Friday, May 18, 2012

Everybody's Problematic

Have you ever noticed that each major class is "about" a certain vexed and contested section of the D&D rules?

Fighters are about combat and the (rarely imitated) simplicity and abstractness of the D&D combat system including hit points, the question of combat maneuvers vs. the (for some players dullness of the) simply "roll to hit" system.

Wizards are about magic and its unpredictable and unbalancing effects and the not-superheroness of the paraVancian fire-and-forget magic system.

Clerics are about religion and--what's more--about setting and about exactly how much of Medieval Europe are we assuming here?

Thieves are about cities and social games and about the skill system (which, taken to an extreme, works against the logic of a class system) and about the concept of the absolutely or simply situationally useless PC. (See the ninjafied versions of the Rogue in newer designs.)

Paladins are about alignment and about the gulf between medieval fantasy notions of the good and our modern and more moral-relativism influenced ideas of the good and how they do or do not overlap.

Assassins are about the problem and possible disruptiveness of evil PCs.

Druids, Barbarians and Rangers do have issues, but nothing to close too the heart of the game, I think. Except perhaps the question of specialization and how much is too much.

25 comments:

liza said...

This is why I like the approach of True20: only three generic classes (fighter, magic-user and "expert") each of them mastering the three pillars of D&D: combat, magic and skills. It's kinda iconic, if you get what I mean.

Also: what a pitty, you forgot the bard! :)

Zak S said...

the bard brings up the problem of hippies

James Smith said...

The Ranger brings up the problem of Drizzt. :)

Cole said...

Makes a lot of sense to me.

Cole said...

Or of discord with Tolkien

Mark Harris said...

definately iconic, and a reflection of the three archetypes of "how to succeed" (physical force/violence, cleverness/magic, craftyness/social manipulation)

surely no coincidence that almost all videogames with multiple routes offer choice of fight/magic/sneak

David Booth said...

The bard brings up the legitimate problem of players making terrible characters on purpose.

sevenelves said...

More & more, I think of those "certain vexed and contested section[s] of the D&D rules" as the major site of RPG fun. Whether just going over the stuff in our own heads or with the whole party during rules adjudicating at the table; certainly it is where the 'meta' meets the 'game.'
You've provided another insight with this post:
"class" as a further embodiment of this kinda fun that we just can't seem to get enough of.

Phil said...

Oh good so I'm not the only one who has seen that with bards.

Sean said...

The ranger, as a hybrid class, presents the problem of multiclassing, in a way: combining approaches in such a way that doesn't serve to make up for the flaws of either or manage to bolster the strengths. And I say all this as a total ranger fan who never read a word about Drizzt.

Matthew Miller said...

Everybody's problematic... This puts a delightful twist on the idea that the history of role-playing games has been the history of correcting (perceived) problems with D&D.

Scott said...

Honestly this seems circular. With the exception of combat, each of the issues has its genesis or significant catalyst in the class with which it's associated.

Oakes Spalding said...

Fair enough. However, how could any "class" NOT be problematic given the implicit history you reference?

Akhier the Dragon Hearted said...

If Thieves are about cities and PC/NPC interaction then Druids are about nature as something other then a place to travel through or fight in and animals as something other then bags of hitpoints.

Zak S said...

I've never heard or seen that as being much of problem in D&D but maybe I missed something

Zak S said...

That doesn't mean it isn't a problem that people bitch about.

Akhier the Dragon Hearted said...

It might just be the group I am in along with my general outlook when it comes to druids.

scrap princess said...

monks are about orientalism and the clumsy aspect of the whole sale cultural looting that is part and parcel of fantasy world building?
'

Jeff Rients said...

In my experience the two main questions with Druids are the nature of Neutrality and whether they practice human sacrifice or are more like eco-hippy neo-pagans.

Grumpy Celt said...

I though elves brought up the problem of hippies. Or am I the only one who runs elves like killer hippies.

Dan said...

+1
If Gygax et. al. had originally been trying to model a Tolkienesque fantasy world, Monks would never have existed. But there they were, in Blackmoor. James Maliszewski has said it over and over: they weren't and they didn't, even though people think they did. Gygax and his crew were drawing on a rich and diverse body of literature with Tolkien as a primary, but not exclusive influence (see Appendix N). This is a prime example of a perceived problem in D&D that later games have tried again and again to "correct".

Roger the GS said...

Druids are Aquaman. (OK, Wildernessman.)

Their problemo is the buying of class flavor with annoying environment-specific powers.

The Pon'farr Spock said...

Total change of subject, but has anyone seen the Roman empire project from Standford? Makes me want to run a game using ORBIS: http://orbis.stanford.edu/#

1d30 said...

I think Zak's post is pretty true in how people seem to talk about classes. For example, if someone has beef with skill systems they bust on the Thief. Problem with magic? Complain about M-Us.

I think it's not necessarily true that the class is problematic, just that it's an embodiment of the rule, the prime way in which players interact with the rule.

ajardoor said...

If you play a fighter, you want people to think you're dependable and independant.

If you play a rogue, you want people to think you can do things for and to them.

If you play a wizard, you want people to think you're inventive and sage.

If you play a cleric, you want people to like you.