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General Is character class an in-world concept in your campaigns?

jsaving

Adventurer
People are mixing up two different questions here. One is whether adventurers understand themselves to be members of a class rather than simply an arcane caster, axe wielder, etc. The other is whether 0-level people have enough familiarity with uncommon occupations to correctly distinguish wizard from sorcerer, fighter from barbarian, etc.

There's plenty of precedent in D&D novels and modules for classes being an in-game concept. Salvatore even sometimes uses character level, or at least readily recognizable 1st edition and 2nd edition level titles, as an in-game concept. So sure, we follow these precedents and assume people with class levels understand themselves to be members of their class. However, we don't assume random citizens can necessarily distinguish between classes, any more than random real-world citizens can correctly distinguish optometrists from ophthalmologists or osteopaths from orthopedists.
 

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Yenrak

Explorer
Not really.

I think that in-world people recognize different types but not anything as strict as character classes. An elf fighter and an elf rogue wouldn't necessarily think they were different classes but perhaps just folks with different fighting styles.
 

cbwjm

Hero
In some cases I use the classes as something distinct, mostly between spellcasters. My Draconis Sorcere faction is a faction of sorcerers with the draconic bloodline and they will not accept bards, wizards, or warlocks into their ranks.

However, a thieves guild might be made up of all kinds of classes, all called thieves. Warriors of all kinds might be knights or mercenaries or soldiers. So really it depends on a case by case basis.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Yes, and no.

No, in the sense that it is impossible to devise a spell like "Detect Class" that would successfully detect the class or classes a character in universe has. Class exists only in the metagame and is a simplified abstraction representing typical combinations of skills and backgrounds that exist in the fictional universe. Class exists for reasons that are strictly metagame, such as insuring that all characters will have broad skills rather than simply narrow and deep ones.

Yes, in the sense that spell-casting classes do really have different traditions that lead to very different sources of their power. While ultimately they are all practicing the same sort of magic, how that magic is empowered varies greatly between classes. An in universe character can recognize when a character is practicing shamanic magic and differentiate it from say wizardly magic, sorcerous magic, or clerical magic. In character, people would not say that the person's "class" was shaman or wizard, but they would be able to say (correctly) that another person was a shaman or a wizard, or that they had the profession, skills, or training of a shaman or wizard. And each person wanting to successfully practice that magic, would have certain features in common that would be shared across all other persons that practiced magic of the same sort.

So in this sense, people in universe are able to distinguish between a wizard and a sorcerer or a shaman and a cleric, in a way that they would be unable to precisely distinguish between a fighter, explorer, rogue, brute, warrior, paragon, expert or fanatic, or someone that was some combination of those things. Nor would they be able to easily distinguish between a low level wizard, a sage, and member of another class that dabbled in arcane magic without being an actual wizard. All three persons, if asked, "Are you a wizard?", might well answer, "Not really. I am only a dabbler." or else "At one time I studied such matters, but not any more." They would not understand the question to mean, "Do you have a level in the class wizard?", a question that would for the most part make sense only in the metagame.

On the other hand, someone from the wizardly tradition could answer a question like, "What is the highest level of spell you can cast?", and would understand what was meant by this question, though in the game world this would likely be asked as, "What circle of arcane mystery have you penetrated?" However, if they answered, "The 4th circle/level.", it would be possibly erroneous to guess that they were a 7th level wizard because a sufficiently high level sage can also cast 4th level spells. Attempts to exactly reconstruct what level they were by enumerating available spell slots would run into problems of exactly reconstructing intelligence and aptitude and feats that modified spell slots. So, in short, they have a vague idea that spell-casting progresses in a way that could be described as levels, and wizards in particular have a regimented program of advances that they tend to adhere to avoid magical injury, they don't exactly know and do not try to figure out what 'level' people are. And it really would never occur to them that everyone has 'levels'. In game universe, they don't really. The levels and classes are just abstractions for a more complex fictional reality.
 

cbwjm

Hero
I'm not the only one who calls spell levels circles. A master of the 8th circle is someone to watch out for.

