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

jayoungr

Hero
the idea is that you don’t have to be an baby-eating psychopath just because your sorcerer has the Abyssal bloodline. You don’t have to be a purehearted hero just because you know your way around a smite evil.

I'm curious if this is a real problem that people have encountered, or if it's just a good soundbite. Have you ever encountered a GM or another player who told you that you were "playing your class wrong?"
Nope, I haven't seen this at any of my tables. And frankly, I'd rather have a player who takes class as prescriptive of personality than a player who just sees the character as a token and a collection of mechanics, with no personality at all.

Re paladins, I think other factors are sometimes at work there--some of which I put into a thread a while back, if people will forgive me for a little self-promotion by linking my own thread:

 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Yep. In my games, no character is a "wizard" or a "paladin".
Question then, on the wizard part. Could I describe a wizard as a wizard, in the sense of Merlin is a wizard or Harry Dresden is a wizard? Not a mechanical bundle of abilities, but more that that the word is a noun or an adjective depending on use.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Question then, on the wizard part. Could I describe a wizard as a wizard, in the sense of Merlin is a wizard or Harry Dresden is a wizard? Not a mechanical bundle of abilities, but more that that the word is a noun or an adjective depending on use.
Sure. In my Ravnica game, it tends to get used to as a slang term for magical practitioners of various guilds, normally Izzet and Simic.
 

FrozenNorth

Explorer
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.
Except it currently is possible to represent a Warrior-Nun of the Raven Queen with multiple different classes: Paladin, Grave Cleric, Fighter/Swashbuckler Rogue with the Acolyte Background (and maybe the Cleric Initiate feat).
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
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.
Seems to me a far greater sin towards simulationism to suppose any two individuals would have access to the exact same set of capabilities. The only way that class as a concept makes sense in any kind of simulationist sense is if you’re playing one those “MMO but real life” concepts that are so popular in modern anime.
 

FrozenNorth

Explorer
Well powergaming if all agree on it is also cool for a change, but not by using system loopholes. I cannot verify if a paladin / lock multiclass would be overpowered somehow, for me that MC in 5e is considered the way to power does not seem so, since all threads about it forget the costs of MAD, levels were you not shine so much, and so on and some really only watch the end result and not the way there.
Personally I shun most MC, more often than not I did not want it at my table and I think it is subpar to optimized single classes, if you got a balanced group.
Not relevant to the broader point, but the paladin/warlock multiclass reduces MAD, not increases it: a Hexblade Paladin can ignore Str and Dex and fight using Cha. That, plus regenerating slots for smites and an Eldritch Blast that improves with your total level rather than your Warlock level is why many people consider the paladin warlock multiclass OP.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Seems to me a far greater sin towards simulationism to suppose any two individuals would have access to the exact same set of capabilities. The only way that class as a concept makes sense in any kind of simulationist sense is if you’re playing one those “MMO but real life” concepts that are so popular in modern anime.
Maybe, but I figure at a certain point D&D is a game, it needs to have structure. If you want to have archetypal abilities/classes/structures those things are going to look the same. I mean a wizard casts spells, that's kind of the whole point of a literary wizard (I'll not argue how that looks in fiction vs D&D, my point is wizards use magic to create effects that do things). D&D uses the spell structure system to represent what a wizard does in the fiction as a game usable mechanic. That usually means repeatable and consistent.

In the end since D&D is a game, it needs rules and consistency. Simulation has never, ever been the point of the rules.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
As an example consider the samurai subclass. Is the samurai a dwarf from Mirabar known for his lethal axe flurries and neat handwriting, or the honourable warrior from Kara-Tur?

[The answer is the dwarf, the person from Kara-Tur is a paladin]
why is the honorable warrior from Kara-Tur a paladin? do they get divine magic? paladins swear oaths to some sort of virtue and get magical abilities from it, but that's not how samurai work. sure samurai take oaths of fealty, but so does the knight from Faerun, they ain't special. also they get their powers, perceived or otherwise, through years of martial training. this doesn't even begin to touch the wandering samurai archetype, what happened to those oaths? I know 3.5 had a ronin prestige class that covered this, but they too didn't lose all their powers the same way a paladin did.
Question then, on the wizard part. Could I describe a wizard as a wizard, in the sense of Merlin is a wizard or Harry Dresden is a wizard? Not a mechanical bundle of abilities, but more that that the word is a noun or an adjective depending on use.
yeah this is the issue I have with defining your character by their class. like in a typical D&D world where magic is prevalent but still exclusively used by the elite your average NPC is gonna probably call a sorcerer a "wizard". warlocks, too. all arcane magic users are wizards, the same way your grandma thinks all video game consoles are "nintendo". well except maybe bards, but they sing and stuff, what do you mean "magic"?
 

Saelorn

Hero
Seems to me a far greater sin towards simulationism to suppose any two individuals would have access to the exact same set of capabilities. The only way that class as a concept makes sense in any kind of simulationist sense is if you’re playing one those “MMO but real life” concepts that are so popular in modern anime.
The Arcane Archer is a perfect example of why every member of a class would have access to the same set of abilities. If you want to learn how to launch a Cone of Cold from your arrow, then you need to belong to one specific organization of elvish archers, where they teach you. Otherwise, that specific knowledge is unavailable. And if you do belong to that organization, then they have a standard set of tricks that they teach all of their members.

