you've switched from classes and no levels, to levels and no classes. Deciding to make such a change must have been an interesting process.

That's really what this whole business of challenging assumptions comes down to, learning from experience. Challenging assumptions is something people here are (as you've learned!) enthusiastic about. One reason for that is that everyone here started out making a lot of the same assumptions themselves. But what assumptions you make or don't make is not nearly as important as that you understand how the assumptions you make feed into and shape your game design. This is no less true of the latest tour de force from The Forge's all-stars than it is for the most basic D&D house rules homebrew. In other words, rather than challenge your assumptions, I'd rather encourage you to challenge your own assumptions. It sounds to me like you're already well begun on this process, despite your limited experience.

So, back to specifics... Your high initial skill cost mechanism appears to represent an intended balance between versatility and guidance. Besides forcing the focusing of a character concept, it also appears likely to generate some degree of "niche protection" -- that is, making sure each character has important things they can do better than other characters.

One possible pitfall you have to deal with is that if the initial skill cost is high, a player could be hosed if the skills he purchases turn out to be not useful in the game. Before I'd spend my 10 quatloos or whatever on Diplomacy 1D, for example, I'd want to be sure that diplomatic skills are going to be important in play. (I'd hate to be in the shoes of every diplomat who ever set foot on Kirk's Enterprise, who all quickly learned that Kirk's "phaser diplomacy" was the only effective type of diplomacy in this particular universe.) Do you discuss this with the players beforehand, or do you let them make the choices first and then, as GM, design situations around the character concepts and skills your group has chosen? Or perhaps a little of both?

- Walt

Edited-in footnote: Mike and I were apparently writing our posts at the same time. Interesting, isn't it, that where I saw niche protection, Mike saw lack of the same. How did that happen? Because I assumed that players would discuss their character concepts with one another during the creation process and deliberately avoid eclipsing each other.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: leomknight on May 22, 2002, 07:19:45 AM
I personally don't see why niches should be protected. If a player values a certain skill, he will keep imroving it. I ran a highly modified Runequest campaign that lasted for about 2 years. I created an experience system like the D6 system's because my players hated the original, random roll experience in RQ. They all started out on a par, with minor variations in ability. By the end, one character was a master swordsman, another was a powerful mage; one was a jack of all trades, another a strongman.

Now, at times, a player's character got eclipsed by another's rapid growth. He simply put more experience into what he wanted to be good at. Occasionally, feathers got ruffled, but as I see it, that's life. It's part of any game. Sometimes, you think you're doing well, and some upstart steals your thunder. It takes a level of maturity to realize your character will someday meet someone better than himself, and not get bent out of shape. I worried about hurt feelings, but ultimately, it wasn't my responsibility to manage the player's characters. The flexibility did create opportunities for friction, but I think it was more worthwhile to allow the players the freedom to chart the characters' growth themselves.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 22, 2002, 07:37:38 AM
Leomknight,

While you may not be concerned with Niche protection, many people are. Niche Protection as I mentioned previously is a method of enabling character protagonism. Rare is the player tht doesn't mind their character being stripped of protagonism. There are other methods to enable protagonism as well (which I also mentioned), and perhaps you were using one of those. Niche protection seems best suited to Gamist games, though it has applications in others as well.

It's possible that with some sort of niche protection that your players in your game would have been happier. You point out that there were negative effects. Did the utility of the freedom in question really outweigh these negative effects? We'll take you on your word, but with other players the result may not have been the same. The balance between limiting players and freedom is always a point of contention. The "Freeform" crowd don't limit players at all; no rules for character generation, no rules for resolution, nothing. If freedom is that important wouldn't your players prefer to play Freeform?

If not, then where you place your limitations is a choice, and niche protection is not particularly heinous to most players I've played with. In fact most seem to prefer it over the possibility of having their character "deprotagonized".

