Role Review

I was poking around the homebrew forum over at Giant in the Playground when I noticed this post on role design for a custom system inspired by 4th edition D&D.  I got a into how each of the roles turned out and what functions they ended up serving, so I figured I’d relay that here.

Strikers in 4e are the only strictly offensive role in game as their focus is strictly on reducing the enemy team’s time to defeat. They are especially good at delivering damage precisely where they want it. This makes focusing fire easier for them as well as making them good at landing finishing blows. Note that high offense and ease of targeting are independent but synergistic features, with ease of targeting often being accomplished by some combination of ranged attacks and mobility.

Leaders in 4e help their group stay at full strength by helping allies recover, acting as a kind of life line for those running out of hit points. This helps mitigate focused fire somewhat as it let’s the group shift defensive resources to anyone who’s being focused on. Since the need for this is small when the party is at full health, leaders often have secondary jobs as well. If fully defensively oriented, their secondary focus will be on providing protection to mitigate damage before it happens. If they’ve got a somewhat more offensive bent, they’ll act as an enabler, making allies better at performing their jobs.

Defenders in 4e actually seem to have discouraging focused fire as their unofficial job. Their high hit points and defenses make them unappealing focus targets. By itself, this would just result in their allies being taken out first. However, their marking mechanics let them counter that by making themselves more appealing targets to an enemy of their choice. In effect, this lets them peal a specific foe of the group that might be trying to achieve focused fire. The selective nature of marking and punishment mechanics make them less “everyone attack me” like classic “tanks” and more about making sure attacks are distributed around the party so nobody falls. From there, they tend to mirror leaders somewhat by either proactively setting up protective measures or increasing their offense. The main difference being that these defensive and offensive boosts tend to be self oriented as opposed to the leader’s more ally oriented focus.

4e controllers are bit of mess in that their focus is split between acting as artillery and manipulating the opposing side’s options with few class features directly supporting either. Granted, either of those can be made to support the other. For example, if the character was primarily artillery they might want strong manipulation options as back up plan for when limited targets cuts their total damage output. On the flip-side, area attacks can be used to discourage grouping, making it a situational way of altering enemy plans. From what I’ve seen, the online community tends to favor the focusing on the manipulation side, with the artillery side mainly used as a way to distribute control effects over multiple enemies. One side effect of the system is that “minion popping” became a secondary job of the role due to the availability of multi-target powers for this role. It’s interesting to note changing enemy plans overlaps with defender’s deciding who attacks them, which lead to occasional comments about defenders being a specialized type of melee controller.

On a side note, things have been pretty busy over here.  I started a new job in a new city this year, which is admittedly part of why posting has dropped off.  That being said, things are getting a bit more stable now so as time frees up I may start putting more things up here.

Published in: on January 7, 2016 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Delver’s Big Three

Now that I’ve got what my game needs and how it might play out, I’d like to look deeper into its theme. To cover what the game’s about, I’ll use a set of questions known as “The Big Three”.

1. What is your game about?

“Against all odds” may sum up the game’s theme. It’s about people overcoming overwhelming obstacles through determination, teamwork, and a little luck. The main characters aren’t heroes because they’re especially powerful, they’re heroes because they just don’t quit.

2. What do the characters do?

That depends on what the character’s role in the adventure is. Here are some of the most basic roles:

  • Extra: The character is there to add detail and color to the world. This role fills many of the same functions as decorations and scenery.
  • Main Character: These characters drive the story through their involvement with the adventure’s primary conflict. They’re defined by striving to achieve some goal that can not be easily reached.
  • Adversary: These characters act as living obstacles to the main character. They work to make it harder for the main characters to reach their goals.
  • Supporting Character: These characters help other characters achieve their goals. This usually means supporting either a main character or an adversary.

