Why have classes at all?

So I've been reading around a bit here and there to see what the general feelings of the community are.

Generally speaking:



  •  People don't want to be pigeonholed into a class's restrictions on race and alignment. (Racially speaking, when a race has a +2 to something that only that particular class uses so if you want to play that class you better darn well be playing as that race)




  • People want full freedom to decide what their characters are capable of doing.





  • People want their characters to have the capability of being wildly unpredictable and different compared to the next.



The only difference between characters at the moment is more or less what we imagine them to be. I thought it was hilarious how every Smuggler in Star Wars: The Old Republic gets a wookie companion regardless of their progression. Isn't this the same as having every single Ranger getting an animal companion and a favored enemy?

I imagine an assembly line that our characters are forced down, and at every certain interval various parts and additions are screwed or bolted into place regardless of how we feel about it and a person could just look down at the end to see how they're going to end up eventually.

Is that really how our characters' lives should unfold? Or should our characters have their own opinion of what happens in their given situation? I believe that a 'Ranger' type of character should have the option of saying, "To heck with casting spells, I want to learn more hunting skills and to shoot a bow better." and that simply can't happen short of writing more and more books with countless class variants, cross-role base classes, and prestige classes.

So if this is what people want:

Why have classes at all? 

Why take the power of creation and customization away from the players? Why not simply create a set of guidelines for a player to progress through challenges and situations in a way that appeals to them?
Having a set of suggessted progressions for different roles would definately be a positive thing, especially for new players, but the ultimate choice of progression should stay with the player and by proxy the character.

~~~

My personal opinion (I'm no game designer) on how to accomplish this would be to allow the player to spend their experience points on their progression, and in that way they would be progressing very gradually and slowly until they at some point look back and see how far they've gotten without the need to compare levels like a percentage of completion toward a goal.

This would not only help tear down the wall between mechanics and role play, but bring a sense of individuality to the characters we can create.
Within only a few years of D&D's apearance in 1974, there were games that were taking the classless or skill-based aproach.  A prime example was RuneQuest, which was quite good, and did, indeed, let characters advance (learn, really) in an incremental, mostly self-directed fashion.  There were no classes or levels, though very experienced characters could choose to become Shaman, Rune Priests, or Rune Lords, which were a bit like classes, in that they opened up specific options, but still allowed the character to progress in quite a piecemeal fashoin, choosing spells to sacrifice for, skills to learn, and so forth. 

D&D never went down that road, probably because it would have meant a loss of identity for the game.  4e didn't even dare deviate from tradition so much as to eliminate classes, and WotC has been forced by sheer, virulent, unreasoning, reactionary hatred, to backpeddle from the changes it did make, and rush a new edition years early.

I can not immagine that classless D&D is on the table.  I suspect designers would be tarred and feathered by angry mobs of nerds with pitchforks and torches if they tried.


That said, it's not a bad idea.  Other games have done it and done it well.  And, 4e - I assume unintentionally - laid some groundwork that could take the game more or less 'classless.' 

If you were to take the 4e AEDU progression, and use if for all characters. But, take powers of classes and pool them under Source, then take the features of classes and boil them down to Role features, you could have a classless game where a player just choose Source & Role, and picks powers and features to suit.  You could then layer on Race, Theme, Proffession, Weapon choice, and myriad other things that open up power swaps for as much or as little customization as the player cares for.  In a sense it'd be classless, in a different sense it'd be like having as many classes as you wanted...

 

 

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Yaknow its funny when people use such wording such as unreasoning and reactionary hatred.

When people simply did what one is supposed to do when they don' t like something.  They didn't buy it.  And that is honestly all that happened.  They didn't pay for a game that they didn't enjoy the mechanics of, or the way Wizards was handling it.


Methinks some 4e players think too highly of their favorite game system, and have issues understanding that not everybody will like what they like.
Shadowrun is a rpg that I have played for a few years along with D&D that does not use a true class system. Thier player's guide offers some premade characters  and starting equipment that would prove useful to a player that wanted to accomplish x with their character.

Character creation starts with a blank template and you spend build point to add on certian character attributes, skill points, knowledge points, and equipment. I found the system really rewarding to have such a wide range of choices. In fact it was through playing this game that I feel I really grew as a role player. Anyway I can see how a classless system could not only work but be really effective at the same time.

 

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

This is one of those things that goes beyond a sacred cow and into the territory of fundamental aspects of the game. It's something that pretty much everyone knows aboutit. Find someone who'd never even consider playing D&D, and mention that you play it, and they'll probably make a smart-ass remark about you being a level 12 wizard. (Or accuse you of satanism, but that's a whole other thing.) You can make a perfectly fine game with no classes at all, and people have. But it wouldn't be D&D, any more than an edition without dragons would be D&D.
Rhymes with Bruce
I don't see why both systems couldn't be incorporated. A generic "adventurer" class that uses advancement points to do whatever a player wanted. Perhaps this is a separate manual. But it would allow players to build exactly the type of character you wanted to build.

And from that well, you can build the pre-concieved archetypes, which would be nothing more than using the same free-for-all system, with specific decisions already made for players.

No biggy.
