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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 62 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Character classes II  (Read 6742 times)
Valamir
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« Reply #15 on: June 03, 2002, 05:19:57 AM »

Quote from: Pyron
Anyway: Classes don't work for a simulationist game in virtually any function, for the simple reason that they don't make sense, despite every effort made by game designer.  For function, they can allow for easy GMing, as the players have fewer choices, and they allow for protaganism.  But are thoes two things good? Look at LOTR, because it's the basis for the original classed system. Do ANY of the characters from the Hobbit fit into classes? Mabee Gandalf, but he does have a sword.  Bilbo, a thief?  In a classed system, to preserve the protagonism, he'd get the same abilities as every one else.  You could not therefore have the LOTR journeys.  


Please stop confounding "Classes" with what D&D does.  You will not find a single person on the Forge who disagrees with you on the idea that D&D was an unsatisfactory bastardization of Tolkien and other myths.  Hell we had an interesting discussion this weekend on how a huge part of what is now concidered to be "standard fantasy" was made up by a bunch of proto-gamers in their basement.  

This is one way of doing classes, and not one I find particularly satisfying either.  However, it does work to the degree it was intended to work.  Where it fails is when it gets applied to areas that it was never intended to be applied to.  This is not a failure of the class system as much as its a failure of game designers who try to make "one size fit all".

I'm a big believer in customized game mechanics.  A games mechanics should address the purpose of the game in such a way that it handles that purpose extremely well.  If this leaves the game less suited for other purposes, that IMO is a good thing.  Pendragon for instance is one of my all time favorite RPGs (although the mechanics could use a little updating) because it is difficult to imagine the game being used for anything other than Arthurian (or closely related) adventure.

Similiarly D&D in its earliest incarnations was a very customized RPG.  It was designed for dungeon crawls.  It was designed to represent that subset of a world's population that make their living delving underground and killing things for loot.  It does that well.  Where it failed as a game, is when people started thinking of it as some sort of "universal" system and started trying to have non dungeon crawl adventures with the game.  Thats when the seems started to show.  Thats when the features like levels, classes, hit points, and (in the earliest versions) lack of non combat related skills started being a problem.

Don't blame D&D, blame the people who tried to take DUNGEONS and Dragons, out of the Dungeon.


Quote

To start a premise for this thread: If classes have actual gameplay enhancement properties, what should they determine? Money, weapon proficiancy, skills?


Now that is a worthy topic for discussion.  I'd have to answer it at this point with a large "that depends".  What game are we talking about?  The biggest question is "what are people supposed to be doing in the game" or "what is the game about".

The answer to your question is then this:  Classes should determine for the player's characters whatever set of features (money, weapons proficency, skills, etc) most applies to the answer to the question of "what are those characters supposed to be doing".

In original D&D the characters were supposed to dungeon dive.  Classes then determined a package of features appropriate for dungeon diving (and very little else...which IMO is wholly appropriate).

In Pendragon the characters were supposed to be knights.  Classes as they existed in Pendragon determined things like social status, starting equipment, and skill requirments.  They combined with culture and region in a "choose one from column A and one from column B" sort of way to determine religion, and starting personal beliefs (great for use as sources of conflict).

Right there you can see the idea of classes (which is nothing more than a broad ranging set of features slapped on a character all at once...whether its called Class, or Template, or Profession doesn't matter) being used to promote two completely different answers to the "what are characters supposed to do" question.
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #16 on: June 03, 2002, 05:42:23 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
Right there you can see the idea of classes (which is nothing more than a broad ranging set of features slapped on a character all at once...whether its called Class, or Template, or Profession doesn't matter) being used to promote two completely different answers to the "what are characters supposed to do" question.



I've said this before but I think it bears repeating. The difference between a D&D-class and a Call of Cthulhu "profession/template/whatever" is that the class (or whatever you call it -- Character Type A) defines the Player's role in the game where the other (Character Type B) defines the character's role in the setting.

