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I am very stoked upon completion of the class structure of my Low Fantasy MMO and I would like to show you "zee future of approaching class structure". This game is made for RPers, and the class structure is not based on how you fight - but what you do.
First; the unclassed Player and transitions.
Freelancer > Brigand > Murderer
When you create a character you choose an Origin (Race), City-State (Kingdom), and then Family (or lack thereof). With these factors you will have be able to start you character among many humble to noble roots, and the relationships to NPCs in this game are crucial as other players will be your kin if they make the same choices as you, and you all will be in charge of protecting that impromptu "family" while working your way into other circles.
A Freelancer though, is someone who is not tied down. Choosing a class requires a change in "lifestyle" as you submit to the rules of that role. You can go the entire game without a class and do what you want, but classes themselves are basically about what you want to do as a character. You could go Brigand or Murderer status by robbing/killing NPCs or Players and spend your time in outlaw dens, but that's not getting covered here.
Onto the meat; note that pairings associate an enemy relationship, and choosing one locks out the other to your presence on a server. Melee is the main form of combat in the game, archery leaving you way too open to use in close quarters, so classes don't lean towards any weapon preferences - keep this in mind. Magic exists, but it's "subtle" and only available to certain classes. Every class acts as a "faction" in itself, and the only chat line beyond local is given to people in guilds and dedicated to a class.
Warriors; Mercenaries / Knights
These classes are for players that like to fight, and a lot. Going either route opens up a lot of content for PvE combat quests, but you can take anyone with you really.
Mercenaries have the ability to work abroad and fight wars for any city-state without a declaration of war, but suffer the consequences of rep loss. They can pull weapons out to intimidate NPCs and Players without it being a reportable offense, unless a Knight, NPC guard or Policing caste of class is not present to witness it an proc a right to arrest. Mercenary-only guilds are put on a ladder of PvP and PvE quests to see what guild speaks for the guild of mercs - individuals are on no such ladder.
Knights are stuck to a city-state they devote themselves to and find themselves cleaning up the mess of mercs constantly. They play a hybrid warrior/policier that has the access to PvE combat missions others don't, as well as the ability to enforce the law and investigate crimes commited by Players and NPCs (a great function I've worked up). The perks of knighthood are a ration of equipment (that is easily lost in death), a personal home in the city, and the influence of the law. The bad side is that you cannot work for any other kingdom without the diplomatic classes handing you a contract negotiated by both sides to do so. You must also keep a sigil of your kingdom on you at all times, whether armor, shield, whatever - this affects how NPCs in other kingdoms and lower castes treat you, and may lock out quests till they trust you more through doing "deeds" (the act of questing/patrols/investigations/labor/charity in the kingdom). You are expected to keep up a number of "deeds" to maintain status amongst other knights in a ladder for knight-only guilds, as well as individuals.
Infiltration and Stealth: Thieves / Assassins
These classes are for people who like to steal or do a stealth kill (in PvE) respectively, but they are techincally law abiding groups with a long history of political ties and tradition. They both are about running along rooftops, climbing around places, getting into houses and doing what they like best; looting or killing, either or.
Thieves are a loose organization of "nabbers for hire" that get quests to recieve items from NPCs or Player alike, the latter only at the request of other Players, with sanction of a Player in the the political class through a contract allowing them to do so... there is a lot of coordination between players in this game - it's a social MMO for RPers after all. Thieves are allowed to steal on their own, anyone can, but only thieves can avoid Brigand status due to the nature of the job. The only trick is that you can't get caught, because the guild of theives does not like to bail you out. Killing is outright and can get you expelled unless it was self-defense (the game knows who draws first). In that case, you must pay grievances to the deceased in order to quiet what could be an issue for all thieves. They very much hate assassins and don't want the rep.
Assassins on the other hand get hired to kill in the same fashion as Theives get contracts to steal. Except this class is not allowed to kill anyone without a contract, or without having the NPC or enemy Player draw first. Failure to keep up this rule leads to an increasingly hard quest chain of redemption, the more you screw up - the less likely you will be forgiven. Most PvE contracts are meant to give you a range of choices on how to approach it, and may feature stipulations like "only the target dies", or "everyone must die and not escape", meaning you have to kill each one without alerting the rest. This class is for the PvE ganker, but there are times where you may get the chance to legally off a Player - and that is when you can get creative as to your approach. There is a latent investigation game in which you ask NPCs to the location of players with a success based on many factors, including rep and family ties, as well as if they trust you or not, or even suspect you of foul play and notify the Player you are looking for via "courier" (the /tell system).
Social: Priest / Deceiver
This might come as a shock to you, but these classes are meant to suck in combat. They are primarily [social] roles in getting you to hang out with other players doing favors, asking favors, lining up quests, many things; depends on which class.