3. What do the players do?

That depends on which side the player has joined. Here’s a quick breakdown of the sides:

  • Heroic: These players guide the main character and their supporters. Their goal is getting those characters to overcome the primary conflict and all obstacles along the way. Their job involves hitting problems from different angles until they manage to break through.
  • Neutral: This is the starting side for all players. Neutral players shape events to amuse themselves, much like fickle fates or lady luck.
  • Nemesis: These players place obstacles and adversaries in the main characters’ path. Their job is to make the main characters work for their victory and to make challenges the other players want to see beaten (ex. a villain the group loves to hate). They may also gain bonus points for over the top performances and villainous flair.
Published in: on November 6, 2011 at 10:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mapping Roles with PI

Pacing and influence elements share some interesting similarities. Both deal with the overall effect of the character’s actions and abilities. They also both have a few distinct qualities which lend themselves to rough measurements.

For pacing, these qualities are offense and defense. Both can be quantified by comparing expected times to drop for either the target enemy (offense) or the character themselves (defense).

For influence, the two more prominent sides are control (enemy oriented) and guidance (ally oriented). Influence is harder to measure, but there is a definite feel of more or less control for different abilities.

We could actually combine these factor into a radar chart to get a rough visual overview of what effect the character has on a conflict. I may look into doing so later if I find a way to do this beyond using ascii art.

PI and Balance

An interesting thing to note is that combat balance seems to center around the pacing qualities (offense and defense). In fact, it looks like for 1 on 1 combat, combat effectiveness is roughly equal to the product of their offense and defense. For example, a character that can take enemies down twice as fast as normal stands an even chance of winning against a character who lasts twice as long as normal. Whether this bears out in larger combats may take some looking into.

In contrast, influence abilities tend to have a much less direct effect on combat effectiveness. In fact, it seems the value of control or guidance effects is derived from the offense or defense provided by the events they cause. For example, stuns are valuable to the group less because the action loss itself and more because the loss of those actions drastically reduces enemy offense.

Published in: on May 18, 2011 at 8:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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AFPI Character Typing

After mulling over the last few posts on character contributions, I think I can boil the whole things down to 4 points. This model is mainly intended for breaking down combat roles.

  • Appeal: Why should a player want to use this character? Alternately, what player needs, wants, or interests does playing the character satisfy?
  • Focus: What is most the player’s attention and effort centered on when playing this character? This can usually be summed up as an activity and a target, such as “eliminating enemies”, “supporting allies”, or “directing pets”.
  • Pacing: Does the character favor a fast, risky approach (offense) or a slower, more cautious approach (defense)?
  • Influence: How does the character affect the actions of others? This includes controlling enemies, guiding allies, and other changes in tactics caused by the character.

These list is also roughly order from most player oriented to most group oriented. For example, the role’s appeal is important to the controlling player, as it helps shape the user experience. However, why a player picked what they did doesn’t matter as much to the rest of the group. In contrast, pacing and influence both have a strong effect on the group dynamic.

AFPI and the MMO Holy Trinity

Now that we’ve got a model roughed out, let’s test it on the “Holy Trinity” of roles used in many MMOs.


Appeal: Hunter, Destroyer
Focus: Eliminating Enemies
Pacing: Offensive
Influence: Both control and guidance effects tend to be limited. This role is usually more about speeding combat up than directing it’s flow.


Appeal: Undying, Protector
Focus: Blocking Enemies
Pacing: Defensive
Influence: Tanks excel at controlling enemies to direct attacks at themselves.


Appeal: Supporter, Fixer, Lifeline
Focus: Healing Allies
Pacing: Defensive
Influence: As with DPS, this role defaults to relatively little control. Instead it’s mainly about slowing or undoing enemy progress.

Role Comparison

It’s interesting to note that each role has one factor that’s exclusive to it. For DPS, it’s being the lone offensive role. Both Tanks and Healers seem to share similar pacing effects as they both focus on keeping allies alive. Their focus might vary (tanks target enemies, healers target allies), but their goals are similar.

