Personal Development

Do People Limit Themselves to Classes Like They Are in an RPG?

In an RPG, characters often have a class, which determines a large part of who the character is.

Often these classes not only tell you what role your character plays but also what the character’s limitations are. Fighters can wear most armor and wield most weapons. Clerics and mages can’t, but they usually make up for it with powerful magic and other abilities. Thieves and rogues aren’t usually very strong or know much magic, but they can be quick and resourceful, usually finding ways around the direct approach.

In real life, we often say things like, “I’m no good at math” or “I couldn’t draw to save my life”. Sometimes it is a matter of how our individual brains are wired. Pattern-thinkers get abstract concepts more easily than visual-thinkers, for instance. And for some, it is a genuine lack of interest.

But often it’s a matter of people limiting themselves, then declaring what they can’t do.

In Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, I used to have fun experimenting with the Change Class feature at the Training Grounds. I would create a character with not only a high strength but also a high IQ. I would create a mage, level up a bit to learn some higher level spells, then change my character into a fighter.

My fighter has to start over at Experience Level 1, but he/she retains all knowledge of spells from earlier time spent as a mage. Now I have a powerful character with some overlapping skills. My character won’t learn higher level spells, but he/she will eventually learn all of the spells up to the level of the highest level spell learned.

If you’re an artist, you’ve probably had people say to you something along the lines of, “You’re amazing, but oh, I’m not good at art.” You’ve been drawing all your life, perhaps, perfecting your craft, and these people are talking to you as if it’s some innate talent that allows you to effortlessly draw what you see in front of you.

I like to ask such people to draw a perfectly round circle. Often it ends up looking like an oval, and they say, “See? I can’t draw.”

Then I say, “If you did nothing but draw circles for hours, days, weeks, months, do you think you would eventually figure out how to make it rounder?”

Most people admit that, yes, they could see drawing a round, evenly-shaped circle as something they could probably figure out if they put in the effort and time.

And it’s how I demonstrate that we don’t have to limit ourselves to our professions or self-imposed classes. We can multi-class if we want. It might take more effort. If you spend eight hours a day working as a software engineer, you need to use the spare time outside of commuting, eating, and sleeping to get better as an artist, which would take longer than if you could dedicate all day to it.

But most of us don’t bother. I just wish most people would recognize it as a choice instead of performatively uttering their limitations.