On 2006-02-28, Bob the Fighter wrote:
Character classes are pretty unfashionable too, I'd say. I wonder if that'll make it in around #4 or so?
Classes, if used correctly, can provide archetypes, social roles within the setting, and serve as a macro of sorts for quick character generation. Granted, they won't fit in just *any* game, but they can have their uses.
The question at hand, then, would be: what settings would actually call for a strict delineation of social roles, particularly divisions that might give characters skills and abilities that are markedly different from one another. On one hand, classes could simply be rough sketches to follow. On the other hand, one could go farther (in a sense) than D+D does and demand that a particular class be visible or at least obvious in some fashion by its nature. If you've got class-as-social-caste, you're on the right track. In such a situation, however, it's not skills that are tightly guarded; it's knowledge and social privileges.
But dealing with issues of social caste can make for an extremely specific sort of game, one whose themes in that direction might be hard to push towards a more general, modern context.
Places to Go, People to Be (ptgptb.org) touched on this in much more detail (for 3ed. D+D, anyway) in issue 19.