AMTGARD'S OPINION CODEX • ALL OPINIONS, ALL THE TIME • NOVEMBER 23, 2020
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LACKING FOCUS AND INTEGRITY
Reconciling Persona and Class
[01/05/2003] [Yamamoto “Spearweasel” Kansuke]

One of the dilemmas often faced by new Amtgarders, especially those who emphasize the role-playing aspects of Amtgard, is how to fit their particular conception of their persona into one of the existing fighting classes. There are a number of strategies that have been tried to accomplish this goal.

The first is of course to adapt one’s persona to fit the existing classes, without modification. For most fantasy character concepts, this is not too difficult. The existing fighting classes cover a wide range of possibilities within the usual archetypes of spell casters, warriors, rogue/sneak types, and so forth. The disadvantage is that it lends the character a certain generic quality, a sameness that can interfere with personas with are racial or ethnic based archetypes, such as samurai, dwarves, elves, and so forth.

The second strategy is the “optional/alternate” class, such as Duelist, Samurai, Necromancer, and so forth. Several kingdoms have adopted these at one time or another. Alternate classes have the primary benefit of being defined to fit one’s persona quite closely. Special abilities allow a character to perform feats that the player is not capable of; the Duelist’s “luck point” being one example of this. Alternate classes carry some serious disadvantages. They are often unplayable beyond the home park or kingdom, and credits earned in the class do not translate to official classes in the event of a transfer. The customized abilities that are the primary draw are often unbalanced, poorly thought out, or simply unfamiliar to other players and reeves. Finally, they show a certain lack of flexibility on the part of the player, who might be unable or unwilling to fit within the common framework.

A third option is the “class tweak”, using an existing class to model one’s persona upon. A player would use one of the existing official classes, and change the presentation of the class, whether props, weapons, garb, or spoken components, to reflect the actual intended persona. For example, my persona is a Sohei. The Sohei were warrior monks, Buddhist priests who carried arms in service of their home temples. They were freed from prohibitions against bloodshed, and even the mighty samurai feared armies of these warrior-monks. The Sohei were important throughout Japanese history, as time and time again they intervened in the various struggles for power. Sohei were infamous for their fanatical bravery and immunity to fear, often going into battle-frenzies and fighting long after they should have expired. Rather than create a “Sohei” class and try to get it adopted, I isolated the archetypical traits of the Sohei. This character type has the following qualities in Japanese legend and tradition:

  • Sohei are armed and armored like the samurai they often fought… sword, spear, naginata, and bow. Their armor, like the samurai, is lighter than comparable western armor.
  • Sohei are single-minded and fierce… the historical epics tell of various almost superhuman feats of strength and prowess in battle.
  • Sohei are uncouth, direct in manner, and somewhat rough in appearance. Despite this, many of them are in fact proper Buddhist clergy, which implies a certain amount of focus.
Reviewing the official classes, I find that the Barbarian class is a very close fit in both spirit and special abilities. Even available weapon choice is very close… the traditional weapon of the Sohei is the slashing pole arm called the “naginata”. As a side point, I find that Barbarian is a useful class for modeling many personas, due to its interesting class abilities and very wide selection of weapon types.

Having selected an official class to use, the next step is to make minor, cosmetic changes to the class write-up to reflect the difference between “Kansuke the Sohei” and “Conan the Barbarian”. These changes are not actual rules changes, and should not alter the mechanics involved in the least. If the mechanics are changed, you’ve strayed off into alternate classes. I have presented the plain-vanilla Barbarian class beside the customized Sohei for easy comparison below:

BARBARlAN

Garb: Blue or brown cloth (earth tones), leather, fur, grasses, flowers, leaves, reeds, wood, native and aboriginal jewelry, and decorations, etc.

Weapons: Any melee weapon, rocks, throwing axe, javelin, short bow.

Armor: Up to 2 points.

Shield: Any.

Immunities:

1) Cannot be held or subdued, magically or otherwise (exception- healers stun spell).
2) Can not be made 'lost.'
3) May not carry enchantments.
4) May not carry relics other than Odin's Hammer.