Priests [cannot] fight, let's get that out of the way. Dedicating yourself to the priestly art means a lot, and you can no longer draw a weapon, even though you can carry one at the ready. Your main job is to pick one of the many convents to do charity and work for, or wander the map in search of things to do. Animals do not attack you, but NPC humanoids still might, as well as players - but killing a priest is a baaaad thing that caused a major debuff to the murderer, you can rob em and wound em, just don't kill em. The main points to being a priest is the many blessings you can cast, things from gains in resource yields to slight buffs that last a long time - there are no flashy lights though as all magic is meant to be subtle, the supernatural is as vague and mysterious as it is in the real world here. Even though priests can't fight, they are well versed in medicine and the simple act of praying does wonders in combat for a team. Priests basically add a "luck bonus" just for being there, so everyone loves em for the sacrifice they make.
Deceivers are more politician than priest. They are a hidden sect of nobles and rich lineage that found the old Gods of the game's setting interesting enough to worship in a "mock religion" kind of way. Somewhat of a Bohemian order dedicated to controlling things behind the scenes what commiting blasphemies to the church "because they can", they don't believe in any of it for the most part. Someone in this class gets to play Devil's Advocate, they recieve a mask and cloak that hide their identity to other players under thier "sect name" the player gets to choose. It's in this form that the player can generally cause discord in assigning other players quests that interfere with another group's goal in some way, both in PvE and PvP, and they are usually the ones setting up battles to come through cunning. They are to keep their identity a secret, and if any of them were to be investigated and charged it's immediate expulsion with no backing. They can fight unlike priests, but the mask and cloak are not magical to any extent - they have the capability of any Freelancer, and will seem as such to all others.
Economic and Political: Tradesman / Lord
Any player can take a craft and live in a home, but only these classes can own a business or the very land itself respectively.
Tradesmen are the crafters of the game, they are able to band up and start businesses after choosing a craft to master in. They can hire out for resources with quest contracts, then make things and sell them from thier vendors within the kingdom. They have to deal with the Lords (the political sector) in order to acquire a place of business, as well as to assign regulations and taxes. Basically they live on the Lord's land and pay them to work it, and because of it they have a general mistrust (and you can't play both and help yourself).
Lords are the trickiest class I am trying to employ. It's kind of like a 2nd tier class, in that any other Class can move up to it if they have enough reputation in a single Kingdom - they are as tied to a flag as Knights are - and suffer similar restrictions when it comes to dealing with other Kingdoms. This usually requires negotiations with Lord of that Kingdom with the proper ranking in the ladder amongst them to sign it. The basic job of the Lord is to deal with the major politics of the game kingdom to kingdom, and when assigning land rights. You are to employ yourself to a greater Lord on the ranking that owns land and help him moderate it with the players using it. Plots are sectored out in major sections broken into 3-5 smaller ones that allow one lord to baron over it all and assign others to handle the smaller ones in his stead. These smaller slots are what player groups will rent out for homes, guild halls and businesses. There are limited spaces, but more could be added in over time, along with a system to tie player activity to job performance that determines term limits.
Policiers: Paladin / Inquisitor
These are the roles for players that want to be the law, and bring a rightous hammer down on enemies of the church, as well as enemies of the state.
Paladins are meant for one reason; magic tank. They are the main line of defense against the PK classes, and called in to handle them when they harass an area. The role is techinically that of a holy warrior, and they work closely with priests, but just as much as their work can have them travel to other kingdoms under the church's banner (the chruch is everywhere). This class for all purposes IS a knight, but lacks the specific amount of cred in a chosen kingdom as knights and lacks the personal house as a given. The only thing setting them apart is the amount of pros and cons to the class. In combat you can shrug off magic in various ways depending on the situation, a good example is the "stand firm" passive skill that has high chance of magic fizzle as long as you don't move when struck, with a for sure fizzle if you block at the right time. There is a list of "Taboos" (the in-game term) that limits the Paladin lifestyle though; automatic tithing, failure to bath has a faith debuff, can't turn down certain quests once requested to do so (out of chivalry), some other things I can't remember too.
Inquisitors are [the] master investigator and the real hand of the law. They can arrange charges to be filed like any policier, but they also can sign warrants for arrest once they make it onto the ladder standings of the group. Each Kingdom has it's own splinter guild of Inquisitors (like Paladins for that matter), but they generally work together and can ask for outside help and invesitgate in other Kingdoms without treaties. The main perk of the class is the ability to inspect an NPC or Player for clues without stopping that person in their tracks and submitting them to a search and seizure like other policiers - they cna peer right in your inventory for stolen items or murder weapons and then charge you. For a class that is intrisically tied to the church, they tend to put their faith in science and logic, which causes a bit of a divide bewteen other church devotees as they can choose between church and state at will.
Player Killers: Wicker Witch / Bone Eater
I got creative with these classes, as both are a way to enforce the idea that if you are a ganking jerk you should be allowed to be one... but then you gotta hang out with your own kind - forever. Both classes are not allowed in range of any civilization and get a new hub in which to hang out with thier fellow douchebags. They get around through "hollows", random spawn points to the wilds through holes in the agarthan underground to the surface (not covering game setting this round). All classes have their own custom forms of crafting primitive tools, as well as different needs when it comes to consuming food/water to survive, both being cannibal helps.
