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What is the appeal of Strict Class Systems (i.e. one class to one character?

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So I saw a thread about an ideal RPG concept, and they mentioned wanting the choices to be made as you progress but ultimately be permanent. This reminds me a ton of… well, a lot of RPGs, and I honestly don't get it and never really have. And this isn't faulting that attitude – if that's what you want, then fine. But I don't get it, and I'm tired of not seeing the appeal. So here's my effort to understand it: why do people like systems that limit you to having only one class per character, with most character options defined by that class?

To be clear and upfront: I am not trying to call anyone wrong for liking this. I am seriously just not seeing the appeal, and I hate that I can't understand it. So, I am asking for insight into why this is a system people not only tolerate but actively seek. Why do people enjoy such strict limits?

Part of why I picked up FFXIV was because of the ability to switch jobs with one character, allowing me to choose my approach. That has its own flaws (especially specific methods of execution, and inflexibility of each job) but it still allows me ultimately do what I want to some extent, which is do anything – if I want to study magic, I can study magic; if I want to tank, I can tank. While no class is customizable, the fact that I can just have a slew of options and switch at the press of a button outside of combat is still much more appealing than NEVER being able to the majority of the classes without starting a new character. FFXI has a system I think I might enjoy even more, since it lets you have a subjob alongside your active main job, and while changing jobs is more restrictive, it's still an option you can explore.

This concept also frustrates me for story/roleplay reasons. One of the first bits of WoW lore I ever learned is how Night Elves become High Elves if they use certain kinds of magic. But if I build a Night Elf in WoW… it will never happen in the course of play. I am limited to non-arcane casters by default, sure, but there's no chance that, with the same character, I can be tempted to take up power and change from Night to High as a result. The closest I could achieve would be starting a new character that is a high elf with the right class and RPing it as if it's the same person – and then, there will be no signs of my past life on the character. Or, for a less drastic example, if my human warrior decides to devote himself to a higher power, I cannot become a cleric for my devotion, or a paladin.

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I've tried to consider some arguments in favor of it, but they don't seem to hold water to me.

  • In theory, you encourage mastery of a given class. However, people can master multiple classes that are fairly simple just as easily as mastering one that is really complex. People still do it in fixed-class games by having Alts and replaying the same story again and again (or playing new sections at first but then joining the same story again and again).
  • Some games do have swappable talent trees, that allow you to specialize in different roles at different times. That is cool, but if you're open to letting people change, why are you not letting them change flavor as well? Why limit them to only one set of paths?

There's one exception to this. While you are limited to one class per character, ESO has, many, if not most, of the skills and development you can have as a PC be tied to things other than your class. You learn weapons separately, can join any or all of the three guilds to learn their arts regardless of class, and can develop any of the world skills (that aren't mutually exclusive). From what I've seen, while Race, Allegiance, and Class each have some skill options, far more things are open than closed. It also can work from a story perspective -you have some skills you learned all your life or build on those skills (class, race, etc), but also have others you pick up along the way. But many systems don't do that – as far as I know, a warlock can't learn to use an axe at any point in the game of WoW.

Obviously there are classless games out there, and situations like ESO, but there's still a TON of games that say "Make a character and pick a class and that class is it forever." Even with later specialization, you're still limited to one build per character with little to no room to grow. So… why? What is the reason for this being so appealing to so many?

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