Levels:

1st- tribesman- a) One less life than other classes (total of 3). b) May go berserk on last life. c) Heal self once per life.
2nd- barbarian- 4 total lives.
3rd- clan leader- Fight after death when berserk.
4th- chieftain- 5 total lives.
5th- high chieftain- 6 total lives.
6th- ring giver or overlord- May go berserk on last 2 lives.

Notes:

1) Berserk- Gives the following effects: a) 2 point overall body armor (a healing spell will repair 1 point of armor on any specific area of the barbarian's body). b) Melee weapons are considered blade sharpened or bludgeoned. c) Berserkers may not retreat unless out numbered by 5 to 1 or more or when facing magic. d) Must wear a red arm or headband. e) Berserkers may not use projectiles, armor, or shields.
2) Heal self- The barbarian must carry a pouch with herbs (paprika, cloves, etc. ). The barbarian eats the herb for a 100 count to be healed.
3) Fight after death- Berserkers may continue to fight for 10 seconds after they have died. Leg and arm shots against these berserkers still incapacitate the affected limb. Note that physical and/or dangerous contact is still not allowed. May not fight after death if killed by: siege weapons (or monsters' equivalent white weapons), flamewall, firetrap, fireball, call lightning, and sphere of annihilation.
SOHEI (JAPANESE WARRIOR MONK)

Garb: Japanese styled garb of any sort, plus a white head covering (hood, cowl, or bandanna). A visible religious symbol appropriate to the sect should also be worn, such as prayer beads or a shield device.

Weapons: Any melee weapon, "rocks", throwing axe, javelin, short bow. Short sword, naginata, and katana are the most commonly chosen weapons, though bows are also used. Instead of "rocks", throwing weapons should be called axes or throwing stars.

Armor: Up to 2 points, preferably Japanese styled armor.

Shield: Any, though not commonly used.

Immunities:

1) Cannot be held or subdued, magically or otherwise (exception- healers stun spell).
2) Cannot be made 'lost.'
3) May not carry enchantments.
4) May not carry relics other than Odin's Hammer.

Levels:

1st- a) One less life than other classes (total of 3). b) May go berserk on last life. c) Heal self once per life.
2nd- 4 total lives.
3rd- Fight after death when berserk.
4th- 5 total lives.
5th- 6 total lives.
6th- May go berserk on last 2 lives.

Notes:

1) Berserk- Gives the following effects: a) 2 point overall body armor (a healing spell will repair 1 point of armor on any specific area of the Sohei’s body). b) Melee weapons are considered blade sharpened or bludgeoned. c) Berserkers may not retreat unless out numbered by 5 to 1 or more or when facing magic. d) Must wear a red arm or headband and chant loudly as they fight. e) Berserkers may not use projectiles, armor, or shields.
2) Heal self- The Sohei must carry some appropriate religious literature, like a scroll or a small book. The Sohei reads aloud, chanting for a 100 count to be healed.
3) Fight after death- Berserkers may continue to fight for 10 seconds after they have died. Leg and arm shots against these berserkers still incapacitate the affected limb. Note that physical and/or dangerous contact is still not allowed. May not fight after death if killed by: siege weapons (or monsters' equivalent white weapons), flame wall, firetrap, fireball, call lightning, and sphere of annihilation.

The classes are now very different in presentation and feel, but remain fundamentally identical where it counts, in the mechanics. This allows one to play the character that fits closest to the persona, but accomplishes it without requiring any rules changes. The Sohei class looks and feels like a unique creation, but is 100% compatible with existing rules and can be played on any field.

The fourth option, the “spell meta-system”, is equally legal, and works within the existing rules framework, but is considerably more complicated to use. Using a spell casting class such as wizard as a base, one can use the wide variety of spells available to simulate and customize nearly any sort of persona or character class. The spells within Amtgard are well defined and familiar to nearly all other players, and the language used to describe them is similar to that used for class abilities…. “once per life, once per game…” and so forth. For more martial character concepts, one can spend spell points to purchase a wide array of weapons, depending on the base class.

To illustrate the flexibility and complexity of this fourth class option, I created a variation on the standard Wizard… the Musketeer, a rifleman-warrior concept outside the existing classes, but well within the time period used by Amtgard. This class trades off a lot of spell points for the ability to carry a “musket” (effectively a staff for mechanics) and a short sword as a backup weapon. The “musket” substitutes for a wand, and the various blasting and smiting spells are used to simulate the effects of early gunpowder weaponry. A “musket” (staff) and short sword cost a wizard only 4pts per level, leaving more than enough to buy from the limited number of different offensive spells at a given level. This class is detailed below.

Musketeer (Wizard variant)

Garb: Yellow belt or sash. The various trappings of black-powder firearms such as powder-horns, bandoleers, et cetera. The Musketeer must of course have the ubiquitous musket that is the hallmark of the class.

Weapons: Musket, and any one handed, non-hinged weapon under 4ft in length, staff, spear, dagger. Note that the use of weapons will deduct from the Musketeer's available magic points. Due to their limited spell choices, it is appropriate for a musketeer to select more weapons than a wizard ordinarily would. In keeping with the spirit of the class, every Musketeer should make their own musket, which should have a stab legal tip (bayonet) and strike legal stock (butt-stroke). For rules purposes the musket is a spear, albeit a somewhat clumsy one.

Armor: None, but see below.

Shields: None.

Levels: Instead of class abilities, Musketeers select spells from the Wizard spell list in exactly the same way that normal wizards do. These are not actually spells, but are intended to model the effects of the musket and appropriate "class abilities". The spells suggested are merely that. Verbal spells are more accurate, while spell balls can be used more often, so the spells represent various degrees of damage, accuracy, and rates of fire. All effects should be treated exactly as their normal spell counterparts would, for simplicity of play. Multiple spells balls can be charged and thrown, simulating more accuracy or greater damage. If the musket is damaged or destroyed, then the Musketeer should not be able to use any missile spells; to do so would be poor role-playing of the worst kind.

  • Level 1: Basic shots are simulated with "Magic Bolt", a spell ball doing 1pt of damage on a hit.
  • Level 2: Shots are simulated with two spells; "Lightning Bolt" for a powerful and lethal shot that ignores armor on a direct hit, and "Wounding", a verbal which represents accurate shooting to injure.
  • Level 3: The increasing deadliness of the Musketeer is modeled by the "Fireball", which ignores armor and kills even on a graze.
  • Level 4: Even deadlier and more accurate shooting is represented by the lethal verbal spell "Curse"·
  • Level 5: The musketeer has attained the peak of his killing art, now capable of killing even the most heavily defended foes with a well-placed shot. The “Sphere of Annihilation” models this deadly marksmanship.
  • Level 6: The Musketeer is capable of setting a final explosion using his personal supply of gunpowder, represented by the spell "Killing Grounds".
Suggested Genre Spells: Non-missile/projectile skills are just ones that fit the particular flavor I am going for with the Musketeer class, and are entirely optional. The staging of the spells should be changed to show the new flavor of the class. Please note that many of them are defensive in nature, representing armor of some sort, hard cover, or even luck, while others deal with flame and explosives. Given the Musketeer's affinity for gunpowder, this should be readily apparent. A few, like "Honor Duel" or "Bladesharp" reflect the fact that Musketeers are warriors like any other, proud and capable of battle, often becoming experienced and tough as they progress in skill.

Lvl 1: Honor Duel, Bladesharp

Lvl 2: Mend, Protection from Flame

Lvl 3: Protection from Projectile, Protection

Lvl 4: Protection from Magic, Pyrotechnics

Lvl 5: Vivify, Warskill

Lvl 6: Defend, Expertise

An examination of the “Musketeer” shows that this is really nothing more than a fairly inefficient Wizard, with too many weapons and too few spells. This is by design… it is intended for roleplayers, not for munchkins, rules-lawyers, or powergamers. This system of using spells to simulate specific class abilities allows unparalleled flexibility, limited only by one’s creativity and ability to reinterpret existing rules. The downside to the spell meta-system is that it is complex. Before using a variant such as this, the player should notify the reeve that the variant is being played. The reeve should not be able to disallow the variant, so long as no rules have been actually altered, but it is helpful to avoid any misunderstandings.

Utilizing one of the above methods, a creative player can certainly find what he or she is looking for without having to alter the balance of play, create new classes, or otherwise depart from canon rules. This allows a player, no matter how wild or freakish the persona concept, to play the same character, the same way, regardless of where they play.

[ discuss on forums ]

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