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8BitNinja
2016-01-14, 01:29 PM
NOTE: I am talking about character classes, I am not trying to argue with Socialists

I keep seeing all of this "classless (fill in the blank)" threads everywhere, what is so wrong with them?

I know that people want freedom to create a character, but with classless games I play, I usually conform to a Class Build

I get what this is going to go to, battlemages and ranged tanks, but you can already have both with most games.

D&D probably gives an arcane spell failure with armor for balance, but the rules can be changed

GloatingSwine
2016-01-14, 01:36 PM
Might be incidental fallout from how bad D&D is at balancing its classes.

If people associate classes with inherently poor balance they may well look for more freeform systems which, even if they have poorly balanced elements, don't restrict them to certain archetypes.

Jormengand
2016-01-14, 01:38 PM
Because some people don't like playing characters with a coherent structure which actually make some level of sense.

Mastikator
2016-01-14, 01:53 PM
Because some people don't like playing characters with a coherent structure which actually make some level of sense.

I hope you're not talking about D&D classes, that would be weird.

Jormengand
2016-01-14, 02:03 PM
I hope you're not talking about D&D classes, that would be weird.

Even D&D classes mostly do this. If you're a rogue, for example, you are generally a sneaky person who can get his way unnoticed into a guarded building and one-shot people, and have a shot at using the loot he picks up. You don't have to do that, but the rogue class essentially provides a framework for you to do that. A fighter provides a framework for you to fight, a barbarian for you to live wild and fight with rage and little concern for your own safety, a truenamer provides a framework for you to learn creatures' true names and wield utterances against them, a monk provides a framework to do the sorts of cool stuff that you do in martial arts films, and a healer gives you a framework to heal people. None of these classes let you do that amazingly well, but it's clear what that class does. You don't end up rocking utterances in your first-level slots, powers in your second-level slots, divine magic in your third-level slots and arcane magic in your fifth-level slots. Your character concept does the thing it does, rather than being a mess of pick-and-choose abilities that I so often see from classless systems.

Talion
2016-01-14, 02:09 PM
A large part of it is the imbalance between various classes that are presented, even in core rule books. Some classes are just inherently better than others, which may be restrictive to play styles and encourage power gaming. However, a lot of that is underlying balance issues from how the game's mechanics interact with each other.

Of course there's also the matter of classes not living up to their basic intents. In this case, let us take the example of 3.5's monk. The basic premise is a character who can defeat opponents with their bare hands. However, not only do most monks struggle to do even that much, but have limited playability outside of combat. Between issues such as this and the above, a lot of classes are viewed as "unplayable" or are simply not recommended for use.

Beyond that is the feeling that it lacks customization. Depending on the system, classes may provide you with little to no customization of your character to a relatively limited scope of options. This means that in order to produce something unusual but functional you have to put yourself at a disadvantage. Functionally, it means trading this for that, but the 'that' your trying to achieve may require you to stunt your growth in another class for 2,3, or more levels, which are progressively harder to get since they don't restart at level 1. If, for instance, you were running a warrior and wanted to start using some magic, you'd lose out on virtually all your progression as a warrior, and your gains as a magic user may not be up to snuff to compensate. The same is true in the reverse, perhaps moreso. While a similar problem exists in classless games where you have a limited selection of options you can afford to build on, it just feels less restrictive to the character's growth.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-14, 02:09 PM
I don't think that most people are actually against classes and prefer classless systems. (Or such systems would actually sell better.)

I think this is more of a result of the vast majority of systems HAVING classes. Therefore - those who DO NOT like class systems are very loud in their complaining about it, and those who DO like them don't bother saying much, because most systems already have classes.

I will say - class systems allow a much harder asymmetrical balance in a system. It's not always done well, but it still allows it. Frankly - I think that the main reason for imbalance in D&D/Pathfinder is that they mostly balance the classes for people who aren't particularly skilled at building/playing characters. (For the 'floor' rather than the 'ceiling'.) After all - a new player with a wizard is pretty weak. It's only the guy who pours over books (or goes to online guides) and knows what they're doing who is OP.

neonchameleon
2016-01-14, 02:09 PM
I don't think there was a single actually good class based RPG produced between 1974 (D&D) and 2010 (Apocalypse World). And in that list I include AD&D (both editions), WotC D&D (3.0, 3.5 PF, 4E, )

This isn't to say whether or not they were good games - but they weren't good class-based games.

Why?

Dungeons and Dragons (1974) had three different classes. The Fighter - who is largely loot driven, leads from the front, and has as their endgame building an empire. The Wizard - who gets all the weird loot (the wizards's spells were all loot; you couldn't trade or get many at all naturally), and fell over in a high wind - and was trying to create a wizard's tower. And the Cleric who was the self-powering tank and got some of the fighter's loot and a little of their own (no swords - and swords went up to +5 against the +3 of hammers as well as doing more damage to large creatures, and they got all their own spells - but that was a handful of support spells).

They were fundamentally different play experiences to the point that the players of the three classes were effectively playing three different strategic level games at the same table. The XP tracks were different because the power curves of the characters were different. If you levelled a wizard to the level cap (and then started the endgame raiding) you'd have some advantage if you tried to level a fighter to the level cap - but it would be a fundamentally differnet expereince. (Elves and co. were intended to play on easy mode but in exchange would go back to their kingdoms rather than joining the top level raiding guilds).

And the game changed over time as well. Level 1 was all about companions, and how many war dogs you could bring. War dogs and hirelings were chaff by level 6, one-shotted if they went in at all (meaning that the wizard was in a lot more danger in the mid-high levels than the low ones; remember that the level soft-cap was 9 or 10 - the eqivalent of hitting 70 (or is it 80 now?) in WoW).

That's a class based game. People at the table are playing a fundamentally different game based on their class. Different stats, different items (and you find rather than buy them), different abilities, different tactics, different goals.

Later class-based games, in the name of simplification, became more packaged-point-buy games - with the ultimate expression of this being 3.X where a single level in any class is supposedly a package worth one level. Your goals have been the same ever since 2e. Each individual wizard has no longer been unique because all their spell are their loot and so their history since Unearthed Arcana's specialist wizards. For most practical purposes D&D 3.X is designed as a point buy game that happens to package groups of points up into classes with rewards for taking more than one of the same package. And a wizard can use a sword (and let's not get into wizard supremacy because they messed up saving throws and removed the soft-cap from the levels).

And it's not especially bad compared to e.g. Cyberpunk 2020 which has "classes" that are just a skill and a couple of special abilties. (See also: WoD. You're still trying to do the same things).

For a real class based game the next major one I know of was Apocalypse World. In Apocalypse World you can play anything from the Hardholder (who rules Bartertown? And how do they cope with upstarts) to a medic making their way in life to a gun-toting badass with no social skills to one of various forms of psychic. And the rules are loosely Mo' people, Mo' problems. So your challenges as a Hardholder are going to be very different from a struggling detective looking for enough jobs to pay their debts, to even the Maitre d' who runs the local bar/club/whatever you choose. Whichever class you play you are playing what is effectively a different game.

And very little in the middle had the "When you are playing a different class you are playing a fundamentally different game at the same table". If you drop that then you might as well go for point buy.

Lvl 2 Expert
2016-01-14, 02:10 PM
I do think it's in the freedom to create your own package. It doesn't even have to be something complicated. If I want a skillmonkey outdoorsman who can also fight I can pick a ranger, but that leaves me stuck with spells and other druid-like stuff. I could go rogue, but that will make me pretty dependent on sneak attacks and won't give me all the class skills I want. I can multiclass or pick up another sourcebook to find the scout is exactly what I wanted, but in a system with less strict classes I could just switch the rangers magic out for trap sense, the "detect difficult traps if your search skill is good enough" ability, some more skills or a +1 to hit and have the character I wanted.

There are tons of things to say for classes. For one thing, it's a good way to ease beginners into character creation, which can get complicated in an expansive classless system, like most superhero RPG's. And they help in setting the scene and letting players "read" NPC's. If you see a wizard he's probably going to be arrogant. But they do limit character options.

Airk
2016-01-14, 02:11 PM
Usually the problem I see is that all your abilities are tied directly to your class; So if you want to be, I dunno, a fighter who is a gifted diplomat you kindof...can't, in many versions of D&D.

Can you fix it by changing everything with house rules? Sure. But why bother playing a class system at all at that point?

How about we spin the question around? Why would you want classes? If someone wants to play a "fighter" in a classless system, there's nothing stopping them. The only benefits tend to be ease of use - you don't have to figure out what "a fighter" should have. But this is easily fixed by having templates that quickly define common archetypes.

John Longarrow
2016-01-14, 02:13 PM
In some cases, the jarring jump in abilities when you 'level' interferes with the immersion. Kinda 'OK, yesterday you couldn't hold a rifle straight but now your an expert shot'. In others it is because the player has a solid idea what they want their character to be able to do but the class mechanics get in the way. A perfect example many people are familiar with is the 'fighter' class in D&D. To be a good combatant you apparently have no social skills, no perception, and no ability to be stealthy. This is the exact opposite of reality. Classic example is the medieval knight. They are some of the best trained melee combatants on their continent, but they lack the fundamental skills required to function in their station. Until recently the survival skill is a vital one for any professional soldier as most armies from antiquity through Napoleon would live off the land when on campaign.

Unless you are defining your own class for each character (and allowing them to change the future progress to reflect in game experience) you wind up with issues where what is allowed does not match what the character would progress into. This also tends to get progressively worse the higher the characters level. This is also the reason you see so many players build multi-classed characters since the archetypes are often so limited.

Mark Hall
2016-01-14, 02:33 PM
In some cases, classes can serve conceptual reasons. D&D uses classes to separate some very different character concepts, and tries to combine classes, in various ways, to accommodate other character concepts.

However, sometimes, classes can be a hindrance to creating a character. For example, I don't think there is a really good reason for Star Wars Saga to have classes. With feats, talent trees, and class abilities being on about the same level of utility, some good character concepts and build require a lot of jiggery-pokey with class levels to make well... which can be completely avoided by simply stripping out classes.

Other games simply multiply classes beyond need. Rifts is somewhat like this. They have like 20 different versions of "basic grunt." Their T-man classes come in three or four varieties, mostly boiling down to "This class gets X1, Y1, and Z1, while this class gets X1, Y1, and Z2 in magic tattoos."

8BitNinja
2016-01-14, 02:35 PM
Well, I don't have much time to type, but if I hurry I can still make Cheyenne

I see that most of this is about lack of balance, let me counter that

Most gamers today consist of the "MMO Generation" where everything must be balanced or the Apocalypse will occur, where back in the older games, it was about what was fun, and not only different playstyles as in what the character did, but different playstyles as in what you did

A wizard was, and is, a scrawny nerd that can't do much physically, but through hard work, he can surpass the strongest of fighters with his powerful magicks. The Fighter was more of a "get what I want now" sort of play, where you start great, but you end up as audience for the wizard later, a rogue was more of a non-combat character where you don't fight, more of just run, and the cleric is the healer/backup combat.

These are four basic classes that are not at all balanced, but they each provide an exciting new part to the equation, and can be mixed for better things. A cleric/fighter was turned into the paladin, a wizard/cleric became a bard, and so on

Talion
2016-01-14, 02:42 PM
Other games simply multiply classes beyond need. Rifts is somewhat like this. They have like 20 different versions of "basic grunt." Their T-man classes come in three or four varieties, mostly boiling down to "This class gets X1, Y1, and Z1, while this class gets X1, Y1, and Z2 in magic tattoos."

Oh lord I'd almost forgotten about this. It's genuinely awful. If you haven't played Rifts you won't believe how painfully specific the classes can get. Street Rat vs Vagabond. Cyberdoc vs Surgeon. Rogue Scholar vs Rogue Scientist.

The problem is then further compounded by having classes that have specific *MINIMUM* Attributes, means that you can play as more powerful/functional class the more powerful your character is at base. If you roll badly on your starting attributes in D&D, you can pick a class that can bring you up to par. If you roll badly on your starting attributes in Rifts...you're exponentially further behind. At the very least, your choices will be more limited, though there are some classes you can get into on the cheap that are competitive.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-14, 02:44 PM
How about we spin the question around? Why would you want classes? If someone wants to play a "fighter" in a classless system, there's nothing stopping them. The only benefits tend to be ease of use - you don't have to figure out what "a fighter" should have. But this is easily fixed by having templates that quickly define common archetypes.

It allows for a much greater variety of characters to be balanced.

Point-buy classless systems are often touted as giving far more options - but once you have any sort of system mastery, that's simply not true. There are only a limited number of viable options, being the most efficient with your points, and it always ends up that there are fewer viable options than there would be in a system with a decent number of classes.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-14, 02:48 PM
A perfect example many people are familiar with is the 'fighter' class in D&D. To be a good combatant you apparently have no social skills, no perception, and no ability to be stealthy. This is the exact opposite of reality. Classic example is the medieval knight. They are some of the best trained melee combatants on their continent, but they lack the fundamental skills required to function in their station. Until recently the survival skill is a vital one for any professional soldier as most armies from antiquity through Napoleon would live off the land when on campaign.

That's more of a complaint about a specific class than class systems in general. (I will point out - while Napoleon's soldiers lived off the land - though through stealing from peasants rather than catching rabbits as the Survival skill is about - their British opponents didn't. Which is why the French had to deal with all sorts of guerilla while the British mostly didn't since they went out of their way to pay for stuff.)

Ralanr
2016-01-14, 02:54 PM
I like classes, but I think the biggest problem is that they are too limiting sometimes. This can lead to balance issues or a lack of customization (which people always want ways to tinker with stuff).

Customization is actually why I don't like non-class based RPG's. Because of the enormous amount of options given, you can make anything. But that doesn't mean that the thing you want to make will be good or work well at all. It's honestly more frustrating to me when I have this cool idea only to find that it is detrimental to my gameplay and impedes on my fun.

Too many options can lead to too many problems. I'd prefer a middle ground of classes and no classes, but most of the time I'll go for the class based system.

YossarianLives
2016-01-14, 02:55 PM
Well, I don't have much time to type, but if I hurry I can still make Cheyenne

I see that most of this is about lack of balance, let me counter that

Most gamers today consist of the "MMO Generation" where everything must be balanced or the Apocalypse will occur, where back in the older games, it was about what was fun, and not only different playstyles as in what the character did, but different playstyles as in what you did

A wizard was, and is, a scrawny nerd that can't do much physically, but through hard work, he can surpass the strongest of fighters with his powerful magicks. The Fighter was more of a "get what I want now" sort of play, where you start great, but you end up as audience for the wizard later, a rogue was more of a non-combat character where you don't fight, more of just run, and the cleric is the healer/backup combat.

These are four basic classes that are not at all balanced, but they each provide an exciting new part to the equation, and can be mixed for better things. A cleric/fighter was turned into the paladin, a wizard/cleric became a bard, and so on
It's not about balance at all, actually. The only advantage of a class-less system is inhanced customization. In recent editions of d&d I have to spend hours finagling different feats, races and ACFs just to make a character that's not supported by classes.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-14, 03:00 PM
That's a class based game. People at the table are playing a fundamentally different game based on their class. Different stats, different items (and you find rather than buy them), different abilities, different tactics, different goals.

Well - it sounds like you have an entirely different definition of classes than anyone else that I've ever heard of.

There are various levels of asymmetry in class systems. Some are extremely different (D&D -except 4e- is still one of the harder asymmetry systems, though apparently not as hard as it was initially) and others are much softer asymmetry. I don't think that keeps them from being classes by any other definition that I've ever heard of.

Necroticplague
2016-01-14, 03:20 PM
Because sometimes, classes can either lack stuff you want to build a character, or have stuff you don't want. For example, to use 3.5, I love making shapechanging characters. Unfortunately, the main class that his this as a feature is Druid. And I don't really like the spellcasting system, but I'm saddled with it because what I want (Wild Shape) comes with something I don't (Spells). In a more fluid system, I'd instead pick a different ability I want. Instead, I'm saddles with some crap I don't want because a game designer pictured that any character with one should have the other. I have very similar problems (same system) with Rogues. I don't see why "Can inflict extra damage on people caught off-gaurd" has to to be inextricably linked to "knows the ins-and-outs of locks and traps".

Someone else mentioned making coherent characters earlier. I think it's a good point to bring up. The class system gets in the way of doing so by tying parts of my character concept to things that aren't.

Knaight
2016-01-14, 03:49 PM
There's a number of reasons for classes to be disliked, but the big two are the extent to which they limit character creation and how they innately have a higher mechanical load. A skill based system can cover more material without the load of a bunch of tables; class based systems usually struggle at making anything outside of the classes listed, needing far more material for a limited range of concepts.

There are advantages to class based design, and if the idea behind the game is that the characters are one of a range of archetypes classes are probably the way to go. Outside of that, they tend to be weirdly restrictive.

NoldorForce
2016-01-14, 04:01 PM
Making a class-based system that has meaningful distinctions between said classes requires a lot of design work. The amount of effort required to design the various moving pieces in a TRPG (or most any project) doesn't scale linearly with the size of those pieces - think about the difference between building a pillow fort vs. a house vs. a skyscraper! Hence it's generally easier to offer a wider selection of smaller parts. You'll need to examine and test those individual parts, but you don't need to construct a towering edifice out of them as you would a full-on class.

In fact, if you look at a lot of TRPGs you'll find that what are sold as "classes" are far less encompassing than you'd think. (Check out neonchameleon's post above me (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showsinglepost.php?p=20298862&postcount=8) for this.) They might be smaller starting packages or restrictions/suggestions on the a la carte purchasing system, but regardless if the classes aren't providing the majority of the distinctions between characters then they're not really "classes" per se. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is nonetheless a delineation to be made.

John Longarrow
2016-01-14, 04:08 PM
In some cases, the jarring jump in abilities when you 'level' interferes with the immersion. Kinda 'OK, yesterday you couldn't hold a rifle straight but now your an expert shot'. In others it is because the player has a solid idea what they want their character to be able to do but the class mechanics get in the way. A perfect example many people are familiar with is the 'fighter' class in D&D. To be a good combatant you apparently have no social skills, no perception, and no ability to be stealthy. This is the exact opposite of reality. Classic example is the medieval knight. They are some of the best trained melee combatants on their continent, but they lack the fundamental skills required to function in their station. Until recently the survival skill is a vital one for any professional soldier as most armies from antiquity through Napoleon would live off the land when on campaign.

Unless you are defining your own class for each character (and allowing them to change the future progress to reflect in game experience) you wind up with issues where what is allowed does not match what the character would progress into. This also tends to get progressively worse the higher the characters level. This is also the reason you see so many players build multi-classed characters since the archetypes are often so limited.

That's more of a complaint about a specific class than class systems in general. (I will point out - while Napoleon's soldiers lived off the land - though through stealing from peasants rather than catching rabbits as the Survival skill is about - their British opponents didn't. Which is why the French had to deal with all sorts of guerilla while the British mostly didn't since they went out of their way to pay for stuff.)

Its actually an example of how classes can be very limiting. A specific example, and a class I would complain about, but still an example. :smallsmile:

Mark Hall
2016-01-14, 04:08 PM
That's more of a complaint about a specific class than class systems in general. (I will point out - while Napoleon's soldiers lived off the land - though through stealing from peasants rather than catching rabbits as the Survival skill is about - their British opponents didn't. Which is why the French had to deal with all sorts of guerilla while the British mostly didn't since they went out of their way to pay for stuff.)

This is partially an artifact of 3.x, not the fighter class or classes in general. A 1e fighter would be perfectly competent at foraging, if you wanted him to be. A 2e fighter could easily take the survival proficiency; the thief could do it with a little bit more cost (a 1 slot penalty, but otherwise the same). 3.x tied mundane skills to character class and level... your fighter COULD spend points on Survival, but he'd relatively suck at it compared to someone who had survival as a class skill, and he'd stay behind pretty much no matter what.


Someone else mentioned making coherent characters earlier. I think it's a good point to bring up. The class system gets in the way of doing so by tying parts of my character concept to things that aren't.

Consider Shadowrun, my first experience with a classless system. It IS classless, but you usually find people describing their characters around certain archetypes... a Samurai, a Merc, a Decker, a Rigger, a Mage, a Shaman, etc. While you didn't have to make those archetypes, they were useful skill sets that described basic characters, with some only being shades of the others (i.e the difference between a Merc and a Samurai was usually attitude).

Mastikator
2016-01-14, 04:16 PM
Even D&D classes mostly do this. If you're a rogue, for example, you are generally a sneaky person who can get his way unnoticed into a guarded building and one-shot people, and have a shot at using the loot he picks up. You don't have to do that, but the rogue class essentially provides a framework for you to do that. A fighter provides a framework for you to fight, a barbarian for you to live wild and fight with rage and little concern for your own safety, a truenamer provides a framework for you to learn creatures' true names and wield utterances against them, a monk provides a framework to do the sorts of cool stuff that you do in martial arts films, and a healer gives you a framework to heal people. None of these classes let you do that amazingly well, but it's clear what that class does. You don't end up rocking utterances in your first-level slots, powers in your second-level slots, divine magic in your third-level slots and arcane magic in your fifth-level slots. Your character concept does the thing it does, rather than being a mess of pick-and-choose abilities that I so often see from classless systems.

Monks

Wizards

I rest my case.

Lord Raziere
2016-01-14, 04:20 PM
Simple.

