Fantasy Cliches Are Both Good and Bad

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Fantasy Cliches Are Both Good and Bad

Some fantasy cliches are necessary, but there's no reason that your wizard should wear a pointy hat. Ever.

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Um... your "turned round" cliche of Conan is still pretty much Conan. He's rarely been depicted as a frothing berserker and more as a cunning but savage/primitive man wandering through the decadent and corrupt empires of Civilization attempting to earn his own fortune.

Greg, have you ever tried Iron Kingdoms? The D&D classes are all there, but the very setting brings about the mad ideas that noone would ever do in a normal, "sane", RPG - the setting itself has Battleaxe-wielding Wizards, gunfighting, unarmoured paladins and intelligent, bookish fighters, and it just seems to encourage that kind of build without ever implicitly setting up rules for it.

Or maybe that was just our group...

Paladins do still need to be good, right? Or did they remove that entirely in 4th edition? I don't remember.

I like playing with cliches, but it's important to see the value in even the "useless" ones. The idea of playing a Hedge Wizard (basically you're "barbarian wizard" idea) is always fun. Dragon Age origins did this well by having "Apostate" mages.. if only the Apostates were more plentiful, and most of them weren't batshit insane or evil.

I think dwarves were scottish-like because Tolkien wrote them that way. Tolkien basically set his story in a fancified version of the UK, and Scotland is an important part of that. WHy that meme has continued almost completely unerring to this day, I'm not sure.. But when I play a game like Dwarf Fortress, and get heavily into it, those little mining/farming/digging bastards are scottish in my head. I think it's just hardwired in the genre. You start talking all gruff and hoarse, and eventually a scottish accent comes out.

I would only be really bothered by it if I was identifiably scottish (My last name starting with a Mac, not a Mc ;P)

There's nothing wrong with having aesthetically specialized character options, like Barbarians. Barbarians in fantasy don't have the same etymological starting point as the real barbarians (although the real Barbarians were certainly an inspiration for the fantasy version, the Huns, and Mongols specifically). Sometimes, you just want to play that character.. However, sometimes, you can play with that cliche itself. I had a Half-Orc Druid/Barbarian that was very interesting.. He was the ultimate incarnation of bipolar.. Ridiculously calm when at peace.. wouldn't hurt a fly.. but you try and hurt him, or his dog, or his friends? Kiss yourself goodbye as he ramps into a berserker rage.

I'm sure you could play with the cliche even further. try multiclassing it with a cleric, or bard, or play a single classed one that is aesthetically different. Admires society but can't see a place for himself within it (another cliche, but I'm trying here). Maybe one that's entirely mute when raging.. like they just put on a sullen face of sadness rather then a rampaging gutteral screaming? There is some interesting wiggle room in the class if you try to find it.

Altorin:

There's nothing wrong with having aesthetically specialized character options, like Barbarians. Barbarians in fantasy don't have the same etymological starting point as the real barbarians (although the real Barbarians were certainly an inspiration for the fantasy version, the Huns, and Mongols specifically). Sometimes, you just want to play that character.. However, sometimes, you can play with that cliche itself. I had a Half-Orc Druid/Barbarian that was very interesting.. He was the ultimate incarnation of bipolar.. Ridiculously calm when at peace.. wouldn't hurt a fly.. but you try and hurt him, or his dog, or his friends? Kiss yourself goodbye as he ramps into a berserker rage.

I'm sure you could play with the cliche even further. try multiclassing it with a cleric, or bard, or play a single classed one that is aesthetically different. Admires society but can't see a place for himself within it (another cliche, but I'm trying here). Maybe one that's entirely mute when raging.. like they just put on a sullen face of sadness rather then a rampaging gutteral screaming? There is some interesting wiggle room in the class if you try to find it.

There are other ways to think of every class, specifically one way you could consider Barbarian is simply a a skill set, a fighter dependent on his rage ability rather than a roughshod primitive lost in civilization. I've seen several "civilized" characters with the Barbarian class, one a Scholarly Swordsman who specialized in, well, losing it with a massive sword (which he disguised as a staff) as his primary combat style, catching his enemies off guard with his academic appearance. Or playing a Monk as a traveling entertainer/Hero of justice in disguise rather than as a cloistered monastic.

