Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer

Outclassed: Hybrid & Specialist Classes

Classes. The backbone of many a role-playing game. Whether you are a brave warrior or an ingenious spellcaster, your class is what defines the things you can or cannot due throughout the course of the game.

I’ve always been fascinated with class systems – probably due to my obsessions with PathfinderFinal Fantasy Tactics, and Baldur’s Gate – and as a result I often toy with the game design aspects of class design. One of my favourite exercises is to imagine how game classes relate to each other, and what factors dictate a player character’s lot in life.

For part two of my sure-to-be-sporadically-updated series Outclassed (part one can be found here), I have designed a branching class tree based on the concepts of hybrid and specialist classes. This sort of system is heavily based on the class trees found in Seiken Densetsu 3, where players are forced to make branching choices when progressing through classes. It also takes cues from Final Fantasy Tactics, where characters must start in a beginner role and master multiple, intermediate classes before moving to specialist options. Players start in the middle of the octagonal grid, then work outwards as they level-up.


The Squire, Apprentice, Acolyte, and Thief are all beginner (first tier) classes. Players in these roles are learning their trade, and draw from a very limited pool of abilities and equipment. These classes allow players some time to feel out what they like to do in battle, giving them some basic options before forcing a commitment to a specific play-style.

The Barbarian, Fighter, Rogue, and Archer are all intermediate (second tier) martial classes. Although all these classes rely on physical feats, they all focus in on radically different skill-sets.

  1. Barbarian: Light Armour, Closing Speed, Rage.
  2. Fighter: Weapon & Armour Mastery, Combat Maneuvers, Teamwork.
  3. Rogue: Deception, Flanking, Climbing Walls, Stealing.
  4. Archer: Ranged Damage, Trick Shots, Mobility.

The Wizard, Sorcerer, Priest, and Druid are all intermediate (second tier) magical classes. They all wield magic, but their powers are drawn from different sources and manifest themselves in different ways.

  1. Wizard: Arcane Magic, Abjuration, Transmutation, Enchantments.
  2. Sorcerer: Elemental Magic (Fire, Water, Earth, Wind).
  3. Priest: Holy Magic, Healing, Buffing, Turning Undead.
  4. Druid: Nature Magic, Battlefield Control, Animal Calling.

The Warlord, Shaman, Assassin, and Summoner are all advanced (third tier) specialist classes. Requiring progression through two classes of the same type – Druid and Cleric, for example – these roles emphasize reaching the apex of skill in a particular field. Combining two classes also creates emergent abilities, that wouldn’t be available to those in the intermediate tier.

  1. Warlord: Complete Weapon/Armour Mastery, Strategy and Tactics, Mounted Combat.
  2. Shaman: Primal & Wild Magic, Supernatural Abilities, Portents and Omens.
  3. Assassin: Finesse Weapons, Pressure Points, Poison, Stealth, Sniping.
  4. Summoner: Monster Summoning, Invocation, Conjuration.

The Paladin, Ranger, Bard, and Magus are all advanced (third tier) hybrid classes. Requiring progression through a martial class and a magical class – Fighter and Priest, for example – these roles are more versatile and adaptable than specialists. Although possessing some new abilities, hybrid classes tend to combine prior skills to create more powerful incarnations of them.

  1. Paladin: Auras, Combat Healing, Immunity to Status Effects, Smiting.
  2. Ranger: Animal Companions, Monster Lore, Tracking, Geomancy.
  3. Bard: Illusions, Inspiring Allies, Exotic Weapons, Magical Item Lore.
  4. Magus: Spell Combat, Elemental Strikes, Self-buffing.

Most of these classes are probably familiar to you if you’ve played a fantasy RPG before, and my goal certainly wasn’t to re-invent the wheel. I simply wanted to organize some archetypes (and some variations on them) in a compelling manner. I hope you all found this little thought exercise engaging, and I’ll bust out another edition of Outclassed when I’m short on content.

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By Michael
Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer