Seeing Past The Class

Note: While this may be slightly advanced for some, this is not a bad reference for exploring different character concepts for your backstory.

In any game system you have game mechanics structured around classes and roles. Mages toss spells, warriors whack folks and clerics heal. You know the drill. While in some forms of play, playing and knowing your “class” is paramount to everything, even role-play.

But from the role-playing side of things, there’s a whole world of twists and different takes on what “X” class is or could be. In tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, you can “flavor” your character with Character “Kits”. What this does is take you away a little from the generics of a class and liven up things.

What if you don’t have those types of things?
Especially in LARPs and MMORPGs?

With a little creativity you can step away and create a cool concept and still play your class “role”. While there’s nothing “wrong” with playing a class as it is, your can still do it with some flair or tweak a few things and make it something different – and fun.

An MMORPG Example: Shaw Ashecroft, Ranger

Shaw Ashecroft, Ranger

Take Shaw, for example. In World of Warcraft, he’s a Rogue by class and game mechanics. I wanted something different for him, something I would have fun with and push the envelope a bit. So, the idea was that he is a ranger (based loosely on the D&D tabletop ranger class) turned undead – and with most of his past intact. He’s almost human, aside from the obvious “dead” thing.

Yeah, I could have played a hunter, but I wanted a more melee version of a ranger. More Aragorn, less Legolas. There’s plenty of types of rogues I could play too, but the ranger idea stuck. When creating Shaw, I was really looking for a Tolkien-ish ranger, just life-challenged. :)

Let’s see…

  • Not Arthas’s and Thrall’s love child…
  • Not half demon, half vampire/werewolf and half dragon…
  • Not looking for love in all the stupid places…
  • Not going to dance naked on mailboxes…
  • Most importantly: Not an immortal with flaming hair, tail and a codpiece with eyes on it that shoots flame…

Good! Now… let’s pull this together!

The Core Concept
In Dungeons & Dragons, rangers typically worship a nature god or goddess, and they take a role similar to druids by protecting nature and slaying foul creatures. Rangers gain attack bonuses against certain creatures through the choosing of a “Favored Enemy” such as giants, dragons or undead. In addition, rangers have access to divine magic and an animal companion to aid them in battle.

Typically, rangers are inclined to solitude, particularly from commoners, as in the The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. Rangers tend to prefer the company of fellow rangers, and they are extensively trained. However, good rangers will often act as the guardians of others – whether appreciated or not – by repelling “evil” forces and protecting the weak.

Ok, that’s the concept to adapt to the Rogue class. First, we worked on the backstory. Shaw was a budding recruit trained in Duskwood by an old high elven ranger stationed to keep tabs on the hidden grove in that region. That’s where his training came in after his mentor noticed more threats to the area than he could alone handle (Worgen (the evil ones), Ogres, brigands and such).

So, Shaw learned to scout, be sneaky and other “ranger” goodies while still being “normal”. While on a remote scout mission out in the Plaguelands, he fell into an ambush by a spellcaster wielding strange “Shadow Magic” and died. But for some reason, death didn’t leave him alone. He “awoke” several times over the years, but went fell back asleep (went dormant) after being overwhelmed with his new status as an undead. Time and resolve kicked in, and Shaw decided to do something and get back into the world – maybe even find a “cure” for his “curse”.

After trying to adjust to being an independent undead and still mentally “human”, he’s had to adjust drastically but still keep to his duties and sanity. I then added more details, quirks and such to flesh him and his backstory out – including how he became undead later on.

Fitting the “Role”
Using the Rogue’s basic role and game mechanics, I added some twists but still keeping the rogue abilities intact more or less while still keeping with the core concept for the Ranger. I was not expecting to create a complete rework, but an adaption of the idea – just Warcraft “flavored”.

Here’s some of the beginning thoughts, seeing what I can do to use or work around the Rogue class game mechanics:

  • Stealth: (hiding in shadows, dim light or just not being noticed in melee) I opted for a more true to DnD Ranger slant to it, but I could have had a IC “ring” or cloak be magical and to “cloak” me.
  • Archery: (instead of thrown weapons for ranged pulls) Also looks cool to have the quiver on your back when having a bow* His use of a bow is limited due to being undead (undead can’t be the hunter class), but he can still shoot. (By the way, the way he looks shooting was gravy – the squint animation while aiming sold me!)
  • Swordplay: (Combat Spec, but could use any spec – even daggers, but Shaw was into swordplay due to his training)
  • Skills/Hobbies: A little “elven” Leatherworking (ICly his leatherwork is influenced by elven motifs)
  • Herb Lore: Even the use of plants and such to hinder movement and weaken opponents (poisons) – old elven “tricks” used against the trolls back in the day. (I could have chosen alchemy, but I liked leatherworking for Shaw) This helps work around some of the game/class mechanics. I could always only use the poisons OOCly when grinding or raiding. Either way, it works and fits the character concept ICly.

Some Extras:
Now comes the additional “flavorings” and things to ponder:

  • Lockpicking… Ack!
    It’s going to happen… Someone will ask you IC or OOC to pop a lockbox. If it’s OOC, it’s not as bad.