Tanks distinguish themselves by being the role with the strongest control. That control does have a fairly narrow scope, as it’s limited to affecting enemy targeting. However, do excel within that specialized field. Other roles might have some control or guidance effects, but those tend to be more limited and are less a key part of the role’s identity.

Healer’s special feature is being ally oriented. The focus for other roles center around doing things to enemies. Only the healer role favors targeting allies.

The interesting thing to consider is that DPS tends to be one of the more popular roles. This might suggest that pacing preference are a strong factor in picking a class. Even if players favor offense and defense in roughly even numbers, having two classes split defensive duties would mean half as many members in each defensive role.

Published in: on May 16, 2011 at 9:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Character Contributions, part 3

Last time we look at character services and roles. On review, it looks like most of these services provide some combination of offense, defense, and control. Before looking into how these lead into roles, I want to touch on a few other features those services may have.

Effect Routes

This property deal with the steps between using a service and it’s final effects. A common example of a direct route is attack action -> damage enemy. An example of a more indirect route might be command pet -> pet attack -> damage enemy.

You may also recognize the direct and indirect terms last post’s comments on offense and defense. Things like lowering enemy defense indirectly raising ally offense can be treated as an effect route.

One interesting way these effects can travel is through allies. In fact, many “support” roles are defined by services that go through allies. In fact, I’d even argue that “support” is less a type of service (like offense and defense) and more of an ally oriented way of delivering effects.

Use Conditions

These properties covers what conditions are in effect when the service comes into play. This includes things such as use restrictions and targeting restrictions as well as whether the service has be used before or after the thing it’s applied to. For example, healing effects are only effective after the fact while shield are usually used before damage is taken.

It’s worth noting that trouble shooter roles tend to have lots of services with special use conditions. After all, those roles tend to focus on having the right tool for the job.

That’s it for this run. Next time I’ll take a peak at how all this applies to the “Holy Trinity” or roles used in so many modern MMORPGs.

Published in: on May 13, 2011 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Character Contributions, take 2

As I’ve mentioned before, a character’s role within a group can be defined by the services they provide. This time, I’d like to look at some of the common properties of combat oriented services.

It seems that the most useful combat services manipulate at least one of the following:

  • The output or effectiveness of one or more participants.
  • The actions of one or more participants.
  • The conditions and/or environment where the conflict takes place.

Output Manipulation

In most games, combat centers around pushing every opponent into a state where they are no longer a threat. In effect, this means dropping the enemy’s contribution to zero and keeping it there for the duration of the conflict, if not longer.

This makes threat elimination the core service of a combat force. In fact, this service is pretty much required as without it you can’t force opponent in the losing state, which in turn makes winning a difficult proposition. This drive to push enemies out of the fight forms the core of various offensive effects.


Offensive services make enemies drop out of the fight more quickly. Direct offense covers abilities that can take an opponent out of the fight on their own while indirect offense relies on additional actions to deliver their final payload. Classic examples of indirect offense include making an allied attack deal more damage or making an enemy more vulnerable.

The most forms of direct offense are abilities the outright inflict a persistent “can’t fight” condition. However, in most games such one-shot knock-pouts are usually deemed to potent to be used as is. The most common ways of toning this down is to use “save or die” or damage effects instead.

“Save or die” effects can outright drop an opponent with one use, but only have a limited chance of doing so. Each save or die attack give the target a chance of escaping a KO and many even have a chance of avoiding harm entirely.

In contrast, damage effects spread the knock out over multiple shots. Each shot basically adds a little more damage to the target and when a certain threshold is reached, they drop out of the conflict.


The counterpoint to trying to drive enemies out of combat is trying to keep the same from happening to your own side. As with offense, defenses can be either direct or indirect.

One way of doing this is by reducing the effectiveness of enemy attacks. For example, a save or die can have it’s chances cut down while damage dealing attacks can have that damage reduced. I’ll collectively refer to these kind of defenses as dampers.

