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Faith and Steel: A Warrior's Manifesto

A Warrior's Manifesto

by Steve Bergeron
May 27, 2002

 

A Warrior's Manifesto
We're back, and we're here to kick ass!

Who are you?

We are known as sword swingers, axe bashers, pit fighters, grunts, walking tanks, fighter jocks, gunslingers, snipers, ass kickers, and sometimes simply as the ones who do the hitting. We are the warriors of the RPG world and we deserve a little more credit. We're back, we're angry, and we have the weapons and training to make ourselves a force to be reckoned with.

Where did you come from?

Strangely enough, we came from reality. Since the beginning of recorded history nations have kept standing armies to push their interests. It has been said that prostitution is the oldest profession; the second oldest may well be that of the combat soldier. Through the ages the purpose of the soldier has not changed: to resolve conflicts through the use of violence. It has also been said that violence never solves anything; the fact that even today every country of the world maintains a military and puts it into action every so often definitely raises a major concern with that whole saying. Simply put, warriors came from the need to apply deadly force. This need isn't going to vanish any time soon. In fact, even far into the future, it is unlikely that the role of the combat soldier will disappear. True, advanced technology is rapidly changing the kinds of skills required on the battlefield, but for the foreseeable future, soldiers will still be needed to hold the ground and do the dirty work of war.

In the RPG context, warriors can be traced back to the first incarnation of the hobby: Tactical Board Games. Good old Gary Gygax's little game where all of the little model soldiers were given personalities. Poof. RPGs are born: the first D&D fighters pick up their swords and battle the first D&D orcs. Next thing you know all of these clerics, magic users and thieves show up. This is not a bad thing. The warriors have their place taking the brunt of the assaults and dishing out damage to all comers. Combined with the cleric's healing, the thief's stealth, and the wizard's spells, the warrior's skills rounded out the group creating a kind of synergy. It was very cool. As other games came to be, the warriors always managed to crop up in one form or another. We fulfilled our roles and kicked the collective ass of new and different enemies. Times were good but warriors were on the way out.

Where did you go?

Good Question. It's a tricky one to answer. Warriors didn't really "go" anywhere. We're still around, taking and delivering the damage, and kicking a lot of that collective ass. What "went" was our coolness. That's right... somewhere along the line sword swingers just became uncool. It all started when it became apparent that warriors were "easier" to "play." Thus, the role of the bad-guy-smasher was relegated to the newbie. Countless new gamers' first characters were "standard fighters." No complex spells or abilities, just hit and be hit. So warriors became the trademark of the inexperienced role player. Not a good place to be since inexperience is often mistaken for stupidity. So now warriors are "stupid." Things are not looking good at this point, but they were destined to get worse. The 90's saw the gaming renaissance that was Vampire. White Wolf's innovative game gave the industry a good kick, but it did it at the expense of those fearless fighters that were such an integral part of the of the very thing they saved. Vampire and its peers were designed to concentrate on "role playing." Because fighting somehow wasn't good role playing, (after all, fighters are stupid, remember?) it was relegated to a secondary function. Furthermore, all of the characters were superhuman vampires or werewolves or whatever and were capable of kicking the collective ass when required. The fighter became a moot point; a mindless bashing moron only played by newbies and munchkins. Warriors were the characters of the uncreative and the narrow minded. The coolness was gone. A few of us old soldiers held on, praying for a miracle, but the future looked bleak. This was highly un-good.

You're Back?

Damn straight we're back! And back in force! Why? Because the industry has brought us back. It started with games like Legend of the 5 Rings (samurai ass kicking), Heavy Gear (mecha ass kicking), and 7th Sea (ass kicking with excessive swash and buckle). These were games that catered to warriors. Not just any warriors, but the daring, tough, crafty, and hardcore warriors of old. Soldiers regained their wits, their prominence and even their style. The coolness was returning, but more was needed. The final push was 3rd edition D&D. I am not going to argue whether it is a good game, but it is a very popular game, which definitely makes it the brightest jewel in the Warrior King's crown. It is said by some that 3E focuses too much on combat, but I couldn't disagree more. Four of the eleven character classes are various flavours of sword swingers (five if you include the monk, which is basically a sword swinger, minus the sword). Each has enough cool abilities to make it stand apart from the other, and every player group will inevitably have one or two to keep the hoards of demons at bay. 3E has brought the ass kickers full circle. We can now once again stand tall with our brethren and face the RPG world with our heads held high (but not so high that we expose them to enemy sniper fire).

So What Next?

That's easy: become even cooler. We need to examine ourselves in every detail, and figure out ways to improve. Not ways to be stronger and faster (strength and speed are already abundant) but ways to be clever, tactical, and ultimately more effective. The warrior shouldn't just be the one with all the weapons, they should be tacticians, commanders and innovators. True, Thrag the Barbarian warrior might not know much about commanding troops, but even he can probably figure out basic combat ideas (but perhaps not while raging; sorry Thrag) like flanking, encirclement, wolf packing, divide and conquer, and striking weak points. This is just the beginning. Also, we need to give our characters more depth. Perhaps the biggest difference between the bland standard fighter and the warriors that shall live forever in RPG legend is personality. Where did that warrior learn to fight? From whom? Where did that scar come from? What is the philosophy behind the weapon? Does the mercenary regret the violence he has committed or has some past event made him so cynical as not to care? The art of war is very old and very complex. Warriors are just as complex and "deep" as any other character, and with a little creative work they can become the stuff of legends. There are millions of diverse warrior characters just waiting to be played. History and legend are chock full of great warrior characters, and contemporary fiction (especially Sci-Fi and Fantasy) holds just as many possibilities if not more.

A Closing Statement?

Life is about conflict, and so are RPGs. When conflicts get heated and all other avenues are exhausted, sometimes the use of force is necessary. If your character isn't combat-oriented, and things get messy, I have one recommendation: let the fighter to the front so that he can do his bloody job. He's doing it so that you don't have to. So if he seems rough or uncouth sometimes, let it slide. After all, he is the one that is preventing your ass from becoming a part of the often-kicked collective.

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What do you think?

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  • Downtime by Steve Bergeron, 26feb03
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