This is one of those things that goes beyond a sacred cow and into the territory of fundamental aspects of the game. It's something that pretty much everyone knows aboutit. Find someone who'd never even consider playing D&D, and mention that you play it, and they'll probably make a smart-ass remark about you being a level 12 wizard. (Or accuse you of satanism, but that's a whole other thing.) You can make a perfectly fine game with no classes at all, and people have. But it wouldn't be D&D, any more than an edition without dragons would be D&D.




you're right, having a class is fundamental to D&D. Over all it's a balancing act between a few core issues. 

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

I love playing shadowrun, it's a great system, but D&D should always have classes, hit points, magic, and traps. Without any of those things, it doesn't feel the same. A reworking of the multiclassing system would be a much better option, I think.
The Usherwood Expansion for OSRIC provided a "Jack-of-All-Trades" Class that was effectively a classless character.  (Yes, a class that's classless, I know.)  It allowed players to pick options from any class they want in a relatively balanced way.  They could incorporate an option like that.
Didn't Arcana Unearthed have an option with 3 classes?  caster, fighter, and skill guy?  and all class features bascially became feats?

something like that could be done, so ranger/barbarian/etc are feats or talant options under the fighter class.  cleric/wizard/druid are feats and talents under caster, etc. 

What if we did both.  What if you picked your class.  Say Fighter.  Then under fighter you had a list of skills that avoided magic (Since fighters should not be casting spells) and maybe brushed a few rogue skills (at slightly higher levels than rogues would have got them) and you spend your xp on the skills in the tree that you way.

So if you want to be more of the damage dealer you could specialize in 2 handed weapons or dual wielding and focus on damage. 

If you wanted to take a beating you focused on toughness and the ability to wear heavy armor and get more out of it.

If you wanted more of a swashbuckler then you stayed in lighter armor and picked up some of the rogue skills as they became available.

I Larp and in our Larp fighters can pick up rogue skills but they cost more, rogues can pick up fighter skills but they cost more.  This allows you to have a Core class but still brush up against other classes that you want.

Heck you could even allow fighters to pick up magic but they would cost more/be higher in the tree to pick up.

Man I hope that makes sense.

The majority of gamers I have meet over the years overwhelmingly prefer skill-based. I'm odd I prefer class based. I can go into a lot of reasons why, but what it manly comes down to is. I like being able to see what my character is right from the start, one word like fighter or cleric represents at least half of what my character is and can do. It's almost a wysiwig type of approach which I personally find attractive.

Still I'm not dismissive of people who would like classes to go away. Perhaps due to the modular design of the ruleset we'll see a classesless option. But ultimately for me I really dislike the idea.
Didn't Arcana Unearthed have an option with 3 classes?  caster, fighter, and skill guy?  and all class features bascially became feats?

something like that could be done, so ranger/barbarian/etc are feats or talant options under the fighter class.  cleric/wizard/druid are feats and talents under caster, etc. 


Yeah, I remember something like that. One second... found it. Never tried it, but I was always curious.
Rhymes with Bruce

Class-less systems work for certain systems really well. Fallout (in most of its iterations) is a good example of a class-less system in the CRPG world. But these systems have a lot of differences with D&D besides the lack of a clear-cut class system.


Overall, I think classes are part of what defines D&D. Sure, you could arguably create a cleric, a mage, a rogue, or a fighter using a class-less system, but how many people would really do that instead of just dabbling in as many things as they could until they were a mesh of all of the above. While that works for certain systems, I think D&D inherently promotes playing roles not only in terms of storytelling and social interaction, but also as a fundamental character of the rules. Removing classes, I think, more than anything else, would kind of rule D&D as something other than D&D.


Of course, an optional supplement allowing for the creation of your own class wouldn't be an idea. But I think classes, should stay, and in fact, should be significantly more unique than they were in 4e.

I'm definitely in favor of a point buy system. Or maybe a hybrid similar to what Warhammer uses. Not specifically similar to Warhammer, but just the idea.
The majority of gamers I have meet over the years overwhelmingly prefer skill-based. I'm odd I prefer class based. I can go into a lot of reasons why, but what it manly comes down to is. I like being able to see what my character is right from the start, one word like fighter or cleric represents at least half of what my character is and can do. It's almost a wysiwig type of approach which I personally find attractive.

Still I'm not dismissive of people who would like classes to go away. Perhaps due to the modular design of the ruleset we'll see a classesless option. But ultimately for me I really dislike the idea.



But then the answer for folks who prefer that option is simple: to have pre-mapped progressions availiable. Those could fill out the 'classes' that people want while still having the flexibility others want.

For me personally, my character is what my character does, and if he wants to fight like a fighter and cast out evil  by the power of his gods then I would describe him as such with as much connotation as calling him a paladin or a cleric.

A rose by any other name and whatnot. 

Class-less systems work for certain systems really well. Fallout (in most of its iterations) is a good example of a class-less system in the CRPG world. But these systems have a lot of differences with D&D besides the lack of a clear-cut class system.


Overall, I think classes are part of what defines D&D. Sure, you could arguably create a cleric, a mage, a rogue, or a fighter using a class-less system, but how many people would really do that instead of just dabbling in as many things as they could until they were a mesh of all of the above. While that works for certain systems, I think D&D inherently promotes playing roles not only in terms of storytelling and social interaction, but also as a fundamental character of the rules. Removing classes, I think, more than anything else, would kind of rule D&D as something other than D&D.


Of course, an optional supplement allowing for the creation of your own class wouldn't be an idea. But I think classes, should stay, and in fact, should be significantly more unique than they were in 4e.




