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"Your Class is Not Your Character": Is this a real problem?

Coroc

Hero
These threads are fascinating to me. The game is so flexible that you can have people who have such wildly different attitudes on how the game should be played.

with that being said, I am currently playing a barbarian shaman to the great snow leopard. He’s a barbarian 1/bard2/sorcerer 1/ warlock 1. I have a 13 or 14 in every stat but intelligence. He’s super fun And i reskin everything. Heck, I am a long tooth shifter mechanically but just say I am human an all the race abilities are a product of my connection to the snow leopard.

Most here have no attitude how "the game should be played". It is looking like that sometimes when the discussion gets heated up but:

1. There is no badwrongfun.
2. Everybody has his own preferences.

Most explain why they have these and those preferences in their game, and why they like it.
You can do Gestalt characters with 5e like in your example, the rules are absolutely flexible enough for that. But if you like such kind of classless systems, maybe try out DSA (The black eye) i bet you like it. I do.
 

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NotAYakk

Legend
If my character isn't my class, what's the point of playing a Bard if I can't sing a musical number during the game?
What stops you from singing a musical number?
If my character isn't my class, can I be a multi class Bard/Fighter and call myself a Warlord?
Yes? Others might be confused because "Warlord" usually refers to the leader of an army.

You could also call yourself "kermit".
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
Yes. There is enough complexity within the setting already, without you trying to play something that isn't covered yet. There's no benefit to allowing your concept into the setting. All it does is dilute our knowledge about how the world works, so that now we know less than we did before.
With this one clear example we can safely say that our two gaming styles are world's apart. As a player and GM I allow and expect to be able to use any fluff I want as long as the end result is that there crunch I am using is something already in a book.

I have played swashbuckling pirates who were mechanically monks. I have played devil's possessing a statue using rules for warforged artificers. I have Tarzan-like natives who were monks. I have played a wolf turned sentient as a shape hanging druid.

All of these concepts fit in "the world" just fine. Maybe not in your game, but they do in ours.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
With this one clear example we can safely say that our two gaming styles are world's apart. As a player and GM I allow and expect to be able to use any fluff I want as long as the end result is that there crunch I am using is something already in a book.
I think there’s a happy medium somewhere between this and what Saelorn is suggesting. Personally, I am happy to allow reskinning, but I wouldn’t want to hand my players free reign to use any fluff they want as long as the mechanics match something in the book. Your character should still make sense within the setting, and I’m willing to be flexible, but let’s work together to find something that satisfies what you want to play in a way that fits into the setting’s lore.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I think there’s a happy medium somewhere between this and what Saelorn is suggesting. Personally, I am happy to allow reskinning, but I wouldn’t want to hand my players free reign to use any fluff they want as long as the mechanics match something in the book. Your character should still make sense within the setting, and I’m willing to be flexible, but let’s work together to find something that satisfies what you want to play in a way that fits into the setting’s lore.

I think I'm probably closer to this than to @Sabathius42 in most ways. I have some pretty strong ideas for the setting, and I want characters that don't contradict those, and I usually have something in mind for at least the start of the campaign, and I want characters that at least can fit in with those. If someone wants something completely re-fluffed/reskinned, I'm willing to make an effort, but I don't make any promises. That (I hope obviously) doesn't make what @Sabathius42 is doing wrong, but it doesn't make what I think @Saelorn or @Maxperson are describing wrong, either.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I think I'm probably closer to this than to @Sabathius42 in most ways. I have some pretty strong ideas for the setting, and I want characters that don't contradict those, and I usually have something in mind for at least the start of the campaign, and I want characters that at least can fit in with those. If someone wants something completely re-fluffed/reskinned, I'm willing to make an effort, but I don't make any promises. That (I hope obviously) doesn't make what @Sabathius42 is doing wrong, but it doesn't make what I think @Saelorn or @Maxperson are describing wrong, either.
So first, I don't think anyone here is wrong. Whether you go by the book, use house rules, home brew, reflavor or a combination of those things, as long as the group is having fun it's all good.

Second, when I'm here, unless I'm explicitly saying what it is that I do in my game, don't assume it's what I do in my game. Most discussions here are about the the game in general, which means as written, so I discuss what I view the rules to be and mean. As an example, some time ago there was a discussion about what happens to a druid who gets hit by a disintegrate while wildshaped and hits 0 hit points. I argued(correctly) that the specific rule in disintegrate that dusts a creature who hits 0 triggers and turns the druid to dust, even if that druid has more hit points waiting in his true form. That is RAW. However, that is not what I would do to a druid in my game. I would go with what later was verified by Crawford to be the RAI of the game and allow the druid to revert first.

In my game re-flavoring to small degrees is in player control. I don't care if an ice themed PC wants Coldball and Cold Hands, though there are mechanics tied to that as well, or if they want their magic missiles to look like leering skulls. They can make those decisions, but they do have to let me know in advance what they are going to do. More major re-flavoring takes my approval, but will often happen. I try to accommodate reasonable requests, unless they will be disruptive to the game in some way.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
So first, I don't think anyone here is wrong. Whether you go by the book, use house rules, home brew, reflavor or a combination of those things, as long as the group is having fun it's all good.

