View Full Version : Character Class: Game, or Meta-game?

2007-10-17, 12:06 AM
Is Wizard a profession, or an otherwise identifying characteristic of a person? (the same question can replace "Wizard" with any other character class)

Or is is Wizard a meta-game mechanic which means that your character has one or more levels of the class and uses the rules for the class as they advanced those levels?

Does the Barbarian 2 / Fighter 2 / Rogue 2 / Cleric 2 have schizophrenia and issues with commitment or a difficulty holding down a job?

Or is the Barbarian 2 / Fighter 2 / Rogue 2 / Cleric 2 a pious (Priest) raging (Rage) fighting-man who picked up some fancy tricks (Feats), while also being good at disarming traps and moving silently (Rogue)?

In your campaign, are the PCs known by their classes, or do they make their own identity while multi-classing to fit their character concept (or even their power gaming goals)?

2007-10-17, 12:11 AM
The answer is yes. And no. Certain classes are very fluff-heavy. Such as cleric, paladin, druid, warlock, etc. Other classes have very little fluff ties to the class, such as fighter and rogue, which can do pretty much fit a lot of roles.

2007-10-17, 12:12 AM
It depends heavily on the class and how much fluff has to be associated with it for its mechanics to work. For example, it's hard to reflavor a Wizard as anything else because the basic mechanic of preparing spells from a spellbook is in and of itself very wizardy. However, an Archivist might be considered a Wizard who has a knack for a different style of magic.

The in-game difference between a Fighter, Warblade, or Fighter/Warblade is much less.

In my game, a multi-class character is not a multi-class character within the game, he's just a guy with a variety of abilities that might not normally be associated with one another. A Barbarian/Fighter/Rogue/Cleric, barring some weird cheese to make all the class abilities stack or something, would seem not so much schizophrenic as unfocused.

2007-10-17, 12:12 AM
In my mind, most classes are treated as sets of mechanics, rather than specific professions. Fighter, Rogue, Barbarian (I always preferred the name Berserker), even Bards.

Some classes, however, are more easily identified in-game. While there are a wide variety of possible Paladins, they all probably identify as Paladins or some synonym. Wizards are naturally prone to create their own subculture, due to how spells can be written down. Druids have a culture, or at least a language, written into the class. Clerics, like Paladins, are all pretty similar, even across religious boundaries.

In summary, it, like all things, depends.

2007-10-17, 12:13 AM
Classes are a metagame concept. There is no in game way to identify what class someone is, there is no detect wizard spell (though a spell that detect arcane casters would be possible).

Given, many classes lend themselves very well to certain professions. For example, fighters make great soldiers, guards, and mercenaries, but a fighter can also be a thief, a craftsman, a priest, or whatever, so long as it doesn't require an ability (such as spellcasting) that a fighter does not possess.

A multiclass character isn't neccesarly someone who has a bunch of jobs, it just happens to be someone who has a broad range of skills, or has a focus that isn't properly represented by just one class.

2007-10-17, 12:22 AM
It depends on the campaign setting. For example, in the OOTS universe, the PC classes are either subsets of the profession "adventurer" (such as in the case of the PCs) OR a means to an end in terms of a profession (such as Lord Shojo's aristocrat levels - his profession isn't "aristocrat" - he's the Lord of Azure City, but his aristocrat levels help him with that) OR sometimes, the class is a job in and of itself (as with the Saphire Guard - their job is literally to be a paladin and go on paladin-related missions for their leader. For a simpler example, Shojo's wizards' job is to do wizardy things for Shojo).

It's typically one of those three things, although sometimes it's an impossiblility to have a class be a profession. Try searching for professional barbarians and you'll see what I mean. One exception might be Conan.

Finally, I've noticed that generally, the more multiclassing a player does, the less likely it is that their job can be summarized adequately by their classes without being verbose or silly. This goes for NPC's too. I introduced King Falyix in my campaign as exactly that - King Falyix of the human realm of Amyria, not as Falyix the Paladin8/Rogue6/Aristocrat4. Note that something like Tallomis the Bard sounds a lot better if you just want to describe by class.

As for how things go in my campaigns, it depends on the setting (as I mentioned above) and on how the plot rolls out. In a game I'm running right now, none of the players have a job that is consistent with the classes they've taken. It's not bad - it's just how things have worked out.

Edit: Holy Smokes, Batman! Quadruple Ninja'd!

2007-10-17, 12:59 AM
It's basically up to the character, but the default answer (IMHO) is "meta-game."

There are some exceptions.

A Purple Dragon Knight will probably only exist if he actually joins an in-character group called the Purple Dragon Knights, and then he will think of himself as a Purple Dragon Knight. (Although even then, it depends on the character, and on how strict the DM is in enforcing "Special" fluff-based prerequisites for PrC's.)

