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In the last issue of PTGPTB, James Haughton spent a great deal of time and energy detailing how the class system in D&D 3Ed can be used to categorise the campaign world to a greater degree. While I can see the value in this process, I am wary of the thinking that equates character class with social positioning. The two are not the same.

If a character calls him/herself a loremaster, does this automatically mean he/she is built on that particular prestige class? To this, I pronounce a resounding NO! The title "Loremaster" is helpful in defining character classes, but there is no reason why a bard, a wizard, or even a fighter might not gain that same reputation. There is nothing to stop a player from spending his/her cleric's skill points in knowledge skills, because that character has a reputation to uphold in his/her community.

James quotes Imazine with: Any attempt to play a character whose actions and emotions aren't archetypal remains possible, but is working at cross-purposes to the rule system. What I want to discuss is the joy in exploring those cross-purposes.

D&D 3Ed is a vast improvement on editions 1 & 2. The game has achieved a good level of balance, has made the playing of humans viable again, and has provided the opportunity for individualising a character. It is this last aspect which I wish to address. By providing this versatility, the game offers players the opportunity to go beyond the stereotyped classifications offered by James and explore some of the possibilities of playing against the archetype.

The established authorities of church and state provide the greatest opportunities for this sort of cross-purposing. A mercenary who is blessed by the god of war might be built on the Cleric class, but would never call himself a cleric, because he has no place within the church. Likewise an NPC bishop might not have any magic besides her political clout, and so might be built on the Noble class, whereas there is nothing to stop a nobleman being from any class at all. Similarly, an assassin might just as easily be based on based on any of the Ranger, Sorcerer, Wizard, Rogue, Bard, or Fighter classes, without ever changing to the prestige class.

In fact, the incorporation of prestige classes into James's classification system confuses issues. Are there no low level mystical thieves? Do Wizards diminish their position in the state if they become Loremasters? It is valuable to separate these domains of state, church, academy, mysticism, forest, town, etc. so as to explore the interrelations between these domains. In this way, James has offered a good structure for worldbuilding, and he should be congratulated. However, his assignation of specific classes to these domains is something I dislike.

As for my own example: the youngest son of a wealthy, religious merchant family gains a place in the church of the Sun God. He has some interest in his learning, especially in the fields of arcana, religion, and history. He is also quick to learn the healing skills. He also has some understanding in the profession of priest, coming from such a church-going family. However, he shows almost a complete lack of discipline, and is more often found in the pub brawling over a matter of honour, or turning his history studies into epic tales, than in quiet prayer and meditation. He is obviously gifted by the god, being able to bring a magical light to the night, but the magic seems more arcane than divine. And so, after much consideration, and without wanting to offend an influential family, he is sent out into the world to right wrongs and fight evil in the name of the Sun God and hopefully learn some discipline along the way. Socially, he is a paladin, a warrior of the church. In game terms, he is a bard, wandering the land fighting evil and inspiring courage and competence with stories and songs of his god.

So why bother? From a player's point of view, this sort of character can provide lots of opportunities. Firstly, it breaks the stereotype so that not all paladins have to be in plate mail on a big horse. Okay, this guy doesn't get much respect from other paladins (in fact, the PC Paladin in the group considers my character a bit of a heretic). However, the other characters in the group sometimes prefer this paladin's more easy-going, fun loving nature.

Second, it offers a bit of depth for the character. He's not a two-dimensional minstrel whose only interest is in singing and carousing. He has a greater purpose, and a lot of questions that go with it. Why has the church in its wisdom given him this solemn duty? Maybe it's his job to revolutionise the way the church's paladins bring light to the world? So, why isn't he as sure of himself as the big guy on the horse over there?

Finally, it offers greater directions for the future. Maybe, he can go multi-classed picking up either Fighter or Cleric. Maybe the church will eventually 'lose' him and he will give up his paladinhood to become a true storyteller. Maybe he will strive to bring integrity to the church. Who knows? The point is that he is not likely to simply be a goody two shoes in armour who always toes the church's line. He's chaotic by nature. He's prepared to rock the boat.