I did mention the difference between organisations and allowing different spellcasting classes, however, I should note that I'm also happy to use the wizard class as a sorcerer, in this case I normally ignore the spellbook and just have a number of spells prepped and don't worry about changing them. I could also see a sorcerer with ritual casting as a "wizard". Their spells are set but they are a knowledgeable master of the arcane.
 

ccs

40th lv DM
In my games, generally Yes.

Wizards, Priests, Paladins, Rangers, Assassins, Ninjas, Samaurai, Chevaliers, Monks, Druids, Alchemists etc & more are all known things.
You can easily find members of these classes or references to them.


Terms like Warlock/Witch/Sorcerer/Barbarian/Thief/Warrior/Knight/etc? They exist, but might easily be misapplied. Even by members of those classes.
  • For example; my 1/2ling warlock has no idea that there's an actual term that describes how she learns her magic & her relationship to her patron. She might sometimes say that she's a "Magic User", but usually just calls herself "An Awesome Adventurer". She knows though that she's not a wizard.
  • Meanwhile her sister, my 1/2ling barbarian, would never refer to herself by any type of class name. (She doesn't even identify as an adventurer, though she is a legit hero) She simply fights in an undisciplined, desperate, savage way as that's how she was forced to learn how to survive after being captured by orc raiders.

"Fighter" doesn't exist as it's own thing, or even really a description - rather members of this class are your soldiers, warriors, archers, spearmen, etc.
 

At some point during our last game session, I turned to our warlock and said "I expected you to help us with that, sorcerer", and his answer was "I'm not a sorcerer, I'm a warlock". My reply was "warlock, sorcerer, wizard, conjurer, or mage, I don't care, it's all the same", to which he answered, "it's the same for you, who have no understanding of arcane matters".

So, is character class an in-world concept in your campaigns? Could the mightiest sorcerer in your world be in fact a 20th-level wizard? If my oath of vengeance paladin was trained as part of a monastic order, would other people disagree if he referred to himself and other members of his order as warrior monks and tell him that monks are supposed to fight unarmored?

To answer my own question, except for some very specific situations, like druids in AD&D 2e, I never treated character class as an in-world concept. In my own games, a light-armored fighter with a criminal background does not see himself as fundamentally different from someone with levels in the rogue class.

What about your own campaigns?
My answer is this: "Definitely. Sorta. No. Did you know vlad tepes officially held the rank of paladin? Also knight. Also prince. Also count. He did btw." Also a healthy dose "its complicated" is in my answer.

Consider the following: a cleric could likely be in game known as or think of itself as or be called a cleric, priest, saint, bishop, monk, or cultist and cleric is not even the most likely word for him to be known by.

Or by their other profession. Maybe a preacher, doctor, teacher, archivist or whatever. Maybe multiple.

A favored soul: cleric, priest, saint, favored soul, the chosen one (watch out for sand and evil space wizards), bishop, cultist, warlock, sorceror, demigod, godling, half-mortal, cambion, miracle man, and so on.

Or by their other profession. Maybe a poet, seer, theif, cult leader or whatever. Maybe multiple.

Paladin: paladin, cleric, saint, knight, bishop, and so on.

Or by their other profession. Maybe a veteran, war hero, soldier, protector, body guard, guard, priest or whatever. Maybe multiple.

This list goes on and on for basically most classes i can think of. Its one of those things where its kinda ingame. But it is kinda not too. And it really is character, region, and language specific. And you even have this inter classially (that is not a word. I know). In many cases a wizard is a guy who was born already a powerful sorceror and gained wizard schooling simply because his family couldnt possibly see him not going to the mage school as not being a waste of his raw talent and as a result out if game they progress as a wizard but in game they already have the innherent arcane potency and natural talent of a sorceror which is why they were schooled as a wizard in the first place but they are known by their friends to legitimately be both (as they literally have sprcerous talent but they focused it into thebdiscipline of a wizard.).