If I want to play a guy who can fight with a sword and cast fireball at character creation and still be a badass, classes are not the way for me. M&M however is. classes put quite simply, are one-dimensional. unless you got the whole progression of the character planned out from beginning to end and have their own mechanics finely balanced, all you have is a mess. when I might not have an idea of how they'll progress and play the character to find out, of what direction they will go- which might not be in the classes direction, more customization means more freedom to explore the directions my character can go, what paths they could go down, aside from a single one. as well as to start as something other than "fighter, rogue, mage" which all classes at some point boil down into.

now a hypothetical person can say that most skill or point-based character concepts break down into these anyways. and to that I say, in a vague way yes but you still have more flexibility and can tailor the person to be how you want them in a clear intended manner, rather than having to bash their head against the system trying to finagle a way into getting the character they desire, and while some may find that fun, for a character customizer like me its kind of unimpressive "oh so you managed to figure out how to make that character by being the greatest system master ever and combining a bunch of things across all those splat books after hours of searching, good for you! let me tell how I can make the same thing in minutes with only one book..." its not just customizability, its efficiency of customization. even if a system like 3.5 with so many splat books and options can technically do everything another system can, it would take so long to ignore the fluff, learn how the system works, find all the little things you need, get your build critiqued by other optimizers, figure out how to be useful to the group, and so on and so forth, that I really don't have time for that.

neonchameleon
2016-01-14, 05:06 PM
In some cases, the jarring jump in abilities when you 'level' interferes with the immersion.

This is a D&D issue - I can't think of any other game with a power curve in play to match that of D&D, and levels aren't the same as classes.


Well, I don't have much time to type, but if I hurry I can still make Cheyenne

I see that most of this is about lack of balance, let me counter that

Most gamers today consist of the "MMO Generation" where everything must be balanced or the Apocalypse will occur, where back in the older games, it was about what was fun, and not only different playstyles as in what the character did, but different playstyles as in what you did

To rebut, possibly the most balanced tabletop RPG that there has ever been that's not purely symmetric is oD&D. This is because it was played by hardcore wargamers trying to break the system - and Gygax put in years of hard work playing almost continuously. The three basic classes in the original game (the Thief didn't show up until Supplement 1: Greyhawk) are very well balanced for playing the game as it was designed to be played.

Unfortunately compared to the oD&D wizard, the 3.X wizard is using cheat modes (Cheat Mode: Free Spells; the oD&D wizard had to adventure for all their spells after the one free one they got at first level, cheat mode: Extra spells per day for Int and Specialisation, Cheat Mode: Aim Hack - the wizard picks the save to target so can hunt the low one and doesn't have save or suck spells and save or die being especially easy to save against (plus the stat boosters)). And that's before we even get into item crafting, drawbacks being removed from spells, and other stuff. While the fighter has been nerfed - can be one shotted by an orc at much higher level (crit rules), no longer gets an attack per level per round against chaff, and no longer gets extra damage against large monsters (which was why swords were fighter only). Also no longer gets an army at level 10.


The problem is then further compounded by having classes that have specific *MINIMUM* Attributes, means that you can play as more powerful/functional class the more powerful your character is at base. If you roll badly on your starting attributes in D&D, you can pick a class that can bring you up to par.

In old school D&D classes like the Paladin do have minimum stats - but you need to put them in odd places in order to soak the stats. When a fighter's power is mostly in their hirelings at low level and their items at high level (seriously, take away a +4 sword, +3 plate, and a +3 shield and the difference is massive) then restrictions like the Ranger;s and Paladin's are major nerfs. Roll well and you can play an interesting variant - on hard mode.


It allows for a much greater variety of characters to be balanced.

Point-buy classless systems are often touted as giving far more options - but once you have any sort of system mastery, that's simply not true. There are only a limited number of viable options, being the most efficient with your points, and it always ends up that there are fewer viable options than there would be in a system with a decent number of classes.

This is true :)


Well - it sounds like you have an entirely different definition of classes than anyone else that I've ever heard of.

No. I have a slightly odd definition of "Class based system." To illustrate, Feng Shui is a game with classes (or archetypes) - but if you told me that Robin Laws had kept back a point buy system and instead produced what amounted to a large collection of pregens because it made the game smoother and easier to get into I wouldn't be at all surprised. Classes are an aesthetic choice the game made rather than fundamental to the design.

oxybe
2016-01-14, 05:39 PM
Most gamers today consist of the "MMO Generation" where everything must be balanced or the Apocalypse will occur, where back in the older games, it was about what was fun, and not only different playstyles as in what the character did, but different playstyles as in what you did

by that same hyperbole, the "mmo generation" at least appreciates a well made game instead of blindly accepting the first thing that appears in front of them, and while they understand that they can force a badly carved square peg into a rough round hole, they would simply prefer a smooth square peg and a smooth square hole and see no reason to settle when options are available.

your "fun" was my "this is boring". I started playing during 2nd ed D&D and i jumped ship the second a game with more engaging mechanics came along as I found the core gameplay extremely dull without heavy GM involvement and often the mechanics failed to emulate the narrative it tried to feed me.

I only play what i find fun. that's why most people i know play, and your tone, and that of a lot of other older gamers like myself, really irritates me when they take a tone like the newer generation isn't in it for the fun like we were "in them good 'ol days".

no, they're in it for the fun just as much as you are.

Fri
2016-01-14, 05:54 PM
Well, I don't have much time to type, but if I hurry I can still make Cheyenne

I see that most of this is about lack of balance, let me counter that

Most gamers today consist of the "MMO Generation" where everything must be balanced or the Apocalypse will occur, where back in the older games, it was about what was fun, and not only different playstyles as in what the character did, but different playstyles as in what you did


Yeah, but is it fun for the wizard player when he throw one sleep spell in a combat then sling stones uselessly at the rest of the day or nag the rest of the party to have an 8 hour rest now? Is it fun for the fighter player to watch the wizard player summon the arcane force of fire and burn half the battlefield, then hit one monster with a stick, then watch the wizard player freeze the other half of the battlefield, then hit another monster with a stick?

Besides, "balance" isn't just about power in combat. It's about many more. Example, variety and effectiveness of things you can do in combat, variety of things and effectiveness of things you can do out of combat, and so on.

I have no flak against class, I play systems with classes, but the only thing I can see for it is simplicity for beginner player.

What's a system with rigid class have compared to classless system with templates anyway? "Here, this system is classless, but we provide you with common archetypal templates. You can start playing as those templates, or customize them as you want within the system limit, or after you understand more/feel that you don't like the template, make your own character."

Stubbazubba
2016-01-15, 02:05 AM
Yeah, but is it fun for the wizard player when he throw one sleep spell in a combat then sling stones uselessly at the rest of the day or nag the rest of the party to have an 8 hour rest now? Is it fun for the fighter player to watch the wizard player summon the arcane force of fire and burn half the battlefield, then hit one monster with a stick, then watch the wizard player freeze the other half of the battlefield, then hit another monster with a stick?

Besides, "balance" isn't just about power in combat. It's about many more. Example, variety and effectiveness of things you can do in combat, variety of things and effectiveness of things you can do out of combat, and so on.

I have no flak against class, I play systems with classes, but the only thing I can see for it is simplicity for beginner player.

What's a system with rigid class have compared to classless system with templates anyway? "Here, this system is classless, but we provide you with common archetypal templates. You can start playing as those templates, or customize them as you want within the system limit, or after you understand more/feel that you don't like the template, make your own character."

Balance is more complicated than combat alone, but however you define it, it still matters, because two people are playing next to each other in the same game, and frankly being BMX Bandit next to Angel Summoner (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFuMpYTyRjw) kind of sucks (and anyone who claims that "back in the old days" there was no balance is seriously overlooking the exacting mathematical work that went into very early editions; Gygax was an actuary, he didn't do math halfway). The Fighter/Wizard disparity is exactly what any reasonable class system would avoid. How D&D keeps pushing out editions that so deftly manage to recreate the very inverse of class-based outcomes while still using classes is truly a marvel. But I digress.

So, if balance is important (which I posit it is), it is easiest to achieve using classes. This is better both for the designer and the player; the designer because she has to test far fewer combinations of abilities to ensure proper balance, and the player because it requires much less system mastery to identify the power of each combination.

Free-form with a bunch of templates does not actually decrease the testing load from free-form without templates or the system mastery required to build a suitably effective character. In fact, free-form may have the insidious side effect of allowing many character options, the majority of which will be rather sub-par compared to a few combinations that happen to multiply their effectiveness somehow. Because all the free-form options are presented as equally desirable, the system is full of trap options. Surprisingly, D&D goes 2 for 2 when it comes to recreating the pitfalls of free-form design, because there are inevitably classes like the 3.5 Monk, which is presented as an equal option alongside the Cleric, Druid, and Wizard, but which is actually a highly statistically handicapped class. It requires a high degree of system mastery to be able to recognize it as such, though, so for most it is a trap option.

This is a fundamental issue designers have to face; even if your standard for balance isn't exacting, a ballpark balance point can still be upset by an unforeseen synergy between two disparate mechanics, so the more decisions players can make about their characters, the more options you need to test for balance. So the designer can either restrict the number of those options, or restrict their impact somehow, or devote a lot of time and effort to testing. If the designer chooses to do none of the above, then she kicks the can down the road to the players to figure out what different options' power levels are at, and the more choices, the more system mastery it requires to do so.

veti
2016-01-15, 02:35 AM
My impression is that some people want to play an archetype of some sort, and are happy to accept whatever package the game system says goes with that archetype. You want to be a sneaky outdoors fighter with light armour? Welcome, here's your animal companion and dual-wielding quasi-feats. No, nobody cares whether the character you imagined would have those things or not, you'd better use them now else you'll be hopelessly gimping your character, and frankly it's not a high-tier build to begin with...

But other people come to a game with a quite specific character in mind that they want to play, and they find that none of the classes fits it. Or, worse, that they have to spend ten levels switching between other classes, choosing feats and skill points they have no interest in, to qualify for some inane "prestige" class that approximates what they wanted. And those people - are apt to be a mite disparaging about the whole system.

Diff'rent strokes. I grew up with classes, but mostly nowadays I prefer to leave 'em alone.


It allows for a much greater variety of characters to be balanced.

I can't believe someone brought the word "balanced" up to defend classes...

goto124
2016-01-15, 02:41 AM
Given how the last post of the previous page explained how balance works out better in a class system than a classless system, do clarify how class systems are inherently more unbalanced than classless systems.

I mean, one could say DnD's class system is rather unbalanced. But what about other class systems? How do we know the unbalance is a function of the class system, as opposed to a function of DnD itself? Or, rather, a failure in the design of DnD?

veti
2016-01-15, 03:07 AM
Given how the last post of the previous page explained how balance works out better in a class system than a classless system, do clarify how class systems are inherently more unbalanced than classless systems.

I mean, one could say DnD's class system is rather unbalanced. But what about other class systems? How do we know the unbalance is a function of the class system, as opposed to a function of DnD itself? Or, rather, a failure in the design of DnD?

Did I say anything about "inherently"? But you'll note that while everyone can name one or more modern class-based systems that use classes to be horribly unbalanced, the only class-based system that really is balanced that's been mentioned before is OD&D, which is older than most people here.

So even if, theoretically, classes make it easier to balance a game - in practice, I suggest, they are not often used to do so.

Classless systems, on the other hand - yes, they're full of ways to accidentally gimp one's character. I've been there. But on the other hand, if I find I've taken a trap option, they're also full of ways to repair it. And all the while, I'll be playing with a set of skills and options that I chose. It's worth putting up with a bit of unbalance, for that. And in the meantime, a decent GM should be able to give challenges that play to my strengths, so I'm never completely useless. (Unlike, say, a fighter in a party of clerics.)

oxybe
2016-01-15, 03:36 AM
D&D's unbalanced aspects aren't an issue with the class structure, but rather distribution of abilities. it shines more of a negative light on the designers then the class structure.

removing the class structure and keeping everything else relatively similar, where the difficulty of gaining additional 9th level spells is just as difficult as gaining a bonus feat (wiz 20 VS ftr 20) your balance issues become more clear: the 9th level spells are simply far more powerful then the bonus feat.

classes, in theory and in the hands of competent designers, should allow them distribute abilities of similar scope at specific intervals to give a desired gameplay experience.

IE: Designer John determines that he wants the scope of level 5-ish monsters and challenges to change, where flying monsters or terrain/traps that are difficult to bypass with natural means are more common. to reflect this change in difficulty scope, using the class structure, at level 5 he starts giving players ways to deal with flying enemies and greater mobility options, like limited flight and teleportation or supernatural physical capabilities like enhanced speed, jumping, etc... or abilities that can force flying enemies down to their level.

in a truly classless system, barring having "trees" that you need to follow to get certain abilities (firebolt > fireball > meteor storm), an enterprising character could simply skip the abilities meant for the early game and go strait to meteor swarm.

NichG
2016-01-15, 03:42 AM
For the OP, why would you expect that a system having classes would be the default assumption?

goto124
2016-01-15, 04:35 AM
On these forums, the default assumption is DnD 3.5e :smalltongue:


Did I say anything about "inherently"? But you'll note that while everyone can name one or more modern class-based systems that use classes to be horribly unbalanced, the only class-based system that really is balanced that's been mentioned before is OD&D, which is older than most people here.

So even if, theoretically, classes make it easier to balance a game - in practice, I suggest, they are not often used to do so.

I'll leave this to people who have a better understanding of all sorts of class-based systems than I do.



in a truly classless system, barring having "trees" that you need to follow to get certain abilities (firebolt > fireball > meteor storm), an enterprising character could simply skip the abilities meant for the early game and go strait to meteor swarm.

*furiously tweaks meaning of 'class' and 'classless'*

Would you say a class system means having a set of abilities that are strung up in lines, and each line is a 'class'? Are there any systems that use skill trees (http://endless-space.collapse.fr/AMPLITUDE/AbilityTree_Pilot_Addon2.png)?

Also!


And in the meantime, a decent GM should be able to give challenges that play to my strengths, so I'm never completely useless. (Unlike, say, a fighter in a party of clerics.)

Would it be much harder for a GM to design a campaign to play to your strengths in a classless system, since the GM doesn't know what abilities you'll get? You say a "decent" GM, but what if the required level of GMing ability verges on Godlike or Mindreader?

Your argument is that it's harder for a GM to design challenges in a class-based system, though.

Lord Raziere
2016-01-15, 05:02 AM
in a truly classless system, barring having "trees" that you need to follow to get certain abilities (firebolt > fireball > meteor storm), an enterprising character could simply skip the abilities meant for the early game and go strait to meteor swarm.

y'know, I've been thinking of a reverse progression kind of deal:
instead of a character that starts out weak and gets stronger.....

imagine a character that starts out incredibly strong.....but with little finesse or fine control over their power, so their progression is rather becoming more controlled so that you can do smaller things and less damaging applications, because they can't solve every problem with a hammer.

so you'd have someone able to set fire to an entire town.....but be unable to focus or narrow that flame down to a point where it could be used to say, fight an individual enemy and not kill anyone else. they'd have to learn how to narrow and restrain themselves so that their power becomes useful. it'd be a good way to model say.....Superman, who doesn't start out a level 1, at least not from a power standpoint- he starts out at Level 20 power, but at Level 1 Control and learns to apply his power in better ways from there. or the Hulk, where leveling up is about Bruce Banner being able to focus and control a raging berserker better.

Fri
2016-01-15, 05:04 AM
Balance is more complicated than combat alone, but however you define it, it still matters, because two people are playing next to each other in the same game, and frankly being BMX Bandit next to Angel Summoner (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFuMpYTyRjw) kind of sucks (and anyone who claims that "back in the old days" there was no balance is seriously overlooking the exacting mathematical work that went into very early editions; Gygax was an actuary, he didn't do math halfway). The Fighter/Wizard disparity is exactly what any reasonable class system would avoid. How D&D keeps pushing out editions that so deftly manage to recreate the very inverse of class-based outcomes while still using classes is truly a marvel. But I digress.

So, if balance is important (which I posit it is), it is easiest to achieve using classes. This is better both for the designer and the player; the designer because she has to test far fewer combinations of abilities to ensure proper balance, and the player because it requires much less system mastery to identify the power of each combination.

Free-form with a bunch of templates does not actually decrease the testing load from free-form without templates or the system mastery required to build a suitably effective character. In fact, free-form may have the insidious side effect of allowing many character options, the majority of which will be rather sub-par compared to a few combinations that happen to multiply their effectiveness somehow. Because all the free-form options are presented as equally desirable, the system is full of trap options. Surprisingly, D&D goes 2 for 2 when it comes to recreating the pitfalls of free-form design, because there are inevitably classes like the 3.5 Monk, which is presented as an equal option alongside the Cleric, Druid, and Wizard, but which is actually a highly statistically handicapped class. It requires a high degree of system mastery to be able to recognize it as such, though, so for most it is a trap option.

This is a fundamental issue designers have to face; even if your standard for balance isn't exacting, a ballpark balance point can still be upset by an unforeseen synergy between two disparate mechanics, so the more decisions players can make about their characters, the more options you need to test for balance. So the designer can either restrict the number of those options, or restrict their impact somehow, or devote a lot of time and effort to testing. If the designer chooses to do none of the above, then she kicks the can down the road to the players to figure out what different options' power levels are at, and the more choices, the more system mastery it requires to do so.

I actualy agree that class based system is more easily balanced than classless. I'm just responding to 8bitninja's remark on how current players are in "MMO Generation" which worship "balance" and don't care about "fun" like old school players :smallsmile:.

Anyway, I prefer classless system with archetypal templates that act as class. The templates should be relatively balanced and easy to pick for new players. And then after you master the system more if you want you can just customize your templates or mix and match without getting fenced by arbitrary classes.

neonchameleon
2016-01-15, 05:54 AM
I can't believe someone brought the word "balanced" up to defend classes...

The 3.X tier system is a massive anomaly for a class based game. In most games Tier 3 is "Working as expected" - and you'll get a smattering of tier 2 and tier 4 where the designer screwed up (there are a few games where either tier 2 or tier 4 is working as expected).


For the OP, why would you expect that a system having classes would be the default assumption?


On these forums, the default assumption is DnD 3.5e :smalltongue:

Also because the only non-D&D game in history I'm aware of to outsell D&D (including Pathfinder) only did it for about a month when TSR wasn't publishing anything.


Would it be much harder for a GM to design a campaign to play to your strengths in a classless system, since the GM doesn't know what abilities you'll get? You say a "decent" GM, but what if the required level of GMing ability verges on Godlike or Mindreader?

Few games are harder than D&D 3.X because of the massive imbalance in that family of games. (Not none (Rifts, GURPS Supers spring to mind as worse), but few). Also a focussed goal at the start helps a lot.

oxybe
2016-01-15, 06:08 AM
*furiously tweaks meaning of 'class' and 'classless'*

Would you say a class system means having a set of abilities that are strung up in lines, and each line is a 'class'? Are there any systems that use skill trees (http://endless-space.collapse.fr/AMPLITUDE/AbilityTree_Pilot_Addon2.png)?

I have a GURPS supplement that somewhat does a form of magic through skill trees, though it doesn't line them up in a tree, but rather individual spells indicate their prerequisites that need to be met, usually more simple or weaker versions of the spells, or something similar conceptually that they could be linked, but weaker in scope.

As for what i would consider "classes" i tend to view skill trees as very narrow concept classes and classes as broader concept trees :P

both function in similar fashion: to force progression/growth in a certain direction or limit accessibility to certain abilities to the later game, trees just tend to allow you to go up the various trees at your leisure but overall progression is slower and in smaller increments while classes are bit more "locked in" but you get far more at any given junction of growth.

AMFV
2016-01-15, 08:21 AM
Like most system design choices, there are advantages and disadvantages to class systems.

In a class system a DM will have a much better idea about the capabilities of a group. Group members will have a much better idea about what exactly their role compromises and what they are expected to be able to bring to the table. It also takes a large portion of the frustrating issues out of character development, where an inexperienced player may not see trap options.

Of course, there are systems where this isn't the case. I would argue that free point systems don't necessarily offer a greater amount of customization, I mean if you compare WoD characters to D&D 3.5 characters, the latter will be drastically more varied in terms of potential capabilities. (As a sidenote, I'm very fond of both systems). Free point systems tend to be allow people to have areas they lack though, which may not always be the case in a class system.

So it's not that "The Fighter can't do survival", that would be ridiculously easy to optimize in 3.5. But it's that the fighter CANNOT be bad at wearing armor, there aren't as many options to trade competency in one thing for competency in another. Also specific classes give you specific abilities, which may not be the flavor you want. So there are drawbacks to class systems as well.

This tends to be something that people either love or hate (I'm indifferent personally, I've seen both types done well and poorly). Which is why you find such strong opinions on the matter.

GloatingSwine
2016-01-15, 08:57 AM
I can't believe someone brought the word "balanced" up to defend classes...

Despite TSR and Wizards' best efforts to prove the contrary, "Balanced" and "Classes" aren't actually oxymorons.

AMFV
2016-01-15, 09:11 AM
Despite TSR and Wizards' best efforts to prove the contrary, "Balanced" and "Classes" aren't actually oxymorons.

And to be fair, I think that the baggage from earlier editions is actually most of that issue. Not the class system. In earlier editions balance wasn't actually a design goal, so their classes weren't really balanced, and then you had signature abilities that followed in the newer editions. Making the whole thing a hodgepodge. Although from what I've heard 4E is much more balanced (although I've only skimmed the rules, not read through them thoroughly, much less played)

Stubbazubba
2016-01-15, 10:11 AM
Did I say anything about "inherently"? But you'll note that while everyone can name one or more modern class-based systems that use classes to be horribly unbalanced, the only class-based system that really is balanced that's been mentioned before is OD&D, which is older than most people here.

So even if, theoretically, classes make it easier to balance a game - in practice, I suggest, they are not often used to do so.

Sadly, I have to agree. Class systems are routinely churned out which similarly haven't put enough thought and testing toward the combinations available. This kind of sloppiness is probably inevitable in a cottage industry where the largest players get away with it nearly every edition, but I will continue to highlight the fact nevertheless. And some do a much better job than others, though it's hard to observe casually because only the top few systems really get analyzed and optimized enough to see the actual power points without a great deal of personal system mastery.


