When building a new campaign setting, I like to consider the roles of the various classes within the setting. Even with class-less systems such as Savage Worlds or Traveller, I tend to think of classes as archetypal concepts for my fantasy campaigns, particularly since my audience will tend to, based on their experiences with D&D and similar class-based games. Swords & Wizardry presents the basic warrior, divine caster and arcane caster as class concepts, while later games introduce stealthy skill-masters and other, lesser followed roles. For a campaign setting, it helps to consider the role of each class concept within the context of your milieu, so that you can offer suggestions for players as they build their characters.
For the role of the warrior, I almost automatically assume that at least one example of each of the following exist:
- Mercenary (great for military-oriented warriors)
- Weapon Master/Specialized Order (for those monks or sword masters)
- Slayers (such as monster hunters or giant-killing rangers)
When considering divine casters, I presume that there's an order or priesthood for each major religion, which I usually base off of individual deities within an overarching pantheon. (I have occasionally used churches and similar organizations to good effect, but for the most part, I use deities following the Greyhawk model.) Aside from these priesthoods, I also assume the following:
- Holy Warriors (for paladins and anti-paladins both)
- Wilderness Priests (to cover tribal priests, druids and/or other shamanic types)
With arcane casters, my views on different concepts may seem to be a bit more limited. I often provide something in my campaigns to cover the following, though:
- Artificers (for those that like magic items)
- War Mages or Battle Sorcerers (for those that enjoy combat and fireballs)
- High Mages (to provide for an elite brotherhood of mages that seek magical lore above all else)
Finally, I like to provide some basic concepts for sneaky guys and skill-master types. My small list of must-have concepts often include:
- Treasure Hunters (those thieves who use their skills for dungeoneering and other adventure-worthy purposes)
- Experts (for sages, scholars and highly skilled craftsmen)
- Spies (often portrayed as secret societies devoted to the common good)
Note that I may only have one class to support multiple roles in terms of game mechanics, but here I'm talking about different groups in the campaign setting itself to reflect each of the different concepts. The mercenary and duelist may both be Fighting Men, for example, but the Circle of Mithril represents all officially sanctioned mercenary bands within the Duar Protectorate, whereas the Rakes of Port Salvation are a recent cultural movement among young nobles and their retainers in that port city who practice the code duello and refine their skills with the blade between encounters. Same class, different flavor, and in my opinion, a richer feel to the campaign in terms of background and gaming experience.
What kind of concepts do you feel are core to your milieu or gaming experience? What kind of character class concepts and roles do you prefer to pursue?