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From my experience, RPG classes ("hero" or "villain" types) are often divided into four categories: 1. Mage 2. Priest 3. Rogue 4. Warrior

However, there are quite a few popular RPGs that ignore the Priest or Cleric "base" character class entirely. Two game series of note: The Elder Scrolls (Skyrim), and Dragon Age.

Is there a specific reason why this is so? Perhaps the background story makes allowing players to be a Cleric difficult; for example, if there is a large amount of NPCs in the game that have the adventure class of Cleric, and making that class available to players would be detrimental to the story of the game.

I've pondered this quandary myself when working on developing my own video RPG; should the character class options be sub-categorized with the aforementioned base classes? Or perhaps even more difficult of a question to answer, should a video RPG include some kind of Deity system?

The RPG approach to "gods" is difficult for me, particularly because I've have somewhat of a spiritual perspective on real life, I'm not sure how to reconcile my choices with game design to my choices regarding spirituality.

Any helpful responses will be greatly appreciated!

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Vaillancourt, DMGregory, Gnemlock, dnk drone.vs.drones, Stephane Hockenhull Jul 13 '17 at 18:37

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What about bards? \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Jul 12 '17 at 23:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ ...or alchemists? \$\endgroup\$ – ElDuderino Jul 13 '17 at 0:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Some of those games don't have a cleric/priest/white magic mage because it's consolidated in a single "mage" class. If it envolves magic, it's the mage duty, no matter if it's a defensive or offensive spell/magic. \$\endgroup\$ – DH. Jul 13 '17 at 2:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's true of the whole Elder Scrolls series. Skills are skills, it doesn't matter who you are. There are no classes. I find this approach favourable, as it allows custom character building. \$\endgroup\$ – Engineer Jul 13 '17 at 5:23
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From my experience, RPG classes ("hero" or "villain" types) are often divided into four categories: 1. Mage 2. Priest 3. Rogue 4. Warrior

These broad classifications derive ultimately from Dungeons & Dragons and the way it developed its class systems.

Broadly speaking, a "Warrior" is someone who deals combat damage based on items (swords, bows, etc). As such, they either have weapons with no ammunition (most melee weapons) or weapons with relatively large quantities of ammunition (quivers tend to hold 25+ arrows). This means that their damage is fundamentally reliable, but it does usually require that they carry around certain items (namely, weapons).

A "Mage" under such classification is distinguished by having the ability to do lots of damage, either to single targets or large groups. Alternatively, they can inhibit the ability of enemy characters to attack effectively or make them vulnerable. The primary issue here is one of "ammunition"; they can have big effects, but they can only do them a more limited number of times relative to other classes.

A "Rogue" is... less well defined. The modern Rogue-like classes have evolved into being specialized fighters: they can deal lots of damage, but only in special circumstances (sneak attacks). Older Rogues had sneak attacks, but their primary class features were out of combat: unlocking chests/doors, climbing walls, information gathering, etc.

A "Priest" in this classification is a class based on healing/buffing the party. While they can deal damage, they can generally not do so as well or as reliably as "Warriors", and rarely can achieve the battle-changing effects of "Mages". Their first duty is to keep everyone alive.

Which is why RPGs that don't involve a fairly large party of characters generally don't have pure-"Priest" classes. If you have 5 characters in an encounter, it's reasonable to have one character primarily or solely dedicated to keeping everyone alive. If you only have 2 characters, it's much more difficult to take half of the group's firepower away just to keep the other half alive.

In such games, you will generally find healing powers scattered among other classes. Fighter/Healers, Wizard/Healer, etc. Alternatively, there just won't be any character-specific healing at all; there is only item-based healing that anyone can use, or automatic healing out-of-combat or whatever.

This is why MMOs tend to be the kinds of RPGs that frequently provide a dedicated healer class. Or at least, a class that is mostly about healing.

Or perhaps even more difficult of a question to answer, should a video RPG include some kind of Deity system?

Character classes are, from a pure gameplay standpoint, are just a set of rules. You can provide any kind of storyline justification for it.

Priests as a religious concept became associated with healing in RPGs thanks to D&D. D&D is ultimately based on the mythology and folklore of Western Europe (as partially interpreted by fantasy authors like Tolkien). Wizards are a thing because they're a part of various such tales. Clerics are a part of that; in religious mythology, there are many tales of religious people healing the sick or even raising the dead.