Taking further inspiration from Robert E. Howard for unconventional characters, why not base a Paladin off of Howards other big character, Solomon Kane. A wandering puritan devoted to purging the world of evil rather than conversion who follows his own code of ethics and honor, has a passionate sense of justice but also possesses a violent almost terrifying vendetta against "evil" in the world.

Interesting article. I agree that cliche for the sake of cliche gets old rather fast. It always makes you wonder what people's perception of dwarves, elves and wizards were before C.S. Lewis and Tolken got a look in (yeah, Lewis does the whole short dwarves things as well, and the two authors were friends so it kind of explains that they may have been drawing from the same crib-sheet).
I liked the Lord of the Rings analogy about the hobbits, nice one.
It's interesting that you picked up mainly on the good guys cliches and not that of the baddies. Why do Dark Knights always dress in black armor? Why do evil Lords and Kings always seem to have an affiliation with dragons and hunch-backed necromacers?
As Yahtzee once pointed out, we're now finding mundiniaty in fantasy! How is this even possible?

Actually Conan didn't represent the stereotypes of "Unearthed Arcana" book for the most part. He's gone through many iterations, but the basic point of Conan is that people tend to THINK he's a Barbarian, and think that he's stupid, and while he holds to some of the Spiritual beliefs (Crom) he's actually VERY smart, and VERY well educated as well as having received formal training in combat aside from his native barbarian might. Indeed having read a lot of the old stories one key element of Conan seems to be him routinely running into something he can't just beat down, and then winning anyway because he's very smart (and by this I don't mean just cunning) and turning the tables on his enemy. In simple terms I think he was the quintessential "fighter". The various "picts" that appeared in the stories were Barbarians, and I believe existed in part to make a counterpoint to Conan, and even what the other Cimmerians (when they showed up) actually were. Part of the point being the ignorance of more civilized people like the Aquilonians.

THAT said, I tend to agree that fantasy stereotypes exist for a reason. However I will also say that it does wind up making games where characters seem like special olympians, everyone being unusually brute in one area, but totally deficient in everything else. That can be a neat concept, and works for certain kinds of RPGs, but I do not think that it's strictly speaking nessicary... although admittedly it DOES make it much easier for the GM, especially if they are inexperienced.

I have on occasion played various RPGs that didn't use those kinds of conventions. Taking a more fantasy-novel type track, where pretty much all of the PCs are pretty uber, even if they have their own specialties. Everyone winds up being fairly capable of surviving on their own, though the combined power of the characters acting in concert is far greater than they are apart. Things like White Wolf's "Exalted", point based systems like "GURPS", and even things like "Ars Magica" can all fit this definition.

Of course when your dealing with a group like that the GM has to provide a narrative to keep them together for the ease of running the game. You'll notice that in most fantasy novels, where everyone is pretty cool, the entire group does not stay together all the time. Indeed they wind up frequently pursueing the same goal, but operating in vastly differant areas and only behaving like a "party" in very specific situations. Easy to write, not so easy to GM.

On a final note, I think the quintessential wizard garb came from descriptions of magi through the years. I seem to remember once reading a long description about how one went about making a robe for a white wizard in Soloman's court which involved some ridiculous requirements if I remember going down to the thread and the type of cloth used. Not to mention the fact that "wizards" used to oftentimes be astrologers/astronomers and fortune tellers as well.

To be brutally honest the idea of wizards being old men with flowing beards and such who dress like that is silly, but mostly when viewed in the guise of a level 1 mage who might be able to light a candle. Truthfully when portrayed artfully the quintessential image of the wizard can be quite mighty seeming, I'd imagine some dude hold enough to have a nose and beard like that has been casting spells for a LONG time and would probably be into what the D&D rules would call the epic levels. :P

Simply put if your a kid just out of apprenticeship, who can toss his first sleep spell, yeah well.. normal clothing or more modest robes are for you. On the other hand if your the guy who has the huge magical library full of artifacts oftentimes in the backround of that quintessential wizard... well at that point your out to cut a certain image. The celestrial imagery probably says a lot about what your about, especially if astronomy/astrology plays some kind of role in your powers.

