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Article - 'Creating Unique Classes' by Guest

An item about Game Design posted on Aug 9, 2003

Blurb

Breathe some... um... uniqueness into your game.

Body

As we all know, RPGs have certain generic classes. Take for instance, The Realm (www.RealmServer.com), where you have four classes… The Adventurer is a jack of all trades but master of none. The Warrior is brute strength, but low intelligence, designed to simply pound enemies into the ground. The Wizards can’t take hits, but use their vast arsenal of spells to stop enemies in their tracks from a distance. Thieves utilize their dexterity to their advantage, as well as their abilities to disarm traps, unlock locked doors, and pick pockets.

Next, let’s take a look at Everquest. The Bard is a jack of all trades but a master of none. The Warrior is brute strength, but low intelligence, designed to simply pound enemies into the ground. The Wizards can’t take hits, but use their vast arsenal of spells to stop enemies in their tracks from a distance. Rogues utilize their dexterity to their advantage, as well as their abilities to disarm traps, pick pockets, and… Wait, didn’t we go through all of this before? Talk about Déjà vu. However, Everquest has a step better, by creating more classes. For instance, the Druid is a mix between a Rogue and a Wizard of sorts. Meanwhile, the Cleric is a wizard who specializes in healing magic. The Ranger is a mix between a Warrior and a Druid. The Shaman is kind of like a Druid but…

Isn’t this all getting a little old? Not only are all of these merely re-hashes of other classes, but they don’t even use unique class names, or spell names. Well, coming up with a whole new kind of character is extremely difficult, if not impossible… But, you can still bring a unique edge to classes and characters that were previously stale.


Creating Unique Classes

Let’s create a party of three characters. To make a well-balanced team, we should create a fighter, a healer, and a spell caster. But, instead of calling them by these names and making them your average characters, let’s spice things up a little.

For starters, we’ll take the healer. But instead of calling him a healer, let’s call him a Thaumaturgist. ‘Thaumaturgy’ is the working of miracles, and healing the mortally wounded and bringing the dead back to life are certainly miracles, wouldn’t you agree? As for spell names, he needs ‘curative’ sounding words. For this, I’d strongly suggest the thesaurus feature at Dictionary.com to synonyms for more common words. For instance, to ‘Ameliorate’ is to improve something, or make it better, good for a simple healing spell. A ‘Panacea’ is a cure for all diseases and ills, which makes for a decent high-level heal spell. ‘Pharmakon’ is Greek for ‘medicine’, if you wanted to mix up languages a bit. Without changing the roots of what he is, we’ve already created a character that at least looks more unique. Now it’s time for something a little more detailed.

Our spell caster, called a Diviner, isn’t your average elemental caster. Instead of casting spells like fireballs and lightning bolts, she has the power to conjure up magical helpers and items, as well as well as a number of status-changing spells. This makes her neither your classic support character, nor your classic attacker. Instead of ‘Summon’, she uses something called ‘Abiogenesis’ to create magical creatures. The word itself is a scientific term for the supposed development of living organisms, created from nonliving matter. But most people will only realize that it sounds neat. Her ‘Lethargy’ spell puts enemies to sleep, and her ‘Conjure’ skills allow her to create noncomplex items.

As for our fighter, let’s make him something even more unique. We’ll call him a Mechanic. Why a Mechanic? Because it ties in with his story, and you’d never imagine he’s a fighter just by looking at the name. His weapons range from mallets and big hammers, to giant wrenches. The weapons are solid and heavy, good for mowing down enemies when he swings them. But instead of being all brute force, our Mechanic has the out-of-battle ability to take basic items that are found and some that are created with our Diviner’s Conjure skill. With this skill, called Build, he can create newer, more powerful items to be used in the field or in battle. However, our Mechanic lacks any way to heal himself without items, making the Thaumaturgist a valuable member of the party, not just a low-HP spell caster you are stuck with.

One of the most overlooked parts of making an RPG is setting things up so characters are dependant on each other. This may sound like it just makes things more difficult on the player, but it actually creates more interesting battles, forcing them to think about strategy and how best to use their characters, instead of just hammering the Enter key.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve done. We’ve changed class names, and created some spells. Without changing the structure of the characters or even changing their base statistics, we’ve given them a much more unique flair. With a few ideas tossed out on the table, be sure to leave your comments, and your suggestions on other ways to create unique classes.