Contradiction 1 relates to something I noticed a while back: Old-style D&D combat (any kind of D&D combat for that matter) bears little resemblance to the give and take of pulp fantasy combat. OK, so it's not the most original observation that D&D combat is not realistic. But it's remarkable that even the general style of play of high-level D&D heroes is at odds with the cautious, life-or-death approach taken by even the greatest heroes of early 20th century fantasy literature.
But also, as Aaron Steele recently remarked, "One of the unique features of Dungeons and Dragons is the idea of the ADVENTURING PARTY." The vaunted pulp fantasy influences can't really account for this confluence of archetypes that quickly settled in a foursquare formation. Fafhrd and the Mouser, the Eternal Champion and his sidekicks are duos cut from essentially the same cloth. The Fellowship of the Ring may have contributed the "fantasy races," elf-dwarf ribbing and all, but their mission is completely different and they're missing a few key players.
I've personally rejected the neo-Old School arguments to drop thieves ("Hey, everyone's a thief") or cleric-types ("Hey, no room for goody-goodies in Hyboria"). Only recently have I realized why.
In the first place, even taking both measures at once will bring you no closer to your Weird Tales utopia; you'll look in vain for all those pulp adventure stories featuring the sword-wielding barbarian and his wizard buddy. Drop the wizard PCs, and you'll have a true pulp adventure game (resembling perhaps Searchers of the Unknown). But it won't be D&D, or even T&T.
In the second place, the four classes are classics because they set up instant character conflicts within the party, but on a tame enough level that the party can still work together. To illustrate:
|Silhouettes by Telecanter & myself|
The cleric-thief axis sets up moral debates and conflicts, encouraged by the altruistic nature of the cleric's gifts, and the acquisitive, loner nature of the thief's methods. I've had to express these in two ways because different play groups work differently with them. Some see the conflict as between the thief and the party (the labels in parentheses), others as seeing it as between the party and the rest of the world.
The moral axis may not work sometimes. It lets clerics and paladins be asshats by insisting on moral action detrimental to the party, and thieves and assassins be asshats by insisting on selfish action detrimental to the party. Things work out best, perhaps, when the thief advocates for the selfish and immediate interests of the party (as opposed to robbing sleeping companions) while the cleric advocates for the long-term moral interests of the party (as opposed to telling the truth to the Dark Lord's guards).
Perhaps these problems with the moral axis, or its suggestion that there is more than the looter ethos, leads some to reject its classes completely. I can't ... because that's not D&D. Despite all those problems, and implementation problems that persisted for twenty years, thieves and clerics nevertheless stuck around. I just don't see it as a positive to insist that the long-lived and very resilient party structure of the game is some sort of tumor that has to be excised to reach purity.
Contradiction 2 is coming up, and it leads in to my review and play guide for Tomb of the Iron God.