[MUD-Dev] Re: Massive brainstorm rant about an imaginary class system. (resent)

Travis Casey efindel at polaris.net
Sat Jul 11 14:18:48 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On 9 July 98, Till Eulenspiegel wrote:

> /rant on

You call this a rant?  You haven't seen a rant yet... :-)

> How I envision the class system working is a subcategorized
> class/occupation tree.  Each character picks a class (Warrior, 
> Mage, Rogue, Artisan) at level 'n' they can pick a 
> specialization.

> I am just extemporizing but I see it like :
> Class     Exclusive specializations

> Warrior:  Knight, Archer, Swordsman
> Mage:     Alchemist, Sorcerer, etc.
> Rogue:    Assassin, Thief, Ranger, etc.

> Artisan/Career specializations (available to any class)

> Artisan:  Blacksmith, healer, and other generic type skills    

Personally, I dislike class systems.  Most often they don't make much
sense in how they assign "special abilities" to different classes, or
in how advancement is handled.  In almost all cases, they stereotype
characters, thereby damaging roleplaying.  And, of course, most class
systems make many characters conceptions impossible.

With that in mind, I'd like to point out some illogical points and
possible problems in this sort of class breakdown, using the examples
you've given.

> I'd want to let my players have some freedom, so they could
> for instance be any class + 1 specialization of that class
> or one artisan specialization.  Some specializations would
> be limited .. like only warriors can be swordsmen however, 
> and being mages would require that both (or all) of the 
> specializations be taken up with magic.

I'm not sure what you mean by "both specializations ... taken up with
magic".  Does that mean that a mage only gets one specialization?  Or
that a mage gets two specializations, but they both have to be mage
specializations?  And in any event, why?  Mages who are also healers,
blacksmiths, or other artisan-type professions are common both in
fantasy literature and in the legends that the literature is based on.

Of course, if that's just the way you want magic to work in your
world, that's fine... magic doesn't have to make sense, after all.

> The Swordsman can parry, and learn advanced use of the sword
> thereby increasing his damage, attack rate and success as well
> as defense against swords.

Can parry?  And, I presume, other warriors can't?  Parrying is one of
the most basic things that *anyone* who's learning to fight with a
sword (or any other weapon that can be used to parry) will learn.  It
makes no sense to restrict it to a particular group.

All of the other abilities of a swordsman that are listed can easily
be handled without a special "swordsman" class -- simply make warriors
get better with the weapons they use most often, and get better at
defending against the weapons they most often defend against.

> The knight is trained in the use of plate mail and horsemanship.
> He gets a bonus when fighting from horseback, and suffers less
> penalties from using plate mail.  He can use heaver shields
> without stamina loss.

How does one train in the use of plate mail?  By wearing it and
practicing doing things in it?  If that's the case, though, then
anyone who can afford plate mail should be able to do it, not just

These ideas are an example of stereotyping -- a knight is simply
someone who's been knighted.  While *most* knights were trained in
fighting from horseback, and knights were the most likely group to own
plate mail, by no means did all of them do/have those things.  What if
I want to play a poor landless knight who doesn't own a horse and
can't afford a suit of plate mail?

Part of the problem with stereotyping and class systems comes just
from how classes are named -- if you name a class "knight", that
implies to players that *all* knights have to be members of that class.
If you're going to use classes, it's better to use more generic names
-- e.g., "heavy cavalry" instead of "knight."  It doesn't sound quite
as good, but it's more accurate, and therefore less likely to cause
confusion among the players.

> The point here is that there is a substantial difference to the
> career choices the player makes and each has strong abilities 
> that the other does not.  Players work best by relying on one
> another for their cross specialties.

Why?  This is an OK way of working things for an RPG system where you
expect that an adventuring group is almost always going to consist of
four to seven or so players, but why do this in a mud?

What if someone wants to play a loner who doesn't get along with
others?  Why is it important that each class have an ability that
other classes don't, when on a mud it's likely that there will always
be several people of each class on?

The only reasonable excuses I've seen for class systems are:

1.  To keep characters from being able to do everything.

2.  To prevent all characters from becoming the same.

3.  To allow each character to have a specialty that makes him/her
    useful to the party, so everyone has their own moment to shine.

IMHO, 1 and 2 are symptoms of problems in most RPGs:  that advancement
is too fast and there are too few abilities that are actually useful
in the game.  In the real world, very few people are capable of
mastering more than one or two fields -- those who try usually know
some about each one, but haven't mastered any of them.  If a game has
reasonable advancement, it should take too long for anyone to learn to
do everything well, so characters will specialize anyways.

If all the players in your world want to build characters who are the
same, it's a symptom that there's something wrong with your world.
There isn't a wide enough variety of skills that are actually *useful*
in the game... if there were, characters wouldn't be able to become
good enough at all of them to be useful, and thus would specialize.

The third excuse doesn't make much sense on a mud where there will
likely be dozens of each character type -- in a paper RPG, the group
has to pretty much stick together, so if there's nothing a particular
character can do in an adventure that no one else can, that
character's player may get bored.  On a mud, however, the player can
easily choose to go off and do something else if his/her character's
skills aren't needed by a particular group at the moment.  Further,
there's less of a feeling of "being special" when there are plenty of
other players around with the same abilities.

> /rant off

Instead of a class system, you might want to consider using a
skill-based system with templates:  a player selects a character
template, which includes a package of skills and possibly other
things as well -- like equipment and advantages.  The player could
then be allowed to customize the template to some extent.

For those who can't find a template that fits, you could offer a
method for building characters from scratch.

A template is IMHO better, because it merely represents what that
character has learned and gained up to the point of starting the game
-- it doesn't prevent the character from then branching off in another

       |\      _,,,---,,_        Travis S. Casey  <efindel at io.com>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'
     '---''(_/--'  `-'\_)

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