In this installment Baranor talks about classes,and how they are handled in most RPGs. Classes are the basic character sorting mechanism, and they are usually archetypal. Everyone immediately recognizes the warrior, the mage, the cleric, the thief, etc. Baranor even includes the opening of a fantasy short story to illustrate that point. He also explores the issue from other angles. Should games divide their characters up into classes? How is Diablo III going to handle classes? Are the new ones improvements over the Diablo II classes?
Read on to see what he thinks—the column begins below the break.
Of Castles and Classes
Out there in the Sharval Wilds near Entsteig lies a castle. The castle has a gate, and that gate once barred the way inside. Looming over the shrubbery that stretches itself for miles on end, it is placed over a well which never goes dry. Atop its battlements once flew the banner of Lord Krag. Once… a long time ago. Now, this very castle is a ruin. The walls have crumbled and the gate has all but broken from its hinges. Wild grass and more shrubberies fill the space between the outer wall and the inner wall that separated the court jester and the court he was supposed to amuse from the common people in the castle who were forced to live with the pigs and the cows. Of the four towers it once possessed three now lie in ruin, and the fourth is not much to look at anymore. Crows use it as a nesting place and the lower levels have been filled with their twigs and feathers, their excrements and eggshells, dead crows both young and old. No, this castle has seen better days. That gate, that wonderful gate, still a sign of power and might, has been split in half, and in that gate sticks a single arrow. The tale of this arrow and its flight is akin to the tale of the castle and its fall, and the fall of Lord Krag. To understand what happened here we must travel back in time and meet up with four friends, a group of adventurers, who set out from Kingsport to Entsteig some thirty years ago. They passed through castle Krag, which then was still a mighty castle but their passing was more akin to the passing of a storm than the passing of a breeze, and where they went only ruin followed them.
First of the four, at least in his own mind, was Joseph Grunwald. He was forty-three years of age, already an older man. His garments were purple, not because he liked purple but because he knew a lot of people disliked it and thought it to be outlandish. He carried a small stock of alchemical supplies wherever he went and owned a mule named Jak. Jak carried a larger stock of alchemical supplies. In fact, it was something short of a miracle that Jak did not buckle under the weight sometimes. Joseph had a short grey beard, blue eyes and short, stubby hands not used to heavy labor. Which he considered to be below him anyway, being a wizard.
First of the four too, but in walking order, was Arrakan. Arrakan usually attracted a lot of attention, and it was the kind of attention any six feet tall black giant in full plate mail attracted in a town, and that attention was not always good. Guards got nervous when Arrakan was around. Women swooned and cooed. Bandits took the other route. Arrakan the Mighty, the Master of the Blade, occasionally taught the Way of the Blade to the sons of kings. Today however he was not wearing his plate mail. Nobody who is right in the head goes walking through the Wilds while wearing full plate mail.
Third in line but first in wit and quickness was a rather ugly lady, whose face betrayed she had spent most of her childhood on the streets of some god forsaken town thieving and burgling whenever possible. Her name was Sylvie, but whether or not this was her real name not even her companions new. Sylvie wore some sort of leather armour, a bow, a short sword and a quiver of arrows. Currently she was using a knife to skin a rabbit she caught earlier. She liked doing things on the move. It was her way of being prepared. She moved as supple as cat.
Last in line but first in faith was Gerard Upperbrow, member of the Order of the Light and a full Brother of that Order. Gerard was definitely in the prime of his life, mace at the ready, chainmail over his shoulders and a shield strapped to his back. None but the foolhardiest of fools could mistake this man for anything other than he was: a Crusader for the Light and the Lord of All. His boots were polished as often as possible, as was his armor. His entire equipment was in pristine state, as if he never had been knee deep in the corpses of the undead swinging his weapon. Gerard was, according to himself, the embodiment of a Crusader of the Light. This would eventually prove to be his downfall, and that of the others.”
What? A story? Where? Didn’t notice. Nope, I didn’t. It might be that there will be more parts to this story, then again, maybe not. I’m sure though you all recognize the archetypes over there, being the arch-types they are. A wizard, a fighter, a thief and a cleric. The Wizard waves his wand(s) around, in true Merlin-esque style, the fighter masters the powers of the sword, mainly being the cutting and stabbing of people, the thief is an expert in sneakiness and stabbing with some sort of sharp object, preferably in the back of the opponent, and the cleric goes around being nice to people, helping them and bashing in the brains of those who are not classified as “nice.” They are all classes. So, what is a class then?
Some online dictionary tells us that a class is:
1. A set, collection, group, or configuration containing members regarded as having certain attributes or traits in common; a kind or category.
2. A division based on quality, rank, or grade, as:
a. A grade of mail: a package sent third class.
b. A quality of accommodation on public transport: tourist class.
a. A social stratum whose members share certain economic, social, or cultural characteristics: the lower-income classes.
b. Social rank or caste, especially high rank.
c. Informal Elegance of style, taste, and manner: an actor with class.
4. A level of academic development, as in an elementary or secondary school.
a. A group of students who are taught together because they have roughly the same level of academic development.
b. A group of students or alumni who have the same year of graduation.
c. A group of students who meet at a regularly scheduled time to study the same subject.
d. The period during which such a group meets: had to stay after class.
6. Biology A taxonomic category ranking below a phylum or division and above an order. See Table at
7. Statistics An interval in a frequency distribution.
8. Linguistics A group of words belonging to the same grammatical category that share a particular set of morphological properties, such as a set of inflections.
Which is nice, and I am sure we can, at least for our purposes of roleplaying games, quickly discard numbers 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. A Barbarian is not a group of students, not taxonomically assigned to a phylum or such other than it being a Homo Sapiens, no interval of a frequency distribution and most certainly not a group of words other than the set of curse words that came out of the player who controls the barbarian that just WW-ed in a pack of monsters in the CS whilst getting IM-ed at the same time (lets pray that particular curse does not make a re-entry in DIII