Fantasy Cliches Are Both Good and Bad

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I have actually run a campaign where the Dwarves spoke with a Russian accent, rather than generic scottish... now one of my friends accuses me of influencing him to make russian dwarves.

Eh.

You call the conventions of fantasy "cliches" as if that's somehow bad. Your wacked out druggy wizard wouldn't be particularly funny, if it wasn't for the established conventions. They are the reason he works as a different type of character.

Groups also work for the same reasons society works. You must specialize to become really good at something. That's why there's room for each type of character in a group. If you had some demigod type guy who could do everything, it would ruin the fun entirely. Group games thrive on adversity and especially cooperation.

In Exalted, the typical sorcerer (as in a magician, not DnD's definition of a sorcerer) is in a big shiny armor with a big ass sword (at least, considering the trappings of the Sorcerer constellation). Also, exalts live thousands of year (2-3k for celestials, 5k for sidereals) without taking into account life extending charms, sorcery and artefacts.

In Mage, a good Life mage will keep his body young. Why wouldn't he? He's got the power to alter living things.

Fear the "young" mage in top physical shape, for he's surely a lot more powerful than the one that can't stay young.

The mechanical cliché about leveling and classes is really a bad one. You don't need levels and classes to railroad how you'll develop your character. I think it's as bad as story railroading. Multiclassing doesn't change that since it just gives you the choice of railroad you want to choose.

znix:
Groups also work for the same reasons society works. You must specialize to become really good at something. That's why there's room for each type of character in a group. If you had some demigod type guy who could do everything, it would ruin the fun entirely. Group games thrive on adversity and especially cooperation.

Having played and STed a lot of Exalted games were players all play some kind of demigods rarely weak in a field and no perfect circles (one character for each role), I can say you're pretty wrong with that statement.

Some are better than others in some fields. The twilights (crafters/mages) have more technical knowledge than the dawn (warriors), but they can still fight pretty well. The dawn can still investigate better than your average joe. That doesn't mean there's no collaboration or adversity.

Players in a baseball game have a lot more skill in common than an average DnD party, but they still work together.

I think that party roles are an extension of the old adage "divide and conquer" - as in divide specialties and conquer challenges. If characters are truly random, some will be smart enough to figure out how magic works, and convince the others to use their shields while they work their magic. In 2nd ed D&D at least, stats were rolled, then you chose your class based on what the dice gave you (3d6 straight up, no tweaks or extra die to drop).

I've been working off and on on my own roleplaying system that eschews the idea of a class title as a stack of gained abilities. Instead, such titles can be gained or given by how the character acts, or what the character actually does. I had established barbarian as the active anarchists, wizards as mind-using (wit, intelligence, and concentration based) casters, and paladins as actively good characters (divorcing them from forcibly being lawful or religious - though they do support good churches as a local locus of good). These labels reinforce character actions without handing them particular abilities.

As for wizard robes, I think Rowling gave a good reason why they may like them in HP 4, just before the World Cup. Extra long tunics also don't require as much maintenance and are easier to clean. Wizards are busy people who would rather spend time researching than darning.

Falseprophet:
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 <http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ViolentGlaswegian>a love of a good brawl[/a].

Agreed. My last name starts with Mac and I still like dwarves and dwarven characters. I have trouble imagining them with any other accent.

I remember reading somewhere that Salvatore made Drizzt quirky on purpose as a sidekick to Wulfgar, who was supposed to be the main character. However, it was written that he realized the true star of the story early on and adjusted the story to suit. Besides, Drizzt is awesome and deep as a character - who wouldn't want to be him (well, up and until the 4th ed setting anyway)? That and tabletop gamers are mainstream social outcasts so being the good outcast I think really resonates with us.

I like

IridRadiant:
I remember reading somewhere that Salvatore made Drizzt quirky on purpose as a sidekick to Wulfgar, who was supposed to be the main character. However, it was written that he realized the true star of the story early on and adjusted the story to suit. Besides, Drizzt is awesome and deep as a character - who wouldn't want to be him (well, up and until the 4th ed setting anyway)? That and tabletop gamers are mainstream social outcasts so being the good outcast I think really resonates with us.

