Monday, July 30, 2018

All for one and one for all

There's a rule in many games where you can only have one of any given class: only one thief in the party, only one wizard, only one hallucinogenic-using shaman, etc.

It's a sensible enough rule.  If you're the only thief, all the burgling and pickpocketing falls to you.  You have a clear role to play, and a way to shine where no one else can.  If everyone's different, everyone's the best at their own thing.

But what if everyone played the same class?

(The Man in the Iron Mask)

All playing the same class has its advantages.  First, it helps focus the story.  If we're all playing musketeers, we all have some relationship with the king's guard, we all care about good swordplay, and we all understand the same moral code.  Most GMs would be delighted to have such clear hooks to hang an adventure on.

A party of a single class also helps bring out deeper character.  When you're the only wilderness ranger in a mixed party, all anyone needs to know is that you're the guy to track footprints and hunt for food.  But when you're in a whole party of rangers, personality and depth start to emerge.  Maybe you were kicked out of the 12th regiment because of your conduct during the war.  Maybe you're a farm kid looking to put your hunting and tracking skills to good use.  Maybe you're an unscrupulous mountain guide for rich, would-be explorers.

A common class for everyone helps build camaraderie.  With related origins, the party starts off with a shared concept, making it easier to treat the party as a character.

Personally, I like both sides of the coin.  The party should either be all the same or all different.

(The Avengers)

Partway in between is the worst of both: you're not unique so you don't have your own niche, and you don't have the shared team identity to draw out your distinctiveness.

(The Avengers)  Don't ask.

But no matter how diverse your team is, if you zoom out far enough they're all similar.  The elven priest, the giantish trader, and the human tracker seem like they're all different, but they're still all adventurers from the same setting.  A goblin shaman would be similar to the other characters; the mayor of Mexico City wouldn't be.

My advice for starting your game off right:
  1. figure out what your party is about
  2. and find your place in it.
So what's your ideal role in the party?  What's your favorite part to play?


  1. I have to agree with this completely. I too find this to be a useful method of doing things.

    I also have an additional suggestion. Having all the players be the same class is a really good idea for when the Referee wants to run a specific type of game, such as a Wuxia game that feels like a martial arts movie, or a Superhero game. Such games really lend themselves to "platform classes", ie classes that can be customized based on what options the players choose. For example, two Wizards will play very differently, depending on the spells they have. Similarly, if there are two Fighters but one specializes in archery and the other in magical kung-fu, then there is an obvious difference in behavior between them.

  2. personally I think two broad archetypes is the sweet spot. remember that Arneson's original Blackmoor game featured exclusively fighters & wizards! ofc it can get weird tho-- psionicists & shamans; eldritch fish-folk & sleek androids; ogre berserkers & hobbit necromancers-- a setting based around "two incongruous types of beings have teamed up" has a whole lot of promise imo. As long as there are substantially fewer classes available to play than there are players in the party you should still have some sort of general cohesiveness...

    1. Now I kinda want to play a game with eldritch fish-androids and sleek ogre psionicists.