A Class Above the Rest
Greetings friends. We here at Meeple Gamers have once again gathered for our regular forum from the halls of intelligentsia to put our opinions toward the important gaming questions. This week we’ve decided to focus the question of classes in Role Play Games.
To be perfectly clear, when I say class I’m not referring to the one word designation. There are different words used in different games. Class has been replaced by job, pursuit, architype, profession, and dozens and dozens of others. For the short hand purposes of this list we’re using the word class.
How we determined the actual best class was the same way we handle all of our debates; we all put forth one or two examples and then debated the merits of each one using our research, experience, and hard data gained from countless minutes of internet googling. After a long period of open conversation we took inspiration from the recent month and divided all of the classes into a large ladder format and paired the classes against one another until only the best remained. Afterwards we took the top eight and the two runners up who received the most support and compiled this list.
I hope you can see, that a significant amount of thought and work went into the writing of this list and we did not ask people to randomly list 10 different classes and games on an internet forum, put them into list form, and pull reasons for why they belong here out of our butts the day before this was due.
With that out of the way, I’ve put on my best smoking jacket, poured a healthy brandy, and lit my favorite. Let’s begin.
10: Weirdo from Tales from the Loop
Your character gets to embody the odd, unusual, and the outcast. You’ll get to play someone who has weird quirks, ticks, and tumbles. Everyone else will have a character who is defined for them. The Jock is the athlete who likes sports, the popular kids is the one with friends, but the weirdo is the one who likes vampires, comics, anime, or sticks. You get to create your character from a plethora of everything. Nothing is out of bounds for you and your creative freedom. Want to be obsessed with pin ball, go for it. Like wearing Hawaiian shirts, feel free. Do you wear an over-sized bowler hat then welcome to the party.
The freedom to roleplay the weird, wild, and woeful is why the Weirdo is on this list.
8: Spider from Blades in the Dark
Ostensibly the Spider is in charge of the team, but from a role-play stand point you have a much more important job. As the Spider it’s your job to help set up the roleplay opportunities for the other players. You help to guide them into teams, and add your voice to theirs. You let them have a chance to play with one another while only stepping in occasionally. As the Spider, it becomes your job to focus the spotlight on the other players at the table. This doesn’t mean you won’t get a chance to play. You will be in the mix with everyone else. As the Spider, you’ll be setting the tone. It’s like being the drummer in a band, you set the tempo for everyone else.
This is not a role for beginners. This is a part that should only be taken by experienced gamers and most likely ones that are shepherding newer players into this game or gaming in general. You are taking a role that will help the story teller set the pace for the adventure and should only be chosen after careful consideration. But, if done with forethought and care the Spider can be a very rewarding experience for both you and the rest of the table as a whole.
The party friendly nature of this class is why the Spider is on this list.
6: Chem Maker from Fallout
The Chem Maker fills an interesting place in RPG’s in that they can craft something valuable, affordable, and in demand. In most systems you can craft something that fits into one of those categories but never all three. This means that your character becomes the front man for the group. You are now in charge of dealing with the locals in most cases. You’ll be the one in a position to deal with NPC’s and deposits the heavy lifting of interaction on your shoulders.
The danger of this is that you can easily take over a session by negotiating a business contract and stop the rest of the group from accomplishing anything meaningful. This forces you into the difficult position of believably playing your character while also knowing when to back away from that realism to allow for the game to take over without breaking the emersion for yourself or others. It is a challenge and not one often taken on by many players. If done successfully, it can be very rewarding.
The challenging act of negotiating realism vs gameplay is why the Chem Maker is on this list.
4: Rigger from Shadowrun
As the Rigger your job is to get the players in and out of trouble. You can scout for the team, enter combat, and courier objects and people while sitting in relative safety blocks and sometimes miles away. You are a multi-tool for the party and will be welcome in every situation.
The trick of the Rigger is to find an interesting balance between being the guy behind the desk, the wheel, or the controller and interacting with the party. While your character will rarely be in danger you’ll still need to be a part of the tension. That can be interesting dynamic if handled correctly, but can also break immersion in the game and the world if done poorly. Certainly there will be some bit of work on the part of the Game Master to give you unexpectedly tense moments, but the lion’s share of the difficulty will be on your shoulders.
The utility of the character balanced against the risk of tedium is why the Rigger is on this list.
2: Athlete from X-Crawl
As the Athlete you’re playing an all-around character. You’re there for the combat, but also to take on the physical challenges of climbing walls, running obstacles, or even swimming. You’ve trained for all of the physical skills and requirements the other more traditional classes like fighter and rogue might not be ready for. Your weapon of choice is a holy hockey stick, flaming baseball bat, or mithril tennis racket. You get the team to rally when they’ve had a bad room and keep the momentum up when they’ve gotten on a streak.
