So How Many Classes Do We Need?

I was reading Lamentations of the Flame Princess and working on my own home brew game and I thought, “Damn, just how many classes do we really need?”
We’ve got the basic four: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User and Thief. But how much do we need beyond that? I mean really. Isn’t a ranger just a fighter who knows how to live off the land? Isn’t a paladin just cleric with a really strong moral code and who is better at fighting? Isn’t a bard sort of a strange combination of all of the above? Isn’t an assassin a thief who is better at killing than trap finding?
Heck, with a decent mulitclassing system and an easy skill rules, I think you can get by with just four classes. Yeah, there can be a few more tweaks too. But I think you can get by with a minimal number of classes that each can be tweaked slightly to specialize and individualize the character.
So what do you think?

12 thoughts on “So How Many Classes Do We Need?”

  1. If we’re re-inventing the wheel rather than minimising then I say 6. One for each of the stats; Fighters: STR, Thieves: DEX, Mages: INT, Barbarians: CON, Clerics: WIS, Bards: CHA. All other classes can be subs of a Primary.


  2. I think the BASIC FOUR is all you need. I use background (or occupation in DCC) to fill the rest of the character’s skill-set. A former forester or hunter that becomes a Fighter or even a Cleric can easily be a “Ranger”, while a former slave or someone from a small and somewhat primitive can become a “Barbarian” by taking Fighter. But I play a skill-less/Feat-less game of D&D, so yeah… I like things simple.


  3. Simple is always good. And I like where this discussion is going. You know I never thought of doing a game with just two classes. Now little brain is playing around with some ideas.


  4. Class exists only for variety. Only one class is needed, which is the same as having a classless system when you get right down to it, the original class, the class that isn’t one: Fighter.

    You could run an interesting campaign just fine using only human fighters. The others are just there to spice things up. (Think Warlock on Firetop Mountain. There’s no class selection and it still works just fine. Maybe smoother even.)

    After that the main spice that people are going to expect is wizard. But even that depends on the setting and rule book. A lot of pages are going to waste if no one is there to cast wizard spells. (And the same argument can be made for cleric, druid and illusionists.)

    Cleric and Thief aren’t needed, but what the heck? They’re the big 4.

    After that, I’d be inclined to give credit to the monk, because it’s not easily simulated with the other classes, even though many players don’t like it in their setting.


  5. awesome: someone else said “nothing but fighters” before me. It works for Carcosa (which strictly has 2 classes, but there’s no mechanical reason for sorcerers to remain a separate class from “Carcosans.”


  6. For bare bones, I go with True20’s model of three: Warrior, Adept, and Expert. You can be good at fighting, good at magic, or good at skills. The Expert covers all sorts of thieves, but also covers social monsters and non-magical sage types.

    Also, I’m not sure if you intended it, but your proposal of “a ranger [is] just a fighter who knows how to live off the land” is pretty much exactly the paradigm that 2e went with. Four core classes, and a small selection of sub-classes. Personally, I much prefer going with a handful of core classes and making the other classes essentially codified multi-class options. I.e., a paladin is just a specific fighter/cleric, a bard is a specific thief/mage.


  7. Once again, thanks. I’ve seen anywhere between 1 and 6 classes with a happy medium of around 3 to 4. Like I said before some it will depend on the particular setting especially when it comes to spellcasters.


  8. I think D&D’s classes are a good start. They’re the basic ones. They describe a very World of Greyhawk game setting. But if you have a different setting, such as an Arabian or Greek or Italian Reniassance or Viking or whatever, you should have a complete set of different classes.

    No Fighter. No Thief.

    That way, when everyone rolls up characters, and they interact with NPCs, everything from the ground up has a different flavor.

    Similarly, the monsters in 1E MM are fine for Greyhawk, and act as a good base for other settings, but you can probably only use about 3/4 of them in any other setting. And you SHOULD replace almost every single one. This can be just a reskin, but as you go you’ll probably come up with cool ideas for special abilities and weaknesses.

    Same with magic items. D&D steals a lot of magic items from various mythological sources, but I bet you can go through the 1E DMG magic item lists and pick out the ones that best represent an Arabian setting, and then expand upon those. Reskin anything else.

    The end result will be a big binder full of classes, maybe 6 or 7 per setting, multiplied by maybe a dozen settings. At some point your players will want to just pick from the big list of classes. Here is where class-based games break down: new players are paralyzed by indecision and even experienced players spend too much time picking a class.

    Yes you can get an assassin by multiclassing F/T. But you still don’t actually have an assassin: there’s no poison skill, no languages, no assassination roll. The reason different classes are desirable is because they each have different special abilities. Multiclassing just gives you the special abilities of a couple classes – salad-like, not soup-like.

    An alternative is a skill-based game. Reject classes. But then you lose the goodness of classes: ease of advancement, ability to define a character simply: Elf F3. B/X strips that down further: Elf3.

    And I think either way is fine. A profusion of classes, for people who don’t mind just picking something and hitting the road. Choose your skills and customize, for people who really want to make a snowflake. I like both, and I don’t like them. The search continues.


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