Second, when I'm here, unless I'm explicitly saying what it is that I do in my game, don't assume it's what I do in my game. Most discussions here are about the the game in general, which means as written, so I discuss what I view the rules to be and mean.

Fair enough. Apologies if I misunderstood.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
I think I'm probably closer to this than to @Sabathius42 in most ways. I have some pretty strong ideas for the setting, and I want characters that don't contradict those, and I usually have something in mind for at least the start of the campaign, and I want characters that at least can fit in with those. If someone wants something completely re-fluffed/reskinned, I'm willing to make an effort, but I don't make any promises. That (I hope obviously) doesn't make what @Sabathius42 is doing wrong, but it doesn't make what I think @Saelorn or @Maxperson are describing wrong, either.
I subscribe to "play the way you want" pretty strongly, however, I do say that there is always a solid "As long as the GM says it's OK" that is implied.

In my current campaign players can't be Gnomes for story purposes, but they could be Gnomes (as in using the rules for gnomes in the PHB to make their character) if they want. They would just have to come up with an alternate story for their PC.

Could be a brownie or some other fey or a halfling with a weird magical backstory, or anything else they can think of.

There are setting expectations sure , but they are only as strict as necessary because I view the PCs as "the strange band that bucks the trend".
 


ad_hoc

Hero
So fluff is the same as rules? Even if nothing changes about how something plays, mechanically?

Yes.

All that stuff that people call 'fluff' is, actually, rules.

If you remove that from the game it ends up being a very lengthy and poorly thought out cooperative combat game.

A board game would make for a much better implementation of such a game.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
All that stuff that people call 'fluff' is, actually, rules.

If you remove that from the game it ends up being a very lengthy and poorly thought out cooperative combat game.

A board game would make for a much better implementation of such a game.

I'll ask you a question I asked someone else who seemed to be taking a similar position, then:

I allow the Order Domain in my setting/campaigns, but I call it the Command Domain, because I think that better reflects what it does. I probably changed the names of the Domain abilities here and there to reflect the domain name I'm using. It's the only version of this Domain I've ever allowed in this setting.

Am I understanding you to be saying that I have substantially altered the domain, here? All I've done is change the name/s, what I would call "fluff." It seems to me that you're calling the name of something is a rule, whereas I think of it as, well, a name for a rule, and the rule is the same with a different name (that which we call a rose etc etc).
 

I'll ask you a question I asked someone else who seemed to be taking a similar position, then:

I allow the Order Domain in my setting/campaigns, but I call it the Command Domain, because I think that better reflects what it does. I probably changed the names of the Domain abilities here and there to reflect the domain name I'm using. It's the only version of this Domain I've ever allowed in this setting.

Am I understanding you to be saying that I have substantially altered the domain, here? All I've done is change the name/s, what I would call "fluff." It seems to me that you're calling the name of something is a rule, whereas I think of it as, well, a name for a rule, and the rule is the same with a different name (that which we call a rose etc etc).
I'm sympathetic to the basic point others are making in this thread* but this seems such an edge case.

Interestingly in 13th Age every cleric domain explicitly has two alternative names. Eg "Love" or "Beauty", "Justice or Vengeance", etc.

*And I think the fluff/crunch distinction is only really meaningful when you have systems which are explicity desgined openly so they can be "skinned" (not "reskinned" - which implies you had to remove a layer before putting something new on.)
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I'm sympathetic to the basic point others are making in this thread* but this seems such an edge case.

Interestingly in 13th Age every cleric domain explicitly has two alternative names. Eg "Love" or "Beauty", "Justice or Vengeance", etc.

*And I think the fluff/crunch distinction is only really meaningful when you have systems which are explicity desgined openly so they can be "skinned" (not "reskinned" - which implies you had to remove a layer before putting something new on.)

Seems to me to be exactly at the core of the dispute. My feeling is the Domain is the same, and that my name for it actually fits what it does better than their name. There seem to be others who think I've radically altered the Domain into something entirely different, just by renaming it. It's a convenient example for me to bring up, because it's literally exactly what I did.
 

nharwell

Explorer
Well, vanilla classes are not quite defined. The basic four are part of it, with their subclasses as in the basic rules, at least i would say that. On top of that? Ask a Grognard and he would answer: why do you need more? Ask someone who grew int othe game with 3e + and he would say: each class and subclass in the PHB.

Still, vanilla is normally not defined so much by fluff. What is vanilla these days anywhere? 2e greyhawk is kind of vanilla, 2e FR eventually also. Dragonlance? It looks vanilla but i would say it is not, to much extra special rules.

Some classes require more backstory fluff than others:

Example:
a cleric can be basically played without church and does work perfectly without deities, purely following a principle (good/ light / evil etc.)

A druid normally requires druid circles, forests etc. etc. Still e.g. Darksun tied them to elemental specialities in the landscape e.g. a (water-) oasis.

