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Old 09-10-2006, 01:45 PM   #1
Ilkidarios
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Some may remember a discussion about this topic a year or two ago, but I feel it was never covered extensively enough. Personally, I feel that the races in MUDs are too derivative and lacking in originality.

Unlike what was said last time, I do feel it is possible to create original races. In my mind though, the majority of races in MUDs today are derivatives of Tolkien or Star Wars or whatever main-stream book or movie series you can name.

What are your opinions?
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Old 09-10-2006, 02:23 PM   #2
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A lot of them are derivative. But that's because of demand, really. Most people *want* a race they're familiar with. They fall back on known archetypes because it's easier to get into their heads.

I've introduced a quadrapedal pack race on one of my games, which actually requires at least three or four people to play, and it's hardly ever tried. But people will play the dickens out of a bipedal felinoid or a standard humanoid.

At some point, as a game designer, it's understandable that you might just say: Give them what they want, not what you think would be cool for them to try.
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Old 09-10-2006, 03:17 PM   #3
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I went quite out of my way to give the existent races at Lands of Aethar more uniqueness. The biggest change of those, was the ability for centaurs to actually be mountable, which took a fair amount of coding since stock SMAUG utterly abhors the idea. In the end, like Brody said, almost noone ended up using any of the "non-AD&D" races anyway. I guess it's particularly bad on a text-based game. In a graphics game, the players would go "hey I've never heard of any of these races before, but hey, that ones picture looks like it would make a good warrior". The last thing a bewildered MUD newbie wants is to have to permanently choose from a big list of totally alien races......

My advice is, if you go this route, strip the MUD down to 3 or 4 races instead of the usual dozen. In the race selection screen, instead of just a dumb list, list each race on a separate line accompanied by a blurb about the race. Maybe even throw in a race which is "obviously human" or whatever. Think "Starcraft", look how successful it was with the hitherto-unknown Zerg and Protoss. Blizzard would've never pulled that off if they'd tried to make 20 different playable races, and if it weren't for the Terrans, most SC newbs would've never gotten a foothold.
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Old 09-10-2006, 03:57 PM   #4
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That's another concept I despise: too many races.  I feel that, like Erdos said, a game should have only a few races.

What happens when games start having heaps of races is that they just become more and more stock with each iteration.  

Lets say the fictional "GeneriMUD" starts out with one race: the "Boreals", maybe a plant-race, sort of interesting.  Then they'll get to "Sylphes", an obvious elf derivative, but still moderately inventive.  Then they'll just have "Dwarves", which as the name suggests, are stock D&D dwarves. What happened is that GeneriMUD went from having a few, inventive races to being packed with boring stereotypes.

It makes you feel like the game developers started with some interesting ideas, but then ran out of them, so in order to artificially pack their game with races, they just took the same tired old D&D races you see all over the place.
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Old 09-10-2006, 04:34 PM   #5
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That, or they looked at games that tried to be really inventive and *failed*, and decided to do what suceeds. That's the nature of the market, unfortunately. Not everyone wants to play Spore, but *I* do. Of course, the developers can afford to take risks, given the successful projects that were popular and paved the way for it.

When you've only got the resources to run *one* game and make it succeed in a limited market, it's totally understandable why MUDs might stick to the tried and true types.
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Old 09-10-2006, 04:42 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Ilkidarios @ Sep. 11 2006,04:57)
That's another concept I despise: too many races. I feel that, like Erdos said, a game should have only a few races.

What happens when games start having heaps of races is that they just become more and more stock with each iteration.

Lets say the fictional "GeneriMUD" starts out with one race: the "Boreals", maybe a plant-race, sort of interesting. Then they'll get to "Sylphes", an obvious elf derivative, but still moderately inventive. Then they'll just have "Dwarves", which as the name suggests, are stock D&D dwarves. What happened is that GeneriMUD went from having a few, inventive races to being packed with boring stereotypes.

It makes you feel like the game developers started with some interesting ideas, but then ran out of them, so in order to artificially pack their game with races, they just took the same tired old D&D races you see all over the place.
I know for us we decided to use a mix of "stock" fantasy races and some original ones. The reason for this was so there are some things that brand new players will be familiar with, but most of the races will be original ones that experienced players(of Ilyrias or just MUDs in general) may be more likely to play. This way we get to have the original ones we want, without scaring off completely new people because of a little thing like not recognizing the races right away.