I'm not arguing that parties should not be balanced, nor that certain characters shouldn't excel at certain things. I'm simply saying that such a classless system would more easily support cross-role characters as well as parties of a smaller size.

"Classes" as they are could definately stay as archetypes for people who want their progression and role planned out from the start, but should definately be modifiable in a very easy way without the need to guess at balance.
Id like to see them get rid of classes in a way: what friends and I did some time ago to try out was we made a system where you roll; choose your stat locations how you want.  But then, you get a specific # of 'seed pts'.  it could be like 1d4+5 or 1d6+5, etc.   Races, grant seed pts as well.
The seeds represents aspects.  So each character is made of several basic seeds: warrior, wizard, rogue, cleric, druid

Now, instead of levelling in the normal way, what we did was split up certain things based on seeds.  For example, fireball spell could be a wizard seed 12, while magic missile would be seed 2.  Wish would be seed 50, etc.  BUt they do not represent levels; instead, they represent general power.  so some level 9 spells from 3.5e may be moved down to seed 20, while stuff like timestop, etc could be much higher like 50. 

For warriors stream, BAB, hit bonuses, etc advance faster based on the warrior seed level.  rogue, druid and cleric have similar basis based on skills, magic, hit bonuses, etc.

Now, when your total seeds get to specific #s, you can choose specific #s of abilities/powers/features.  These would be basically all the class powers put into a list and with either a total seed requirement or specific seed requirements (ie. warrior, rogue, etc). 

What this did, you could customize a character however you want, but you could still be a fighter with a super high BAB, etc.  You could still be a pure wizard; you don't have too.

it also meant super powerful spells that some 4e fans didn't want in the game due to balance could still be used; just move them to higher seeds. Most players may game to a total seed level of 40, but you could easily play to 50, 80, 100. 

On top of that, we also (still use this) was turn spells into components.  You add up the components you want for a spell, and it makes a DC and you need to make a spellcraft check to cast it.  You could try to cast a more powerful effect at a lower level if your groupis in trouble, but chance of miscast is high, where you can't handle it and nothing happens or something bad happens, and we limited spell cast due to endurance based on con bonus, etc.  it meant at higher levels, easier effects you could do with no effort, but still chance to screw up high level spells as well.  Risk vs reward.  It also allowed lots of customization in players really creating what they/party want.

We liked it; every system has good and bad.  can't wait to see if D&D Next is worth moving from Pathfinder/3.5E for....

I doubt it will look anything like that; but just some ideas

Sanjay
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A character advantage/disadvantage system like GURPS or Shadowrun or anything like that are all well and good for those systems but in an actual level based game play system I believe it would not work, and that's not what we've come to expect from D&D. I have been developing and playing my own space opera tabletop rpg over the last few months, and have discovered many things that have gone into game design choices about entire systems of games and these are just some ideas of how a classless system in D&D could work, jumping off of the 4e platform on it for a new edition. IF D&D were to deviate in a way that made looser class distinctions I think 4e was a good base for that system to jump off of. A power system in place like 4e establishing each specific power's damage/effects, and additional abilities are scaled to a level.

A classless D&D system could work similar to that, where you have a base character with base stats, HP, skills, feats and the like that are additionally modified by race and feats, then making powers from power sources similar to 4e but allow character's to pick and choose as they like. Martial, Arcane, Primal, Psionic and the like could be the power sources these powers could be less tied with specific ability scores and more generalized able to be modified with feats further. Skills could still be based on abilities with ease in the system. Every character levels based on experience and progresses equally, but the actual abilities, skills, feats, and powers they choose defines who they are and what they want to call themselves. Not just a cookie cutter class with a few choices each level, but full choice in character progression.

Each power source could have X number of powers per level per action type (Standard, move, minor, at-will, encounter, daily, attack, defense, what-have-you.) for the player to choose from. The player at each level as determined by balancing, could have X number of slots for each type of power. Example say....cleave, say it's a level 1 martial standard action a character is allowed at level 1 to choose one attack/standard/at-will power for the level.

Just an idea for a classless system. It allows plenty of versatility as a character can just choose from what power they want at each level, allows easily game balancing mechanics as each power can be balanced against another at each level, allows great merchandising capabilities for WotC as they can just pump out power cards from power sources for players to buy.

Monsters could run off the same system assigning different monstrous abilities with monstrous base stats and then pick and choose monster powers by level available. Say a dragon has x in each ability, y in hp, blah blah blah in speed, set natural elemental origin. Then pick and choose powers from your powers reservoir and build custom dragons. Yay! Tons of customization possibilities without the need for breaking down base mechanics and building from the ground up.

Feats could be geared more towards powers, power types, power sources and base stat attributes. Most feats could add scaling bonuses as the characters level. So each and every feat is felt throughout the character's progression from gaining it.

Just my idea off the top of my head for a classless D&D I could get a lot more specific but it would just be me rattling on about how customizable it is and such. Happy gaming.
Posted by RaddahRaddah:
Why have classes at all? 

Why take the power of creation and customization away from the players? Why not simply create a set of guidelines for a player to progress through challenges and situations in a way that appeals to them?
Having a set of suggessted progressions for different roles would definately be a positive thing, especially for new players, but the ultimate choice of progression should stay with the player and by proxy the character.

