One of the things that I enjoy most about twitter is the amount of RPG chat that percolates into, well, everything. Not only is it a great way to kill time, but I just generally enjoy the love RPGs are getting. A lot of the more fascinating ideas I’ve found in fantasy have been in RPGs; a lot of my best social moments have been RPG related.
So now I will repay that love by making people hate RPGs a little with an article on what would happen if fantasy books were in fact playing RPG characters; what class, what playstyle, and so on. All clear? Hopefully it will be soon.
Lord of the Rings – Paladin (Oath of the Ancients)
LotR is a serious book, full of faith and hope, loving loyalty and courage above all else. It doesn’t love war, but doesn’t shrink from it either. There are a few ways to do that, but a D&D divine spellcaster of some sort seems a good, easy to understand fit. I went with Paladin as ultimately, LotR is a player that will put itself in harm’s way and not rely too much on magic, and that’s what Paladins are great at – the triumph of faith over lots of sharp pointy things. The Oath of the Ancients gives this Paladin a nature-loving bent, which is of course perfect for LotR. At the table, LotR’s Paladin is solemn but not without humour, brave but not without care, until the player’s small ones run up and make ridiculous demands on what to do next which the player usually permits, at which point all sorts of things can make. Sneaky little hobbitses.
Conan the Barbarian –
Barbarian Full Moon Lunar
Yes, yes, you’d think barbarian, wouldn’t you? But the scantily clad illiterate berserk popularized by Gygax & Arneson has some marked differences from Howard’s most famous creation, a fiercely intelligent and nimble hero who did plenty of thievery, piracy, and wearing of as much armour as he could. Sure, Barbarian fits well enough with Conan’s overbearing physical excellency, but there’s other options from other RPGs that fit that even better. Exalted is a classic game of mythical and flawed heroes – I recommend looking it up to all – and in it, nobody embodies general athletic prowess and indomitable attitude like the Full Moon Lunars. That’s what Conan’s about. At the table, Conan tends to be a bit of a lone wolf who’s not particularly bothered by the body count as long as he achieves his aims.
Mythago Wood – Druid
Mythago Wood is the story of a former soldier’s meeting with a forest full of mythic figures from our past, a pocket dimension by turns wonderous and horrifying. So – nature, magic, a protean world? Step forward D&D’s Druid. It majors on all those things, and the pseudo-mythical ageless feeling of both just confirms the fit. At the table, Mythago Wood is hesitant and unwilling to commit in case that compromises him later, and needs a lot of “encouragement” to unload with the magical firepower.
The Deverry Cycle – Protagonist
The Deverry Cycle is a double-edged sword of a series; on one hand, filled with putting right mistakes and the consequences of a violent society, and on the other, all the bloodshed and consequences of a violent society. And much as I love both parts, I do love the second part a bit more. So I’ve got Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay for that, a game famous for its satirical and dark take on fantasy, an example of which is the Protagonist career. The Protagonist is described, somewhat cynically, a professional bully who’ll beat up anyone for money. Which, with a lot of protesting, is what a lot of the Deverry Cycle is about. At the table, the Deverry Cycle will fight anyone, but will have a great arc down the line in its later careers.
Bridge of Birds – Rogue
A forgotten classic set in an ancient China that never was, Bridge of Birds is a loose retelling of a Chinese folktale shoved into a twisty, blackly comic, mix of whodunnit and adventure. That makes it perfect for a Rogue – particularly 3.5/Pathfinder with it’s emphasis on having lots of skills for the Rogue to use. Just like Li Kao, Bird of Bridges’ character has a slight flaw. At the table, the struggle is getting Bridge of Birds to take it seriously rather than keep wisecracking around, but when they do, obstacles just melt away. Very good at toeing the line of the group’s ethics without going over.
