On the venerial RPG.net for a, there is a wonderful thread.
Go, read the first few pages at least and return.
Don’t worry, I’ll wait!
Modern D&Ds use the term “class” to refer to profession, which I’ve always thought was kind of strange.
Originally it was synonymous with”type”, what type of hero your character was. That’s why race as class wasn’t as galling; class was just your “flavor”.
In that thread and a spinoff thereof, AndersGabrielson suggested a division of classes that really tickled my fancy, reproduced here. I diverge both from his ideas and the thread’s framing device, but this is my soapbox; bear with me, Gentle Reader.
Hero(ine): a paladin, knight, or champion. Martially oriented, generically capable, able to improve their allies’ morale. An unreligious, “favored son of the village” paladin or even cleric; martial defender/leaders.
Trickster: a thief, rogue, traveler, troublemaker. Not as socially acceptable as the Hero(ine) nor as armed or armored, but much more adept at sneaking, stealing, lying, charming, selling, backstabbing, insinuating… Thief and bard. Martial striker/controllers, I guess.
Sage: wise man or woman; a healer and counselor and diviner and alchemist and lorekeeper. The primary spellcaster, thus wizard/druid/cleric, but probably less blasty than D&D usually is. Arcane/divine “controllers”… Spellcasters, man. 4e terminology fails me.
Prince(ss): not necessarily literally royalty, the prince(ss) is the rest of the Hero(ine)’s cleric/warlord/bard dealie. They aid and inspire their group to keep going in the face of adversity and use social grace to disarm their foes. More pure leaders, with some skill-monkey to ’em.
Free(wo)man: other names considered: servant, steward, laborer, worker. This is your Samwise, your Doli, your Nodwick, your Puddleglum; a perpetually put-upon good soul who can survive almost anything. Good at crafts, part thief, part artificer, part mule.
Familiar: a talking animal or wise pet or ancestral spirit or . A partial spellcaster and support role who bonds strongly to one or more characters in the party. A scout, sort of, and a B/X dwarf.
Outsider: foreign sorcerers, djinni, efreeti, dragonblooded. Grab-bags of spellcasting and other skills, with much more emphasis on flashy effects, but less casting in general. The B/X “elf”.
Later posters suggested some additional classes, of which the only one that appealed to me was
Beast: a talking animal or ogre or barbarian or maybe even unicorn or balrog or dragon, strong and maybe a little mystical. Ferocious.
More followups later.