On the other hand, there are a few classes that are so generic that it's probably bad roleplaying for the character to think of themselves based on that particular word. This includes Fighters (who will probably think of themselves as "warriors," "soldiers," "mercenaries," "thugs," "tough guys," "veterans," "guards," "martial artists," "archers," "assault units," "champions," "heroes," or something like that rather than "fighters") or Rogues ("thieves," "diplomats," "engineers," "normal guys who get in trouble a lot," "opportunists," "scouts," "spies," "assassins," etc.).

Barbarian, Sorcerer, and Ranger are three of many examples where the character could easily go either way. He could think of himself as "a ranger," or just as "a warrior" (who happens to have good wilderness and stealth skills, and occasionally strangely has his prayers to the goddess of nature answered).

It can also be very setting-specific. Most people who use Tome of Battle don't use the academy of Nine Swords fluff in their setting, which usually means Warblades might be no different, in-character, from Warriors or Fighters or Marshalls or some Rangers or ... you get the idea. On the other hand, if the setting does have the Nine Swords place in it, and warriors trained there (or in a few other specific places, like a hobgoblin elite guard) have a reputation of pulling off truly elite stunts in combat, then the in-character concept of "a Warblade" actually might exist.

2007-10-17, 02:39 AM
Everyone's pretty much said how the core classes work (yes the wizard probably is thought of as a wizard, no the fighter dosen't think of himself as a fighter, the paladin probably thinks of himself as a divine champion of good and law, etc). Prestige classes OTOH, tend to very much be an in game concept. Your PrC might be, Knight of the Order of St. Mcgregor, that probably means their was a Sir Mcgregor, and he did something impressive to get saint hood bestowed upon him by a church, and your character is now a member of the order dedicated to his memory. If your a Frenzied Berserker, you're definitely a battle rager, where as a Barbarian (despite what everyone seems to think) could be a woodsmen who happens to fly into a fury when engaged in combat.

2007-10-17, 04:14 AM
classes are a meta game title, this is most common with the cleric. in most cases a evil humanoid like a goblin or orc who has levels in cleric is a shaman, witch doctor, priest, etc.

however there are some exceptions. obviously the order of the jade phoenix mage, radiant servant of pelor, or other classes that tie themselves to an organization are more likely to be titles or professions.

generally most PCs, no matter what class, are adventurers by profession. however if you look at some iconic NPCs like Durnan or mirt the moneylender, who have many levels in core classes, but are a tavern keeper and moneylender by trade.

2007-10-17, 04:19 AM
What everyone else said. On the other hand, I think that other people will actually identify characters as their classes (or primary class type) quite often.

For example. A Rough-n-ready mercenary, a warrior-poet, a missionary, a conjurer, and a proud warrior of the Gaesyti Clan all walk into town. Bob the peasant looks up from his work and sees a fighter, a bard, a cleric, a wizard, and a barbarian.

The mercenary is a man who makes his trade in combat, he is a fighter
the warrior-poet tells tales and composes phrase, he is a bard
the missionary preaches a faith, he must be a cleric
the conjurer is wearing a robe and a pointy hat, he is obviously a wizard
and the proud warrior is wearing strange clothing and speaks with an accent, and what's more he has the most barbaric customs

Not always, of course, sometimes a rogue is quite clearly a police inspector, and a warblade/swashbuckler/scout is probably thought of as a "fighter" just as much as a full fighter.

2007-10-17, 06:25 AM
Neither game of meta-game, but a harmonious mix of both. As long as people are not malicious, stupid or maliciously stupid about them, the classes exist to aid your roleplaying and for your roleplaying to aid them.

Kurald Galain
2007-10-17, 06:28 AM
Metagame, with the exception of some presclasses that specify they are an organization.

Although obviously most paladin-classed characters will identify themselves as "paladins" (or holy knight, crusader, whatever), it's quite possible that a fighter/cleric dual class identifies likewise, or that a paladin-class identifies otherwise.

Some wizards may call themselves shamen, or sages, or whatnot; some non-wizards (in particular, archivists, and some kind of priests) may call themselves wizards.


2007-10-17, 07:53 AM
sometimes i forget which forum this is:

Because the giant knows your fears (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0209.html)

Josh the Aspie
2007-10-17, 09:01 AM
Heee. Yes. I recall that.

I'd just like to point out that according to fluff, "All paladins, regardless of background, recognize in each other an eternal bond that transcends culture, race, and even religion. Any two paladins, even from opposite sides of the world, consider themselves comrades."