In the same light, even though we are 100% classless, we have some "starting packages" such as warrior/mage/etc(not with those names though, but equally recognizable) that just auto chooses the basic skills for new players. This, just like races, makes it easier for new players to see something they recognize, but more advanced players will pick and choose what they want. Once IG race can be changed once, and skills can be forgotten and new ones chosen at a level loss(as long as you have the required skills to choose the new one you want, and don't have a "blocker" skill that would stop the choice).

Bit longer than I intended, but the point was that there can be good reasons to have a couple of the "stock" fantasy races.
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Old 09-10-2006, 08:28 PM   #7
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Inferno has (or used to have) the Chayani. I haven't played it since it was closed, and it's reopened, so I don't know if that race is still available for players.

Chayani are basically big rocks with legs and arms. They are literally created from stone by the Goddess Falia and are her precious gift to the world. The Chayani are incapable of emotion. The closest they come to any manner of emotional understanding of other sentient beings is there own reverence for the Goddess that created them. They can be confused, or feel satisfaction when they learn something they wanted to learn, but have no personal knowledge of hate, love, joy, fear. They believe themselves to be, I guess you could say, chunks off a singular entity, though they don't have a "hive mind." Also, since they are created and not spawned, they don't have any need or desire (or equipment if I remember right) to mate.

They are *extremely* difficult to roleplay and in the few years I played and IMMed there I only saw a single handful of players who tried. Most gave up after a short time. The others seemed to do a really awesome job at giving their chayanis unique personalities without straying from the chayani mentality. I played one for some time, and while I think I did a reasonable job of it, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep at it. It was fun, and interesting and challenging and even educational. But definitely not something you could approach light-heartedly.
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Old 09-10-2006, 09:20 PM   #8
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I get your point, Baram. Perhaps I shouldn't have made such a broad statement. I was referring in particular to games that proclaim they have "All original universes!" but in actuality have some originality, but mostly stock features.
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Old 09-11-2006, 12:26 AM   #9
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In the MUDs I've worked for, I've had headaches over some of the races they wanted to allow.  Typical D&D races that adhered to such and such and hated so and so.  I was really surprised by the lack of interest in the original races that the creative department put out for them.  However, there was once instance that I can recall that really made the players avid to play the new race.  The creative department created this odd race by the name of Illchare.  I think the main attraction to the race was the role play intense society the race came from, but then again, the game itself was RP intensive.

Most other MUDs I've been a part of, either as a player or an employee, were always putting out typical D&D items or stock races.
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Old 09-11-2006, 04:49 AM   #10
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My opinion is that the effort to produce something original should apply to the concept and mechanics, not the name and description of the race.

If you invent a new race and call it a "Ixylotnith", described as being green and slimy with three legs and two tentacles, then it might sound fairly original, but it's hardly something that a player can relate to. And if it its mechnically exactly the same as a dwarf, what's the point?

Take a standard stock mud, rename "dwarf" to "Ixylotnith", "elf" to "Zhproliid" and "halfling" to "Uioptyup" and you've not created any original races. All you've done is obfuscate the existing ones, and I can't see how that improves the game.

On the other hand, take some well-known races and give them unique cultural backgrounds and original implementations, and you end up with an original set of races that players can also relate to. Look at the elven races from Dark Sun or Earthdawn, for example of what I'm talking about.

That's not to say I'm against the idea of completely new races, I just don't believe that giving a race a new name has any bearing on its originality. For example the plant-like "Boreal" race you mentioned - I would rather call it something like "Dryad" or "Treant", so that players instinctively have an idea of what to expect. The originality and innovation would then come into play when designing its special powers and abilities.

For me, the most unoriginal way to handle races is to give them a name and some stat modifiers and then leave it at that. In my opinion, if you're going to have races then they should have just as much impact as classes (to the point that, if you strip out profession-type classes, you're not technically classless - because the 'races' provide sufficient differentiation that they end up providing the same impact as classes, and thus they become the "classes" from a game-design perspective).
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Old 09-11-2006, 05:09 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by
If you invent a new race and call it a "Ixylotnith", described as being green and slimy with three legs and two tentacles, then it might sound fairly original, but it's hardly something that a player can relate to. And if it its mechnically exactly the same as a dwarf, what's the point?
Could be an RP aspect of the game.
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Old 09-11-2006, 10:31 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by (KaVir @ Sep. 11 2006,04:49)
My opinion is that the effort to produce something original should apply to the concept and mechanics, not the name and description of the race.