Well, Drizzt bashing tends to gloss over the fact that he was a good character, and people were really just indirectly hating on him because too many people imitated him.

Sometimes, though, I like cliches...sometimes in all the fervor to be new and original people forget that one of the reasons people play games like DnD is to live out a certain character fantasy. Maybe I WANT to be a muscles and loincloth Frazetta barbarian or a pointy-hat elven wizard. Originality is nice, but it's about what makes your experience fun.

What I really DON'T like, though, is when people use cliches but try to have pretenses of originality. We don't have halflings, halflings are a cliche, we have "smallkyn", they have a distinct Norse flair (not a rural english flair). Our wizards use magyck and don't wear pointy hats because pointy hats are cliche. Our orcs are orks and are really noble shamanistic individuals not just senseless barbarians because that would be a cliche. Our dragons hatch from Gemstones, not Eggs.

If you want to make an entirely new and interesting setting that's cool, but so many people make only superficial changes and think that's enough to escape cliche.

ArmorArmadillo:
Our wizards use magyck and don't wear pointy hats because pointy hats are cliche. Our orcs are orks and are really noble shamanistic individuals not just senseless barbarians because that would be a cliche. Our dragons hatch from Gemstones, not Eggs.

If you want to make an entirely new and interesting setting that's cool, but so many people make only superficial changes and think that's enough to escape cliche.

You mean mages like in the World of Darkness?

Also, I really like how orcs are in WoW.

But yeah, I agree with you when they only change the name to something unpronounceable to be "original". I've seen it a lot in "original" LARPs settings.

Ranorak:

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..

Actually, since paladins can no longer "Fall" in vanilla 4e (the ritual is a permanent bond that cannot be removed), you can technically be the paladin of a good god and still be evil.

I just figured that dwarves were given a random accent from the general United Kingdom area since thats where most medieval stories revolve around.

Ursus Astrorum:

Ranorak:

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..

Actually, since paladins can no longer "Fall" in vanilla 4e (the ritual is a permanent bond that cannot be removed), you can technically be the paladin of a good god and still be evil.

I guess it's a good way to attract avengers of your god that want you to stop spoiling its name.

Hmmm... A few things I should mention.

One: it's good to really consider the "why" of a cliche before you go upending it. For example, while I don't really have a problem with a barbarian wizard who works some kind of wild, improvisational magic, magic is frequently depicted as a sort of art or science that requires intense study and the utmost control (which is often part of why every sword-swinger doesn't also cast spells). And requires, more to the point, things like literacy, books, and schools. You simply don't get those things from a "savage" background; paper and ink are fundamentally the artifacts of a people who live under a roof most of the time and have enough stability in their lives to create things that aren't necessary for a day-to-day existence. In short, make your "barbarian" wizard, but fully consider just how different that creature is from the "classic" model.

(Though I suppose a different sort of "barbarian" wizard could just be "My master decided he had had enough of people and raised me in his tower in the middle of nowhere, and he didn't see no need for stinkin' table manners.")

Two: Yes, you need some kind of fall for "ruined" dungeons, but it doesn't always follow that whole civilizations rose and fell for such same to exist. The thieves' guild used to use these tunnels to hide and smuggle stolen goods; then there was a violent schism within the Guild, the people who knew the tunnels well were killed, and some monsters moved in to make those who knew them "less well" less than eager to explore them. The Necromancer's enemies assaulted his castle and undermined it, bringing it crashing down around his ears; they didn't know that he had already crossed the border into undeath himself, and has been plotting his return to power as those who remembered him grow old and die. And so on.

