A PC is not defined by their class


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


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So last night I was rolling up a new PC. My buddy is running a 3.5 D&D campaign but the myopic view of character definition by class still applies. As soon as one of the other players said he was a barbarian, everyone at the table was like "ok, so you grew up outside the city, you're low Int and you smash stuff? Got it."

But I was like "maybe he was raised IN the city, but he was born out of trauma and couldn't contain his temper growing up? So a mentor figure takes him in, teaches him how to USE that rage... focus it on the PC's self defense? Maybe he's part of a regiment of disciplined solders that enter a "battle trance" where their "rage" is extreme mind-over-matter? He doesn't HAVE to be some savage outworlder in fur boots."

Folks at the table looked at me like I was crazy.

Point is that a PC's class shouldn't stereotype them into a single expression of that class. Even with archetypes; not all Unchained Scout Rogues are battle scouts from some military unit.

Feel free to either give your commentary on the idea of Class as character definition or share your examples of this happening to you.


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Yeah, a barbarian is a warrior who uses their rage, but their class skill list also informs what they're good at, and it certainly leans more on outdoorsy than not. That said, yeah. Not all barbarians are the Hulk Smash variety.

Characters who get divine spells don't get that kind of leeway from me. If you're a cleric you're a devoted priest of a deity--that's what being a cleric means. I don't care if you're self taught or raised in a seminary, but if you picked cleric, you have to get onboard with the god stuff. So pick a god you want to follow or play an oracle.

If an archetype has a specific origin, I will make a characters stick to that origin. Molthuni Arsenal Chaplains are from Molthune. If you don't want that baggage, don't pick that archetype. Admittedly, the less good the archetype is, the more leeway I'll give, but I will use the game lore sources of feats and archetypes to curb optimization tricks.

I also don't let people 'reflavor' things. If you want your elf barbarian Acadamae dropout to use his wizard staff as his weapon, then you use the stats of a quarterstaff. You don't get greatclub stats and then say its not a greatclub.

Not a fan of people trying to pretend to be other classes either. The party is being built by players to cooperatively succeed at a dangerous, lethal task. If you say you're bringing the arcane caster and you bring a rogue who is faking it, the entire table needs to be aware of this, and agree to it because now your decision has lasting effects on the rest of the group. I don't care if you're a nonstandard version of your class, but you have to be able to contribute as a member of that class.


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IMO, what's more defining of a PC is their role. Most parties need a healer, a tank, a striker, a caster, and a lockpick. Now, how you go about fulfilling those roles is extremely varied, and parties can survive without a couple of those roles. So yeah, I don't care if you are a battle scout rogue, or a city dwelling barbarian, or if you are a their pretending to be a wizard. Pick what role your character is going to fulfill in the party and then do your best to do your job.


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Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
Folks at the table looked at me like I was crazy.

I guess they didn't understand your frustration. For them clichés are a handy tool to simplify a game world that's actually too complex for them - because they don't spend enough time with it, don't care enough or simply aren't that smart (no offense intended, it is what it is).

Maybe the best course of action is to play a PC that breaks with some clichés, but to introduce the differences slowly to the other players - so they are not overwhelmed by it. Second best might be to tell them why you are doing that. For example one of my players created a paladin that was quite a toxic zealot, to the point of destroying other PC's magic items. I am tempted for years to show my players that a paladin can be completely different.

Paizo actually offered players some friendly hints how to get past clichés. Ultimate Campaign has a whole page dedicated to possible backgrounds of barbarians. But I bet most players never encountered that page or they quickly forgot about it, moving on to the mechanical choices.


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The other guys at the table want a beer-and-pretzels game, I get it. They're not really interested in worldbuilding. I've played with this GM before and frankly he doesn't add a lot of logic to his campaigns. Its not that they're not bright; they're all genuinely smarter than I am (as proven by losing MANY board game nights to these guys). I think they just aren't really that interested or invested in their own games outside of "roll dice... destroy enemies."

What's funny Kaosh is that I also don't let folks MECHANICALLY reflavor things, like a greatclub acting like a quarterstaff, but I routinely change setting or narrative details with the player. A lot of players in my homebrew setting want to not only use Traits that are specific to areas of Golarion but even some Campaign specific ones. I usually take these and relate them to areas of Karnoss, my homebrew world and use that to springboard more detail for my world.

I like it when players conceptualize outside the constraints of the fluff given for the class, feat, trait, race and so on. I will agree with Kaosh though; if you pick a Cleric, Paladin or even Inquisitor, 9 times out of 10 I'm going to hold you to the tenets and hierarchy of your faith. I might make a rare exception if the player is REALLY creative, but as you put it - don't pick the class if you're not ready for the baggage.

