In 1974, the original Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game introduced to the world three classes: Fighting- Man, Magic-User, and Cleric. The Cleric class being described as having some of the advantages of both the other classes making the class essentially a fighting Magic-User.
While the Fighting-Man, and Magic-User are definitive archetypal classes, the Cleric despite its history is but a hybrid of the other two classes thereby disqualifying the class as archetypal (in the author’s humble opinion), instead that title goes to the Thief class.
The Thief class first appeared in its official form in the 1975 Greyhawk supplement. The Thief class had no spells and a limited combat ability. The Thief class did come with a slew of special skills all their own, including Open Locks, Remove Traps, and Sleight of Hand to name a few. It was these skills that separated the Thief from the original classes, earning its spot as one of three archetypal characters.
It is with this concept of a ‘Big Three’ of fantasy character archetypes that the BeaR-PiGS game uses as the basis for their class system which includes the Magic class, the Skill class, and the Combat class.
BeaR-PiGS does encourage multiclassing for players interested in characters that can perform in melee combat as well as cast spells, like the Cleric. There is no stopping a players from playing a Magic class character whose entire focus is healing spells in BRPGS.
There is no Skill-Combat combo for players who are used to playing Fighter-Thieves in BRPGS due to the skill system that governs non-combat actions. The skill system allows the Combat class to perform at about half as well as their Skill class counterparts of the same level. In the same regards, the Skill class, like the Thief of D&D, can serve as a backup fighter in melee. In BRPGS the Skill class is also the class that exceeds at ranged missile combat. In short, both classes already mimic the abilities of the other making a multiclass of both a moot point.
Do you agree that there are only three archetypal classes?
Should the Cleric be the fourth archetypal class?
2 thoughts on “The Three Archetypal RPG Character Classes”
I must respectfully disagree.
First of all, y’r workin’ from the assumption that a Cleric is just a “fighter-magic user.” This is not true, as any player of the game can point out. While Wizards and Clerics do indeed use magic spells, their SPELL LISTS are wildly different, allowing Wizards to either specialize in a given area of tactics or interest, whereas Clerics are largely limited to healing, protection, and buffing, at least at low levels.
The Cleric was originally envisioned as a “warrior priest” sort of archetype, a thing that’s been around since the Crusades. He’s in the game largely because at the game’s early inception, its designers learned that dungeon crawling is DANGEROUS, and having a cleric along with his healing spells can make a big difference.
That being said, the Thief or Rogue is as good an archetype as any; while not in the first editions of the game, his addition damages nothing and removes nothing from the game, while opening up a variety of new options for the adventuring party and the story they’re telling.
Make my vote for FOUR archetypes, please.
Thank-you for presenting your argument!
While I am well aware of the crusading Bishop of the Bayeux Tapestry (I heard he was misidentified by the way) I feel you concur they are spellcasters, like the magic-user, but your protest on their similarity ends at the difference is in the type of spells.
You also willingly cite the cleric as a WARRIOR priest.
So you concur on two accounts that I am correct in calling them Fighter-Magic-Users (albeit the Cleric uses “white” magic).
If you had mentioned the power of turning I may have been inclined to go along with you.
That power is more Hammer than History however.
At the end of the day I respect your time-honored tradition of 4 archetypes, but stand by my assertion I can make a Cleric out of 1 Combat class & 1 Magic class!
Please read my other articles for more debate.