Back to index

The copyright situation for this article is unclear. It does not belong to the author of this site. Please see the copyright notice. If you have information about the copyright contact me!

Classless Systems

by Ben Chambers

I have been planning on moving to a classless system. Most of my ideas come from the Urban Desire project, which I feel has some great ideas for increasing the role playability of muds. The first thing you are wondering is probably "Why a classless system, does not every RPG need classes?". Well it is true that many RPGs have classes, but it is false that they are necessary. It makes sense not to have classes. Bill Gates was not born a businessman, he could very possibly have been a sportsman. RPGs may have started with classes, but they do not have to have them to be RPGs!

an axisymmetric oblate horizon

An Axisymmetric oblate horizon- not easy to pronounce!

In a classless system the things each player does molds them into a persona or character. For example, if in combat I always use combat skills, I am going to become more like a fighter. This eliminates the difficulty of multi-classing, while at the same time allowing for players to have a broader horizon, or a smaller horizon, depending on their personal preference. One thing that I feel is important is that there is only so far a player can advance their skills - a maximum cap on their skills needs to be in place. The level cap should be beyond the point at which one would have learned all their skills to the maximum. Also in a classless system it may be wise to allow the training of statistics so that if you do have an infinite level system (which I feel is really cool) you need some incentive to continue advancing beyond the skills cap.

In a class-based system you would have to implement complex formulae for multi-classing, etc, and you do not get the same kind of realism that a classless system would have. Also, I feel that class-based systems are not as entertaining for a player, and are harder to advance in. In a classless system, I could start learning fighting skills and then broaden into magic skills after I can "survive" in the mud world. Also, I have noticed that in many fantasy books there are not necessarily class-based characters. For example, you could have a paladin that can heal people, a mage that can steal, etc. If I wanted to be a battlemage in a class-based system, someone would have to make that class specifically in the list of classes. In a classless system I can merely train in both combat and magical skills.

The first thing I realized when planning to develop a classless system was that everything had to be skill based. Without classes the only difference between a wizard and fighter would be the fighting skills. So then basically the way I am planning on working it is that you choose a race, and each race starts out with access to some basic skill categories. As you increase in experience you gain access to more categories. The levels for each category are race-specific, so a level 10 troll can learn combat skills that an elf needs to be level 15 or so to learn.

When you use a skill in a category your overall proficiency in that category expands. Each skill in that category has a specified proficiency that you must have before you can begin using it. So, say Boffo is a level 10 troll- he has learned from his teacher the existence of a branch of combat (eg: ninjitsu). He has a proficiency in ninjitsu of 25%. He can use ninja chop, ninja kick and a couple other skills. Every time he uses these, his ninjitsu proficiency benefits, and so does his proficiency in the skill he is using. If he "ninja chop"s enough, his proficiency reaches 100%. After reaching 100%, Boffo has a chance that when he uses "ninja chop" he discovers a variation skill. (The variation part would be really hard to code, and as such is optional).

A classless system would need player-made clans instead of guilds. A level 15 player could make a clan if he had the support of two level 10 players and a lot of cash. He could build his clan hall as long as the clan could afford it. The leader could set certain requirements to get into the clan that would then cause into to function somewhat like a guild.

A classless system provides a way to simulate "real-life" more accurately, but at the same time it is harder for both the player and the coder. I feel that this is a worthwhile challenge, as the overall entertainment value is a great benefit. I would enjoy zapping somebody to death with lightning bolt and then follow it up with pick pocket or something along those lines. It could be an extremely easy way to code multi-classing, and would be an enjoyable way for each player to customize his/her skills.

Please note: The Urban Desire Project is NOT complete. It is in version 3. It may be found mirrored on my site, along with versions 1 and 2.