D&D General Character Classes should Mean Something in the Setting

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
He's a fighter means "He puts up a fight." It's a phrase we use even in the modern day. Usually about people with horrible illnesses when we wish to support our friends.

That said: There isn't one. There's no mechanical distinction and there's no cultural distinction between the two terms because there doesn't -need- to be a cultural or mechanical distinction between the two
Soo what you are saying is Fighter doesn't mean anything in the setting.
 

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Steampunkette

A5e 3rd Party Publisher!
Supporter
Soo what you are saying is Fighter doesn't mean anything in the setting.
I'm saying that Fighter means a -lot- of things in almost every setting.

Fighter means Knight, and Pit Fighter, it means Warrior and Bruiser. It means Archer and Soldier and more. It doesn't have a single definition in most settings.

And again, this isn't about Nomenclature, Minigiant. If your setting has Grofpbits in it who function as Sorcerers, the class. Who do the Magical Lineage/Random Chance/Whatever it is for your setting, then Sorcerer and Grofpbit are synonyms and the class fantasy for Sorcerer exists in the setting under the name "Grofpbit".

If your setting has Lineage Sorcerers as "Inheritors" and Freak Accident Sorcerers as "Aberrants" and people who gain Sorcerer abilities from Exposure to Magical Powers as "The Afflicted" then the class fantasy of Sorcerer exists in the setting and Sorcerer -means- something as a class in the cultural narrative, even if all of these Sorcerer-types use different subclasses. It also means that someone could role up a Fiend Warlock and claim that rather than a Patron they're an "Inheritor" of power from a Tiefling Ancestor (Assuming those things all exist) 'cause the concept is represented in the setting.

Whether it has a single definition or is an umbrella term for multiple things it still gets represented in the narrative and -means- something.
 

I'm saying that Fighter means a -lot- of things in almost every setting.

Fighter means Knight, and Pit Fighter, it means Warrior and Bruiser. It means Archer and Soldier and more. It doesn't have a single definition in most settings.

And again, this isn't about Nomenclature, Minigiant. If your setting has Grofpbits in it who function as Sorcerers, the class. Who do the Magical Lineage/Random Chance/Whatever it is for your setting, then Sorcerer and Grofpbit are synonyms and the class fantasy for Sorcerer exists in the setting under the name "Grofpbit".

If your setting has Lineage Sorcerers as "Inheritors" and Freak Accident Sorcerers as "Aberrants" and people who gain Sorcerer abilities from Exposure to Magical Powers as "The Afflicted" then the class fantasy of Sorcerer exists in the setting and Sorcerer -means- something as a class in the cultural narrative, even if all of these Sorcerer-types use different subclasses. It also means that someone could role up a Fiend Warlock and claim that rather than a Patron they're an "Inheritor" of power from a Tiefling Ancestor (Assuming those things all exist) 'cause the concept is represented in the setting.

Whether it has a single definition or is an umbrella term for multiple things it still gets represented in the narrative and -means- something.
See, this is where I'm still confused - all of the sorcerer origins have a base story about how they can fit into a setting.

Maybe if you explain how you would change the sorcerer's class description? What's missing?

Or is the problem with the setting itself and not the class?
 

Steampunkette

A5e 3rd Party Publisher!
Supporter
See, this is where I'm still confused - all of the sorcerer origins have a base story about how they can fit into a setting.

Maybe if you explain how you would change the sorcerer's class description? What's missing?

Or is the problem with the setting itself and not the class?
Setting. Not class. I'm sorry I haven't been able to make that more clear...

Sorcerer, as a class, works just fine. The issue is that settings typically do not reflect Sorcerers very well. They're not relevant to the narrative of the setting. A Wizard is usually behind any magical shenanigans that happen. Priests and Paladins do the clerical work. And Fighters are the primary movers and shakers of any settings politics because most of them have or devolve into warfare.

Warlocks are generally hunted/hated/delving into ancient lore, bards write their epic poems and spend their time in taverns or opera houses. Barbarians do their barbaric thing with whatever tribes the setting generally provides in abundance.

All of these things as background narrative for the setting. Not just your player character, but NPCs and Groups and Historical Events.

But settings aren't written with Sorcerers and the Class Fantasy of sorcerers in mind. They're generally, at best, an afterthought. Same thing with Artificers, Druids, Rangers, etc.
 

Setting. Not class. I'm sorry I haven't been able to make that more clear...

Sorcerer, as a class, works just fine. The issue is that settings typically do not reflect Sorcerers very well. They're not relevant to the narrative of the setting. A Wizard is usually behind any magical shenanigans that happen. Priests and Paladins do the clerical work. And Fighters are the primary movers and shakers of any settings politics because most of them have or devolve into warfare.

Warlocks are generally hunted/hated/delving into ancient lore, bards write their epic poems and spend their time in taverns or opera houses. Barbarians do their barbaric thing with whatever tribes the setting generally provides in abundance.

All of these things as background narrative for the setting. Not just your player character, but NPCs and Groups and Historical Events.