Finally, while some cliches can be tried and obnoxious, be aware that reflexively subverting a cliche at every turn can also quickly become tired and obnoxious. Don't invoke tropes lazily, but don't dismiss them reflexively. Do it because you want to do something interesting, something that makes sense. So you think a dwarven monk who studied a dance-like martial art with the elves would be humorous... Go beyond that. How did they get there? What is it in their "native" culture that they're turning their back on? What has it made them like, to live between worlds? What have they done to make themselves more acceptable to their chosen peers?

in one of the latest RPG's i played i made a crazy German called Herman who wore a chicken suit and had 2 Glock 18's. Around 15 minutes into the game i had jumped through a window to escape tear gas thrown by guards who were looking to arrest everyone in a dog fighting ring. I ended up killing two of the guards with head shots and dodging a ridiculous amount of fire from three AK-47's. the rest of the campaign got even crazier later on.

Callate:
Hmmm... A few things I should mention.

One: it's good to really consider the "why" of a cliche before you go upending it. For example, while I don't really have a problem with a barbarian wizard who works some kind of wild, improvisational magic, magic is frequently depicted as a sort of art or science that requires intense study and the utmost control (which is often part of why every sword-swinger doesn't also cast spells). And requires, more to the point, things like literacy, books, and schools. You simply don't get those things from a "savage" background; paper and ink are fundamentally the artifacts of a people who live under a roof most of the time and have enough stability in their lives to create things that aren't necessary for a day-to-day existence. In short, make your "barbarian" wizard, but fully consider just how different that creature is from the "classic" model.

(Though I suppose a different sort of "barbarian" wizard could just be "My master decided he had had enough of people and raised me in his tower in the middle of nowhere, and he didn't see no need for stinkin' table manners.")

Two: Yes, you need some kind of fall for "ruined" dungeons, but it doesn't always follow that whole civilizations rose and fell for such same to exist. The thieves' guild used to use these tunnels to hide and smuggle stolen goods; then there was a violent schism within the Guild, the people who knew the tunnels well were killed, and some monsters moved in to make those who knew them "less well" less than eager to explore them. The Necromancer's enemies assaulted his castle and undermined it, bringing it crashing down around his ears; they didn't know that he had already crossed the border into undeath himself, and has been plotting his return to power as those who remembered him grow old and die. And so on.

Finally, while some cliches can be tried and obnoxious, be aware that reflexively subverting a cliche at every turn can also quickly become tired and obnoxious. Don't invoke tropes lazily, but don't dismiss them reflexively. Do it because you want to do something interesting, something that makes sense. So you think a dwarven monk who studied a dance-like martial art with the elves would be humorous... Go beyond that. How did they get there? What is it in their "native" culture that they're turning their back on? What has it made them like, to live between worlds? What have they done to make themselves more acceptable to their chosen peers?

Aren't Sorcerers more like barbaric wizards?
I always thought they were more wild and natural in their magic casting.

"The sorcerer is the arcane antithesis of the wizard.
Wielding raw, barely contained magical power, sorcerers
channel bursts and blasts of arcane energy
through their bodies. They gain their power not
through rigorous study of esoteric tomes, but by harnessing
magic in their blood, waiting to be tapped
and shaped. If wizards wield magic as fighters wield
swords, a sorcerer's magic is the arcing greataxe of a
raging barbarian."

PHB2

Therumancer:

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 like the idea of some level 1 chancer wearing all of the over the top wizard garb. Using it to pass himself off as all powerful with just a hand full of cantrips, some alchemy and a mountain of bullshit. It fits with the wandering adventurers thing as he would have to move on quickly once found out, after free loading an milking a town dry.

I might even wear a disguise to look older, a bit like Hannibal always did in the A Team.

I'd probably take some rogue early on to fit.

As far as stereotypes go, RP is meant to be entertainment. If you want to roleplay a stereotype and enjoy it then do it. I think its up to the DM to do things differently and keep NPCs fresh, players can play what they enjoy.

Ranorak:

Callate:
Hmmm... A few things I should mention.