A fighter is most universal (except EK).

A rogue comes second to it (except AT).

A mage reuires magic to exist in your game world.

A sorcerer? According to PHB there has to be either wild magic or dragons present in the campaign world.

Whereas as pointed out a cleric does need no "patron", a Warlock does need one.
Bang, you need some other planes or other mystic thing going on in your campaign so a lock does function.

Ok let us go on, Ranger, hm would basically work on its own.

Paladin hm eventually yes but it is tied to some ethics or codex so such things must be there. Would not make much sense in a very uncivilised setting.

Barbarian? That is also a cultural thing somehow, it requires some tribal or primal culture otherwise it is a lot of shoehorning. You do not believe me? Imagine a modern setting and try to define a meaningful barbarian.

Monk requires order, religious/philosophical organisation, so no except some hermit or so.

A bard? Cultural and best high culture required, at least plus it needs magic.

So, i hope i did not forget anything.


Well, I'm not sure if I'm a Grognard or not - I've been playing D&D since LBB but I certainly won't pretend to speak for others. I do agree with your suggestion the we ("grognards", if I may) would say that the original game played such that you could define your character without specific subclasses or with particular 'fluff'. But we did constantly invent new classes, modify existing classes/races, etc, to allow playing many ideas and concepts. I personally can't think of anything then that defined 'vanilla' classes vs tightly constrained (?) classes like you are doing - and definitely not in 5e. I have no problem with it - I think it's a reasonable approach in your own game. But to suggest that it's the default or official rules frankly baffles me.
 
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ad_hoc

Hero
I'll ask you a question I asked someone else who seemed to be taking a similar position, then:

I allow the Order Domain in my setting/campaigns, but I call it the Command Domain, because I think that better reflects what it does. I probably changed the names of the Domain abilities here and there to reflect the domain name I'm using. It's the only version of this Domain I've ever allowed in this setting.

Am I understanding you to be saying that I have substantially altered the domain, here? All I've done is change the name/s, what I would call "fluff." It seems to me that you're calling the name of something is a rule, whereas I think of it as, well, a name for a rule, and the rule is the same with a different name (that which we call a rose etc etc).

You've made a change to the rules, yes.

There is nothing wrong with doing that.

Without the 'fluff' as people call it there is no game. It's just a loose collection of math formulas.

A board game can have a tacked on theme that doesn't matter. An RPG cannot. The theme is the game.

All the parts of the class descriptions are rules. Class has a large impact on the identity of a character. I think people who throw that out are missing out and I would not mesh well with a game like that.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
You've made a change to the rules, yes.

There is nothing wrong with doing that.

Without the 'fluff' as people call it there is no game. It's just a loose collection of math formulas.

A board game can have a tacked on theme that doesn't matter. An RPG cannot. The theme is the game.

All the parts of the class descriptions are rules. Class has a large impact on the identity of a character. I think people who throw that out are missing out and I would not mesh well with a game like that.

That's clear enough, and a place where we differ.
 

Greg K

Adventurer
I'll ask you a question I asked someone else who seemed to be taking a similar position, then:

I allow the Order Domain in my setting/campaigns, but I call it the Command Domain, because I think that better reflects what it does. I probably changed the names of the Domain abilities here and there to reflect the domain name I'm using. It's the only version of this Domain I've ever allowed in this setting.

Am I understanding you to be saying that I have substantially altered the domain, here? All I've done is change the name/s, what I would call "fluff." It seems to me that you're calling the name of something is a rule, whereas I think of it as, well, a name for a rule, and the rule is the same with a different name (that which we call a rose etc etc).
Substantial, perhaps not. However, in my opinion, you still have made a setting rule (if it is not intended to be used in every setting/campaign ) as have you made a change from what is in the rule book and, thus, would need to inform players of such as change so people are on the same page.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Substantial, perhaps not. However, in my opinion, you still have made a setting rule (if it is not intended to be used in every setting/campaign as have you made a change from what is in the rule book and, thus, would need to inform players of such as change so people are on the same page.

Oh, no question about that. It's listed in the documentation that's available as a handout or as a link to a Google Drive folder. In fact, since I imported it when it was UA, It typed it up and added it to the other homebrew/third-party Domains I use.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I remember at one point in one of the DNDBeyond YouTube videos where Todd Kenrik interviews Jeremy Crawford (might have been one of the early Artificer UA videos? I’m not sure), Todd brought up how much he appreciated that the text explicitly said, “you decide how [whatever class feature they were talking about] looks,” and Jeremy commented that the design intent is that players can always describe those things however they want. He went on to say that he recognized that they were not as explicit about that as they should have been in the Player’s Handbook and a lot of descriptions that were meant as thematic examples are taken by many groups as hard rules, and so they are now making a conscious effort to provide multiple examples of possible descriptions, and to explicitly state that the player can describe things any way they want.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, the Order Domain may indeed be FAW (fluff as written), the Command Domain is absolutely permitted by FAI (fluff as intended).
 

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