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Party Dynamics

I’ve been watching Farscape lately. I love it, I forgot exactly how much I love it actually, after getting reacclimatised to the hastily-made (but still high quality) practical effects, the occasionally hammy acting and rather harshly episodic nature of the first season, it’s a forgotten gem of science fiction that occupies a rather amazing niche filled with action, a rich world and at times some very progressive themes that Star Trek would never have touched. It strongly fits within the “fantasy in space” field of sci-fi, and it got me to thinking about something I’ve observed in other series as well.

In D&D amongst other RPs that you all know, the characters fall into some quite specific roles. In most MMOs they’d be the tank, healer and DPS, D&D gives us the classic four-part set up of Fighter, Cleric, Rogue and Mage, along with the variety of extras that add variation to the themes. Others, like Shadowrun, Call of C’Thulhu take the same roles and apply their own themes. They stem from the sword and sorcery genre of pulp fiction styled by people like Robert E. Howard, and the epic fantasy works of people like Tolkien.

The Fellowship may be the basis for most other adventuring parties, and you can spot the roles that they set in place pop up in many other epics that feature a set cast of characters, any group of heroes has some of the following classes appear within them:

Rogues

The rascally sneak-thief, assassin, master of disguise, or just the guy who’s job it is to be in the wrong place at the right time. Frodo is one of the classics, the entire trilogy is based on the mission to get the hobbit and the ring into a heavily secured mountain surrounded by an army. In Farscape, the acrobatic and slightly lunatic Chiana is an almost perfect Rogue archetype. In the Avengers the super-soviet spy queen Black Widow occupies a slightly different form of the role, a far more serious infiltrator and assassin. As a complete left-of-field suggestion, from Star-Wars there is one character who can get anywhere, bust intricate technology and has a smart mouth that gets him into trouble…

Wizards

Gandalf is the no-brainer here, but he misses one of the more typical facets of the role because he is not quite so squishy as the D&D class, but he’s still the utilitarian mystic type who can solve problems with narrative, much like Obi-Wan Kenobi in many ways. Without magic it’s a harder thing to pin down, but more often than not you’ll find the Iron Man fits the bill amongst Marvel’s roster, using science, intelligence and a toolkit of tech to resolve any problem the others can’t handle, and using that definition it’s fairly easy to stick the lost human John Crichton in the same class in Farscape. And let’s not forget that both of them have helped create “planar gates” as part of their career.

Clerics

Healer, religious type and moral compass of the group, in Farscape the candidate is clearly Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan, the bright blue priestess who, despite her rather dark past, has proven to be a voice of reason and compassion, occasionally to her detriment. Though he’d fall a little more firmly under the heading of paladin, Captain America fits the cleric role quite well for the purposes of this example, even fighting against his own country in the name of freedom, he doesn’t even carry a weapon… technically. As a religious warrior preaching peace and tranquillity fighting a mighty evil that resides even within himself, Luke Skywalker is a little more of a paladin too, but has similarly spell-caster like leanings.

Oh but who would be our cleric from Middle-Earth? “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.” Yup, that works. Most clerics don’t raise armies of ghosts, but I suppose if it’s all for a good cause.

Fighters

Soldier, warrior, anyone with the right kind of training and discipline is a fighter. Former Peacekeeper turned rebel marksman and terrifying love interest Aeryn Sun definitely suits the big-weapon class although she’s generally low on armour and hit points. Boromir is also a little low on hit points these days but fighters always need someone to watch their back while they’re in the thick of the action, and should never be played by Sean Bean. And if you’re looking for a heavily armed and armoured front-line warrior from the ranks of the Avengers then your man can only be the Norse god of thunder, Thor.

As for Star Wars, from the main crew, might I put forward Princess Leia? She’s a stone-faced leader of a militarised rebellion, skilled combatant, a pretty average infiltrator and a solid diplomat. A little thought and she falls quite neatly into a lot of the fighter basics.

Barbarians

On the other hand, barbarians fulfil the front-line role without the discipline, drawing energy from brute strength and feral rage. Often they’re the tribal warrior type like the Chewbacca the wookie murder-bear from Star Wars, or Ka D’Argo from the Farscape Klingon equivalent race, the Luxans, whose rage drives some impressive acts of violence and could be the only man who can win a gun fight with a sword… gun. The Hulk falls squarely under the barbarian class, his Jekyll and Hyde abilities almost a comic exaggeration of the Rage abilities common in all berserker types. And I’m sure we can all agree, it’s barbarian logic to get thrown into an army, even against his own principles, so Gimli fits the bill.

Rangers

Rangers are the most common support category character, but the wild-at-heart hunter and rover of the wilds often finds a special place in the party, or in the party roster. They often keep animal companions, such as a seven foot wookie. Yes I’m saying that Han Solo is a ranger, and why not a rogue or fighter? Aside from the “animal” companion, he’s also a wanderer who knows the stars better than most, he has been hunter and hunted, and as much as he may dislike it he’s also got more honour than the average thief. It’s fairly obvious that Legolas is a ranger, there’s no fighting that, an archer who can pass through wilderness without a trace, and Clint “Hawkeye” Barton is also a fairly sound call from amongst the Avengers.

But what of the last member of the Farscape party?

Rygel XVI

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The Dominar of Hyneria, ruler of over six hundred billion subjects, sadly deposed by his greedy cousin. He’s a fast talker, swift liar, gambler, thief, and generally worms his way out of trouble with words. Despite the lack of musical instrument, I believe that Rygel is a bard.

Here’s a character with some really rich and rambling backstory, much of which is probably made up. He’s generally useless, lacking in weapons and skills, except in some very weird circumstances in which his oddly specific talents are so brilliantly suited to the task that success seems like mere chance, even an embarrassing accident! Sure sounds like a bard to me.


So what do you say? Do you agree with the classes I’ve suggested for these characters? Spotted any other adventuring parties in film and television? Share them in the comments down below, or talk to me on our Facebook page.

 

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