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Fiddly Bits: Game Archaeology

Fiddly 101: Character Classes, Part Two: The Nuts and Bolts

Larry D. Hols
September 20, 2001  

We've examined how the use of archetypes can be used to guide the delineation of classes in a game. We've discussed fiddling with layers of character definition to provide more detail for each character based on type alone. Now it's time to put together a class or two for the experience of puttering around with character generation parts.

We've got three games to build--at least, build enough bits and pieces to show how the parts will all work--so we need to decide which game might work well with classes:

Winken is all about Legends, and that sort of over-the-top characterization might not work very well within the hard structure of classes, so we won't use classes with that.

Blinken is about folks rising to become heroes. Class structures could guide that rise very well, and also work to keep development from becoming extreme. This could be a good match.

Nod is about extraordinary folks becoming greater. The use of classes could provide a very good starting point for the characters, but perhaps not work as well for advancement of the sort suitable for the game.

So, although Nod could benefit in some measure with the use of classes, we'll use classes with Blinken. The nature of the characters in play fits best with a class structure of the three games, and as we need one game to use classes for discussion purposes, Blinken gets the nod (and Nod is left blinking...oh, never mind).

First Class

To this point, we've decided on that basic scope of abilities of the characters and decided that the structure provided by classes would be useful for the game. The next question is that of what classes to include? We'll make all these games fantasy games, just to make comparison easier, so we're going to be defining fantasy character classes.

What, exactly, are fantasy classes? We know that fantasy, as a genre, deals with fantastic things that can't appear in our version of reality. That means wizards tossing balls of flame around, dragons roasting small towns for lunch, wee folk dancing in the moonlight, and that sort of thing, correct?

Well, yes. But not every fantastic being imagined appears in every fantasy novel. There are many sub-genres of fantasy, so we have to choose which of those will drive the game. A game can attempt to include every sort of fantasy, but a great deal of character is lost in such a mish-mash. A stronger game can be had with a specific sub-genre in mind.

Blinken will be a Swords & Sorcery game, with a dash of pulp flavor. As such, it need not support epic quests to save all of known reality and the thunder and bluster that accompany it. A sorcerer with an eye on the local tribe of savages provides a large enough plot to foil, and saving one's skin to chase after yet another treasure rumored to be in the next country down the road is reward enough for a hero.

What types of characters, then, would arise from these sorts of stories to appear on the pages of our game book? Who would we expect to find in this sort of tale?

A barbarian warrior springs to mind immediately. Civilized mercenary fighters would also work. A cheerful, multi-talented roguish chap who plys his skills as an entertainer and general man-about-town would be reasonable. A dusty old scholar and his meek apprentice. Power-mad sorcerers inhabit the world, so perhaps characters obsessed with risking megalomania to ferret out sorcerous secrets would be good. World travelers of many sorts--merchants and hunters and armsmen and the like would all work as believable characters, having the opportunity to develop skills and being accustomed to wandering the world.

It's not necessary to define one class as the primary class around which a game is designed, but such can prove useful. Ars Magicatm does this very well, defining the mage as the primary character and the other types as only associates. Blinken doesn't have one class as a primary, but we will designate the first class designed as being the benchmark class--the class all the others are compared to when checking for appropriate power. The first class we'll begin with is that of the Warrior.

Our prior list of layered archetypes ended with the Warrior. That seems to be a suitable place with which to begin this process, so we'll use the Warrior archetype as the benchmark for others. We also provided another layer under Warrior, so we'll build both of those classes to provide variations on a theme. Then we'll move on to another archetype and contrast the classes that arise there with these. TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

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All Fiddly Bits columns by Larry D. Hols

  • FID 223: Analysis of die-roll methods by Torben Mogensen, 18jun02
  • Another Change February 28, 2002
  • Fiddly 101: 101 Character Classes November 28, 2001
  • Fiddly 101: Character Classes, Part Two: The Nuts and Bolts September 20, 2001
  • Fiddly 101: Character Classes August 23, 2001
  • In the Beginning... June 21, 2001
  • New Directions May 18, 2001
  • In Defense of Heroism April 25, 2000
  • A Philosophy of Realism December 30, 1999
  • A Philosophy of Fightin' Words November 9, 1999
  • The Philosophical Question May 18, 1999
  • Whittlin' Fiddly February 23, 1999
  • Fiddly to the Rescue, Part Two January 19, 1999
  • Fiddly to the Rescue December 15, 1998
  • Old-Fashioned Fiddly November 17, 1998
  • You Don't Know Fiddly September 22, 1998

    Other columns at RPGnet

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