I'm thinking of how in Discworld, even though most of the clichés are played straight, one that is not is that Rincewind is actually described as a young man... but then the illustrator of the cover image drew him as an old man with a long white beard and he's been shown as such ever since.

You know how in 8-bit thrathre they have a barbarian that is cult and sophisticate right to the point where he starts berserking? I actually had a character like that played completely straight in a RPG I run. It was modern fantasy so any barbarians had to have a PhD in ancient pagan religions to have any powers.

The Random One:
I'm thinking of how in Discworld, even though most of the clichés are played straight, one that is not is that Rincewind is actually described as a young man... but then the illustrator of the cover image drew him as an old man with a long white beard and he's been shown as such ever since.

You know how in 8-bit thrathre they have a barbarian that is cult and sophisticate right to the point where he starts berserking? I actually had a character like that played completely straight in a RPG I run. It was modern fantasy so any barbarians had to have a PhD in ancient pagan religions to have any powers.

Discworld explains the "Old man wizard" thing pretty well. To paraphrase: "It is possible for wizard to leave how to summon a naked women in to their room, but by the time they learn, learn the spell, refine it, and finally perfect it, they will be so aged that they will have forgotten why they wanted a naked girl in the first place."

This is why I prefer modern day games. It's easier for the players to relate to each other, and don't tend to get stuck in stereotypes. Not that that's always a bad thing. I played a dwarven trollslayer in Warhammer Fantasy RP because I didn't want to have to think to hard. "Will I die a glorious death in battle? Yes? Let's do it!".

The Random One:
I'm thinking of how in Discworld, even though most of the clichés are played straight, one that is not is that Rincewind is actually described as a young man... but then the illustrator of the cover image drew him as an old man with a long white beard and he's been shown as such ever since.

That was Josh Kirby's fault. (I actually love the Kirby Discworld covers though.) Paul Kidby is Pratchett's current go-to artist with regards to how many of the Discworld characters look, and Rincewind doesn't look like an old man:

Which is a shame seeing as they went with David Jason for the TV adaptation of The Color of Magic, who, well, -is- an old man. ^^'

Altorin:
Paladins do still need to be good, right? Or did they remove that entirely in 4th edition? I don't remember.

It depends on the deity they follow.
Follow a evil deity and you can be evil.
Follow a lawful good and you need to be lawful good.

Etc.. etc..

Greg Tito:
Check for Traps: Fantasy Cliches Are Both Good and Bad

Some fantasy cliches are necessary, but there's no reason that your wizard should wear a pointy hat. Ever.

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The concept that wizards wear pointy hats, and are usually old men with long noses is just as annoying a cliche. I'm not sure exactly where this is derived, perhaps it's an amalgam of Gandalf, Merlin and the wizard from those Where's Waldo? books. In any case, I prefer wizards who wear clothes just like everyone else, not just robes covered in stars and comets.

My thesis is, the power of wizards is based on their wisdom and their intelligence, in other words: old wizards = long life = much time to obtain much wisdom and intelligence, which displays in their appearance. And the pointy head.. this may be a long shot.. but according to Cecil Adams, John Duns Scotus (a 14th century theologian) recommended to wear pointy or conical hats, to stimulate the process of learning -> wisdom/intelligence

But interesting Article.

Aye, that was an interesting article. Not sure I totally follow on the notion about barbarians though, I always assumed that barbarians could act normally up into the point where they flipped out and cleaved someone in two. I don't recall anywhere in the rule books that say they have to be played as sociopaths with 2-handed weapons. It could just be a fighter with a kill switch.

Funny you should mention both the redeemed member of the nasty race and the stuck up Paladin though. I'm actually in the process of writing a fantasy book, and one of my characters is essentially a Tiefling Paladin/Rogue. And while she's not labouring under the idea that she's making up for her race's transgressions, she is making up for her own. She's depicted as fairly down to earth, to the point where another character tries hushing someone else's bad language in front of her to which both she and the others laugh.

