Friday, December 11, 2009

The Class Name "Fighting-Man" and Dune...

Dungeons and Dragons originally used the term "Fighting-man" for the adventuring warrior character class. In later editions it was changed to "Fighter," presumably in order to resolve the matter of female characters who were "Fighting-Men."

I've seen a lot of scorn heaped upon the term Fighting-Man, which is usually roundly mocked and snickered at. I'm presuming those who denigrate the term are unfamiliar with the source literature...

I'm sure many of us internet-OSR types have made the same pilgrimage, but a few years ago I made a point of reading as many books from the AD&D DMG "Appendix N" as I could get my hands on. This was greatly facilitated by an excellent local bookstore, Pulp Fiction Books, which I highly recommend.

In this literature the term "fighting-man" is used almost universally to designate soldiers, warriors, mercenaries, etc. "He had the cold eyes and savage scars that marked him as an experienced fighting-man," "We have fifty fighting-men available Lord Tyrant, with ten-score arrived on the morrow!"

Frank Herbert's Dune uses the term "Fighting-Man"...

Some say the appellation Fighting-Man is clunky, and crude. I say it's a rough word for a rough job. And honestly, I've always found the name "Fighter" to be kind of stupid, and far more dumb-sounding than Fighting-Man whenever I thought about it. I preferred "Warrior."

I presume the clunky issue was the reasoning for changing "Magic-User" to "Mage" and than "Wizard." I used to be down with Mage, nowadays I'm all about calling them "Sorcerers." A much more cool name that is far more evocative of the source literature that influences my campaign.

Some, rightfully so, point out the issue of female characters. It seems obvious to me, in my old age, that using the name "Fighting-Woman," or even "Amazon," "Valkyrie," "Shield Maiden," "Sword Bride," "Knightrix" or whatever else seems appropriate and acceptable to the player and DM. This strikes me as the sort of thing that, if he was questioned about, it would get the late Mr. Gygax to tut-tut about how the rules were never meant to be followed to the letter and so forth.

So when I started my old-school AD&D campaign, Fighters became Fighting-Men and Magic-Users were relabeled Sorcerers. And I love it. However, if someone prefers to use the term Fighter instead due to concerns about gender bias and so forth, I can understand and sympathize with their position.


  1. Doesn't Burroughs use the term Fighting-man as well? Anyway I'm down with it, it covers both warriors and soldiers all at once and anyone else who kicks ass for a living and has a penis.

    I never liked "fighter" either- and "Magic User" just plain sucks, it sounds really clinical to me, and really doesn;t spark my imagination at all. I prefer sorcerer as well, although even something like spell-caster is better than magic user.

  2. Fighting-Man or even Fighting-Woman both sound too cool to mock! I'd rather be a coarse fighting-man than a refined warrior, or the vanilla sounding fighter.
    Sorcerer or Wizard both float my boat, but I think I prefer the former. Wizard might be too friendly of a term for someone engaged in the dark art.

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  4. Fighting-men and sorcerers are how it should be! I'm not really down with wizards because that makes me think of gray-beards with pointy hats and sticks.

  5. I think Fighting Man and Magic User are good at reflecting how vague the definitions of the class were in OD&D times. It was basically up to the player whether his Fighting Man was a knight, thief, ranger, etc, and his Magic User a dark sorcerer, clever magician, wise wizard, etc.

  6. What? are you not satisfied with "Veteran" or "Medium"? What are those Fighting-Men you are talking about...

  7. "Sword Bride!?"
    It's nice to see that even women with Objectum-Sexual predelictions can enjoy some role-playing labels as well.

    You are a true gentleman of the avant-garde tradition.

  8. And your dry wit, Cotton, is straight out of the salons! Bravo!

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