I just found myself cringing at the idea that there's only ONE way to be a barbarian, or one kind of rogue for another player last night. Like, one guy chose NOT to play an arcane spellcaster b/c he didn't want to be the "robe and book guy." Like, I get that it's 3.5, not PF1, but there's sorcerers, warlocks, hexblades, and even if you ARE a wizard, there's builds and feats around being armed and armored if you really want to be.


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People (as a whole) like to label and categorize things. It is equally a useful trait as it can be annoying when you try to go against the grain. If you want to avoid mis-characterizations of your character, it is best not to describe them with class labels to people who insist on using them to define roles.

For example, I have two characters that I play that really don't reflect their class:

One is a venerable aasimar barbarian/kineticist/mortal usher. He started out as the jack-of-all-trades and party face despite having a single level of barbarian, thanks to his (age adjusted) mental stats. He used scrolls, wands, staves, etc to 'cast' magic and thought himself a wizard. It wasn't until later, when he gained his Rage Powers (specifically Spring Rage) that his past youthful vigor and mighty strength returned to him in the midst of pressing combat.

The other is a slim, anemic and morally questionable (but overcompensating) human that made a horrible deal with a devil for magic powers. He now worships Kurgess and tries to rely on his Brawler training to keep on top of things, and his Rogue training to be useful elsewhere, but ... those WITCH levels sure become useful when he needs to unleash magic and strangle things with his HAIR. 80% of his levels might be Witch, but you'd never guess until he starts using magic.


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Class should define what a character can do, but not why.

Other choices such as deity or alignment can inform motivation but that's about it.


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Your class should not define your character, but your abilities should. What I mean by that is if your character can do what a particular class is supposed to be to do that is not a problem. The difficult part is figuring out exactly what abilities are needed to be able to claim to be a particular class, especially when archetypes are taken into account. For example, many rouge archetypes trade out trapfinding for something else, so does a rouge need to be able to disable magic traps?

This is the reason I prefer characters to use other terms, when possible, instead of the class for what they are. So, a cleric may refer to themselves as a priest or a holy man, or some similar title. In some cases, others may also use that title. The way I run my campaigns not all priests are spell casters, in fact the majority are not. The majority of the “priests” may be experts or other NPC classes. The one NPC class I do not use is the adept. Characters with levels in a PC class are usually special even if they are NPC’s.

To me the most important thing about a character's background is that they should actually have the appropriate skills. So, if you want your barbarian to be a discipline warrior who enters a battle trance make sure you put your skill points in appropriate skills. If the only skills your barbarian has are wilderness survival skills, then choose an appropriate background. This does not give mean you get them as class skills, but you can and should use traits to add class skills as appropriate. Your disciplined warrior should have professional skill solider. This is one reason I use the optional background skills rules.

So, the rouge claiming to be a wizard without any magic ability is not going to work. On the other hand, a bard claiming to be an enchanter or illusionist is fine.


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Party: Oh, you are a Bloodrager? Abyssal Bloodline? Hulk Smash?

Me: I actually have really good stealth because of shenangians, am highly educated and operate like a Shadowrunner, making use of diguise, stealth and bluff.

Party: Dont we have a Rouge for that?

Me: Imagine having a beatstick that can tag along with the rouge while he scout.

Rouge: Yeah, flanking buddy!


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Best example of this was in a PFS game.

Player 1: I’m playing a paladin.
Me: I’m playing a cleric. (Wait for the party to ask which god I follow. No one does.)

A bit later on, we have a social encounter.
3/5 of the party: Paladin, deal with it.
Paladin: But I have no points in Diplomacy, I’m a combat build
3/5 of party: You’re the charisma class, do the Social stuff
Me: Um, I do have maxed out diplomacy and sense motive, do you want me to handle this?
3/5 of party: No, we have a paladin, and they’re a charisma class.


A PC shouldn't be defined by their class, but they all too often are. I get so tired of the horny Bard or stupid Barbarian tropes. But it's not always easy to escape letting the class define the character based on what the rest of the players expect. Sometimes we end up conforming to their views just keep the game going rather than have to explain why our PC isn't doing what "it's supposed to". Over the years most of my players have shaken off the shackles of playing every character based on what the class and its abilities indicate, or even dictate in some cases. I wish my brother still played, because that man can play a character that utterly defies expectations better than anyone I've ever gamed with.