And to be fair, I think that the baggage from earlier editions is actually most of that issue. Not the class system. In earlier editions balance wasn't actually a design goal, so their classes weren't really balanced,

To my understanding, very early D&D was balanced at the "whole character" level, where certain classes were more powerful at different points of the 20-level game, but overall there was a good reason to play any of the original classes. The special classes, though, were gated behind ability score prerequisites and such, which made them alluring, so future editions made them more widely available and unified the levelling mechanism. This was a good idea, but really required a lot more testing than was done. By 3.5, specific designers were removing obstacles to their favorite classes' power, and completely upsetting the balance of the original game while introducing little of their own (though on the whole the d20 system may be the best-designed D&D engine ever). Because 3.5 existed in the internet age, the community discovered all of this in a way that hadn't really been possible even in the 90s. 4e was a heavy-handed reaction to this; it imposed balance at the design level, not really through testing of combinations. And that, predictably, led to a lot of constraints on class design and still had balance problems that required constant errata. 5e again reacts to that, and says "Clearly, balance is a unicorn we've all been chasing; we haven't had any suitable test for it in decades and people still seem to enjoy the game even without it, so let's throw it out and just make something that pushes enough of enough people's buttons to be adopted widely."

And all of these editions brought some innovation to the line (though I think 3e and 4e dwarf 5e's contribution), I'm not trying to say that balance alone makes a game worth playing or not; it certainly doesn't. But this is my understanding of the issue of balance through the editions; every edition was trying to shore up the weaknesses of the last, and in doing so has gradually drifted further and further from the simple answer of "test every combination for balance and iterate."

neonchameleon
2016-01-15, 10:33 AM
In earlier editions balance wasn't actually a design goal, so their classes weren't really balanced,

Yes it was. Gygax spent a long time and a lot of effort balancing oD&D (not that anyone really tried after he left TSR in 1985 or so).

Unfortunately it's all balanced assuming that at low levels you have about 20 hirelings/wardogs/fellow ne'er do wells with you rather than as a party of four or five, the fighter gets an army at level 9 as a class feature, and that's where the game has a soft cap. Things like the weird saving throw tables, the oddities in the XP system, and weapons doing different damage against large targets are all subtle ballance features.

And a lot of the overpowered stuff in Unearthed Arcana is because he made the cleric a bit too powerful.

Balance is not a new thing - and oD&D may be the best asymmetrically balanced RPG ever made.

Edit @Stubbazubba, D&D was never intended to be a 20 level game. It was intended to be a 10 level game - which is why e.g. the hit dice stop at 9 or 10, and why the fighter gets an army at that point and the wizard a tower and the XP requirement shoots up. After that point you are into the endgame - the high level spells were intended for the BBEG to use. (The highest level PC in Greyhawk was Sir Robilar who was either level 13 or level 14 - the idea that going above level 10 was normal was not intended).

Jormengand
2016-01-15, 11:51 AM
Monks

Wizards

I rest my case.
None of these classes let you do that amazingly well, but it's clear what that class does. You don't end up rocking utterances in your first-level slots, powers in your second-level slots, divine magic in your third-level slots and arcane magic in your fifth-level slots. Your character concept does the thing it does, rather than being a mess of pick-and-choose abilities that I so often see from classless systems.

I'm not sure what your point is, but as far as you're concerned, you've made it.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-15, 12:23 PM
Although from what I've heard 4E is much more balanced (although I've only skimmed the rules, not read through them thoroughly, much less played)

4E achieved decent balance through design symmetry between classes. (At level X every class got a generally similar ability which can be used equally often.) Symmetry is the easiest way to balance - but it's also the most boring, especially for a co-op game. (It's okay for 1v1 like chess/go, but that's about it.)

CharonsHelper
2016-01-15, 12:38 PM
My impression is that some people want to play an archetype of some sort, and are happy to accept whatever package the game system says goes with that archetype. You want to be a sneaky outdoors fighter with light armour? Welcome, here's your animal companion and dual-wielding quasi-feats. No, nobody cares whether the character you imagined would have those things or not, you'd better use them now else you'll be hopelessly gimping your character, and frankly it's not a high-tier build to begin with...

Actually - Pathfinder has done a rather good job of fixing that with the archetype system (basically their replacement of prestige classes). It's not perfect, but the balance between archetypes is generally quite good. (They inherited many of the class balance issues of 3.5)

They let you trade out multiple class features if you don't want. Between archetypes and the hybrid classes, there are few character types which aren't possible to play from the get-go.

(Again - I'm not saying that Pathfinder is perfect. As above - they inherited much of 3.5's balance issues, but it does show that a robust enough class system allows you to play pretty much any character type.)

GloatingSwine
2016-01-15, 12:50 PM
Edit @Stubbazubba, D&D was never intended to be a 20 level game. It was intended to be a 10 level game - which is why e.g. the hit dice stop at 9 or 10, and why the fighter gets an army at that point and the wizard a tower and the XP requirement shoots up. After that point you are into the endgame - the high level spells were intended for the BBEG to use. (The highest level PC in Greyhawk was Sir Robilar who was either level 13 or level 14 - the idea that going above level 10 was normal was not intended).

Even in 2E some of the classes got really esoteric for progression beyond a certain point.

Druids were the weirdest. Everything from 12-15 was limited, so limited in fact that there could only ever be one level 15 druid in the world at any one time and he was the official boss of all druids.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-15, 12:56 PM
I mean, one could say DnD's class system is rather unbalanced. But what about other class systems? How do we know the unbalance is a function of the class system, as opposed to a function of DnD itself? Or, rather, a failure in the design of DnD?

Even within the same core d20 system - Star Wars Saga Edition had pretty solid balance between the various classes.

Some of it was because there was less asymmetry than in 3.5, but the classes still played quite differently.

Morty
2016-01-15, 12:57 PM
There are advantages to class-based system. Many system use "classes" in a manner of speaking, even if they don't call them classes. They're a way of directing character progress, reinforcing archetypes and helping players figure out a concept for their character.

The backlash against the concept of classes is that the most typical class-based system is D&D - it actually calls them classes, and they're more important than any other similar mechanics. And D&D has always been really awful at class design, which results in having all the disadvantages of the idea, but few of its advantages.

ImNotTrevor
2016-01-15, 01:22 PM
I wonder how Apocalypse World fits into this...

Especially since Apocalypse World is focused on Instablity rather than balance. (Thematically, as well as mechanically in small ways.)

I personally believe the classes are balanced, but by being so different and so focused on what they do that comparing their effectiveness is really hard.

For instance, if you want to kill everything with ease, and destroy anything in your way, you play a Gunlugger. Done. That class is objectively the best at violence.

You want to be a creepy psychic that quite literally mind-rapes people? Brainer.

You want to manipulate people through charm and devotion? Skinner.

Vehicle Specialist? You play Driver. Always.

You want to be the mayor of a town? Hardholder.


The list goes on, but each class has its theme and is excellent at that one thing, at the expense of pretty much everything else. It creates its own kind of balance, in that the Driver will never be as good at blowing things up as the Gunlugger is, and neither will ever be able to violently penetrate someone's mind or make people fall in love with them through their art.


And since XP doesn't come from kills, the gunlugger is not going to level up any faster than anyone else.
And since combat isn't necessarily the focus of the game, everyone shines pretty equally.

It's POSSIBLE to powergame in AW, but since campaigns are pretty short, it doesn't tend to mean much in the long run. It just means your character is ready for retirement quicker. And that's no fun. (And yes, eventually your character WILL have to retire on one of their level-ups, when its the last potential boon left for them. It would be about their 16th level-up.)

wumpus
2016-01-15, 01:30 PM
I can't believe someone brought the word "balanced" up to defend classes...

D&D 4e is an example of balanced classes. It was the design goal, and it appears to have been achieved. Whether it was worth it has likely been an ongoing discussion of an entire forum since it was released.

I'm wondering what your alternative is? If you have a game where "everyone is Fred", then you have balance. If you want something similar to classes (with different builds designed for different roles) then you have all the problems with balancing classes with a nearly infinite number of builds. Using a heavy hand to imply "suggested builds" winds up looking a lot like classes, where a light hand assumes that your power-testers find all the balancing issues before release.

If I was striving for balance in a game I was designing, I'd first look to classes. I might fake it by building the classes first and then making a "build a class" where the pre-balanced classes were optimal (and everything else was nearly balanced), but I'd really be using classes.

8BitNinja
2016-01-15, 01:34 PM
I actualy agree that class based system is more easily balanced than classless. I'm just responding to 8bitninja's remark on how current players are in "MMO Generation" which worship "balance" and don't care about "fun" like old school players :smallsmile:.

Anyway, I prefer classless system with archetypal templates that act as class. The templates should be relatively balanced and easy to pick for new players. And then after you master the system more if you want you can just customize your templates or mix and match without getting fenced by arbitrary classes.

I do not believe all current players are like this, and I am not saying that balance and fun cannot coexist, there are many games that are both balanced and fun


For the OP, why would you expect that a system having classes would be the default assumption?

It's pretty much RPG tradition to have classes, the one I'm deigning now has about 15, and every one but GURPS I have heard of has classes, but I am no expert on RPGs, In fact, I am kind of new


There are advantages to class-based system. Many system use "classes" in a manner of speaking, even if they don't call them classes. They're a way of directing character progress, reinforcing archetypes and helping players figure out a concept for their character.

The backlash against the concept of classes is that the most typical class-based system is D&D - it actually calls them classes, and they're more important than any other similar mechanics. And D&D has always been really awful at class design, which results in having all the disadvantages of the idea, but few of its advantages.

D&D Classes are more based on how the character would live their day-to-day life. A Wizard spends a lot of time in seclusion and rarely gets exercise, but is super smart. A fighter is a soldier, and is properly equipped, etc.

Sorry I haven't been able to respond as fast

wumpus
2016-01-15, 01:41 PM
Most gamers today consist of the "MMO Generation" where everything must be balanced or the Apocalypse will occur, where back in the older games, it was about what was fun, and not only different playstyles as in what the character did, but different playstyles as in what you did


One of the problems of "old school balance" (a word Gygax only used wrt "party" vs. "monsters", at least in AD&D) was that it was designed to balance things from level 1 to "cap" (cap wasn't well defined). Often people would play with one-off adventures (TSR's module sales helped fuel this), and trade the DM's screen around.

The irony involved is that this balance makes more sense in the MMO scene, where players are much more likely to play to cap. Unfortunately, you would need to build a game around leveling and not play at cap. DDO more or less did this, but of course players get attached to their capped characters and like to run them (so they had better be balanced at least at cap).

Fri
2016-01-15, 01:42 PM
D&D Classes are more based on how the character would live their day-to-day life. A Wizard spends a lot of time in seclusion and rarely gets exercise, but is super smart. A fighter is a soldier, and is properly equipped, etc.

Sorry I haven't been able to respond as fast

Actually, this is something I can say you're totally wrong. DnD classes shouldn't have anything to do with how they spend their day to day life. Some other system might have that, and some specific prestige classes might have that, but most class shouldn't do this.

Example, Wizard? If you want to play pale bookish researcher that wheeze after sprinting for 5 minutes but know how to conjure fireball, sure, play wizard. But if you want to play an exploring naturalist who travel the world making arcane encylopedia and adventure to find new interesting things to put in his book, you can also play a wizard. Also, you can also play an elite squad of wizard that defend the kingdom, magical engineering student, DnD Wizard could play all of them.

Same with Fighter. Professional Soldier paid by kingdom with full provided armor? Fighter. Drunken Thug? Sure, you can play it as fighter as well. Wandering Mercenary with heart of gold with weak constitution but can kill a bandit with one stroke of his legacy sword? That can be a fighter as well.

Though, not saying that you can't limit a class more. I mean, if you want to have a "Paladin" class and say that the class have to live in monastery and never drink alcohol, feel free.

But anyway, if you're making class based system, I really much prefer if the system have few "basic" archetype that you can play as many things, rather than many specific things. Someone mentioned RIFT before, how the game has things like Street Rat vs Vagabond. Cyberdoc vs Surgeon. Rogue Scholar vs Rogue Scientist. Seriously, what's the point.

Spore
2016-01-15, 02:01 PM
The term vocal minority comes to mind. Often the majority doesnt defend a system they think is better just because its consensus already.

8BitNinja
2016-01-15, 02:24 PM
The term vocal minority comes to mind. Often the majority doesnt defend a system they think is better just because its consensus already.

That still does not change the fact people have something against classes

Grinner
2016-01-15, 02:28 PM
Actually, this is something I can say you're totally wrong. DnD classes shouldn't have anything to do with how they spend their day to day life. Some other system might have that, and some specific prestige classes might have that, but most class shouldn't do this.

Maybe they shouldn't, but it's difficult to design a single class which represents vocational skills with no preconception of how they might spend their time. For example, D&D 3.5's Wizard class might work for the naturalist wizard in your example, but it doesn't capture every nuance. Someone who spends all day tromping about the woods is going to be a bit hardier than a cloistered scholar. Through disadvantageous selections of feats and cross-class skills, you might be able to mechanically represent your naturalist wizard to match the fluff, but no one's really going to do that.

For your magical engineering student? Maybe. But couldn't an Artificer also do that, and don't you all tend to find Artificers more preferable for that?

It can work, but as mentioned earlier, classes with relevant abilities to a particular vision don't always match the vision.

Personally, I thought D&D 4e's approach to multiclassing (the multiclassing feats and hybrid classes) made for a pretty neat compromise between classy and classless systems. Mind you, I have no idea how it worked out in practice, since I bought a couple of the books but never got to use them. Still, it seemed like an interesting idea.


But anyway, if you're making class based system, I really much prefer if the system have few "basic" archetype that you can play as many things, rather than many specific things. Someone mentioned RIFT before, how the game has things like Street Rat vs Vagabond. Cyberdoc vs Surgeon. Rogue Scholar vs Rogue Scientist. Seriously, what's the point.

I've never played RIFT before, but I imagine each class incorporates certain nuances, representing a variation on a theme in the end.

Mastikator
2016-01-15, 02:30 PM
That still does not change the fact people have something against classes

Even if you're not a simulationist at heart you still expect a certain level of realism- or conforming to expectations of a real world with real people that could really exist, because that makes it way easier to relate to. And classes are just no realistic. Classes are only good when you come from a gamist attitude AND if the classes themselves are well balanced. If the classes are not well balanced then they are a detriment. You can easily go with non-constraining archetypes that don't limit players but rather guide them.

Besides that I guess classes provide structure, which makes them good training wheels. But even perfect training wheels are not good for someone who can do without.

8BitNinja
2016-01-15, 02:31 PM
A non-D&D example

In Shadowrun, a hacker should spend their time hacking

day-to-day life? yes

class? yes

Fri
2016-01-15, 02:40 PM
A non-D&D example

In Shadowrun, a hacker should spend their time hacking

day-to-day life? yes

class? yes

Sure, hacker hack. But they can be elite corporation hacker who hack as 9 to 5 job, fat guy in a basement with no social skill who only get contacted by runners because he's the best at his job, crazy conspiracy theorist who move from town to town to evade "The Man" and do runs to fund his life and prepare for the incoming apocalypse, Cool hacker who dress in black leather coat and drive sport car surrounded by groupie, veteran runner hacker who can hack but also have a stash of weapons under his coat and can shoot and slice when not hacking, and so on.

YossarianLives
2016-01-15, 04:46 PM
This thread confuses me. Sure, there's quite a bit of dislike for classes and some of the arguments made by advocates of classes-less systems are probably false. But what exactly are the advantages of classes? I actually can't think of any.

Grinner
2016-01-15, 04:51 PM
This thread confuses me. Sure, there's quite a bit of dislike for classes and some of the arguments made by advocates of classes-less systems are probably false. But what exactly are the advantages of classes? I actually can't think of any.

Conceptual ease, I think.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-15, 04:59 PM
This thread confuses me. Sure, there's quite a bit of dislike for classes and some of the arguments made by advocates of classes-less systems are probably false. But what exactly are the advantages of classes? I actually can't think of any.

I've already put forth several.

The 2 biggest.

1. True variety. Sure - classless systems have much greater theoretical variety in characters, but the vast majority of them are sub-par, leading to actually have fewer viable choices.

2. Balance. Despite many examples of poorly designed classes (this is an argument for classes as a tool, it's not saying that said tool is always used well) classes lead to character progression being able to be somewhat more predictable and therefore easier to balance.

As a tertiary, I'd say that classes can also be used to force variety upon a party (Between players - not just as options) by having an obvious rock-scissors-paper aspect to the gameplay. As an well-known example - think Pokémon. Even is editions when 1-2 element types were known to be a bit more powerful - no one had their entire team be those types, as they'd be crushed by their weak-point. Frankly - it surprises me how few RPGs have a strong rock-scissors-paper mechanic. (Some early PvP MMOs did, but they backed off it due to all of the flak it got.) D&D actually does this last part reasonably well at lower levels, though more in a 'combo well' sort of way than a 'rock-scissors-paper' sort of way.

Tanarii
2016-01-15, 04:59 PM
Edit @Stubbazubba, D&D was never intended to be a 20 level game. It was intended to be a 10 level game - which is why e.g. the hit dice stop at 9 or 10, and why the fighter gets an army at that point and the wizard a tower and the XP requirement shoots up. After that point you are into the endgame - the high level spells were intended for the BBEG to use. (The highest level PC in Greyhawk was Sir Robilar who was either level 13 or level 14 - the idea that going above level 10 was normal was not intended).Every time I see people talking about level 9 spells breaking the game, especially in AD&D 1e, I shake my head a little bit. Everything above level 10, or 5th level spells, was AD&D's equivalent of Epic level play. And incidentally required max stats to be able to cast, Int 16/18 for M-U 8/9, and Wis 17/18 for Cleric 6/7. It would have been nice if marital stayed on par with super-intelligent wizards and super-wise clerics in Epic-level play, but this was High Fantasy. It didn't fit the genre at the time.

Besides, outside of cheating the rules, no characters could possibly get there without a absolutely ridiculous amount of play-time.

Strigon
2016-01-15, 05:15 PM
I'd say it's because classes, whether they actually are or aren't, feel restricting. You look at someone else with another ability and say "man, I wish I could do that!".
With no classes, you can grab a little bit of whatever you want, and tie it all together. With classes, you have to rely on either taking a class that mixes what you want, or multiclass if it's available - and even then you have to take bite-sized chunks of what you want, when you could just grab a pinch in a classless system.

Of course, the flipside is that without classes, character creation can be extremely nebulous. If you have classes, you can say you want to be X type of character, look through the classes until you find what fits most with your mental image, and play that with enough choices to make it your own.
Without classes, you have to personally decide exactly how much of everything you want, which things are most important and what you're going to give up for them, when you're going to pick up each ability, and a whole host of other things.

JoeJ
2016-01-15, 05:17 PM
I've already put forth several.

The 2 biggest.

1. True variety. Sure - classless systems have much greater theoretical variety in characters, but the vast majority of them are sub-par, leading to actually have fewer viable choices.

Which classless games are you thinking of? My experience with Champions, M&M and GURPS has been the exact opposite: the number of different viable characters is orders of magnitudes greater than in any version of D&D.

NichG
2016-01-15, 05:54 PM
It's pretty much RPG tradition to have classes, the one I'm deigning now has about 15, and every one but GURPS I have heard of has classes, but I am no expert on RPGs, In fact, I am kind of new

Perhaps then the answer that will make sense is that tradition isn't a big motivator for people, especially those who are looking to design things to fill a need that isn't answered by what is already available.

There are tons of classless systems by the way. The various World of Darkness games, 7th Sea, Nobilis, FATE, etc.

Grinner
2016-01-15, 06:30 PM
There are tons of classless systems by the way. The various World of Darkness games, 7th Sea, Nobilis, FATE, etc.

A minor nitpick: World of Darkness games aren't exactly classless. There's definitely a strong element of classlessness there, but each gameline has character options which inform what a character's abilities, and therefore vocational inclinations, will tend to be.

NichG
2016-01-15, 06:47 PM
A minor nitpick: World of Darkness games aren't exactly classless. There's definitely a strong element of classlessness there, but each gameline has character options which inform what a character's abilities, and therefore vocational inclinations, will tend to be.

My understanding was that the particular game lines were designed under the assumption that you wouldn't mix and match supernatural types in the same campaign. Of course, people then immediately go and mix the game lines in actual play.

There's also the question of whether any kind of bundling of abilities constitutes a class, or only if it's the central mode of advancement. L5R for example has three character types and a finer clan-based subdivision, but advancement is based on buying individual skills and stats with XP, and just occasionally getting an upgrade of your 'class' abilities at certain breakpoints.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-15, 06:50 PM
Which classless games are you thinking of? My experience with Champions, M&M and GURPS has been the exact opposite: the number of different viable characters is orders of magnitudes greater than in any version of D&D.

I don't know Champions & GURPS well - but I've read through M&M - and the balance between different options is horrible. It's extremely easy to abuse the point-buy system, making only those characters which have the ability to do so comparatively viable, not to mention the several trap options I spotted without even really trying.

Maybe your group had something of a gentleman's agreement not to make such powerful characters - but by that logic there is no caster/martial disparity in 3.5.

Lord Raziere
2016-01-15, 08:02 PM
I don't know Champions & GURPS well - but I've read through M&M - and the balance between different options is horrible. It's extremely easy to abuse the point-buy system, making only those characters which have the ability to do so comparatively viable, not to mention the several trap options I spotted without even really trying.

Maybe your group had something of a gentleman's agreement not to make such powerful characters - but by that logic there is no caster/martial disparity in 3.5.

Well yeah, but here is the thing: at least in M&M its so obvious that we can spot it right off, with martial/caster disparity, you trade all the options.....for two options and still broken, but in a more limited way, and it isn't immediately obvious that they are disparate until you get into an optimization guide. especially since most people think of DnD as the gateway roleplay game, and thus newbies wouldn't know anything about RPG's in general coming in.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-15, 08:47 PM
Well yeah, but here is the thing: at least in M&M its so obvious that we can spot it right off, with martial/caster disparity, you trade all the options.....for two options and still broken, but in a more limited way, and it isn't immediately obvious that they are disparate until you get into an optimization guide. especially since most people think of DnD as the gateway roleplay game, and thus newbies wouldn't know anything about RPG's in general coming in.

Wait... your logic is that M&M being broken is okay because it's more obviously broken!? (Frankly - Pathfinder balance isn't bad until you get past level 10-12 anyway - it fixed all of the worse offenders of 3.5 before then. M&M is broken from the get-go.) And there are far more than 2 potential classes in any D&D edition, and there is significant customization 3e+ within each class.

