A week or two after the Ironcore team, I played through another Final Fantasy game. When selecting characters for FF variants, there seems to be two clear tiers of power. Fighters, Black Belts, and Red Mages seem to dominate every roster, while the Thief pales besides the attackers and both monochromatic mages can't match the versatility of the Red.
So I played a game dedicated to the Weak Sisters. No variant restrictions other than the party composition: one Thief, one White Mage, and one Black Mage, with the fourth character left dead. It didn't really work out to be interesting enough to write up a report. They had enough offense to beat the game, but had to grind up to about level 32 for enough HP to survive Lich and the rest of the Temple. This offense consisted mostly of spellcasting items, with the big spells (NUKE and FADE) saved for Fiend battles.
In fact, most parties play the entire second half of the game almost entirely through items. Once that Zeus Gauntlet and Heal Staff are claimed, pretty much every fight besides bosses is about using your unlimited magic charges. Against a random battle with six or eight monsters, there's no point in physically attacking, since the hit-all-enemy spells will usually kill all targets within about two rounds. This is effective, but tends to converge most FF late-games along the same path, since that item abuse is always available regardless of the party composition.
I was also thinking back to the Berserkers variant, and reflecting that the variant gameplay actually missed the concept. The chief variant task for the Zerks was to invent means to compensate for their lack of defense. That was interesting, but a party isn't truly berserking who spends more time thinking about healing than fighting.
Enter a new variant: The Brawlers. The variant rule is one and only one: No battle commands may be used except FIGHT and RUN.
This means no magic or item usage at all in battle. This will play out significantly differently to the Berserkers, who despite their physical capabilities still spent less later time attacking than abusing items. And unlike the Berserkers, the Brawlers have a hard cap on healing for each dungeon: the 99 heal potions plus any White Magic spells.
Sulla's Iron Fists may seem similar, but not in the execution. Their game plan was all about setting up magical defensive shields and healing to win prolonged battles, with a good dose of item abuse as well. My Brawlers are all about literally nothing but attacking.
So it's time to select our party. No weak sisters here, of course. A Red Mage is tempting for access to the noncombat utility spells LIFE and EXIT and WARP, but I want to play a purist party with nothing but max physical offense. So the only question is to pick a balance between Fighters and Black Belts. The natural choice is two of each, since there are two sets of good armor (Opal/Dragon/Aegis armor and shields). And a third fighter often has trouble finding a good weapon; he'll be stuck with a Silver Sword as compared to two Ice Swords for a while, and the third-best endgame weapon after Masmune and Xcalber is the rather pedestrian Defense.The Brawlers