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D&D General If D&D were created today, what would it look like?

Aldarc

Legend
Bards appear to struggle in D&D because they have no obvious role in combat. In non-combat oriented FRPGing I've never had any trouble incorporating characters whose schtick is dealing with people, performing for them (either mundanely or using magic, typically illusions), outwitting and gulling them, etc.
Bards weirdly seem to have better coverage and more usage in JRPGs.

I'm also a fan of a similar class/profession in Guild Wars 1 & 2 called the Mesmer. It was basically a mage focused on mind magic, chaos magic, and counter-magic: e.g., illusionism, enchanting, buffing, fast-casting, psionics, etc. So it was a bit like a bard, illusionist, enchanter, and psion rolled into one.

Yes! Even the Hexblade is a pale imitation of what an 'Elric' class would be. I messed around with making a Class for it, but so much of it is spread around a bunch of classes/subclasses at this point.
It's not as if the warlock is even mechanically required to interact with their patron or make lesser pacts along the way.
 

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There's a couple to maybe add to the list, on the warrior side:

The Legolas (nimble light-or-no-armour archer or sniper type)
The small-g gladiator (swords-and-sandals has had bursts of popularity since the 1950s and shows no signs of stopping)
The small-f fighter (using LotR comparisons, a cross between Boromir, Faramir and Gimli) as some people just want to hit things.
  • Legolas is just a Swashbuckler with a bow for a primary weapon. Literally every single trick he pulls in LotR is classic Swashbuckler stuff.
  • We're talking book 1 and Gladiator is not a book 1 class, no matter how good Spartacus was (it was very good, outrageously so for a show that verged on porn/splatterfest at times). Later though yes.
  • Nobody who "just wants to hit things" is going to be looking for a specific "extre-generic!!!" class to do it. That's not how people think. They'll just pick the Barbarian-equivalent or whoever has the most simple rules.
With no D&D, the LOTR movies would be even bigger hits due to uniqueness and Gandalf and Aragorn might stand out. Although with no D&Dto guid it, The Aragorn might meld with Jon Snow and Aquaman by then and have more narrow powers.
  • Gandalf has virtually nothing going on except his wisdom and mental fortitude - magic he ain't got much - he certainly shows absolutely no sign of being a diverse caster with a ton of abilities. He's barely even a spellcaster, and doesn't seem like a PC at all. I could buy a Merlin/Ged/"Gandalf" Archmage type class, but I'm skeptical that it wouldn't just be a Harry Potter with a lot of levels.
  • I'm still not sure what you think makes Aragorn a class. I'm not saying he doesn't have anything, but what are you thinking there? What exactly is "unique" about this class?
  • And I'm sorry guys but Fighter will never, ever, ever, ever be a class without the 1974 D&D's Fighting-Man. Not in a million years. And you can't have "Generic-ass Fighter" AND a bunch hyper-specific fighting-men. It won't happen. It's just not being realistic. The closest you might get is some sort of "Leader" or "Marshal"-type warrior class, who is pretty generic in terms of weapons/fighting, but a leader of men. Is that what you see for Aragorn?
 

  • Legolas is just a Swashbuckler with a bow for a primary weapon. Literally every single trick he pulls in LotR is classic Swashbuckler stuff.
  • We're talking book 1 and Gladiator is not a book 1 class, no matter how good Spartacus was (it was very good, outrageously so for a show that verged on porn/splatterfest at times). Later though yes.
  • Nobody who "just wants to hit things" is going to be looking for a specific "extre-generic!!!" class to do it. That's not how people think. They'll just pick the Barbarian-equivalent or whoever has the most simple rules.

  • Gandalf has virtually nothing going on except his wisdom and mental fortitude - magic he ain't got much - he certainly shows absolutely no sign of being a diverse caster with a ton of abilities. He's barely even a spellcaster, and doesn't seem like a PC at all. I could buy a Merlin/Ged/"Gandalf" Archmage type class, but I'm skeptical that it wouldn't just be a Harry Potter with a lot of levels.
  • I'm still not sure what you think makes Aragorn a class. I'm not saying he doesn't have anything, but what are you thinking there? What exactly is "unique" about this class?
  • And I'm sorry guys but Fighter will never, ever, ever, ever be a class without the 1974 D&D's Fighting-Man. Not in a million years. And you can't have "Generic-ass Fighter" AND a bunch hyper-specific fighting-men. It won't happen. It's just not being realistic. The closest you might get is some sort of "Leader" or "Marshal"-type warrior class, who is pretty generic in terms of weapons/fighting, but a leader of men. Is that what you see for Aragorn?
do they mean a ranger? like they guy apparently everyone copied
 

Faolyn

Hero
Gandalf has virtually nothing going on except his wisdom and mental fortitude - magic he ain't got much - he certainly shows absolutely no sign of being a diverse caster with a ton of abilities. He's barely even a spellcaster, and doesn't seem like a PC at all. I could buy a Merlin/Ged/"Gandalf" Archmage type class, but I'm skeptical that it wouldn't just be a Harry Potter with a lot of levels.
Well, we all know Gandalf is only a 5th-level Magic-User.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Gandalf has virtually nothing going on except his wisdom and mental fortitude - magic he ain't got much - he certainly shows absolutely no sign of being a diverse caster with a ton of abilities. He's barely even a spellcaster, and doesn't seem like a PC at all. I could buy a Merlin/Ged/"Gandalf" Archmage type class, but I'm skeptical that it wouldn't just be a Harry Potter with a lot of levels.

I think people will see Gandalf as a Merlin whether he actually casted magic like him or not. Old person with grey hair, a bunch of little magic tricks, and a sparky boom boom in his back-pocket would be a class.


I'm still not sure what you think makes Aragorn a class. I'm not saying he doesn't have anything, but what are you thinking there? What exactly is "unique" about this class?
Well Druid would not be a thing. So all the nature warriors with some supernatural power will get their gifts boosted. So Aragorn, John Snow, Dar, and some of the nature/animal/plant superheros would be rolled up into one class. Wildshape, beast companions, self heals, talking to animals/rocks/plants, and 15 different ways to entangle a foes will be grafted on a stripped down warrior chassis.


And I'm sorry guys but Fighter will never, ever, ever, ever be a class without the 1974 D&D's Fighting-Man. Not in a million years. And you can't have "Generic-ass Fighter" AND a bunch hyper-specific fighting-men. It won't happen. It's just not being realistic. The closest you might get is some sort of "Leader" or "Marshal"-type warrior class, who is pretty generic in terms of weapons/fighting, but a leader of men. Is that what you see for Aragorn?
I agree and disagree. There won't be a generic fighter like the 1974 one unless the designer is a lazy bum.

However I should see a Professional Soldier class that takes the role of the well trained commoner Man-At-Arms. It won't be generic as you'll likely be forced to specialize at level 1. No "Proficency in all simple and martial weapons and all armors".
 
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pemerton

Legend
I want to step out of the weeds of this debate about fighter/warrior classes.

Let's begin by looking at a different, contemporary RPG: Cthulhu Dark. Here is the character building process from that system:

Choose a name and occupation. Describe your Investigator.​

Here's the reason why your character's occupation matters:

To know how well you do at something, roll:​
* One die if the task is within human capabilities.​
* One die if it’s within your occupational expertise.​

Imagine adapting this system from Mythos RPGing to FRPGing: if I call my warrior character a samurai that gives my character a bonus die when riding, shooting my bow, fighting with a katana and (if the table has bought into a certain conception of the courtly life of samurai) composing a haiku. If I call my warrior a gladiator then I get a bonus die when fighting - even with weird weapons - and when revving up the crowd and maybe (if the table has bought into a certain conception of gladiators) when leading a slave revolt.

13th Age uses just this approach to PC backgrounds and their role in non-combat resolution; Cthulhu Dark just generalises it to the whole of the game. (And a mechanically more sophisticated approach to this sort of free descriptor-style of PC build can be found in Robin Laws's HeroWars/HeroQuest RPG.)

Now the reason original D&D needed only a single "fighting man" class was because it didn't have class abilities beyond what weapons can you use, what armour can you use, and what magic can you perform. The fighter class is the one that answers all, all, none.

There would be no point in an alternative, invented-today D&D having multiple fighter/warrior classes unless it was also going to have intricate and distinct lists of class abilities associated with each (along the lines of 4e D&D, or 5e D&D subclasses). But just as likely, as a design, would be to stick with a single fighter class (probably called warrior because I think that sounds less like a boxer and has a bit more resonance) and then just use some sort of background/free descriptor mechanic to distinguish gladiators from samurai from Robin Hood-style foresters etc.
 

I want to step out of the weeds of this debate about fighter/warrior classes.

Let's begin by looking at a different, contemporary RPG: Cthulhu Dark. Here is the character building process from that system:

Choose a name and occupation. Describe your Investigator.​

Here's the reason why your character's occupation matters:

To know how well you do at something, roll:​
* One die if the task is within human capabilities.​
* One die if it’s within your occupational expertise.​

Imagine adapting this system from Mythos RPGing to FRPGing: if I call my warrior character a samurai that gives my character a bonus die when riding, shooting my bow, fighting with a katana and (if the table has bought into a certain conception of the courtly life of samurai) composing a haiku. If I call my warrior a gladiator then I get a bonus die when fighting - even with weird weapons - and when revving up the crowd and maybe (if the table has bought into a certain conception of gladiators) when leading a slave revolt.

13th Age uses just this approach to PC backgrounds and their role in non-combat resolution; Cthulhu Dark just generalises it to the whole of the game. (And a mechanically more sophisticated approach to this sort of free descriptor-style of PC build can be found in Robin Laws's HeroWars/HeroQuest RPG.)

Now the reason original D&D needed only a single "fighting man" class was because it didn't have class abilities beyond what weapons can you use, what armour can you use, and what magic can you perform. The fighter class is the one that answers all, all, none.

There would be no point in an alternative, invented-today D&D having multiple fighter/warrior classes unless it was also going to have intricate and distinct lists of class abilities associated with each (along the lines of 4e D&D, or 5e D&D subclasses). But just as likely, as a design, would be to stick with a single fighter class (probably called warrior because I think that sounds less like a boxer and has a bit more resonance) and then just use some sort of background/free descriptor mechanic to distinguish gladiators from samurai from Robin Hood-style foresters etc.
By this logic, the only classes would be warrior and wizard.

At which point, I'd say they probably wouldn't do 'classes' at all and just have you pick a couple of skill-blocks. Which isn't a bad way to run it, especially if it's coming form a story-game background.
 

Concept wise, the classes and races would be pretty similar.
I think without D&D modern video game RPG's wouldn't exist. Heck, the fantasy book as a genre would be a lot less. Would the LotRs movies had been made? Maybe?

That said, this is something to think about. I think their take on race would be just as narrow. They would make all orcs evil. They probably wouldn't let players play most races. And the ones they did let them play, would be statistically uneven. Like the old Rolemaster Middle Earth where noldor elves got a +45 bonus to stats and the dunedain only got +20 and the dunlendings only got +10.

The reason for this is they wouldn't have had all the experiences and time to learn from past circumstances. So they would just model it after Tolkien or someone else's book.
 

pemerton

Legend
By this logic, the only classes would be warrior and wizard.
Frankly I think there's a lot to be said for this.

Another option - and I appreciate I'm sketching this at a pretty high level of generality - is to have (say) two bonus dice to start with, and you can allocate them across a mundane profession (which could include gladiator, samurai etc but also swashbuckler, guild thief, forester, lay brother from a priory, etc) or a sphere of supernatural ability.

A "fighter" or "thief" would be two dice into the mundane.

A warrior-mage or MU/thief and the like is one mundane die and one supernatural die in "arcane".

A paladin or traditional cleric is one mundane die and one supernatural die in "divine" - maybe there's scope to play with dice sizes and so a paladin is d8/d4 whereas a cleric is d6/d6. A druid would be one die in "primal/nature magic" and one die in mundane "forester" or "farmer" or similar.

A wizard is two dice in the "arcane", a cleric/MU one die in "arcane" and one in "divine" (and so less broken than the traditional AD&D cleric/MU) etc.

Maybe a two-dice character has to specialise with the second die, which is how a warrior/samurai differs from a warrior/gladiator, and how a mage/illusionist differs from a mage/elementalist.

Still staying at the overview level: I think if the game were to be created today and wasn't a cross-over from wargaming, there perhaps would be less reason to envisage the supernatural in terms of long lists of fairly concretely-defined abilities, and more reason to think of it in the way Cthulhu Dark or In A Wicked Age or HeroWars/Quest do, of opening up the fictional space for action declaration (eg an illusionist can declare "I hide" even though there's no cover; an elemental mage can declare "I blow them all up" even though s/he doesn't have a grenade ready to hand; etc). This allows a lean ruleset to cover a wide range of tropes.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Still staying at the overview level: I think if the game were to be created today and wasn't a cross-over from wargaming, there perhaps would be less reason to envisage the supernatural in terms of long lists of fairly concretely-defined abilities, and more reason to think of it in the way Cthulhu Dark or In A Wicked Age or HeroWars/Quest do, of opening up the fictional space for action declaration (eg an illusionist can declare "I hide" even though there's no cover; an elemental mage can declare "I blow them all up" even though s/he doesn't have a grenade ready to hand; etc). This allows a lean ruleset to cover a wide range of tropes.

I think the issues is degree of success and argeement of who has better odds in certian occassions.

For example, you can say all the warriors could be 2 dice characters.

But who has the advatange vs a mob of mook goblins? The strong warrior with heavy armor and a great-weapon OR the fast warror with light armor and 2 light weapons OR the sorta strong sorta agile warrior with the big shield and a long spear?

What about when they are fighting a single big ogre?
What about a pair of orcs?
How do they compare to the unarmored unarmed warrior using martial arts?

Such simplistic rulesets or low class number RPGs tend to sit around gameplay that doesn't get deep into specific areas nor allow for changing variable to be part of the challenge. They rely on everyone quickly agreeing on the logic behind the game. If total agreeming on the logic and how the tropes interact isn't quick or clean, they don't work. And D&D runs on a lot of tropes.
 

pemerton

Legend
I think the issues is degree of success and argeement of who has better odds in certian occassions.

For example, you can say all the warriors could be 2 dice characters.

But who has the advatange vs a mob of mook goblins? The strong warrior with heavy armor and a great-weapon OR the fast warror with light armor and 2 light weapons OR the sorta strong sorta agile warrior with the big shield and a long spear?

What about when they are fighting a single big ogre?
What about a pair of orcs?
How do they compare to the unarmored unarmed warrior using martial arts?

Such simplistic rulesets or low class number RPGs tend to sit around gameplay that doesn't get deep into specific areas nor allow for changing variable to be part of the challenge. They rely on everyone quickly agreeing on the logic behind the game. If total agreeming on the logic and how the tropes interact isn't quick or clean, they don't work. And D&D runs on a lot of tropes.
There are existing RPG rulebooks that address these sorts of questions to various degrees and in the context of their various resolution frameworks - for instance, Apocalypse World and Dungeon World; HeroQuest revised; Cthulhu Dark; Marvel Heroic RP; 13th Age.

Just as early versions of D&D gave the GM a lot of advice on how to introduce traps and tricks into the dungeon, and how to adjudicate them fairly, so may this imaginary version would give the GM a lot of advice on how to work with the group to adopt appropriate descriptors, how to manage the relationship between fiction and action declaration, etc.

5e D&D already has aspects of this as part of the game - for instance, when does it make sense to call for an INT rather than a WIS check, or a STR rather than DEX or CON check, etc - so it's not as if it's completely foreign to the spirit of D&D as it actually exists.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
There are existing RPG rulebooks that address these sorts of questions to various degrees and in the context of their various resolution frameworks - for instance, Apocalypse World and Dungeon World; HeroQuest revised; Cthulhu Dark; Marvel Heroic RP; 13th Age.

Just as early versions of D&D gave the GM a lot of advice on how to introduce traps and tricks into the dungeon, and how to adjudicate them fairly, so may this imaginary version would give the GM a lot of advice on how to work with the group to adopt appropriate descriptors, how to manage the relationship between fiction and action declaration, etc.

5e D&D already has aspects of this as part of the game - for instance, when does it make sense to call for an INT rather than a WIS check, or a STR rather than DEX or CON check, etc - so it's not as if it's completely foreign to the spirit of D&D as it actually exists.
My point was that players could not agree on how the tropes worked or interacted without a hard framework.

That's the source of most classes and the calls for new ones.

We couldn't agree on what die to do ranger stuff is. Or monk stuff. Or druid stuff. Then we couldn't argee on the stuff itself. So someone had to make the classes for each tableto have a skeleton to work from. And 2021's audience is even more diverse than 1974's.
 

pemerton

Legend
My point was that players could not agree on how the tropes worked or interacted without a hard framework.

That's the source of most classes and the calls for new ones.

We couldn't agree on what die to do ranger stuff is. Or monk stuff. Or druid stuff. Then we couldn't argee on the stuff itself. So someone had to make the classes for each tableto have a skeleton to work from. And 2021's audience is even more diverse than 1974's.
Well my feeling is that if D&D was being invented today it probably wouldn't be coming off a wargame chassis. And so would probably begin from the premise that cooperative play with a degree of self-restraint is a thing.

A free-descriptor system takes as given that different tables, and even the same table in different moods, might reach different views about what is within the capability of a forester and archer or a temple monk or a druid of the ancient order. What matters is that, on any given occasion of resolution, the table is able to reach broad consensus with non-obvious cases. HeroQuest revised tackles the issue of balancing wider and narrower descriptors, by way of ad hoc modifiers; so does Over the Edge (another descriptor-based game that I'd forgotten about upthread), by way of bonus dice for narrow descriptors. The version of D&D I'm imagining could include something similar, or alternatively it might have a rule that everyone has to choose a descriptor at what is an agreed and appropriate level of generality.