Mike


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: contracycle on May 22, 2002, 07:50:11 AM
random thought: niche protection in sim-oriented RPG's is the "what do we do" bit.  Thats why some games as mentioned ask which class you want to be first thing - they are asking "what do you want to do".  Problem of course is that player may not know yet.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: leomknight on May 22, 2002, 10:04:57 AM
Mike,

Interesting questions. First, the problems I mentioned were momentary, "Hey! How'd you get better than me?" instances, not long term sore spots. For example, we had 2 characters, Ben the Bad and Andre the Giant (I know, corny). Both started out on a par skill wise, but Andre was bigger and stronger, thus the more dangerous swordsman. As time wore on, Ben's skill improved to the point that he actually had a 15% edge on Andre (RQ uses % dice). Andre's player got a bit miffed that he was no longer the most dangerous swordsman in all Alentor, but he was still a badass, and still cut quite a swath in combat. The next time I handed out experience, Andre's player did spend some on  sword skill, but also on his already considerable strength. In short, he created his own niche.

Second, I made my decisions based on discussions with my players. They were bored with the same old classes (this was before D&D3 came out), I found a game with more flexibility. They disliked random improvement, we came up with a solution. They also worked as a team. Often, there were negotiations during character improvement, like "Oh, I already have that spell. Why not try this one?" or "Maybe you should take Healing too, just to be safe." They also backed each other up. No one was entirely without magic (in RQ anyone can use it), nor was anyone helpless at combat. They each had their fortes, but they could also pinch hit.
 
You're right on the money that this might not work with other groups. We've been playing together for over twenty years off and on, and early on realized the advantages of working together and ironing out disagreements. Ultimately, in two years of weekly play, it only came up two, maybe three times. In a less congenial group it might have caused resentment.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Bankuei on May 22, 2002, 10:55:39 AM
Niche protection may not be necessary in some games, but as I've said, in many of the games I've played with open ruled character creation, the needs of the campaign would drive player choices in skills to learn.  If there's a lot of combat, you pretty much have to learn a first aid skill, even if you do not see your character learning it.  If its politics, it's be negotiation.  

You could say classes are a rule that work both for limiting players and GMs as well.  Rules are the written contract between all players.

The one other benefit of classes is that many do support a form of game balance, even if it doens't make "realistic" sense.  The classic "I fight all day, but now I can swim better?!?" argument is also a part of the game balance issue.  Using ROS as an example, it doesn't have "classes" perse, but uses skill packages, but you have two choose 2 of them.  By doing so, you are given a lot of skills it makes sense your character would have, but not necessarily the sorts that munchkins would pay for.

Of course, is the major flaw here that the classes are predefined?  Would it be better if you could make your own class?  This is essentially what Over the Edge and Donjon do, and I don't hear complaints about "limitations".  Or is it the idea that your character will be trapped with a limited set of knowledge for their existence?  Again, I don't hear complaints about the two previous games concerning this either.  I doubt many people will play their characters through 5 to 10 years of existance, where major life changes show up, the equivalent of changing classes or alignment.  

Any thoughts?
Chris


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on May 22, 2002, 11:08:01 AM
Quote from: Bankuei
Would it be better if you could make your own class?  This is essentially what Over the Edge and Donjon do, and I don't hear complaints about "limitations


I don't think this is true. Class ain't a description of what the character does...it's a description of what the player does -- what his or her role in the game is to be. Everyone has the same role in Donjon (they just have different "color" to explain what it is they're doing). OtE doesn't have roles at all...it's in the "play anything, anywhere, anywhen" vein, just tied to a specific setting (that frankly, allows anything).


