... now with 35% more arrogance!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Warrior, Thief, Wizard

This is a pretty trivial post, but it is not about what you think it's going to be about.

It's about three different modes of emphasis in fantasy role-playing games.

The warrior meets strategic and tactical combat challenges directly. The thief solves problems efficiently, but not necessarily directly. The wizard follows clues to one of the "correct" solutions.

The warrior came first, when fantasy adventure gaming was still just fantasy combat. The dungeon crawl introduced the thief, even before an actual thief class existed. And since clues to what threats would be faced helped wizards select their spells, this became the seeds of clue-trail-based scenarios, eventually becoming the dominant mode of games like Call of Cthulhu.

Success in the three modes is defined as:
  • Warrior: facing the enemy directly and winning. Degree of success is based on losses suffered versus enemies defeated.
  • Thief: finding any solution, direct or indirect. Degree of success is based on resources expended versus objectives retrieved.
  • Wizard: figuring out all the clues to get to an official solution. Degree of success is based on facts discovered versus facts available.
Traditional fantasy adventure gaming is a mix of all three modes, but there's usually a focus on one mode. You could probably rephrase some recurring RPG arguments in terms of conflicts about modes. And I have vague ideas about how acting in character or meta-gaming fit into all of this, but I'll reserve that for some much later post.


  1. Check out Warrior, Rogue, Mage -- I think you'll like it... http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=82643

  2. Yes, great observation. Not just single adventures, but entire campaigns are styled to fit into one of these three archetypes. Our entire world-design will be affected by which aspect we place foremost.

  3. Hey, no shilling! I've heard of Warrior, Rogue, Mage, but I'm not talking about character classes...