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Character concepts class systems can't cover


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I've posted about this general idea earlier but I can't find the thread.  Currently there's a reddit thread about character subclasses players wish existed--in other words, character concepts 5e can't (currently) handle.  Here's a list of highlights:

 

Unarmed Brawler (STR-based)

Storm Druid

Plant Druid

Fey Sorcerer

Dragon-pact Warlock

Shaman Warlock

Ice Cleric

STR-based Monk (see Unarmed Brawler)

Jester Bard

Barbarian Shaman

 

I'm mainly posting this to gloat (and I'm in a 5e campaign right now!) but I thought it was interesting how 5e players continue to limit themselves to the existing class based framework.  So many of my FH characters have been impossible in D&D or Pathfinder--the necromancer, the stretchy mystical monk, the halberd-wielding earth mage.  What about summoners?  Characters who are cursed or melded with some magical artifact?  Shapeshifters?  Can we even do the Witcher in 5e?  What other common fantasy archetypes can we do in FH and not 5e?

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I can't comment on the "Kane" series because I've never read it, but Opal reminds me of a discussion a friend of mine read on RPGNet: on the inverse relationship between literary merit and gameability

I'm in a 5e campaign now.  Got my paladin up to 6th level before I picked up a PHB (Amazon had a 50% off sale).  I then realized I have no flippin' idea how to play D&D.    But yeah, not

I mean, you can do anything with a class-based system, but it require building an entirely new class to cover that specific build.

Common is the wrong word, and I don't know all the 5e options.

 

But we can do:

Mythological Greek Hero (see Mystic Greece). This includes demi-gods.

Lots of Ancient Egyptian stuff ( see Mythic Egypt)

Groovy Viking stuff (see Vikings - same series as the two above)

Outlaws (peasant or noble) (see Robin Hood - same series as the three above))

Lost World tribes (see Lands of Mystery)

Lost World civilizations (see Lands of Mystery)

 

and so on...

 

All of this was before 4e! (4e HERO, of course)

 

So yes, if you want to play a corpse-eating ghoul from the Libyan Desert, HERO has you covered. You just need to convince the other players that you don't want to eat their mummies.

 

Ick. That last joke doesn't work for people for whom mothers are mommies.

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  I’m not generally a great resource for working the rules. But the D20 system had multi-class characters.  In that system your Unarmed Brawler would be done as X levels of Strong and Y levels of Martial Artist.

   Could something like this be adapted?

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1 hour ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

I mean, you can do anything with a class-based system, but it require building an entirely new class to cover that specific build.

 

Which is why it seemed like Dragon Magazine was coming out with new classes almost every issue or so...and all combined later on in Unearthed Arcana.

 

Sometimes I miss those days. Well, I miss Dragon Magazine at least. Plus never knowing what you'd find at the LCS/LGS (Dungeon in San Antonio for me).

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1 hour ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

I mean, you can do anything with a class-based system, but it require building an entirely new class to cover that specific build.

 

I think it was Palladium Fantasy that had a Soldier character class, which was cool... but then started making new classes to define the soldiers of specific Empires.  Not modifiers to the basic solder class, *new classes* for solders of a specific nation.

And that was one of the reasons I swore to never play that game.......

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Sometimes I miss those days. Well, I miss Dragon Magazine at least

 

I do too.  There's no central popular and beloved magazine or website for gaming any more.  There's nowhere to go to show off your ideas except each little niche around the internet and there's scores of them around, Hundreds.  Reddits and discords and twitter feeds and facebook groups and forums and individual websites and on and on.

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2 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

I mean, you can do anything with a class-based system, but it require building an entirely new class to cover that specific build.

 

Which is much like saying the (existing) ruleset can't handle whatever it is you're trying to do.

 

And even an entirely new class effectively straitjackets the character's future development.

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1 hour ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

 

I do too.  There's no central popular and beloved magazine or website for gaming any more.  There's nowhere to go to show off your ideas except each little niche around the internet and there's scores of them around, Hundreds.  Reddits and discords and twitter feeds and facebook groups and forums and individual websites and on and on.

 

There's also no central popular magazine to use to advertise your new game or gaming supplement anymore.

 

Not even anything like Space Gamer anymore.

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Yeah, you accept the limited class options, or you don't. Many of them aren't bad options, but they presume a certain kind of game, in a certain kind of setting.

 

The folks at Critical Roll devised and published a Witcher-inspired class, but that sort of makes Old Man's point.

