Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Battlemind

I love the show Leverage; I love it almost as much as I love talking about it on my D&D blog. The show’s writers (or maybe marketers) are really into the character’s clearly defined roles. In the first season, they made the characters play to their roles (Hacker, Hitter, Grifter, Thief, Mastermind/Brain) and then sometimes mixed up those roles to great effect. The Leverage analogy works so well for D&D because our characters have specific roles (Defender, Controller, Leader, Striker), and that these D&D roles are also quite compatible with the Leverage roles. In the second season, I guess they decided to make those roles into one of the defining characteristics of the show by including then in the opening sequence and making them a plot point of many episodes. Now that the third season is here, I guess they figured the audience hasn’t gotten it and they’re now hitting everyone over the head with the five roles. In particular at least once an episode each person is referred to by another character by their technical term (“hitter”, “hacker”, etc).

I find this blatant working of the role names into the dialog annoying. In fact nobody would ever do this in D&D… or would they? Out of game it feels awkward when one character says to another “oh, you must be the Hitter,” but I find this to be common case in D&D! (e.g. “Oh you’re the Paladin?”) In my game, as often as we refer to the characters’ names, we also refer to them by their class. For instance in a recent game we had dialog like: “send the Thief in first”, “does the Bard have any majestic words left”, “I pass a healing potion to the Fighter.”

I hope I’m not making a false comparison because we rarely use the role names (defender, controller, etc), just the class names, but I think the idea is the same. On the show, the characters don’t have classes and there’s only one person in each role, which doesn’t often happen in D&D.

Realistically speaking, the characters’ jobs are probably not commonly called by the class names either. Fighters might be soldiers, mercenaries, warriors, knights, dragoons, lancers, pikemen, hoplites, etc. Bards could be troubadours or minstrels, and there must be hundreds of names for Clerics. In fantasy novels (and even D&D) sometimes distinctions are made between wizardly titles: sorceror, conjurer, witch, warlock, adept, magician, etc. Characters’ titles might also vary by region and religion. Use of a creative titles can help add flavor to a campaign, and also change the feel of a character. Imagine that instead of “Warden”, your character’s title was “Forest Patrol.” The flavored name gives the class a sense of regulation, authority, and probably some sort of paramilitary organization backed up by a government.

Maybe this sort of thing doesn’t bother anybody else. Or maybe you’ve already come up with cleverer names for your character’s job.

In related Leverage news, looks like there is an official Leverage RPG.

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4 thoughts on “Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Battlemind

  1. It’s a little odd to think of it in those terms, but as I consider it I often use *race* as a shorthand in d&d, as in “somebody punch the elf.”. And in shadow run, we definitely referred to riggers, hackers, shamans and sams. D&d, I think, just has an excess of categorical options.

    -Rob D.

  2. Isn’t it funny how a show makes being formulaic and predictable a very desirable thing? I like the show because I know that whatever happens it’ll work out by the end and that’s rather comforting.

  3. Lol cool to see another rpg/leverage fan, although Im finishing the first season the show is awesome. regarding what you said, i can see the use of classes and even roles merged on some circumstances within the game. For example a paladin can be called as such with disdain from a rogue or a fighter mercenary can be known as the “Defender” of the party. Of course, over used of this can result on meta gaming talk.

  4. Hm. Maybe the issue is balance. Like, using those words every so often is fine, but when it’s all the time, it becomes annoying. If we don’t know a name, we usually use race in our game to refer to someone, but that’s because we the main towns we go to are heavily human-populated areas.

    I’m just glad we don’t refer to each other by our job roles in real life. If anyone called me “the insurance claims adjuster,” I’d–well, I’d probabaly have to adjust their face, heh.

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