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

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Why are you playing D&D?

I don't feel like writing out a treatise on the strengths of D&D right now.

It's all been said before.

What is perplexing me here is why you are playing a game where you can't see the strengths of it.
Look, I really, really like 5E. I'm choosing to play it, and I'm choosing to run two campaigns in it.

I have a group of friends who've been gaming together for decades. That group is playing Pathfinder 1E, which I'm tired of, probably terminally. I'd rather spend time with those friends, playing a suboptimal game than not spend time with them at all. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has gaming friends, where the expected social context is gaming.

Also, one of the strengths of D&D (at least 5E) is its flexibility. If someone wants to re-write the non-mechanical bits of the Monk class to play a tribal fighter, that's excellent and awesome. If someone has a character concept that requires straddling a couple classes, and the player and the DM are both cool with this, that's excellent and awesome. It's not the only way to play, of course, but it's not wrong at all.
 

Hussar

Legend
I strongly disagree. If PCs don't reflect the setting at large, then you aren't really playing in that setting.

If I tell you that I'm playing a Paladin, and that doesn't tell you anything about who my character is or how they act, then you've just squandered the rich history of fantasy tropes. We might as well be playing a sci fi game, at that point.
Umm, in 5e, that's certainly not true.

Your paladin and my paladin might look completely different, depending on our different sub-classes. Telling me you are playing a paladin, in 5e, doesn't really tell me anything about your character anymore. The days when class=character are long gone. Niche protection has eroded to the point where there are multiple paths towards representing the same archetype.

Is that Raven Queen Battle Nun a paladin, a cleric, a monk, a warlock? Who knows. All four classes could easily represent that concept even before we get into reflavoring anything. My last priest of Kord was a rogue who believed (after eating a stew of mushrooms of rather questionable provenance) that he had dined with Kord and had thus been chosen by Kord to be his representative on the world and was thus tasked with building a tabernacle to Him. His holy symbol was the very spoon that touched Kord's lips.

While some classes do come somewhat more tightly parceled with world building flavor, not all do.

Classes are there to provide guidelines - but, they should never be straight jackets.
 

PsyzhranV2

Adventurer
Your conclusion doesn't follow from your premise. Backgrounds, subclasses, and races exist as a way to reflect slightly different realities; but the rules still definitely reflect those specific realities.

Re-fluffing died with 4E. The expectation of 5E is that, if you have some new thing which isn't already covered by the rules, you should use the content creation guidelines in the DMG to make those things. But in every case, the only reason to use any given set of mechanics is because it's an accurate reflection of the thing you're trying to represent.
The classes and their abilities are only an accurate reflection of what they can do on the battlefield and in certain utility and social situations. Anything else is imposed from outside, whether from setting lore or from the DM and/or player's preconceptions.

For example, have it from a D&D setting creator: what can you get when you take the Druid's mechanical abilities and refluff them?

Keith Baker said said:
Druids That Aren’t Druids
Mechanically, a druid is primarily defined by spellcasting abilities, limited armor, and Wild Shape. Here’s a few quick ideas for characters that use the druid class withoutbeing spiritual devotees of nature.

Changeling Menagerie
Normally, a changeling can only assume humanoid forms. But a changeling who devotes themselves to the art of shapeshifting can transcend this limitation, mastering the ability to assume a wide array of shapes. At its core, a menagerie is a Moon druid focused on their shapeshifting powers.

You could play this as a character in touch with primal forces, in which case you could speak Druidic and cast any spells on the druid list. however, if you want to play the character as a master-of-shapes without delving into the primal connection, you could swap Druidic for a standard language and focus on spells that fit either shapeshifting abilities or changeling powers. Barkskin, darkvision, jump, longstrider, meld into stone, poison spray, resistance, and similar spells could all tie to shapeshifting mastery. Charm person, guidance, hold person, and the like could reflect enhanced psychic abilities. And healing spells, enhance ability, protection from energy and such could reflect an ability to alter the forms of others; I could see cure wounds being a sort of disturbing thing where you touch someone and scar over their wounds using your own body tissue.