One: it's good to really consider the "why" of a cliche before you go upending it. For example, while I don't really have a problem with a barbarian wizard who works some kind of wild, improvisational magic, magic is frequently depicted as a sort of art or science that requires intense study and the utmost control (which is often part of why every sword-swinger doesn't also cast spells). And requires, more to the point, things like literacy, books, and schools. You simply don't get those things from a "savage" background; paper and ink are fundamentally the artifacts of a people who live under a roof most of the time and have enough stability in their lives to create things that aren't necessary for a day-to-day existence. In short, make your "barbarian" wizard, but fully consider just how different that creature is from the "classic" model.

(Though I suppose a different sort of "barbarian" wizard could just be "My master decided he had had enough of people and raised me in his tower in the middle of nowhere, and he didn't see no need for stinkin' table manners.")

Two: Yes, you need some kind of fall for "ruined" dungeons, but it doesn't always follow that whole civilizations rose and fell for such same to exist. The thieves' guild used to use these tunnels to hide and smuggle stolen goods; then there was a violent schism within the Guild, the people who knew the tunnels well were killed, and some monsters moved in to make those who knew them "less well" less than eager to explore them. The Necromancer's enemies assaulted his castle and undermined it, bringing it crashing down around his ears; they didn't know that he had already crossed the border into undeath himself, and has been plotting his return to power as those who remembered him grow old and die. And so on.

Finally, while some cliches can be tried and obnoxious, be aware that reflexively subverting a cliche at every turn can also quickly become tired and obnoxious. Don't invoke tropes lazily, but don't dismiss them reflexively. Do it because you want to do something interesting, something that makes sense. So you think a dwarven monk who studied a dance-like martial art with the elves would be humorous... Go beyond that. How did they get there? What is it in their "native" culture that they're turning their back on? What has it made them like, to live between worlds? What have they done to make themselves more acceptable to their chosen peers?

Aren't Sorcerers more like barbaric wizards?
I always thought they were more wild and natural in their magic casting.

"The sorcerer is the arcane antithesis of the wizard.
Wielding raw, barely contained magical power, sorcerers
channel bursts and blasts of arcane energy
through their bodies. They gain their power not
through rigorous study of esoteric tomes, but by harnessing
magic in their blood, waiting to be tapped
and shaped. If wizards wield magic as fighters wield
swords, a sorcerer's magic is the arcing greataxe of a
raging barbarian."

PHB2

Isn't there a 'Wildmage' class too? That is, insane wizards who can cast random spells and are generally uncontrollable too, sounds like a pretty apt fit for a barbarian styled mage.

Ranorak:

Callate:
Hmmm... A few things I should mention.

One: it's good to really consider the "why" of a cliche before you go upending it. For example, while I don't really have a problem with a barbarian wizard who works some kind of wild, improvisational magic, magic is frequently depicted as a sort of art or science that requires intense study and the utmost control (which is often part of why every sword-swinger doesn't also cast spells). And requires, more to the point, things like literacy, books, and schools. You simply don't get those things from a "savage" background; paper and ink are fundamentally the artifacts of a people who live under a roof most of the time and have enough stability in their lives to create things that aren't necessary for a day-to-day existence. In short, make your "barbarian" wizard, but fully consider just how different that creature is from the "classic" model.

(Though I suppose a different sort of "barbarian" wizard could just be "My master decided he had had enough of people and raised me in his tower in the middle of nowhere, and he didn't see no need for stinkin' table manners.")

Two: Yes, you need some kind of fall for "ruined" dungeons, but it doesn't always follow that whole civilizations rose and fell for such same to exist. The thieves' guild used to use these tunnels to hide and smuggle stolen goods; then there was a violent schism within the Guild, the people who knew the tunnels well were killed, and some monsters moved in to make those who knew them "less well" less than eager to explore them. The Necromancer's enemies assaulted his castle and undermined it, bringing it crashing down around his ears; they didn't know that he had already crossed the border into undeath himself, and has been plotting his return to power as those who remembered him grow old and die. And so on.