I think this is the reason I really like character creation systems that doesn't have set classes. D&D2e's "Skills and Powers" rules were terrific for truly customizing a character to your liking, but man was that system broken. I've seen some homebrewed systems for Pathfinder that followed the same formula but overall seemed much better balanced. Having a Wizard that could kick a foe's butt in a physical confrontation if necessary or a Cleric that was built to be the perfect assassin changes what everyone expects a PC can do. I'd love a system like this, but then getting my bunch of stick in the muds to try it out now would be a waste of time. Ah, well. It's a good thing I like those guys.


I tend to think of a character concept and then apply an appropriate class to the concept, so while my class doesn't define the character often the best pick for my concept does fit with a stereotype.

I'm playing an uncivilized Half-Orc from one of the Numerian tribes - Bloodrager.

Playing a bookish half-Drow caster in Ustalav who dabbles in strange relics - Occultist.

Playing a snake-oil salesman - Alchemist (but with decent CHA).

The Bloodrager is pretty much on the nose, sure it couodn've been a Barbarian, but the stereotypes for those 2 classes is pretty much identical anyway. The bookish Half-Elf could have been a Wizard, a Magus or maybe that book-wielding Inquisitor archetype, but if I said I was playing an Occultist you probably could have described my character. The Snake-Oil Salesman was always going to be an Alchemist or a Bard, sure there are other classes that could do it well, but they just give great mechanics to match the flavour of what I wanted to play.

There are plenty of other classes I could've played for each of these concepts, but what I got from those classes was what I was looking for for my concept. A lot of other people will find similar things for their concepts, and will pick the same classes.

That said, anybody who tells you you have to play a class a certain way just isn't being imaginative.


I'm going to add one more wrinkle to this from my own personal play style: class abilities do not have to be what they say they are. Let me explain.

Sorcerers and Bloodragers have Bloodlines representing the ancestry of some entity or power that influenced their developing powers. What if the Aberrant bloodline actually represents being exposed to weird radiation in a cave causing the PC to mutate, or the Infernal power set is actually a devil's pact the PC signed at a crossroads?

Rage could be anger, but also battle focus, influence of a "Mr Hyde" type personality, or perhaps signs of demonic possession. Trap Spotter could simply be a kind of "danger sense" the character feels when traps are nearby. So long as the MECHANICS of the ability are the same, I don't much care how the PCs style it.

I have in fact encouraged my players to make these kinds of aesthetic or narrative changes to their PCs. The more players personalize their characters outside of how the books define them, the hope is that they become more engaged with the campaign setting and worldbuilding.

But yes, at the end of the day characters should (IMO) be defined as much by what they do as the way the players run them.


DeathlessOne wrote:
If you want to avoid mis-characterizations of your character, it is best not to describe them with class labels to people who insist on using them to define roles.

This 100%. Class names are purely for administrative purposes, i.e. letting you know what options you can take form a character. That's it. They're just named because humans have an easier time remembering "Barbarian" than "Class PZO1110-A".

If you play with people who lack the mental capacity, or metal flexibility, to grasp that not every single character has to fit into one of a dozen ultra narrow molds, don't ever use your character's class name around them.

Also, I wouldn't even use class names in-universe at all. To pick up the example, it doesn't really make sense to call someone well-read who grew up in a city a "barbarian", as the word literally describes someone uncivilized!

Anguish wrote:
Class should define what a character can do, but not why.

Oh, no. The name of a class does not define or even adequately describe what a character can do. There are so many archetypes that fundamentally change what a class can do, and some classes can be build in completely different ways on their own.

TxSam88 wrote:
IMO, what's more defining of a PC is their role. Most parties need a healer, a tank, a striker, a caster, and a lockpick.

Not even just "no", but hell no! Absolutely no party needs "a healer", "a tank", "a striker", "a caster", or "a lockpick".

Relatedly, the idea that each character has a single role defined by one of the above terms is a horrible way of building a character, and an extremly inefficient and lacking way of building a party. Pathfinder is geared towards hybrids and generally flexible or versatile characters, and the "traditional party roles" are/should be split among multiple characters. You don't have a character with one role, but a character with multiple jobs, none of which have to be exclusive in a party. Healing, skills, damage, buffs, debuffs, battlefield control, melee presence, social stuff, overworld-challenges - no character should be exclusively focussed on one of those, but rather each character should do multiple of these to some degree. That not only leads to more efficient parties, it also reduces the situations where some players are left out because their characters are useless.

When the chips come down, you don't give a f%## about a "role", you want a job done. When you're suffering from a nasty disease or something, you don't care how good at HP healing your "priest" type guy is. When you're inflicted with Mummy Rot, it doesn't matter whether a single Cleric or a Wizard and a Druid working together remove it from you. So it was the Witch casting Arcane Eye that allowed the party to learn where the artifact was hidden, and the melee unMonk using Empty Body that got it out of the royal treasury, instead of the dedicated skill monkey Rogue with maxed ranks in stealth and bluff plus Skill Focus for both. Who cares? If the job gets done, lack of a dedicated "role" for that in your party is irrelevant.


