Thursday, September 9, 2010

Getting Class

art by "Reno" Maniquis
In planning for my own Weird Adventures game (that I’ll hopefully been kicking off soon), I’ve been thinking about classes. The standard D&D classes don’t map as well to a pulpy world. What’s are archetypal for traditional genre fantasy isn’t as archetypal here. 

Now, this is not to say the standard D&D classes couldn't be used straight in fantasy pulp setting--fighters being the various tough guys, clerics the evil battling priest, etc.--but I think down that run lies something more like Shadowrun, not Captain Easy, Sam Spade, or the Green Lama.  Which is not meant to be an insult to Shadowrun, nor to suggest I'm not doing a bit of incongruous genre mashup myself, here.  I just don't want to loose that cheap whiskey-esque pulp flavor.

I suppose there are two solutions. One would be to add several more classes--Private Eyes, Gangsters, Mystics, etc., but I’m concerned with what the sheer number of these might be, and (a perennial issue in class base systems) what gets to be a class and what doesn’t. Is an ex-soldier just a fighter, while a gangster’s something different? Or vice versa? Or none of the above?

D20 Modern uses an interesting system wherein the classes are mapped to ability scores. There’s the Strong hero, Fast hero, Smart hero, and so on. This strikes me as a potentially adaptable system as it distills the all the various character types found in different types of pulp fiction to archetypes as unadorned as (maybe) the D&D basic classes are for standard fantasy.

My only concern is, does that take away some of the “flavor” and immediate role-recognition that more delineated classes provide.  I suppose there's D20 Modern once again, and the addition of "occupations"--but then have I just exchanged classes for "things that are sorta classes-lite?"  Of course, Warhammer FRPG used a similar sort of system, and I liked that implementation there.

Anybody got any thoughts in this regard?


Tim Shorts said...

For me I think I would prefer to see more 'pulp' type classes instead of the generic ones. Your game is about that genre I would run with and have tons o fun.

Risus Monkey said...

Even though WA is a Pulp setting, many of your assumptions about the types adventures that characters will be involved with appear to be very closely aligned with traditional D&D. That's why I don't have a problem with using traditional D&D-style classes. In other words, I like an approach where you say "here's what magic-users might look like in this setting." Or clerics, fighters, thieves, etc.

That being said, some genre skinning is a must. Perhaps there are different lenses through through which you view these old classes? or backgrounds or builds? And obviously, certain things like weapons and armor restrictions need to be modified no matter what.

If you designed new classes from scratch, that means that you'll have to focus your develop more heavily on mechanics issues, rather than the fun bits like setting development. That might be your thing, but it certainly isn't mine.

This is certainly an interesting topic for discussion and I'm curious ti see what other people say on the matter.

jgbrowning said...

Make up as many classes as you need. Make a list of the classes with a brief description of each before the class list. I think that'd work out fine.

Matt said...

I would go with simplicty - fighting-men and magic-users, with little boosts to one action or another by choosing an occupation of sorts.

ancientvaults said...

I am piecing together a non-D&D-esque game for AV&ES and wondering about opening up classes a little and getting away from some of the restrictions. I am not sure how loose to get, though, and will probably stick somewhere close to tradition.

Matthew Slepin said...

Big topic.

Risus Monkey has the point that, so far at least, everything has seemed to be D&D in an unusual setting. Which is part of the appeal. OK: the coolness of the setting is another part of the appeal, but the really singular thing has been the assumption that you could do all of this in D&D, and not need to play Adventure! or HEX or whatever.

Now, the D20 Modern idea is, IMO, actually pretty clever. But really, it’s just extrapolating something that has been there in D&D all along: Fighters have STR as a Prime requisite, MU’s have INT, Clerics have WIS, and Thieves have DEX (arguably, Dwarves have CON).

I definitely would not want to see a bunch of Classes that are really Professions or Backgrounds or the like. That’s not what Classes are in my mind.

That out of the way, how about some positive thoughts?

If you haven’t seen it, take a look at Engines & Empires, which keeps the B/C Classes but flavours them to be Victorian adventurers.

One idea would be to use Secondary Skills as Professions. Instead of Blacksmith, Wheelwright, etc., have Private Eye, Cop, Burlesque Dancer, and so on.

Another would be to rename the existing Classes. Fighters become “Tough Guys”, Clerics become “Vampire Hunters”, and Thieves become “Gangsters”.

Trey said...

Thanks guys for the thoughtful comments.

There doesn't seem to be a clear consensus, but you've given me some new angles to to think about.

Trey said...

I'd also add that this diversity of opinions is whay I chose to go mainly for largely rules-less setting material in the published supplement rather than whatever rules I choose to use (which will be mostly on my blog). That way, ever body can realize the setting however best suits them.

Eldrad Wolfsbane said...

Check out Hideouts and Hoodlums. It might be what you are looking for.

Trey said...

Thanks, Eldrad. I'll check it out.