Finally, while some cliches can be tried and obnoxious, be aware that reflexively subverting a cliche at every turn can also quickly become tired and obnoxious. Don't invoke tropes lazily, but don't dismiss them reflexively. Do it because you want to do something interesting, something that makes sense. So you think a dwarven monk who studied a dance-like martial art with the elves would be humorous... Go beyond that. How did they get there? What is it in their "native" culture that they're turning their back on? What has it made them like, to live between worlds? What have they done to make themselves more acceptable to their chosen peers?

Aren't Sorcerers more like barbaric wizards?
I always thought they were more wild and natural in their magic casting.

"The sorcerer is the arcane antithesis of the wizard.
Wielding raw, barely contained magical power, sorcerers
channel bursts and blasts of arcane energy
through their bodies. They gain their power not
through rigorous study of esoteric tomes, but by harnessing
magic in their blood, waiting to be tapped
and shaped. If wizards wield magic as fighters wield
swords, a sorcerer's magic is the arcing greataxe of a
raging barbarian."

PHB2

I once played a fire-heritage centaur barbarian/sorceror in a one-off. He rocked VERY hard. =D

Amazon warrior:

Ranorak:

Callate:
SNIP

Aren't Sorcerers more like barbaric wizards?
I always thought they were more wild and natural in their magic casting.

"The sorcerer is the arcane antithesis of the wizard.
Wielding raw, barely contained magical power, sorcerers
channel bursts and blasts of arcane energy
through their bodies. They gain their power not
through rigorous study of esoteric tomes, but by harnessing
magic in their blood, waiting to be tapped
and shaped. If wizards wield magic as fighters wield
swords, a sorcerer's magic is the arcing greataxe of a
raging barbarian."

PHB2

I once played a fire-heritage centaur barbarian/sorceror in a one-off. He rocked VERY hard. =D

That does sound freaking awesome.
I should see if I can fit that in a DnD 4th, maybe a Hybrid, or multi-class.

Ranorak:

Amazon warrior:

Ranorak:

Callate:
SNIP

Aren't Sorcerers more like barbaric wizards?
I always thought they were more wild and natural in their magic casting.

"The sorcerer is the arcane antithesis of the wizard.
Wielding raw, barely contained magical power, sorcerers
channel bursts and blasts of arcane energy
through their bodies. They gain their power not
through rigorous study of esoteric tomes, but by harnessing
magic in their blood, waiting to be tapped
and shaped. If wizards wield magic as fighters wield
swords, a sorcerer's magic is the arcing greataxe of a
raging barbarian."

PHB2

I once played a fire-heritage centaur barbarian/sorceror in a one-off. He rocked VERY hard. =D

That does sound freaking awesome.
I should see if I can fit that in a DnD 4th, maybe a Hybrid, or multi-class.

Go for it! :)

Altorin:

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

Mc is still Scottish. Just more anglophied. In my school there's more Mcs than Macs. A lot more. (I live in Scotland.)

lomylithruldor:

ArmorArmadillo:
Our wizards use magyck and don't wear pointy hats because pointy hats are cliche. Our orcs are orks and are really noble shamanistic individuals not just senseless barbarians because that would be a cliche. Our dragons hatch from Gemstones, not Eggs.

If you want to make an entirely new and interesting setting that's cool, but so many people make only superficial changes and think that's enough to escape cliche.

You mean mages like in the World of Darkness?

Also, I really like how orcs are in WoW.

But yeah, I agree with you when they only change the name to something unpronounceable to be "original". I've seen it a lot in "original" LARPs settings.

Well, WoW orcs are pretty cool, but they're kind of the exception that proves the rule. In Warcraft and Warcraft 2, Orcs were just Orcs, a savage race of ugly evil warriors. And there really was nothing else. When Warcraft III hit, and Blizzard wanted to expand the game and had more storytelling chops, they went for "How can we make orcs something more complex without actually contradicting our prior works...so to that end Warcraft Orcs are pretty awesome...I do like that they go for trying to embrace the cliches and build on them instead of trying to act too good for them.

cliches are exactly why I hate even the existence of Dragon Age.

