Societal roles for the classes

Guess what, I’m posting weekends too.

I posted a comment on this fine and lovingly-crafted blog concerning Clerics. There’s a lot of talk about Clerics lately and I’ve recently had some trouble with them myself.

First off, Clerics seem to be the only class (other than the Paladin) that requires attachment to an organization. If you’re playing 1E then Druids, Monks, and Assassins fight for the ability to achieve high levels. But mostly in D&D, a Fighter, Magic-User, or Thief doesn’t need to be part of a group.

I like encouraging players to entrench themselves in the game world. I want them to make friends, enemies, business partners. I want them to start businesses and buy land and build houses. This connection makes them care more, which is a good thing.

A Cleric needs a diety, and those generally come with a church structure. Not required, but often. And there are benefits to a church. The Cleric gets help and information, possibly amnesty or sanctuary. At least a free place to sleep. And if there’s a church, the church will tend to the religious needs of the community. That means people will expect things from the Cleric – nothing too burdensome, but it’s a connection.

If you’re going to tie the Cleric to an organization, though, you might want to give the other classes the opportunity as well. Not just the church, which would of course be an option for anyone, but a separate group for each class. And not just a guild either – guilds as an organization system are too often overused and systematic. Asymmetric organizations (political, social, religious, etc) are entertaining and seem more authentic. Read up on ancient Athenian society around 400 to 300 BC. I’d take Athens whole and file the serial numbers off for a D&D city-state.

Note that all of these groups below encourage movement, don’t place a lot of long term responsibilities on the adventurer, and are generally lawful or good. If the players want to be greedy, nasty, foul scoundrels that’s their business, but you can at least offer some wholesome alternatives. Sometimes it’s hard to think of ways to be good, you know? They also don’t work at cross purposes, so you won’t have PCs in the same group sabotaging each other. Again, they might do this on their own anyway.

* A church organization like Christianity in Europe. Think Friars and scheming Archbishops of Canterbury Tales and the politically and militarily powerful Pope of the merchant city-states of Italy.

* A Red Cross type of organization devoted to wandering around healing people regardless of religion or nation. They go where disease or war breaks out – always interesting places for an adventurer to be.

* A nature-based organization interested in spreading the word about this religious environmentalism. Their goals are to reduce the spread of civilization into the wilderness, to preserve the secret and magical wild places in the world, but to help sustain civilization where it can. Their tools are eucation and magic relating to crops and herd animals, use of water, timber, hunting, and fish resources, sanitation, that sort of thing. They have a lot of power just because they have knowledge of a good way to do things. But people are reluctant to listen to anyone but their own priests and civic leaders, even in emergencies. So often you must deal with those leaders and convince them to tell their people the right way to do things.

* A Robin Hood merry men group. Focused on stopping corruption and oppression of the poor, and taking the obscenely pompously wealthy down a peg. Without killing them, of course.

* An antiquities / archaeology group that isn’t just out to steal but to preserve and educate.

* A loose coalition that tries to police magic use and discourage dangerous or unethical magic (mind reading, mind control, necromancy, etc). But there are social benefits and access to purchasing spell components and such.

* A gentleman’s club of wizards who swap spells, stories, and oddities collected from their various adventures. They’re mostly the old guard, the men who have adventured enough and just want to settle down and enjoy life. Younger Magic-Users are invited if they’re a nephew, a bright lad with some promise, etc. There’s not much formal education but someone will probaby toss you an old apprentice’s primer and plenty of stories about the most common ways to do things wrong, but nothing substantial. “Go out and learn something in the world”, they say, as they laugh and drink their aged cognac and recline in overstuffed leather armchairs and smooth down their long grey beards. “That’s how we did it back in the day!”

* A Federal Marshall or Sherriff, where they’re independent lawmen trusted with some authority, but not more than the local official. A mayor or head judge would outrank him, but he’s equal to a local sherriff. That way the Fighters (and hence the whole party) can get roped into all kinds of good and/or lawful deeds – or they could abuse their authority for personal benefit!

* An order of knights devoted to keeping down a certain enemy group, or a certain monster that used to be prevalent, or to preserve a certain secret, or to quest for something lost long ago.

2 Responses to “Societal roles for the classes”

  1. Chawunky Says:


    Doubtless those two Thieves organizations (I like the one that sounds as though it was founded by noted scoundrel Indiana Jones) could well fall afoul of the local Thieves Guild.

    I like the Gentleman’s Club of Mages, too.

  2. 1d30 Says:

    You could have a central Thieves’ Guild. And I can see having the guild oppose other sneaky organizations. But you could have the TG work symbiotically with the Archaeologists too. They buy the relics the thieves find, and they sell off the non-important (but valuable) goods they don’t need through the thieves. I guess it depends on how much their targets overlap.

    Or instead of a monolithic TG, a bunch of smaller gangs. Those are usually more interesting because they’re small enough that the PCs can affect them (improve, ruin, take leadership, incite gang warfare). But if you don’t want the TG to be important to your players, it’s best to make it monolithic and established. Players tend to focus more on things they can have an impact with.

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