~~~

My personal opinion (I'm no game designer) on how to accomplish this would be to allow the player to spend their experience points on their progression, and in that way they would be progressing very gradually and slowly until they at some point look back and see how far they've gotten without the need to compare levels like a percentage of completion toward a goal.

Because classless systems are terrible? :P That's my being overly zealous expressing my opinion, of course, I know many people don't agree. But I hate classless systems in general. Mostly for the exact reason you stated second: the slow, gradual progression of spending your experience points to improve things a tiny bit at a time. B-O-R-I-N-G. I love the rush of gaining a level in D&D and getting several things all at once. Also, that way I don't have to be nitpicky worrying about every little aspect of advancement in between every session; I can focus on the actual playing, then when I level, I do it all at once, and get back to playing my character.

As others have said, I also believe that class(like race and level) is an integral part of D&D. You could take it out, but it wouldn't feel like D&D anymore. Not only that, but classes are very helpful to new players--they can open up the book and say "I want to be a wizard!"--well, here it is! You can argue that pre-made builds mitigate that, and they do to a certain extent. But pre-made builds create some problems: what if you have someone who is afraid of making a lousy character, so they never stray from the pre-made builds? Congratulations, they're essentially playing a class system anyway. On the other hand, what if there's someone who refuses to use(or at least use all of) a pre-made build, and constantly makes characters whose power level is difficult to judge ahead of time? Classless systems are great at making characters who have lots of talents and are good at nothing. This problem applies to advancement as well--new players can have a tougher time knowing what to take to not 'waste' their xp.
Just thought you should know. the countdown continues...
 Because classless systems are terrible? :P That's my being overly zealous expressing my opinion, of course, I know many people don't agree. But I hate classless systems in general. Mostly for the exact reason you stated second: the slow, gradual progression of spending your experience points to improve things a tiny bit at a time. B-O-R-I-N-G. I love the rush of gaining a level in D&D and getting several things all at once. Also, that way I don't have to be nitpicky worrying about every little aspect of advancement in between every session; I can focus on the actual playing, then when I level, I do it all at once, and get back to playing my character.

As others have said, I also believe that class(like race and level) is an integral part of D&D. You could take it out, but it wouldn't feel like D&D anymore. Not only that, but classes are very helpful to new players--they can open up the book and say "I want to be a wizard!"--well, here it is! You can argue that pre-made builds mitigate that, and they do to a certain extent. But pre-made builds create some problems: what if you have someone who is afraid of making a lousy character, so they never stray from the pre-made builds? Congratulations, they're essentially playing a class system anyway. On the other hand, what if there's someone who refuses to use(or at least use all of) a pre-made build, and constantly makes characters whose power level is difficult to judge ahead of time? Classless systems are great at making characters who have lots of talents and are good at nothing. This problem applies to advancement as well--new players can have a tougher time knowing what to take to not 'waste' their xp.



Your argument doesn't make sense. You say that a new player should be able to pick a 'class' but that they shouldn't be able to pick a class because that would defeat the purpose of a class-less system. So what? If people want to play with classes then let them, if they don't want to play with classes then they can do that too.

As far as new players wasting their xp on useless things... they do that anyway. When I first started playing 3.5 and D&D in general I had NO idea what I was doing and had my sorceror use weapon finesse because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I made mistakes and learned how to play better as a result of it, making better decisions the next character I played.

 If people constantly make bards that can do alot of things but not very well then that's their fault. You might as well incorporate rules stating that a whole party CANNOT consist of wizards.

If you want to wait until you have a bunch of XP stored up before binge shopping then go ahead. Most play sessions, I imagine, would encourage that way of 'leveling up'. I just think it would be nice to see that gradual progression take place over a shorter period of time so that I can actually SEE some progress without constantly checking my XP to like I'm counting down to Christmas.

As for calculating the power level of a character, you can just use his accumulated XP as the judge. The total amount of XP gained by a certain character would determine their challenge level when a DM is trying to match them in an encounter. 
Posted by RaddahRaddah:
Your argument doesn't make sense. You say that a new player should be able to pick a 'class' but that they shouldn't be able to pick a class because that would defeat the purpose of a class-less system. So what? If people want to play with classes then let them, if they don't want to play with classes then they can do that too.

Yes, if people want to play without class then they can do that too. By playing a system other than D&D. If you have people sticking to pre-made builds in a classless system, you might as well have a class system, because then you can do more with the individual classes that is much more difficult to accomplish in a classless system. Sure, you could add powerful abilities for people who focus on certain skills, to simulate cool abilities people in a class system get when they improve in their class... but then people just build towards the ability they want and now they're basically just in a class system again. Except the one guy over there who insists on spending half his points on basket weaving and spreading the other points wherever he feels like, because he can! Also, since his character sucks at everything, he might be fun to roleplay with, but he's useless in any actual mechanical challenge.
As far as new players wasting their xp on useless things... they do that anyway. When I first started playing 3.5 and D&D in general I had NO idea what I was doing and had my sorceror use weapon finesse because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I made mistakes and learned how to play better as a result of it, making better decisions the next character I played.

Yes, people still make mistakes, but the more codified and organized the system is, the fewer you can make and, generally speaking, the less they can screw you up. Also, things like 4e's retraining allow you to fix old mistakes in things like feat choice; it's much harder to work retraining into a classless system(not impossible, just requires a lot more bookkeeping and effort instead of 'switch two things').
If people constantly make bards that can do alot of things but not very well then that's their fault. You might as well incorporate rules stating that a whole party CANNOT consist of wizards.

No, because a whole party of wizards can accomplish things, and since the DM knows what they can do, he can tailor the campaign for them. If the DM has a whole party of people who all are terrible equally at 10 different things each, it's a much bigger pain to work with and actually come up with any kind of compelling challenge. Also, what do you have against bards? I love bards.
If you want to wait until you have a bunch of XP stored up before binge shopping then go ahead. Most play sessions, I imagine, would encourage that way of 'leveling up'. I just think it would be nice to see that gradual progression take place over a shorter period of time so that I can actually SEE some progress without constantly checking my XP to like I'm counting down to Christmas.