I just have to say that Freud would have a field day with that "Conan the Usurper" cover. It truly is amazingly suggestive.

A friend of mine actually played a Halfling Paladin once. Any time he tried to reprimand people for their immoral behavior, people always thought he was a child and sent him on his way, or gave him a piece of candy.

This friend is very well-known for playing interesting/unique characters. One of my favorites was his Gay Dwarf...Bard, I think. Maybe Rogue... I dunno, whose profession was Tailor. He shaved his beard entirely off, and he just had so much fun with the character that the DM asked him to get rid of it, because the other players were just tired of him.

we kind of broke this in our TTRPG, umm...our dark elf (yours truly) was not only a girl with a sour attitude, but also the tank of the group, absorbing obscene amounts of damage, great for crowd control and with a few spells to boost ourself. Our wizard was a little boy who could turn into either a water nymph or a muscle-bound fighter (and did both actually on regular occasion) our last member, the dexterity based one was a samurai girl so...not many cliche's there right?

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?...

The difference is that in fantasy rpgs the civilization that has fallen is much more technologically advanced than the civilization that the PCs are from. If you lived in the area of the Mayan civilization something like 50-100 years after it fell, you could be in a fantasy rpg type setting. What you dug up in Mayan ruins would be far beyond anything your current society could produce.

However I will venture to say that all people who play fantasy rpgs come from our modern civilization of cars, guns, lasers, and air conditioning :) While we can dig up art, architecture, etc that might rival anything modern, we aren't going to find any usable artifacts that are going to even equal what we can make today (talking about pure utility here, not craftsmanship which is art). Nevermind come across anything like the super-powerful only-one-of-these-was-ever-made items your hero can acquire in a fantasy campaign.

chinangel:
we kind of broke this in our TTRPG, umm...our dark elf (yours truly) was not only a girl with a sour attitude, but also the tank of the group, absorbing obscene amounts of damage, great for crowd control and with a few spells to boost ourself. Our wizard was a little boy who could turn into either a water nymph or a muscle-bound fighter (and did both actually on regular occasion) our last member, the dexterity based one was a samurai girl so...not many cliche's there right?

Your talk of samurai reminds me of the one and only time I played "Mountain Witch". There were three players and the GM, and I was the only girl in the group. My character was also female and got some very mixed reactions from the two male samurai during the journey up the mountain. It all became much clearer at the end of the game, where it was revealed that one of the "male" samurai was actually also a girl but in disguise and the other was male but wanted to be a girl. Man, that was a strange game.

RMcD94:

Altorin:

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

Mc is still Scottish. Just more anglophied. In my school there's more Mcs than Macs. A lot more. (I live in Scotland.)

I was just totally full of fail in my post, all round fail.

I concede all points against mine.

However, interesting to note that I was reading the Scion book (It's a White Wolf game, sort of like Exalted Modern), and the Dwarves in the preface story talk in a Minnesotean accent.. It really more reads like a really bad canadian accent, or a really bad Sarah Palin impression.

But it reminded me of this thread.

Altorin:

RMcD94:

Altorin:

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

Mc is still Scottish. Just more anglophied. In my school there's more Mcs than Macs. A lot more. (I live in Scotland.)

I was just totally full of fail in my post, all round fail.

I concede all points against mine.

However, interesting to note that I was reading the Scion book (It's a White Wolf game, sort of like Exalted Modern), and the Dwarves in the preface story talk in a Minnesotean accent.. It really more reads like a really bad canadian accent, or a really bad Sarah Palin impression.

But it reminded me of this thread.

I'm pretty sure that Neil Gaiman's American Gods was a strong inspiration for Scion. If you've read it, you know what I mean. If you haven't, GET IT!

