Admittedly, I had not been playing with the Little Brown Books very long when I encountered AD&D in 1979; about three months. I asked for and was given the DMG, PH and MM for Christmas that year, so I moved onto AD&D almost as soon as I started playing. I can't remember anyone who wasn't thrilled with the expansion; everyone in my circle immediately made the jump without hesitation ... I didn't hear a voice arguing OD&D over AD&D until the internet happened.
We loved the new classes. All of them. They brought in new ideas and new concepts, a rush of spells, characters that we all wanted to try and absolutely a rush for the thief, assassin, monk, druid, ranger and paladin. We argued what was better, but of the ten fully designed classes there was no one in my circle between 1979 and 1983 did not want to try every class, nor one that we considered "didn't belong" or not worth playing. Our only issue was that the bard was the worst possible design imaginable; we loved the idea of the bard, we wanted the bard, we tried desperately to play the bard ... but the character as written just sucked.
And then, the Unearthed Arcana.
I have it in my hands. I bought it, of course. This is the same copy I bought in '83. The book wasn't bound as well as the original three, so that even though I've hardly used this book compared to the others, it is falling apart. I remember reading the cavalier, the barbarian and the thief-acrobat and feeling a wave of utter repulsion and disgust for all three. I talked it over with my players and explained that no, none of those classes would EVER be available in my world ~ and they haven't.
Right off the top, we were given long descriptions of what cavaliers and barbarians believed, or were willing to accept as characters, apart from what they did or what powers they had. At 19 I could see plainly the dirty double-shuffle at work. We'll let you have these extra fighting powers, but we're going to fuck you up the ass if you don't use them how we say. And what powers are we talking about?
Yes, that's right kiddies, if your character wants to thump harder, do more damage, become a one-trick pony, we've got the answer for you ~ right this way to making your character as two-dimensional as it could possibly be.
The cavalier thumped from horseback and the barbarian thumped on foot. We're not talking any NEW abilities or ideas, just the same ones ... only more so. We could see clearly the kind of player these were catering to: players who bitched and whined that they couldn't hit harder, or in the case of the acrobat, that they could flip and jump and crawl around behind things better.
In other words, we made specialized classes that would enable these people to do the only things they really, truly wanted to do, better, and in exchange we took away powers they didn't feel like using anyway. And that they called "balance."
Don't care about picking pockets and finding traps? No worries! You don't need to do that shit if you're an Acrobat! Is all that ranger wilderness stuff boring to you? Don't be down! Be an Archer! Does religion and all the accompanying character that goes along with that worry you? Don't fret! You can be a Healer!
With each new incarnation, do we get new ideas? New character personalities? No, we get cardboard cutouts that super-specialize in absolutely one skill only, to the point where as a DM you're ready to vomit. Oh look, the Archer is getting out his arrows again. The Healer is hanging back and doing fuck all while everyone else fights. The Acrobat is inventing impossible ways to get out of fights. Gee, I sure am glad all these classes were allowed to proliferate.
|I'm ready to run by 5th level Kitten Tower Guard class.|
I'd accept double the classes that I use now, if they were distinct classes. Not just a lot of one thing that another class also has and does less of. And not a situation where two different classes do effectively the same thing by different methods, like magical healers and physicians. I don't care how the character does something; I want the thing they do to be utterly unique, where they are the only class that does this phenomenally important and critical thing that the game desperately needs.
Since 1979, I haven't seen one such class. Not one. They're all derivatives of AD&D's 11 ... counting the bard. And sorry, JB. That goes for elven, dwarven and halfling "adventurers," too. It's still just a fighter or a skill derivation of other classes. I just don't see them as their own thing after you scour away the "we'll tell you how to think like a blank" motif that goes along with painting character classes as races.