If you invent a new race and call it a "Ixylotnith", described as being green and slimy with three legs and two tentacles, then it might sound fairly original, but it's hardly something that a player can relate to. And if it its mechnically exactly the same as a dwarf, what's the point?

Take a standard stock mud, rename "dwarf" to "Ixylotnith", "elf" to "Zhproliid" and "halfling" to "Uioptyup" and you've not created any original races. All you've done is obfuscate the existing ones, and I can't see how that improves the game.

On the other hand, take some well-known races and give them unique cultural backgrounds and original implementations, and you end up with an original set of races that players can also relate to. Look at the elven races from Dark Sun or Earthdawn, for example of what I'm talking about.

That's not to say I'm against the idea of completely new races, I just don't believe that giving a race a new name has any bearing on its originality. For example the plant-like "Boreal" race you mentioned - I would rather call it something like "Dryad" or "Treant", so that players instinctively have an idea of what to expect. The originality and innovation would then come into play when designing its special powers and abilities.

For me, the most unoriginal way to handle races is to give them a name and some stat modifiers and then leave it at that. In my opinion, if you're going to have races then they should have just as much impact as classes (to the point that, if you strip out profession-type classes, you're not technically classless - because the 'races' provide sufficient differentiation that they end up providing the same impact as classes, and thus they become the "classes" from a game-design perspective).
Yes, KaVir, I agree 100% At least with the proviso that you and I come from a hackslash/pkill background. As Hephos pointed out, in RP it all doesnt matter. But then, why bother hardcoding races in an RP mud to begin with? To be honest, the best text-based RP I've seen was in the old AOL chatrooms 10 years ago, where you just walked in and RPed whatever. Want to be an elf? then rp as an elf, want to be your own unique race you made up? that's good too. Really, a strictly RP mud has no reason to do anything beyond accept connections, plop players in a room, and handle channels/says/emotes.

But as for hackslash/pkill MUDS (i.e., MUDs which actually matter)... everything KaVir says is absolute divine inspiration. How many MUDs have you played where the difference between Elf and Dwarf was a point of int and a point of str, and maybe a different innate ability/resistance. Isn't it sad that one's *RACE* so often plays a smaller role than the equipment one chooses to wear on *ONE WEARLOC*? And this is inevitable on most MUDs, precisely because of the mindset "more is better", which causes people to make every race imaginable as a player-choosable race, with the consequence that it's impossible to actually hardcode any profoundly unique features for any of them.

Consider the combinatorics. MUDowner A makes 12 classes and 12 races, but they are mostly the same. The player ends up basically having 2 options: play as a magic user or play as a fighter. Yes, the particular magic user or fighter can be chosen in many ways, but ultimately the choices are so similar it doesn't really matter. MUDowner B makes 4 classes and 4 races, but hardcodes them into every aspect of the game. Different wearlocs altogether. Different skillsets, different everything. Suddenly the player has 4*4=16 options.

It's especially harmful for pk muds to churn out tons of indistinguishable classes/races. In pkill, there ought to be a certain rock-paper-scissors aspect: the vampire guy is weak against the cleric guy, the cleric guy is weak against the warrior guy, the warrior guy is weak against the mage guy, the mage guy is weak against the vampire guy. With 3 or 4 classes/races, you can really focus on this sort of thing, but with 20 it's impossible.
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Old 09-11-2006, 10:42 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ Sep. 11 2006,04:49)
That's not to say I'm against the idea of completely new races, I just don't believe that giving a race a new name has any bearing on its originality.  For example the plant-like "Boreal" race you mentioned - I would rather call it something like "Dryad" or "Treant", so that players instinctively have an idea of what to expect.  The originality and innovation would then come into play when designing its special powers and abilities.
I probably should have been more clear.  In my mind the "Boreals" were more like sentient Carniferns from SimEarth.  I had my mind on that game at the time .

But I see what you're saying, I've seen many MUDs which just change the description and maybe some basic stats, but still leave their new race with no real unique or interesting abilities.
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Old 09-11-2006, 02:53 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by (erdos @ Sep. 11 2006,10:31)
Consider the combinatorics. MUDowner A makes 12 classes and 12 races, but they are mostly the same. The player ends up basically having 2 options: play as a magic user or play as a fighter. Yes, the particular magic user or fighter can be chosen in many ways, but ultimately the choices are so similar it doesn't really matter. MUDowner B makes 4 classes and 4 races, but hardcodes them into every aspect of the game. Different wearlocs altogether. Different skillsets, different everything. Suddenly the player has 4*4=16 options.