 

Actually, my chief critique of many of the official subclass options could be boiled down to, "Where does this come from?" Many of the subclasses seem to be odd grab-bags of features, and I don't see how they fit the supposed concept -- or the concept is so idiosyncratic that I don't see why I'd care to play it.

 

Don't get me wrong, I think D&D 5e is a really good game. It makes choices what it can do, and what it can't. But that is not a complaint. If you're building a Fantasy HERO game, you'll have to make such choices, too.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Classes are good for low-imagination people or those who don't care to learn a system well and want to just jump in fast.  I get that.  BUt they're very limiting and every time I played D&D I was tinkering with new spell ideas, new abilities etc and presenting them to the GM when I wasn't inventing entire classes.  Every game I play on a computer that is fantasy I either take the "build your own" or come up with class concepts and abilities that they should have had.

 

If I had a clone or tons more time and energy I'd write up and post my Everquest Hero rules and info, because there is so much that could have been done with that system and was not touched on.  Partly because its a MMOG and a lot of ideas can't be done or wouldn't work there, but mostly because x classes have y abilities fixed forever.

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2 hours ago, Chris Goodwin said:

 

I loved that place.  They got a lot of money from me when I was in the Air Force.

 

My Dad was at Lackland AND Kelly while we were there so yeah they got a lot if his budget through me (laugh). It's where I first found Hero.

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A heroic ogre

A magical statue that just came to life a month ago and has almost no skills but speaks a half dozen languages and is as powerful as an armored knight

A talking horse

A former pickpocket turned friar and then vampire hunter

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There's also no central popular magazine to use to advertise your new game or gaming supplement anymore.

 

Sadly, magazines are pretty much dead, and Egon Spengler's prophecy is nearly complete.  But if there was just one website or central place on the internet for people to focus on gaming at, like there is for other fan bases, it would be a huge help.  Sadly gaming is splintered all over the internet and even though D&D is a monster (relatively speaking) in the gaming world, they've not shown any real interest in replacing anything like Dragon Magazine with a central website.

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I was driving today, thinking of character ideas along the way (as one does), and it occurred to me that one big category many class-based systems can't handle is disabled characters.  Like suppose I wanted to build a mage who was blind, but was enchanted or cast spells to "see" using clairvoyance.  I can't think of many class-based systems where you could do this and have it balance out.

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11 hours ago, Old Man said:

I was driving today, thinking of character ideas along the way (as one does), and it occurred to me that one big category many class-based systems can't handle is disabled characters.  Like suppose I wanted to build a mage who was blind, but was enchanted or cast spells to "see" using clairvoyance.  I can't think of many class-based systems where you could do this and have it balance out.

Ooh, like Jaldis in Barbara Hambly's The Rainbow Abyss, Part One of Sun-Cross. Sometime I need to find Part Two.

 

Jaldis is the only blind wizard in this book; he uses magic glasses to see. (And a magic voice-box to speak, because the same people who blinded him also cut his vocal chords.) OTOH magic in this world can do such things. So there's no support for Blind Clairvoyant Wizard as a class. The concept is so specialized that creating a whole class in order to define that one character is ridiculous. Furthermore, magic in this world isn't confined to specific, highly defined spells. The big takeaway for me isn't, "D&D doesn't support a blind wizard," it's "D&D doesn't support improvisational magic." And, I suspect, cannot. Ever. The wargame aspects of precisely defined class abilities and spells precludes it.

 

Like I said, D&D is good at being what it is. But what it is, is limited.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Reminds me of the character I never got to play: a quadriplegic mentalist, who uses clairvoyance, images, and mental powers remotely to simulate a superhero.  Utterly helpless physically, but able to make basically an invulnerable hero at any location he can find and use as a clairvoyance spot using mind scan and mind link with his fellow heroes.

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In all honesty there are very few concepts that cannot be done in any game system.  Some concepts take time to develop and in class based games only come online at higher levels.  Also depending on where a game system is in its product development it may not have matured enough to have all the options it will eventually have.  Take 1st edition Pathfinder, it has a huge amount of classes and prestige classes.  Then factor in all the archetypes and you have even more options.   With a little re-flavoring there is nothing on the original list that could not be built with it.  Hero system has an advantage in that it is essentially the same game as it was in first edition.  When a new version of the Hero system comes out they don’t reinvent the wheel they basically refine it and add some options.  

 

The second thing to consider is that just because something is not fully optimized does not mean it cannot be done.  A lot of times when someone says something cannot be done it is because what they are looking to do is often too powerful.  I had a guy I knew who complained he could not write up Hercules.  The problem is that his concept of Hercules was that of a 20th level character.  So of course he was disappointed in anything he tried.  He would have had the same problem with Hero System because a beginning character simply does not have the points to do somethings.  
 