Another approach is preventing the knock out condition from ever occurring. I’ll refer to these KO blockers as lifelines. These effects usually involve a certain amount of damping as well. However, some focus more on adjusting or redistributing an attack’s impact instead of outright reducing it. For example, a lifeline couple spread damage over multiple allies to keep the original target from dropping.


Note that just as defenses counter offense, other abilities can counter these defenses to raise enemy offense. In fact, this cycle of counters can be taken a few steps further if desired, though few systems go beyond the first few levels of counters.

We can collective refer to many of these counters as maintenance effect as their purpose is minimize the enemies ability to lower one’s offensive or defensive ability. It’s worth noting the the importance of these effects depends on how frequent and power the target ability lowering effects the are.

Action Manipulation

Another useful service is controlling the actions or tactics of combatants. In games, this kind of control is usually directed at enemies, but pushing allies toward certain actions can be useful at times. These manipulations usually take one of the following forms.

  • Blocking or preventing certain actions.
  • Making new actions available to the target.
  • Changing the cost of the target action.
  • Changing the results of the target action.

With enemy actions, this usually means preventing action, making them more costly, or making them less effective. In contrast, allied can be given new actions or have their existing options made cheaper or more effective.

Note that action manipulation usually has offensive or defensive side effects. After all, with enemies you usually want to shut down their strongest attacks (defensive effect) or counter their defenses (offensive effect).

By the same token, you want to give allies strong attack or defense options that as strong or stronger than the options they already had, which tends to mead a net increase in their offensive or defensive abilities.

Situation Manipulation

That leaves manipulation the environment and conditions to swing things in the groups favor. The final effects of these services tend to overlap the other types of services (output and action manipulations), so I won’t go into too much detail here.

Wrap Up

It looks like the three most prominent services types are offense, defense, and control. I’ll look into these and how they apply to various roles in later posts.

Published in: on May 12, 2011 at 10:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Character Contributions

After the last game session I’ve been thinking over party’s needs in combat. It seems that most of the time, our needs boil down to one of the following:

  • “Take that guy down” – usually called out against the biggest threat or nuisance on the table.
  • “Keep this guy in the game” – called out when an ally deep in bloodied territory
  • “Get me out of this” – called out when an ally is in a bad situation
  • “Just die already” – called out when progress is slow, such as when an enemy is hard to hit or has a ton of hit points

Character Services

This in turn makes me think there a few types of key services each character can contribute to the party:

  • Threat Elimination (Offense) takes enemies out of play.
  • Damage Control (Defense) keeps the party running at full strength by eliminating negative effects.
  • Difficulty Reduction (Support) makes the encounter easier for the party, usually by either making allies more effective or making enemies less effective.

These specialties form more of a continuum than being strict categories. They also tend to feed of each other. For example, removing a threat also makes the rest of the battle easier and reduces the damage allies take. By the same token, damage control makes the fight easier by keeping allies at full capacity which in turn makes enemies drop faster.

There are also some effects bridge these categories nicely. For example:

  • Suppression effects provide damage control by temporarily taking a threat out of play.
  • Disruption effects make enemies less effective at their favored tactics. If this reduces their offensive ability, that provides nice damage control. If it reduces their defensive ability, it’s a good case of difficulty reduction.

Another important thing each character can contribute is tactics and coordination with allies. By coordinating their actions, a party can make the group as a whole much more effective. The most classic example of this is focused fire. While tactics are managed by the players, there are some character abilities that make coordinating actions easier. These generally fall under difficulty reduction, though they may push into the other categories.

Service Priority

In combat, threat elimination gains top priority since you generally can’t win without it.

Damage control also tends to have high priority. You can do without it, but doing so risks a death spiral as party members start dropping.

Difficulty reduction has the most variable priority. It may not be needed in every conflict, but when it is needed it can make a big difference.

Generalizing Services

This three point model could be extended to other types of challenges and conflicts beyond combat. You’d just need to generalize them into something like this.