Also, the main character is a wizard who wears normal clothes, is fairly young and despises some other characters who subscribe more to the traditional style of wizardry.

Obviously it's fleshed out better in the book, and both the Tieflings and magic in this world play by different rules to D&D.

Also, when looking at the cliche of gender (why? Because it's what I do) the wizard class gets hit again.

By trying to break out of the old-man, pointy hat stereotype, another one was created by making females magic weilders. This could definately be linked to the idea that wizards are physically weak and must be shielded by the burley fighters. However, one step further is the fact that alot of female magic weilders end up being clerics, then leading to the idea that they can't substationally harm anything and must stay in the back and be an unseen force.

Oh, and same as Dwarves having Scottish accents, most magic-users have british accents.

I totally understand all your arguments and agree with a whole lot of them.

But Dwarfs need to stay Scottish. Nuff said

PedroSteckecilo:

There are other ways to think of every class, specifically one way you could consider Barbarian is simply a a skill set, a fighter dependent on his rage ability rather than a roughshod primitive lost in civilization. I've seen several "civilized" characters with the Barbarian class, one a Scholarly Swordsman who specialized in, well, losing it with a massive sword (which he disguised as a staff) as his primary combat style, catching his enemies off guard with his academic appearance. Or playing a Monk as a traveling entertainer/Hero of justice in disguise rather than as a cloistered monastic.

Taking further inspiration from Robert E. Howard for unconventional characters, why not base a Paladin off of Howards other big character, Solomon Kane. A wandering puritan devoted to purging the world of evil rather than conversion who follows his own code of ethics and honor, has a passionate sense of justice but also possesses a violent almost terrifying vendetta against "evil" in the world.

the only problem with a "scholarly" barbarian, at least in 3.5 d&d, is that a barbarian is both illiterate and cannot be lawful.. being a scholar sort of negates both of those

And that view of paladins is pretty much how I play all of my paladins

LostTimeLady:
Interesting article. I agree that cliche for the sake of cliche gets old rather fast. It always makes you wonder what people's perception of dwarves, elves and wizards were before C.S. Lewis and Tolken got a look in (yeah, Lewis does the whole short dwarves things as well, and the two authors were friends so it kind of explains that they may have been drawing from the same crib-sheet).

You can see at least how elves and dwarves were considered prior to tolkien if you read how he describes them in the beginning of the hobbit.

The dwarves are closer to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves then Bruenor of the Forgotten Realms, and the elves were mischievous troublemakers, clinging/hiding in the trees, making rhyming stanzas about how silly hobbits look.

By the end of the book, they were developed into what we think of dwarves and elves, but in the beginning it was strikingly different.

Greg: The entire Primal Power set in 4th edition is based around playing "Barbarian" types, while the class that actually got the namesake is essentially a frothing berserker. Fighter implies some kind of formal weapon style. Playing an uncivilized Fighter is to not be a member of the Fighter class. Barbarians could be someone who's completely likable, such as the Barbarian in my D&D game who actually has the highest Charisma of anyone save the Bard. But the Barbarian class is to say that your character has no formal weapon style, and can be a bit of a savage.

And I don't think I've ever encountered a pointy hat wearing, stars and comets adorned wizard outside of a DM or a videogame that was doing so for comedic effect. The old thing probably comes from the fact that wizards are, as Lailula97 said, supposed to be phenomenally intelligent, so age presents a good justification for where those brains came from. Sorcerers are often the realm of the young, the quick road to power, as it were, not years and years of intense study.

In older editions of D&D, Paladins DO have to be chivalrous, as they had to be Lawful Good, lest they lose all levels of Paladin they possess. Sure, most players over-interpret what Lawful Good means, but it's better to be safe than sorry with some DMs. Only now in 4th Edition can a Paladin not be Lawful Good, but they are still required to be the same alignment as their deity. If you want the Paladins you speak of, go play FantasyCraft (which, admittedly, is my favorite fantasy RPG), wherein Paladin is an expert class for players who decide they want their character to be the shining beacon of.... something. There's like 50 things your Paladin can be a Paladin of, from deities, to certain virtues, to certain elements, and this choice affects your advancement completely.