Vadalis Monarch
The Mark of Handling gives a character a mystical connection to the natural world. But this gift isn’t something the heir earns; it is their birthright. A Vadalis heir could present druidic magic as a symptom of their dominion over nature. The same connection that lets you influence the behavior of animals could allow you to assume their forms… or even to control a wider range of creatures with charm person and hold person.

A Vadalis monarch could function as a normal druid and could even potentially understand Druidic, but I’d play up the flavor that this is a power of your mark and something you demand as opposed to a petition to spirits or natural forces.

Weretouched Master
Shifters are well suited to primal paths and to being traditional druids or rangers, and shifters can be found in most of the Eldeen sects. However, you could play a shifter druid as an expert in shapeshifting as opposed to being a servant of nature. As with the changeling menagerie, I’d make this a Moon druid and encourage spells that reflect control of shape. A shifter might not take charm person or hold person, but even without druidic faith, speak with animals, animal friendship, and similar spells could be justified as being a manifestation of the shifter’s lycanthropic heritage.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Re-fluffing died with 4E. The expectation of 5E is that, if you have some new thing which isn't already covered by the rules, you should use the content creation guidelines in the DMG to make those things. But in every case, the only reason to use any given set of mechanics is because it's an accurate reflection of the thing you're trying to represent.
Except we're not talking about something that's not covered in the rules (optional in the case of multiclassing). We're talking about the perception that all characters of a given class (or subclass, I suppose) must act alike.
 

Phazonfish

Explorer
Why are you playing D&D?
Because it's a fun game? I also play a bunch of flash card RPGs and have a lot of fun with them, but sometimes I want to play something more mechanically complex and I have a couple players that wouldn't even attempt to learn such a game, yet happen to have acquired a good foundation of knowledge on the rules of D&D because they watch Critical Role every week (and often the rules ramblings I spew as I watch).

What is perplexing me here is why you are playing a game where you can't see the strengths of it.
I see a good many strengths of the game, just not of playing it the way you suggest.
 

Saelorn

Hero
Except we're not talking about something that's not covered in the rules (optional in the case of multiclassing). We're talking about the perception that all characters of a given class (or subclass, I suppose) must act alike.
That's fair. All members of a given class would act alike, except for those areas which are not covered by class (such as race or background), and subject to any changes that your subclass may inflict upon your class.

But as for the part of a character which is a reflection of that class, that part is the same for all members of that class.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
That's fair. All members of a given class would act alike, except for those areas which are not covered by class (such as race or background), and subject to any changes that your subclass may inflict upon your class.

But as for the part of a character which is a reflection of that class, that part is the same for all members of that class.
You do realize that areas like race or background might end up with a character who's a different reflection of the class than some people might expect, right? Especially if one brings Traits, Bonds, et al., into the picture.
 

Ogre Mage

Explorer
I encountered this problem more in previous editions of D&D. Paladins tended to be the worst offenders, to the point where their dogmatic ideals and policing of other characters actions caused a lot of inter-group tension. Fortunately, 5E has diversified paladins a great deal via subclasses so that has not been an issue in any of my 5E games.

Of the 5E PHB subclasses, the warlock fiend pact seems like the one most likely to raise the "character is the class" problem. There are certainly reasons why a good-aligned character might be in a pact with a fiend and it could make for a rich (if difficult) role-playing experience. But that might not be obvious to less experienced players, who would assume you should be playing an evil character to make a pact with a fiend.
 

Cap'n Kobold

Adventurer
Classes exist for many reasons. One of them is to tell us more about how the world works, by invoking shared lore. If a paladin isn't even really a paladin, then the class fails at upholding that purpose.
What is a paladin?

Why are you playing D&D?

I don't feel like writing out a treatise on the strengths of D&D right now.

It's all been said before.