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I know this is the opposite of what LoneWolf just said, but it's not really disagreement. ;)

 

There are really very few character concepts that /can/ be done in any game system, in a way that's playable, let alone grasps that elusive holy grail of balance.  You won't be able to get all the abilities the concept should have, those you can get will likely come packaged with others you don't, foundational abilities it should have always had end up waiting to later, or abilities that should be rarely-used at a high price are just always there, and on and on.  

 

D&D, especially 5e - or 1e or 2e - is egregious, of course, combining limited choice with profound imbalance - though it's notoriously Tolkien-inspired, the Fellowship isn't a viable party, for instance.  Aragorn, not yet a lord or ranger-lord at the start, can't be more than 8th, Boromir, likewise, Gimli & Legolas face single-digit level limits, while Gandalf is an angelic god-being arch-mage, and Merry, Pippin, Samwise & Frodo are just regular folks who've never adventured before.  It doesn't even really work in LotR without profound author force, for that matter, so I guess that's a tad unfair.

But even in Hero you'll find campaign guidelines that hamper a concept, and system necessities that tempt you to compromise it for the sake of playability.

 

Finally, virtually all RPGs, are designed around or team or party - the player:GM ratio is just too high, and the players double as audience - so the 'lone wolf' and 'reluctant hero' archetypes are non-starters, regardless of powers, abilities, or more specific concepts, and other archetypes - the Jimmy Olsen or Steve Trevor in constant need of rescue, but still having meaning in the story - are necessarily relegated to NPCs.

 

 

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On 4/6/2021 at 1:30 PM, Opal said:

I know this is the opposite of what LoneWolf just said, but it's not really disagreement. ;)

 

There are really very few character concepts that /can/ be done in any game system, in a way that's playable, let alone grasps that elusive holy grail of balance.  You won't be able to get all the abilities the concept should have, those you can get will likely come packaged with others you don't, foundational abilities it should have always had end up waiting to later, or abilities that should be rarely-used at a high price are just always there, and on and on.  

 

D&D, especially 5e - or 1e or 2e - is egregious, of course, combining limited choice with profound imbalance - though it's notoriously Tolkien-inspired, the Fellowship isn't a viable party, for instance.  Aragorn, not yet a lord or ranger-lord at the start, can't be more than 8th, Boromir, likewise, Gimli & Legolas face single-digit level limits, while Gandalf is an angelic god-being arch-mage, and Merry, Pippin, Samwise & Frodo are just regular folks who've never adventured before.  It doesn't even really work in LotR without profound author force, for that matter, so I guess that's a tad unfair.

But even in Hero you'll find campaign guidelines that hamper a concept, and system necessities that tempt you to compromise it for the sake of playability.

 

Finally, virtually all RPGs, are designed around or team or party - the player:GM ratio is just too high, and the players double as audience - so the 'lone wolf' and 'reluctant hero' archetypes are non-starters, regardless of powers, abilities, or more specific concepts, and other archetypes - the Jimmy Olsen or Steve Trevor in constant need of rescue, but still having meaning in the story - are necessarily relegated to NPCs.

 

 

Well, there's a couple of things that I feel need some adressing.

 

First, as gamers, there's a tendancy to search for that idea of "game balance". But it's kind of a myth. In a class-based system, there will always be unbalancing class structure. In a points-based system, who's to say that a skill is worth Xd6 damage? Ultimately, we choose a system that reflects the personal goal that we are looking for.

 

Secondly, since balance is a myth, we must accept that there will be unbalance and allow choices by players that serve the fiction. The party in LotR is totally viable. If the hobbit players choose to start the game with 8 levels in Peasant (to match the 8 levels of Ranger, or Fighter of the other characters) because they want to play the story arc of that development, why stop them? The players going in should know that there is a good chance the characters will die. If given the framework of the adventure the players should know what their choices mean. The much maligned Rifts is a system that accepts this lack of balance and designs classes based on what they conceptually do, not some idea of balance. The players and GM decide what to allow or not based on the needs of the fiction they are trying to create.

 

Third, (and last, cause this is getting long) a lot of the strife with character concept is the failure to conceive at appropriate scale. Level using systems inherently imply a nobody to somebody progression. If the players want to play at a higher scale, then starting level should be higher. That failure to scale appropriately is where a lot of failure to meet concept comes from.

 

I have more to say, but I'll let that stand for a bit.

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