Dwarves are Scottish probably mainly because that's what people are used to, and reinventing the wheel every single time, unless it serves a purpose other than just being different because different is cool, is a waste of time.

Let's call a spade a spade and be honest here: that guy in your group who made Drizzt #5 didn't do so because he loves clichés, he might have done it because he's either just boring and unoriginal, or maybe because he wants to play a character he can identify. It's not inherently bad. Clichés exist because they work.

I would argue that the post apocalyptic cliches isn't a necessary mechanic. Sure D & D is most based on this setting, but what the game really needs is a degree of chaos.

A society entering an age of decadence for example would provide a world with the freedom, enemies and loot necessary for an effective game. (The computer game torment is a good example of this, as are most books by Michael Moorcook)
Also a society entering a golden age or period of rabbit expansion, particularly if the society is expanding on possibly hostile races. (This often is the domain of pirate and western games. However settings which break away the dimensional boundaries also are an example of this in a fantasy setting.)
Or a society undergoing rapid change due to technological or magical breakthroughs could even provide a workable setting. (This is a common back ground for sci fi, although there is no reason it should be limited there)

I guess what I am saying is the cliche of a post apocalyptic setting is a tired one. One that has been so over explored in multiple genres. This means now almost any story/plot set in a fantasy world is not going to be very original and will feel cliched. Changing the back ground while keeping the feeling of chaos and disorder can refresh even the most tired of cliches. Refreshing the 'story' the world is part of.

As anyone who has played a hollier-than-thou orc paladin, a smugly clever troll mage or my favorite an uncivilized, raging gnome barbarian can tell you cliches stop being well cliches when you change the fundamentally overused part of the cliche. For most fantasy rpg stories it's the post-apocalyptic setting that makes it a cliche.

I think Greg makes an Excellent point regarding post cataclysm worlds. While it isn't always an 'apocalypse' per se, there is always some big thing that happened a thousand years ago that left dungeons and loot around. I included something like that in my home-grown campaign, and it hadn't even occurred to me what I was doing Until I read this article, (nor that it was so cliche).

I think there are ways around it (Sci fi goes the route of 'new things you are creating, as opposed to old things you are finding).

Some cliche's though are rather just descriptions. I mean, if we had elves that were short, stocky, and drank a lot, it would just be a confusing mixture of common ideas. Why name it an 'elf' if you aren't attempting to evoke some sort of memory?

These articles are turning into little weekly highlights on the web ^^

Didn't you mention a few articles back that Paladins -had- to be lawful? Even so, deviation from the cliche are usually appreciated. It's just a shame when people take it too far and have it be different simply to be different. The classics are classics for a reason!

You just got me interested in starting another campaign. And I still haven't even finished writing my Serenity RPG campaign! DAMN YOU!!

Greg Tito:
but there's no reason that your wizard should wear a pointy hat. Ever.

What about darkmantles?

Hey Tito, try telling that to this guy:

image

Umm...isn't a 'post-cataclysm' world what our world is then? xD Think about it, how many fallen ancient civilisations do we know about? A whole crapton that's how many. A while you might say that humanity carried on, and the world never really 'ended', try telling that to the Phoenicans, the Romans or the Huns, I'm pretty sure their worlds are fairly ended no? And we're the ones who got to dig up all the loot!

So really...it seems pretty silly, if technically true to call a fantasy world post-apocalyptic if the only reason it's called so is because it's got long dead powerful civilisations in it's history.

At least, post-apocalyptic setting says to me, a truly massive and world spanning destructive event, where few people survive has occured. Not: Two mighty civilisations have a massive war and then collapse into ruin.

