Posted by : David Guyll March 22, 2011

This is pretty late, I know, but I found it while rummaging through the Legend & Lore archives, and realized that I never got around to doing a post about it (but I had totally planned on it). The article talks about the prevalence of the class mechanic throughout games--even today--and how they changed in context to the D&D game over time and editions--specifically, how classes became more complex. Now, I never really played 1st Edition, and while I did play Basic, I don't really remember anything about it except for only having five levels, races were their own classes, and there were only three alignments. 2nd and 3rd Edition stand out more, both because they were more recent, but also because I played each a lot more than Basic.

Personally, I like the increased complexity in character generation, because it made it easier to differentiate characters beyond just background and personality. In fact, more options made it more likely that I could apply class features and decisions to the character's background and personality. For example, in 2nd Edition the mechanical decisions you made were basically limited to your weapons and skills. In 3rd Edition the addition of feats and easier usage of skills added layers of mechanical differentiation, but ultimately both iterations of the class were largely limited to making the same old melee attack that just did damage on a hit. Granted, in 3rd Edition you could potentially shake up the damage bonus a bit, but not by much.

4th Edition really shook this up by the inclusion of powers, as well as by how skills were implemented. I can make a fighter that not only uses a two-handed sword, but I can take abilities that make him very much different from how the guy with a one-handed sword and shield operates. Not only does size matter, but type matters, too. In past editions, stabbing a guy with a spear was the same as stabbing with a sword: they both did damage, and that was it. Now, swords can benefit from being agile, spears can push guys around, and hammers can daze targets or knock them on their ass.

Not only that, but new fighter class features help push concepts like fighters that mix it up with their fists or go into a frenzy, or even fight with two weapons without breaking down the class mechanics or requiring lots of rigid optimization to ensure a working character beyond the first few levels. Additionally, since skills operate and scale differently, its much easier to play a fighter who knows his stuff about magic, religion, breaking-and-entering, and more. This kind of flexibility extends to all the classes that existed in older editions, though admittedly not all benefit from as many increased options.

Ultimately, I enjoy the flexibility that has come with the increased complexity.

{ 1 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. So why no March of the Phantom Brigade, Week 7 (or 6)?

    ReplyDelete

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