[MUD-Dev] Thoughts on Classless systems

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Sun Jul 23 13:59:05 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

I've gotten behind, and rather than replying to a dozen or so
different messages on classless systems, I thought I'd just put my
comments here, especially since some of them are not in reply to any
particular message.

The earliest type of RPG class was what's sometimes called a
"restrictive" class; it completely determines the character's
abilities, and, in so doing, implicitly defines what the character
can't do.  This sort of class system leads to heavy stereotyping:
all fighters are X, all wizards are Y, no wizard can do Z, etc.
Such systems sometimes have multiclass rules, but they're not really
designed to handle multiclass characters and it shows.  D&D and
first and second edition AD&D are examples of this type.

However, this isn't the only sort of class system that exists.  Some
games have what might be called "channeling" classes.  In these, a
character can learn to do anything (generally via a skill system), but
it's easier for characters to learn certain things, which are
determined by their class.  The character's class also often sets
starting skill levels.  Such systems usually restrict characters to
having just one class.  Rolemaster is an example of this type of

Another is additive classes.  In these, a class is simply a package of
skills; characters can take more than one class, in which case they
have the skills of all the classes they've taken.  Advancing in the
class advances the skills associated with it, and there's generally a
way to buy skills that don't belong to any class you have.  This gives
a sort of classless class system; you can effectively "change classes"
at any time simply by stopping developing one class and starting to
develop another.  Fantasy wargaming is an example of this sort of
system, and 3rd edition D&D is approaching this sort of system.

(Note that some RPGs use one of these class systems, but call it
something else -- "professions", for example.)

Some systems also have a concept of "flavored" experience points --
that is, experience points that can only be used or are best used to
advance a certain class.  For example, in Fantasy Wargaming, every
character has three levels -- a Combat/Adventuring level, a Religious
level, and a Magical level.  It takes 1000 experience points to go up
a level in any of these (instead of having increasing experience
requirements, the system makes it harder to gain experience as you go
up).  Experience points come in three flavors, one for each level,
and are applied only to the level they're flavored for.  Thus,
fighting things raises a character's Combat/Adventuring level, but not
his/her other levels.  If a character wants to become a great mage,
he/she has to start doing magic in order to gain Magical experience.

On the subject of attributes/"stats", I'd like to say that
raisable/not raisable are not the only options.  Some systems have a
mixture -- some attributes can be raised, but others can't.  Some
systems limit how much attributes can be raised by -- not simply by
saying "you can't raise stats past these racial limits", but based on
what the character's starting stats were.

The Palladium RPGs have an interesting idea -- skills that raise
stats.  For example, a character can take a "bodybuilding" skill to
raise his/her strength.

There are also some RPGs that basically abandon the idea of
"attributes" as a separate thing; how much a character can lift is
determined by a Lifting skill.  Others have attributes only as the top
levels of a skill tree -- a strong character is simply one who has put
a lot of points into strength-related skills.

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