1E On the Origins of Classes (1e, OD&D)

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Hola!

So, one of the things I like to look into is the history of the game. And I'm always curious about the current state of research and/or received wisdom about the classes in D&D- where they came from, how we have the archetypes that we have, and so on. So I thought I'd start a post for people, if they want to, to discuss the history of classes in D&D. I'm concentrating on the origin of the 1e (AD&D) PHB classes. I'm not going into the full history here, just a brief sketch of my understanding of the origin- feel free to expand on anything you want in the comments!

I'll be using the non-standard order (class, subclass) as they appear in the 1e PHB. I'm also using the standard 1e names (sorry, Fighting Man). For first apeparances, I try to place the first appearance of the class (for example, in a periodical) as well as the first appearance in a core D&D rulebook.

This is a start to, hopefully, some cool discussion! If you see anything you don't think is correct- let me know! :)

CLERIC

First Appeared:
OD&D (Men & Magic)

Gygax?: Disputed. Gygax claims it as his invention, modeled after (among other things) Bishop Odo. For a variety of reasons, most people reject this claim, and believe that the Cleric is almost entirely based on Arneson's campaign, with Sir Fang etc.

Origin: Bishop Carr, played by Mike Carr, was the proto-cleric. He had mad skillz to defeat Sir Fang, and the Cleric was primarily based on the idea of the vampire hunter from Hammer Horror films. Some tweaks (no edged weapons, for example) were added by Gygax.



DRUID

First Appeared: OD&D (Eldritch Wizardry)

Gygax?: No. Dennis "Chariot of" Sustare invented the Druid.

Origin: Dennis, who would later go on to create Bunnies and Burrows, wanted to create a character related to plants and animals, loosely based on his understanding of the literature about early England.


FIGHTER

First Appeared:
Chainmail, OD&D (Men & Magic)

Gygax?: Sure? I mean, Gygax, Arneson, Perren ...

Origin:What came first, the chicken, or the egg?


PALADIN

There is no Paladin.





RANGER

First Appeared: The Strategic Review v. 1 #2, AD&D PHB.

Gygax?: No. Joe Fischer created the Ranger.

Origin: So, not to put to fine a point on this, but a fan really, really, really wanted to be Aragorn.



MAGIC-USER

First Appeared:
Chainmail, OD&D (Men & Magic)

Gygax?: Sure? I mean, Gygax, Arneson, Perren ...

Origin: What came first, the chicken, or the egg?



ILLUSIONIST

First Appeared:
The Strategic Review v. 1 #4, Dragon Magazine #1 & #12, AD&D PHB.

Gygax?: No. Peter Aronson introduced the class.

Origin: First appearing as an article in The Strategic Review by Peter Aronson, the class was created by a fan (Aronson) who really, really liked illusions, and especially the descriptions of spells like Phantasmal Force. h/t Playing at the World.


THIEF

First Appeared:
Great Plains Game Players Newsletter #9, OD&D (Greyhawk)

Gygax?: Hoo boy. Okay, so, kind of no. Gygax always steadfastly maintained sole credit for this, but exceptionally credible evidence exists that Gary Switzer & Aero Games made the Thief class, and while Gygax added some stuff to it and changed some stuff, it's largely the Aero Games' the thief.

Origin: This is the fine line between borrowing and theft, I guess? Anyway, the original thief had the skills you would expect from a so-called box-man who would deal with traps and safes (but not sneaking, climbing, etc.). Gygax switched the system to a percentile system (SO GYGAX) and added some details based on Zelazny and Vance.


ASSASSIN

First Appeared:
OD&D (Blackmoor)

Gygax?: While the book was "written" by Arneson, and it appears that the assassin first came from Arneson's campaign, it would also seem that the rules for the class may have come from Tim Kask when he was ....erm....helping? This one ... eh.... I actually can't find a reliable source on the true origin on this one!

Origin: Not a clue. Near as I can tell, there was a proto-thief in Arneson's campaign, but the Assassin is credited from Kask to Arneson (as in the usual- it was terrible and I edited but I still hate it- kind of credit). I got nothing on this one?

EDIT-
This thread
Is the best evidence for the assassin!

h/t @Alzrius




MONK


First Appeared:
OD&D (Blackmoor)

Gygax?: Um, no? This is very confused. The book is credited to Arneson, but Gygax definitely had a hand in it, but Biran Blume is credited with the design.

