Fleshed-out Thematic Classes vs Mechanically Versatile Classes

Pootscooter

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Sorry, I had a hard time coming up with a clear title for the thread. What do I mean by "fleshed-out thematic classes"? Well, I've noticed people talking a lot about classes in general lately and I sorta noticed something. Certain classes (or most classes in certain games) incorporate a lot of lore and adhere to a specific theme. Examples include classes like Druid, Paladin, or Shaman (from WoW). In contrast, other classes like Archer, Arbalist, or Knight (got these from recent threads) have next to no lore or theme going on but are based on their weapon choice instead. I guess they're different approaches to class design.

My question is which type of classes do people like more? I really like when classes are really fleshed out with lore and thematic motifs. But according to @Frostorm, his Knight (or is it Guardian?) class can be built to function like other classes. A Paladin would just be a Knight with White Magic, right? Or how a Death Knight is just a Knight with Black Magic. So while the plain, less thematic classes will never have all the lovely flavor text or spell icons that all match a certain theme, it does seem to be more versatile mechanically speaking. So yea, which design approach is the preferred out of the two?
 

Frostorm

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Actually, in my game...each unit can get up to 2 elemental disciplines. So a Guardian-class unit could actually function as BOTH a Paladin & Death Knight at the same time! They'd have to go for both Hieromancy (Holy/Light) & Necromancy (Shadow/Dark) as their 2 elemental disciplines. This would result in pretty much the tankiest unit possible. The natural armor and durability of the Guardian class combined with the direct healing & absorption shields from Hieromancy plus the life-stealing mechanics from Necromancy...oh man, that's one hell of a tank! Oh, and you get to summon an undead minion with Necromancy, which includes a passive that lets you transfer a fraction of your damage taken onto the minion instead.
 

gstv87

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every time I find a non-standard class, I try and conceptualize it into a standard one.
it doesn't really matter how you name them... eventually someone's gonna deconstruct it and rebuild it differently in their heads, for ease of handling.

there's only so many combinations you can have, between fighter/mage, physical/magical, ranged/melee, white/dark, solo/party, etc.
if it's a ranged fighter, is probably going to be an archer.... if it doesn't have a bow for whatever reason, it probably has a javelin or a sling, or a crossbow.
if it's not named "archer", or "bowman", it's probably "ranger", or "skirmisher".... it's never gonna be a "paladin" or a "necromancer", because, *common sense*
it's about the mechanics and how some of them are exclusive respect of the others.
 
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Pootscooter

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every time I find a non-standard class, I try and conceptualize it into a standard one.
it doesn't really matter how you name them... eventually someone's gonna deconstruct it and rebuild it differently in their heads, for ease of handling.
By "deconstruct", do you mean like distilling the class down to its basic role/function? Like how a Paladin is just a tank with a bit of healing? Or did you mean something else?
 

gstv87

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@Pootscooter I try making sense of the fundamental mechanics and place it somewhere sensible: if it's a warrior that heals by attacking and doesn't have any defense tactics, it's more suitable to call it a berserker than a ranger, even if it does have range.

(side note: I learned some time ago that any character can be a paladin, in the strict sense of the word, a representation of a deity on the world. So, even a warrior could be a paladin. But if we're talking *class* Paladin, then yes, a "Paladin" stereotypical class is a melee fighter who can heal by means of magic..... it then being armed with either sword or mace, with or without a shield, is not really important to the core mechanic. A paladin class is a fighter who plays defensively by taking damage, healing, or protecting others. Indirectly, rather than directly attacking.)
 
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AphoticAmaranth

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I tend to favour mechanically versatile classes (or just not having a class system), because chances are, I've already seen that same "fleshed out thematic class" several times in other games.

Besides, it's still possible to have somewhat matching icons/flavour even if you aren't strictly following a theme.
 

kirbwarrior

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My question is which type of classes do people like more?
To be as terrible as possible, both. A class should have both mechanical cohesion and flavorful cohesion. The incredibly useful conceit here is that flavor is easy; Necromancer does something with "death" "magic". Knight does "armor" things. Archer wields a "bow". Druid does something related to "nature". Rockstar does "music" things. Starborn is "special". Lord is "special". Peasant is "mundane". Everything in parentheses doesn't actually mean something mechanically but does carry some expectations.

Mechanics are much harder to bend. This class uses two handed weapons with a focus on draining HP. This class uses high MP cost skills. This class exclusively heals HP, removes states on allies, and punishes a certain enemy type*. This class juggles the parties' resources. That's what the class does, it's that simple, it's unavoidable. It's also meaningless from a lore perspective;

Necromancers use two handed staves and drain HP through the power of life-sucking death
Rockstar heals HP, removes states from allies, and punishes glass enemies with sound
Druid uses high MP cost skills that call upon Nature itself to do massive things

OR

Necromancers heal HP, remove states from allies, and punish undead with death magic
Rockstar juggles the parties' resources with tempo
Druid uses two handed wooden weapons and drain HP through literal devouring with the power of the food chain

*This is the cleric class from Final Fantasy and yet I flavored two different classes around it.