What is perplexing me here is why you are playing a game where you can't see the strengths of it.
Maybe they just plain enjoy playing D&D? Pretty sure that is allowed even if your Paladin isn't Lawful Good o and your Warlock didn't get their powers with an Infernal pact.

I'm thinking that what you think the strengths of D&D are, is not the same as what they think they are.

No gaming is better than bad gaming.

If I'm going to play a game then I'm going to play that game and not try to warp it into something else because I don't like it but feel forced to play it.

If I don't like a game that my friends are playing I will find something else to do with them at some other time. I won't join the game I don't like and then dump that baggage on them while they're trying to enjoy something.
But what if you like the game the way your group plays it, and you're having fun?

Your conclusion doesn't follow from your premise. Backgrounds, subclasses, and races exist as a way to reflect slightly different realities; but the rules still definitely reflect those specific realities.
The rules can reflect any reality that they can represent.

Re-fluffing died with 4E.
Citation needed.
The expectation of 5E is that, if you have some new thing which isn't already covered by the rules, you should use the content creation guidelines in the DMG to make those things.
By definition, re-fluffing is covered by the rules. The crunch is staying the same. Its the fluff that is changing.

But in every case, the only reason to use any given set of mechanics is because it's an accurate reflection of the thing you're trying to represent.
And anything that can be reflected by those mechanics can be represented by the class with those mechanics.
 

PsyzhranV2

Adventurer
That's fair. All members of a given class would act alike, except for those areas which are not covered by class (such as race or background), and subject to any changes that your subclass may inflict upon your class.

But as for the part of a character which is a reflection of that class, that part is the same for all members of that class.
... All I can say is "what".

Why would two people act alike because they both know how to pick locks, or turn into animals, or turn their weapons into vibroblades by channeling radiant energy? Especially since they could have learned those abilities from different sources through different experiences.

The character classes do not prescribe or enforce personality traits on your character. That is the purview of their background and their traits-ideals-bonds-flaws.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
I encountered this problem more in previous editions of D&D. Paladins tended to be the worst offenders, to the point where their dogmatic ideals and policing of other characters actions caused a lot of inter-group tension. Fortunately, 5E has diversified paladins a great deal via subclasses so that has not been an issue in any of my 5E games.

Of the 5E PHB subclasses, the warlock fiend pact seems like the one most likely to raise the "character is the class" problem. There are certainly reasons why a good-aligned character might be in a pact with a fiend and it could make for a rich (if difficult) role-playing experience. But that might not be obvious to less experienced players, who would assume you should be playing an evil character to make a pact with a fiend.
I find that paladins in prior editions were made more palatable by treating alignment as more descriptive than proscriptive, but it still had potential to be a real problem.

In the setting I've homebrewed for my 5E games, the world spent some time being ravaged by armies of demons and devils, and fiendlocks can be taken over by their patrons at any time, fiendlocks therefore are usually killed quickly upon discovery and are not available as a PC class. I agree that even without all-a-that, they do have a tendency to reflect class-as-character more than just about anything else in the PHB.
 

Wiseblood

Adventurer
i don’t think it’s a thing. I played a Bard that was from a barbarian culture so Bardbarian. ( Awesome BTW old pro wrestling is your friend) For me, that emerged after playing to class for years. My thirteen year old daughter seems to have been born without my limitations. Her Barbarian is a near genius sage and works for a wizard.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
No gaming is better than bad gaming.
yo what?!
If I'm going to play a game then I'm going to play that game and not try to warp it into something else because I don't like it but feel forced to play it.
trying to something new and original hardly counts as "warping it into something else". also if I'm not the dm there a huge limits to the "warping" I can get away with.
If I don't like a game that my friends are playing I will find something else to do with them at some other time. I won't join the game I don't like and then dump that baggage on them while they're trying to enjoy something.
a lot of people don't have the luxury of finding something else to do with them some other time. also not sure how playing a character I want is dumping baggage on them.

also this only makes sense if there was literally one way to play an RPG. d&d isn't a board game (no, not even 4e), it can be changed and played a myriad of different ways. if it weren't then why are there so many different official campaign settings? Forgotten Realms is vastly different from Dark Sun and yet both are played with the same set of rules.

let me ask you this: how can someone play fighter wrong? keep in mind fighters have proficiency with every weapon in the book, every kind of armor as well, and even get the option to use magic at 3rd level.
 

jmartkdr2

Explorer
Because the mechanics of the game reflect the reality of the game world. That's why we're using one set of mechanics, instead of some other set of mechanics.