  • Threat Elimination can be generalized as a direct push toward the challenges victory conditions.
  • Damage Control can be generalized as safeguarding your progress and ability to keep making progress.
  • Difficulty Reduction works fairly well as is for most challenges.
Published in: on January 4, 2011 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Delver Evolution: Role Review, part 3

Looking back over both my own play experience and written guides on party composition, it seems like the following are high priority roles for an adventuring party.

  • Face: Most games will have at least some situations that can be resolved by talking to someone. As such, party should have at least on member that can handle this. There may be more sub-roles for this based on different approaches and how they support each other.
  • Explorer: These roles all focus on helping the party through hostile territory. Most explorer roles will have a combination of good perception and mobility.
    • Scout: This role gathers information on upcoming areas so the group can be properly prepared. This overlaps somewhat with the Sentry role and can work nicely when combined with the guide role. This role becomes more important in settings where nasty surprises are common.
    • Guide: This role helps the part past certain inanimate or environmental obstacles and hazards. The usefulness of a given guide depends on how often the hazards the specialize in appear. Common hazards for adventurers include traps, blocked passages or doors, and dangerous terrain.
    • Sentry: This role is about detecting items of interest and potential threats. It’s value lies in both preventing ambushes and finding things that can be used to the parties advantage. This role has some overlap with the Scout, but has less reliance on mobility.
  • Combatant: These roles are built for taking out hostile creatures and keeping them from doing the same to the party. While there are a variety of combat roles, here are a couple I’ve noticed a strong need for.
    • Caller: When trying to focus fire, it helps to have at least one player who can prioritize a target for the party to focus on.
    • Life Line: This role is all about keeping party members in the fight, or least making sure they can participate in future ones. When a fight goes badly, having at least one member to minimize the losses is a great help.
  • Fixer: This role specializes in keeping the party going. It’s main focus is on removing debilitating conditions like disease and poisons. While these services can be found in town, having some one along to fix them on the spot is a big advantage. Fixers may also have tricks to work around things that put the party at a disadvantage.

In addition to above, there are some support roles which can be useful to a party. However, these are often lower priority or found on NPCs.

  • Informant: This role is about getting the party useful information. This can range from a network of contacts through having specialized knowledge.
  • Supplier: This role is about making sure the party has the tools it needs to do the job.

Roles and Character Types

All adventuring player character should probably cover at least one social, exploration, or combat role. A pure fixer is possible, but it’s generally not recommended as repair is usually a less interactive part of play. That’s not to say a PC fixer is a bad idea. It’s just that the fixer should also have the ability to contribute in at least on other areas so the player can be more active instead of passively waiting for something to go wrong.

By the same token, the more interactive roles of talker, explorer, and combatant are often better handles by player characters. The party could hire someone to fight, talks, or scout for them, but doing so may mean effectively skipping certain adventuring activities.

In contrast, NPCs and hirelings are well suited as suppliers and informants. A PC can take on these roles, however those are usually taken in addition to their other roles. A character who can’t contribute to combat, exploration, or social challenges generally isn’t much of an adventurer.

Published in: on November 26, 2010 at 8:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Delver Evolution: Role Review, part 2

Last time we looked at the roles present in early D&D. Today we’ll be taking a look at where things went from there.


Many of the roles from OD&D seem to have carried into AD&D. Here’s a quick list of common tactical roles.

  • Assault: This role balances offense and defense to make a strong and resilient attacker.
  • Front Line: Front line characters effectively protected those behind them by being much easier to reach. The party would place it’s tougher members on the outside of the party so threats would have to fight through them to get at the more vulnerable members.
  • Artillery: This role is about bringing powerful ranged attacks to bear on the enemy. While they have strong offense, artillery characters tended to have weak defenses and could be decimated if enemies got close to them.
  • Trouble Shooter: This role is defined by having a wide range of tricks and tools available to help the party get past specific threats and obstacles.
  • Medic: These characters are good at getting the party back on their feet.
  • Foe Hunter: This character type specializes in taking down a specific type of enemy.
  • Scout: These characters are good at gathering information and getting into dangerous places. They also tend to be good at opening a path for the rest of the party.