    In Character though, I do this: I’ll send an emote saying I’m looking at the lockbox after saying I’ll see what’s “stubborn” about it. I’ll then either A) emote that I smacked the lock with my swordhilt or a rock, or B) the Lock was just stuck and a good jerk is all that was needed. You can always just have friends email boxes OOCly to you. Then again, smacking a lockbox open ICly makes for good role-play moments.

  • Keeping up with things
    It’s easy once you get IC (In Character), especially since I had a handle on the class concept. If struggling, I would have jotted down key notes to remind yourself so I would not break character.
  • Religion/Beliefs
    I chose the Light since Shaw was/is human. I did however had him give homage to nature deities in general after learning about them. Most of this “knowledge” happened after he “awoke” and studied the various deities hordeside. Elven hunters could easily revere Elune or Cenarius.
  • Armor
    I tried to pick armor/sets that reflected a more ‘foresty” look as opposed to the “silent assassin of the night” look. VERY hard to do at low levels, but eventually you can find pieces that “click”. The Forest Leather set was a good start for me trying to steer clear of a “clown suit”.
  • Bow
    As started earlier I chose a bow for my ranged weapon. I could have easily chose a crossboe or keep a few throwing knives on me, but having a bow keeps the ranger/hunter/scout idea solid.
  • IC Gameplay
    I kept mannerisms similar to an interpretation of a ranger. Affinity towards the forest, protective to nature – certain areas or similar. For the Warcraft flavor, I felt a bit more comfortable in living, natural locales and forests. I also gave Shaw a aversion to Undercity (The Dead City) and folks with the “More Brains!” mindset. He’s an independent Undead, not a Forsaken.
  • Cannibalize… Nuuuuuu!
    Cannibalize is a forsaken racial trait that really doesn’t fit Shaw. At all. Ever. So… poof! Off the Action Bar.
  • IC Interaction
    The hardest thing is trying to “sell” the whole “ranger” concept to other players ingame. Using a combination or emotes/mannerisms and props may not be enough. In a way, it shouldn’t be. Using subtle “hints” and such through talking with players help reinforce the character as time goes by. Speak it and “live” it – but don’t overdue it. That’s the key. Shaw pretty much stays to himself, but sometimes heads into a populated area to “refocus” his humanity. In the wild, he helps folks, tries to be courteous and then quickly goes his way.
  • “You! Rogue!”
    Some folks lock others into stereotypes – that can’t be helped. Some folks will get it, others use your class name like it’s branded on your forehead. Just do your best, if it’s a re-occurring things with a player, OOCly explain the situation nicely – but try your best to act the part first. I found it’s harder if you are taking it from a non-hunter aspect as well. It’s a challenge. Be cool, shrug it off and play around it or through it if you can make it work.
  • Tracking
    Does Shaw have tracking? Nope… But I can fake it with Shaw. One way to go around it is with just knowing the zone well. Even if you get off course, it’s an adventure! The second method is a bit more precise. If hunting down another player who is “in” on the rp to shoot a quick invite, you can find lost folks with little fuss. Of course it’s kind of fun to veer off the beaten path from time to time. Not everyone’s perfect, you know…
  • Spell Use
    I opted out of doing that with Shaw. While the classic rangers did have some limited use of magic, it didn’t really fit Shaw. If I did want to include it, I could collect trinkets or cool spell-like rewards and objects to fill the void. A good example is the cape idea from when I spoke about stealth earlier.
  • Animal Companions
    Animals, furry critters of the wild! Shaw doesn’t have a pet, being undead kinda spooks animals unless trained properly and/or they have a connection. Luckily he finally had a living mount via reputation rewards as his animal “companion”. That’s about as close as he gets since furry critters are sometimes scared off by him. For non-hunter “rangers” – nab a vanity pet from your faction or the opposing faction. That gives you a animal buddy!
  • Favored Enemy
    The “classic” D&D ranger had a preferred enemy that he works against, one he has studied and combats when the opportunity arises. Shaw’s “list” included most of the bad guys in Duskwood: Worgen, Undead, Ogres and brigands. This can be easily narrowed, added to, or skipped depending on the character.
  • Sprint
    Rogues have the sprint ability which gives them a nice chunk of speed for a few seconds when running. Being fleet of foot can be attributed from being athletic, naturally quick or even from some mystical animal token. Hey, it’s fantasy and it doesn’t upset game balance.
  • When in Raid, do as raiders do
    If raiding OOCly, just do your normal thing. You can still have mad raid skills and role-play. Most folks need to make sure your on your game in instances, so if it’s not a RP raid, it’s best to keep it raid-focused. If it’s an IC raid, that’s a whole other situation.

Last Bits
That’s in a rough nutshell how Shaw works.

Any class can work on a different angle. Just take look past your “role” and “class” and see what you can create from it. There is more than one style or flavor or mage, priest, warrior, etc..

Use lore and other gaming resources for inspiration, but don’t let it create something that will overpower role-playing with other players. Going overboard can turn other role-players off, so keep it simple but creative. Like with Shaw, he’s not overpowering or rp hindering.

While sometimes a rogue is a rogue is a rogue… it doesn’t have to be all the time. That goes for any class when you role-play. Think past the stats and class, be creative and have fun.