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Eric J. on May 22, 2002, 01:31:19 PM
You all make valid points, and I can see that my thoughts to justify the niche problem are needed.  I don't think that bidding would work any better than discussion between player and Gamemaster. Anyway, in my system, you don't have to wory about two people making the same type of character because of one simple reason... Specialisation!  My skill system makes each player as individual as possible in many ways. First, is the fact that I turn skills into skill categories. It increases the character generation time by about 30% but also increases their satisfaction.  When two people maximize in the same skill, they can become rivals.  Using different aspects of the skill, they learn to beat eachother.   Example: Computer hackers try to destroy eachothers' systems form two different locations. They both have Program Hacking (or whatever skill category it fits into).  One has 40% more than onother's.  Luckilly 140% (I'll call him X) and Mr. 100% (Y) have different specalizations. One has "Virus Creation" and the other, "Firewall creation".  This could turn into a roll-playable battle instead of the traditional single skill check. There are some obvious flaws that come with this, but I hope that I can get over them.  I guess that I can't comment on the niche problem further because I've never found it.  I'll post my transition of Classes and levels to the inverse at the oppropriate thread.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on May 25, 2002, 02:10:23 PM
Quote from: Pyron
First, is the fact that I turn skills into skill categories.

This is vaguely similar to skill cascades in Space: 1889 and skill spheres in Swordbearer.

Quote
 When two people maximize in the same skill, they can become rivals.  Using different aspects of the skill, they learn to beat eachother.   Example: Computer hackers try to destroy eachothers' systems form two different locations. They both have Program Hacking (or whatever skill category it fits into).  One has 40% more than onother's.  Luckilly 140% (I'll call him X) and Mr. 100% (Y) have different specalizations. One has "Virus Creation" and the other, "Firewall creation".  This could turn into a roll-playable battle instead of the traditional single skill check. There are some obvious flaws that come with this, but I hope that I can get over them.  


OK, because I'm sick of always being a negative prick all the time, I'm going to try to stay positive here.

I find the idea of using different aspects of a skill intriguing. The example you gave doesn't really illustrate whatb this can do, though. Could you give a little more detail on this conflict?

As written what we have is two characters, one with 40% in a skill on the other attempting to do each other in, as it were. I don't see the depth you do. If X is the virus maker and Y is the firewall maker, then X's virus will have a 40% chance, all told of overcoming Y's Firewall.

Is there another element, besides dicerolls- I'm assuming even rolling for our purposes, that I'm missing?

What are the obvious flaws? Call me dense but I'm not sure what they are.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Bankuei on May 25, 2002, 10:13:58 PM
You're right on that Jared.  OTE doesn't have roles, but by limited a player to pick only three things that can describe your character, it creates a focus.  You know that whatever 3 things you pick have to first be the most important things about the character, and second, be interesting enough for you to keep playing that character for the campaign.  You can't think, "Well, I'll just multiclass later..."

But those 3 that you pick will define your role for the campaign.  It does give you the ability to customize a character to exactly what you want, without be caught in a preconceived notion, but it also limits what your character is going to be about.  In terms of classes or archetypes, or character creation in general, a great deal of color and setting can be conveyed by classes.   Whitewolf and L5R being the most notorious examples.  

By no means am I stuck on classes as a good thing, but they have proven useful in some games, and I'm interested to see exactly what their value is.  I can say as a major fan of Feng Shui, despite several folks taking similar archetypes, each person played a unique individual.  It is very interesting to watch as folks with the same set of skills branch out and become very different, whereas, in most games with skill based definitions the characters tended to become more alike...

Perhaps its that classes provide a base set of skills that assures your character will have some protagonization in the game.   For example, you can choose to pour a buttload of points into a few skills in GURPS, and you will find yourself stuck in many situations.  You can choose to spread them all out, and find yourself the "backup guy" in all of them.  Classes have a way of unifying exactly how much specialization/generalization you need for a game.  I'm sure the same can be said of skill sets, but I haven't seen it done properly yet.

Hmm, thought just crossed my mind, game balance is about protagonization more than a fair game... :P

I suppose the major issue here is 1) making sure your character is good for something(protagonization) while at the same time 2) not restricting players via ridiculous limitations(ask Elric about D&D wizards only using daggers...)

Whadya think?