Origin: Arguably, the monk is based on the Destroyer series of novels and the general "kung fu" gestalt of the 70s.


BARD

First Appeared:
The Strategic Review v. 2 #1, AD&D PHB (Appendix)

Gygax?: No. Doug Schwegman wrote the original article that created the Bard class.

Origin: Weirdly, the original Bard as printed in TSR v.2#1 was a regular character class, and only became what we would now call a prestige class after Gygax transmogrified it in the PHB. This class actually has a detailed origin story, in that the creator, Doug Schwegman, explained it at the time, stating that the class was a melange of three specific influences- the norse skald, the celtic bard, and southern european minstrel. Specifically, however, the Bard is explained as being more in the mold of the Norse and, um, Celtic type than anything else, and thus should resemble a fighter with a little magical knowledge.
 
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Sacrosanct

Legend
I approve of this thread. Is Old Geezer (Mike Monard) still around? Haven’t heard from him in years. His feedback would be great. I hope nothing happened to him...
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I approve of this thread. Is Old Geezer (Mike Monard) still around? Haven’t heard from him in years. His feedback would be great. I hope nothing happened to him...
Dunno- I'm hoping I can learn something.

ESPECIALLY about the Assassin. It wasn't until I put up the list like this that I realized the mystery that is the Assassin.

Art imitating life imitating art?
 

ART!

Explorer
Subscribed, with keen interest. I've played the game since the late '70s, but I've never been a D&D scholar* or looked into the history of the game much.

*(maybe that should be a class!)
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Subscribed, with keen interest. I've played the game since the late '70s, but I've never been a D&D scholar* or looked into the history of the game much.

*(maybe that should be a class!)
Bonus fun fact!

The Sage was supposed to a PC class in the Blackmoor supplement (OD&D). Instead, we have a long and detailed sage NPC specialist (pp. 50-51).

WHY?

Arneson had a Sage Class, and it was in the manuscript. Kask edited to be an NPC.

So, yeah, it almost was an Original Class! :)
 
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Sacrosanct

Legend
Bonus fun fact!

The Sage was supposed to a PC class in the Blackmoor supplement (OD&D). Instead, we have a long and detailed sage NPC specialist (pp. 50-51).

WHY?

Arneson had a Sage Class, and it was in the manuscript. Kask edited to be an NPC.

So, yeah, it almost was an Original Class! :)


And an incredibly boring one at that 😉. Thank goodness for Kask
 

ART!

Explorer
Bonus fun fact!

The Sage was supposed to a PC class in the Blackmoor supplement (OD&D). Instead, we have a long and detailed sage NPC specialist (pp. 50-51).

WHY?

Arneson had a Sage Class, and it was in the manuscript. Kask edited to be an NPC.

So, yeah, it almost was an Original Class! :)
It's fascinating to think what early D&D could easily have been like if various things hadn't been tweaked, rejiggered, or left out.

I had no idea the cleric was originally based on a vampire hunter, so the ban on edged weapons now seems especially weird.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
It's fascinating to think what early D&D could easily have been like if various things hadn't been tweaked, rejiggered, or left out.

I had no idea the cleric was originally based on a vampire hunter, so the ban on edged weapons now seems especially weird.
So, my understanding on this one is that you started with Sir Fang (the Vampire) in the Blackmoor / Arneson campaign

And from that, you need to balance this uber-powerful Vampire. So you get a a Vampire Hunter modeled after the Peter Cushing / Hammer films- that's the whole turn undead, holy water, cure disease and wounds etc.

This "vampire hunter" became the Priest Class. This Priest Class was codified as the Cleric Class.

AFAIK, the major contribution of Gygax was, in fact, the edged weapon thing, which came from Gygax - here I will quote something I found from Mike Monard (Old Geezer):


"[FONT=&quot]The bit about edged weapons was from Gary's reading the old stories about Archbishop Turpin, who wielded a mace because he didn't want to shed blood ('who lives by the sword dies by the sword')."

[/FONT]
 
Joe Fischer created the Ranger.
Origin: So, not to put to fine a point on this, but a fan really, really, really wanted to be Aragorn.
That should shock no one.


