Fighting Man, Priest, & Magic User Only?

After reading the tweet below…

…I decided to write this post.

For the record, I started playing D&D with 3E. I am not someone who has been with the hobby since Day One. Therefore, whenever I look at 2nd Edition or earlier, I am viewing it as an outsider. Also, I want to start by saying that I respect Mr. Oghma and his opinions.

All that said, I disagree with his tweet. Slightly.

I think that Thieves, Rogues, Ne’er-do-wells, whatever you want to call them…they have a place in D&D as the fourth pillar. Using the Thief class as someone who can scout and backstab people is a good addition to the game. I know many people do not like the additions to the game made in later editions, and there are a LOT of bad ideas in the history of D&D, but there are plenty of good ones too. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Raising the Thief to the same importance as the original three is one of those good ideas. From an Appendix N perspective, Fafhrd may be a Fighting Man, but what is the Gray Mouser? A Thief!

However, I think that Mr. Oghma is onto something with reducing the number of character classes. More classes = more mechanics, which can equal more headache for the GM that does not know how all of those mechanics interact. Also, in a high-death game, having only a few character classes makes it easier for players too. Many players do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of the 47 classes and their unique mechanics. Yet, having a few more options than just 3 or 4 may give players some interesting concepts to play with.

While pondering this tweet, I was reminded of a couple of features in some recent roleplaying games. The first is Pathfinder’s archetype system. With this system, a character can trade class feature A, B, & C for new class feature X, Y, & Z. Rather than create a new class (although Pathfinder has PLENTY of those), you could use an archetype, which has most of the usual features, but enough of a twist for someone to play a unique character concept.

The second is 5E’s character archetype system. Each character class is required to pick an archetype sometime between 1st and 3rd level. Each class has a core set of abilities and then a few archetype abilities as well. In fact, someone could take what I would call the 4 base classes (Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, and Thief), and turn all the other classes in the 5E Player’s Handbook into archetypes of the above. For instance, the Paladin, Barbarian, and Ranger could be reworked as Fighter archetypes.

Now, let’s tackle the Monk and Bard comment. The Monk and Bard may have been implemented poorly in 1E, but the concept of those characters was solid. In a fantasy roleplaying game, there should be a way to replicate just about any quasi-medieval or fantasy literature character. People will always try to create Monks, Bards, Jesters, etc. Let’s find a way to make them work!


Check out Oghma’s blog Temple of Iron and follow him on Twitter/Gab (@Oghma_EM). He’s a great guy with great content.

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5 thoughts on “Fighting Man, Priest, & Magic User Only?

  1. The problem I see with “classes” in general–as opposed to a skill based system like GURPS–is that there will always be gaps between them. You mentioned Fafhred and the Grey Mouser, but look at Nifft the Lean and Bahnard Hammerhands from “Nifft The Lean”–they are both fighter/thieves, but with different skill sets. No matter how many classes you invent, there will always be some mix of skills and abilities that don’t quite fit any class and you end up creating a new one.

    I like a system that lets me build from the ground up and create a unique character.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ground up systems like GURPS are great in theory. However, it seems like with the incredible number of options, character creation can take a looooooooooooooooong time. Is there a system that allows freeform character creation with just enough options for unique characters, but not an overwhelming number of options?

      From a fantasy roleplaying system perspective, ACKS, Chapter 4 in the Player’s Companion book, has a custom class creator, which allows you to create your own class from the ground up. It is not 100% freeform, but it allows for quite a bit of customization. A while back, I made a post about creating a Luchadore in ACKS and I used that class creator to do it.

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  2. The Thief is actually more unique than the monk, the bard, or the barbarian. Those are weaker or stronger versions of fighters with some (or none) “magical skills” thrown there, but the Thief changes the game completely with his skills, which cannot be reduced to mere “details.”

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