If it was possible for a Warrior-nun of the Raven Queen to be accurately represented with multiple different classes, then that indicates a severe mis-match between the reality and its reflection. We shouldn't be using these classes to represent a reality where they don't hold. The consistent approach would be to define Warrior-nun of the Raven Queen as its own class.
So your answer is to homebrew up an entirely new class?

What if I homebrewed it up by taking an existing class and simply changing all the names of the features without changing how those features actually worked?
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
Maybe we don't want fourteen million classes, though, and maybe there are several kinds of Warrior-nuns of the Raven Queen. So long as the player and the GM are on the same page, it's almost certainly fine (though I have to admit I'd look very carefully at a character whose player wanted to bring lore into my setting that allowed him to multiclass paladin and warlock).
uh...

Oath of Ancients Paladin + Archfey warlock you have a cooperate boss and a branch manager
Oath Breaker Paladin + any warlock - your just changing directions.
Oath of Conquest Paladin + any warlock patron who supports your conquest
Oath of Devotion Paladin + Hexblade or Undying Warlock - serving the Raven Queen
Any Warlock + Oath of Redemption - you made a bad choice and your trying to fix it.
Any Warlcok + Oath of Vengeance - your patron turned on you so your turning the tables, or someone betrayed your patron and you want to get them back.
Any Warlock + Oath of the Crown - you just changed jobs under the same management become and inforcer of their rules.

This took longer to type than to think up. Really, it doesn't take much thought for Paladin/Warlock to work... it does however require SOME thought. Instead of halving a default "No x/x multi-class" I find it generally better so say, "Before you multi-class let me know so we can iron out the lore and reasoning before you bring it to the table and you have to role-play out what we agree on." meaning with any multi-class (even fighter / ranger etc) you take the mechanical you take an agreed lore BUT we build the lore on a mutual understanding. This is not the GM dictating to the player how they will play a class or multi-class or a player just abandoning all lore and thought magically picking up mulit-classes that don't make since and have 0 context. "Your ranger picked up fighter while alone in the woods? Who taught him? You never mentioned any attempt to learn or train those skills before showing up with this multi-class."
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
uh...

[snip]

Really, it doesn't take much thought for Paladin/Warlock to work... it does however require SOME thought. Instead of halving a default "No x/x multi-class" I find it generally better so say, "Before you multi-class let me know so we can iron out the lore and reasoning before you bring it to the table and you have to role-play out what we agree on." meaning with any multi-class (even fighter / ranger etc) you take the mechanical you take an agreed lore BUT we build the lore on a mutual understanding. This is not the GM dictating to the player how they will play a class or multi-class or a player just abandoning all lore and thought magically picking up mulit-classes that don't make since and have 0 context. "Your ranger picked up fighter while alone in the woods? Who taught him? You never mentioned any attempt to learn or train those skills before showing up with this multi-class."
I don't think we disagree as much as maybe you think we do. I'm pretty relaxed about multiclassing in my campaigns. My main reasons for wanting to look carefully at someone wanting to combine the two classes are A) They can heterodyne extraordinarily well and B) I want to make sure it fits (or can be made to fit) into the setting I'm running in. Coming to a mutual understanding with the player about the character is part of this, too.
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
Your conclusion doesn't follow from your premise. Backgrounds, subclasses, and races exist as a way to reflect slightly different realities; but the rules still definitely reflect those specific realities.