But settings aren't written with Sorcerers and the Class Fantasy of sorcerers in mind. They're generally, at best, an afterthought. Same thing with Artificers, Druids, Rangers, etc.
Ahhh. That clears up a lot, actually.

I don't use published settings, except as a place to steal ideas from, so it's a non-issue for me.
 

WRITER'S NOTE: People keep reading the first post of this thread, skip over all the discussion, and express their frustration at the idea of "Shoehorning" or "Locking" player character's roles in the story/game by class. That is not what this is about. This is about the -CULTURAL- expectations of the idea "Sorcerer" or "Druid" within a given narrative setting.

Not a specific setting. Nor a specific locking in of player concepts. If you want your Sorcerer mechanically to be a Wizard narratively, that's entirely cool at my table and should be at any table. If your Sorcerer gains his Aberrant Mind powers from a Vestige of the Ashen Lands people will call him a Warlock in-character because that's what warlocks are known for, in that world.

This thread is about cultural expectations of class identity, how that class identity affects the world, and similar stuff.

There are 5-6 different posts in this thread where I have to repeat myself that it's not about players being stuck with only one or two character concepts available.



After reading the LevelUp Cleric I wanted to share something that I've felt is a real problem with several character classes in D&D: They have Fantasy Associations, but no World-Anchoring.

Yeah, a Sorcerer is descended from a powerful ancestor. But other than "LoL! You had to -study- to learn magic? Pleb!" type jokes and statements, what does that -mean- for the world? What interactions does the existence of magic people from birth really mean? And I'm not talking about "My baby cast prestidigitation and scared the babysitter" I'm talking on a Cultural Level.

In a setting I've been designing, I had honestly considered just flatly cutting Sorcerers out of the game, entirely. They seemed almost pointless, like a vestigial nub of some greater narrative purpose that was never fulfilled. But then it hit me: Arcane Nobility.

In the real world we have the idea of Bloodlines being important. Generally directed towards Politicians and the Rich. Because in both of those instances, Wealth and Power are handed down to the next generation over time. The Queen of England will eventually die and someone else from the royal family will become King or Queen or whatever. It's how we got Keeping up with the Kardashians, too. The wealthy progenitor hands big bundles of cash and affluence to their child.

In a world of magic... isn't Sorcery the same thing? Wouldn't a Draconic Sorcerer be the offspring (legal or illicit) of a family line of Sorcerers? Couldn't that lead to a whole -mess- of questions and presumptions? How about social entanglements and responsibilities? And hey, if your Sorcerer is the bastard son of the local Magocratic Ruler, you're also looking at being kidnapped and sent away, imprisoned, or straight up assassinated to avoid political fallout or someone grooming you to claim the throne as the "Rightful Heir".

Wouldn't such families do what we did in reality and try to keep the power for themselves? We're not just talking political marriages and inbreeding (which definitely could be a thing that leads to children with -strange- sorcery) but also about the Persecution of Warlocks and Wizards who are democratizing magic by being able to wield it while not being a part of a special bloodline. And also teach it to -others-?! Unacceptable! Laws must be passed! Halls of extremely prestigious study must be formed! Only the wealthiest, noblest, most favoured families shall be allowed to Learn Magic from a Wizard! All of which are of course at the purview of your local Magocrat.

Artificers, similarly, have this problem. They exist in most D&D settings for the purpose of existing. Sometimes, like in Eberron, they're the "Driving Force" behind technological (or more often magitechnological) advancement in the setting. But what is an -adventuring- Artificer? I wound up deputizing them as a special kind of Anti-Magic Magic-Cop in the setting. Their natural inquisitiveness allows them to CSI things up really nicely, add in some magical talents and understanding of the Arcane, and you've got a pretty decent Wizard-Hunter who can work for the Sorcerous Nobility to track down Witches and Warlocks and other Spellcasters who break the rules meant to keep power in the hands of the few...

Some classes, like Fighter or Rogue, should be pretty flexible, rather than tied into the setting, it's true. Though of course they should have -options- for ties to the setting, like Knightly Orders, Revolutionary Groups, or Thieves Guilds.

But what are some character classes that you feel need some kind of narrative anchor to not feel "Extra"?
I fully agree on you assumption. I would even go further by saying the mechanics of a class should also matter.

I have been accused of restraining my players (where we all agreed on what we're doing through votes by the way.) because I enforce players' decisions and background's flaw. Your warlock want to have an infernal master? Fine by me, but be ready to be at cross purpose with the other players if they fight Infernals... A patron will always have a motive in giving a warlock powers. And if you don't abide by your contract, say bye bye to your powers. Permanently.

The same goes with paladins. Respect you oath and play it. I do not allow oath breakers, so losing your paladin powers might mean that you will be a fighter for a while until you redeem yourself somehow. And clerics.. What good is it to play a cleric with the deity of life if you kill everything in sight? And do you even try to convert new devotees to your religion? If not, why do you play a cleric? Religion and gods are a real thing in a fantasy setting. Play it!

