Friday, February 22, 2013

Fighters of Divine Descent

This begins an examination of the fighter, in history, myth, and real life. I hope to touch on many cultures. I already know that I’m out of my depth here, but this review of fighters in many cultures should prove enlightening, and demonstrate that magic and fighters have always gone together. The only real caveat is that “magic” means anything magical, and not just spells. Down through history, fighters have always sought out magic for themselves of some sort or another.

I’ll begin this discussion with heritage. What links so many great fighters of legend? They each had a divine parentage or ancestry.

Gilgamesh - Mother is Ninsun, a tutelary goddess of Gudea and Lagash.
Heracles - Father is Zeus, chief of the Olympian gods
Perseus - Father is Zeus
Odysseus - Hermes (grandfather)
Achilles - Mother is Thetis
Peleus - Mother is Endeis
Cú Chulainn - Father is Lug

These warriors were amazing because they were beyond mortal. This idea seemed more prevalent in the ancient middle east, especially in ancient Greece. It is even by this action that rulers asserted their special rights to rule, such as all the userpor emperors of Rome conveniently being a descendent of a god, or the Merovingians tracing their descent to Jesus of Nazareth.

Certain themes appear with these special warriors. First, they were immensely strong. Gilgamesh fought with his bare hands. Heracles put the entire sky onto his back. Perseus rolled back a huge boulder to claim a sword. Odysseus had a bow that no other man could even string. Peleus wrestled and kept hold of the sea nymph, Thetis.

Beyond that, each was tough as nails, fairly smart, and occasionally had some family help.

In D&D, divine descent, though useful as a fluff explanation for the heroic fighter, works better as a racial characteristic than a class characteristic. Any character, by this design, could be of divine descent. That means that any class could get that racial benefit, but the race can no longer be tailored to one class.

This leave us in a muddle. The most common explanation for why a fighters are amazing is not available to the class. In that respect, it becomes difficult to have a game where fighter resemble their more mythical counterparts. That makes it difficult to give fighters cool abilities, like those that showed up in tales, because the entire rationale for those gifts is lost.

If divine heritage was available to the class, it suggests some realism-breaking things that would go well with the fighter. The fighter could get stronger, or at least be able to add his Fighter level to Strength checks, which simulates great strength without throwing the numbers out of whack. The fighter could also get divine favors from his divine parent, just as Achilles received armor and weapons from his mother. The fighter could also get a reputation. Unlike magic wielding characters, a fighter is far more approachable to the common man. The peasants may not understand spell, but they do understand butchering your enemies. Your relative could also give you a special mount, unlike any other seen among mortals.

So based on this typical mythic scenario, the fighter class should get all sorts of amazing benefits that the common man never gets. In D&D, this is not the case. The fighter class simply can not produce a mythical character.