Wicker Witches are female only, a tribe of sorts that have a home in a plane that seems like a boggy swamp with many homes made out of reeds. The lore behind them, without getting all Tolkien on you people, is that "a tribal mother ate her dead daughter to be part of her forever, got exiled, hates men". Now it's a semi functional society of cannabals and killers. The way to enter is a loooong and hard quest string in which you murder a string of NPCs (pissing off players who will avenge their kin) and then feed the parts to their kidnapped hier to induct her as well as yourself. A vile act that I am trying to make far more poetic that it sounds here when put frankly. Anyway, the Witch is really the [only] magic user in the game beyond the priest, and it gets it's power through "suggestion". To best explain the subtlety of this kind of magic is through the Witches primary weapon the "effigy". You stand on a surface texture and animate a 2 second scoop animation to form a consumable doll for a spell - but the materials scooped up range from dirt, mud, leaves and other detritus and have different uses. Ivy dolls strangles you with your own mind, sand kicks up an arc of dust in an AoE radial, mud makes the enemy's legs boggy up. No crazy particle effects involved, etc. This class' arsenal [will] let it kick more ass than it should be allowed - but that is what gives Paladins a job, the Witches stand no match for them as they can shrug off the effects easily and continue pursuit. The plus sides to the Witches are outweighed by TONS of bad things; like being diametrically opposed to water - can't bathe, cant submerge - you stand on the surface, and this helps players to escape them by swimming away.
Bone Eaters are male only, a tribe of hunters beyond compare that went into the mind of the beast and never returned. The lore states that men used to skin their prey and walk amongst them wearing it as camoflage. Eventually it went to their heads and they would wipe out entire herds out of bloodlust and ended up themselves being hunted to extinction. This is not the case though as they now exist on a plane of existance resembling a desert in eternal night where the starry sky never sits still - in fact an NPC stares at it for all eternity in order to see the future, important dude in this society. The brothers care about one thing, "a good fight", and while they can be seen as gankers, they really don't have any progression within the ranks for killing weaklings. They are a melee class, and melee to the teeth. Their abilities are determined by what carcass they are wearing, and by killing a large beast you are able to "consume it" and become it. You could be a bearman, or part boar or wolf, tons of choices and they each have a tactic to it... but all involve melee. They will kick you ass in melee too, they are meant to scare the shit out of players, even paladins - but they have one weakness; arrows. An ancestral memory in the beast they inhabit strikes crippling fear of arrows in them, and being struck by one is devastating in terms of damage, but also will really mess with the player piloting the were-man.
Explorers: Hunter / Warden
These classes are about seeing places, and their realms are in the wilds and city streets respectively.
Hunters are exactly what you would think, men of the wilds with bows on their backs - it doesn't make it a ranged class in the least bit though - it's just the tool of hunters, they carry swords for handling men. Their tracking skills are unparalled, and this comes in handy when hunting in the wilds for beasts, or helping in an investigation in a kingdom. Hunters see the open wild as their oyster, but for most purposes, all the land out there is owned by somebody - and that is where they run into contention with wardens.
Wardens are not keepers of the wild, they are quite the opposite - they are personal bodyguards of nobility and land owners that have to handle issues for their employers. This leads the above issues with hunters as poaching on thier land is not welcome. This interpretation is just the common instance of wardens though, the lifestyle originated in old tribes that had a custom where a man would dedicate his life to another family or person for a life-altering favor in return - that favor has been rolled into wages these days, but the mystique of being the charge of a clan has led these people to being major players in the workings of clans as the "go to guys". The life of a warden is a lot like being the majordomo to any lord; one minute you could be enacting bloddy revenge, the next escorting the master's child to school. The wardens oyster is the city though, and through his work a warden will get very acquainted with it.
Healers: Mendicant / Shaman
When the kingdoms sent missions to the local tribes they met resistance from the south, but total compliance from the north - and their knowledge of herbalism has created two outlooks on the caste of healers.
Mendicants are church healers and apothacaries, well educated and use traditional medicines to treat wounds and diseases. Unlike priests, Mendicants can fight back, but are not allowed any kind of blade due to the oath. This leaves only the option of staves, clubs, maces and bows (which were overlooked, heh). Healing in this game is a slow affair, you can get wounded, poisoned and diseased easily and without someone to help you treat it (though you can try yourself with crap skills(, you are best leaving it in the hands of an expert.
Shamans are a remnant of the old ways and at odds with the Mendicants and church in general because they deal in hollistic tinctures that can be referred to as drugs. The tribes may have found a calling when the missions came, but those that clung to tradition found a calling in the cities where clients from all walks of life would be looking for whatever prescriptions the shamans might have handy. Some shamans see them as helping people, other see it as purely business, but the church sees them as a scourge and does whatever it can to discredit thier work. The work of shamans in battle is namely to cause buffs and debuffs through what I guess you could call ritualistic magic, somewhat like the Witches, but with dusts and ashes. They have no limitations in combat, but do not get any bonuses from any priests present - nor can they recieve blessings.
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