It turns out that your starting Class does in fact impact what roles you can play as you advance through the game – or at least the first role you play. By choosing Gladiator, I was choosing to be a tank, and a tanking Paladin at level 30. That was surprising given the text describing the Gladiator certainly makes it sound like it could quite easily be a dual-wielding DPS type:
Gladiators specialize in the handling of all manner of one-handed blades, from daggers to longswords, be they single- or double-edged, straight or curved. Tracing their roots to the Coliseum, where the roar of the crowd reigns supreme, these melee combatants have learned to seamlessly flow between attack and defense in a dance that delights the eye. Making use of their skill with the shield, gladiators can also draw the attention and attacks of an enemy upon themselves, thereby protecting their comrades from harm.
Closer reading does reveal that you have a shield, which I thought must be optional but I guess is required, and does point toward tanking. Nogamara pointed me to this excellent wiki which proves the point, and lays out what can be expected of you based on your initial Class choice.
All of which means you can’t be quite as casual about picking your first Class as I had thought. For example I probably don’t want to be tanking on my first sight of dungeons at level 16 without first getting to know the game.
Some of the Jobs don’t require base Classes but aren’t available until level 30+, so I can rule them out immediately. I don’t like magic roles, so that narrows it down further – to a ‘Disciple of War’ (instead of Magic)1 in FFXIV terms. And if I don’t want to tank – and being a new player it’s definitely advisable not to, despite how much I enjoy the role – then it’s down to the melee and ranged physical DPS roles: Lancer/Dragoon, Pugilist/Monk, Rogue/Ninja, and Archer/Bard.
Hm but wait a moment. Nogamara also levelled a “Bard + Marauder + Conjurer at the same time“. Now two of those are base Classes (the Marauder and Conjurer), which means you must be able to swap Classes as well as Jobs as you level?
According to Wikipedia, players can ‘change their class at will by changing weapons’. That sounds too easy. But apparently it’s (almost) correct. While I can’t find an official reference, Reddit and various forums seem to say that once you complete your core Class quest at level 10, you can go to other Class trainers and ask to be trained. Then you can switch Class entirely just by equipping that Class’s weapon.
That’s kind of amazing. In Warcraft you’re locked in to your Class at Level 1, though you do have some flexibility later with swapping Specialisations within that Class. Even worse is SWtOR where your Specialisation, or Advanced Class in SWtOR-speak, is also locked – I’ve stopped entire characters when paralysed by that choice. FFXIV on the other hands lets a single character do everything. Something the Class wiki entry confirms: “Important: You can level all classes and jobs on one character.”
The full implications of this are kind of staggering, and the inventory management must be a real challenge! I love alts, but having one character who can do literally anything, including all the non-combat professions is certainly tempting. I’ve often wanted to be able to have multiple crafting and gathering professions on a Warcraft character, or to be able to play both Paladin and Warrior tanks on the same character. I do wonder how you’d manage to keep it all in your head, and keep track of who exactly you are in role-play terms. In fact role-play or head-canon is probably the main reason to maintain alts in most games.
In any case, all of this makes it sound like I can comfortably start off on my Gladiator to get a feel for the game – and I assume being a tank it means they have good survivability early game. Then, when the time comes, I can branch out and start looking at the DPS Classes in order to explore group dungeons. Nogamara also pointed out that there is a buff called an Armoury Bonus that means you get “+100% additional experience for secondary classes that are lower level than your highest level class”. So levelling the second Class will be faster – very nice.
It’s strange to be on day four of this endeavour and still not actually playing. But one of the interesting things about MMOs, above all over games, is that the out-of-game research component is often just as valuable as the in-game. The prime example of that in my experience is probably Secret World Legends, which more-or-less required extensive internet research in things as like as Latin translations and obscure geek-lore in order to progress the game.
This FFXIV research is different to that – it’s learning how the mechanics work and ensuring you’re not starting off on the wrong path. I enjoy it, and am kind of glad to have the excuse to delve into the intricacies of Classes and Jobs before setting foot in game.