The Fionavar Tapestry – Bard
This one was a very easy one for me. I would describe the Fionavar Tapestry as a melodramatic hodgepodge of knowledge and ideas, romantic and bloody-handed, filled with strange magic and a belief in the power of stories. That’s a stereotypical Bard to its fingertips (and a lot of the players who like playing them). Occasionally The Fionavar Tapestry makes noises like it’s thinking of playing Fighter, but it’s always kidding. It always turned up with Bard. At the table, The Fionavar Tapestry loves to make grand gestures, court beautiful people, and always argues loudest against the idea of running away.
Empire of Sand – Sorcerer
This book wasn’t the most rollicking read for me, but this tale of inherited magic and survival has stuck with me. It has an idiosyncratic, stubborn charm and intriguing ideas. It wasn’t the sort of “do everything kitchen sink” fantasy I love, but it had an idea and and pushed it to the max. To me, that spells out a D&D Sorcerer, the magic user that inherits power through their blood and wield it through force of personality. At the table, Empire of Sand likes to take risks, and likes to annoy their fellow players by staring the GM in the eye and going “I dare you” even more.
Kushiel’s Dart – Toreador
The tale of Kushiel’s Dart is that of pain and glamour, secrets and treachery, romance and very kinky sex. This isn’t the stuff of most RPGs, but it definitely fits a vein of White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade. It’s maybe not what White Wolf intended to VtM, but if the shoe fits and all that. There’s also a fairly similar take on national stereotypes too. Anyway, of all the glamourous romantic artistes in VtM, the Toreador clan are the most glamourous and romantic of them all, dahling. At the table, Kushiel’s Dart is happy to do all sorts of crazy shit as they believe the GM won’t kill them, and is happiest with some crazy personal drama on. Their favourite weapon is a whip. Do not ask why.
The Craft Sequence – Technomancer
The Craft Sequence is one of the best and most inventive series around for my money; it’s mix of magic, divinity, and big business is a wonderful backdrop to all sorts of stories. To me, it’s focus on modernity and constant new ideas suggests the Technomancer from Shadowrun. The Technomancer is a sort of techno-shaman, accessing the Matrix through the power of its mind, often serving as the group’s hacker (and therefore an information retrieval specialist). That fits nicely. At the table, The Craft Sequence isn’t happy unless they’ve found some loophole in the rules or plot that drives the GM mad – not in a powergamey way, but just to keep themselves entertained. Also, if there is some way for minionmancy, it will be taken,
The Traitor Baru Cormorant – Vigilante
The Traitor really is a fantastic book. A thriller, a meditation on treachery and defeat, on identity and oppression and just about everything else; it has everything and in a way mirroring its hero, it has a something of a split identity. Well, that just brings to mind a class I’ve always wanted to try but never have – Pathfinder’s Vigilante. It’s made for a split identity, in a way like a classic superhero – or a hidden traitor. The Teisatsu archetype – specialized vigilantes who focus on infiltrating social scenes and high-society gatherings – is probably the best option. At the table, The Traitor Baru Cormorant is very fond of passing notes to the GM detailing plans to be held secret from the rest of the party, is willing to sacrifice anything, and has a tendency to stagger out of TPKs as the lone survivor.
The Ninth Rain – Magus
The Ninth Rain is a great epic fantasy with a mix of throwback heroic and modern gamey-horror vibes. The body count is high, the quips outrageous, and the manner of destruction varied. This seems like a geat opportunity to wheel out Pathfinder’s Magus class, a master of sword and spell that really fulfils the glass cannon role. Magus see, Magus obliterate. At the table, The Ninth Rain is happy go lucky as long as it can have some good brooding backstories and regularly wreck everything in sight.
Jade City – Innerwalker
It would have been easy to say Monk for the Godfather-meet-John Woo stylings of Jade City, and it’s the reference most RPG fans will get (Way of Shadow for 5e fans in particular I think). But, well, monks and organized crime aren’t always the most obvious match, and Monks don’t always get to ball out enough. So why not pick an RPG designed for Jade City-esque shenanigans? Feng Shui is one of those games I’d love to play for that Hong Kong action feeling, and the main characters there are called Innerwalkers. At the table, Jade City is all about winning fights and loyalty to the party, no matter what it it takes, and fried octopus balls.