The fighter combined the front-line and assault roles, while wizards handled artillery and trouble shooter roles. Clerics dabbled in front-line, assault, and trouble shooter roles while adding a touch of medic and foe hunter (vs undead). Thieves were primarily scouts (good stealth, trap finding, and lock picking) with some potential as trouble shooters.

Other classes tended to combine elements of these classes. For example, the ranger had Foe Hunter elements (vs giants) on a fighter base.

3rd Edition


Part of the changes in 3E was assuming that monster level and hit dice would scale up with party level. Unfortunately, damage didn’t always scale at the same rate. While the assault role remained workable, it tended to fall behind classes with “save or die” abilities.

The front line role would be similarly down played as adventure setting used more open terrain but fewer characters to help hold the front line.

Instead, fighters started to migrate toward specializing in a particular combat trick. Often these tricks were about disabling (trip) or weakening (sunder) a particular enemy, leading to a more single target lock down role.


As mentioned above, pure damage fell out of favor in this edition. As such, wizards tended less toward artillery and more toward a “curser” role specializing in save or die effects. This also included “save or suck” spells as well as strong enemy control effects.

At the same time summoning spells became more numerous, leading to a strong summoner role. This became a strong way to break the game’s action economy as each summons gave the party extra actions per turn.

The trouble-shooter role remained alive and well. In fact, it may have prospered even more with the prevalence of scroll and similar magic items.


The cleric retained many of it’s old roles. However, ally boosting buffs also became more prominent and long lasting in this addition. In fact, they became so effective that a cleric could reach fighter levels of combat ability with the right buffs.


As I’ve mention in the rogue/thief review, 3E saw the emphasis on the the thief’s role in combat. This resulted in it’s back-stab getting promoted to it’s defining feature. Since the class had a damage feature but no defensive features, it evolved into a very offensively oriented class.

4th Edition

4th edition would see the first attempt to formalize a character’s role within the party. However, the focus here was on combat roles, so things like the scout and trouble shooter fell by the wayside.


This role seems to be a revival of the older front line or “meat shield” role. To solve the problem of enemies being able to walk around the defender a marking system was added. In essense, the defender is an enemy control specialist which focuses on limiting enemy movement and focusing attacks on them. This helps create the feel of “holding the line” without the need for extra bodies or narrow hallways.


This role was an attempt at summing up the wizard. As such it merged element of the earlier artillery rolls with the elements of enemy control (3E status effects) and terrain manipulation (goes back as far as chainmail). This leaves the role with a certain lack of clarity as they seem to be lumping multiple roles under one umbrella.


This role merges the medic and buffer with elements of the older commander role. The result is a very effective ally support specialist.


This role is mainly about dealing damage. In general strikers also specialize in being able to apply that damage where it’s most needed, either through ranged attacks or mobility. This seems to be a combination of the older assault role with the offensive focus and vulnerability of the artillery role.

PC vs Monster Roles

Overall, it feels like PC roles were meant to model the four oldest classes of D&D (fighter, wizard, cleric, and thief). While this worked smoothly in some cases, in others it does feel like roles have been artificially combined.

In contrast, monster roles seem to just be designed around what they do. This focus seems to make for more intuitive an accurate roles. As such, I think it would have been better if the PC roles had followed a similar approach.

Wrapping Up

Next time I’ll list out some common adventuring roles both in and out of combat and how they relate.

Published in: on November 24, 2010 at 6:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Delver Evolution: Role Review

Today I’m going to take a look at character roles in D&D and how they’ve evolved. I’ve already done this in more detail for the fighter and thief, but I’d like to take a look at how the roles influenced each other.


