Does A Class System Stereotype Games?

My son, Ethan, is ready to move into some more games of a more serious nature.  He has learnt the idea of role playing games really well with Michtim written by Georg Mir.  My post about the reason I chose that game is here.  But he is keen to try some of the games that we play regularly and has been showing interest in the Dungeons and Dragons game that I had been playing with my regular group.  I bought him his first set of 7 polyhedral dice and then sat down to think about what game to get him involved in first.  This blog covers my thoughts.

Dungeon World

Dungeon World Cover Stereotype
Dungeon World is a great game and I really do love its play style

I am not sure why but my first port of call was Dungeon World.  I think it is because the game would hammer home for him the need for it to be him that helps drive the story.  I also had a bit of a think about it and started to move away from it largely because it may be a little too daunting for him.  He is used to seeing a D&D or Pathfinder styled game where I use prepared modules and I am not really too sure how he would go with a free form styled game.  I also know that he would find it a bit annoying that he just got these new set of funky looking dice and if he did not get to use them I thought he would be a bit disappointed.

Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder

DnD Player's handbook cover
The DnD Player’s Handbook is available now

I then decided it had to be D&D or Pathfinder.  Pathfinder is a bit too rules intensive to hit him with first so I thought D&D.  But then a thought came into my head.  What if he could play anything he wanted for a character.  FATE flashed very quickly passed my minds eye as I thought;

Does having to choose a class stymie imagination?

I felt like I was in the perfect place to test this theory.  I had thought of this a couple of times recently as I was looking over the Advanced Class Guide.  I had been so against that book but they came up with ten awesome new classes.  When I tried to think of a new class idea I kept coming back to the staid specifics of the tried and true classes.  I wondered if I did that because I was so used to a class based fantasy RPG or if there was no originality in fantasy anymore.

RuneQuest 6th Edition

Cover of Runequest stereotype
The cover of the Runequest 6th Edition Game

Coinciding with this was the fact that I had bought the PDF of RuneQuest 6th Edition from RPG DriveThru and it was the first real skill based fantasy RPG I had seen in a while.  I thought to myself, what if I just said to him;

Think of a concept that you want to play and focus on it as we go through these steps.

Would he come up with something that was boring and old or interesting and new?  To up the stakes, what if I got my daughter involved in the game too and see what she would come up with.

So today we sat down and I was pleasantly surprised.

The three of us made a RuneQuest character each.  It was a fun thing to do and we had a great time taking turns going first with dice rolls.  We all made humans and used the straight 3d6 rolling technique straight into stats.  My character was the least original as I came out with a waif of a primitive female shaman who was an elder (at 27!) of the clan and basically ruled it.  I had control of the animistic totems particular to the clan who were cursed so that they were all dying off in strange “accidents” (or are they?).  Aside from that I was also able to manipulate the low level folk magic and ensure my clan saw me as a great power.

My daughter took an unusual route.  She created a human from a city that was a merchant with strong allies.  The kicker was the way she developed her skills basically showed she was actually a merchant that was as crooked as they came.  She was the original snake oil salesperson who has exceptional skill in hoodwinking those around her and walking away smelling of roses.

My son surprised me.  He started by saying he wanted a barbarian and he took the weapon style “Rock smasher”.  After hearing that I thought;

Oh well, so much for the theory.

But then he turned the tables on me.  He started to take craft and healing skills.  He wanted to be the barbarian that could make things and heal others.  That is something that is new and I loved it.  He made his barbarian work as a miner so that he could mine the metal he used to make things and he taught me a thing or two as he built up his passions into strongholds of raw feeling that he can draw on.  His character was adventuring because he had seen a ritual when he was young and it scared him.  He must find out what the ritual was and understand what was done before he can truly live!

My Small Sample Size Conclusions

I really do think that playing a class based system does stereotype the way that we think about Fantasy.  We probably play those stereotypes because they are fun but looking at the characters that my two kids came up with I can imagine a lot of fun games and not necessarily the old school way.  Imagine if the point of an adventure is to get to a wounded woodsman to heal him.  Or imagine if the adventure’s focus was on the fact that there were new found primitives that had never seen buttons before and the merchant wants a new summer home.

I am really proud that my kids took on this challenge.  The RuneQuest system of character creation also impressed so much that I am buying a hard copy.  Next time you go to play your next game of D&D or Pathfinder see what you can come up with that makes your character new and break the stereotype that they are created under.  Until next time, keep rolling!


  1. Hey! I found this post through googling Michtim, so now you know what brought me here.

    I really dig your approach and also want to add my opinion regarding stereotyping classes: I am so done with old concepts that I basically reskin all my mechanics when playing D&D.

    I built a Warlock, but due to his spell selection and skills I kind of play him like a mentalist. I use existing mechanics but with different flavors and it really helps my imagination to bend concepts around to see what I can come up with.

    I also built an Urban Ranger, sort of like a gutter runner / rogue but with animal companions and a different set of terrain mastery..

    Skill based systems are great tho. I really dig Fate but feel that it sometimes feels mechanically too homogeneous (a mistake I made with my own first karma based game)…


    1. It certainly can be a lot in the way that you role play the mechanics. Skinning it in a different way is certainly an option.


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