And the best part is not all class slots will have dedicated mechanical themes. If there are 20+ classes in your game, you'll likely come up with 12-15 mechanical goals and leave those last 5-8 to whatever cool and unique mechanics you want to focus on. What does a Lord do? Could be anything from versatile skill set representing summoning people who work for you to issuing out commands that affect the whole party, enemy group, or all units. What does a Starborn do? Could be anything from channeling star energy into massive blasts to a versatile skill set defined by the gods forcing destiny on you. What does a Blue Mage do? Everything.

Now, you can start from a flavor perspective for your classes but you'll run into issues you won't with mechanics; Overlapping themes with swords (Samurai/Knight/Duelist/Blade Mage/Ninja/Assassin), no mechanical cohesion (leaving gaps in what a party might do or NO gaps for each individual), and a much rougher set up of what even is available to the player. And those aren't even issues in the right game; Final Fantasy and Fire Emblem know they rely too much on swords and not enough on axes and give things based on how many of each they assume a player will have. Some games even want every class to have access to everything but change up how you have access to it!

All that long-winded explanation is basically to say; Do both, but also do the one you care about more.
 

MarxMayhem

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Mechanics are important in any game, RPGs or otherwise; what defines a game is the interaction of it by its consumer, the player. For RPGs that has a class system, it is vital that the players can look at each class and understand its defining role and abilities, how they can improve and/or deviate from that, and what does doing so mean. Depending on how robust you want your class system to be, your workload would either be light or heavy.

As far as thematics go, classes only need to be as defined as the setting of the game needs to be. If classes do not impact your setting or plot, feel free to make an anachronistic stee. Otherwise, give consideration accordingly. You can choose which one to think first, and build the other into it.

If you want an answer to "So yea, which design approach is the preferred out of the two?" players do not have a set preference, and it's a case-by-case basis. If you are asking this because you want to address player interest, then unless you have a specific audience in mind, do not think about it. If the themes and mechanics of your game is well thought-out, all players regardless will appreciate it.
 

kirbwarrior

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If you are asking this because you want to address player interest
I feel like the question is almost more important to developers than players to figure out how to make the game feel and play how they want. And for that I'm glad, it made me think about things that caused that giant post above.


Also, all my previous post was about classes, specifically in mind of class changing. If your game doesn't have a class change system and characters are fairly static, then "class" goes from mechanical to thematic. And if you have a tight party (equal to number of members that can enter battle, default 4 in rpg maker), then you likely want to lean much more on who the characters are and use that to help define what they do mechanically. Even further if characters have choice on what skills they get because you're effectively handing the class building to the character.
 

M.I.A.

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Personally, I prefer to mix classes (some that make sense, and others that do not) and assign them to the characters with a "reclassed" title that suits the combination. It makes sense to me, the lore, and seems pretty easily interpreted by the player.

For example: I have a "Bandit" class, that is a melee based character who is effectively a combination of a Monk, Thief, and Ninja. :)

You could go full "standard" classes.. you can make up a bunch of stuff for your classes.. you can mix and mold classes from your lore.. it's entirely up to you.
Hope this helps!
-MIA
 

KawaiiKid

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Those classes that don't have a "defined lore", can easily have one in your game. Those tropes all started somewhere.
Sorry, I had a hard time coming up with a clear title for the thread. What do I mean by "fleshed-out thematic classes"? Well, I've noticed people talking a lot about classes in general lately and I sorta noticed something. Certain classes (or most classes in certain games) incorporate a lot of lore and adhere to a specific theme. Examples include classes like Druid, Paladin, or Shaman (from WoW). In contrast, other classes like Archer, Arbalist, or Knight (got these from recent threads) have next to no lore or theme going on but are based on their weapon choice instead. I guess they're different approaches to class design.

My question is which type of classes do people like more? I really like when classes are really fleshed out with lore and thematic motifs. But according to @Frostorm, his Knight (or is it Guardian?) class can be built to function like other classes. A Paladin would just be a Knight with White Magic, right? Or how a Death Knight is just a Knight with Black Magic. So while the plain, less thematic classes will never have all the lovely flavor text or spell icons that all match a certain theme, it does seem to be more versatile mechanically speaking. So yea, which design approach is the preferred out of the two?
 

AfroKat

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IMO Class Names should mostly let the player know immediately what they are, and kinda what they do. Whether that name is for lore, or thematic, or mechinically purposes I don't care.

If a class is called Warrior, I can automatically assume what it is.
If a class is called Jester, I can kinda guess what it is. Luk / RNG based guy.
If a class is called Aqueous Researcher. Then I guess water? But idk
If a class is called Valla's Faithful, then I have no idea and it's a bad name, unless it's for a specific character.

So if a class is Arbalist, Spearmaster, Fire Mage I'm fine with, even though it's their weapons I can immediately discern what they do.
 

pawsplay

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It really varies. A previous project I was working on, now on pause, had classes like Thief and Hero. But my current game has eleven classes but mostly generic, and I decided not to deal with class changes and let the characters be pretty flexible in terms of what gear and skills they can acquire.
 

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