I realize that I'm showing up to this party very late, but something Gary said recently in another thread gave me an epiphany. Here's my two cents on how to break down the classes. Please keep in mind that I'm more concerned about the roles
than I am about the names. I chose these names because I felt that they best fit the roles I came up with, but I also like a lot of the other names that have been bouncing around on this thread. My overarching goal was to make sure that every party member will be useful in any sort of encounter or situation, so that you don't have "social" characters taking a back seat in combat encounters, or "combat characters" taking a back seat in social encounters, or that one guy who has nothing useful to do until a puzzle or trap needs to be solved, at which point everyone else in the party is twiddling their thumbs.The Strong Hero => The Contender
(I also like Vanguard, which seems very popular, but Vanguard essentially means "front man," and honestly different members of the party should take that role in different situations)
The Fast Hero => The Harrier
- Role in Combat Encounters: Do as much damage to the enemy as possible.
- Role in Social Encounters: Emphasize the advantages of fulfilling the party's goals/needs/desires.
- Role in other situations: Alter the environment to meet the needs of the party. This could mean anything from digging a trench to building a structure to rearranging the furniture.
(I think this is the perfect
name: it can be defined as "one who intimidates, antagonizes, and annoys," but also simply as "one who runs.")
The Tough Hero => The Bulwark
- Role in Combat Encounters: Disrupt the the enemy's actions and frustrate their attempts at teamwork (heckling, flanking, sniping, etc). Also, bend conditions to the party's advantage (flanking, setting traps, throwing grenades/caltrops, creating smoke, creating or blocking light, etc).
- Role in Social Encounters: Emphasize the disadvanteges of going againts the party's goals/needs/desires.
- Role in other situations: Facilitate the party's free movement from place to place. This could mean anything from piloting an aircraft from one continent to another, to rigging a rope bridge across a chasm, to opening a locked door.
(I have to admit that, even though I like "Contender" better than "Vanguard," I think that "Vanguard" and "Bulwark" sound really
The Dedicated Hero => The Sentinel
- Role in Combat Encounters: Keep the entire party in good condition. Different characters could take different approaches to this: some might focus on protecting the party from damage by stopping attacks from hitting, others might simply act as high-HP "meat shields," while others might focus on healing damage after it occurs (yes, that's right, I just moved the "healer" role--I truly believe it fits better here).
- Role in Social Encounters: Downplay any doubts or negative arguments about the party's goals/needs/desires.
- Role in other situations: Sustain the party. In the wild, this could mean finding food and safe drinking water and rationing them. On a space ship, it could mean tracking fuel and oxygen consumption to make sure they don't run out. In a city, it might mean keeping a budget for the party so they don't go broke. In any situation, it might mean finding a safe place where the party can rest and recouperate after an encounter.
(This one represents a rather large shift in focus from the "willpower" aspect of WIS to the "knowledge and understanding" aspect of WIS; I think another good name might be "The Sage")
This character is supposed to enhance the party's Situational Awareness (SA). SA can be defined as "the degree to which one's perception of one's environment matches the reality of one's environment." At this simplest level, this starts with good perception: noticing the assassin sneaking up behind the party, or noticing the trap trigger on the floor, or noticing the hidden writing on the inside of the envelope. The next level up is rejecting false perceptions: realizing that you're looking at a small nearby tower rather than a very large and distant tower, or noticing that one guy at the bar who has been "sipping" the same drink for two hours, or recognizing an illusion spell for what it is. At the highest level, good SA involves putting together all of the little clues to build the big picture, ala Sherlock Holmes. Any reasonably perceptive person can be good at the first two levels, but this character class specializes in finding the connections between seemingly unrelated pieces of information, of finding the patterns in the chaos and understanding their meaning.
The Smart Hero => The Strategist
- Role in Combat Encounters: Know the position and condition of all party members and enemies, and share that information with other party members to the greatest degree possible. Similarly, know the terrain and environment where the combat is taking place, understand the significance of every aspect of the terrain and environment, and share that understanding with other party members to the greatest degree possible.
- Role in Social Encounters: Discern the true intentions, motivations, concerns, and fears of the people with whom the party is interacting. Understand which things they value most and which things they value least.
- Role in other situations: Understand the full circumstances of the party's situation, both immediate and secondary. Comprehensive knowledge of the party's immediate physical environment is important, but so is understanding the significance of things like current events, politics, economics, and culture.
(The "Tactician" would also be a good name, but I think strategy is a better description of what this character does, with tactics falling more to individual characters)
Note: Where the Sentinel figures out how things are, the Strategist figures out what to do about it. These two classes complement each other strongly.The Charismatic Hero => The Leader
- Role in Combat Encounters: Match the party's strengths against the enemy's weaknesses. Determine which enemies to focus attacks on, and what types of attacks to use against them. Similarly, determine which enemies are most dangerous to the party as a whole and to each party member individually, and how best to defend against them. Help other party members to choose the right time to act.
- Role in Social Encounters: Keep the conversation focused on the subjects most likely to benefit the party. Find and exploit flaws in the logic of those opposed to the party.
- Role in other situations: Consider all possible courses of action for the party and the most likely outcomes for each; conduct risk/benefit analysis.
There has been a lot of discussion and controversy on this thread about the term "Leader." Those who object to the name seem mostly to disapprove of the idea of one person being "in charge" of the party. However, that is not what true leadership is really about. True leadership is about getting a group of people to combine their diverse talents as effectively as possible to achieve a common goal. Sometimes, that requires telling people what to do, but the more important part lies in understanding what needs to be done by each person. A leader's job is to make true the phrase, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." We can come up with other, more awkward words for this like "coordinator," "adjudicator," "advocate," or "envoy," or even "synergy consultant," but all of those words represent parts of leadership, while only "Leader" covers the concept in its entirety. In reality, the Strategist in a party will do more bossing than the Leader. The Strategist figures out what to do, the Leader figures out how best to work together.
- Role in Combat Encounters: Coordinate the efforts of the other party members so that their actions complement each other.
- Role in Social Encounters: Coordinate the efforts of the other party members so that their actions complement each other. Also, act as spokesperson for the party, and attempt to sway emotions in situations where reason alone is insufficient to convince others.
- Role in other situations: Coordinate the efforts of the other party members so that their actions complement each other.
"You’re entitled to your own opinions. You’re not entitled to your own facts."
-Daniel Patrick Moynihan