*ahem* Last paragraph of the article, "...rib your companions about what their missing from the dark side." Should be "...rib your companions about what they're missing from the dark side." I hate it when people get that sort of thing wrong. I may even rage about it. ;)

Interesting article, anyway. :) My homebrew setting arose from a desire to create a race of lizard people who weren't big, dumb and slow, and find somewhere for them to live. I also have elf-hate, so there are no elves, and dwarves have been replaced by social insects. Try doing a Scots accent through mandibles, I dare you! :p

One thing that does bug me is the concept of having sentient races that are ok to slaughter without thought because "they're all evil." Orcs and goblins typically fit this bill, and it's a boring reason to kill something(one) IMO. At least, it is when you're not given any reason as to why they're evil beyond "says so in the Monster Manual." I don't have a problem with the idea of conflict between sentient races (umm, in fiction, not in RL), but there are more interesting and complex reasons for it to occur (history shows us this). Maybe it has more to do with lazy GMs and my love/hate relationship with the D&D alignment system than anything else.....

GothmogII:

The Random One:
I'm thinking of how in Discworld, even though most of the clichés are played straight, one that is not is that Rincewind is actually described as a young man... but then the illustrator of the cover image drew him as an old man with a long white beard and he's been shown as such ever since.

That was Josh Kirby's fault. (I actually love the Kirby Discworld covers though.) Paul Kidby is Pratchett's current go-to artist with regards to how many of the Discworld characters look, and Rincewind doesn't look like an old man:

Which is a shame seeing as they went with David Jason for the TV adaptation of The Color of Magic, who, well, -is- an old man. ^^'

Yeah, David Jason's ok as an actor, but I much preferred him as Albert in Hogfather than as Rincewind in TCOM. He just wasn't Rincewind to me, mostly because I couldn't imagine him running a lot!

You got a point, but I think pointy hats are better than Dragon Age Origins style mage hats. I hated myself when I wore one becouse it gave stats.

Funny you mention Paladins serving deities of love and beauty... One of my favorite characters ever was a Paladin of Sune (Ruby Rose Knight, natch). Even though he didn't 'fornicate as much as possible', he acted more like the party Bard than the party Paladin in most situations (except in battle of course). Lawfully serving a Chaotic deity makes for some interesting role-playing as well.

Awesome article, been reading them for a while and I agree with most of what you write.

My first D&D character was a Paladin (which I was planning to, if possible turn into a Blackguard eventually :P I'm a sucker for "Light VS Darkness" stuff.) who was pretty much the definition of "goody-two-shoes", and through leadership he turned our party of mostly neutrals into mostly goods xD So that blackguard plan got scrapped.

Later on we started playing 4.0 and I made a Drow Rogue that was chaotic neutral, because while he wasn't evil he certainly wasn't good either and he stole everything he could get his hands on and lied whenever it benefited him (Charming Rogue or whatever it was called, with the... something power that allowed me to reroll a bluff check, though my luck with all the thievy stuff was shit.), though our group was a little more than a bit racist (probably partially due to our elven ranger) so he ended up being fed up about it and stole most of the elfs valuables and ran off. Yup.

Then I made a human wizard, lawfull evil, the manipulator kind (Also ridiculously arrogant. Since he was the son of a rather important Noble over in Neverwinter (my favourite D&D city, my paladin was also from there.) Wasn't able to really continue on that party though but we did make a new group where I redid the wizard, starting with us travelling to some... fort or castle I forgot to meet a guy for a job, and because he was too lazy to walk he had summoned a floating disc to sit on.

More than a bit cliche perhaps, though I don't get to do pen and paper RP's that often so I try to go with what I feel like at the time. I do a lot of forum RP'ing though, where I tend to try a ton of different ideas.

Loved the idea of the fornicating paladin - of course, I'm knee-deep in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy books right now so that's to be expected. For those that know the books, just imagine a Paladin of Kushiel. That would make for some freaky (in a good way) daily powers.

GothmogII:
Umm...isn't a 'post-cataclysm' world what our world is then? xD Think about it, how many fallen ancient civilisations do we know about? A whole crapton that's how many. A while you might say that humanity carried on, and the world never really 'ended', try telling that to the Phoenicans, the Romans or the Huns, I'm pretty sure their worlds are fairly ended no? And we're the ones who got to dig up all the loot!
[...]