Chris


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Eric J. on May 26, 2002, 09:12:48 AM
You summerised much of what classes do.  The problem I have, is that while classes make you a protagonist, they just don't make any bleamin sense.  How do NPC's fit into classes?  How do you make your character go in a different direction for NPCs?  How could you represent multi-classing in reality anyway? If you ever look at a class system transelate people that weren't based for gaming purposes they are almost always multiclassed.  I can see their use, but their function is most usefull for gamists, which I am not.  If any one brings up D&D as an example of posative class use, prepare for me to make a VERY long hate post against D&D.  I won't go into details now, but I am just warning you people that my hate for D&D goes very deep and has never had a place on the Forge to be fully represented.  I am giving fair warning for this action, so please don't blame me for the consequences.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on May 26, 2002, 09:56:36 AM
Quote from: Pyron
You summerised much of what classes do.  The problem I have, is that while classes make you a protagonist, they just don't make any bleamin sense.


They make plenty of bleamin sense if you understand the context in which the classes were created and are meant to be used. To court danger, I will use old basic D&D as my example since it's an example I'm most familiar with.

The game is about monster killing. Plain and simple. Therefore the classes are defined by combat abilities or what is traded off for lower combat abilities.

  • Fighters have the highest combat abilities since all the do is fight
  • Thieves are second-rate fighters but they gain the sneaky git skills, picking pockets, climb walls, etc. Which supposedly balance out this loss of combat prowess.
  • Magic Users have the weakest fighting abilities but they trade that for the "offensive" spells.
  • Clerics have the "defensive" spells, healing and such, and the ability to turn undead in exchange for being restricted fighters (no edged weapons)
  • Elves are a combination of both fighter and magic user. Not as good as either, but it's both!
  • Dwarves gain raical abilities and some nifty underground abilities (find/disarm traps etc) for being second-rate fighters.
  • halflings gain wilderness abilities for their restrictions in combat. Handy if you're playing a dungeon-only campaign
  • [/list:u]

    Now, some of this stuff has some kind of justification attached to it. i.e. Magic Users can only use a dagger because they've only been able to learn to use a dagger because of the amount of time it takes to learn magic.

    This is just so much hugger-bugger. The real reason is because the magic user exchanged the use of other weapons to be able to cast magic spells. That's the real reason. These justifications don't stand up to too much scrutiny and they weren't meant to (Clerics cannot use edged weapons because of their devotion to their god. Which god?)

    Now, this is all a gamist example. If you're not into gamist play, then fine. I'm sure someone could give an example of a narrativist or simulationist class system. (guys?)

    Classes may not be very realistic, but neither are any RPG mechanics. Let's be honest here. All RPG mechanics take liberties with what they mean to represent. Some more than other, perhaps, and "realistic" is a matter of personal taste and POV.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 26, 2002, 02:31:54 PM
Hi Eric,

I guess my call is that classes - of the kind we're talking about - are not intended to be "realistic." It might be hard to relate to this, but for a lot of people ... they just don't care. As long as the classes are strategically separate and interdependent (ie you "need" a cleric, a thief, a wizard, a fighter, etc), that's all they want.

Now I'll be one of the first in line to say that I'm not very happy playing a game that's designed that way - in which the game-designations are primarily strategic. Due to my play-preferences, I prefer my game-designations to make a lot of sense regarding the type of story being created, or to make a lot of sense in the game-world, or both.

For an example of the first, in an old game design of mine called Fantasy for Real, the classes (or types, as I called them) were Babe, Bad-ass, and Brain. They were only used out-of-character discussion; the characters in the game-world didn't classify themselves this way.

For an example of the second, in Legends of the Five Rings, there are two simultaneous class systems at work: samurai or shugenja, as well as five or more "clans" to pick from. Once you pick these, you are very strongly locked into a set of definite game options. Both of the category-sets were specifically rooted in the culture and thoughts of the game-world.

Best,
Ron


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Bob McNamee on May 26, 2002, 04:54:02 PM
A game I liked had an interesting advancing skills thing...Warhammer Fantasy RPG that I played in back 10-12 years ago.

One thing I liked about Warhammer Fantasy RPG game was that all characters had professions.  These gave you avenues of advancement in stats and skills... and they were your characters in game profession as far a everyone in the world viewed you. You could also change from one profession to another (certain professions had exits to other ... like Beggar into Thief) We had a situation where one PC became indebted to another PC and became his Bodyguard to pay it off... forget what he changed from.

