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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Old school, classes.

If there is one thing the  internet is suited for its reinventing the wheel. The  web retains ideas, and  any of those ideas can be pulled out of the freezer, thawed and , chewed on  over and over again. Often times nothing new comes of it, other times someone finds a new way to look at an old idea, regardless we are reinventing the wheel.

I give you, The most METAL wheel ever reinvented!
Now rejoice!


When I start to think about the uses or non-use of  classes in an RPG I always get that feeling of "here we go again." Every  iteration of class , meta-class, non-class, template, archetypes, or, whatever classity-class-class combination has already been done.  So with that said in my last post I naturally go and rewrite a class.

For this post I'm just going to propose one very old school solution to classes.
Imagination.

When I look at older games, (and for now I'm going to ignore the  class Vs race dynamic of demi-humans.)
I see this :
Fighter
Thief
Wizard
Cleric.

What's to stop a player from choosing to play a fighter, using a bow and saying "my character is a woodsman and a tracker!"
So yeah that's a ranger, when the player tracks an animal he can make a wisdom check or the  DM can just decide based on the condition and the  age of the tracks as compared to the character's stats.

The  player picks a cleric and says, "I want all my spells to be  rooted in nature and as I worship nature and its majestic balance rather than a god.'
 Ok that's a druid. Be creative with the  descriptions of spell effects. Ask the player, "How is the spell is rooted in nature? This comes from a guy who just wrote a druid class in his last post for no reason other than I think the normal 5th ed druid is a bit off. If one of my players said, "I Want to play a normal cleric who happens to live as a druid." I could get behind that idea.

I'm not saying anything new here, I think players and DM played the game this way for a long time before splat books, and "complete guides."

The side effect of this kind of thinking is that no two fighters are ever the same as characters while they might be statistically similar. In my mind character and statistics are different animals, separate and running parallel to each other. A fighter as a fighter has a certain mechanical effect on the world because the fighter can hit things at a higher rate and take more damage before falling in a fight. A wizard has a certain mechanical  heft because of  its versatility and  damage out put potential at high levels and its relative weakness at lower levels. These mechanical weights have nothing to do with character. Character is the  history of the fighter. Where the fighter learned to fight, who the fighter loves, why the fighter is sworn to kill all the grey skinned, emu, herding monks. If  classes are the framework that determine mechanical weight with in a game then Character is what the  player pours into the game. let the player do that work.

"Fighter, Cleric, Rouge, and Mage" Image found HERE by bakerart, used without permission. This pic is awesome.

Here's the thing, once a group starts to move away from using a plethora of classes, options, or, kits and  pairs down to just the big four classes, things start to happen. Those things might be taking liberties with  what a character can and can't do. Inventing fiction that supports a character's background or out look. Players are inventing explanations and descriptions for things like attacks and spells as they go and in turn are manipulating the game world in their wake. If enough of this goes on the game starts to look more free-form and less like what I think of as "Old school." The further back one goes before they hit the  inevitable "chain-mail" wall, where war game became role-playing game, the less options are to be had. In fact a great deal was left to the devices of the  payers and the GM back then. The past looks more like  the DIY, creative play pen then most things that today would be called a "New" role playing game.

Thanks for reading.
Mark