Grinner
2016-01-15, 09:10 PM
There's also the question of whether any kind of bundling of abilities constitutes a class, or only if it's the central mode of advancement. L5R for example has three character types and a finer clan-based subdivision, but advancement is based on buying individual skills and stats with XP, and just occasionally getting an upgrade of your 'class' abilities at certain breakpoints.

I believe I've heard the term "soft class" applied to this sort of thing before. Anyway, I was talking about something similar. Let's look at Werewolf's Auspices:


Rahu (The Full Moon, The Warrior) - warriors of all kinds from brawlers to seasoned commanders.
Cahalith (The Gibbous Moon, The Visionary) - seers, storytellers and lorekeepers.
Elodoth (The Half Moon, The Walker Between) - diplomats to the spirit courts, judges and arbiters.
Ithaeur (The Crescent Moon, The Spirit Master) - occultists and keepers of spirit lore and rituals.
Irraka (The New Moon, The Stalker) - scouts, spies and trackers.


Looking at the descriptions, each auspice actively encourages players to adopt different "jobs". Players aren't bound to this by any means, and depending on their choice of tribe, they may end up with something dissimilar to these descriptions. Still, there's a definite push for player characters to adopt different roles within the group, even within the same gameline.


Wait... your logic is that M&M being broken is okay because it's more obviously broken!? (Frankly - Pathfinder balance isn't bad until you get past level 10-12 anyway - it fixed all of the worse offenders of 3.5 before then. M&M is broken from the get-go.)

From the gamemaster's perspective, that's not a bad tradeoff...You can only correct the problems you can see. Pathfinder, for whatever balances it presents, is a trainwreck as far as cognitive overhead is concerned. The DM tools are kinda useful, though.


And there are far more than 2 potential classes in any D&D edition, and there is significant customization 3e+ within each class.

You're still shackled to whatever class you choose, though. You can build just about anything, but you have to work around the system to do so and then squint really hard.

Lord Raziere
2016-01-15, 09:17 PM
Wait... your logic is that M&M being broken is okay because it's more obviously broken!? (Frankly - Pathfinder balance isn't bad until you get past level 10-12 anyway - it fixed all of the worse offenders of 3.5 before then. M&M is broken from the get-go.) And there are far more than 2 potential classes in any D&D edition, and there is significant customization 3e+ within each class.

well here is the thing:

DnD is so obsessed with providing a certain framework of challenge and group play, that everyone is pressured into optimizing as much as they can to be effective as possible, just to raise the numbers. so they end up being broken, because they think they need to be, or are unaware that they are.

M&M......doesn't do that. your put at a certain PL and stay there. you don't level up, not much anyways. you don't need to be the most effective you need to be (meaning broken beyond repair) to enjoy it, to be balanced, you just got to pay attention to the PL and put points appropriately to the character concept.

your looking at it from a DnD point of view: assuming that you have to automatically go for the most effective possible thing no matter what. when thats why I play M&M instead of DnD: you don't NEED to be wizard McGod to be powerful and overcome the challenges before you. in DnD, its vital, in M&M its just overkill. the entire point of more narrative games is that not everyone wants to break the system as soon as we see it to get the concepts we want, not to become as powerful as possible. becoming a godlike being in M&M is easy, so why bother?

the only reason the DnD mindset is there, is because the system is long, hard and challenging to break and filled with fluff. nerds have a natural urge to try and find ways to exploit and break the systems they use for things they're clearly not designed for. so of course, when optimizers see DnD, they see it as a challenge to find a way to use the system in a way that its clearly not intended for, and thats how we ended up with 3.5. To break the game is an achievement for them, to prove that are god because the rules say so, but only because you need to figure out how.

meanwhile, if you just wrote a system that said "You Are God." and absolutely nothing else, no one would play that, there is no achievement for demonstrating how you are a god there. Nothing to break. Godhood is only desirable because its made something to achieve. with M&M you can get it at Character Creation plus three narrative complications apart of your character that can still screw you over no matter how powerful and great you are, so the story is: What Now, now that you have this power? So why even bother. might as well play something less godlike, because the other players will probably be on the same level and face challenges right alongside you and still be effective, and no matter you do, you'll never get rid of those complications that keep making the story interesting and keep you from solving everything effortlessly.

Loki_42
2016-01-15, 09:53 PM
I prefer classes for a couple of reasons. With that said, I don't play any D&D. I play things similar to it (13th Age), but most systems I play fall into Powered by the Apocalypse stuff, which have playbooks which serve effectively the same use as classes. Below I'll talk about what PbtA playbooks do well, which also extends to what other classes do well.

1. Niche Protection: Classes enable people to easily have a niche. This often applies to combat roles, such as 4th edition's lot (Striker, Leader, Controller, Defender), but can also apply to narrative niche protection. In a good class system, a Paladin class should play like a Paladin, and be recognizably Paladinesque. D&D often fails at things like this, and a Paladin feels either like a devout Fighter or a militaristic Cleric. In Dungeon World, the Paladin gets both combat-focused abilities that feel like what a Paladin should have, and also narrative abilities that ensure the Paladin's place in the world as a Paladin.

2. Ease of use; Pick up and play: Class based systems in general, and especially PbtA playbooks, allow players to make a character much faster than classless systems. Some people like a ton of granularity in character creation. I, personally, do not, and would rather have a character made within a half-hour at most, or a few minutes at the fastest. Tying into niche protection above, Classes have strong pre-packaged abilities, typically with few, but mechanically significant, choices in character creation and through advancement. This is totally in line with my interests, because I enjoy playing characters more than creating them. But that is personal preference.

Because of these reasons, I do enjoy class-based systems more. I can have fun with a classless system, but classes usually support the experience I want more.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-15, 10:06 PM
you don't NEED to be wizard McGod to be powerful and overcome the challenges before you. in DnD, its vital,

It actually isn't vital at all. The CR system is pretty easy if you know what you're doing at all. Virtually all published APs are known to be designed for barely competent players. Groups which actually enjoy optimizing (it's not a dirty word just because it's not your cup of tea) generally the GM either adds to the challenges in the AP or keeps the characters 1-2 levels below what the AP recommends.

The only big thing is that the balance between players is not balanced at higher levels if the players are competent. If the casters are bad at optimizing, the martial/caster disparity never actually happens.

JoeJ
2016-01-16, 12:58 AM
I don't know Champions & GURPS well - but I've read through M&M - and the balance between different options is horrible. It's extremely easy to abuse the point-buy system, making only those characters which have the ability to do so comparatively viable, not to mention the several trap options I spotted without even really trying.

Maybe your group had something of a gentleman's agreement not to make such powerful characters - but by that logic there is no caster/martial disparity in 3.5.

The question was not about whether there were a couple of powers that could be abused, but about how many different viable characters can be created. Some abilities can create problems for a GM - and the Power Profiles book discusses that. But they don't invalidate the other characters the way a high level wizard does a fighter in 3.5 or PF.

If the "trap options" you spotted are the ones I'm thinking of, that simply cost more points to do something than doing the same thing a different way, they also generally aren't serious enough to make a character non-viable unless you're really trying hard to be useless. And since we're still talking about the number of character options, you always have the option of doing those things the cheaper way (and a good GM should point that out during character creation).

Arbane
2016-01-16, 01:55 AM
I've already put forth several.

The 2 biggest.

1. True variety. Sure - classless systems have much greater theoretical variety in characters, but the vast majority of them are sub-par, leading to actually have fewer viable choices.

/looks at 3.5 Monk.
/starts laughing and crying simultaneously.

Niche protection is one big reason class-based games continue to be popular. Also, they're easy stereotypes. If you're playing D&D, and someone says their character is a Barbarian, you expect a strong smashy guy. If they're a rogue, you expect someone sneaky. And so on. I suspect this is part of the reason D&D's settings tend toward Extruded Fantasy Product - it's easy to explain to noobs (unlike the 20-page explanation Exalted needs, for example).


Every time I see people talking about level 9 spells breaking the game, especially in AD&D 1e, I shake my head a little bit. Everything above level 10, or 5th level spells, was AD&D's equivalent of Epic level play. And incidentally required max stats to be able to cast, Int 16/18 for M-U 8/9, and Wis 17/18 for Cleric 6/7. It would have been nice if marital stayed on par with super-intelligent wizards and super-wise clerics in Epic-level play, but this was High Fantasy. It didn't fit the genre at the time.

Besides, outside of cheating the rules, no characters could possibly get there without a absolutely ridiculous amount of play-time.

Truth. Here's Epic Level Adventures in AD&D:
http://www.museumofplay.org/online-collections/images/Z004/Z00454/Z0045448.jpg

Level 10-14 to go into the Abyss and kill Lolth.



I don't know Champions & GURPS well - but I've read through M&M - and the balance between different options is horrible. It's extremely easy to abuse the point-buy system, making only those characters which have the ability to do so comparatively viable, not to mention the several trap options I spotted without even really trying.

Maybe your group had something of a gentleman's agreement not to make such powerful characters - but by that logic there is no caster/martial disparity in 3.5.

Unlike the weird Legalism of D&D3+, games like M&M and Champions generally EXPLICITLY say that the GM has the right (and responsibility) to veto any blatantly game-breaking abilities. (Someone in GURPS figured out a way to make a power that would kill all life in the universe for less points than a starting character gets. All rules-legal, but no sane GM should allow it.)

Stubbazubba
2016-01-16, 02:21 AM
Unlike the weird Legalism of D&D3+, games like M&M and Champions generally EXPLICITLY say that the GM has the right (and responsibility) to veto any blatantly game-breaking abilities. (Someone in GURPS figured out a way to make a power that would kill all life in the universe for less points than a starting character gets. All rules-legal, but no sane GM should allow it.)

Oberoni/Rule 0 fallacy doesn't become less problematic simply because it's written into the book. It still means the GM is forced to finish balancing the game because the designers simply didn't. It's unfair to GMs, and it's unfair to players. Designers need to step up; we're paying them money, GMs get nothing.

I mean, yes, at some point the game has to ship and once your group has decided to play something, gentleman's agreements to actually make it playable are usually necessary. But that doesn't mean the rules problem isn't a problem, or that the designers shouldn't be expected to do better next time.


DnD is so obsessed with providing a certain framework of challenge and group play, that everyone is pressured into optimizing as much as they can to be effective as possible

M&M......doesn't do that.

This is entirely dependent on the DM/GM, though. Many people play unoptimized D&D, and some people will play optimized M&M.

Arbane
2016-01-16, 03:05 AM
Oberoni/Rule 0 fallacy doesn't become less problematic simply because it's written into the book. It still means the GM is forced to finish balancing the game because the designers simply didn't. It's unfair to GMs, and it's unfair to players. Designers need to step up; we're paying them money, GMs get nothing.


I humbly submit that trying to 'balance' a superhero game probably runs afoul of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem. When one person is playing Batman, one's playing Giant Robo, and a third is playing Dr. Strange, the closest thing to 'balance' that is attainable is to try building everyone on the same number of points and to try to make sure they each get equal bang for their buck, even if their competencies are at right-angles to each other.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-16, 12:10 PM
The question was not about whether there were a couple of powers that could be abused, but about how many different viable characters can be created.

Actually - that's the same thing from a balance perspective. As soon as there are two or three abilities which are significantly outside of the 'standard' power level, they inherently become the new standard even if that wasn't intended by the designers. So - all of the previously 'viable' builds all become inherently weak and sub-par. If your group ignores the most potent options so that they stick with the intended power level, that's simply a gentleman's agreement, and relying upon such is basically admitting that the game's balance sucks.

That is what I was talking about above. I've never seen a point-buy system with any significant amount of crunch which didn't have multiple ways of getting higher power levels than the designers intended, thereby making all of the standard builds inherently weak-sauce and actually having relatively few viable options. Again - one can get around that by everyone ignoring all of the powerful options... but that in no way means that said powerful options don't exist. (Sort of like a power creep which is part of the base system - invalidating huge chunks of the system at release.)

Lord Raziere
2016-01-16, 02:20 PM
Actually - that's the same thing from a balance perspective. As soon as there are two or three abilities which are significantly outside of the 'standard' power level, they inherently become the new standard even if that wasn't intended by the designers. So - all of the previously 'viable' builds all become inherently weak and sub-par. If your group ignores the most potent options so that they stick with the intended power level, that's simply a gentleman's agreement, and relying upon such is basically admitting that the game's balance sucks.

That is what I was talking about above. I've never seen a point-buy system with any significant amount of crunch which didn't have multiple ways of getting higher power levels than the designers intended, thereby making all of the standard builds inherently weak-sauce and actually having relatively few viable options. Again - one can get around that by everyone ignoring all of the powerful options... but that in no way means that said powerful options don't exist. (Sort of like a power creep which is part of the base system - invalidating huge chunks of the system at release.)

most people don't even seem to be aware or even care that these systems could be abused? again, what is is so bad about admitting that the system is not perfect and that your all reasonable human beings who don't need a quite frankly overdetailed system like 3.5 to keep ourselves "in line", or always optimize to make sure we're "the most effective"? your arguments are 3.5 optimization talk. really, everything in roleplaying is a gentleman's agreement: you agree to pretend that this guy is the GM, that these stats matter, that classes matter and so on and so forth, when physically they're all just ink on the page.

heck, you agree to pretend that optimization matters when you sit down to play the game. if you game with a group that doesn't agree with that, they can just find a way to screw you over no matter how optimal you are through story, interaction and social sanction, and simply not care what you say about the rules. don't act as if 3.5 faults actually make it "the best system" then turn around and try and say that other systems because of their flaws. that you can argue that systems aren't unbalanced, its the builds that people invent for it- I mean you set out to break the system, what do you expect other than a game that doesn't work? because you broke it. its like wielding a baseball bat and intentionally setting out to whack it against things until it shatters, and all you end up with it is the handle and some splinters, guess what, the people having fun with baseball bats are the ones using what its meant to do: knock baseballs out of the park.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-16, 02:58 PM
most people don't even seem to be aware or even care that these systems could be abused? again, what is is so bad about admitting that the system is not perfect and that your all reasonable human beings who don't need a quite frankly overdetailed system like 3.5 to keep ourselves "in line", or always optimize to make sure we're "the most effective"? your arguments are 3.5 optimization talk. really, everything in roleplaying is a gentleman's agreement: you agree to pretend that this guy is the GM, that these stats matter, that classes matter and so on and so forth, when physically they're all just ink on the page.

That's fine if you want to play like that. I am in no way disparaging it. If such is your play style, you get to enjoy the customization of point-buy. However, you can't then claim that such a system is balanced. (Your particular game might be by everyone intentionally avoiding the best options - but that's not the system itself being balanced.)

In theory, I think point-buy is cool, it's just that figuring out how to work with a system is part of what I enjoy about RPGs. And I've yet to find a point-buy system which gets half-way decent balance which allows me to do so without breaking the system - so I brought it up as a drawback to point-buy. I DON'T WANT to break the system - I just want to enjoy the customization, and I don't enjoy it if I have to gimp myself to avoid breaking it. I enjoy doing so. Please don't say that my taste is badwrongfun.

Telok
2016-01-16, 02:58 PM
Oberoni/Rule 0 fallacy doesn't become less problematic simply because it's written into the book. It still means the GM is forced to finish balancing the game because the designers simply didn't. It's unfair to GMs, and it's unfair to players. Designers need to step up; we're paying them money, GMs get nothing.

Pun-pun (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?98756-Pun-pun)

All RPGs require DMs to act or let the game break.

Champions is the only game I've played where a drunken werewolf, a circus acrobat with an imaginary friend, a D&D red dragon, a mutant with electricity shooting nostrils, and a girl with six shooters, hypnotic invisibility, and the power of ky00t could all get in a spaceship and adventure among the moons of Jupiter. And it was balanced too, everyone contributed.

My view of it is thus:

Pros: Classes = Easy Stereotypes, Classless = Customization
Cons: Classes = Limited Idea Space, Classless = Complexity
People who are decisive and imaginative tend to not have issues with either method.
People prone to indecision have issues with both but generally more problems with classless.

Satinavian
2016-01-16, 03:08 PM
If you have an OP Option, everyone can buy it. It's point buy. Maybe all do it in addition to everything else. Maybe all don't do it, because it is gamebraking. Maybe the group decides that some characters need a boost and should take it, others not.

In a point buy system you can mix and match. A too strong or too weak power does not reduce the number of viable combinatiopns at all. It only does help not expand it if everyone or no one takes it.
An or too weak has more problems. You don't want all to take the same class. That would be far more problematic than everyone having a power in common. And if you exclude a class, well, usually you don't have that many classes so the hit to the number of viable builds is worse.

Class systems are easier to make. For balancing classless systems you have to consider all the combinations. For class systems you only have to balance the classes. It's the lack of options that makes class systems easier to write. Less options, less Balancing problems.

Flemkopf
2016-01-16, 03:21 PM
What I've found is that I tend to enjoy making a character interesting more than simply being balanced or powerful. Classes are really nice when the mechanics and fluff line up with what you want to do, but so many of them are based on a very specific idea or theme, and it's not always easy to adjust them. There are a number of prestige classes in 3.5 that are just merging two archetypes or adding a few small bonuses to a specific skill, not that different mechanically from standard classes. Then there are a lot of classes based around a unique mechanic with a flavor that is all their own. Sometimes they work well, sometimes they don't, but when they do work it is a really fun experience with a feel that a classless system just can't duplicate.

One of the draws for classless games is how flexible the system can be, you can adapt it to different settings and genres with a minimum of effort. I had one game of Savage Worlds where we were pirates in the Caribbean, with me being the mad scientist who started being driven crazy by a ghost that we ran into in our second adventure. Our characters were blends of ideas that you can't find in D&D without scouring a dozen rule books. (Case in point, one character was the buff, Valkyrie-ish daughter of a gunsmith who did a lot of her own work. I'm sure that you could play that character in 3.5, it would just be a lot more work to create them.)

With that particular system the draw was that there was less rules overhead, so we could focus on continuing to swing through the adventure instead of spending two hours going through a one minute fight. Rather than having a list of forty different skills, all with unique modifiers, half the time we just rolled for things like strength or agility if it was something unusual. It just allowed us to focus more on the adventure and less on the system. I think that it just depends on the type of players you have and what people are looking for.

Arbane
2016-01-16, 03:31 PM
Class systems are easier to make. For balancing classless systems you have to consider all the combinations. For class systems you only have to balance the classes. It's the lack of options that makes class systems easier to write. Less options, less Balancing problems.

Also, it occurs to me that making a new character in OD&D was _fast_. Which I'm sure helped lessen the pain when Grog Grogsson the VIIth failed a save vs poison and their step-neighbor-in-law had to join up to avenge them. (Modern class systems with more options, not as fast.)

CharonsHelper
2016-01-16, 04:11 PM
If you have an OP Option, everyone can buy it. It's point buy. Maybe all do it in addition to everything else. Maybe all don't do it, because it is gamebraking.

If the group as a whole decides not to take any broken options (and you'll undoubtedly have disagreements over where that line is drawn) that doesn't keep the system from being broken. That's just a band-aid that you use to patch the broken bits. Which might work pretty well - but that doesn't keep it from being an issue with the system.

Lord Raziere
2016-01-16, 04:30 PM
If the group as a whole decides not to take any broken options (and you'll undoubtedly have disagreements over where that line is drawn) that doesn't keep the system from being broken. That's just a band-aid that you use to patch the broken bits. Which might work pretty well - but that doesn't keep it from being an issue with the system.

I see your point, I just don't care. because a system is only as broken as the people who use it. I guess you can say its an issue with baseball bats that they can get set on fire, but that just raises the question of what could you possibly be doing that a baseball bat being on fire is an issue in the first place, which kind of suggests your going out of the way to do things that will set the baseball on fire, so its really your fault for doing those things, and really have no one else to blame for a burned out baseball bat.

Tanarii
2016-01-16, 06:39 PM
I see your point, I just don't care. because a system is only as broken as the people who use it. I guess you can say its an issue with baseball bats that they can get set on fire, but that just raises the question of what could you possibly be doing that a baseball bat being on fire is an issue in the first place, which kind of suggests your going out of the way to do things that will set the baseball on fire, so its really your fault for doing those things, and really have no one else to blame for a burned out baseball bat.No two players or GM/Player are going to agree on where the line lies for broken/munchkin vs fair play.

For example, let's look at Palladium RPGs. In some games, you were looked on as insane if you didn't select Boxing, Wrestling, and Acrobatics. In others you were a munchkin. There was a clearly more powerful option. Trying to say that's okay because only problem players will break it isn't the solution.

Modular / classless systems are far more often suffer from clearly overpowered options. In class systems, the goal is to balance the class internally, often across the entire lifespan of the character. In a classless, or modular class system (ie 3e & 5e multiclassing), or a feat system, each option is supposedly balanced with all other options of similar granularity. But that's often not the case.

There's a reason Feats and multiclassing are optional in D&D 5e. And it isn't because they're more complicated. It's because they aren't as balanced as single classes are internally across the lifespan of play, without multiclassing options or feats.

That doesn't even go in to the interactions issue. The more components that can be combined, the more interactions there are likely to be that are under or over powered.


Also, it occurs to me that making a new character in OD&D was _fast_. Which I'm sure helped lessen the pain when Grog Grogsson the VIIth failed a save vs poison and their step-neighbor-in-law had to join up to avenge them. (Modern class systems with more options, not as fast.)It was never clear to me if that was a intentional feature, or a natural outgrowth out of the system's roots. D&D grew out of war gaming, where characters were potentially simple soldiers on a battlefield, who's abilities were 'attack' and 'get hit by attack and die' ... with special characters having a once per battle magic spell they could use. So the lack of complexity of character design could easily have just been a factor of not much time having passed from those gaming roots.