I once played Neverwinter Nights with a friend, and his first character defied all cliches. He made Gurkin Smockbash, the half-orc palladin, who couldnt string a sentence together, killed a merchant for no reason, and had a crush on Lady Aribeth.

I wish i knew some people who played D&D it sounds fun. I would love to play a foul mouthed hard drinking palladin

Good stuff here Greg. I agree that sometimes you need the cliches even in the aesthetics, especially for beginners. Just to get them comfortable, but as you grow in role playing, you should seek to branch out and be original :)

Dwarves are Scottish because they hold grudges for ever, drink too much and are overly aggressive.

Our party has a halfling paladin. He helped to negotiate a larger payment for saving a town from orcs, not because he was greedy, but because he had a wife and seven kids to support. That's right, a salaryman halfling paladin. We also have:

A healer trained by an order of pacifists, who comes from a millitary family, and so has no problems with killing. Oh, and he worships all the gods, even the contradictory ones, all equally and all at the same time. NG because he generaly wants to help people, and the god thing is more out of respect than actuall fervrent worship.

An elven ranger who favors goblins and the longbow style. She is also a lesbian and enjoys stirring up trouble in an impish manner. She also is racist against humans, seeing them as oportunistic, greedy, and racist.

A halfling rouge who's on the run from her old thieves guild because she did some double dealing with stolen goods under the table without giving the guild its cut. See tried to stir up a conflict between a dwarven mining company and the towns government so that she could rob the mayor blind and blame it on the dwarves.

As the DM, I filled my world with cliche on purpose just to see what happens when I let these guys lose on it. When you have to say 'Ok, you used up your free action for talking' when your healer is trying to have a phylosophical discussion with your evil masked spellcaster ridding a flying monster, you know things have gone crazy. Naturaly, I have plenty of origional points in there too. Such as the dragon the town is scared of and has only seen in the distance is actually only a draggone. The PCs have viewed it off in the distance twice, but rolled low enough that they drew the conclusion themselves that it is a dragon. I never stated that is was, it only had shiny scales, was large, and had batlike wings and a long tail.

When you throw in the odd piece, disguise it so that they think it's a cliche at first. Dragon filling a town with fear that it will eventually attack? *yawn* Wait, it's not a dragon but a rarely used monster that the town mistook for a dragon? How will that play out?

In the end, it doesn't matter, as long as the game functions. As was pointed out above, baseball is comprised of the same (extremely boring) types, yet it still functions (in its own boring fashion).

Regardless, I think there is more fun to be had by being unique. If you're the only one who can heal, you better do it right because people depend on you. Same for tanking, AOEing, kiting, etc. People have roles to play and you're not easily substituted. If the healer goes down, suddenly tactics might have to change. If the tank dies, same thing. In a group comprised of homogenous same type all-round players, it's only a mild loss if someone perishes. Nobody really cares until enough of the group has gone that it starts looking bleak.

In a baseball team, if some guy is out, who really cares? Not many. How about in an online baseball game where nobody is famous, then nobody truly cares at all.
Even FPS games become more engrossing and interesting when you have specific roles to play such as medic, demolitions, sniper and so on. You gotta watch each other, communicate and coordinate.

Had a cliche played out quite sweetly in one of our games. Our 2nd level wizard got given a pointy hat by the children of a chap we saved, " 'cause you must have lost it."

The guy kept that hat for the whole campaign.

Our hated one was always 'my parents were killed by orcs' though.

I'm probably a little late on this one, but it seems like no one mentioned it so I figured I might as well. The traditional idea of a wizard as "wizened old man with a pointy hat, robe and staff" is at least partially based on the Norse idea of Odin the Wanderer, a guise that the god Odin would take while traveling around Midgard. His appearance was meant to be that of a simple, fragile traveler, and he would use peoples' misconceptions based on this as a way of testing them.

image

Since Odin was strong, wise, and a god, he was obviously capable of fantastic, superhuman feats. Tolkien drew directly from this idea when designing his wizards, especially Gandalf, which helped it root itself even further in the public's subconscious.

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