Why would I wait and save up? It's better for me to spend now and get that +1 to this skill now, instead of getting that +1 to the same skill later... but at the same time as +1 to 2 other skills. Thus, we have the slow grind. Which I find boring. As to checking your XP constantly, just don't use XP. I haven't used it in 6 years. The group levels when I say they do. In the meantime, they don't worry about it--they focus on what's happening in game, not watching their slow skill progress and thinking "if I get 5 more xp this session I can improve my sword skill one more point, and then I'll be a little more awesome!".
As for calculating the power level of a character, you can just use his accumulated XP as the judge. The total amount of XP gained by a certain character would determine their challenge level when a DM is trying to match them in an encounter.

That really depends on the system. If the accumulated pool is spent on all things--combat, non-combat, etc--equally(which is almost always the case), then total XP is not a good judge of people's capabilities. You could have a complete wuss and a total badass in the same party, and any combat encounter that challenged the latter would be suicide for the former. A class system allows the developers to regulate and balance the power of the characters much better, which makes the game easier to run and play.
Just thought you should know. the countdown continues...
D&D grew up with classes, so it should stay with classes!
I like games ( Like Shadowrun or L5R ) where you spend point as you "level" but D&D isn't that kind of game!

And, the "classes" are what you want!
We have a Ranger which says he's as Pirate!
We have a warrior roleplaying as a Barbarian!

And I prefer to start a warrior and choose from four At-Will Powers than to say, from level 1:"I ATTACK!!!" to level 10:"I Attack! to level 20:"I Attack twice..." to level 30:"..." *rolls a die*
I'm playing: Abin Gadon, Halfling Bard Winston "Slurphnose", Gnome Sorcerer Pasiphaé, Minotaur Shaman Eglerion, Elf Ellyrian Reaver (Ranger) DMing: Le Trésor du Fluide (Treasure from the Fluid) Un Royaume d'une Grande Valeur (A Kingdom of Great Value) La Légende de Persitaa (Persitaa's Legend) Une Série de Petites Quêtes... (A serie of short quests) Playtesting: Caves of Chaos We're building the greatest adventure ever known to DnD players! Also playing Legend of the Five Rings and Warhammer Fantasy. Sébastien, Beloeil, Qc. I am Neutral Good and 32 years old.
Posted by RaddahRaddah:
Your argument doesn't make sense. You say that a new player should be able to pick a 'class' but that they shouldn't be able to pick a class because that would defeat the purpose of a class-less system. So what? If people want to play with classes then let them, if they don't want to play with classes then they can do that too.

Yes, if people want to play without class then they can do that too. By playing a system other than D&D. If you have people sticking to pre-made builds in a classless system, you might as well have a class system, because then you can do more with the individual classes that is much more difficult to accomplish in a classless system. Sure, you could add powerful abilities for people who focus on certain skills, to simulate cool abilities people in a class system get when they improve in their class... but then people just build towards the ability they want and now they're basically just in a class system again. Except the one guy over there who insists on spending half his points on basket weaving and spreading the other points wherever he feels like, because he can! Also, since his character sucks at everything, he might be fun to roleplay with, but he's useless in any actual mechanical challenge.
As far as new players wasting their xp on useless things... they do that anyway. When I first started playing 3.5 and D&D in general I had NO idea what I was doing and had my sorceror use weapon finesse because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I made mistakes and learned how to play better as a result of it, making better decisions the next character I played.

Yes, people still make mistakes, but the more codified and organized the system is, the fewer you can make and, generally speaking, the less they can screw you up. Also, things like 4e's retraining allow you to fix old mistakes in things like feat choice; it's much harder to work retraining into a classless system(not impossible, just requires a lot more bookkeeping and effort instead of 'switch two things').
If people constantly make bards that can do alot of things but not very well then that's their fault. You might as well incorporate rules stating that a whole party CANNOT consist of wizards.

No, because a whole party of wizards can accomplish things, and since the DM knows what they can do, he can tailor the campaign for them. If the DM has a whole party of people who all are terrible equally at 10 different things each, it's a much bigger pain to work with and actually come up with any kind of compelling challenge. Also, what do you have against bards? I love bards.
If you want to wait until you have a bunch of XP stored up before binge shopping then go ahead. Most play sessions, I imagine, would encourage that way of 'leveling up'. I just think it would be nice to see that gradual progression take place over a shorter period of time so that I can actually SEE some progress without constantly checking my XP to like I'm counting down to Christmas.

Why would I wait and save up? It's better for me to spend now and get that +1 to this skill now, instead of getting that +1 to the same skill later... but at the same time as +1 to 2 other skills. Thus, we have the slow grind. Which I find boring. As to checking your XP constantly, just don't use XP. I haven't used it in 6 years. The group levels when I say they do. In the meantime, they don't worry about it--they focus on what's happening in game, not watching their slow skill progress and thinking "if I get 5 more xp this session I can improve my sword skill one more point, and then I'll be a little more awesome!".
As for calculating the power level of a character, you can just use his accumulated XP as the judge. The total amount of XP gained by a certain character would determine their challenge level when a DM is trying to match them in an encounter.

That really depends on the system. If the accumulated pool is spent on all things--combat, non-combat, etc--equally(which is almost always the case), then total XP is not a good judge of people's capabilities. You could have a complete wuss and a total badass in the same party, and any combat encounter that challenged the latter would be suicide for the former. A class system allows the developers to regulate and balance the power of the characters much better, which makes the game easier to run and play.