TxSam88 wrote:
IMO, what's more defining of a PC is their role. Most parties need a healer, a tank, a striker, a caster, and a lockpick. Now, how you go about fulfilling those roles is extremely varied, and parties can survive without a couple of those roles. So yeah, I don't care if you are a battle scout rogue, or a city dwelling barbarian, or if you are a their pretending to be a wizard. Pick what role your character is going to fulfill in the party and then do your best to do your job.

How do you fill the role of tank in a game that doesn't have an aggro mechanic?

Silver Crusade

Neriathale wrote:

Best example of this was in a PFS game.

Player 1: I’m playing a paladin.
Me: I’m playing a cleric. (Wait for the party to ask which god I follow. No one does.)

A bit later on, we have a social encounter.
3/5 of the party: Paladin, deal with it.
Paladin: But I have no points in Diplomacy, I’m a combat build
3/5 of party: You’re the charisma class, do the Social stuff
Me: Um, I do have maxed out diplomacy and sense motive, do you want me to handle this?
3/5 of party: No, we have a paladin, and they’re a charisma class.

3/5 of the party has clearly forgotten how few skill points paladins get!

My stonelord paladin only has a +1 or so Cha because he doesn't get spellcasting or divine grace, and only has full ranks in Diplomacy because of a headband (which easily makes it his best skill).

OTOH, I'd expect most PFS players bringing a cleric, paladin, or inquisitor to the table to at least volunteer their patron deity when the group does character intros at the beginning of session.


Totally Not Gorbacz wrote:


How do you fill the role of tank in a game that doesn't have an aggro mechanic?

Being between the enemy and the party while having reach and multiple AoEs, making use of shield other spell, making use of friendly switch, heavily trashtalking any enemy that is plausibly trashtalkable.

For the record, if I am building a character I am to be a major contributive factor to combat, while also being good at either lore, social, reconaissance.

Often, I can manage being reasonable at 2 of these even.


Derklord wrote:


TxSam88 wrote:
IMO, what's more defining of a PC is their role. Most parties need a healer, a tank, a striker, a caster, and a lockpick.

Not even just "no", but hell no! Absolutely no party needs "a healer", "a tank", "a striker", "a caster", or "a lockpick".

Relatedly, the idea that each character has a single role defined by one of the above terms is a horrible way of building a character, and an extremly inefficient and lacking way of building a party. Pathfinder is geared towards hybrids and generally flexible or versatile characters, and the "traditional party roles" are/should be split among multiple characters. You don't have a character with one role, but a character with multiple jobs, none of which have to be exclusive in a party. Healing, skills, damage,...

I guess I wasn't clear in what I was saying. When building a party, you need to make sure all the bases are covered. whether only one character can do a job, or multiple can do a job doesn't really matter. what matters is that you got all the bases covered. Now certain builds will be better at certain things, and it's good to focus somewhat, you don't want every character to spend their skill points on the same 10 knowledge skills, you want a varied list amongst the party). the same can be said for other aspects of the game. While you want most of your party to have some form of ranged attack, not everyone needs to specialize in it, but it's certainly nice if one does.

and I will somewhat disagree with you, PFS is built around characters being more self sufficient, with each character being able to do multiple roles in case the random party mix is missing something. For gaming groups who have set players/characters every week, characters are more free to focus on more singular use characters.


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Totally Not Gorbacz wrote:
TxSam88 wrote:
IMO, what's more defining of a PC is their role. Most parties need a healer, a tank, a striker, a caster, and a lockpick. Now, how you go about fulfilling those roles is extremely varied, and parties can survive without a couple of those roles. So yeah, I don't care if you are a battle scout rogue, or a city dwelling barbarian, or if you are a their pretending to be a wizard. Pick what role your character is going to fulfill in the party and then do your best to do your job.
How do you fill the role of tank in a game that doesn't have an aggro mechanic?

A little bit of observation of the GM's combat style will tell you most of what you need to know on how to draw attention to particular characters.

I find it easier to draw 'aggro' from a creature the higher in level you go because all you really have to do is put yourself in full attack range and hit the creature. That forces the GM to hit you back or move away if they want to hit a more appealing target. Since the majority of a creature's damage will be in its full attack routine, by placing your character in vulnerable positions you increase your chance of being targeted.

In encounters with lots of creatures, putting yourself in the middle will draw attacks. If you see creatures that have been ID'd as having sneak attack, you step into flanked positions. By offering a compelling target or the opportunity to use abilities of the creatures, you can bait the GM into attacking you over other targets where they have to move and setup their hits.