Certainly the lethality and ease of creating replacement characters affected the entire flavor of the game and he characters involved . :)

Satinavian
2016-01-16, 06:47 PM
If the group as a whole decides not to take any broken options (and you'll undoubtedly have disagreements over where that line is drawn) that doesn't keep the system from being broken. That's just a band-aid that you use to patch the broken bits. Which might work pretty well - but that doesn't keep it from being an issue with the system.
The argument was :

In a classless system a broken thing does not reduce the number of viable character concepts in a significant way. In a class based system it does.

We are not compairing broken classless systems with balanced class systems to discuss the merits of classless vs. class. That would be silly. We either compare broken classless to broken class or balanced classless to balanced class.

Necroticplague
2016-01-16, 07:30 PM
Since I've seen the bat analogy used: It's one thing if a bat breaks when you're trying to mine iron with it. That's using it for something it's not designed for, of course it's going to break. For that situation, use an actual pick. This would be like complaining if your RPH doesn't support a concept outside of it's scope (i.e, complaining the future weapons section is very small and relatively homogenous in 3.5).

However, the game breaking when optimized is like a bat breaking because you started swinging harder to try and get a home run. You're still using it for the same activity. It's just at a higher power than before. And a bat shouldn't break when playing baseball. Occasionally, by chance, it might break from unexpected flaws, but it's a major problem if it always breaks when swing hard enough at a baseball. Sure, for some little leagures, it's fine to use such meagre bats, but it means you're gonna need to swap out for a different, more robust set if any are interested in playing at a higher level or more intensely. And a bat that can withstand higher forces isn't gonna make the experience worse for those playing at lower levels, and are thus preferable to the weaker bats, unless they cost much more (or to try and continue with the analogy, a system that doesn't break when optimized won't break when un-optimized, so is preferable, unless it is significantly harder to learn [side note: most systems can be boiled down to two simple systems easily: what's the basis of making a character, what's the basis of performing an action. Everything after those two are easy]).

Lord Raziere
2016-01-16, 07:51 PM
Since I've seen the bat analogy used: It's one thing if a bat breaks when you're trying to mine iron with it. That's using it for something it's not designed for, of course it's going to break. For that situation, use an actual pick. This would be like complaining if your RPH doesn't support a concept outside of it's scope (i.e, complaining the future weapons section is very small and relatively homogenous in 3.5).

However, the game breaking when optimized is like a bat breaking because you started swinging harder to try and get a home run. You're still using it for the same activity. It's just at a higher power than before. And a bat shouldn't break when playing baseball. Occasionally, by chance, it might break from unexpected flaws, but it's a major problem if it always breaks when swing hard enough at a baseball. Sure, for some little leagures, it's fine to use such meagre bats, but it means you're gonna need to swap out for a different, more robust set if any are interested in playing at a higher level or more intensely. And a bat that can withstand higher forces isn't gonna make the experience worse for those playing at lower levels, and are thus preferable to the weaker bats, unless they cost much more (or to try and continue with the analogy, a system that doesn't break when optimized won't break when un-optimized, so is preferable, unless it is significantly harder to learn [side note: most systems can be boiled down to two simple systems easily: what's the basis of making a character, what's the basis of performing an action. Everything after those two are easy]).

considering that the criteria of "doesn't seem to break when optimized" doesn't seem achievable due to optimizers own admissions that all systems are broken, this seems like an impossible ideal, therefore why optimize at all?

veti
2016-01-16, 08:27 PM
considering that the criteria of "doesn't seem to break when optimized" doesn't seem achievable due to optimizers own admissions that all systems are broken, this seems like an impossible ideal, therefore why optimize at all?

Quite. Even the most ludicrously over-engineered baseball bat still has finite strength, and will break if you swing it hard enough. When optimisers pride themselves on achieving a strength of swing that's basically infinite - any bat will break. And the optimiser will look all innocent-outraged and say "What is this flimsy kiddy-toy tool, that it can't even apply enough force to launch a teeny little aircraft carrier into orbit?"

Of course I don't know, but I don't believe there exists a system that doesn't break when sufficiently optimised - because that's basically what optimisation means. The only systems I've heard of that do avoid this - do it by relying on the GM's judgment, i.e. Rule 0.

Knaight
2016-01-16, 08:59 PM
As long as we're talking about balance, it's worth differentiating between the sort of game balance where you can inadvertently break the game, and the sort where if you really put effort into it you can. Sure, there are Mutants and Masterminds shenanigans involving abusing nested powers to get a lot out of relatively few points, but nobody doing that is doing it without knowing full well it's a way to circumvent point restrictions. The group as a whole will generally end up fairly close in power level unless they try not to. In D&D 3.x, it's entirely possible for a new group to be completely broken because people went for fun sounding archetypes, and for one person that was a shapeshifting spell caster and for another it was an archer, which is then exacerbated by them just picking feats that seem to make sense (e.g. Natural Spell, any number of useless archer feats). There's also the matter of how much you lose by avoiding the errors in balance. In most skill based systems, you might need to break up or merge a few skills, and you're pretty much good. In a class based system, you're losing entire classes.

This brings us back to the amount of variety left when people aren't going out of their way to break the game. Classless systems generally keep most things, class based systems can lose big chunks. Then, there's the whole matter of how class based systems are working off a limited number of packages in the first place, whereas other systems are generally much broader. A much simpler system with a lot less material that isn't class based can cover everything a class based system can just fine, and that's a pretty big advantage.

Tanarii
2016-01-16, 08:59 PM
Of course I don't know, but I don't believe there exists a system that doesn't break when sufficiently optimised - because that's basically what optimisation means.
Not really. That's what being a munchkin means. Optimization is just trying to get a better result for what you want to accomplish out of available options. Many many MANY optimizers are munchkins, but not all optimzation is automatically munchkinry.

In that regard, classless systems typically favor optimization more than class syste,s. Because they usually have more available options to accomplish character design goals.

I'm not a fan of heavy optimization, in case you can't tell ;)

CharonsHelper
2016-01-17, 12:23 AM
considering that the criteria of "doesn't seem to break when optimized" doesn't seem achievable due to optimizers own admissions that all systems are broken, this seems like an impossible ideal, therefore why optimize at all?

There's a difference between being able to break a system when you really try and breaking it with a quick glance over the system.

Now - again - it's fine if you don't care about balance. But don't pretend that M&M is anywhere close to balanced. (And please - don't straw-man me with 3.5. I doubt that anyone thinks that it's balanced. Pathfinder is better until level 9-10ish - but it has issues too. I have NOT said that class systems are inherently balanced - I've said that point-buy systems are inherently imbalanced.)

To go back to a baseball analogy - you want a game that lets you and your friends do pick-up games on the corner. That's what you're looking for. If someone moves into the neighborhood who practices seriously, weight-lifts, goes to the batting cage, and knows four or five breaking balls - it'd ruin the pick-up games. Neither that player nor any of the other players would enjoy themselves. Sure - he could just 'go easy' - but what's the point for him then? He enjoys the competition of baseball. That player should go find an actual league where the infield consistent, there's an umpire to make close calls, and there are other players that will challenge them. Neither the pick-up game or the league are wrong - the players are just looking for different things. Please don't tell me that I'm stupid for wanting the league just because the umpire's calls aren't always right and outfield sizes vary.

I enjoy optimizing. Generally I intentionally optimize weak concepts and/or support roles so that I don't break the game. I'd prefer if that wasn't required and I could optimize anything without breaking the game. M&M and other point-buys I've seen don't let me optimize at all. (To reference Necroticplague's metaphor - they're tee-ball bats.)

Lord Raziere
2016-01-17, 12:49 AM
I enjoy optimizing. Generally I intentionally optimize weak concepts and/or support roles so that I don't break the game. I'd prefer if that wasn't required and I could optimize anything without breaking the game. M&M and other point-buys I've seen don't let me optimize at all. (To reference Necroticplague's metaphor - they're tee-ball bats.)

Yeah, but your analogy implies that your somehow better or more elite than me at roleplaying just because you optimize. when the mechanics are only one aspect of the hobby, and doesn't make anyone better than anyone at roleplaying just because you can optimize- you can have a successful roleplaying campaign without a single real roll or rule being involved, and your not a roleplaying "athlete" in comparison to me, you just think they're tee-ball bats when they're not weak at all, just different, so while your trying to aim for "not better just different" your implying that your better anyways. when really your just focusing on a single aspect of the hobby that not everyone is interested in and by itself does not make a great game.

JoeJ
2016-01-17, 01:01 AM
Actually - that's the same thing from a balance perspective. As soon as there are two or three abilities which are significantly outside of the 'standard' power level, they inherently become the new standard even if that wasn't intended by the designers. So - all of the previously 'viable' builds all become inherently weak and sub-par.

Yeah, the funny thing about that is that they don't. Power is not a one-dimensional line in M&M. Because there are so many different abilities and so many different possible descriptors for those abilities, there's a certain amount of rock-paper-scissors that's inherent to the game. And PL limits mean that optimization tricks generally make a character broader, not stronger. No amount of optimization will let you have an attack bonus + effect rank that's more than twice the PL. So a powerful attack has a lower cap on accuracy than a weaker attack. Equally, having a greater number of power effects than somebody else doesn't give you any more actions per round to use them.

As long as you have your defense and at least one attack at the PL limit, it's pretty hard to build a sub-par character regardless of what anybody else creates. If you want to be a flying mind reader with a sonic scream, go for it. Or a martial artist that can't dodge but has steel hard skin. Or a wizard who summons elementals to fight for you. Or a werebear. Or a intelligent pterodactyl who can fly at 5000 miles per hour. Or a totem warrior who can channel the abilities of the animal kingdom. Or a teleporting martial artist who pops around kicking people in the back of the head. Or just about anything else you can imagine.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-17, 01:37 AM
Yeah, but your analogy implies that your somehow better or more elite than me at roleplaying just because you optimize.

Nope - just better at optimizing. (And your metaphor of my setting a baseball bat on fire because I'm too dumb to know that's not what it's for didn't imply anything about me? lol) Or possibly that I take optimization too seriously. Pick your poison. (Considering how often I've specifically called out that opinion neither is better - I'm starting to feel that you're becoming offended so that you win.)

NichG
2016-01-17, 01:53 AM
There exist games for all sorts of tastes. That's different from saying that a game which fails to be designed for your particular tastes is a design error. Invoking Oberoni implies an argument that a particular missing/correctable element of the system is an objective flaw. Oberoni is, IMO, more for situations in which the ability to dynamically repair something is being used to quench conversation about how to repair it (e.g. 'why talk about X at when the DM can prevent X from being a problem' sorts of comments, which just shuts down productive conversation about the 'how')

Anyhow, it's clear that M&M is not designed for tournament-style competitive optimization. There are other games which are. There's no need to defend the one or the other as both possibilities exist and have their niche.

So perhaps the point to take away is that if you want to do competitive optimization, it helps to design the game to have character building as perturbations around standard chassis', e.g. classes, so it's easier to focus on particular fine tunings. But if you don't, and there's nothing saying that you must, then that's unnecessary.

Grinner
2016-01-17, 03:36 AM
Nope - just better at optimizing. (And your metaphor of my setting a baseball bat on fire because I'm too dumb to know that's not what it's for didn't imply anything about me? lol) Or possibly that I take optimization too seriously. Pick your poison. (Considering how often I've specifically called out that opinion neither is better - I'm starting to feel that you're becoming offended so that you win.)

Don't go down this road man. Trying the "logic trap" bit won't actually convince anyone of anything and will only piss everyone involved off, thereby escalating hostilities and entrenching people in increasingly confused positions. This tends to lead to pages of arguments which cycle through the same points again and again. Eventually, someone gets tired of arguing and leaves.

If you're the introspective type, you'll realize years later that, regardless of what the other person did or did not say, you had been kind of a ****. This will come to you in those nights when you can't quite get to sleep, and instead of sleeping, you'll think of all the things you could have said in order to better make your point.

When a casual conversation becomes a matter of winning or losing, it's better to agree to disagree and walk away, because something's gone south.

Satinavian
2016-01-17, 03:40 AM
There's a difference between being able to break a system when you really try and breaking it with a quick glance over the system.

Now - again - it's fine if you don't care about balance. But don't pretend that M&M is anywhere close to balanced. (And please - don't straw-man me with 3.5. I doubt that anyone thinks that it's balanced. Pathfinder is better until level 9-10ish - but it has issues too. I have NOT said that class systems are inherently balanced - I've said that point-buy systems are inherently imbalanced.)Class based system achieve the chance of better balancing simply by vitue of having less options. If they actually achieve better balancing is another question, often you have few options that are still unbalanced. That is because a lot of systems out there don't even try.

But given the choise between a lot of options which are not all balanced mainly because there are posible synergies that are not reflected in point costs and few option which are balanced because they simply don't allow the powers wit synergies in one character, i will go for the first.

Knaight
2016-01-17, 03:58 AM
Class based system achieve the chance of better balancing simply by vitue of having less options. If they actually achieve better balancing is another question, often you have few options that are still unbalanced. That is because a lot of systems out there don't even try.

While this is true, it's also often irrelevant. In the context of competitive play, a classless system frequently devolves into a de-facto class system with a highly limited number of functional 'classes' that emerge - consider how few meaningfully distinct competitive decks MtG has compared to something like Yomi which has 20 well built and premade decks, and no customization. Outside of competitive play though, the balance doesn't need to be anywhere near as tight, and classless games can easily have a large variety in that niche with no issues.

With the sufficiently balanced criterion, it's also worth observing that more complex things are harder to balance, and that a class based system needs more material to cover the same range of characters, setting elements, etc. that a classless system does. Odds are good that the excess material causes issues with sheer bulk, so the class based system either ends up less balanced or way more restrictive, where there isn't more material and as such it is more limited. With this taken into account, there isn't really any practical balance advantage to class based systems.

What advantages do stay are largely in niche protection, in making characters fit archetypes, and in implicit setting building. The niche protection and archetype fitting work in obvious ways, and niche protection is a design goal more often than not, though archetype fitting is comparatively rare. Implicit setting building is a bit more complex. Even with more generic classes, there's still a mechanical definition of the roles that people in the setting find themselves in, in what people in that setting are capable of, etc. If the classes are more setting specific (such as some D&D prestige classes), they can add significantly more detail. Similar things can happen in a classless system, in that things like what is and isn't on different types of lists (skill, attribute, whatever) does have implications, but often the places where these are played up are in things that borrow design from more class based games.

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-17, 11:02 AM
Nope - just better at optimizing. (And your metaphor of my setting a baseball bat on fire because I'm too dumb to know that's not what it's for didn't imply anything about me? lol) Or possibly that I take optimization too seriously. Pick your poison. (Considering how often I've specifically called out that opinion neither is better - I'm starting to feel that you're becoming offended so that you win.)

The baseball analogy doesn't work for my point, so let's branch out.

Say I'm in an Amateur Dramatics group. I can't/don't like to sing, so I like straight plays, and remain in speaking roles only. Then you come along, being really into musical theatre as you've got a great singing voice. As it happens, the next play we're doing is Pirates of Penzance, and so I offer to sit this one out and help backstage because I don't like singing.

What you've been implying is that I'm worse because I don't like to sing, whereas everybody knows the people who can sing are the best actors. You might have meant 'I'm better for this bit' because you can sing, but it's come across as 'I'm better than you, full stop'.

You might also be saying that Pirates of Penzance is 'broken' as a production because being able to sing while performing in it is obviously superior, but because I don't like singing I've decided to do something other than perform. Pirates of Penzance isn't broken simply because I haven't done the more 'optimal' choice of learning to sing instead of learning lighting, it's just an aspect of theatre that isn't for me.

Not a perfect analogy, but it'll get across my idea well enough.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-17, 12:37 PM
When a casual conversation becomes a matter of winning or losing, it's better to agree to disagree and walk away, because something's gone south.

Sorry - that last bit was intended to be silly/sarcastic. (*text intent fail*)

JNAProductions
2016-01-17, 12:41 PM
I suggest blue text. It's not forum rules, but it's common shorthand for sarcasm.

Stubbazubba
2016-01-17, 07:43 PM
I humbly submit that trying to 'balance' a superhero game probably runs afoul of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem. When one person is playing Batman, one's playing Giant Robo, and a third is playing Dr. Strange, the closest thing to 'balance' that is attainable is to try building everyone on the same number of points and to try to make sure they each get equal bang for their buck, even if their competencies are at right-angles to each other.

Then they'll each likely be playing different games. Batman will have such high detective skills that any scene that involves investigative challenges will side-line the other characters, for instance. This is the Knock problem where once the Wizard gets 2nd-level spells, the Rogue's lock-picking ability goes from starting pitcher to backup. This is not a property of class-based or point-buy games, though, it's a property of level-less games: if the potential ceiling and the floor of the game's powers are wide apart, and characters can specialize much (either classes or point-buy), then the disparity between different characters in the same party doing the same thing gets untenable. You will always need Avengers-style scenes where there is one challenge for Hawkeye/Capt. America, one challenge for Iron Man, and another for Thor/Hulk, all at the same time, in order for all of them to feel tension.

You can get around that by having the floor move up as you level. If you have no levels, then you simply can't have a wide gulf between the starting point and the top level of power.


All RPGs require DMs to act or let the game break.

As a descriptive reality, I largely agree; certainly most games can be broken by perfectly "legal" builds. But I argue that that is 1) a matter of degree, and 2) not an inherent part of RPGs. If it takes a really weird munchkin build to break the game, it's not the designer's fault their game isn't munchkin-proof. But if choosing Cleric at chargen makes you many more times as powerful as choosing Monk, that's the designer's fault and should be unacceptable in a product you paid money for.



With the sufficiently balanced criterion, it's also worth observing that more complex things are harder to balance, and that a class based system needs more material to cover the same range of characters, setting elements, etc. that a classless system does. Odds are good that the excess material causes issues with sheer bulk, so the class based system either ends up less balanced or way more restrictive, where there isn't more material and as such it is more limited. With this taken into account, there isn't really any practical balance advantage to class based systems.

I'll take issue with this. More complex things are harder to balance, yes, but you're only looking at one dimension of complexity; number of base options. The other dimension is every possible combination of those base options, and this is the one that really matters for the balance experienced in play. If a game has a high number of base options, but they do not combine, it is likely to be less complex overall than a game with a low number of base options which can all combine in any which way.

A class-based game with no multi-classing would have a finite number of total possible build options probably in the double digits, while a class-less game with a similar number of abilities but which could be purchased a la carte, has many, many times more total possible build options. For example, if you have 6 classes in the game and no multiclassing, then at any given level there are always only 6 builds available (ignoring race and other such combinations). OTOH, if a class-less game has 6 abilities to choose from and you choose one each time you level up, then by level 3 there are already 20 builds available. And that's if there are only 6 abilities in the game, period. The class-based game could have one unique ability per class per level, for a total of 18 total abilities by level 3, but still only 6 possible builds. It is significantly less complex than the point-buy game even after just 3 levels, even while it is handling much more material.

And as the game's base options multiply, the complexity increases exponentially in the PB game. Let's do a similar 20-level game with 20 classes or 20 abilities in PB: At level 10, the class-based game can have 200 abilities but only 20 possible builds, that's only 20 builds to balance. The PB game, OTOH, will have 184,756 possible builds. No small-time operation can realistically ever balance that game, or even make any significant progress towards balancing the game. It would take dozens of designers weeks or months just to test each of those builds for balance, and every time you found an unacceptable combination you'd have to tweak the abilities which would require even more testing. And that's just with 20 abilities; the more abilities you write, the more that number multiplies.

If you're going to have many abilities in your game, you positively need to not let them combine somehow. Classes is the most obvious way to do that.

But unless I'm misunderstanding you, the idea that class-based games must limit their material in order to maintain balance while class-less games do not is outrageously wrong. The truth is just the opposite; class-less games have to tightly restrict the number of base options in order to keep total possible builds at testable numbers, whereas class-based games can segregate much more material into a testable number of possible builds.

veti
2016-01-17, 10:50 PM
A class-based game with no multi-classing would have a finite number of total possible build options probably in the double digits, while a class-less game with a similar number of abilities but which could be purchased a la carte, has many, many times more total possible build options.

You seem to be assuming that a class-based game allows no meaningful options during character generation (except "class"), and no meaningful options at level up. I don't know of any system that does that. Even OD&D has different playable races, and practically every other game since has increased that complication, not reduced it.

If a class-based system has D&D-style feats, skills, races and attributes, then there are going to be a great deal more than "double-digit" total possible builds. Even a fairly minimalist class set that's closely tied to a specific setting, such as the CRPG 'Pillars of Eternity', has several hundreds of possible builds once you factor in all the races, skills, backgrounds, orders, chants...


And as the game's base options multiply, the complexity increases exponentially in the PB game. Let's do a similar 20-level game with 20 classes or 20 abilities in PB: At level 10, the class-based game can have 200 abilities but only 20 possible builds, that's only 20 builds to balance.

Again, I don't know how you're counting those, but it doesn't sound like any game system I've ever heard of. In practice, class systems tend to give you a whole bunch of options at level-up, precisely because the designers know very well that otherwise people will (understandably) whinge at the lack of them. The result may be that the number of abilities ends up way larger than in a PB game.

Take "extra attacks", for instance. Not counting "attacks of opportunity", how many ways are there to get an extra attack in D&D?

2-weapon fighting (theoretically available to anyone, but mostly only Fighters can really afford the feats)
Ranger feats (like Fighter, but only when wearing light armour - only available to Rangers)
Flurry of blows (Monk only)
Haste (anyone, but needs an Arcane spellcasting friend or item)
BAB > 5 (anyone, but fighters progress faster)
Etc., etc.


In a point-buy system, all of these could be boiled down to a single ability: Get More Attacks. In Champions, it's called "Speed".

Pluto!
2016-01-17, 11:04 PM
I'm surprised to see so many pages dedicated to balance of all things.

Classes and lack thereof are no more to blame for balance issues than they are for bad character names.

When two classes in a class-based system are presented two different options which can be obtained with equal ease, they are presented as such because game designers see those two options as roughly equivalent value. What "value" means might be up for debate, but the economical assessment is the same whether the abilities are packaged in a class or stand alone in a point-based game.