Well Nihzlet, I agree with all your points. Heck I actually remember an old anecdote I heard a few years ago that pertains to the subject, to paraphrase it went something like "A skill based system is just like a class based system but you only have one class". It's a critizim that all skill based characters ultimately end up looking the same due to different game masters prefering diffent play styles over others.

Still  RaddahRaddah does have a point you could i imitate quite a few of the features you mentioned in a skilled based system with templates. I would still like a pure class based system better, but you have to listen to everyone the game isn't just custom designed for me.
 Yes, if people want to play without class then they can do that too. By playing a system other than D&D. If you have people sticking to pre-made builds in a classless system, you might as well have a class system, because then you can do more with the individual classes that is much more difficult to accomplish in a classless system. Sure, you could add powerful abilities for people who focus on certain skills, to simulate cool abilities people in a class system get when they improve in their class... but then people just build towards the ability they want and now they're basically just in a class system again. Except the one guy over there who insists on spending half his points on basket weaving and spreading the other points wherever he feels like, because he can! Also, since his character sucks at everything, he might be fun to roleplay with, but he's useless in any actual mechanical challenge.



lol @ basket weaving.

I'd gamble that if there was a vote posted for whether to have a classless system then it would get shot out of the water completely. People expect to have classes and I respect that. I'd probably play that way from time to time, but I'd still like at least the option of customization and I feel that this would be a good way to have the best of both worlds.

Yes, people still make mistakes, but the more codified and organized the system is, the fewer you can make and, generally speaking, the less they can screw you up. Also, things like 4e's retraining allow you to fix old mistakes in things like feat choice; it's much harder to work retraining into a classless system(not impossible, just requires a lot more bookkeeping and effort instead of 'switch two things').



So why not have refunds? Oops, it turns out I didn't really like what I spent my points on, can I have them back Mr. DM? Sure Timmy, but I'm only going to refund 80% of it. Aww man, It's better than nothing I guess Mr. DM. Better luck next time Timmy.

Something along those lines.

No, because a whole party of wizards can accomplish things, and since the DM knows what they can do, he can tailor the campaign for them. If the DM has a whole party of people who all are terrible equally at 10 different things each, it's a much bigger pain to work with and actually come up with any kind of compelling challenge. Also, what do you have against bards? I love bards.



I enjoy bards also, but that doesn't change the fact that all they are is a watered down version of what all the other classes do. You assume that peoples' first instinct is to spend their points on every conceivable thing under the sun. No they're not. People want to be the dedicated fighter, or the mage, or the thief, and will spend their points accordingly. Others will want to be a spellsword, or an assassin, and will spend their points accordingly.

Why would I wait and save up? It's better for me to spend now and get that +1 to this skill now, instead of getting that +1 to the same skill later... but at the same time as +1 to 2 other skills. Thus, we have the slow grind. Which I find boring.



So you're more arguing against the principle of the thing. You'll abuse the system if it's in place but will grumble the whole time. There is 0 difference between waiting to spend a bunch of XP and waiting to level up in a class level.

As to checking your XP constantly, just don't use XP. I haven't used it in 6 years. The group levels when I say they do. In the meantime, they don't worry about it--they focus on what's happening in game, not watching their slow skill progress and thinking "if I get 5 more xp this session I can improve my sword skill one more point, and then I'll be a little more awesome!".



Careful now, we're going dangerously close to Homebrew rules. Yes, I've done that often where the party arbitrarily levels up, but that's not how the system is written to work. If you wanted to make a case that XP should be abbolished then go ahead, but that's not what we're talking about right now.

As a home brewed rule you could say that after so long you arbitrarily award a certain amount of XP for each player to spend and in a sense 'level up' that way.

And people do in fact think that way about the way they get better at anything. If I go target shooting every day I wouldn't expect my accuracy to improve by leaps and bounds after a long stagnate period. I'd expect my accuracy to improve slowly over time.

If a player wants to sit and wait for just that last 5 XP then let them, it's not your job to police how a player enjoys their game.

That really depends on the system. If the accumulated pool is spent on all things--combat, non-combat, etc--equally(which is almost always the case), then total XP is not a good judge of people's capabilities. You could have a complete wuss and a total badass in the same party, and any combat encounter that challenged the latter would be suicide for the former. A class system allows the developers to regulate and balance the power of the characters much better, which makes the game easier to run and play.



But you can have a complete wuss and a total badass in the same party in any system. If one person is a god at talking but can't do any swordfighting to save their life then of course they'll do badly in a combat situation. That doesn't mean that they're not good at what they do.

You're thinking of each encounter as predictably ONLY centering around combat. If that's the case, then the players will spend their points on combat abilities. If the session is centered around more puzzle solving / talking elements then they will spend their points accordingly.

Posted by RaddahRaddah:
lol @ basket weaving.

I'd gamble that if there was a vote posted for whether to have a classless system then it would get shot out of the water completely. People expect to have classes and I respect that. I'd probably play that way from time to time, but I'd still like at least the option of customization and I feel that this would be a good way to have the best of both worlds.

For some reason when I want to think of random useless skill, basket weaving is always the first to come to mind.

Yeah, I think the people who want classes far outweigh those that don't. I'd be totally ok with an Unearthed Arcana-style book having a classless system in it for those that don't want it--hell, I'd probably give it a try. I just don't want it to be core, because I'd prefer the core to be one unified system instead of "here's a billion options, make it play the way you want!".

In fact, I'd love another Unearthed Arcana for 5e in general. There were some fun variants that really let you give your campaign its own feel and tweak it to the way you wanted to play, while still having the core books be solid and accessible.
So why not have refunds? Oops, it turns out I didn't really like what I spent my points on, can I have them back Mr. DM? Sure Timmy, but I'm only going to refund 80% of it. Aww man, It's better than nothing I guess Mr. DM. Better luck next time Timmy.