With casters, this is more difficult, but when a creature has lots of AoE potential, tanking the hits isn't a great idea anyway. That's more about directing the cones and blast radii away from weaker targets or towards the evasion characters.

Sometimes, just by being something impossible to ignore. An enlarged player with reach and heavy Dmg bonuses has to be dealt with somehow or it'll destroy the enemy with impunity.

So, make yourself vulnerable, or make yourself impossible to ignore. We see that wizards often fulfill these criteria simply by existing.

Once you know the nature of the foes you fight, you can force them to attack who you want by manipulating the position of characters and using the action economy against them.


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:

So last night I was rolling up a new PC. My buddy is running a 3.5 D&D campaign but the myopic view of character definition by class still applies. As soon as one of the other players said he was a barbarian, everyone at the table was like "ok, so you grew up outside the city, you're low Int and you smash stuff? Got it."

But I was like "maybe he was raised IN the city, but he was born out of trauma and couldn't contain his temper growing up? So a mentor figure takes him in, teaches him how to USE that rage... focus it on the PC's self defense? Maybe he's part of a regiment of disciplined solders that enter a "battle trance" where their "rage" is extreme mind-over-matter? He doesn't HAVE to be some savage outworlder in fur boots."

Folks at the table looked at me like I was crazy.

Point is that a PC's class shouldn't stereotype them into a single expression of that class. Even with archetypes; not all Unchained Scout Rogues are battle scouts from some military unit.

Feel free to either give your commentary on the idea of Class as character definition or share your examples of this happening to you.

To be pedantic, a lot of stuff is defined by a character class. But it does not dictate (with absolute certainty) what a character's background is.

As you note, I would be against a barbarian player that said they're character is a smart academic type, if they didn't have a high int score and skills to back it up. But if they went on to explain that they're a sort of Bruce Banner/Hulk situation so they do in fact have higher than expected int and skills (for a barbarian) and they use rage to get a decent strength and con. It's not playing a class to it's fullest potential by focusing on it's strengths, but you can certainly do it.

Conversely though, there is no rule that you're some half-wit from the wildlands that can barely speak in complete sentences and has anger problems.

Dark Archive

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Neriathale wrote:

Best example of this was in a PFS game.

Player 1: I’m playing a paladin.
Me: I’m playing a cleric. (Wait for the party to ask which god I follow. No one does.)

A bit later on, we have a social encounter.
3/5 of the party: Paladin, deal with it.
Paladin: But I have no points in Diplomacy, I’m a combat build
3/5 of party: You’re the charisma class, do the Social stuff
Me: Um, I do have maxed out diplomacy and sense motive, do you want me to handle this?
3/5 of party: No, we have a paladin, and they’re a charisma class.

I got one.

Other Player: "I'm a paladin"
Later, when they're counted on to do actual paladin stuff like smite or lay on hands "I'm a cleric 1/fighter but I'm really dumb so I think I'm a paladin".
Me: "a cleric/fighter is a cleric/fighter, not a paladin"


Half Orc Urban Bloodrager/ Fractured mind dip here.

Mechanically speaking, character level 5, Diplomacy (vs humanoids) 12 above character level, can currently be increased to 16 above character level via burst of insight (+21), bluff 9 above character level, I do not have a circlet of persuasion or a charisma heaband yet.

Smattering of knowledge skills to assist actually competent party members, existing stealh.
Arguably better at talking then at fighting, although he is no slouch in combat.

It is a bit harder to diplomatize that well with a Barb rather then a Bloodrager, but Bloodragers can be really nuts in social situations without paying that much of an opportunity cost.


Totally Not Gorbacz wrote:
How do you fill the role of tank in a game that doesn't have an aggro mechanic?

You don't, people just misuse the term. The overwhelming majority of PF groups do not have a tank in the usual meaning of the word. It's just that similar to how many people have a hard time getting "barbarian class = dumb savage character" out of their head, many people have a hard time getting "party composition = healer + tank + dd ( + skillmonkey)" out of their heads.

An aggro mechanic is not required to be able to "tank"... but there is no other way to reliably do it in Pathfinder, either.

Liliyashanina wrote:
making use of shield other spell

That's not a tank, that's more of a protective spell. Which can even be a party role, but a completely different one from tank.

Kasoh wrote:
I find it easier to draw 'aggro' from a creature the higher in level you go because all you really have to do is put yourself in full attack range and hit the creature. That forces the GM to hit you back or move away if they want to hit a more appealing target.

That's desribes any melee martial or gish, though. Indeed, it actually describes those not investing much into defense better than those who do, which is the opposite of how the term tank is usually used.