Look at vecna for example. Probably is a favored soul in the truest sense of the word. Is a god. Is a wizard. Has knowledge more fundemental than true naming. Is "sorcerous". And so on. Many things apply. Even if out of game on paper hes buolt strictly as a wizard with an undead template and divine ranks. In game hes so much more.
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
Berserkers were kind of a real world class in Scandinavia.

But. You can build games with societies that have caste systems where every member of a certain caste is the same class. They can be fun games.
 

Berserkers were kind of a real world class in Scandinavia.

But. You can build games with societies that have caste systems where every member of a certain caste is the same class. They can be fun games.
True. And they had an uncommon knowledge of performance enhancing drugs as well as medicine.

A close to real world version could be represented in game as it being a prestige class with a prereq of 1 (or another low number) level of either druid, rogue, or alchemist and an additional minimum entry requirement of (insert low number) ranks knowledge nature and the same in heal check. Add a feat for enhanced form of raging ability when under influence of recipe drug cocktail for added realism.
 

ad_hoc

Hero
There's plenty of precedent in D&D novels and modules for classes being an in-game concept. Salvatore even sometimes uses character level, or at least readily recognizable 1st edition and 2nd edition level titles, as an in-game concept. So sure, we follow these precedents and assume people with class levels understand themselves to be members of their class. However, we don't assume random citizens can necessarily distinguish between classes, any more than random real-world citizens can correctly distinguish optometrists from ophthalmologists or osteopaths from orthopedists.

My answer was from the point of view of 5e.

In 3e, for example, NPCs had levels and classes just like PCs did so in that world it would make sense for characters to know that they have the exact abilities of other characters. In that game each village or city also had an allotment of leveled NPCs so it was safe to assume that every town had X characters of Y level.
 

Also you get scenarios where you gotta ask yourself. Does the disposessed farmer (original profession) jack (known by his friends as lucky jack) know hes a latent sorceror level 2 (with a lot of unconsciously knee jerk cast subtle spells (not as the meta magic. As in spells that are just not obvious. There are actually quite a few)) bard level 1 with 2 levels worth of fighter capability or does he think hes just a really lucky rogue with a bit of musical talent? Or does he realize he really has no levels in rogue and is actually just a multi classed clusterf#$@? This is where the fourth wall becomes a strange thing of awkward perfection. By the way. In some editions it is actually core canon that more than half of sorcerors start casting spells before realizing they know how to cast any and may in fact have whole levels (obviously at the extremely low range) before actually realizing what is going on. So this really does happen.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
For my games it depends on the class and your closeness to them.

Much more so for the arcane classes for those who are affiliated. Wizards/Sorcerers/Warlocks mostly have inklings of the others and the distinctions between them.

Clerics/Druids get mixed up for Nature oriented priests, especially since Clerics are in Druid orders and Druids are in the priesthoods of those gods.

Barbarians are a social construct more so than a class, though there are people who fight with rage and passion, it's just another way of doing it and sometimes its powered by shamanistic totems or something.

Minstrels are more known while Bards are more legendary, through their own efforts :)

There are definitely Rogues, but rogue/roguish means what it does in our world, so you have rogues of all stripes (fighters, rogues, bards, whoever is a thief or roguish).

Rangers are Rangers, Scout Rogues, Druids, Fighters with outlanders, etc.

Monks are pretty rare and would be seen as something odd.

Paladins could certainly claim being from an order of monks.
 

I just realized a more basic way to answer this question than i before offered.

The in game functions exactly like the out of game on this one.

But the class build on the character sheet is much like the capabilities and skills of the real world are to us.

It doesnt directly define your titles or your resume. Or vice verse.
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
True. And they had an uncommon knowledge of performance enhancing drugs as well as medicine.