I realise that what I'm suggesting is a bit of a departure from the tradition of PC build based on ever-lengthening lists, but I thought that was part of the purpose of the thought experiment!
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Well my feeling is that if D&D was being invented today it probably wouldn't be coming off a wargame chassis. And so would probably begin from the premise that cooperative play with a degree of self-restraint is a thing.

Well that begs the question.

If D&D isn't built off a wargame chassis, what would it be coming off of?


Action video games?
Euro boardgame?
Trading card game?
Computer RTS
Hidden role party game?
LARP?

Each would determine the base class lists and the game's focus in mechanics.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
  • Legolas is just a Swashbuckler with a bow for a primary weapon. Literally every single trick he pulls in LotR is classic Swashbuckler stuff.
OK, I can get behind that; though I still think there's room for a missile-primary sniper or archer class separate from the melee-primary Swashbuckler/Pirate.
  • We're talking book 1 and Gladiator is not a book 1 class, no matter how good Spartacus was (it was very good, outrageously so for a show that verged on porn/splatterfest at times). Later though yes.
Agreed about Spartacus the series; but also look at all the other swords-and-sandals examples down the years - Ben Hur, Spartacus the movie, Gladiator, I Claudius, various biblical epics - it's not like the genre's never been heard of. In fact, it's not unthinkable that this AUDnD gets its start in this genre.
  • Nobody who "just wants to hit things" is going to be looking for a specific "extre-generic!!!" class to do it. That's not how people think. They'll just pick the Barbarian-equivalent or whoever has the most simple rules.
  • And I'm sorry guys but Fighter will never, ever, ever, ever be a class without the 1974 D&D's Fighting-Man. Not in a million years. And you can't have "Generic-ass Fighter" AND a bunch hyper-specific fighting-men.
Then what class is the third guard on the left in the king's throne room, or the experienced town militiaman at the gate? These are nothing more than "generic fighting people", and there's boatloads of them in any typical setting. Some of them are going to get rather good at what they do (which is generically fight); and some of those will likely end up adventuring. Might as well give 'em their own class, eh?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Well my feeling is that if D&D was being invented today it probably wouldn't be coming off a wargame chassis.
Quite likely.
And so would probably begin from the premise that cooperative play with a degree of self-restraint is a thing.
Nowhere near as likely. It's every bit as possible that the founding premise is as a competitive game between the PCs (similar in that respect to a boardgame): yes everyone wins if the party wins, but your real goal is still to be the best in the party.

Some of the chassis - that being the inspirations - would be similar to what we already have, with LotR at or near the top of the list*. It's not a big leap from some sort of LARP experience to thinking "how could we game-mechanize the LotR-style adventuring group such that we don't have to live-act it all out and thus can verge into the fantastic?".

Another big influence would be, I think, the SCA (or a similar group) and I believe there's a fair degree of overlap in people between the SCA and the LARP crew.

* - and a bunch of other good fantasy written since; as I don't think D&D's absence would have curtailed the expansion in fantasy writing that's been underway since about the late '60s/early '70s.
 


JEB

Adventurer
Well that begs the question.

If D&D isn't built off a wargame chassis, what would it be coming off of?

Action video games?
Euro boardgame?
Trading card game?
Computer RTS
Hidden role party game?
LARP?

Each would determine the base class lists and the game's focus in mechanics.
You forgot Choose Your Own Adventure and adventure computer games (a la Zork), and likely previous SF RPGs based around that approach to interactive fiction/gaming.

Doesn't mean 2021 D&D wouldn't base itself on one of those others, of course.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
You forgot Choose Your Own Adventure and adventure computer games (a la Zork),
Advent, Zork, et al. all post-date the release of D&D which means there's now no way of knowing how much influence D&D had on their design.

CYOA might have been around earlier in some form.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I think it'd originate within some combination of the LARP community and the SCA.
Actually I thing it would be a combined effort of LARPs, RTSs, and licensed action video games.

In D&D absence:

  • Wargames would get more digitized into TBS and RTS games. Warcraft will likely not be a thing but the AU will have its own Warcraft from another dev. Possible a major LOTR or Historic RTS in the 90s. If RTSes survive to 2021, I see a major ASOIAF RTS with hero units based of major characters.
  • LARP would continue and be more mythical with no D&D influence. It too might hit computers and online and develop classes based on whatever is popular in the 80s and 90s.
  • Then the $$$. Vidya gaems would be the main uniting codifier of archetypes as developer create character after character from book, TV, and movie series to sell play in their game for money. $10 to be Legolas means the Swashbuckler class gets good melee and ranged attack, light armor, and an ammo mechanic. $30 to play Cleganebowl mean the Fighter class can wear Extra Thick Heavy Plate for 20 AC and swing great weapons for a bajillion damage.
 

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