It's especially harmful for pk muds to churn out tons of indistinguishable classes/races. In pkill, there ought to be a certain rock-paper-scissors aspect: the vampire guy is weak against the cleric guy, the cleric guy is weak against the warrior guy, the warrior guy is weak against the mage guy, the mage guy is weak against the vampire guy. With 3 or 4 classes/races, you can really focus on this sort of thing, but with 20 it's impossible.
Yep. We have a similar problem where I play. Nutso numbers of races, a few of which get used to make rapid exp, before reincarnating into something else, then there are a few "major" races. Angel and Demon are top of the list for warrior, priests and sometimes spellcasters. A few others are picked to be specifically spellcasters. A rogue.. If its assassin there is maybe 2-3 that work well, a few more than that with thieves, but the one I picked was Kitsune. The problem... I picked kitsune based on the race description and an assumption (valid at the time) that I would be able to mix spell casting, some rogue skills and priest skills together to produce a well rounded set of skills. I am one of three top level players that is a Kitsune, and one of two such that hasn't ever reincarnated to something else, except once, to fix an alignment idiocy when using resurrection. The other one was forced to reincarnate due to massive bugs in a guild that was shut down to be fixed. We are the oddballs. Everyone else, including the other 4-5 people that still play and are a similar level.

There is virtually "no" integration between the game world and the races, barely any history (though someone is supposedly working on it) and probably 70% of the races are virtually worthless. Imho, the best thing might be a redo of the whole thing, but instead the new staff is heavilly into working out all the obvious glitches, trying to create a more detailed history to connect stuff together and generally improving things that way, while more and more new areas get added on top of it, with no truely consistent pattern. Sometimes this bugs the hell out of me, when I bother to think about it. Though, frankly, having everyone go, "Oh, your a Kitsune? You must be an assassin then?", probably bugs me more than anything else. lol

There was very little thought put into designing a consistent world and not enough proper testing before it went live. The fact that there is supposedly a revamp of the race system and history in the works, only helps those of us that have been around long enough to hope it happens. Frankly some of the stuff we have is "too" distinguishable, thus the pidgeon holing of some races into specific classes, with insurmountable weaknesses, but that also acts against some of them, since the weaknesses of some overpower the benefits so much, no that isn't brand new, and also ignores the rest of the players suggestions, would even consider them.
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Old 09-11-2006, 05:01 PM   #15
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That's always bothered me as well, how X race is always used for Y class(or set of skills) because of it's stats.

In an attempt to at least curb this slightly Ilyrias will be giving players 10 stat points to allocate as they wish at creation(a hard max of 18 on any one stat). Our stats also don't translate 1-1 with IG effects, for example Constitution plays a large part in your health, but agility also plays a part in it while also effecting your ability to dodge incoming attacks. The hope is that doing things this way will at least make it so a few different races will be used, instead of always the same one, for different sets of skills. Of course that opens up min/maxing which is why almost nothing is 100% based off a single stat, making the well rounded stats better in some ways than someone that has one 18. Of course each race has a base set of stats, but you get some customization from there(so playing an orc mage would be possible without a HUGE disadvantage... if we had orcs that is).
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Old 09-11-2006, 08:39 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Baram @ Sep. 11 2006,16)
That's always bothered me as well, how X race is always used for Y  class(or set of skills) because of it's stats.
While I agree with this statement on some level, I think that if you approach races like KaVir suggested - this will naturally happen to some extent.  If you create elaborate backgrounds, and make more intensive changes than just stats - players won't be able to help it.  The game will progress in a manner where most players will choose X race to be Y class.

I think the thing designers need to do after putting some serious time and effort in to making their races original, like erdos said, is make sure that each class has weaknesses that will force players to make choices.  While each class should be good - each class should also have some serious drawbacks that keeps players from becoming complete god characters.
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Old 09-12-2006, 04:36 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Lanthum @ Sep. 12 2006,02:39)
Quote:
Originally Posted by (Baram @ Sep. 11 2006,16)
That's always bothered me as well, how X race is always used for Y  class(or set of skills) because of it's stats.
While I agree with this statement on some level, I think that if you approach races like KaVir suggested - this will naturally happen to some extent.  If you create elaborate backgrounds, and make more intensive changes than just stats - players won't be able to help it.  The game will progress in a manner where most players will choose X race to be Y class.
I didn't mean to imply such a solution, and I agree with Baram's view on this point. I strongly dislike implementations where classes and races tend to get paired up - dwarves are the best fighters, elves the best mages, halflings the best thieves, etc. There are no more viable options than if you had no races at all, but you're created a situation where players can make bad permanent choices before they've even entered the game.

