I remember the first time I got the Basic D&D rules. That red box that had the Caves of Chaos module in it accompanied by a handful of plastic dice.
It wasn’t long before the book was nearly falling to pieces and I have to hole punch it and put it in an A4 folder in order to preserve it.
I had always been a great reader of fantasy texts and now I had the option, not to actually play through the stories myself, but to do something even more appealing – to create characters!
Your first ever character?
You have to remember that I was playing basic rules. Within this version, you had the following classes. Elf, Dwarf, Cleric, Magic-user and Thief – I think – it was a long time ago!
There were no races as such just classes.
Inspired by The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which I actually read by taking the musty books from the central library! my first ever character was a Dwarf. You can probably guess which name I went for – Thorin! He did have a second name but my memory fails me and, unlike the modern world when characters are stored electronically, his piece of A4 paper has long since disappeared.
Later, due to no games to play in, I started to equip him with magical items which I thought he would enjoy. I think at that time, I made up games that I was playing in in order to justify the magical item collection! I don’t remember everything I ‘gave him’ but the Rod of Lordly Might, Girdle of Storm Giant Strength and Gauntlets of Ogre power were all definitely on the list.
That class that calls to you…
Although my first class was a Dwarf – which translates to a fighter class – this soon changed as I found myself drawn to the Magic-User class.
I’m not initially sure why I was drawn to this class. Maybe because of its weaknesses at first level or the challenges that the class brought to the playing arena. I remember fondly the limited choice of weapons – staff, darts and dagger and the even more limited choice of armour – none. I only once played a single character in a campaign. It was at university where I was a magic-user who nearly died several times in each and every adventure. I think the cleric got really fed up having to heal me. I do remember that I had an orb of darkness cast on it. I kept it covered and if attacked, I unwrapped it and ran! No idea how I kept finding it again! It must have been a very nice dungeon master!
The majority of my games consisted of me being the DM or me playing a whole party of characters. That’s correct. I would not play just one character, it would be the whole party. I had moved onto AD&D first edition by now and we have a plethora of classes to experiment with. Fighter and Paladin on the front rank, Magic-Users on the second rank so they could fire over the fighters heads, Clerics anywhere because they were so powerful and thieves and assassins lurking at the back so they could easily hide in shadows before moving up to backstab!
It was fun controlling a whole party, but I have to admit, not one of the characters had a personality and there was absolutely no role-playing at all! They were just sheets and I tried to pay some attention to their alignment. But the multiplying didn’t just stop controlling a whole party!
At the end of the character creation section of the rulebook, there were the multi-classed characters. I think these perhaps saw the demise of the magic-user class. Why would you be a magic-user with no armour and 1d4 starting hit points when you could wield spells and be an elven Fighter/Magic-User clad in metal armour and wielding a sword! Other multi-classes characters included Cleric/Fighter/Magic-User and the two-handed sword backstabbing Fighter/Magic-User/Thief! Although you had to share all the experience you got between three classes, there was very little progression in those games. They were more like one-offs. After the adventure, the party rarely returned again to fight together.
Still Multi now?
With the current rule system I play (Mythras) there are actually no classes at all. I run an all human campaign for races and with every skill being based on percentile dice you can virtually be and do anything. Of course, you won’t be a very good spell caster if you haven’t ploughed your points into Charisma and Power, but it is all possible.
Thinking about this, I wonder whether I have maintained my enjoyment of multi-classed characters? I do like the unpredictability of multi-classed NPCs. Players get used to the ability and skills of certain classes and suddenly when that fighter type suddenly starts to cast spells, you can see their gaming step up a nock!
But when I get the chance to play, I think I will stick with a single class. When playing MMOs online I tend to go more for the fighter types, mainly since the magic-using classes are usually overpowered! How these will translate to a role-playing game, I’m not sure. Will I stick for to the fighter types like in MMOs and my first ever character? Or will I go back to my roots and start to wield magic once more?
I guess only time will tell!