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Old Man

Character types that other game systems can't handle

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I could swear this has been addressed elsewhere in this forum, but I can't find it for the life of me. I'm interested in coming up with a comprehensive list of character concepts that certain class-based RPGs can't effectively handle. Here are some obvious ones, but what else am I missing?

 

- Experienced But Aged Veteran Warriors

- Lightly Armored Warriors That Aren't Monks

- Characters With Severe Physical or Mental Impairments

- Kids

- Arbitrary Races Like Anthropomorphic Animals Or Dralasites

 

Bonus points for characters out of popular works of fiction that could never be done in class systems, e.g. Last Airbender.

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I almost universally hate every iteration of Ranger that has ever been done.

 

You kind of already hit on one with your grizzled veteran. The experienced man-at-arms who has experience with spear, sword, sword and shield, and polearm. This is mostly because most systems penalize fighting with a non-proficient weapon, but have no way of modelling advantage for knowing how your weapon is best used against weapon X or alternately penalizing fighting against a weapon one is not familiar with. Hero can model this sufficiently well.

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Someone who has received some kind of standardized military training, but who is not a fighter type.  Like, they've been trained in sword & board, spear, crossbow, polearms, etc., but aren't expected to use them because they're a wizard or a medic or something.  If they have to use a sword or a glaive-guisarme or whatever, things have gone horribly wrong, but if ordered to they're expected to die trying.  

 

Superheroes.  Actual superheroes in a fantasy setting, fantasy themed and working as super powered vigilantes in a fantasy city.  

 

Research wizard who knows everything there is to know about magic but has never stepped foot outside the lab.

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Forgive me for playing the devil's advocate for a moment:

Pathfinder has dozens of classes, and hundreds of archetypes, many of which allow you to get close to the usual "corner-case" characters... Including some superheroes:

Superheroes.  Actual superheroes in a fantasy setting, fantasy themed and working as super powered vigilantes in a fantasy city.  

You can build Pathfinder versions of Batman, Green Arrow, Spiderman, Captain America and the Hulk fairly easily if you aren't to particular about power levels. There is even a Magical Girl archetype... complete with sailor moon style transformation. Admittedly most games other than Hero cannot accurately represent cosmically powerful superheroes, like Superman, the Flash, or One-Punch Man.

 

- Lightly Armored Warriors That Aren't Monks

Pathfinder has Rogues, Ninjas, Swashbucklers, Gunslingers, and Brawlers (who fight hand to hand, but aren't monks)... just to name a few.

 

Last Airbender.

Pathfinder also has the Kineticist... who is so close to being a Bender that the example character might as well be named Aang.

 

- Characters With Severe Physical or Mental Impairments

Pathfinder has the Oracle, a divine spellcaster who suffers from a curse as part of their class features, options for curses include Blindness, Lameness, Muteness, and Speaking in Tongues.

 

- Arbitrary Races Like Anthropomorphic Animals Or Dralasites

Pathfinder has a custom race builder (which to be fair isn't very balanced, despite being point buy). Ignoring that, they also have dozens of published races, including Catfolk, Ratfolk, Wyveran (dragon kin), Kobolds (which are small lizardfolk in Pathfinder), actual Lizardfolk, Kitsune (transforming fox people), Several kinds of snakefolk (including on that transforms like Kitsune do), Tengu (crowfolk), Owlfolk (whose actual name I forget), Sentient Plant People, Intelligent Golems which horde the secret of their own creation... just to name a few.

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Now then... On to specific characters or character archetypes you generally cannot reproduce in class-based table-top RPGs.

 

One-Punch Man... he's simply too powerful to represent in most systems. Even in Hero he needs 180 STR (at least) and Megascaled, Area of Effect, Autofire Punches...

Superman, as above, but surprisingly, less so...

Rogue (of the X-men); though to be fair she's hard to do in Hero too.

Star Butterfly (of Star vs. The Forces of Evil)... behaves like a mystic themed Blaster with minor summoning powers. Gains all of her powers from an inherited Artifact.

Steven Universe, or any of the Crystal Gems (of Steven Universe)... too many different, effectively racial powers to be represented in most class systems. Granted, they also have abilities which cannot really be replicated well in Hero either (Fusion for example).

That's all I've got at the moment... I'll come back to this when I have more to contribute.

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What I Learned Playing Hero System

 

I learned that I don't have to play just "A Fighter."