In my opinion, the objective should be to make every race and class combination equally viable. Perhaps the orc fighter is able to dish out the most damage, the dwarven fighter can withstand the most damage, the elven fighter is the fastest and the halfling fighter is the best at dodging - but they should all be equally viable. If you specifically want the dwarves to be weaker mages for roleplaying reasons, then give them something else to compensate (eg perhaps even dwarven mages are pretty reasonable fighters), remove that option entirely (eg dwarves can't play mages) or replace it with a different option (eg dwarves have a special 'earth elementalist' class instead of mage). If it's really necessary for one race to be weaker than the others, then the player should be told up front - or better yet, the character compensated in some other way (such as the background system I proposed on mudlab) so that the PC is still on-par with other characters.
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Old 09-12-2006, 09:11 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by (KaVir @ Sep. 12 2006,17:36)
There are no more viable options than if you had no races at all, but you're created a situation where players can make bad permanent choices before they've even entered the game.
That is the exact reason that after creation each player is allowed one race change and one "reroll" of stats(not actually a roll, but a reallocation). That way they can change things if they realized that their original choice was a bad one. In RP terms it would be something akin to reincarnation, not the best reason but better than having no justifiable reason for it.
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Old 09-12-2006, 10:30 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by (Baram @ Sep. 12 2006,15:11)
Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ Sep. 12 2006,17:36)
There are no more viable options than if you had no races at all, but you're created a situation where players can make bad permanent choices before they've even entered the game.
That is the exact reason that after creation each player is allowed one race change and one "reroll" of stats(not actually a roll, but a reallocation).  That way they can change things if they realized that their original choice was a bad one.
The player could still make a second bad choice though - not to mention the fact that later changes to the game mechanics for balancing purposes might cripple what had previously been a good choice. But that's really a separate issue altogether.

When it comes to combinations of race and class, I don't believe there should be any such thing as an intentionally designed "bad choice". If there's no thematic justification for a particular combination, then block it or give a big warning, but don't let players be punished for trying something unusual. If I select 'dwarf' as a race, and see that 'mage' is one of my class choices, then I think it's only fair to expect that - while I might not be as good at magic as other mages - I'll be on-par with all other characters of the same level as me.

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In RP terms it would be something akin to reincarnation, not the best reason but better than having no justifiable reason for it.
My excuse is easy: The characters are gods. You can change anything you like, except for your class (because your class represents your supernatural inclination and the source of your godlike powers).
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Old 09-12-2006, 02:30 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by (KaVir @ Sep. 12 2006,10:30)
Quote:
Originally Posted by (Baram @ Sep. 12 2006,15:11)
Quote:
Originally Posted by KaVir,Sep. 12 2006,17:36
There are no more viable options than if you had no races at all, but you're created a situation where players can make bad permanent choices before they've even entered the game.
That is the exact reason that after creation each player is allowed one race change and one "reroll" of stats(not actually a roll, but a reallocation). That way they can change things if they realized that their original choice was a bad one.
The player could still make a second bad choice though - not to mention the fact that later changes to the game mechanics for balancing purposes might cripple what had previously been a good choice. But that's really a separate issue altogether.

When it comes to combinations of race and class, I don't believe there should be any such thing as an intentionally designed "bad choice". If there's no thematic justification for a particular combination, then block it or give a big warning, but don't let players be punished for trying something unusual. If I select 'dwarf' as a race, and see that 'mage' is one of my class choices, then I think it's only fair to expect that - while I might not be as good at magic as other mages - I'll be on-par with all other characters of the same level as me.

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Originally Posted by
In RP terms it would be something akin to reincarnation, not the best reason but better than having no justifiable reason for it.
My excuse is easy: The characters are gods. You can change anything you like, except for your class (because your class represents your supernatural inclination and the source of your godlike powers).
But please be careful, KaVir, to follow your own advice. I was disappointed when I played GW2 when I made a wizard, saw all the totally sweet powers wizards get, then realized the other three classes get basically identical powers under different names. Just four different names for teleport, four different names for enchanting equipment, etc... somewhere, a kitten is shedding a tear and a goth is posting a livejournal about cutting themselves.

Although GW2 is still pretty awesome and innovative
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