D&D classes etc make a lot of sense when you consider what the inspiration for the game style came from... very much the Conan, John Carter of Mars styles of Fantasy...especially the combat style (the I fight for an hour through the rabid worshippers of the snake God until I reach the temple altar, leaving the Temple steps piled in bodies, until I take on the Evil Priest just proir to him sacrificing the Virgins)

Bob


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Eric J. on May 27, 2002, 09:25:08 AM
Professions would be a good example of classes working.  This is because it restricts you at a level that makes sense.  The mechanical portion of it and the in-game representation are parrellel.  That allows for character guidelines and diversity in party.  It also negates much of what classes shouldn't do: Detract or add to or from inherint combat skills.  Your profession should govern skill and combat advancement, but shouldn't decide inherent ability.  This shouldn't be done to the extent that it is in D&D.  How can a mighty fighter have the HP of a rat?  Explain how using a template and nothing else can be fun.  It gives you almost no choices, even in ability scores.   Ever been a DM and found out that your entire party rolled 13s and below on all scores? Then two of them roll a 1 for HP.  Yes, you CAN modify that, but then you get back to the argument that all RPGs are equal and that it's only GM and Player ability.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on May 27, 2002, 10:48:15 AM
Quote from: Pyron
Explain how using a template and nothing else can be fun.


Eric,

This seems to be the crux of this discussion, at least as far as you're concerned. Fact is, we can't explain this to you because you simply do not see the value in it. If we could, the previous two pages in this thread would have done so.

All we can do is point out that other people do find fun in this and that's the way it is. Some people enjoy playing without choices, at least the sort of choices we're dealing with here. Some people  enjoy the challenge of rolling all 13's in their sats and 1 for hit points just to see how far they can get.

Some people also enjoy Dr. Pepper. There is no accounting for taste.

And that's it. Many of us here can't defend classes because we argee with you because also prefer to not use them. But because we prefer another way of doing things does not mean that classes are completely devoid of merit or that everyone should wake up and stop using them because they won't. They like them.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Valamir on May 27, 2002, 11:00:30 AM
Part of the problem Eric is you seem to be confounding D&D Classes with Classes.  This is basically the sum of your arguement against classes thus far

I hate D&D
D&D uses Classes
Therefor Classes are bad.

It just doesn't hold water.  ANY rule mechanic can be applied in a way that doesn't work well.  If you feel the way D&D uses the concept of classes doesn't work well, that's all well and good; but it says NOTHING about whether the concept of classes is a legitimate and effective mechanic.

You need to realize that "classes" DOES NOT EQUAL "what D&D does"

D&D is ONE means of using the concept of classes to depict character effectiveness.  It is not the ONLY means of doing so.

MANY other games use classes.  Sometimes their profession based (like Cyberpunk), sometimes their culture based (Like L5R, or Vampire), sometimes their category of power pased (like Brave New World), sometimes their specilization based (like 7th Sea), and sometimes they try to combine a whole bunch of different divisions into one package (like D&D).

Point is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  You don't like the way D&D does it.  Fine, a lot of people do, a lot of people don't, a lot of people couldn't care less.  What other class based games have you actually played that found the idea of classes didn't work for?


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Eric J. on May 27, 2002, 12:10:38 PM
Please. I find it offensive when some one tries to summerize my arguments for me.  The princibles of classes and D&D's use of them are very distinct.   I have made very valid arguing points in the past posts. Please argue against thoes instead of inferences you made about me and my experience.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on May 27, 2002, 03:13:31 PM
Quote from: Pyron
I have made very valid arguing points in the past posts. Please argue against thoes instead of inferences you made about me and my experience.


OK, fair enough. I tried going back over your past post to figure out what you're driving at here and I have to say that I am confounded.

Near as I can figure, You have a dislike for classes and D&D/d20. WHether you hate D&D because you hate classes or you hate classes because you hate D&D I cannot say, but that's really not the point.