 

There are a thousand ways to be a warrior, from Assassin to Zombie-Hunter, from rude Barbarian to cultured Duelist, from unprincipled Bandit to chivalrous Knight. And no matter how I express my character as a warrior, that still does not have to define the whole character. The deadly Gladiator who goes berserk in combat may, in between fights, long for the day he can retire and never again have to shed blood. The Ranger's skills at pathfinding, wilderness survival, and the stealthy infiltration of enemy camps, may be as valuable to her and her allies as her skill with bow and sword. The literate, cultured Mercenary Captain may have studied, in addition to history and tactics, just enough dweomercraft to sense the presence of magical energies, and may even have an assiduously practiced counterspell in store as a surprise for an ambushing wizard.

 

I'm not playing D&D anymore, and I haven't been for 20 years. Instead of having to use one of a limited number of character concepts concocted by the game designer, I can come up with any character concept I choose, give it the abilities justified by the concept, and if the Game Operations Director agrees it's reasonable, I'm ready to play.

 

 

 

 

I learned I don't have to play a "Mage."

 

I can play a character like the Gray Mouser, a dabbler in magick.

I can play an alchemist who brews potions and makes some items but doesn't "cast spells" as such.

I can play a character with a wild talent, untrained and perhaps untrainable.

 

If I'm running the game, I can have any magick system I choose. I can even have one like Runequest, where EVERYONE has some spells.

 

I'm not playing D&D anymore, and I haven't been for 20 years. Instead of having to use one of a limited number of character concepts concocted by the game designer, I can come up with any character concept I choose, give it the abilities justified by the concept, and if the Game Operations Director agrees it's reasonable, I'm ready to play.

 

 

 

 

I learned I don't HAVE to play a "Cleric" as defined by D&D

 

A religiously oriented character does not HAVE to have "spells."

A character good at healing people does not HAVE to be some kind of priest, nor do they HAVE to wear armor or be exceptionally good at fighting.

Contrariwise, a warrior who is skilled with a sword can also have First Aid, Herblore, and possibly even (setting permitting) a Healing Spell.

 

I'm not playing D&D anymore, and I haven't been for 20 years. Instead of having to use one of a limited number of character concepts concocted by the game designer, I can come up with any character concept I choose, give it the abilities justified by the concept, and if the Game Operations Director agrees it's reasonable, I'm ready to play.

 

 

 

 

 

I learned I don't HAVE to play a "thief."

 

Just because I want one or more of: Stealth, Climbing, Detect Traps, Disarm Traps, Pick Pockets, Pick Locks, Pick Locks on Pockets, etc. does NOT mean I MUST buy them all; nor that I cannot also have spells, martial arts, or the use of any kind of weapon or armor I care to. And it most certainly does not mean I have to take Kleptomania, or a Watched by the Watch, or anything else that restrains how I play my character or specifically defines me as a "thief."

 

Instead of having to use one of a limited number of character concepts concocted by the game designer, I can come up with any character concept I choose, give it the abilities justified by the concept, and if the Game Operations Director agrees it's reasonable, I'm ready to play.

 

 

Lucius Alexander

 

What I learned from a palindromedary....

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You could build a character whose destiny has mechanical weight in the system.  High defenses, until destiny is fulfilled.  Physical Complication: Drawn to fulfill destiny.  3d6 Unluck, only when opposing destiny.  3d6 Luck, only when proceeding toward destiny.

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Lucius hit it on the head, .

 

For X2 BOD and X5 STUN damage!

 

 

You could build a character whose destiny has mechanical weight in the system.

 

 

And the more points you invest in Density Increase the more weight you have!

 

Oh weight- I mean, wait - you said DESTINY not DENSITY?

 

 

Okay, now that's out of my system......I composed the above "What I Learned Playing" about ten years ago. At that time I really hadn't played D&D in some twenty years.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

What if I hit the palindromedary in both heads?

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You can build "stuff" -- items, powers, spells, abilities, but also even races and professions -- that aren't just picked from a prebuilt list.  You're not limited to a starting position chosen by the game designer or world builder.  You can start with things that other people never anticipated or dreamed of, and have a better than reasonable chance that it's mechanically sound and that it balances.  You can dabble in the abilities of another "class" without having to hyphenate it in.  You can develop your character in play the way you want, without having to "dip". 