Re-fluffing died with 4E. The expectation of 5E is that, if you have some new thing which isn't already covered by the rules, you should use the content creation guidelines in the DMG to make those things. But in every case, the only reason to use any given set of mechanics is because it's an accurate reflection of the thing you're trying to represent.
Style of play did not die.

Exmple:
Druid 1: "I love nature, you should never hurt anything even plants unless it has free will and tires to hurt you first... WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOUR GOING TO CUT DOWN SOME FIRE WOOD!! I must protect the trees!" <I cast Ice Knife at level 9 at my fellow party member to teach him not to hurt precious trees>

Druid 2: "So he's cutting down a tree … who cares? There is a dragon burning down the forest and killing villagers.... eh... what ever. Wait, does the dragon have gold? Okay then lets kill us some dragon, I am gona be rich!.. life sacred ? The rules of nature are survival of the fittest, might makes right, and your predictor or your pray. If we can kill the dragon his gold is rightfully ours if he can kill us then he has earned the right to keep it. Lets go."

There is no rule in any 5e book saying you can't multi-class with any other class.
There is no rule in any 5e book saying you have to have one alignment or another for a specific class.

These are character playstyle choices, based on opinions. Everyone at the table is entitled to their opinion. For the sake of a better gaming experience you can avoid opposing opinion when you can't work them out but its pretty much impossible to argue that someone's personal preference based on opinion is wrong.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
What is a paladin?
Um...

Clad in plate armor that gleams in the sunlight despite the dust and grime of long travel, a human lays down her sword and shield and places her hands on a mortally wounded man. Divine radiance shines from her hands, the man’s wounds knit closed, and his eyes open wide with amazement.

A dwarf crouches behind an outcrop, his black cloak making him nearly invisible in the night, and watches an orc war band celebrating its recent victory. Silently, he stalks into their midst and whispers an oath, and two orcs are dead before they even realize he is there.

Silver hair shining in a shaft of light that seems to illuminate only him, an elf laughs with exultation. His spear flashes like his eyes as he jabs again and again at a twisted giant, until at last his light overcomes its hideous darkness.

Whatever their origin and their mission, paladins are united by their oaths to stand against the forces of evil. Whether sworn before a god’s altar and the witness of a priest, in a sacred glade before nature spirits and fey beings, or in a moment of desperation and grief with the dead as the only witness, a paladin’s oath is a powerful bond. It is a source of power that turns a devout warrior into a blessed champion.

The Cause of Righteousness
A paladin swears to uphold justice and righteousness, to stand with the good things of the world against the encroaching darkness, and to hunt the forces of evil wherever they lurk. Different paladins focus on various aspects of the cause of righteousness, but all are bound by the oaths that grant them power to do their sacred work. Although many paladins are devoted to gods of good, a paladin’s power comes as much from a commitment to justice itself as it does from a god.

Paladins train for years to learn the skills of combat, mastering a variety of weapons and armor. Even so, their martial skills are secondary to the magical power they wield: power to heal the sick and injured, to smite the wicked and the undead, and to protect the innocent and those who join them in the fight for justice.

Beyond the Mundane Life
Almost by definition, the life of a paladin is an adventuring life. Unless a lasting injury has taken him or her away from adventuring for a time, every paladin lives on the front lines of the cosmic struggle against evil. Fighters are rare enough among the ranks of the militias and armies of the world, but even fewer people can claim the true calling of a paladin. When they do receive the call, these warriors turn from their former occupations and take up arms to fight evil. Sometimes their oaths lead them into the service of the crown as leaders of elite groups of knights, but even then their loyalty is first to the cause of righteousness, not to crown and country.

Adventuring paladins take their work seriously. A delve into an ancient ruin or dusty crypt can be a quest driven by a higher purpose than the acquisition of treasure. Evil lurks in dungeons and primeval forests, and even the smallest victory against it can tilt the cosmic balance away from oblivion.
 

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