Granted, it's easier to identify and tweak balance issues when you know every possible combination or synergy, which might make class-based wargame systems slightly easier to design or marginally more trustworthy as a player, but those differences are splitting hairs. The real differences

###

As someone who doesn't love class systems, my beef isn't with balance, it's with applicability. Classes are useful for packaging archetypes/stock characters together for games that want to fit genre norms. Some games do that well, some don't.

Let's look at d20 Modern. I ****ing hate d20 Modern. d20 Modern is based on classes. But the thing is, the classes don't represent anything. They're an awkward flavorless repackaging of abilities that assumes you'll dip between them, juggling all the clumsy baggage that goes with classes like associations between intuitively unrelated abilities and attributes. And all without a larger purpose or reinforcement of the fiction behind those design features.

But then there's also Spycraft d20. The system is nearly identical to Modern, but unlike Modern, there's an apparent reason behind the classes. There are specific archetypes/stock characters that each class is built toward. The game is built to motivate players to make the game as close to a big flashy spy action movie as possible, including the deliberate inclusion of classes to push characters to play the sorts of characters expected in that fiction. This is basically the same concept that goes into other good class games like stripped-down minimalistic D&D editions/variants/spinoffs or Apocalypse/Dungeon World.

On the flip side, classless systems get the advantage in games going for fiction that isn't meant to throw characters into specific predetermined cookie-cutters. I appreciate this in generic systems especially, where characters are free to be whatever the players want them to be or where I as GM don't want to push the game into a specific genre.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-17, 11:09 PM
The PB game, OTOH, will have 184,756 possible builds. No small-time operation can realistically ever balance that game, or even make any significant progress towards balancing the game. It would take dozens of designers weeks or months just to test each of those builds for balance, and every time you found an unacceptable combination you'd have to tweak the abilities which would require even more testing.

While I agree with you in theory - that's a pretty gross exaggeration. While that is the number of combinations, the designers wouldn't have to test anywhere close to that many. That's like saying that there are more possible games of Go than there are atoms in the galaxy. Technically true - but pretty much meaningless as most of those possibilities are stupid to someone who knows the bare-bones of how the game works. (It is the reason why computers can't play Go - since they have to brute force logic such games, and there are exponentially more theoretical games of Go than of Chess.) The vast majority would be obviously weak to a designer, or could be gone through with some math rather than play-testing.

Frankly, some serious math-ing should be the first and most important step in designing for balance, with actual play-testing a distant second. (Play-testing is more important for getting the flow of the game to work.)

Edit: grammar

Stubbazubba
2016-01-17, 11:45 PM
You seem to be assuming that a class-based game allows no meaningful options during character generation (except "class"), and no meaningful options at level up. I don't know of any system that does that. Even OD&D has different playable races, and practically every other game since has increased that complication, not reduced it.

Nowhere did I say that this represented any actual class-based system, I even said "ignoring race and other such combinations." Since 3.0, D&D has even tacked on a point-buy skill system and feats, and multi-classing of course violates the rules I'm laying down. As such, the total possible number of builds in D&D is astronomical, and completely subverts this purpose of having classes. 3/3, D&D.

Instead, I am positing a deliberately simple hypothetical in order to demonstrate the more efficient way that classes can compartmentalize a lot more material than point-buy, not trying to describe how games that are D&D or want to follow D&D have chosen to go. It's still true on the margins that classes can reduce the danger of unforeseen synergies by significantly reducing the total number of builds to examine.


The result may be that the number of abilities ends up way larger than in a PB game.

That's the point, actually: classes (ability segregation) allows for many more abilities while keeping the total possible builds to a minimum, thus enabling "quality control" on the possible builds. A point-buy game with the same number of abilities would be exponentially more complex.


Take "extra attacks", for instance. Not counting "attacks of opportunity", how many ways are there to get an extra attack in D&D?

2-weapon fighting (theoretically available to anyone, but mostly only Fighters can really afford the feats)
Ranger feats (like Fighter, but only when wearing light armour - only available to Rangers)
Flurry of blows (Monk only)
Haste (anyone, but needs an Arcane spellcasting friend or item)
BAB > 5 (anyone, but fighters progress faster)
Etc., etc.


In a point-buy system, all of these could be boiled down to a single ability: Get More Attacks. In Champions, it's called "Speed".

Only one or two of these is a class feature/ability. The rest are decidedly non-class-based ways of acquiring it. So of course it doesn't work the same way.


Frankly, some serious math-ing should be the first and most important step in designing for balance, with actual play-testing a distant second. (Play-testing is more important for getting the flow of the game to work.)

Even if (and you are right that this would be the case) designers develop good heuristics to quickly or even categorically evaluate builds, it would still take much more time to evaluate (and iterate on) a point-buy game with anywhere near the same number of abilities. And I contest the idea that play-testing is about flow and not outputs; in a game like an RPG where creativity is a force multiplier, you absolutely need other people to test stuff, to try to break it, in order to find unforeseen synergies.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-18, 01:24 AM
Even if (and you are right that this would be the case) designers develop good heuristics to quickly or even categorically evaluate builds, it would still take much more time to evaluate (and iterate on) a point-buy game with anywhere near the same number of abilities. And I contest the idea that play-testing is about flow and not outputs; in a game like an RPG where creativity is a force multiplier, you absolutely need other people to test stuff, to try to break it, in order to find unforeseen synergies.

I agree - I was just pointing out the exaggeration. (I don't like arguments to be based upon such even when I agree with the core of said arguments.) And I did point out that play-testing is a step in balancing, it's just secondary and should come well after math-ing it.

veti
2016-01-18, 01:35 AM
Nowhere did I say that this represented any actual class-based system, I even said "ignoring race and other such combinations."

Ah, okay. I did note that, I just thought you couldn't mean it. "Ignoring all the things that make characters different, all characters are much the same" doesn't seem like much of a claim.


Instead, I am positing a deliberately simple hypothetical in order to demonstrate the more efficient way that classes can compartmentalize a lot more material than point-buy, not trying to describe how games that are D&D or want to follow D&D have chosen to go. It's still true on the margins that classes can reduce the danger of unforeseen synergies by significantly reducing the total number of builds to examine.

You're describing what you argue is a theoretical possibility/ideal. But the evidence of the world around us is, this isn't what happens in practice. Every class-based game I know of - heads as far away from this theoretical ideal simplicity of yours as it possibly can, at maximum warp. If classes are the boon to balance you say they are, then why does nobody exploit this advantage?

Stubbazubba
2016-01-18, 02:09 AM
You're describing what you argue is a theoretical possibility/ideal. But the evidence of the world around us is, this isn't what happens in practice. Every class-based game I know of - heads as far away from this theoretical ideal simplicity of yours as it possibly can, at maximum warp. If classes are the boon to balance you say they are, then why does nobody exploit this advantage?

Because the industry long ago abandoned any rigorous standards of balance or even depth of design when it realized people have been making up rules as they go along since day 1 anyway and they pay more money for flashy art and evocative, cool-sounding options? I mean, weren't we all excited to play our first 3.5 Monk?

But more seriously, my point is not that a game must be an ideal to realize the benefit, but rather that the benefit exists on a continuum proportional to the centralization of character power in a single decision. I understand that class-based games are always hybrids because people do want customization, including me. What I'm saying is any game where the bulk of your character's power is centered in one decision - be it class or Culture (The One Ring) or whatever - still reaps much of the benefits of strict class-based design. It makes the heuristics that CharonsHelper pointed out a lot more obvious, even if there are still hundreds of possible builds instead of a couple dozen. The numbers themselves still pale in comparison to a la carte point buy, and its easy to develop heuristics of which categories of builds will react to certain synergies in certain ways, and its easier to fix it structurally rather than tweaking individual powers to avoid the synergy.

And when games don't do this, we recognize the effects as faults. D&D is obviously the largest offender here, a poster child for brainless class-based design. This is the nitty gritty of design; it's not just writing the abilities and filling out a class table, it's figuring out all the potential builds and recognizing synergies and anti-synergies, either through math or play-testing, and bringing it within acceptable ranges.

Satinavian
2016-01-18, 02:53 AM
That's the point, actually: classes (ability segregation) allows for many more abilities while keeping the total possible builds to a minimum, thus enabling "quality control" on the possible builds. A point-buy game with the same number of abilities would be exponentially more complex.Yes. But i wouldn't say that is particularly desirable.

So in class systems you can introduce more abilities without expanding the number of possible builds much. But on the other hand you basically have to introduce more base options to make more possible builds. That is why class systems tend to get a lot of rule bloat and sometimes end up with hundreds of classes and class variants just to get a variety of concepts done. Either that or they weaken the idea of classes and add point buy ressources and options like D&D has done with feats.

"Better at Limiting build options" might be true but is not a particularly convincing argument to go class based. Which is one major reason we still do have both design concepts in modern RPGs.

Stubbazubba
2016-01-18, 03:46 AM
So in class systems you can introduce more abilities without expanding the number of possible builds much. But on the other hand you basically have to introduce more base options to make more possible builds. That is why class systems tend to get a lot of rule bloat and sometimes end up with hundreds of classes and class variants just to get a variety of concepts done.

Whereas I'd say that's a feature, not a bug. So long as power creep isn't too much, new classes (at least ones that can actually carry their own) is usually a good thing; it keeps interest in the line and makes new options available, plus it's relatively easy to write.

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-18, 04:39 AM
Personally I've always just preferred the WH40kRP or Anima approach of effectively making classes cost templates (which might be why some people prefer Aptitudes to Careers in WH40kRP, as they are more honest about it). Well, actually I prefer point buy games because I enjoy messing about with options, but I don't particularly enjoy strict classes (partially because, after AD&D 2e, if you wanted 'angry attacker' instead of 'skillfull attacker' it was a different class instead of a class variant), with D&D being the only place that I'll tolerate them.

Also, I can think of a game where the only major choice at character creation was class, BECMI/RC D&D. You rolled your ability scores, decided if you wanted to be a Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, Dwarf, Elf, or Halfling, and picked your equipment and alignment. At 9th level a Fighter had to decide if he wanted to become a Paladin (if Lawful), Avenger (if Chaotic), or a Knight, and a Cleric if they want to continue as a Cleric or become a Druid. I don't know why WotC didn't just release a modernised version of it instead of 5e, I'd have bought it despite the imbalances.

neonchameleon
2016-01-18, 07:16 AM
I see your point, I just don't care. because a system is only as broken as the people who use it.

A system is only in any way broken for the purposes it is being used for.

The problem with a broken system is twofold. First it leads to dissention at the table as people can't read the designer's minds and end up with Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit.

Second it cuts out two entire modes of play. The sandbox play D&D was designed around simply doesn't work in a broken system, and PVP doesn't work with major party imbalance.


However, the game breaking when optimized is like a bat breaking because you started swinging harder to try and get a home run. You're still using it for the same activity. It's just at a higher power than before. And a bat shouldn't break when playing baseball. Occasionally, by chance, it might break from unexpected flaws, but it's a major problem if it always breaks when swing hard enough at a baseball

This.


considering that the criteria of "doesn't seem to break when optimized" doesn't seem achievable due to optimizers own admissions that all systems are broken, this seems like an impossible ideal, therefore why optimize at all?

I'm challenging the optimisers to break:
1: oD&D or BECMI/Rules Cyclopaedia D&D
2: Fate
3: Firefly

And 4e (or 2e with all the trimmings) might be breakable (especially at Paragon and above) - but the only game I know that comes close to being as broken as 3.X is RIFTS.

wumpus
2016-01-18, 10:58 AM
I'm challenging the optimisers to break:
1: oD&D or BECMI/Rules Cyclopaedia D&D
2: Fate
3: Firefly

And 4e (or 2e with all the trimmings) might be breakable (especially at Paragon and above) - but the only game I know that comes close to being as broken as 3.X is RIFTS.

One way to break AD&D (1e) was to stack multiple effects (no specific rules I can remember about stacking). I suspect there simply weren't enough items and spells to even get the effects multiple ways in 0e, but it might work in BECMI. I know Gygax included text like "you are now responsible for creating your own game" in the introduction to the DMG, which goes way further than any invocation of "rule 0" does now.

When someone got Pun-Pun to ascension at level 1 on a something like a 50/50 roll, I would have a hard time believing anyone would play a more broken game. 3.x also seemed to assist breakage in moving control away from the DM and onto players.

neonchameleon
2016-01-18, 01:03 PM
One way to break AD&D (1e) was to stack multiple effects (no specific rules I can remember about stacking). I suspect there simply weren't enough items and spells to even get the effects multiple ways in 0e, but it might work in BECMI.

The point here is, of course, that the wizard PC doesn't control what spells they get. Yes, if the GM gave you the spells to break the game you could break it. But unless the DM gave you them as loot (either on scrolls or in a spell book) you didn't get them.

And a GM can break any game.

ImNotTrevor
2016-01-18, 02:51 PM
I have no real dog in this fight, but feel the need to comment.

Making the call between Class and Classless systems is often not, on the design side, a question about Balance. It's usually a question about game feel.

One of the problems with Class systems is that they tend to pocket you into a character pretty easily. Though only by ability. There's no rule stating that your Fighter can't be a snarky swashbuckler or your Barbarian can't be a gentle giant with a penchant for reading Shakespeare, once you spend a single skillpoint, boohoo for the wasted single point.
When it comes to roleplaying, do what you want.

I've seen people play a Gunlugger in Apocalypse World both as a total 100% hardass and as a rough and tumble misfit who had a soft side but could also kick ass. And these two characters had roughly the same build but nothing vaguely similar for personality or playstyle.

I've seen people play Brainers as creepy psychics who chuckle in the dark, as eccentic but oily merchant-types with a lying streak, and as kindly psyche surgeons just trying to help people.

I also like Stars Without Number and it's halfway approach between the two:
There are only 3 classes (4 with a splatbook) but enough varied ways to distribute your skills through the Training and Background features that no two versions of a class need feel the same.

For instance an Expert with the Bounty Hunter background and Conman training will feel really different from one with the Communications Officer and Hacker equivalents. Same class, but radically different feels.

A Warrior class might be a swordsman. Or a ship gunner. Or a fighter pilot. Or a soldier. Or a bounty hunter. Or a merc. They are all Warriors, but their skill packages vary wildly. I think it's an excellent middle ground.

(The classes determine your Hit Die, your XP progression -experts level a little faster- and single special ability: Warriors can ignore damage 1/real life hour, Experts can reroll skill checks 1/RL hour, and Psychics get psychic powers.)

As for classless, you run into the problem of Option Paralysis. Too many options can be intimidating, and the degree of granularity can be off-putting.

You also have nebulous characters. "So what are you playing?"
"Well, mostly I have magic but I can also do melee and I'm pretty decent at potions."
Vs.
"What are you playing?"
"A Spellsword."

Often the second will come out anyways, making the lack of classes...kind of irrelevant. You can always just add more classes of the system isn't a monster like D&D. Making classes for Apocalypse World is easy as pie. And there's no real need to do so with SWN, because...it covers pretty much everything within its potential scope with what it has.

Honestly, I think SWN has near perfect fusion between classes and classless, and I wish more systems emulated it, tbh.

wumpus
2016-01-18, 07:11 PM
The point here is, of course, that the wizard PC doesn't control what spells they get. Yes, if the GM gave you the spells to break the game you could break it. But unless the DM gave you them as loot (either on scrolls or in a spell book) you didn't get them.

And a GM can break any game.

Clerics almost always got to choose their spells (although few could help break a game). Clerics at odds with their deity might get a different set, but such clerics will either fall in line or become smoking boots anyway. I'm pretty sure that with BECMI* (and AD&D as well), the magic user gets to pick *one* spell (maybe one per spell slot opened) per level. For the rest of them he should be scouring libraries for spells to copy, "bookstores" for scrolls to copy, and knocking off enemy magic users and stealing their spellbooks**. Generally, the DM could keep some overpowered spells out of the game (presumably most would remove divination spells, players would whinge too hard about good combat spells but divination spells slow the game down when they aren't breaking it), but not all.

The DM certainly gets to control magic items (I'm flabbergasted that this wasn't true in 3.x). And you have a far better chance to find stacking powers with items than spells. The player *might* have a chance to do more with potions, but I really think that needs out-of-game reading of the DMG (and only works in AD&D, not BECMI). Note with some divination powers, a character might decide to "create his own adventure" by locating that one magic item (by divination or other means) he needs to be overpowered (at which point the DM decides if there is a quest of sufficient difficulty to "earn" said overpoweredness or not, in which case the answer might be "there are none to be found"***).

GMs have always had the power to break games. "Rocks fall, everybody dies" is at least as overpowered as Pun Pun.

* I played BX. Things might have changed with BECMI.

** Presumably all magic user guilds in D&D based systems had strong means to prevent wizards from attacking other wizards for those spellbooks. And depending on how close they could get to monopoly status, all wizards to hit non-members (with presumably a certain amount of guild copying rights). I'd imagine IP laws in wizard guilds got pretty weird. I've never thought of *creating* a wizard's guild before, but now that I think of it maybe a sufficiently high wizard should try it...

*** Dungeons and Dragons Online has some surprising build choices that only make sense when you realize that there aren't any rings of evasion to be found (or crafted). You want evasion: take 2 levels of rogue, 2 of monk or 9 levels of ranger. Even some full casters are willing to pay this price.

8BitNinja
2016-01-19, 01:43 PM
I saw a comment about wizards and 1 spell slot

they changed that, besides, back then, if you wanted to be a wizard, you had to be hardcore

Quertus
2016-01-19, 02:45 PM
IMO, the biggest difference classes have is the power of Names. Someone explains a character concept, I can say, so you want to play a druid / arcane archer, and that means something. In a way that saying, so you want skill foo +8 or 3 dots in bar... doesn't.

This is a good and a bad thing. The word "fighter" likely evokes different images with expectations of different abilities from different people.

Although I like both types of games, I need a permissive GM who will let me rework my character after the first session, as I have never made a point buy character who turned out as I intended first try.


Which classless games are you thinking of? My experience with Champions, M&M and GURPS has been the exact opposite: the number of different viable characters is orders of magnitudes greater than in any version of D&D.


I don't know Champions & GURPS well - but I've read through M&M - and the balance between different options is horrible. It's extremely easy to abuse the point-buy system, making only those characters which have the ability to do so comparatively viable, not to mention the several trap options I spotted without even really trying.

Maybe your group had something of a gentleman's agreement not to make such powerful characters - but by that logic there is no caster/martial disparity in 3.5.


DnD is so obsessed with providing a certain framework of challenge and group play, that everyone is pressured into optimizing as much as they can to be effective as possible, just to raise the numbers. so they end up being broken, because they think they need to be, or are unaware that they are.

M&M......doesn't do that. your put at a certain PL and stay there. you don't level up, not much anyways. you don't need to be the most effective you need to be (meaning broken beyond repair) to enjoy it, to be balanced, you just got to pay attention to the PL and put points appropriately to the character concept.

your looking at it from a DnD point of view: assuming that you have to automatically go for the most effective possible thing no matter what. when thats why I play M&M instead of DnD: you don't NEED to be wizard McGod to be powerful and overcome the challenges before you. in DnD, its vital, in M&M its just overkill. the entire point of more narrative games is that not everyone wants to break the system as soon as we see it to get the concepts we want, not to become as powerful as possible. becoming a godlike being in M&M is easy, so why bother?


This is entirely dependent on the DM/GM, though. Many people play unoptimized D&D, and some people will play optimized M&M.


The argument was :

In a classless system a broken thing does not reduce the number of viable character concepts in a significant way. In a class based system it does.

We are not compairing broken classless systems with balanced class systems to discuss the merits of classless vs. class. That would be silly. We either compare broken classless to broken class or balanced classless to balanced class.


And 4e (or 2e with all the trimmings) might be breakable (especially at Paragon and above) - but the only game I know that comes close to being as broken as 3.X is RIFTS.

Personally, I found mutants and masterminds much easier to break than d&d. My first m&m character could - and did - solo all 13 of the sample characters. I doubt anyone ever had their first experience with 3.5 be to build a 1st level character who could (let alone did) singlehandedly face off against all the pre-gens in the ph. Whereas it was many years before I built a 3.x character who would have been ahead of the curve in a Same Game test.

So, unless you like playing second string, I find that most of the potential m&m builds are simply not viable.

But is it fair to hold these games to the same standards? Should there be a "same play style" test, or should each game be evaluated based on its expected play style?

Although I don't know the answer to that question, I do feel that m&m would be a lot less balanced than d&d in an "each to his own play style" test. Because in m&m, you have the concept of superheroes, and "be super", which is what drove me in making my first character super; whereas in d&d 3.x, you have the CR system, which gives you some idea what kind of challenges should be "fair" for your character to face at their level, which makes it pretty pointless to optimize past a certain point.

Grinner
2016-01-19, 03:22 PM
Personally, I found mutants and masterminds much easier to break than d&d. My first m&m character could - and did - solo all 13 of the sample characters. I doubt anyone ever had their first experience with 3.5 be to build a 1st level character who could (let alone did) singlehandedly face off against all the pre-gens in the ph. Whereas it was many years before I built a 3.x character who would have been ahead of the curve in a Same Game test.

I don't think anyone's contested that...? I got the impression that everyone agreed that M&M could be used to generate a character outside of the intended bounds. The point that had been made was that it was quite obvious when someone had done so. This is as opposed to D&D 3.5, where similar builds can appear odd if otherwise innocuous but still far outstrip their peers in terms of efficacy. Furthermore, it was also observed that there is a ceiling in M&M on how much raw power a character can bring to bear, period.


But is it fair to hold these games to the same standards? Should there be a "same play style" test, or should each game be evaluated based on its expected play style?

This question is far more cogent to the issue. I hate to involve "balance", because the term balance can mean different things depending on who you're talking to.

If I may use you as an example, I've noticed from your post that you tend to equate balance with "equal capacity among player characters to inflict violence upon other characters"*. Others consider balance to be the ability for everyone to contribute to in some way to different (violent and non-violent) challenges, such as JaronK's tier system. Then we should also consider how "balance" is often inversely proportionate to a game's complexity, for that complexity often enables players possessing intimate knowledge of the game to squeeze out extra power into their character.