Kasoh wrote:
We see that wizards often fulfill these criteria simply by existing.

That's not a tank, that's a DD drawing aggro. The exact polar opposite of a tank.

TxSam88 wrote:
I guess I wasn't clear in what I was saying. When building a party, you need to make sure all the bases are covered. whether only one character can do a job, or multiple can do a job doesn't really matter.

Yeah, that's what I was talking about - you don't care (or at least shouldn't care) about having "a healer", you care about having healing. And so on. My point is that not only is "Most parties need a healer" simply wrong, those split-up jobs usually leave the party with no one havign that as their main defining characteristic, in other word with no one filling that role.

TxSam88 wrote:
For gaming groups who have set players/characters every week, characters are more free to focus on more singular use characters.

Just because players are able to doesn't mean it's good. Using only the strongest options (best buff spell, only skills fitting the ability scores, etc.), the party in total is better, as it avoids diminishing returns. And, as I've said before, it cuts down on a given character being unable to participate, which is simply more fun.

Claxon wrote:
To be pedantic, a lot of stuff is defined by a character class.

In Pathfinder, I'd say this statement is wrong. A lot of stuff is defined by class features, but not by the class (name) itself. For example, a Paladin could be without spells, without lay on hands, without Smite Evil, and even not be lawful good. So just knowing that the character has the class Paladin doesn't tell you what abilities it has.


Derklord wrote:
Kasoh wrote:
I find it easier to draw 'aggro' from a creature the higher in level you go because all you really have to do is put yourself in full attack range and hit the creature. That forces the GM to hit you back or move away if they want to hit a more appealing target.

That's desribes any melee martial or gish, though. Indeed, it actually describes those not investing much into defense better than those who do, which is the opposite of how the term tank is usually used.

Kasoh wrote:
We see that wizards often fulfill these criteria simply by existing.
That's not a tank, that's a DD drawing aggro. The exact polar opposite of a tank.

Yeah, that's what I meant. Wizards draw aggro simply by existing. To tank, you have to be able to draw aggro away from a wizard.

Tanking is, I suppose, different from being a tank. To me, tanking is the ability to eat a full attack from a monster and survive. Given the right build and party support, almost anyone can tank. Heck, anyone with access to the Mirror Image spell can tank.

Pathfinder doesn't have an aggro mechanic, and you're not going to herd a spawn of mobs for DPS to burn down, but you can build a tough character that makes themselves an appealing or unignorable target. If you do that, and you're denying damage or CC from being placed on other members of the group, then you're tanking.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I just want to add one thing: A "tank" in TTRPG terms is not the same as a "tank" in MMO terms.

A TTRPG "tank", going back to the wargaming/D&D/AD&D 1e days, borrowed the term from the military: a heavily armored and/or tough character that hits hard.

A MMO "tank" is something different, as many TTRPGs do not have (automatic) mechanisms to make opponents focus on a specific PC while ignoring the others. Note that in TTRPG terms, this is closer to being a battlefield controller; which you can absolutely do as a TTRPG "tank" with tripping, grapples, or other attacks that restrict opponents' actions.


Whether or not it's possible to play "Tank" in Pathfinder is irrelevant to this thread. Let's just go back to the actual topic. If you really want to keep talking about it by all means start a thread (I don't know why you would, it's all been said before bythe exact same people, but if you feel nostalgic and want to re-live that old argument who am I to tell you how to have fun?).

Name Violation wrote:
Neriathale wrote:

Best example of this was in a PFS game.

Player 1: I’m playing a paladin.
Me: I’m playing a cleric. (Wait for the party to ask which god I follow. No one does.)

A bit later on, we have a social encounter.
3/5 of the party: Paladin, deal with it.
Paladin: But I have no points in Diplomacy, I’m a combat build
3/5 of party: You’re the charisma class, do the Social stuff
Me: Um, I do have maxed out diplomacy and sense motive, do you want me to handle this?
3/5 of party: No, we have a paladin, and they’re a charisma class.

I got one.

Other Player: "I'm a paladin"
Later, when they're counted on to do actual paladin stuff like smite or lay on hands "I'm a cleric 1/fighter but I'm really dumb so I think I'm a paladin".
Me: "a cleric/fighter is a cleric/fighter, not a paladin"

I think these are 2 different things.

Neriathale that's a perfect example of people pigeonholing charscters by class, rather than looking at their characters' actual abilities

Name Violation that's basically someone roleplaying the Meta-Game. It can be fun to break expectations, but in my opinion it's usually more trouble than it's worth to have character secrets be kept from the players, and can sometimes be actively detrimental. I've never seen any real evidence that it enahnces things either. Having said that, I'm not going to tell someone at my table that they have to share their character's secrets with the other players. It does strike me that you were probably falling into the trap of pigeonholing their character by class, even if it was just mechanical aspects. Remember that there are archetypes that give up Smite/LoH/etc, so they wouldn't be guaranteed. Having said that, it's the player's own fault if they don't get healed because everyone thought they could heal themself.