 

To be honest, there can be drawbacks to that too.  In a class-based system your character is set on a path; in play you can choose to follow that path or to branch off to another, and have some idea that along whatever path you choose lies greatness, because it's built into the system or the setting.  The NPCs, the gods, the setting itself can take notice of your character.  In Hero your character isn't limited to a path that someone else came up with, but that also means that you and/or the GM have to blaze that path yourselves.  For good or ill, you won't necessarily know whether there's a castle or a tower waiting for you, or whether or not a priest or a wizard can heal you, raise you from the dead, or intercede with the gods on your behalf. 

 

And for all of that, there's a huge push to replicate in Fantasy Hero the things you see in some form of D&D.  You can page back through the Fantasy Hero forum's thread list, from today back to day 1, and on every page you'll see someone asking how to replicate something from D&D.  Often multiple threads to a page.  Fantasy Hero might replicate the trappings of D&D better than D&D, but it's not and will never be a better D&D than D&D, and it's not meant to be. 

 

Old Man, thank you for this thread.  I hope it goes on and on and everyone takes part and finds fun things you can do with Fantasy Hero that you can't do in class-based systems.  Not that those are bad systems, but we don't have to limit ourselves.

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Game Master: "Now, you decided what you want to play?"
Player 1: "Four guys. I want to play the tiny guy with no skills and powers to mention. But somehow he got posession of an incredibly powerful heirloom artifact, let's say a ring, that ..."
Game Master: "You can't do that. Level 1 Characters have several skills and powers. And you cannot have an artifact of legendary rank."
Player 2: "I want to play an incredibly powerful mage ..."

Game Master: "You can't do that. We do not start at Level 50."

Player 2: "... but bound by his mystic nature not to steal the other characters' show and only let rip if every hope is lost."
Game Master: "You can't do that. If you are Level 50, you have those spells. If you use them or not, is not my business."
Player 3: "Similar idea. I want to play the elven prince. Infallible, infailible, irresistible, ..."

Game Master: "You can't do that. No epic level characters. And even epics can't have absolute abilities.“
Player 3: "… but much to cool to ever show his skills except when the tiny guy is in danger.“
Game Master: "Don't you listen? If you have it, you can use it. But you don't have it.“

Player 4: "Similar idea. I want to play the dwarven lord. Almost as cool and supreme as the elf, but somehow everything he tries looks ridiculous ..."

Game Master: "You can't do that. There is no class for ridiculous. They all are well balanced.“
Player 4: "… and he looses every competition with the elf but still has an immortal aura of dignity.“
Game Master: "You can't do that. There is no class with dignity.“

 

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Pathfinder/DnD might, by now, have lots and lots of classes which kinda-sorta let you play the class you want, eventually. You can finagle a light-armoured fighter if you cross-class enough between Rogue, Swashbuckler and Fighter, but at level 1 you're specifically one of those, and have a bunch of mandatory skill picks that may be irrelevant to being a beginning example of the type of fighter your character concept demands, while lacking essential components which will gimp the bejazus out of you compared to someone who embraces all the abilities of their class because they're a "standard" Fighter, while you will, at best, only ever achieve parity in combat with someone who's stayed strictly within a single fighting-specific class.

 

Of course, your GM can always try and write a new class with its progression for your specific class, but there's a good chance it's going to exceed one of the "straight, official" classes because most refs like to be accommodating to their players. And it's still going to suffer from "Why can't I do everything badly to begin with and then progress as I want and as the character's personality and needs develop?"

 

Characters from classic old Robert Jordan (that come to mind because I'm re-reading it at the moment) that struggle to fit a class/Level system: Rand Al'Thor; Mat Cauthon; Perrin Aybara; All the Aiel.

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To be fair, Rand al'Thor would be difficult to stat in Hero. At the very least, expensive. Balefire costs more points than entire characters in some of my campaigns. Mat's fox head amulet is similarly expensive.

 

Perrin would be relatively easy in either system. The Aiel would be too.

 

Any channeler would be very difficult to build in a class-based system. The gholam would be difficult in either system and expensive in Hero.

 

On the balance, I'd probably use Fate for Wheel of Time.

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I would say that Hero is better at modelling low-power intrigue games than a class-based game would. I would even say that it would beat Fate, despite the narrative focus, because it precisely delineates Contacts, Favors,and resources like Followers and strongholds.

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Rogue (of the X-men); though to be fair she's hard to do in Hero too.

