The class system is one of the most iconic elements of Role Playing Games. From mighty warriors to fantastical wizards the class system defines the experience many of us have of the games we play. This simple element of character creation has helped define a genre but what are its origins?
All the different Character Class systems we know and love have their roots in the father of RPGs Dungeons and Dragons. Modern DnD boasts over 80 classes and variants to choose from but in its first edition there were three classes: Cleric, Fighting Man and Magic-User. The first Supplement added Thief to the list and Paladin and a fighting subclass.
Three classes seems like nothing compared to the choices that have evolved from then but when you think of all the different classes out there they can usually be categorised under one of the original three.
But why do we even bother with classes and where do they come from?
Well the origins of classes seem to be routed in DnD and fantasy though they have since expanded across genres and game types. There isn’t a lot of info online about where the classes come from but they seem to be common archetypes. Archetypes are “a very typical example of a person or thing” and in the case of the original fantasy classes the three archetypes Fighter, Cleric and Magic-User seem to draw from earlier fantasy works such as Tolkien and even earlier writings such as the Arthurian myths.
But why do we even bother with them?
The main reason for classes seems to be the need to make character creation easier and provide direction to players. There are so many different spells and abilities in games that if there was no classes and you could pick anything you want most people would be overwhelmed by the choice.
Classes provide a framework for how we play and the types of abilities we have. Even in classless systems like Skyrim you tend to find people subconsciously sticking to classes whether it’s because of how engrained they are in our culture or if it’s because sticking to a game style simplifies things for us.
On top of that for the role players among you classes can also aid in how we act out our characters. Classes are often linked to personalities and character traits and so your choice of class can influence the personality you play into and the choice you make for good or for evil!
Character Classes are great they offer different play styles and role play options. They provide variety to the gaming experiences we have. Modern games seem to have a tradition of moving away from the Class based mechanics of the past and I’m not sure if that is a good or bad thing. Cyberpunk 2077 boasts a “fluid” class system which seems to be increasingly the norm.
But I’m curious what’s your favourite class? I love the Druid and monk classes from DnD personally for their role play potential and amazing abilities!
And what do you think of class systems as a mechanic do you love or hate them?
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