All classes, races and especially backgrounds matters. You want to have a criminal background? Sure, but the law will not be on your side. Reputation matters and depending on the setting, it might be easy to lose.

You want to play an half orc in a place where war with orcs are common? Be ready to be the target of suspicious stares and have a lack of cooperation with the native. You want to play a strange race that is not in the setting? Fine, but again, people might be suspicious if not downright hostile. Not every world is the Mos Esley cantina...

And do not get me wrong. I rarely say:"No!" to a player. But I do explain what could be the consequences of some choices. The only reason I'll say:"No!" is to evil characters.
 

Steampunkette

A5e 3rd Party Publisher!
Supporter
I fully agree on you assumption. I would even go further by saying the mechanics of a class should also matter.

I have been accused of restraining my players (where we all agreed on what we're doing through votes by the way.) because I enforce players' decisions and background's flaw. Your warlock want to have an infernal master? Fine by me, but be ready to be at cross purpose with the other players if they fight Infernals... A patron will always have a motive in giving a warlock powers. And if you don't abide by your contract, say bye bye to your powers. Permanently.

The same goes with paladins. Respect you oath and play it. I do not allow oath breakers, so losing your paladin powers might mean that you will be a fighter for a while until you redeem yourself somehow. And clerics.. What good is it to play a cleric with the deity of life if you kill everything in sight? And do you even try to convert new devotees to your religion? If not, why do you play a cleric? Religion and gods are a real thing in a fantasy setting. Play it!

All classes, races and especially backgrounds matters. You want to have a criminal background? Sure, but the law will not be on your side. Reputation matters and depending on the setting, it might be easy to lose.

You want to play an half orc in a place where war with orcs are common? Be ready to be the target of suspicious stares and have a lack of cooperation with the native. You want to play a strange race that is not in the setting? Fine, but again, people might be suspicious if not downright hostile. Not every world is the Mos Esley cantina...

And do not get me wrong. I rarely say:"No!" to a player. But I do explain what could be the consequences of some choices. The only reason I'll say:"No!" is to evil characters.
... so when are you starting a new campaign and where can I sign up?
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I'm saying that Fighter means a -lot- of things in almost every setting.

Fighter means Knight, and Pit Fighter, it means Warrior and Bruiser. It means Archer and Soldier and more. It doesn't have a single definition in most settings.

And again, this isn't about Nomenclature, Minigiant. If your setting has Grofpbits in it who function as Sorcerers, the class. Who do the Magical Lineage/Random Chance/Whatever it is for your setting, then Sorcerer and Grofpbit are synonyms and the class fantasy for Sorcerer exists in the setting under the name "Grofpbit".

If your setting has Lineage Sorcerers as "Inheritors" and Freak Accident Sorcerers as "Aberrants" and people who gain Sorcerer abilities from Exposure to Magical Powers as "The Afflicted" then the class fantasy of Sorcerer exists in the setting and Sorcerer -means- something as a class in the cultural narrative, even if all of these Sorcerer-types use different subclasses. It also means that someone could role up a Fiend Warlock and claim that rather than a Patron they're an "Inheritor" of power from a Tiefling Ancestor (Assuming those things all exist) 'cause the concept is represented in the setting.

Whether it has a single definition or is an umbrella term for multiple things it still gets represented in the narrative and -means- something.

It's not about the name.

My point is if the class' meaning is extremely broad and general in scope, the the representation of that class is meaningless.

Especially when compared to other classes with tighter and specific meanings.
 

Mind of tempest

(he/him)advocate for 5e psionics
... so when are you starting a new campaign and where can I sign up?
same honestly.
It's not about the name.

My point is if the class' meaning is extremely broad and general in scope, the the representation of that class is meaningless.

Especially when compared to other classes with tighter and specific meanings.
I believe you and steampunk are in agreement on that technically.
 

Steampunkette

A5e 3rd Party Publisher!
Supporter
It's not about the name.

My point is if the class' meaning is extremely broad and general in scope, the the representation of that class is meaningless.

Especially when compared to other classes with tighter and specific meanings.
I understand your point from a grammatical standpoint. But to quote the Bard:

What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; so Romeo would, were he not Romeo called.”

Fighters are roses. There are many kinds of fighters, as many kinds as there are breeds of roses. But a Floribunda Rose, for all it's beauty, is not all that a Rose can be, nor a Knight all that a Fighter can be.

Nor does the title of "Rose" become diminished just because there's only a single "Corpse Flower" (Amorphophallus Titanum) in the whole plant kingdom.

There is a point where words becoming meaningless by definition, so dilute and diverse that they essentially mean nothing. But fighter? I do not agree that it is anywhere near that point.

Because it's about the Class Fantasy. And the Class Fantasy of Fighter is "Hits other people with a weapon -really- well!". And yeah, it's definitely a hell of a lot broader than the class fantasy of a Warlock... but it's not impossibly so.
 

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