- I mean "niche protection" in a very broad sense; and,
- Like so many things, the hate is about intentions rather than appearances.
The alternate definitions or applications some people gave for niche protection all specify narrower examples of what I'm talking about. For example, ProfessorOats defended niche protection in this circumstance:
You only protect those areas not every character should be doing. That's why the thief class is an issue: everyone should be picking locks, disabling traps or climbing walls!So, in his view, if only one class can do some highly specialized thing that shouldn't be common, that's "niche protection" in its truest and most useful form.
Yeah, I hate that idea, too.
The reason is because of those intentions I mentioned. It's not the mere surface aspects of preventing someone from doing something; it's it's the intention of doing that to protect another class, for whatever reason: spotlight protection, encouraging group cohesion, whatever.
I'm all for designing classes and characters to be different. And I'm all for what Brendan referred to as "interesting trade-offs": making a class better at one or two things, but allowing other abilities to languish at "normal" levels. It's the way I think when I design my own classes. But you can play just fine with classes and with zero niche protection, as long as you don't have a whiner in the group. So why have niche protection?
Because somebody is elevating theory over fun.
When I tell new players "Magic-Users can cast spells, Thieves are good at stealth, opening locks, and things like that," I'm not telling them what they are limited to, or what other classes are forbidden from trying. I'm giving them quick package deals built around what they might find fun to do. Want to do a lot of magic stuff? Play a magic-user. Playing a fighter instead? Then if you try to do magic, you may find it very difficult, although not necessarily impossible, and you will have to work like a dog just to get anywhere at it. But hey, even by the book, there's a way to do it (Ring of Spell Storing.)
Or switch classes. That's something the niche protection racket never seems to address: if protecting players from having their gimmick "stolen" is so important, why have rules for switching classes? Answer: because doing everything should be hard, but not impossible.
And to finish up: no, Dante, the "you might make him cry" is *not* a straw man argument, or even important to the discussion of niche protection. It's satire. Because, from my viewpoint, all the rationalizations about why niche protection is a Great Thing basically translate to "someone, somewhere, might cry". People *have* bitched about the Knock spell making the Thief "pointless". Really? Because the M-U is going to waste a spell or scroll on opening a trivial lock that a Thief could open, instead of saving the Knock for the one lock the party must get past and the Thief can't seem to pick? If the M-U does, so what? The look on the party's faces when they find mostly worthless junk in the first chest they use Knock on is certainly worth the lack of niche protection, isn't it?