A close to real world version could be represented in game as it being a prestige class with a prereq of 1 (or another low number) level of either druid, rogue, or alchemist and an additional minimum entry requirement of (insert low number) ranks knowledge nature and the same in heal check. Add a feat for enhanced form of raging ability when under influence of recipe drug cocktail for added realism.
They weren’t performance enhancing drugs... um... they were magical potions. Yeah that’s it. Magical potions to get them to help them channel their ancestral spirits to um. Alchemy darn it.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
At some point during our last game session, I turned to our warlock and said "I expected you to help us with that, sorcerer", and his answer was "I'm not a sorcerer, I'm a warlock". My reply was "warlock, sorcerer, wizard, conjurer, or mage, I don't care, it's all the same", to which he answered, "it's the same for you, who have no understanding of arcane matters".

So, is character class an in-world concept in your campaigns? Could the mightiest sorcerer in your world be in fact a 20th-level wizard? If my oath of vengeance paladin was trained as part of a monastic order, would other people disagree if he referred to himself and other members of his order as warrior monks and tell him that monks are supposed to fight unarmored?

To answer my own question, except for some very specific situations, like druids in AD&D 2e, I never treated character class as an in-world concept. In my own games, a light-armored fighter with a criminal background does not see himself as fundamentally different from someone with levels in the rogue class.

What about your own campaigns?

Not explicitly class - however, certain classes do carry certain fictional baggage. The spell casting classes most notably all cast a bit differently. That difference does make it's way into the fiction. For example wizards are ones who study spells and sorcerers are those that cast without book or study. But in fiction the difference in casting may or may not be what distinguishes a wizard from a sorcerer. In my campaigns it's a hodgepodge - some classes carry a real difference from others in the fiction that can be easily codified and others don't.

Mostly the name of a class in the fiction is typically a descriptor that can be applied to multiple classes in my games - but sometimes the class name itself associates only with members of the given class. Sorcerers and wizards are a good example for my games of such a 1 to 1. However an in fiction barbarians could be a member of nearly any class.
 

They weren’t performance enhancing drugs... um... they were magical potions. Yeah that’s it. Magical potions to get them to help them channel their ancestral spirits to um. Alchemy darn it.
In the vast majority of cases the berserkers actually had 100% comprehension that what they were doing was taking performance enhancing drugs actually. The ones who thought it was magical were actually the outliers. The norse are one of those cultures that basically always seemed less advamced than they were when in fact they were typically more advamced than most. Its a thing. Sorta how the druids of the celts had aside from alchemic philosophy some actual ahead of their time chemical knowledge. Basically the norse are one of those groups that buck the general trend of medicinal advamcement as far as most cultures in a given time go. They would engage in religious rituals too but usually just because it would help psych them into the right mind set and also made them appear more fearsome to others.

In game you can take this or leave it. But the vast majority of the time the scandinavian berserkera actually knew exactly what they were doing.
 



Arnwolf666

Adventurer
In the vast majority of cases the berserkers actually had 100% comprehension that what they were doing was taking performance enhancing drugs actually. The ones who thought it was magical were actually the outliers. The norse are one of those cultures that basically always seemed less advamced than they were when in fact they were typically more advamced than most. Its a thing. Sorta how the druids of the celts had aside from alchemic philosophy some actual ahead of their time chemical knowledge. Basically the norse are one of those groups that buck the general trend of medicinal advamcement as far as most cultures in a given time go. They would engage in religious rituals too but usually just because it would help psych them into the right mind set and also made them appear more fearsome to others.

In game you can take this or leave it. But the vast majority of the time the scandinavian berserkera actually knew exactly what they were doing.
Great post. Yes I agree with the history. Just fluff I don’t like in my fantasy. Well I might use it in a specific campaign. Berserk always bothered. Personally I found it to be a vice and should make a person worse in combat. But that is another topic where the rules are clear and a homebrew solution would destroy player expectations.
 


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