Something along those lines.

Sure, you can do refunds. But it's still more work than 4e's 'switch two things' retraining, because it requires more bookkeeping and math. I'm being lazy, I know, but things that can afford to be simpler should be. :P
I enjoy bards also, but that doesn't change the fact that all they are is a watered down version of what all the other classes do. You assume that peoples' first instinct is to spend their points on every conceivable thing under the sun. No they're not. People want to be the dedicated fighter, or the mage, or the thief, and will spend their points accordingly. Others will want to be a spellsword, or an assassin, and will spend their points accordingly.

I don't find bards to be a watered down anything, just a class with their own unique abilities that also happens to have some bonuses to doing a touch of everything. At least, in 4e. Older editions(AD&D, I'm looking at you), that was not the case. But I digress. Yes, people want to be the dedicated fighter, mage, spellsword, assassin, or whatnot. But since everyone wants to fill one of those roles anyway, why not have classes for them to help them do it right and provide fun, unique options? If people want more variety, that's why a good multiclassing/hybrid system is necessary.
So you're more arguing against the principle of the thing. You'll abuse the system if it's in place but will grumble the whole time. There is 0 difference between waiting to spend a bunch of XP and waiting to level up in a class level.

Yes, I am against the principle. If it's the system in place, I'll use it, but it doesn't mean I'll like it. There is a difference--the difference is whether the option is there to spend early, and the structure imposed by the level system. I like having the structure. It may seem somewhat confining, but it also provides stability.
Careful now, we're going dangerously close to Homebrew rules. Yes, I've done that often where the party arbitrarily levels up, but that's not how the system is written to work. If you wanted to make a case that XP should be abbolished then go ahead, but that's not what we're talking about right now.

Well, we are talking about homebrew here. Or rather, suggestions for the new edition. Which is also what ditching classes would be. There is actually another thread about losing XP completely which I already posted in, so I'll leave this point to discussion in that thread. The class/classless debate about this point comes down to this: I like getting a bunch of stuff when I level up and hate the slow grind of gradual spending, while you like watching the progress gradually and organically build up and hate watching your xp and waiting for the big payoff. Agree to disagree? I don't think we're gonna solve that one. :P
And people do in fact think that way about the way they get better at anything. If I go target shooting every day I wouldn't expect my accuracy to improve by leaps and bounds after a long stagnate period. I'd expect my accuracy to improve slowly over time.

Absolutely, 100% true. But that's real life. I don't necessarily want D&D to be like it. :P
You're thinking of each encounter as predictably ONLY centering around combat. If that's the case, then the players will spend their points on combat abilities. If the session is centered around more puzzle solving / talking elements then they will spend their points accordingly.

Not necessarily. Just an example. The advantage of a class/level system is that it regulates the abilities of both combat and non-combat, while a classless system lets people specialize, or not, in whatever they want, so you can end up with a much wider range of capabilities, particularly late in the game.
Just thought you should know. the countdown continues...
 "here's a billion options, make it play the way you want!".

Yeah, I just feel that player choice and "playing how you want" is more quintessential to D&D than classes are.


I don't find bards to be a watered down anything, just a class with their own unique abilities that also happens to have some bonuses to doing a touch of everything. At least, in 4e. Older editions(AD&D, I'm looking at you), that was not the case.

Ah, you see I've never actually played 4e so I can't speak for that.

If people want more variety, that's why a good multiclassing/hybrid system is necessary.

The problem with just adding more classes is that you eventually end up needing to buy 10+ books with 50+ classes and nobody knows what the heck and Invisible Blade is anyway so there is no context to their class which is what you wanted in the first place. I shouldn't have to wait for WotC to come out with a structured class for what I want to play.

Yes, I am against the principle. If it's the system in place, I'll use it, but it doesn't mean I'll like it.

lol, you're lawful.

There is a difference--the difference is whether the option is there to spend early, and the structure imposed by the level system. I like having the structure. It may seem somewhat confining, but it also provides stability.

Then keep the structure. Whatever floats your boat. 

Well, we are talking about homebrew here. Or rather, suggestions for the new edition. Which is also what ditching classes would be.

Well what I meant by homebrew was what was written in the rulebooks vs what you could do in your own sessions in spite of that. But your point still stands.

The class/classless debate about this point comes down to this: I like getting a bunch of stuff when I level up and hate the slow grind of gradual spending, while you like watching the progress gradually and organically build up and hate watching your xp and waiting for the big payoff. Agree to disagree? I don't think we're gonna solve that one. :P

It all comes down to a difference of playstyles and doing what you want to do with your D&D. I don't see why we can't both have what we both want.

Absolutely, 100% true. But that's real life. I don't necessarily want D&D to be like it. :P

Same as above.

Not necessarily. Just an example. The advantage of a class/level system is that it regulates the abilities of both combat and non-combat, while a classless system lets people specialize, or not, in whatever they want, so you can end up with a much wider range of capabilities, particularly late in the game.

So what class would a diplomatic character who will never see combat in his entire life choose? Does he just miss out on what other abilities he could conceivably gain because he's weighed down with that extra +3 to hit that he'll never use? If you're playing a dungeon romp you will never see a talky character because that char would be useless. Players would be expected to build according to their game style.
So I've been reading around a bit here and there to see what the general feelings of the community are.

