Class, Level, and the Common Man
Character class and level are useful game measures of a character's talents
and abilities. Every class outlines a basic role for the character, a position
and career in life. Each level defines additional power and provides a system
whereby you can quantify and balance encounters.
With only a little practice you learn that characters of X classes and levels
can easily defeat monster Y, but that monster Z will give them serious
problems. This helps you create exciting, balanced adventures for your players.
Yet, at the same time, you know that the concept of classes and levels doesn't
really apply to the real world. The teamster driving the wagon that passes the
characters isn't a 1st-, 5th-, or 100th-level teamster. He is a man, whose job
it is to drive wagons and haul goods. The chambermaid is not a special class,
nor are her abilities defined by levels.
The teamster or chambermaid may be exceptionally skilled and competent, but
for them this is not measured in character classes. There is no such thing as a
teamster or chambermaid class, any more than there are merchant, sailor, prince,
blacksmith, hermit, navigator, tinker, beggar, gypsy, or clerk classes. These
are the things people do, not all-encompassing descriptions.
Nor are all the people in your campaign world fighters, mages, thieves, or
whatever. The situation would be utterly ridiculous if every NPC had a character
class. You would have fighter chambermaids, mage teamsters, thief merchants, and
ranger children. The whole thing defies logic and boggles the mind. Most
non-player characters are people, just people, and nothing more.
Only a few people actually attain any character level. Not every soldier who
fights in a war becomes a fighter. Not every urchin who steals an apple from the
marketplace becomes a thief. The characters with classes and levels have them
because they are in some way special.
This specialness has nothing to do with ability scores, class abilities, or
levels. Such characters are special by definition. The fact that player
characters are controlled by players renders them special. Perhaps these special
characters are more driven or have some unknown inner spark or just the right
combination of talents and desires. That's up to the players. Similarly, non-player
characters with classes are special because the DM says so. Plain and simple.
There is no secret reason for this--it just is.
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