Looking back, it seems I've spent a little too much time reliving a favourite character, and for this I apologise. However, he provides a useful example of the way D&D 3Ed can be moulded to create very individualised characters. It is for this reason that I suggest that James's suggested character classes of Hermit, Bandit, Adept, etc. are probably unnecessary. There is no reason that these characters cannot be built on the existing class structures. In fact, by doing so, you can help break down the stereotypes and add more colour to the world. Why not have a Barbarian bandit, whose illiteracy reflects her poor upbringing rather than a cultural foreignness? That way, the next time a group of bandits step out of the forest, the PCs won't be making a thousand assumptions about what they're up against.

More importantly, it offers a way for a diverse bunch of character classes to all be travelling together. Sure, there's a Sorcerer(mystical?), a Cleric(church?), a Monk(academy?), a Ranger(forest?), and a Barbarian(outsider?) in the group, and according to James Haughton, they should all be at cross-purposes. However, they all might be working for the state as servants of a minor nobleman: his advisor, his healer, his bodyguard, his assassin, and his sergeant at arms; all of them on a mission of great political importance. And so the campaign begins...

Ivan - never apologise for long letters! We like long letters, not least because then often hint of someone who probably has an article brewing in him. Of course, please feel free to also post your comments on our online forum - you may engender further discussion into this interesting question of playing with or against system conventions.

I happened to fall upon one of your articles which led me to your on-line magazines.

I am a host of an online FFRP community and like to offer our players lots of role-play information and assistance. I would like to perhaps do a feature of your magazine and review of articles relevant to our community (when they come out) linking back to your site with your permission.

I would also be interested in finding out how one contributes to your magazine and if there is any criteria that needs to be met.

Tina from down under

We are always happy for people to review and link to our zine. All that we ask is that reviews refrain from excessive quoting and properly credit the author of the article and PTGPTB. As far as submissions go, the most important thing is to send them in to Reading our Submission Guidelines is also useful.

Happy role-playing and we hope we can continue to be of interest to your community!

Congratulations for your work ! I really wanted to say how much I love PTGPTB. I read each issue with the same pleasure, and I wasn't disappointed by the last.

I have no shame using the website I co-manage for doing a little buzz around PTGPTB. Here are the proofs :)

These news show up on our homepage (top right corner), and are pushed to some big french RPG websites, like the Scenariotheque. I don't know if you can read french, but in our little country, the GROG (our site) is quite well-known, and I hope it'll do PTGPTB some good.

Keep the high quality in your work, and forgive my poor English

Guide du Rôliste Galactique

Philippe, thanks very much for your letter. We're really glad you like PTGPTB so much, and have helped spread the word in such a positive fashion! We hope every Francophone gives your site a look.

I read the history and will have to read it again, carefully. I am sending profound thanks to Steve Darlington. Your labour has not been in vain! You have helped me to make sense of my studies in anthropology with a medium that I have been curious about since high school and have been wanting to know more about ever since. THANK YOU!

Cherise Tricia Fung

No, thank you, Cherise. It's wonderful that you got so much out of the history. Thanks for taking the time to pass on your comments, and we hope you also enjoy the rest of the zine.

I commend Steve Darlington for his excellent nine-part History. I'm deeply impressed, not only by the depth and care of his scholarship but also on the way he managed, despite limited space, to promote any number of games (I'm thinking Pendragon and Ars Magica, in particular, but not alone) which deserve to be brought more to the attention of those who may read his piece but are not veterans of the art. Bravo, indeed bravura.

This also has the effect of encouraging me to look further at your 'zine. I'd checked it out (via banner ads on but had previously found it uninspiring and somehow lackluster - I'm not sure exactly what it was, but I suspect that a slightly greater degree of annotation and draw-you-in on the TOC would help; especially with the grey background (which I do understand and even appreciate) the 'zine itself could use some kind of 'pick-up line' for idle gamers.

Keep the $0.02,
Eric Finley

Rest assured that our writers appreciate every commendation no matter how many times they might receive one. And thanks for your ideas for an improved front-page. We will see what we can do!


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