Talysman writes about classes as answers to the question “how do you solve problems?” (the discussion at Grognardling is also worth reading, and is what originally pointed me to Talysman’s post).
I would reiterate this as:
- Fighters solve problems by combat and fighting back.
- Wizards solve problems with magic.
- Thieves solve problems with stealth and trickery.
- Clerics solve problems by supporting others and channeling the power of a higher being.
- Monks (replacing halflings) solve problems by evasion and redirection (with a side order of self-mastery, perhaps, allowing abilities like being able to fall farther without taking damage). Self-control, and understanding the limits and capabilities of the self, and seeing the weaknesses of others, are the key to the monk’s powers.
- Dungeoneers (replacing dwarves, perhaps as a morlock race-as-class) solve problems by understanding how things work, taking them apart, or building tools. Interestingly, writing about this potential class in this way has totally changed how I am approaching it. Maybe the dungeoneer is just as much an artificer class as anything else. For example, maybe they never get better at fighting like the fighter does (with an attack bonus based on level), but instead build specific weapons which have bonuses. And, the noticing construction elements of a dungeon like the dwarf class (such as sloping corridors) is very much in line with a dungeoneer. I’m not sure how well this would fit with the mood of the campaign I am working on, which is less steampunk and more sword & sorcery, but I’m willing to run with it for a while and see where it leads me. Blogging is just as much about publicly brainstorming as anything else.
- Elves solve problems more holistically, by being an expression of nature, or the dark powers beyond mundane nature (depending on the tone of the setting). Thus, being inherently magical, they can cast some spells, though without the exactitude of the wizard. They can fight, though not with the training of the fighter. The elf, in this guise, serves as something of a jack-of-all-trades.
I see this working as follows:
- Adversary attacks monk
- Monk then chooses to (on a successful save) either get a free counter attack or to redirect the enemy’s attack against themselves
- Adversary makes attack roll
- Monk makes save
- Consequences determined based on result of monk’s save (i.e., monk takes damage if the save fails and the adversary hits the monk’s AC, or monk gets a counter-attack, or adversary’s attack is compared to their own AC, etc.)