Other classes are similar. If you want to be a Cleric of Wee Jas, or an Eldritch Knight, then you belong to an organization where they teach you a standard set of tricks. It's just a thing about how the setting works. For generic classes, like Fighter, there are a lot of different organizations that get you to a similar-looking endpoint. And while I suppose you could play in some other setting, where you don't learn your class abilities from an organization, such a setting would really be better represented with a non-class-based system.
 

Seramus

Adventurer
Sure. You can also call yourself Kool Aid, but it won't make it true. Your artificer and cleric call themselves paladins, but they are not paladins.
It's true in the only way that matters - the people in the campaign call me a paladin and respond to me as one. I'm recognized as a paladin by other paladins, and my own God calls me 'her paladin' in visions.

Haven't done the artificer yet, but I can easily imagine refluffing it as a Joan of Arc style inspiration. I haven't decided on the best archetypes yet. Maybe battle smith?
 

Saelorn

Hero
I think that we may be using the terms differently to each other. I was using "crunch" to represent the rules mechanics (Paladin spell list, or tenets of the Oath of Ancients subclass for example,) and "fluff" to represent the flavour (Paladins being heavily-armoured knights who stand for goodness and justice for example.)
I think we're in agreement as to what the terms mean. I'm just saying that the paladin class mechanics exist as they do because they are a reflection of the paladin class fluff. They started with the concept of a heavily-armoured knight who stands for good and justice, and then derived mechanics to reflect that concept. If they had started with a different concept, then they would have used different mechanics to reflect it.

The specific translation from that specific fluff to that specific crunch is a rule. For example, that paladins have three spell slots at fourth level is a rule. If you extend that translation to some other specific fluff, then it would be a different rule, because it no longer represents the specific connection between the same fluff and the same crunch.
 

Cap'n Kobold

Adventurer
I think we're in agreement as to what the terms mean. I'm just saying that the paladin class mechanics exist as they do because they are a reflection of the paladin class fluff. They started with the concept of a heavily-armoured knight who stands for good and justice, and then derived mechanics to reflect that concept. If they had started with a different concept, then they would have used different mechanics to reflect it.

The specific translation from that specific fluff to that specific crunch is a rule. For example, that paladins have three spell slots at fourth level is a rule. If you extend that translation to some other specific fluff, then it would be a different rule, because it no longer represents the specific connection between the same fluff and the same crunch.
That paladins have three spell slots at fourth level is crunch. That those paladin spells are granted by a god is fluff.
That paladins gain the Heavy Armour proficiency is crunch. That paladins are heavily armoured knights is fluff.
The tenets of the Devotion paladin are crunch. That paladins stand for goodness and justice is fluff.

Changing the crunch is house rules. Changing the fluff is not house rules, or home brew, or deviating from the rules. Just re-fluffing.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
That paladins have three spell slots at fourth level is crunch. That those paladin spells are granted by a god is fluff.
That paladins gain the Heavy Armour proficiency is crunch. That paladins are heavily armoured knights is fluff.
The tenets of the Devotion paladin are crunch. That paladins stand for goodness and justice is fluff.

Changing the crunch is house rules. Changing the fluff is not house rules, or home brew, or deviating from the rules. Just re-fluffing.
Mmmmm. Something about your medium example. I get the point you're making, even if @Saelorn disagrees with it, but I'm not sure the distinction between "Paladins get Heavy Armor Proficiency" and "Paladins are heavily-armored knights" is ... entirely a distinction with a difference. I mean, one is rules-speak, and the other is, something like in-setting-speak, but the gap between them is less than the other two.

Geez. I'm quibbling with an argument I agree with. I'll stop now.
 

Cap'n Kobold

Adventurer
Mmmmm. Something about your medium example. I get the point you're making, even if @Saelorn disagrees with it, but I'm not sure the distinction between "Paladins get Heavy Armor Proficiency" and "Paladins are heavily-armored knights" is ... entirely a distinction with a difference. I mean, one is rules-speak, and the other is, something like in-setting-speak, but the gap between them is less than the other two.

Geez. I'm quibbling with an argument I agree with. I'll stop now.
I'm mostly just making the point that adherence to those rules does not require adherence to the fluff. Having heavy armour proficiency does not require your paladin to wear heavy armour.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
I'm mostly just making the point that adherence to those rules does not require adherence to the fluff. Having heavy armour proficiency does not require your paladin to wear heavy armour.
That's true. It's an unusual paladin who doesn't (in most campaigns/settings) but it's neither impossible nor disallowed.

Apologies.
 

Saelorn

Hero
I'm mostly just making the point that adherence to those rules does not require adherence to the fluff. Having heavy armour proficiency does not require your paladin to wear heavy armour.
Regardless of an individual's personal preference while walking down the street, the fact they have the proficiency on their sheet reflects the fact that they have learned how to wear it effectively at some point in the past. You still went to paladin school (or whatever), even if you make a point of looking like you hadn't.
 

Advertisement

Top