I like this particular bit of fluff, and so when I'm in a campaign that doesn't specifically contradict this bit, and I'm playing a Paladin, I will likely have my character identify as such.

Now, one of my current characters in an Eberron campaign is a Cleric 1 / Paladin 2 of the Silver Flame. She found the calling of a Paladin late in life. As a Cleric, and as a Paladin, she is a member of the order Templar, which qualifies her for the title of Knight. When others see her in her armor, and her silver Tabard, they identify her as a Knight Templar, not as a Paladin. However when she identifies herself she identifies herself as a "Paladin of the Order Templar", or if in court and her title actually serves some use, a "Paladin of the Knights Templar."

And I'm fairly sure that if she met a Paladin of Dol Arrah, the two would get along famously, and would wind up annoying the rest of the group by debating the finer points of honor and mercy, as well as religion. In a polite way of course.

By the way, she has the exalted feats holy subdual, and azure smite, and is going the charging paladin rout. The DM has ruled that if I convert my smite using holy subdual, I can smite things vulnerable to non-lethal damage even if they aren't evil. My default method of attack with her is a charging smite non-lethal with a greatsword. She also uses a very nice long bow. She has -no- magic because I couldn't afford it, her armor, and her weapons at level 3. ^_^

2007-10-17, 09:26 AM
The tricky part of the class, Game or Metagame arguement is around level for me. Level is a Metagame mechanic that can have in game consequences for some spells and can open up specific capabilites for a PC dependant on level. So there comes a point in an adenvturers career that they are (or at least should be) able to work out the basic strengh of the people they meet, to an astonishingly accurate degree for spellcasters using their highest spellslots. When a paladin reaches third level they become immune to disese... diasese.. deisesse (germs:smallmad: ) and that can be noticed and commented on IN character, which can be very off putting for those players who want dnd to simulate a real world

Josh the Aspie
2007-10-17, 09:28 AM
I'd just like to note that with my current in game employer I'd really rather already be immune to disease thank you. Especially if she's going to want to... er... do certain things relating to her apparent chosen profession.

Yuki Akuma
2007-10-17, 10:03 AM
I think it would be terribly bad roleplaying for a knowledgeable person being completely unaware of class titles such as Wizard or Paladin. These are real, in-world terms; a college that teaches people how to cast arcane spells out of books is a Wizard's College, a knight who serves the ideals of goodness and chivalry is a Paladin, a person who is granted divine powers by their god is a Cleric, et cetera.

Of course, it's also terribly bad roleplaying to assume that just because someone can identify a Wizard that they can also identify a Fighter or a Rogue just by looking at them, or that anyone would ever use the words as titles rather than adjectives.

2007-10-17, 10:18 AM
I generally only use the class if it fits, otherwise it is a metagame concept.

Put a rogue, fighter, ranger, paladin and barbarian together and they all look about the same. Lets dub them warriors.

Combat starts.

The slightly haggard guy screams a primal scream and goes nuts and you will think, "gee, he might be from one of those northern barbarian tribes." You still might call him a warrior, since usually the term "barbarian" is derogitory.

The rogue dives into the shadows and then suprises a guy and skewers his spleen. "That's one sneaky guy." You'd still call him a warrior or swordsman.

Paladins and fighters can look pretty similar to the common person. If the fighter is pious and wears a holy symbol its pretty hard to spot the difference until the paladin lays hands or the like.

Unless the paladin's order refers to themselves as Paladins, it can vary. Holy Knight, Holy INterceptor, Inquisitor can all be paladins and not be part of those prestige classes.

Generally I let the PC's decide what they want to be called. Heck I had a rogue once who had a few ranks in perform (flute) who was generally called a bard.

2007-10-17, 12:48 PM
I had a character back in 2nd edition, who was absolutely not a thief. He only worked on behalf of a legitimate owner, or in cases where there was no legitimate owner. He was a Professional Treasure-Hunter, which just coincidentally happens to have the same set of capabilities as a thief.

That said, I imagine that wizards, at least, have some concept of not only their class, but of levels. With all of the sharing of spells, they form a definite, well-defined community, and there's also a pretty clear difference between being able to cast a particular spell, and not being able to. So they probably have some concept of "A wizard of the third circle", for instance, as being a wizard capable of casting Fireball, Haste, and Dispell Magic (in other words, fifth level). They might even cut it down finer, to "A greater wizard of the third circle", or some such, for a wizard who can cast more Fireballs each day, but who can't yet cast Polymorph (that is to say, sixth level). But they still probably don't have any notion that a swordsman who can strike at all the enemies surrounding him at once is in some way equivalent to a greater wizard of the third circle (i.e., both being sixth-level characters).