MAGIC-USER
First Appeared: Chainmail, OD&D (Men & Magic)
Gygax?: Sure? I mean, Gygax, Arneson, Perren ...
Origin: What came first, the chicken, or the egg?
I can see that 'tude with the fighter, it just fights, the fighting hero is an ancient thing. Heck, Gilgamesh, right?

But the D&D magic-user is not the same kind of thing, bearing little resemblance to users of magic in myth and legend (who were often divine or supernatural in nature, rather than in learning), nor to the learned /mageia/ of antiquity, nor the classifications of ritual magic into Thaumaturgy and Theurgy. The D&D wizard was often depicted in the regalia of an astrologer, and there were many trapping of Hermeticism (some of which invited accusations of Satanism).
But, it's well-known that the D&D casters' "Vancian" roots are in that author's works of science-fiction, not myth/legend/fantasy.

THIEF
First Appeared: Great Plains Game Players Newsletter #9, OD&D (Greyhawk)
Gygax?: Hoo boy. Okay, so, kind of no. Gygax always steadfastly maintained sole credit for this, but exceptionally credible evidence exists that Gary Switzer & Aero Games made the Thief class, and while Gygax added some stuff to it and changed some stuff, it's largely the Aero Games' the thief.
Origin: This is the fine line between borrowing and theft, I guess? Anyway, the original thief had the skills you would expect from a so-called box-man who would deal with traps and safes (but not sneaking, climbing, etc.). Gygax switched the system to a percentile system (SO GYGAX) and added some details based on Zelazny and Vance.
Don't forget Lieber. The Grey Mouser seems like an archetypal D&D Thief, with his preference for the Sling over the bow, fascination with languages, and dabbling in magic.

MONK
First Appeared: OD&D (Blackmoor)
Gygax?: Um, no? This is very confused. The book is credited to Arneson, but Gygax definitely had a hand in it, but Biran Blume is credited with the design.
Origin: Arguably, the monk is based on the Destroyer series of novels and the general "kung fu" gestalt of the 70s.
Kwai Chang Caine of "Kung Fu" premiered in '72, and sure seemed to bring together a lot of that 'gestalt' in ways very similar to the D&D Monk.

Weirdly, the original Bard as printed in TSR v.2#1 was a regular character class, and only became what we would now call a prestige class after Gygax transmogrified it in the PHB. This class actually has a detailed origin story, in that the creator, Doug Schwegman, explained it at the time, stating that the class was a melange of three specific influences- the norse skald, the celtic bard, and southern european minstrel. Specifically, however, the Bard is explained as being more in the mold of the Norse and, um, Celtic type than anything else, and thus should resemble a fighter with a little magical knowledge.
Amusing, because it's rep - and in 2e & 3e, implementation - sure slid towards that last.
 
I think you need to suspend your antipathy to paladins, there origin is quite interesting - and some might like to know where the name comes from.

You should also look at more modern classes too, like barbarian, sorcerer, blackguard and warlock. And maybe some defunct offerings like cavalier and warlord.

Oh, and dates, add dates where known.

On thief, I don't think you have mentioned The Hobbit. Bilbo is sold to the dwarves as a "professional burglar". Conan is described as a thief (amongst other things) in the original stories. Whist he isn't much like the archetype he had sidekicks who were.
 
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lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Don't forget Lieber. The Grey Mouser seems like an archetypal D&D Thief, with his preference for the Sling over the bow, fascination with languages, and dabbling in magic.
I love the Lieber, but I have some trouble tracking down specific Mouser references!

AFAICT, it's mostly the Aero Games model, with some Zelazny (Jack of Shadows / Shadowjack) and Vance (Cugel the Clever), but I don't doubt that Lieber may have some influence- just don't have a cite or way to verify.
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
Interestingly, IIRC, the design philosophy behind the thief was for a character to find traps, locate secret doors, climb walls, and comprend foreign languages without casting spells such as locate traps, spider climb etc. But wait, you can’t allow that without the expenditure of spell slots, so a chance of failure is in order not to infringe on the magic user and cleric’s roles.

now we complain about wizards and clerics infringing on the rogue’s skills with their locate traps and spider climb spells. I find the irony rather funny.
 
I love the Lieber, but I have some trouble tracking down specific Mouser references!