Not that hard; just reeeeely expensive. And we are talking Fantasy here.

 

Player 4: "Similar idea. I want to play the dwarven lord. Almost as cool and supreme as the elf, but somehow everything he tries looks ridiculous ..."

Your points are all spot-on. But the one thing I hate about the LotR movies is how Jackson reduced the noble Gimli to comic relief. [grumble grumble]

 

Back on topic...

 

One of the conversations that first led me to FH back in the 80s was about Robin of Sherwood (the 80s TV series) and how it was nearly impossible to model most of the characters in D&D. Robin (Michael Praed version) was a master archer and woodsman, but barely knew which end of a sword to hold. (Which made total sense because he was a commoner, not a nobleman.) Friar Tuck was a priest who didn't cast spells. And don't even try statting out Marion in a class-level-based system.

 

Similarly, the first FH character I ever played was essentially a fantasy version of Brett Maverick. A gambler and con man who is competent with a sword and fairly dexterous, but not a thief per se.

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See, I don't think it's too difficult to do most of these characters in a class based system.  Obviously, some characters aren't appropriate for some games, but that's the case with Hero too.  Some of these characters are real easy when you remember that you don't have to start at level 1.

 

Grizzled veteran?  Ask the GM if, instead of starting as a level 1 Fighter, you can be a level 4 Warrior (one of the NPC classes, D10 hit dice, +1 BAB, but no special fighter feats).  Take the "middle aged" penalty, -1 to Str, Dex, and Con, and +1 to Int, Wis, and Cha.  There, now you're a grizzled vet.  You start out more powerful than other people, but you'll advance more slowly and have a slightly lower top end.

 

Lightly armored warriors that aren't monks?  High dex and take some of the defensive fighting feats.  I don't remember what they're called (I only dabble in Pathfinder), but I think Combat Expertise, Spring Attack, Dodge, things like that.  Add in a level or three of rogue as well so you can backstab.  Now choose to fight in a way that keeps with that build.  Don't stand toe to toe with a big guy and just trade blows.

 

A guy with standard military training who is not a fighter?  Take a few fighter-related feats.  Use the feat you start with, and the feat for being human (if that's what you are) to take a weapon feat and light armor training or something.  Or just take a single level of the Fighter class.  You don't have to specialize in it.  You don't have to wear heavy armor or act as a fighter.  But you've got a single D10 hit die to prop you up and some decent fighting proficiencies.

 

 

--

 

This worry about how you'll be less effective when you max out at 20th level is kind of ridiculous.  99% of characters never get to 20th level, so you're hamstringing your character for fear of not hitting some arbitrary point that you're likely never going to reach anyway.

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Not that hard; just reeeeely expensive. And we are talking Fantasy here.

 

Your points are all spot-on. But the one thing I hate about the LotR movies is how Jackson reduced the noble Gimli to comic relief. [grumble grumble]

 

Back on topic...

 

One of the conversations that first led me to FH back in the 80s was about Robin of Sherwood (the 80s TV series) and how it was nearly impossible to model most of the characters in D&D. Robin (Michael Praed version) was a master archer and woodsman, but barely knew which end of a sword to hold. (Which made total sense because he was a commoner, not a nobleman.) Friar Tuck was a priest who didn't cast spells. And don't even try statting out Marion in a class-level-based system.

 

Similarly, the first FH character I ever played was essentially a fantasy version of Brett Maverick. A gambler and con man who is competent with a sword and fairly dexterous, but not a thief per se.

 

1st and 2nd edition D&D were tailored towards a specific type of fantasy game.  What started as Middle Earth crossed with Conan, ancient myth, and Arthurian Legend (with a little Cthulhu thrown in), eventually just became the D&D genre.  And they're both pretty good game systems for what they try to do.

 

With the Skills and Powers supplements in late 2nd, and then into 3rd edition and later, you started seeing the game try to grow out of that one genre and cover more varied types of fantasy.  At this point, having a guy who is an expert archer and not that good with a sword isn't that difficult.  I haven't seen the show you're talking about (or I sure don't remember it if I did), but it seems pretty simple.

 

Robin becomes a mid-level Fighter or Ranger, with no feats allocated towards sword combat, and everything pushed towards being good with a bow.  Sure, you'd still have your base +5 (or whatever) BAB that applies to any weapon he picks up, but that really pales compared to his +12 (or whatever) with a bow with rapid fire feats and other stuff.