The oldest role was probably the basic assault role, which can be summed up as “keep attacking them until they drop”. It’s simple, straightforward, and common to most of the units on the field. However, there are some interesting hints of other roles in the hero and wizard units.

Hero Roles:

  • Survivor: The ability to take 4 hits to kill from normal attacks gave the hero a lot of staying power. Thee fact they died last when grouped with normal units just reinforces that.
  • Champion: The flip side of being the last to die was their ability to counter certain special or elite units. If look like they may have been able to shield their allies from special monsters by fighting those themselves. Their dragon sniping looks like a similar ability.
  • Commander: Their ability to boost the morale of allied units do suggest a certain basic support role.

Wizard Roles:

  • Artillery: The wizard’s default attacks (fireball and lightning bolt) acted just like ballista and catapult attacks. As such, a fair part of the wizard’s role was being portable artillery.
  • Sneak: The wizard’s ability to turn invisible meant they could sneak into a good position before raining death from above.
  • Counter Agent: Wizards had the ability to counter the spells of other wizards, making them useful equalizers.

In addition to these, the wizard’s spell selection could open up a few more roles.

  • Manipulator: Many wizards spells altered either the battlefield or their opponents abilities and behavior.
  • Commander: Several spells augmented or protected allied troops.


The original red box came with 3 classes: the fighting man, the magic user, and the cleric. These three would lay the foundations of the roles we know today.


The fighting man is an extension of the hero unit from Chainmail. It inherited much of it’s predecessor’s toughness but less of it’s anti-elite and leadership abilities. However, the very fact the fighting man was tougher than the other classes lead to them being called out to form the front line and lead the charge in battle. This was simply a matter of throwing the character most likely to survive danger into the thick of it.

It’s interesting to note that this early front line role was not purely defensive. The fighting man was perfectly capable of taking the fight to the enemy and doing them in.

In fact, their ability to defend had a lot to do with the party taking advantage of choke points combined with bolstered numbers through henchmen. A group of fighting men could form a solid wall that made it impossible to engage the back line in melee.


The wizard would have a lot of it’s abilities stripped down in the transition to the magic user. However, it did retain a certain artillery feel. Much like the siege weaponry their predecessors were based on, magic users had big guns, but were easy to take out if anyone closed with them.

This relative frailty with high firepower may have been the start of the glass cannon archetype that would become the damage dealer role in later games.

At that same time, the diverse abilities available to the class would give the magic user a special “trouble shooter” role. The idea of the “utility belt” mage was to always have an option ready for anything that might stall the rest of the party.


The cleric actually started from a vampire hunter archetype. As such, it’s original role was more of fighting-man / magic-user hybrid with and anti-undead twist.

However, it’s the inclusion of healing spells that would come to dominate the class. Part of this may have come from the extremely slow recovery times for natural healing. When a single spell can shorten down time from weeks to a single day, that’s going to catch the player’s attention.

Their spell select was also geared more toward support instead of the more offensively minded magic-user selection, which implied a certain ally enhancing and support role.

It’s worth noting that the cleric was almost as combat ready as the fighting man, so they could also fill the front line role to a limited extent.


Though it’s consider one of the most archetypic classes, the thief was actually added to the game in it’s Blackmoor supplement.

The interesting thing is that the thief really had a very limited combat role. It’s role in the party was far more oriented on exploration activities such as scouting and defeating traps. Even it’s signature combat ability was better suited for scouting and taking out sentries than it was for reliable use in a pitched battle.

It’s also worth noting that the thief shared a certain amount of territory with the magic user. The thief would often be called on to find a solution with their skills much like a magic user would be with their spells. As such, the thief did share the magic user’s trouble shooter role to some extent.

Wrapping Up

Next time I’ll look at what happened to these roles as the game evolved.

The second playtest for mezzo should also be out this coming week. It would be out already, but my editor hasn’t been feeling well, so progress has been delayed.

Published in: on November 21, 2010 at 12:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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