Jump to content

Specialists versus generalists

Recommended Posts

If we talk about classes, do we mean that they are specialized in a certain thing, or that they can only do that certain thing? That's a difference.


As an example, let's take a skill like 'first aid'. Which class would be best in that?


- A cleric wouldn't, because they don't actually need to know anything about wounds: they pray that their God fixes them. They're good at praying, not at treating wounds.

- A warrior would be quite good at doing first aid, as it's probably to himself. Scratches, abrasions, minor cuts, concussions and even broken bones would be things they would definitely (want to) know how to treat.

- A wizard might not be very good at bandaging, but he's most likely the specialist when it's about medicine: what herb or spell to apply for which effect. They might not focus on healing effects as such, but they would know the ingredients and understand the cause and effect. Like, use an ice spell to cool a burn wound.

- An unarmed and unarmored monk could be good at causing blunt damage, but as he cannot take any damage without having serious problems would probably not be any good in treating it.


Does a fighter specialize in weapons? No, he's a generalist (can use them all). Even the specializing in only one of them is mostly a proficiency: the thing he likes best / uses most. He would only be a specialist if he could only use one type of weapon. Like a cleric, for example (although they can use both melee and ranged blunt weapons). Or a monk.


To recap: the cleric specializes in praying, the fighter in causing and treating mechanical damage, the wizard in understanding and causing status effects and the monk in avoiding damage. But that doesn't mean that they can only cause one effect. That's just the means they use to cause their effects.


Like the cleric can pray for healing, they can also pray for harming. Or very utilitarian things, like lighting up a place. The fighter uses bandages, swords and torches to do the same things. Etc.



To go one step further: say, you wanted a set of new magic spells. Practical and preferably simple ones. Who would you ask?


- The wizard has a very good knowledge of all the available spells. And he should know why they are the way they are. So he will only come up with slight modifications of existing spells.

- The cleric will try to combine parts of existing chants into slightly different ones as well.

- The fighter is not used to think in status effects, but he will probably come up with interesting new utility spells, like 'make my pack lighter'.

- The monk is the most specialized and restricted one, and therefore has the longest wishlist and broadest range of requests. So probably also the most ingenuity to come up with really new ideas.


The thing is, all of them don't know how to make their dreams reality. They miss understanding of the underlying mechanics to do things in a different way than they're used to.


That's what we probably mean with specialization.



If you want innovative weapons, ask the monk or cleric. They will come up with strange things they could use and might give them an edge. Don't ask the fighter, because he's used to picking the right tool for the job. He will tell you which existing one is best for that, and why.


The most creative people are the true generalists. They might not be best at anything, but they know just enough of everything to come up with interesting but realistic solutions to any problem.


Like, when you face a roadblock of warriors, the fighter will calculate his chances and select the right armor and weapons to break through. But that generalist isn't good enough with either to do that. He needs to come up with a creative solution.



In game play terms, I would start with suggesting that any character can get either a focus on a specific weapon/skill/spell/whatever that allows them to become very good at using/doing that, regardless if that is something that class can do at all, or the option to use/do everything, but badly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...