If you want to look at it in terms of ease of use, perhaps M&M is actually more balanced than D&D by the virtue of a new player being able to "break" it with their first character. Keep in mind that in D&D, it's not uncommon for a new player's character to be severely unoptimal.

But ultimately, the term balance is so nebulous as to be useless. Without some exploration and definition of different sorts of balance, it serves only to further muddle already unclear discussions.

*Though given that this is only one sample, I could easily be wrong.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-19, 03:29 PM
So, unless you like playing second string, I find that most of the potential m&m builds are simply not viable.

But is it fair to hold these games to the same standards? Should there be a "same play style" test, or should each game be evaluated based on its expected play style?

Maybe it's fair - and maybe not. But it should certainly be a consideration both when picking a game to play and when choosing methods of design for a game. If you are attempting to design a balanced game, you'd want to try to avoid the balance pitfalls of both D&D and M&M.

However - I can't think how you'd avoid all of M&M's pitfalls while retaining anything like a standard point-buy. A hybrid system might work - where you're given points to spend based upon your level, but you need to spend points in various categories each level, and different classes spend points more or less efficiently for different things.

JoeJ
2016-01-19, 04:46 PM
Personally, I found mutants and masterminds much easier to break than d&d. My first m&m character could - and did - solo all 13 of the sample characters. I doubt anyone ever had their first experience with 3.5 be to build a 1st level character who could (let alone did) singlehandedly face off against all the pre-gens in the ph. Whereas it was many years before I built a 3.x character who would have been ahead of the curve in a Same Game test.

While interesting, I'd hardly call that an indication of brokenness any more than being able to create a character who is a better detective or better at science than any of the pregens (which you can). PvP is simply not a useful measure of balance in a team oriented game.

If you look at the Emerald Knights AP as an example, you'll see that in addition to stand up fights, there is also a lot of investigation, a lot of social interaction, a lot of very mobile battles, a lot of multiple powerful enemies going off in different directions at the same time, an element of technological invention, and a BBEG that probably can't be beaten in direct combat no matter how optimized you are. This is what I meant by the rock-paper-scissors element I mentioned in a previous post. Your "broken" character doesn't invalidate the other PCs because even if they dominate at one thing (physical combat, perhaps), they aren't going to be the best at everything else a good adventure requires.

Talakeal
2016-01-19, 05:45 PM
While interesting, I'd hardly call that an indication of brokenness any more than being able to create a character who is a better detective or better at science than any of the pregens (which you can). PvP is simply not a useful measure of balance in a team oriented game.

If you look at the Emerald Knights AP as an example, you'll see that in addition to stand up fights, there is also a lot of investigation, a lot of social interaction, a lot of very mobile battles, a lot of multiple powerful enemies going off in different directions at the same time, an element of technological invention, and a BBEG that probably can't be beaten in direct combat no matter how optimized you are. This is what I meant by the rock-paper-scissors element I mentioned in a previous post. Your "broken" character doesn't invalidate the other PCs because even if they dominate at one thing (physical combat, perhaps), they aren't going to be the best at everything else a good adventure requires.

Great post. :smallbiggrin:

Morty
2016-01-19, 05:52 PM
I feel an important point got lost in all this, namely that you can get the benefits of classes (strong archetypes, guiding character progression, etc.) without straitjacketing characters like D&D does.

themaque
2016-01-19, 06:12 PM
I feel an important point got lost in all this, namely that you can get the benefits of classes (strong archetypes, guiding character progression, etc.) without straitjacketing characters like D&D does.

Sometimes it's those very limitations that drive a person on to further creativity.

I don't think either one is better than the other. I'm known for being a fan of classless skill based systems, but I like a simple class to give me a guiding light or even a challenge now and again.

JoeJ
2016-01-19, 06:44 PM
Class vs. classless might be an overly simple metric. Class based games range from those with a few, very broad classes (Stars Without Number), to those with a huge number of very specific ones (D&D 3.x). Classless games range from those that have so many distinct abilities to consider that it's difficult for a new player to even create a character without using a template (GURPS), to those where simply describing the kind of character you want is enough to let you figure out how to build them (Spirit of the Century). And there are even games where classes are used during character creation, but don't have any significant effect during play (Traveler).

Arbane
2016-01-20, 12:30 AM
I saw a comment about wizards and 1 spell slot

they changed that, besides, back then, if you wanted to be a wizard, you had to be hardcore

Yeah, one of the (many) reasons for D&D3's Caster Supremacy is that in earlier editions, there used to be a LOT of things holding wizards back - no bonus spell slots, scrolls and wands were RARE and random, new spells were found at the DM's whim, etc... nowadays, not so much.

(And if you wanted to play ANYTHING in AD&D, you needed to be hardcore. 1st level characters did not have a long life expectancy.)

goto124
2016-01-20, 01:42 AM
How does one make different classes feel unique enough, without making each class feel like playing entirely different games at the same table?

Stubbazubba
2016-01-20, 01:58 AM
How does one make different classes feel unique enough, without making each class feel like playing entirely different games at the same table?

That is an excellent question, and I'm sure professionals disagree on the answer.

My standard approach for this is that you want all combat actions to be resolved in similar ways no matter where it comes from, but you can have unique class mechanics that enable or empower different actions in different ways. That way, each class plays a little differently, but everyone is still rolling a lot of similar things.

A lot of this ends up being different resource management schemes. For example, in 3.5, the Barbarian's signature unique mechanic is Rage, and the Barb player manages his Rages throughout the adventuring day, but still attacks the same as anybody else. Similarly, spellcasters manage their spell slots (and even here, Wizards, Sorcerers, and Clerics all manage their spells/spell slots slightly differently), but spells are all resolved using the same mechanic (save vs. damage or a condition, with a few exceptions). Rogues have Sneak Attack, which is not use-limited but only possible in certain conditions, but is otherwise resolved like a normal attack (but with more POWAH!). Some classes use more than one resource mechanic (Rangers, Paladins have spell-casting and other mechanics), and one has none (the Fighter), though that's a design I don't recommend repeating.

In essence, you're playing two different games; the resource management game, and the combat game (for these purposes). But those two games are interlocked; the resource management game feeds the combat game. And every class has their own variation on the resource management game, but the combat game is the same for everybody.

I guess the answer, then, is that you just make classes have unique mechanics which impact the universal mechanics that everyone plays with.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-20, 02:22 AM
How does one make different classes feel unique enough, without making each class feel like playing entirely different games at the same table?

So long as the different games meshed, would that be a bad thing? I think that's pretty much what a truly hard asymmetry is.

Now - it'd be extremely hard to pull off well, but it'd actually be pretty cool if a game made it mesh. I can think of a couple board-games that do, but in those cases the hard asymmetry is when the two sides are opposed instead of co-op. (Descent is a pretty hard asymmetry.)

CharonsHelper
2016-01-20, 02:24 AM
(but with more POWAH!)

Sorry - but did you intend that to read like it's said by Biff in Back to the Future II? Because that's how I heard it in my head.

Raimun
2016-01-20, 04:23 AM
I actually like games without classes and games with classes.

Though I do enjoy choosing from different options even while playing games with classes. Pathfinder has two excellent mechanics that cater to this: Class Archetypes allows you to replace your Class Features, so your Rogue can specialize in something else than trap finding and disarmament. Traits allow you to pick new Class Skills, so you can make a Fighter who can do both Survival and Diplomacy.

NichG
2016-01-20, 08:16 AM
How does one make different classes feel unique enough, without making each class feel like playing entirely different games at the same table?

Well I think this brings up a good point. One thing that you can kind of do with classes, that you can't do as easily with a classless system, is to actually fine-tune different kinds of play experiences to different potential players. I think that a D&D Swordsage, Wizard, and Totemist really are playing different games at the same table, and in some sense that's a potential strength of the class-based design in that players can have wildly varying tastes. Some players like resource management, or having to choose from a very complex list of highly situational options, or having the character be simpler to manage but then have it be more about how they choose to deploy their character.

So while you might have more freedom in terms of choosing your character's abilities with totally open character-building, you have a less opportunity to choose how playing the character actually feels in terms of the details of manipulating the mechanics.

In other words, it may actually be an advantage to make each class feel like playing entirely different games at the same table, at least to a point.

8BitNinja
2016-01-20, 07:58 PM
Well I think this brings up a good point. One thing that you can kind of do with classes, that you can't do as easily with a classless system, is to actually fine-tune different kinds of play experiences to different potential players. I think that a D&D Swordsage, Wizard, and Totemist really are playing different games at the same table, and in some sense that's a potential strength of the class-based design in that players can have wildly varying tastes. Some players like resource management, or having to choose from a very complex list of highly situational options, or having the character be simpler to manage but then have it be more about how they choose to deploy their character.

So while you might have more freedom in terms of choosing your character's abilities with totally open character-building, you have a less opportunity to choose how playing the character actually feels in terms of the details of manipulating the mechanics.

In other words, it may actually be an advantage to make each class feel like playing entirely different games at the same table, at least to a point.

You can also discover your playstyle

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-21, 07:52 AM
In other words, it may actually be an advantage to make each class feel like playing entirely different games at the same table, at least to a point.

You don't strictly need classes to do this. In GURPS a spellcaster isn't playing the same game as the diplomat. In Qin the Xia is playing a different game to the External Alchemist, who is playing a different game to the Internal Alchemist, who is playing a different game to the Diviner. Classes just make it easier.

wumpus
2016-01-21, 10:39 AM
How does one make different classes feel unique enough, without making each class feel like playing entirely different games at the same table?

I'm guessing that for different players that line will be in different places. For some there may be complete overlap.

One thing that I liked that was added to 3.x (I'm assuming it is Pathfinder) pretty late in the game was society/groups. The idea was that you could advance in these groups independent of your class. It looks like part of what was originally tried with prestige classes (which was a great idea that was doomed when they couldn't fit paladin into those rules), but without forcing the class mechanic into it. Classes work well for many things, but when you make them handle *everything* in something as rules heavy as 3.x, things can go very wrong.

8BitNinja
2016-01-21, 01:39 PM
I also learned very quickly after making the first edition of my game Sidequest, you do not want to have classes with the same abilities. For example, everyone has an ability to burn, freeze, and poison a target, which takes out the fun of the inventor, whose main job is to burn, freeze, and poison

goto124
2016-01-21, 08:36 PM
Could there be overlap in skills and still have uniqueness? For example, maybe everyone can burn/freeze/poison, but no one does it nearly as well as the inventor does, who inflicts worse status effects for longer periods of time. So a group without an inventor still has the burn/freeze/poison option, just not as well as the group with the inventor.

Maybe this works better in a solo campaign...

JoeJ
2016-01-22, 01:16 AM
Could there be overlap in skills and still have uniqueness? For example, maybe everyone can burn/freeze/poison, but no one does it nearly as well as the inventor does, who inflicts worse status effects for longer periods of time. So a group without an inventor still has the burn/freeze/poison option, just not as well as the group with the inventor.

Maybe this works better in a solo campaign...

If the expectation is that all the characters will have a very similar skill set you're probably better not having classes, because it's easier to maximize the differences that way. Examples of this might be a game in which the characters are all commandos in a war zone, or the crew of a small space ship, or students at a wizard's academy.

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-22, 04:56 AM
If the expectation is that all the characters will have a very similar skill set you're probably better not having classes, because it's easier to maximize the differences that way. Examples of this might be a game in which the characters are all commandos in a war zone, or the crew of a small space ship, or students at a wizard's academy.

Hey, Ars Magical still has classes. You can have a Magus, a Companion (I think that's the term), and one or more grogs (with the ability 'ham it up').

8BitNinja
2016-01-22, 09:54 AM
Could there be overlap in skills and still have uniqueness? For example, maybe everyone can burn/freeze/poison, but no one does it nearly as well as the inventor does, who inflicts worse status effects for longer periods of time. So a group without an inventor still has the burn/freeze/poison option, just not as well as the group with the inventor.

Maybe this works better in a solo campaign...

Thanks for the idea, I'll apply that in my revision

goto124
2016-01-22, 10:42 AM
Wait wait, I'm quite the opposite of an expert in Tabletop RPGs! In fact most of my experience comes from CRPGs, and I'm pretty bad even in CRPGs!

8BitNinja
2016-01-22, 01:28 PM
Wait wait, I'm quite the opposite of an expert in Tabletop RPGs! In fact most of my experience comes from CRPGs, and I'm pretty bad even in CRPGs!

When I made my first game, I had no knowledge of the rules of D&D, or any TRPGs, I used CRPGs to design my games

The combat system was based off of JRPG combat systems, combined with RISK

Otaku
2016-01-22, 01:58 PM
(Someone in GURPS figured out a way to make a power that would kill all life in the universe for less points than a starting character gets. All rules-legal, but no sane GM should allow it.)

How certain are you of that?

One of the big issues I've noticed when discussing games with people is that a concept will spread that isn't true. Since I enjoy GURPS, I tend to notice such things with that system more easily than I would others.

In a forum thread started in 2006 for players to design useful 50-ish point "powers", developed a 53 point attack they called the Munchkin's Universe-shaking Nondirectional Cosmic Hyperluminal Kinetoelectromagnetic Interference Neurodisrupter... or M.U.N.C.H.K.I.N. With an acronym like that it was kind of obvious they were intentionally trying to break the system, which is probably why no one went over it really carefully... until recently. I mean the thread is still going on. XD

Which is why I another forum user finally pointed out a pretty blatant rules violation. Not something from some obscure supplement, but from GURPS Basic Set. A few posts later, the GURPS Line Editor confirmed that now legendary M.U.N.C.H.K.I.N. is indeed not RAW legal, even though for almost a decade people have mistaken it as such (mostly confined to discussions of how GURPS is broken XD). I've been trying to remember that with all RPG systems, since GURPS is the one with which I am most familiar so it is a lot easier to spot.

Morty
2016-01-22, 02:14 PM
Hey, Ars Magical still has classes. You can have a Magus, a Companion (I think that's the term), and one or more grogs (with the ability 'ham it up').

Which brings us right back to trying to define a class. Are vampire clans for Vampire: Requiem classes? Are werewolf auspices from Werewolf: the Forsaken? The latter do determine one's role in the hunt. What about careers or roles in Fantasy Flight Games' WH40K games?

8BitNinja
2016-01-22, 02:23 PM
I saw a LARP question on here, even though I don't have that much experience with TRPGs, I have even less with LARPs, so I won't be able to discuss any of those

It's still technically an RPG, so I might learn something new, just don't ask for my answer on something like that

Lord Raziere
2016-01-22, 02:40 PM
I'll just say this:

unless you can come up with a class for the exact character concept I want, no ifs ands or buts, no mechanical dissociation from what I want to do (namely if I want to blast fire X amount of times, you don't give me a class that will only do it Y amount of times, a common problem I have with anything resembling vancian casting), and have it not suck....I'm gonna go with a point buy based system. sure there are archetypes, but people don't always want to play an archetype to the hilt or wait to multiclass or things like that.

one of the advantages of a skill based system, is also that they don't need splatbooks. sure you could eventually come up splatbooks for every class in existence, but that takes time, and some people don't want to wait for the rules to play the characters they want, they want to play it now, and they want it to not suck in comparison to someone else. my roleplaying is such that I just can't value classes all that highly for me to be able to enjoy myself.

obryn
2016-01-22, 02:53 PM
I humbly submit that trying to 'balance' a superhero game probably runs afoul of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem. When one person is playing Batman, one's playing Giant Robo, and a third is playing Dr. Strange, the closest thing to 'balance' that is attainable is to try building everyone on the same number of points and to try to make sure they each get equal bang for their buck, even if their competencies are at right-angles to each other.
I'll go back in time to talk about this real quick.

I think most superhero comics run afoul of a few problems, but they all fall under, "This doesn't really play like a comic book reads." Like, you might know who's stronger between The Thing and She-Hulk, and if you're playing (for example) Marvel FASERIP you have all kinds of stats about it. But that stuff gets really floaty and uncertain depending on a comic author's story needs at the time.

Basically, much like almost everything trying to replicate a media property, the game doesn't play like its source material.


BUT! As for the central question. Classes? I dig them.

ImNotTrevor
2016-01-22, 03:00 PM
I'll just say this:

unless you can come up with a class for the exact character concept I want, no ifs ands or buts, no mechanical dissociation from what I want to do (namely if I want to blast fire X amount of times, you don't give me a class that will only do it Y amount of times, a common problem I have with anything resembling vancian casting), and have it not suck....I'm gonna go with a point buy based system. sure there are archetypes, but people don't always want to play an archetype to the hilt or wait to multiclass or things like that.

one of the advantages of a skill based system, is also that they don't need splatbooks. sure you could eventually come up splatbooks for every class in existence, but that takes time, and some people don't want to wait for the rules to play the characters they want, they want to play it now, and they want it to not suck in comparison to someone else. my roleplaying is such that I just can't value classes all that highly for me to be able to enjoy myself.

Sure. Though any system with a super broad class system like Stars Without Number could accomplish your goal pretty easily, within their genre. (Obviously, Stars Without Number can't make a D&D style Druid, because it's a sci-fi system and so there aren't any magical druids. And if you're trying to play a Druid in a Sci-fi setting, someone may need to explain you a thing.)

But if you give me a sci-fi friendly concept, (including psychic powers) I can build it in SWN. Out of 3 classes. (Or a 4th if I include one of two splatbooks. Though the 4th is basically the same as one of the 3 with a slight change.)

Dex-based Power-armored sword weilder? I can build that.
Fighter Pilot? Yup.
Pseudo-Jedi? Yup.
Psychic hacker? Mhm.
Conman? Check.

And there is 0 multiclassing involved in any of those builds. The first two may not perform exactly as advertised at lvl 1 because of resource limitations, but those are easy to get around if you're proactive. (Well...a fighter ship is pretty dang expensive. But you can still get one if you want it.)

JoeJ
2016-01-23, 01:56 AM
Sure. Though any system with a super broad class system like Stars Without Number could accomplish your goal pretty easily, within their genre. (Obviously, Stars Without Number can't make a D&D style Druid, because it's a sci-fi system and so there aren't any magical druids. And if you're trying to play a Druid in a Sci-fi setting, someone may need to explain you a thing.)

But if you give me a sci-fi friendly concept, (including psychic powers) I can build it in SWN. Out of 3 classes. (Or a 4th if I include one of two splatbooks. Though the 4th is basically the same as one of the 3 with a slight change.)

Dex-based Power-armored sword weilder? I can build that.
Fighter Pilot? Yup.
Pseudo-Jedi? Yup.
Psychic hacker? Mhm.
Conman? Check.

And there is 0 multiclassing involved in any of those builds. The first two may not perform exactly as advertised at lvl 1 because of resource limitations, but those are easy to get around if you're proactive. (Well...a fighter ship is pretty dang expensive. But you can still get one if you want it.)

I didn't see anything in the Free rules that would let me play a genetically engineered parahuman of any kind, or a character with lots of implanted cyberware, or an android/robot. Are those in the splats?

ImNotTrevor
2016-01-24, 08:21 PM
I didn't see anything in the Free rules that would let me play a genetically engineered parahuman of any kind, or a character with lots of implanted cyberware, or an android/robot. Are those in the splats?

You mean playing as a non-human. It has suggestions for that within the free rules. I don't know th page number off the top of my head.

So for Parahuman, that would depend on the sort. You want a psychic? You play that with the "Adventurer" skill packages to make the appropriate skill set from being an experiment and subsequent escape/backstory. Some other sort of Parahuman? The suggested rules for playing Aliens pretty much state that you bump one stat by 1 or 2 and reduce another by the same amount. Done. You're not allowed to use a character concept to make yourself OP. ;D

Of course, Parahuman implies superpowers. The setting of SWN has no superpowers outside of psionics. And superpowers usually clash with Sci Fi. Superhero is its own genre. Play something else for that. Because it isn't sci fi. It's Superhero.

Lots of implanted cyberware is easy. The character starts off in debt for the cyberware. The character sheet has a section for debts to be paid, and most GMs are more than happy to let you start in debt.

Humanoid robots with sentience are not a thing in SWN. So...
Of course what I would do is make them not need air, food, or water and in exchange they lose a crapton of charisma and other stuff until it's not obviously better than being human (as per the playing as an alien section.) But it's not generally a good idea

That, or I point out that humanoid robots with sentience aren't a thing in SWN. They have VIs, not AIs. Unbraked AI (the sentient sort) are incredibly illegal and unfathomably too overpowered to be a Player Character. (Like, planetary devestation level.)

So playing as an android would be... not fun in SWN. It would be like playing a calculator or a forklift.

So yeah, all of those that are reasonable are covered. :D

CharonsHelper
2016-01-24, 08:44 PM
Of course, Parahuman implies superpowers. The setting of SWN has no superpowers outside of psionics. And superpowers usually clash with Sci Fi. Superhero is its own genre. Play something else for that. Because it isn't sci fi. It's Superhero.

That actually brings up another point. One thing (neither advantage or disadvantage - just different) is that classes can help make the characters fit the setting's vibe. For RPGs with a heavier/more developed setting, classes help keep both PCs & NPCs being consistent within that setting.

KorvinStarmast
2016-01-24, 09:38 PM
To my understanding, very early D&D was balanced at the "whole character" level, where certain classes were more powerful at different points of the 20-level game,

Very early D&D rarely got to level 20. Mordenkainen was the exception, not the rule. The earlier point on how it was a Campaign game, and fighter built a keep, a Cleric a temple or tower or other holy place, and the wizard a tower ... All At Different Levels ... demonstrates how the "balance" discussion on the early version utterly misses the point.

Beyond that, this discussion suggests to me that one pick a version of D&D, as each has different balance points, such as they are, and emphasis.

Balance between classes is utterly unimportant. The whole point of classes being DIFFERENT is something similar to how human society functions: we aren't all farmers, we aren't all auto mechanics, we aren't all authors. We don't all specialize in the same thing, and we aren't all good at the same thing. But put a team together, with a variety of skills, and the number of challenges that team can overcome is remarkable.