All you give for your dislike of classes it that they are unrealistic and limiting creatively, but as far as I can see, you do not back this up very well.

Realism is a word thrown around a lot by those who make and play RPGs. But the word is essentially meaningless unless you know what the game is realistic compared to. Real life? A fictional reality e.g. cartoons? As seen in Lord of the Rings? So the realism debate is itself pointless until we know exactly what your criteria is.

The limiting factor really isn't an issue if limiting is the intent of the designer. However, you disagree.
Quote
what I'm saying is that classes as a general princible don't help the designer's goals unless they are to make a simplistic game designed for the players to take on limited tasks using limited creativity

I happen to disagree with you. A game with a detail skill system can be daunting to people. It says, do whatever you want, but gives little direction on how to do what you want.

If you let 1,000 people make a character using the hypethetical system above, you will get 1,00 different characters. But, across those 1000 characters you could group them by variuos common abilities. In essence, these are classes except instead of simply choosing a class, they had to built it from scratch.

Similarly, you could go into a restaurant and order a burger with lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickles, onions, ketchup, mustard, cheese or you could go into Burger King and just ask for a Whopper. Some games do have room for customizing you character after class selection (Whopper, hold the pickle)

With you're blanket staement on classes "as a general principle" you are assuming a whole lot about people that is not really true. People do not always like to build their characters from scratch. People do not always like to decide what to get on their burger and are happy to get it as it comes and just pick the pickles off. ANd people sure as hell do not always enjoy the idea of spending three hours on character generation for the "increased satisfaction" of the finished character.

Trust me on this one. You've said you've been gaming for about a year, I've been gaming since 1982. I've played numerous games that took several hours to create characters and the amount of time and effort was not always worthwhile. The resulting character eventually took on a pattern not unlike the 1000 characters above, and in effect was character classes but it took us 4+ hours to make them.

Basically, you're assuming several big things here. You're assuming in what is realistic or not, and that these concerns matter to everybody. You're assuming that completely customizable characters are universally desired. You're also assuming that such a limitation will also limit creativity.

This last one depends on the system. I've been limited by AD&D1e but was not so limited byt Rolemaster.

Also, I had asked you several questions about the example of your game. Any reply?


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Eric J. on May 27, 2002, 05:15:54 PM
Fair enough.  However, you've taken my objections to great extremes.  I understand how taking 4 hours to build a character to make them an individual is annoying.  However, if you compare D&D (second) and Star Wars D6 (the systems that I've played the most) to eachother, there are some huge exceptions to your rules.  When you said that classes shorten creation time; D&D, on average, takes over 20 minutes on average (for my players).  Star Wars characters can be made over the phone.  I am deffinitelley NOT turning the argument into another D6 vs. Star Wars, but I'm just illistrating that classes don't have to shorten creation time.  I also understand the concern for realism and gamplay.

Now I'll clarify realism from my perception.  Realism, to me, is what exists when logic is reinforced.  The laws of physics and the generalities of humanity should hold close to true for other RPGs.  That would include laws about individuality, personal ability and most of newtons observations.  If D&D's population is generalised by the PC's; the world would be full of mages, druids, and fighters with identical abilities.  A simple skill system can work, but can't completelley compensate.  Another belief that I have, is that classes serve to complexify the game, especially in cases of Class vs. Race; NPC classes (When the GM wants to make a trulley original character that the PCs don't expect), and most of all: Multi-classing.  A problem with saying that you could classify 1000 people with certain factors is true, but next to irrelevant to disscussion.  If each of them was a simple measurment of Combat ability vs. Skills, or 1 of 10 professions, then it would be very difficult to create a class system around them that would transelate into simple RPG mechanics.  Another problem with classes is for all of the people that would like to make mechanics around a character instead of the inverse (the narrativists).  This seems to imply that classes are almost always designed for the gamists.  And while I have no problem with that, I think that many could find new challenges in systems that give them more options.

A good way to simulate classes is to use templates.  This allows people to still have guidelines, or as an option, make a character that they really want.