I do think this ties into GNS because of the whole metagame angle (a Thief in D&D is a completely different beastie than a Thief in CoC, Ars Magica or Riddle of Steel). So I don't buy the "Classes don't work" argument (the complaint being that they're limiting, not realistic, used to pigeon-hole characters, etc. etc.)...
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Valamir
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« Reply #17 on: June 03, 2002, 06:11:06 AM »

Good distinction Jared.  Can we think of any other games that use class as a player role differentiator.  Is it common enough to develop a taxonomy around?
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #18 on: June 03, 2002, 08:23:50 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
Good distinction Jared.  Can we think of any other games that use class as a player role differentiator.  Is it common enough to develop a taxonomy around?


Orkworld has some definite player roles going on (Tala being one of the most important ones as that determines how experience and Trouble are  gained, IIRC). Trollbabe and Elfs don't have multiple classes but they definitely have classes ("everyone's character is a _______"). Superhero games have a tendency to dwell on defining the professional skills of a character, but these aren't really important. The "class" is "superhero" regardless of background or profession.

D&D had player classes as well that had nothing to do with the characters. Remember the Mapper, the Treasurer and the Caller?

In a lot of games (they seem to be mostly sim games), there is an absence of classes -- you can play virtually anything but that doesn't really affect how you approach the game (except via player choices -- characterization, character history/background, etc.). The classic example would be the high-fantasy game character that is a cook or something similarly atypical for "heroic adventuring."

Vampire seems to have layers upon layers of classes...good because they allow for minute customization. Bad because each layer draws away from the focus of the game and the player's role. I'm a Vampire (all-encompassing game role)/Gangrel (clan)/Survivalist (professional skills) -- add generation, Nature, sect and status into the mix and it gets really confusing.

Edit: I was gonna mention Paranoia. Then I wasn't. Now I decided to mention it after all. The de-facto class is singular: Troubleshooter. The service group is just something to define your skills and not really used to define your role in the game (the HPD&MC guy doesn't have a specific function in the group...not like a cleric or Tala or Hacker does).

But if you look at it this way: "Everyone in Paranoia is a Traitorous Troubleshooter" (traitorous defined by being a mutant and a member of a secret society), then you begin to see specific in-game functions. The "real" class in paranoia is a Mutant Secret Society Member. Being a Troubleshooter is more like a secondary class. It explains who your character is but not really what you as a player are supposed to do.
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Blake Hutchins
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« Reply #19 on: June 03, 2002, 10:14:29 AM »

Y'know, I'm thinking Cyberpunk almost bridges the gap between role-in-game and role-in-setting, since the roles there (Solo, Fixer, etc.) not only focus the professional concept of a character, but provide unique skills for that role (e.g., Combat Sense for Solos, Resources for Corporates, and the like).  Thoughts?

Best,

Blake
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #20 on: June 03, 2002, 10:47:00 AM »

Quote from: Blake Hutchins
Y'know, I'm thinking Cyberpunk almost bridges the gap between role-in-game and role-in-setting, since the roles there (Solo, Fixer, etc.) not only focus the professional concept of a character, but provide unique skills for that role (e.g., Combat Sense for Solos, Resources for Corporates, and the like).  Thoughts?

Best,

Blake


Yes, to a point. I think Cyberpunk tries too hard to be "complete" -- there's not really a point to a few of the roles. Solo, Netrunner, Corporate, Fixer, Techie and Medic work for me. Rockerboy and Media do too, but in a different game (as does Cop, I guess...kinda). Nomad? Huh...hmmm...no.

But yeah, the unique abilities are very Classy (hah!).

- J
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Valamir
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« Reply #21 on: June 03, 2002, 11:07:23 AM »

Quite true.  Cyberpunk classes almost require that play gets organized along a theme (generic useage).  You can do the road warrior Cop / Nomad / Fixer type campaign.  You can do the Max Headroom Media / Fixer type campaign.  You can do the Emergency 51 Nomad / Medic / Solo / (fixer if you go shady) type campaign.  You can do the Rockerboy hero type campaign, you can do the Shadowrun Solo / Fixer / Netrunner type campaign, etc.  But if you play too much mix and match, it doesn't really come together.