Generally speaking:


  • People don't want to be pigeonholed into a class's restrictions on race and alignment. (Racially speaking, when a race has a +2 to something that only that particular class uses so if you want to play that class you better darn well be playing as that race)


Classes have racial restrictions? Then why was I able to play an Eladrin Knight for several months in Encounters? Heck, I'd probably still be playing her if I hadn't started running Encounters three seasons ago.


  • People want full freedom to decide what their characters are capable of doing.

  • People want their characters to have the capability of being wildly unpredictable and different compared to the next.


The only difference between characters at the moment is more or less what we imagine them to be. I thought it was hilarious how every Smuggler in Star Wars: The Old Republic gets a wookie companion regardless of their progression. Isn't this the same as having every single Ranger getting an animal companion and a favored enemy?

I imagine an assembly line that our characters are forced down, and at every certain interval various parts and additions are screwed or bolted into place regardless of how we feel about it and a person could just look down at the end to see how they're going to end up eventually.

Is that really how our characters' lives should unfold? Or should our characters have their own opinion of what happens in their given situation? I believe that a 'Ranger' type of character should have the option of saying, "To heck with casting spells, I want to learn more hunting skills and to shoot a bow better." and that simply can't happen short of writing more and more books with countless class variants, cross-role base classes, and prestige classes.

So if this is what people want:

Why have classes at all?

Why take the power of creation and customization away from the players? Why not simply create a set of guidelines for a player to progress through challenges and situations in a way that appeals to them?
Having a set of suggested progressions for different roles would definately be a positive thing, especially for new players, but the ultimate choice of progression should stay with the player and by proxy the character.

~~~

My personal opinion (I'm no game designer) on how to accomplish this would be to allow the player to spend their experience points on their progression, and in that way they would be progressing very gradually and slowly until they at some point look back and see how far they've gotten without the need to compare levels like a percentage of completion toward a goal.

This would not only help tear down the wall between mechanics and role play, but bring a sense of individuality to the characters we can create.


Half of our home games already use that game. We call it GURPS 4e. 8o)

That incredible amount of customization (and a ridiculously simple yet versatile core mechanic) is exactly why GURPS is our go-to system (our currently running campaigns are one HackMaster 5e, one D&D 4e, and three GURPS with another about to start). But D&D just wouldn't be D&D without classes. That said, I would love it if D&D went the hybrid class-based/point-buy method of both editions of HackMaster. In fact, their hybrid natures are why HackMaster 4e and 5e are the only class-based games I actually like.


If you really want to try classless D&D, check out the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy series (aka "GURPS D&D"). They are great books and sound like exactly what you describe.

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I'm all for a classless system, but I wouldn't want one like Shadowrun where I need to spend points to advance. I would keep the basic level structure, but "class" would be formed on the combination of Power Source and Role, much as it is in 4th today. The difference being, however, that if I chose to be an Arcane Striker, for example, I would get to choose my Feats and Powers from two pools; one available to all Striker characters, and one available to all Arcane characters. You could even rejig the Feats and Powers so that the Feats pool you pick from is determined by Role, and the Power pool you pick from is determined by Source.
Also included in the books would be suggested builds for all the archetypal classes, so that they could be played straight out of the book for players who don't feel the need for that much customisation. Both types of players exist, and if they want a unified player-base, then they had best cater to everyone from the start.
I think classless systems are great, but there's already a ton of them out there.


The great thing about Class+Race is that it's pretty easy. I got my ex-wife to play D&D because all she thought she had to do was pick the class and the race and she'd be done.  She wouldn't touch systems where she had to make too many decisions.  
Didn't Arcana Unearthed have an option with 3 classes?  caster, fighter, and skill guy?  and all class features bascially became feats?

something like that could be done, so ranger/barbarian/etc are feats or talant options under the fighter class.  cleric/wizard/druid are feats and talents under caster, etc. 



Rolemaster (RMSS/RMFRP) had this type of option.  You had a class, and that determined how costly it was to increase certain abilities (or buy new ones).  The class abilities were far and away the cheapest so you were encouraged to buy according to what your class was good at, but it wasn't a requirement.  If you wanted to be a fighter that could cast a fireball, you could do it.  You'd be rotten at both, but it was possible.

-Polaris
Really, there's only two classes: Attack Guy and Magic Guy.
I think there have already been references to classes in the few glimpses we've had into the alpha playtest. I would be dumbfounded if D&D Next didnt have classes.

And i agree with that decision. Most of the the prospective market for D&D expect a class-based system, including myself. Class based systems reduce the number of choices needed at character generation which is good for monst new players.   


And there a bunch of classless systems out already, GURPS being the first to come to mind. D&D isnt a healthy enough brand to pick a fight in a new marketplace.
My vote: Do away with classes, at best keep them as a "wrapper" that designates a certain combination of skill choices (add color more than any mechanics influence)
It's far easier to start from a classless system and build the classes out of that system, than to build the classes and reverse-engineer a classless or hybrid system later.

At any rate, the absolute worst thing to do would be 2E's approach of tacking-on a classless system, then punishing players for even considering it.
I invision a system of Specializations, like Evocation, Psionics, Illusion, Raging, Subterfuge, which, in the releases, are presented in combinations which form the classes we know, but in practice can be combined as the player sees fit.

Sure the out-of-the-box wizard is available, with his Evocation, Illusion, Necromany, and Enchantments, but a player can easily build a character which uses Necromancy, Music, Marksmanship, and Leadership, The Pied Piper of Lost Souls!
Really, there's only two classes: Attack Guy and Magic Guy.

Hey hey hey! Don't forget Guy with Buddies!

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