I respect others' opinions.  I however give you mine.  All RPG mechanics can satisfy one person, but that just isn't good enough for me.  What am I arguing? Hell.  I don't know any more.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on May 27, 2002, 05:33:21 PM
Quote from: Pyron
When you said that classes shorten creation time; D&D, on average, takes over 20 minutes on average (for my players

Which is considerably less that 4 hours. Also, how much of that time is spent buying equipement and such, not defining character abilities as defined by class?

Quote
Another belief that I have, is that classes serve to complexify the game, especially in cases of Class vs. Race; NPC classes (When the GM wants to make a trulley original character that the PCs don't expect), and most of all: Multi-classing.

Maybe I've been dealing with the lunatic fringe of RPG design for too long but isn't this stuff all just stuff found in D&D?

Quote
Another problem with classes is for all of the people that would like to make mechanics around a character instead of the inverse (the narrativists).  This seems to imply that classes are almost always designed for the gamists.


I think Ron would take a great deal of exception to this, but I'll wait for him to comment.

Quote
I respect others' opinions.  I however give you mine.  All RPG mechanics can satisfy one person, but that just isn't good enough for me.  What am I arguing? Hell.  I don't know any more.


Me either.

Explain to me what you mean by "All RPG mechanics can satisfy one person"


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Bankuei on May 27, 2002, 05:44:27 PM
Quote
When you said that classes shorten creation time; D&D, on average, takes over 20 minutes on average (for my players). Star Wars characters can be made over the phone.


This is a small side point, Feng Shui uses classes, it shouldn't take more than 5 minutes to make a character...  If you want to go into the utility/handling time of character creation, or other useful bits of class, I suggest a new thread.

What is becoming a distracting issue here is that many of the games you are complaining about were never intended to be realistic.

Quote
Realism, to me, is what exists when logic is reinforced. The laws of physics and the generalities of humanity should hold close to true for other RPGs. That would include laws about individuality, personal ability and most of newtons observations.


But would this apply to a superhero game?  Dragonball Z? or a cyberworld?  The rpgs designed to around those ideas are usually not focused on a realistic interpretation.  If a game is designed to be unrealistic(G or N, or certain varieties of S), then why should it conform to realism?

Now, regarding the topic at hand, a clarification;  Pyron, is your intent to discuss realism/lack of realism in classes?  As in, why they haven't been, why they will never be, or how they can be made more realistic?

Otherwise, this thread is really a pro/con opinion debate about classes, not a discussion.

Chris


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Eric J. on May 27, 2002, 09:08:37 PM
O.K.  I have come to the conclusion that I don't know what we're arguing anymore and it's mostly due to my lack of judgement.  I started this thread pre-maturalley and uhh, well, don't know how to finish it. I guess that I'll debate the points that have been brought up as they were, but wherever this thread is going, if anywhere, is up to you guys, I guess.

Jack: The problem is, that equipment is also defined by class.  As is the money, armor allowed and neccesities.  If you didn't always have to reffer what you could or could not use, or did or did not need, it could potentially go much faster.  My example was NOT meant to be globally, but to illistrate how little any single example showed.

Bankuei: I'd still hold true that all RPGs use some common features, including DBZ, cyberpunk and that freaky Munchkins game (slight allusion of humor intended). And a pro/con debate IS a form of disscussion.  I really don't know where this is going any more than any one else, so I'll wait for your response.


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Bankuei on May 27, 2002, 11:08:25 PM
Pro con is fine as long as logical reasons and ideas are being presented.  Arguing opinion isn't based on logic, just opinion.  Like you and I can argue what tastes better, oranges or apples, but neither one of us will learn anything by the debate, hence it is a useless discussion.

If you find a more defined question or line to follow, let's start again with a new thread.

Chris


Title: Classes Vs. Reality
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 28, 2002, 04:49:47 AM
Hey there,

Yup! The good thing is that everyone listened to one another and understood one another's points.

I pronounce this thread closed.

Best,
Ron