Totally Not Gorbacz wrote:
TxSam88 wrote:
IMO, what's more defining of a PC is their role. Most parties need a healer, a tank, a striker, a caster, and a lockpick. Now, how you go about fulfilling those roles is extremely varied, and parties can survive without a couple of those roles. So yeah, I don't care if you are a battle scout rogue, or a city dwelling barbarian, or if you are a their pretending to be a wizard. Pick what role your character is going to fulfill in the party and then do your best to do your job.
How do you fill the role of tank in a game that doesn't have an aggro mechanic?

Antagonize Feat....

But truthfully, in PF the tank is more of just the guy who gets in front and takes all the damage


In my opinion while yes class does not determine what a character actually is. There is a reason why tropes and clichés exist. A bard doesn't have to be horny, but the trope is that they tend to be romantics and flamboyant (which often crosses into horny). A barbarian doesn't have to be a brute, but the trope is that a person who uses anger are brutes. A rogue doesn't have to be a sneaky thief, but the trope is that people that go for sneak attacks and trap detection are often (not always) sneaky thiefs.

So we have the class name which gives a 1 word description of what the class is supposed to be about. The years of built up tropes, clichés, memes, and patterns telling us what those class names usually mean. Then the player mix and matching things to either follow the cliché or subverting it.

*******************

As for reflavoring. For me I think it depends on how different the start and end goals are. For example if someone wanted to reflavor how they cast a spell it doesn't really matter to me as long they have all the components. But I wouldn't allow them to stylize the actual spell unless they have the right feat.

I certainly could not care less if an archetype is from a certain region or not unless its attached to a specific group. Things that are attached to a specific organization represent the type of training people there go through not just something a random person came up with.


TxSam88 wrote:
Totally Not Gorbacz wrote:
TxSam88 wrote:
IMO, what's more defining of a PC is their role. Most parties need a healer, a tank, a striker, a caster, and a lockpick. Now, how you go about fulfilling those roles is extremely varied, and parties can survive without a couple of those roles. So yeah, I don't care if you are a battle scout rogue, or a city dwelling barbarian, or if you are a their pretending to be a wizard. Pick what role your character is going to fulfill in the party and then do your best to do your job.
How do you fill the role of tank in a game that doesn't have an aggro mechanic?

Antagonize Feat....

But truthfully, in PF the tank is more of just the guy who gets in front and takes all the damage

Also Cavalier's Challenge (incentivices the target and minions to get rid of you faster) and Paladin's Call out (magically compels target to a 1v1)


Temperans wrote:
So we have the class name which gives a 1 word description of what the class is supposed to be about. The years of built up tropes, clichés, memes, and patterns telling us what those class names usually mean. Then the player mix and matching things to either follow the cliché or subverting it.

But that’s just the thing, we’re now more than a decade out from 1E’s release, and I think it’s safe to say most players are familiar with the small mountain’s worth of Archetypes, Domains, Inquisitions, Mysteries, Prestige Classes, Obediences, etc., that exist (and are free to peruse on at least three dedicated websites) in this game. Making assumptions about a character on the basis of a single word might have made some sense 2-3 decades ago, but it’s actually counterintuitive now.


Phoebus Alexandros wrote:
Temperans wrote:
So we have the class name which gives a 1 word description of what the class is supposed to be about. The years of built up tropes, clichés, memes, and patterns telling us what those class names usually mean. Then the player mix and matching things to either follow the cliché or subverting it.
But that’s just the thing, we’re now more than a decade out from 1E’s release, and I think it’s safe to say most players are familiar with the small mountain’s worth of Archetypes, Domains, Inquisitions, Mysteries, Prestige Classes, Obediences, etc., that exist (and are free to peruse on at least three dedicated websites) in this game. Making assumptions about a character on the basis of a single word might have made some sense 2-3 decades ago, but it’s actually counterintuitive now.

Yes, I agree that all of those help differentiate your character.

But my statment about the class name giving a 1 word description of what the basic and overall class is about.

Similarly, the archetype names generally give a rough couple word description of what the archetype is about.


Phoebus Alexandros wrote:
But that’s just the thing, we’re now more than a decade out from 1E’s release, and I think it’s safe to say most players are familiar with the small mountain’s worth of Archetypes, Domains, Inquisitions, Mysteries, Prestige Classes, Obediences, etc., that exist (and are free to peruse on at least three dedicated websites) in this game. Making assumptions about a character on the basis of a single word might have made some sense 2-3 decades ago, but it’s actually counterintuitive now.