AFAICT, it's mostly the Aero Games model, with some Zelazny (Jack of Shadows / Shadowjack) and Vance (Cugel the Clever), but I don't doubt that Lieber may have some influence- just don't have a cite or way to verify.
You mean like testimonials from some insider back in the day going, "yeah, I totally ripped off _______"?
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
You mean like testimonials from some insider back in the day going, "yeah, I totally ripped off _______"?
Actually, yeah. It's not that I disagree with you necessarily, it's that I don't know that I've ever seen it.

I mean, for the Thief, we have the Aero Games evidence (which is pretty strong).

And then, when Gygax talks about it, he discusses Vance and Zelazny AFAIK.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I think you need to suspend your antipathy to paladins, there origin is quite interesting - and some might like to know where the name comes from.
There are no Paladins.

As is well know, and cannot be reasonably disputed, Gygax began to insert "Paladin" into his books as a test- much like makers of atlases and maps would insert fake towns to see if anyone would try and copy them, Gygax would insert Paladins into his books to see if anyone was stupid enough to copy that class. Gygax was very protective of his creation!

Unfortunately, people misunderstood the intent, and thought that the Paladin was supposed to be a real class. I mean ... c'mon, have you read it?

(Other sources have said that it wasn't like the 'fake towns in a map,' but was actually closer to the 'Brown M&M rider' in Van Halen's Contract- Gygax would insert references to Paladins to see if his editors were paying attention. Unfortunately, they failed.)


Now, I'm sure we all know the apocryphal history- something something Three Hearts something something Three Lions, but I am not here to spread calumny and disinformation.
 
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Was the 1e thief’s scroll use from Vance/Zelanzy, or from the Mouser?
Not quite like any of them, but I'd say more like The Mouser. Shadowjack had substantial magical powers of his own. Cugel often used items. The Mouser was a failed magician's apprentice. I can't recall any of them using anything like a D&D scroll (but it's been a while).

The Grey Mouser though, had a fascination with languages and deciphered ancient writings on occasion, and Gygax's scroll-using feature comes from the Theif's Decipher Script special ability. FWIW
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Not quite like any of them, but I'd say more like The Mouser. Shadowjack had substantial magical powers of his own. Cugel often used items. The Mouser was a failed magician's apprentice. I can't recall any of them using anything like a D&D scroll (but it's been a while).

The Grey Mouser though, had a fascination with languages and deciphered ancient writings on occasion, and Gygax's scroll-using feature comes from the Theif's Decipher Script special ability. FWIW
Well, let's look at this from the standpoint of where it was introduced, right? HISTORY!

So we have the OD&D Thief.

p.4 Might and Magic- here, we see the ability to read languages and read magical writings. So we know it traces back to there.

Okay, how about the Great Plains Article that preceded it? Well, it's the same, except no chance of failure! That was added, so the chance of failure was definitely Gygax. Okay, so ... was reading languages and spells done by Gygax?

Don't know- but the presence of the ability in the "Great Plains" Thief (largely borrowed) means that it probably predates Gygax.

So, where did it come from? Well, my best guess is that the original Aero Games thief was actually a MAGIC USER that had Burglar-like abilities bolted on (like they were spells!). And some of these included deciphering languages.

The ability to read MU scrolls would come with the territory.

So, rather than be a specific reference to a given literary work, it is entirely possible that this particular ability is due to circuitous class design and, um, like a game of telephone (that actually involved a telephone).

Magic User to Burglar to Thief to Thief that has Magic User abilities.
 
OD&D Thief.p.4 Might and Magic-
Well, Greyhawk.
here, we see the ability to read languages and read magical writings..... where did it come from? Well, my best guess is
So you don't have any of the insider testimonials you were looking for on that topic?

I was just looking at similarities because someone asked. The D&D Thief didn't use innate/powerful shadow-magic like Shadowjack, for instance, in fact, like Cugel, it didn't have innate magic, at all. It did use magic scrolls via Decipher script, which is closer to Lieber's Grey Mouser than the other two. There were other similarities.
There were differences, too, The Grey Mouser was a swordsman comparable to Fafhrd, though using a rapier rather than a broadsword - and no early-D&D Thief was the equal of a similar-XP (let alone level) Fighter, that way.
 

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