As the Athlete you are the party multi-tool. You slot in as a cheerleader, front line blocker, back line support, or behind the line diver. You have to take on this dance of knowing when to change your position while keeping the team moving forward and capitalizing on the momentum you’ve built. You’re not as flashy as the wizard or strong as the barbarian but you’re more versatile overall. All of that doesn’t mean you have to be peppy and upbeat. There are tons of examples of angry dour athletes who motivate their team through trash talk, threats, and hope and prayers. The Athlete gives you a wide range of options and is a great class for beginners because of it.
Its multiple uses and beginner friendly approach is why the Athlete is on this list.
9: Doctor from Star Trek Adventures
In this case the class is your position on the crew. Every player will take on the role of one of the command positions and be in charge of the ship. Admittedly, we almost took Helmsman for obvious reasons but after much debate, possibly our longest, we decided that the Chief Medical Officer or ships Doctor was in fact the best.
As the Doctor you’ll have ample opportunities to interact with every member of the crew. You’ll have a more natural in for playing out a scene than say the Science Officer and the Chief Engineer. You’ll be included on most away missions to planets since they’ll want to have a medic there if anything goes wrong and that gives you more opportunity to deal with the locals. It also gives you a reason to step back and let other players have a chance at the spotlight. You don’t awkwardly try to explain you’re going to look at the thing over there, you can go and help an injured bystander.
The versatility of moving in and out of a scene is why the Doctor is on this list.
7: Wizard from Lord of the Rings
Your function as the Wizard is to be both mentor and guide to the party. You’re there to help the quest along and dole out sage advice while not over shinning the rest of the group with your knowledge. You’re also a bit of a protector and protected. You have enough power to lay waste to an entire city but are frail enough that a small child with a sling shot can drop you from across a field putting you in a unique balancing act.
Playing this mix of ultimate power and vulnerability lends itself to interesting scenes and interactions with the rest of the party. Your reputation and the legends surrounding wizards will make your interactions with NPC’s a juggling act of enough confidence that they respect you but not so much that they rise up against the tyrant. The wizard is the class that can be most easily abused and most easily stopped making your interactions with those around you a fascinating verbal dance.
The dual nature of this class is why the Wizard is on this list.
5: Glitter Boy from Rifts
Playing a Glitter Boy means you are drawing fire from targets you can’t even see. Everyone wants to prove they’re better than you and will fire first and challenge second. You need to walk through the wasteland aware of the collateral damage you will be causing to your own party who can barely stand up to your weapons. You are measuring restraint against those rare times when you get to cut loose.
Knowing that you can nuke Texas from inside Texas and be fine is alluring, but judging when to use that power and knowing not to is what makes the Glitter Boy such a unique character choice. You go into a Glitter Boy knowing you’ll most likely not be using your best stuff on a regular basis and that is the challenge of this character. Knowing when to fire everything or, as Tank Girl was an option, not knowing when to do it and dealing with the aftermath.
The intricate balance of decision and consequence is why Glitter Boy is on this list.
3: Elf from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
Elves are often viewed as nature based characters and ranged damage. You’re great with a bow, can move silently as a class feature, and can hide in nature with ease. You’re great for playing in an outdoor environment and can work well inside a dungeon under the right circumstances. Once they changed elves from a race to a class this changes and you start seeing a lot of what elves were once famous for being moved to druids and rangers, but in those early years if your party wanted someone in touch with nature, they needed an elf.
One of the challenges of playing an Elf is that you re removed from the world while being a part of it. You are taking on the role of an ancient being who’s done a lot by the time they’re old enough to go adventuring. Even at the earliest adolescent age you character is in their 70’s. You end up having to walk this fine line between knowing about the world and experiencing things for the first time. You’re also more comfortable with nature than with cities. Your character is always an outsider and needs to act in such a way.
The challenge of playing the familiar alien is why Elves are on this list.
1: Wastrel from Through the Breach
As the Wastrel you are the group’s mouth piece. You get to know the locals, talk to the folks in the bar in a social setting, and insert yourself into the community as if you’d always been there. You’re also a support character; all of your abilities are based around improving your party’s chances of success. You are there to make everyone better.
Roleplaying this character is a party centric experience. You are announcing to everyone at the table that you are here to help. You are going to be leading the way in every social situation, helping to introduce the team to the right people, and making sure that in combat you might not do the most damage but you’ll make sure the gunfighter hits. You are putting everyone else’s glory ahead of your own and getting to do it with a more than likely charming drawl; because let’s be honest, a Wastrel has an accent. Might be English, might be southern, might be Spanish, or even Italian but by god it’s there. Why play a Wastrel if you ain’t doing an accent. (Be honest, when I said Tombstone you immediately thought, “I’m your huckleberry.”)
Being fully invested in the party and having an accent is why the Wastrel is on this list.
And there we have it. A list of the top 10 best RPG classes. I’m certain you have opinions and we’d love to hear them on our discord, social media, or in the comments. Let us know because I may do a commenter’s list at some time in the future.
I hope you enjoyed the list. I know we all had fun making it. My pipe is about finished and I’ve finished my brandy so I believe I’ll step away for now. Thank you all for stopping by.
Until next time, stay safe and be well.