I am pretty sure my four current players never heard of obediences, at least. One of them is quite happy to spend as little time with mechanics as possible. Just because I dived into all these options over the course of years doesn't necessarily mean my players did.

Still, they understand the difference between class and role, so they try to cover all their bases at session 0, not silently assuming class A will do task B. Class and character are more tied by clichés for them, but I guess this will improve over time.


Temperans wrote:

Yes, I agree that all of those help differentiate your character.

But my statment about the class name giving a 1 word description of what the basic and overall class is about.

Similarly, the archetype names generally give a rough couple word description of what the archetype is about.

Sorry, Temperans, I misread your post!


Phoebus Alexandros wrote:
Temperans wrote:

Yes, I agree that all of those help differentiate your character.

But my statment about the class name giving a 1 word description of what the basic and overall class is about.

Similarly, the archetype names generally give a rough couple word description of what the archetype is about.

Sorry, Temperans, I misread your post!

Its okay it happens to me too.


Temperans, Bard is a great example of what I'm talking about. What are the tropes around careers like "Performer," "Musician," or "actor" iRL? Add in more definition: what do you think of when you hear "pop singer," "folk artist," or "rapper?" Realize that every single one of those words or terms describes Weird Al Yankovich.

Point being: knowing the name of a character's class or archetype, Bard or Diva, automatically defines the PC as either a horny romantic or more narrowly as a fame-driven horny romantic. This PC may have other talents, a focus at low levels on non-bard skills (through Traits or whatever), or might have taken a single level in Bard (Diva) in order to get the "famous" ability in an urban campaign where, for the rest of the game they will be a paladin.

Full disclosure, I think the reason why I thought it was weird that the players had such cliched views of the classes in my OP was because they are younger than me. They grew up playing D&D 3e, and have now also played 4e and 5e as well. Two of them have also done Pathfinder APs and PFS games.

Anyway, that's my 2 copper on all this.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Some people want a simple, straightforward hook for their character. Others want a more complex, multifaceted concept.

Neither is necessarily "wrong." I personally think the simplistic mindset is somewhat limiting. However, others may want a game that is more straightforward.

One thing that may contribute to the pigeonholing of characters by classes: reading habits. I have found that people who read less sci-fi, fantasy, literature, mythology, etc. are more likely to think of characters in a "flat" way.


Mysterious Stranger wrote:
Your class should not define your character, but your abilities should. What I mean by that is if your character can do what a particular class is supposed to be to do that is not a problem. The difficult part is figuring out exactly what abilities are needed to be able to claim to be a particular class, especially when archetypes are taken into account.

There are definitely some classes where it is hard to tip toe around their class's abilities. Like a mesmerist. You might be a nice, considerate person... but you are still the one that can use psychic powers to deceive and manipulate people. Lying and psychic dirty tricks is their thing.

Even if you play against type, it still seems like you are "acting" and tricking people into thinking you are something else. I've made a melee mesmerist that pretended to be some kind of generic mithril wearing knight (pain with feats to hide casting). It is hard for people to take this path without it looking like they were doing what he did- pretend to be a knight because it is useful socially.

Another class with the problem is the oracle. It is just a person that had divine power shoved into their skull like a rusty ice pick. They are people that can use divine spells that also try to make the side effects of the icepick suck a little less.


Derklord wrote:
Anguish wrote:
Class should define what a character can do, but not why.
Oh, no. The name of a class does not define or even adequately describe what a character can do. There are so many archetypes that fundamentally change what a class can do, and some classes can be build in completely different ways on their own.

You added some words. I didn't say "the name of a class". I said class. Class literally defines what a character can do. That's what all those words in the Classes section of the book say.

I'm not - and was did not - saying that the single word chosen to thematically summarize many pages of text into a convenient (if misleading) label should do anything... beyond what I'm saying here and now.


*popcorn*
Class defines what BAB, proficiencies, saves, and abilities the player is given and can choose from. There are skill bonuses (class skills) that boost a skill level if taken but it's not a forced thing.
Beyond that it is just normal people simplifying the game. Just saying something doesn't make it true.
Discovery IS part of the game.

Claiming PC's in PFS are more rounded or survivable is frankly laughable and I have a lot of experience in that format. PFS is more RAW centric with no in-game crafting and rather focused on WBL. I'll leave it at that.

For me, Character concept and character design are the core of the character. Implementation (Class choices) make a specific example of that character. The creative process can go top down, bottom up, or mixed.

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