As you point out, this is because Cyberpunk aims to be more "complete".  D&D didn't have this issue as greatly because its classes were already centered around a theme dungeon crawling.  The closest you'd have to this issue in D&D is whether you should swap a Ranger and Druid for a fighter and cleric and elves for dwarves cleric a wilderness dungeon instead of an underground one.
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Blake Hutchins
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« Reply #22 on: June 03, 2002, 11:08:21 AM »

Well, at the risk of hair-splitting, I never said the class-role-thingies in C-punk worked.  I agree completely with your take on 'em, Jared.  Mixing some of the roles together felt... awkward.

Best,

Blake
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damion
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« Reply #23 on: June 04, 2002, 02:43:25 PM »

Jared had a good point with the difference between a charachters role in a game verses a charachters role in a setting. Valamir got at this also.

I think that a premise actually creates roles for the game. Some subset of these roles must be filled for the premise to work. Not all roles must be filled, but some subset must for the premise to work.  Generally, a GM can work around if some roles are missing, by tailoring what happens in the game or by providing NPC's.  Also, as was mentioned the before, the roles the provided by players must be compatable.  
For instance the 'Dungeon Crawling Adventurers' premice creates roles for
1)Person to deal wtih traps 'thief'
2)Person to fight baddies 'mage/fighter'
-mages have more punch, but fighters have staying power(I.e. can get in many fights, you don't run out of sword swings for the day)
3)Source of healing 'clerics'

Also, most have a secondary role. Mages  have knowledge of magic, clerics can turn undead(common dugeon monster). Clerics and thiefs are also secondary fighters. (I left of thief sneaking as it's more of a city thing, and there is a tendency to 'thief scouts ahead and get's killed')

CoC has the premise of 'investigators' and so it creates the following roles.
1)Person who has relevent knowledge to the matter at hand.
2)Person who has skills that can resolve the situation.
Both these roles are more varied, as they are both fairly broad, and probably require multiple people to fill. E.g. one person has social skills to do interviews and another can defeat the zombie masters zombies so the actual master can be reached.
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James
contracycle
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« Reply #24 on: June 05, 2002, 05:37:22 AM »

I think C2020's class system was pretty good, inasmuch as they do pretty comprehensively cover the "adventuring layer" of society.  Some of the roles are difficult to mix-n-match, but then again, any particular combo of characters could be present in A story - its just does not work as a persistant model.

As another thought, it occurred to me that on meeting people we often ask "what do you do (for a living)", which is pretty much "what class are you".  We do not necessarily gsain much insight about the personality of the person, but it does give an insight into their daily life and the kinds of problems they face and the skills they probably employ to solve them.  Newspapers, often refer to "Bob Jones, a retired plumber from Essex" for much the same reason.
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Evan Waters
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« Reply #25 on: June 05, 2002, 05:42:28 AM »

Quote
You will not find a single person on the Forge who disagrees with you on the idea that D&D was an unsatisfactory bastardization of Tolkien and other myths.


:::sheepishly raises hand:::

Was D&D a crude pastiche of Western fantasy? Yes. Is it a fully accurate reflection of any single one of them? No.

Do I find it unsatisfactory? Not in the least. I find it works for a lot of kinds of fantasy, and it's one of my favorite games. I understand how on an indie RPG forum there'd be an overall trend of dissatisfaction with the ultimate #1 corporate-owned game on the market, but let's not generalise.

However, I do see the point Valamir is making in general, which is that talking about the problems of classes in D&D is not talking about the pros and cons of classes in general. Just like me pointing out any problems I've had with, say, the Storyteller system would not be pointing out the inherent flaws of dice pool systems.
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Valamir
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« Reply #26 on: June 05, 2002, 05:56:16 AM »

Should have been more clear Evan, I apologize.  I didn't want to come across as saying that D&D was an unsatisfactory game...only that it was an unsatisfactory adaptation of the source material it was largely drawing from.
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