But that's all just the in-world justification for the in-game abilities (or you could say that the myths inspired the gameplay. But the gameplay is the gameplay that it is). So that doesn't have to be your game's concept and justification for healing.

Your game may need the function of a healer class. But such a class doesn't need actual deities involved to justify healing abilities.

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Trying to answer the seemingly various questions, not just "why have and what are priests/clerics".

tl:dr There's no should and must when you're designing your own game. Do what sounds fun to you, make something you're passionate about. Sure take ideas or good practice from other games, but unless you're working on someone else's game, there's no need to be a cookie cutter.


From my experience, RPG classes ("hero" or "villain" types) are often divided into four categories: 1. Mage 2. Priest 3. Rogue 4. Warrior

While this is true, it's not an end all be all standard to follow and you're allowed to make your game however you want, there's no rule that says, you need categories X, Y and Z, with classes 1, 2, 3 and sub-classes Alpha, Beta, Omega.

However, there are quite a few popular RPGs that ignore the Priest or Cleric "base" character class entirely. Two game series of note: The Elder Scrolls (Skyrim), and Dragon Age.

That's because some RPGs don't have set class systems. Those single player RPGs tend to offer a range of abilities, skills and other features that allow you to "be the character you want to be". In Skyrim there's not a "Priest or Cleric" but you can most certainly spec into restoration.

Something like a WoW has set classes that you play as because it's a part of the game. You need Tanks, Healers, DPS classes to have an overall successful raid or large scale game-play, but again, this is just a trend, it doesn't mean it's the only way to make an RPG.

Is there a specific reason why this is so? Perhaps the background story makes allowing players to be a Cleric difficult; for example, if there is a large amount of NPCs in the game that have the adventure class of Cleric, and making that class available to players would be detrimental to the story of the game.

It really has nothing to do with backstory and it's more about the freedom to play how you want to play (especially in single player). RPGs are about role playing. Being allowed to be what you want and do what you want is an enormous part of their appeal.

The games like MMORPGs or D&D as was mentioned, have these common classes because they make sense, they're familiar and a bit of a standard.

I've pondered this quandary myself when working on developing my own video RPG; should the character class options be sub-categorized with the aforementioned base classes? Or perhaps even more difficult of a question to answer, should a video RPG include some kind of Deity system?

You can make sub-classes sure, but you don't have to. As I've continued to mention, there's no requirement for what you do in your game. Some trends might be expected, but at the end of the day they aren't required.

In a Medieval RPG someone would expect a sword, or a bow. If you give them a laser gun and say you're a sniper class, that makes no sense. Things should make sense, and those are the types of trends (sensible choices and successful game designs) you should be aiming to follow.

The RPG approach to "gods" is difficult for me, particularly because I've have somewhat of a spiritual perspective on real life, I'm not sure how to reconcile my choices with game design to my choices regarding spirituality.

If it's difficult for you, don't do it. You're allowed to make a game about God classes or Diety characters, but again, if this is your game, you're making the decisions. Go make an RPG about mice fighting back against the Owl overlords if that's what you're passionate about.

If your concern is that a priest is too close to your faith/spirituality, then add healing abilities (if those are needed) to a different character. Name it cleric, wizard, bard, or alchemist or any of the other suggested or common names.

It's so much easier to make something when your heart is in it, "is difficult for me" screams do something else, which isn't a bad thing.

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The archetypical "Priest" or "Cleric" class as interpreted by most RPG games is a support class. They usually can not win a battle on their own. They rather support other characters in winning battles. This means they are only interesting and useful if part of a larger group.

The TES series, though, focuses mostly on the one player-character. Sure, the player can have one follower and one summoned creature, but these are usually not much more than a talkative pack-mule and a way of distracting enemies. The character which is expected to actually get stuff done is still the player-character. Playing a supporting class simply doesn't work in such a game.

But if you decide to interpret the priest-class in your game in a way which makes it more interesting to play solo, or make the player a part of a large group of NPCs and manage to design supporting gameplay in an interesting manner, then there is no reason to not let the player play one.

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