Yep, that pretty much nails it. With the slight difference that we're yet to find that +5 Sword of Ogre Decapitation or that doomsdayish Mighty Mug of Merry Madness. Most of the stuff we've been digging up was mostly boring, totally enigmatic or simply kaput. Keep digging though; sooner or later we simply have to find something suitable enough for our own destruction.
BP did a pretty good job at that, last time I heard.

Great articles, Greg, they're fun and interesting to read and I can feel quite a lot of GMs nodding in agreement. Still, I think the most important question during character creation is not "how can I avoid becoming a walking cliché/dwarf" but rather "how can I get a shitload of fun out of my group". At least that worked well for me till now. I like to provoke reactions from my fellow companions and that works best (and with the funniest results) when they don't know what to think of my alter ego.
One of my favorite characters was a Rigger in our Shadowrun group (we were playing really low-tech; implants and such were really hard to come by, and to afford those ... well ...). He was a really low-life coward, dwelling in a run-down car workshop and constantly on the verge of financial ruin. The kinda guy who'd collaps if you whistled too hard at him. The only thing he had was a devilish amount of charisma and livesful of luck. The kind of luck that let's you roll three shots at three different targets and score deadly hits with each (even though you didn't have any real skill with weapons after all). Sheer luck but it somehow evolved into a real character trait.
Oh yes, and he was a hopeless drunk. And our only driver, of course. Soon as the rest of the party went out scouting, he'd be dead drunk in a minute. Almost drove them insane, but those were some adrenalin-boosted car chases, I tell you. ;)

Altorin:
I think dwarves were scottish-like because Tolkien wrote them that way. Tolkien basically set his story in a fancified version of the UK, and Scotland is an important part of that. WHy that meme has continued almost completely unerring to this day, I'm not sure..

Tolkien did not write his dwarves as Scottish. The dwarven language he invented for them is based on Semitic tongues (so if anything Tolkien's dwarves are more Hebrew than anything else) and the dwarves themselves are based on their portrayal in Norse and Germanic mythology.

I don't know why dwarves are so often portrayed as Scottish in popular culture, but it was almost unheard of before the early 1990s. My theory is that Raymond Feist, the novelist who turned his D&D game into the Midkemia series of books in the early 1980s, made his dwarves Scottish, and Betrayal at Krondor was a well-received computer RPG adaptation of his books which set the bar for the RPGs that followed. The trope persists because D&D-style dwarves match a pile of Scottish stereotypes: a miserly approach to wealth, a strong work ethic, clannishness, an appreciation for strong drink, and a love of a good brawl.

EDIT: Fixed HTML on hyperlink.

Greg Tito:

Some fantasy cliches are necessary, but there's no reason that your wizard should wear a pointy hat. Ever.

Guaranteed to stop 100% of falling farmhouses however.

Altorin:

the only problem with a "scholarly" barbarian, at least in 3.5 d&d, is that a barbarian is both illiterate and cannot be lawful.. being a scholar sort of negates both of those

And that view of paladins is pretty much how I play all of my paladins

Well for one you can still be Neutral as well Lawfullness isn't required for Scholarlyness or Lawful would be a requirement of The Wizard class and The Bard Class, which it is not. Similarly with a single skill point you can buy out your illiteracy and taking the Educated Feat pretty much makes one a scholar, especially if you have a decent Intelligence.

I did my first bearded wizard/pointy hat last saturday. Ofcourse there were some mitigating factors. To summarise in an adventure:

But anyway, people in my world who look like archetypical wizards are usually people who want to look like archetypical wizards. Imposters, con-artists or low-level wizards who want to look more imposing.

Hurr Durr Derp:
Funny you mention Paladins serving deities of love and beauty... One of my favorite characters ever was a Paladin of Sune (Ruby Rose Knight, natch). Even though he didn't 'fornicate as much as possible', he acted more like the party Bard than the party Paladin in most situations (except in battle of course). Lawfully serving a Chaotic deity makes for some interesting role-playing as well.

That paladin would be more the paladin of parties than the party's paladin. ;)

GloatingSwine:

Greg Tito:

Some fantasy cliches are necessary, but there's no reason that your wizard should wear a pointy hat. Ever.

Guaranteed to stop 100% of falling farmhouses however.

Only with the special willow reinforcement!

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