Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Class Archetypes and the Sub-Games

Very quickly- I have mentioned last week that D&D is divided into a number of sub-games. And thinking further I would wager that the most famous and effective classes are those that dominate one of these sub-games.

Obviously the Fighting-ManPerson or some variation of it dominates the combat sub-game. Magic-User (or variation thereof dominates the Magic sub-game. The Thief and variations dominate the dungeon exploration sub-game. The ranger would be the logical next for the wilderness exploration sub-game with a possibility of the Druid.

Though there are sub-games for air or sea travel and combat these seem to be rare edge cases that would be filled by very specialized Ranger or Fighter offshoots that few would play unless the campaign centered on it. The Cleric is binary here- depending on edition and build the Cleric is a master or all or none with a default to magical healing. Which highlights the problems of the class in my opinion. But also stands him up as a counterpoint to the Magic-User and the Fighter.

It seems that this would lead t the idea that what classes you have in your game are dependent on if you want an adventuring archetype to dominate a particular sub-game, or do you want that shared? Classes that share archetypes would be interesting. Again a Ranger with a more limited combat ability compared to the Fighter seems like it would be the poster boy for this approach. Also there is the idea of building out the base archetypes to share in the sub-games the other classes dominate.

It seems the Thief was an interesting design accident that could be used as an example for the future game development. What seems to have happened in a subconscious collective sort of way was that players understood that there was a sub-game of dungeon exploration that The Cleric, Fighter, and Magic-User while dominating their own parts of the game were not masters of. Ergo the Thief develops. It seems it would come back to essential spotlight time. Is it shared or not?

1 comment:

Hugh Acton said...

I am only parroting what I've read before and can't remember from where (actually, I think I'm combining two notions that struck me as related), but here goes my thoughts about the cleric and the cleric's sub-game: It seems the distinctive class feature of the cleric is turn undead which uses 2d6. The other systems which use 2d6 are morale, retainer loyalty, and reaction. The later two may be affected by CHA, also alignment can also be a factor in the later two (and in some versions of turn undead as well). Thematically they all seem related to alignment and I think I've read it referred to as the alignment subsystem. There's no reason mechanically why a cleric would be better at reactions or loyalty, but fluff-wise it seems fitting. So I would posit alignment as the cleric's schtick. Also, since I never played AD&D back in the day, only Classic DnD, I think of the cleric first as an enemy of undead, only secondly as a healer (since spells didn't come into play till level 2).