 

Friar Tuck is just an Expert who took a lot of healing proficiencies.

 

I'm not sure what Marion would do, but maybe a few levels of Aristocrat?  With the right traits, and maybe some levels of Druid or Sorcerer with different special effects slapped on them, I'd bet you could duplicate whatever it is she was able to do.

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I disagree that Pathfinder and other level based games can give me the same options without the GM using Fiat.

 

As for bailfire I think it can be built as a powerful attack or perhaps drain with "all or nothing" and a linked EDM to a work the person ceased to exist in X seconds earlier where X is the body rolled. But I would love to see someone else's build for it.

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See, I don't think it's too difficult to do most of these characters in a class based system.  Obviously, some characters aren't appropriate for some games, but that's the case with Hero too.  Some of these characters are real easy when you remember that you don't have to start at level 1.

 

Grizzled veteran?  Ask the GM if, instead of starting as a level 1 Fighter, you can be a level 4 Warrior (one of the NPC classes, D10 hit dice, +1 BAB, but no special fighter feats).  Take the "middle aged" penalty, -1 to Str, Dex, and Con, and +1 to Int, Wis, and Cha.  There, now you're a grizzled vet.  You start out more powerful than other people, but you'll advance more slowly and have a slightly lower top end.

A Grizzled vet ought to have all the feats. Using those tricks and specialisms is how he compensates for the reflexes and youthful stamina of his opponents and keeps the playing field level. And a BAB 3 higher than your 1st level party comrades will skew combat. Sure, if the ref is playing a game where everyone starts at higher level, you have more options, but taking those options will often mean you're not holding up your end of the party's needs.

 

Lightly armored warriors that aren't monks?  High dex and take some of the defensive fighting feats.  I don't remember what they're called (I only dabble in Pathfinder), but I think Combat Expertise, Spring Attack, Dodge, things like that.  Add in a level or three of rogue as well so you can backstab.  Now choose to fight in a way that keeps with that build.  Don't stand toe to toe with a big guy and just trade blows.

So take that at first level. The concept is "fighter" with the twist "lightly armoured". Take any of the light fighter classes or rogue, and your AC is in the toilet compared to a fighter once you earn your first decent monetary reward. Unless you make DEX your highest stat rather than STR, and then your damage sucks. Sure, by the time you reach about 8th level, you're only trailing by one or two BAB, and you have lots of mobility options. But how useful are those if you're the only fighter in the party and letting the enemy big guys close on your squishier friends gets them killed? So effectively, as a character that just wants to be a Fighter (but be lightly armoured), rather than one who has ambitions to have other skills available to them (as you will probably have if you go Rogue for a couple of levels) simply gimps themselves for the concept.

 

 

A guy with standard military training who is not a fighter?  Take a few fighter-related feats.  Use the feat you start with, and the feat for being human (if that's what you are) to take a weapon feat and light armor training or something.  Or just take a single level of the Fighter class.  You don't have to specialize in it.  You don't have to wear heavy armor or act as a fighter.  But you've got a single D10 hit die to prop you up and some decent fighting proficiencies.

And how does that work at first level? It takes, what, 13 weeks to go through a modern Basic? Or maybe they did some OCF at school, but now they're a lawyer.

 

This worry about how you'll be less effective when you max out at 20th level is kind of ridiculous.  99% of characters never get to 20th level, so you're hamstringing your character for fear of not hitting some arbitrary point that you're likely never going to reach anyway.

 

"Balance" going up levels really bites (if you care about it) from the get-go. Try the "Fighter with minor magic" in DnD: you might as well just be a Fighter with one fewer levels. WRT "playing your concept", playing "hybrids" or "variants" bites from level 1. Its bite strength actually decreases as you go up levels, because there are options to use to try and shoehorn the rules into letting you play what you want. Effectively, DnD recognises the whole problem by having the proliferation of classes and prestige classes so that once you've "paid your dues" (assuming your ref doesn't let you all start at high enough level to be able to finess the rules so you have the "power suite" you want to play from the start of the game) you can actually have taken enough odd levels and prestige classes to play your concept. The many and various classes are proof that it's an issue that just keeps raising its head, and they're only ever going to be a stopgap solution.

 

And as a solution "lots of choice of classes" only helps if you know about the exact class that fits your character concept, and have the materials to refer to in order to use the class (else the GM is just making things up on the fly, which has its own problems).

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