I'll stop there, as the premise some of you are operating under is utterly false. it isn't important if within the party the wizard and the rogue are perfectly balanced against each other. Those of you who think that's the case miss the point completely.

For the OP: vive le difference. Don't Play The Same Character and the Same Class in each game.
Stretch yourselves. More fun that way.

By the way, we do this for fun, not to measure whatevers in game.

JoeJ
2016-01-25, 12:06 AM
You mean playing as a non-human. It has suggestions for that within the free rules. I don't know th page number off the top of my head.

So for Parahuman, that would depend on the sort. You want a psychic? You play that with the "Adventurer" skill packages to make the appropriate skill set from being an experiment and subsequent escape/backstory. Some other sort of Parahuman? The suggested rules for playing Aliens pretty much state that you bump one stat by 1 or 2 and reduce another by the same amount. Done. You're not allowed to use a character concept to make yourself OP. ;D

Of course, Parahuman implies superpowers. The setting of SWN has no superpowers outside of psionics. And superpowers usually clash with Sci Fi. Superhero is its own genre. Play something else for that. Because it isn't sci fi. It's Superhero.

Psionics are superpowers, so this argument doesn't make a lot of sense. But genetically engineered in SF doesn't necessarily have to mean better, just different. For example, somebody could have been engineered to live in a space colony, with a naturally high tolerance for radiation, the ability to quickly orient themselves in zero-G, and hands in place of feet. They would be at a significant disadvantage in normal gravity, but well suited to living in space.


Lots of implanted cyberware is easy. The character starts off in debt for the cyberware. The character sheet has a section for debts to be paid, and most GMs are more than happy to let you start in debt.

Humanoid robots with sentience are not a thing in SWN. So...
Of course what I would do is make them not need air, food, or water and in exchange they lose a crapton of charisma and other stuff until it's not obviously better than being human (as per the playing as an alien section.) But it's not generally a good idea

That, or I point out that humanoid robots with sentience aren't a thing in SWN. They have VIs, not AIs. Unbraked AI (the sentient sort) are incredibly illegal and unfathomably too overpowered to be a Player Character. (Like, planetary devestation level.)

So playing as an android would be... not fun in SWN. It would be like playing a calculator or a forklift.

So yeah, all of those that are reasonable are covered. :D

So all the concepts that are reasonable in this specific setting are playable, not all the concepts that are reasonable characters in science fiction. That's very different from what I had thought you were saying.

Stubbazubba
2016-01-25, 01:56 AM
Balance between classes is utterly unimportant. The whole point of classes being DIFFERENT is something similar to how human society functions: we aren't all farmers, we aren't all auto mechanics, we aren't all authors. We don't all specialize in the same thing, and we aren't all good at the same thing. But put a team together, with a variety of skills, and the number of challenges that team can overcome is remarkable.

If you pick the right team, maybe. But without careful planning, teams at random are more likely to have anti-synergies than synergies. And human society is not a great example; there are winners and losers in human society, and there are certainly those who contribute much more to their teams than others. You don't want your game to look like human society (unless you're playing Ars Magica).

At best, you want your game to look like sports teams. Different players' strengths puts them in different positions, all of which are necessary to the ultimate goal. You preferably want each person's contribution to matter, and you certainly don't want one player carrying the whole team's weight. Ideally, everyone should contribute roughly equally, if differently. That way you rely on each other and your strengths synergize.

But that only happens if you plan your team. "You really want to play a Sorcerer? We've already got two other people vying for that spot. Someone's got to be the meat shield or the healbot!" Maybe this is the way to go, and balance everything based on the assumption that the party is made up of characters that fulfill different roles. That was the approach 4e took. Even this assumes a kind of intra-party balance of contributions.

And I think that something along those lines is what everyone means when they talk about balancing classes; you want everyone to contribute roughly equally over the course of your average adventure. You don't want the Wizard to open all the locks, freeze time to walk past the traps, put all the monsters to sleep, and teleport the party and the treasure home when the dungeon begins to collapse. That simply won't be fun for the other players anymore than it is for a basketball team's entire strategy to be "get the ball to our one superstar, he'll do the rest."

So, to give everyone a fighting chance at having fun, classes need to be at least somewhat balanced between each other. The skills and abilities necessary to get through the quest need to be distributed throughout the party, not concentrated in a single class, and preferably there should be important synergies that you can take advantage of with a bit of planning. Because the only way you can put a team together and achieve remarkable things through the combination of your specialties is, in fact, by balancing the team members' specialties against each other.

KorvinStarmast
2016-01-25, 08:51 AM
At best, you want your game to look like sports teams. . Sure, like the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Oh, wait, that wasn't your attempted point. :smallbiggrin:

The classes are not balanced in isolation, it really gets into how the DM designs the campaign. I agree with your "close enough" point though, in terms of a design goal.

Morty
2016-01-25, 09:37 AM
Very early D&D rarely got to level 20. Mordenkainen was the exception, not the rule. The earlier point on how it was a Campaign game, and fighter built a keep, a Cleric a temple or tower or other holy place, and the wizard a tower ... All At Different Levels ... demonstrates how the "balance" discussion on the early version utterly misses the point.

Beyond that, this discussion suggests to me that one pick a version of D&D, as each has different balance points, such as they are, and emphasis.

Balance between classes is utterly unimportant. The whole point of classes being DIFFERENT is something similar to how human society functions: we aren't all farmers, we aren't all auto mechanics, we aren't all authors. We don't all specialize in the same thing, and we aren't all good at the same thing. But put a team together, with a variety of skills, and the number of challenges that team can overcome is remarkable.

I'll stop there, as the premise some of you are operating under is utterly false. it isn't important if within the party the wizard and the rogue are perfectly balanced against each other. Those of you who think that's the case miss the point completely.

For the OP: vive le difference. Don't Play The Same Character and the Same Class in each game.
Stretch yourselves. More fun that way.

By the way, we do this for fun, not to measure whatevers in game.

If you define "balance" as "everyone is the same", then it's a completely useless term, obviously. And it's not something anyone who talks about balance as something desirable actually means. Therefore, I really don't know why you would want to define it this way. If we define balance as "everyone has strong ways of affecting the narrative according to their chosen archetype and concept", it actually allows for a discussion.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-25, 11:08 AM
Sure, like the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Oh, wait, that wasn't your attempted point. :smallbiggrin:

Yeah - basketball is actually a game where a single person can dominate. An RPG designed like that has poor asymmetrical balance between classes. (Possibly no classes at all.)

I'm assuming that he meant a sport more like baseball. Even when you have a position which is the most important (pitcher), they can't cover everything even when they're doing their job (need catcher/fielders) and 1/2 the time they tend to be the weakest player on the field (batting).

That would be an RPG where one class is probably the most potent, but they're still reliant upon the other classes to do their job and shore up their weaknesses. Such an RPG has solid asymmetry between the classes.

8BitNinja
2016-01-25, 01:24 PM
Yeah - basketball is actually a game where a single person can dominate. An RPG designed like that has poor asymmetrical balance between classes. (Possibly no classes at all.)

I'm assuming that he meant a sport more like baseball. Even when you have a position which is the most important (pitcher), they can't cover everything even when they're doing their job (need catcher/fielders) and 1/2 the time they tend to be the weakest player on the field (batting).

That would be an RPG where one class is probably the most potent, but they're still reliant upon the other classes to do their job and shore up their weaknesses. Such an RPG has solid asymmetry between the classes.

Like Runescape?

All classes equally suck

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-25, 03:24 PM
Let us get a baseline here, what doesn't count as a class? I'm going to do a 'scale of classes' here, just to try and get a point to decide what is a class for this discussion. Please feel free to claim I missed bits out of it or 'that level is totally the same as that level'.

The Anonymous Wizard's Sliding Scale of Classes please note in mind this is probably a very bad way to define it

Class is effectively your sole defining feature (e.g. BECMI D&D, where you had class and ability scores, I haven't played it but Dungeon World looks like an even better example)
Class is your primary defining feature (e.g. most editions of D&D)
Class limits your advancement, but gives a range of choices (e.g. WH40kRP up to Deathwatch)
Class is a 'cost template' which says how much you have to pay for the thing you want (e.g. Anima: Beyond Fantasy, WH40kRP from Black Crusade onward)
Class has minor effects on advancement, which is mostly point buy (e.g. Legends of the Wulin, where buying your archetype's secret art up gives you chi)
Classes? What Classes (e.g. GURPS, Mutants and MAsterminds, Fate...)


I'm sure I left out some steps, feel free to critique (for the record I prefer games at the 5/6 level, where it's effectively classless).

CharonsHelper
2016-01-25, 03:55 PM
I'm sure I left out some steps, feel free to critique (for the record I prefer games at the 5/6 level, where it's effectively classless).

Looks pretty good - but one could also put a 2nd scale, especially for 1-4 games, where it shows how much asymmetry there is between different classes.

For example, (to use ones most know) most D&D games have somewhere between 'extreme' to 'strong' in the asymmetry between casters and martials. They do things very differently. However, while 4e had your class choice define your potential character much more than 3x or 5e, there was also far less asymmetry between classes. (I think that was the main thing which led to its general failure from a sales perspective.)

Some systems at 5-6 on your scale also promote a bit of asymmetry within the group as different characters cover different things, but it generally seems to be much less so.

Edit: It probably breaks KISS to bring a secondary scale into it, but there it is.

JoeJ
2016-01-25, 04:01 PM
I'm sure I left out some steps, feel free to critique (for the record I prefer games at the 5/6 level, where it's effectively classless).

Where would you put Traveler? It uses classes during initial character creation (although it doesn't use the word "class"), but they have no effect on play after that.

Lord Raziere
2016-01-25, 04:10 PM
Hm, from this it sounds like Storyteller Systems are about 4-5 on this scale. they have certain archetypes you fall into that determine how you progress a little, but you can defy stereotype or go in a different direction.

but yeah, its not binary, some systems do use a hybrid system of point buy and classes. the upside is that this provides flexibility in that you can CHOOSE to go against the grain, but the downside is that its hard and probably suboptimal anyways, on the other hand it would probably be easier to homebrew your own archetype, since the point buy cost templates would serve as useful guides to make your own and determining how they grow.

ImNotTrevor
2016-01-25, 04:37 PM
Psionics are superpowers, so this argument doesn't make a lot of sense. But genetically engineered in SF doesn't necessarily have to mean better, just different. For example, somebody could have been engineered to live in a space colony, with a naturally high tolerance for radiation, the ability to quickly orient themselves in zero-G, and hands in place of feet. They would be at a significant disadvantage in normal gravity, but well suited to living in space.



So all the concepts that are reasonable in this specific setting are playable, not all the concepts that are reasonable characters in science fiction. That's very different from what I had thought you were saying.

I said it had no superpowers "outside of psionics." I included that psionics are superpowers. But laser beam eyes and machineless flight are not exactly Sci Fi staples, are they? Psychic powers are, because psychic aliens seem feasible. But not the ability for a normal-looking human to throw a car and shape shift into a T-rex. Those are very different, feel-wise, than being able to see flashes of the future or move a wrench through the air or read someone's emotions. So the point is actually still very very valid. If you want eyebeams and super strength, go play Mutants and Masterminds.

The things you mentioned about being a space colony dweller are nifty... and also not taken into consideration by the system. You would do that by bumping dexterity and downgrading constitution (More agile, but their bones are brittle.) And by making sure you had the Exosuit skill (since that covers space suits and all manner of things you would wear in space or radioactive environs.) But radiation is radiation, and the boon to your ability to resist radiation would actually not be all that big for living on a space colony. (If they werent pretty close to radiation-proof, people would start dying FAST.) Astronauts don't have any particular extra resistance and they can live in space for like 18 months at a time with no ill effects other than a loss in bone density. And really, a space colony would likely have artificial gravity of some sort either by spinning or by science magic. So what is MORE likely to be the case is that they are a bit more dextrous than usual, bones are less dense, and they are extra good at space suits. If you're going the Hyperion route with the Ousters and all that, you can do something like that, too. But it would be done primaroly via stats and skill packages. Alternative races are not, by system rules, allowed to be a clearly better choice than picking a human. So you're constrained by having to play fair. (Wah)

(And the biggest reason my original answer was vague is because "genetically engineered parahuman" is vague as hell.)


I gave an option to build am android, but stated that sentient computer programs are hella dangerous and I wouldn't want to have a player playing one because it can cause a lot of problems. If they figure out how to jerry rig themselves into interfacing with the ship, well now they are a ship. And if they keep putting points in Computers they may figure out how to get into highly secure databases. And take them over. And access nuclear codes without needing to be anywhere near the people who would stop them.

AI. Don't let your players be one unless you reeeaaally trust them or think they're too dim to figure out their potential. Since androids in fiction are almost universally described as better than humans in every way, I would be ridiculously wary of players trying to play one. In Star Wars, where Droids are basically machine people, it's fine. But outside of that realm pretty much all androids are dangerously overpowered compared to humans.

As for cybernetics guy, I would additionally make this ruling: if the cybernetics would result in Stat changes, then the PC goes into debt for each of those. If it's just a cosmetic "this arm is metal now" then we will assume he payed it off already. But since there are many cybernetics that boost stats and are expensive.... If you want those you can have them. But you will owe money to dangerous people.

If you want to play absolutely anything and have balance, play FATE. The downside of that is that there is no actual difference between what you're doing and what someone else is doing except in your heads. (Especially in FATE accelerated, where a fireball and a super punch are mechanically exactly the same.)

That's pretty much it. SWN can do all those things. You don't get to be OP for free just because your concept is super cool, though. (Which these concepts seem to want.)

obryn
2016-01-25, 04:53 PM
Let us get a baseline here, what doesn't count as a class? I'm going to do a 'scale of classes' here, just to try and get a point to decide what is a class for this discussion. Please feel free to claim I missed bits out of it or 'that level is totally the same as that level'.

The Anonymous Wizard's Sliding Scale of Classes please note in mind this is probably a very bad way to define it

Class is effectively your sole defining feature (e.g. BECMI D&D, where you had class and ability scores, I haven't played it but Dungeon World looks like an even better example)
Class is your primary defining feature (e.g. most editions of D&D)
Class limits your advancement, but gives a range of choices (e.g. WH40kRP up to Deathwatch)
Class is a 'cost template' which says how much you have to pay for the thing you want (e.g. Anima: Beyond Fantasy, WH40kRP from Black Crusade onward)
Class has minor effects on advancement, which is mostly point buy (e.g. Legends of the Wulin, where buying your archetype's secret art up gives you chi)
Classes? What Classes (e.g. GURPS, Mutants and MAsterminds, Fate...)


I'm sure I left out some steps, feel free to critique (for the record I prefer games at the 5/6 level, where it's effectively classless).
I think you're missing a step. Classes in 3.x/d20/5e are very different from classes in AD&D 1e/2e and 4e.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-25, 05:00 PM
I think you're missing a step. Classes in 3.x/d20/5e are very different from classes in AD&D 1e/2e and 4e.

1e/2e & 4e would be #1 while 3.x & 5e would be #2.

(As I noted above, they also vary in their asymmetry, most notably with 4e as the outlier towards symmetry.)

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-25, 05:22 PM
Looks pretty good - but one could also put a 2nd scale, especially for 1-4 games, where it shows how much asymmetry there is between different classes.

For example, (to use ones most know) most D&D games have somewhere between 'extreme' to 'strong' in the asymmetry between casters and martials. They do things very differently. However, while 4e had your class choice define your potential character much more than 3x or 5e, there was also far less asymmetry between classes. (I think that was the main thing which led to its general failure from a sales perspective.)

Some systems at 5-6 on your scale also promote a bit of asymmetry within the group as different characters cover different things, but it generally seems to be much less so.

Edit: It probably breaks KISS to bring a secondary scale into it, but there it is.

A mixture between KISS and the fact I wanted a scale that asks 'what is a class'? I think a symmetry scale would be useful though, so 1 from perfectly symmetrical to 4 for every class is different (here I'd put 3.X at a 3 and 4e at a 2*, really the part of the scale you'd want).

* No, this isn't '4e is same', this is 'most classes are variations on a role' and 'shared core chassis'.


Where would you put Traveler? It uses classes during initial character creation (although it doesn't use the word "class"), but they have no effect on play after that.

No experience with Traveller so I couldn't say. I'd argue that it would be at 5/6 with a 'lifepath' character generation system from what I've heard.


I think you're missing a step. Classes in 3.x/d20/5e are very different from classes in AD&D 1e/2e and 4e.

I've only really had the opportunity to play enough BECMI and 3.X to know where they fit on the system. Mind if I'd ask what you'd define the step as? I personally didn't see a step between 1 and 3 in terms of a useful definition, but then again I'm not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to RPGs.

obryn
2016-01-25, 10:42 PM
1e/2e & 4e would be #1 while 3.x & 5e would be #2.

(As I noted above, they also vary in their asymmetry, most notably with 4e as the outlier towards symmetry.)
Naaah, 1e and 4e are significantly different from RC/BECMI/BX in the race-as-class variant and the availability of multiclassing/dual-classing. So it's a different step.


I've only really had the opportunity to play enough BECMI and 3.X to know where they fit on the system. Mind if I'd ask what you'd define the step as? I personally didn't see a step between 1 and 3 in terms of a useful definition, but then again I'm not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to RPGs.
Sure.

3.0 represented a major shift in how D&D utilizes classes because of the introduction of buffet-style multiclassing and a unified XP chart, which are two of the biggest breaks with D&D tradition introduced in the edition. Pre-3e, with vanishingly rare/unusual exceptions, you start out with a class ... and that's the class you are. If you're multiclassed, you start out as both of those classes. (1e had dual-classing, too, but it was by far the exception rather than the rule, and could never not be clunky. The stat restrictions were onerous, and the penalties were weird.) Each class had its own XP chart, in acknowledgment that not every level of every class is equal; magic-users started out needing a lot of XP, while thieves needed half that.

As of 3e, though, each level of a class was essentially a self-contained bundle of features. You'd pick a class every time you gained a level on the universal chart; technically anything could work, and if you qualified, you could even fit in prestige classes there which you couldn't pick early on. This could be a very good idea, or it could be disastrous, but the game holds the conceit that a Fighter 10/Wizard 10 is equal to Wizard 20 or Fighter 20.

In practice, the d20 approach is a half-step between class/level and point-buy. The D&D branch of d20 kept a few assumptions that you'd stick with just one or two classes, but if you look at other d20 branches, the approach is a lot clearer - particularly Star Wars Saga Edition and d20 Modern.

goto124
2016-01-26, 02:14 AM
All classes equally suck

If everyone sucks, no one sucks!

Milo v3
2016-01-26, 08:41 AM
I've found that class based systems are generally better when it comes to determining the power of the players and choosing enemies for them to battle, while in point-buy systems characters are often all over the place when it comes to different skill sets because of how open the character creation is.

Morty
2016-01-26, 09:46 AM
3.0 represented a major shift in how D&D utilizes classes because of the introduction of buffet-style multiclassing and a unified XP chart, which are two of the biggest breaks with D&D tradition introduced in the edition. Pre-3e, with vanishingly rare/unusual exceptions, you start out with a class ... and that's the class you are. If you're multiclassed, you start out as both of those classes. (1e had dual-classing, too, but it was by far the exception rather than the rule, and could never not be clunky. The stat restrictions were onerous, and the penalties were weird.) Each class had its own XP chart, in acknowledgment that not every level of every class is equal; magic-users started out needing a lot of XP, while thieves needed half that.

As of 3e, though, each level of a class was essentially a self-contained bundle of features. You'd pick a class every time you gained a level on the universal chart; technically anything could work, and if you qualified, you could even fit in prestige classes there which you couldn't pick early on. This could be a very good idea, or it could be disastrous, but the game holds the conceit that a Fighter 10/Wizard 10 is equal to Wizard 20 or Fighter 20.

In practice, the d20 approach is a half-step between class/level and point-buy. The D&D branch of d20 kept a few assumptions that you'd stick with just one or two classes, but if you look at other d20 branches, the approach is a lot clearer - particularly Star Wars Saga Edition and d20 Modern.

I think the buffet-style multiclassing has been pretty resoundingly proven not to work. 4e's class design has problems, but I like its bottom-heavy approach. Of course, I don't believe 4e's multiclassing works very well, either.

obryn
2016-01-26, 09:51 AM
I think the buffet-style multiclassing has been pretty resoundingly proven not to work. 4e's class design has problems, but I like its bottom-heavy approach. Of course, I don't believe 4e's multiclassing works very well, either.
I agree; it's a weird half-step hybrid. I thought it was amazing when I cracked open the books in 2000, but since then I've grown to rather loathe it.

With that said, though, 5e reintroduced it.

8BitNinja
2016-01-26, 01:23 PM
When you think classes are boring, this is what my younger brother rolled up once. This character was never played, is was just for fun

A Gnome Barbarian/Bard/Wizard with all skills on rope usage, a feat on horsemanship and leadership (despite the low charisma) and the gear was 1700 GP in hats

D&D 3.5e fun

obryn
2016-01-26, 02:11 PM
When you think classes are boring, this is what my younger brother rolled up once. This character was never played, is was just for fun

A Gnome Barbarian/Bard/Wizard with all skills on rope usage, a feat on horsemanship and leadership (despite the low charisma) and the gear was 1700 GP in hats

D&D 3.5e fun
I don't actually know what character classes added to this anecdote...

8BitNinja
2016-01-26, 02:30 PM
I don't actually know what character classes added to this anecdote...

It involves the craziest selection of classes

Psyren
2016-01-26, 02:46 PM
Classes are popular because humans use compartments and labels to understand new concepts, and roleplaying games are trying to make money through broad appeal (which both results in greater revenue, and defrays publishing costs through economies of scale.) Classless systems are harder to wrap your head around, and thus penetrate a smaller audience. There's a niche for them, certainly, but don't expect them to take off the way class-based games/systems do.

Even in games where you can customize your character freely and call it whatever you want (Morrowind/Skyrim come to mind), having the designer include a few pregenerated packages with class labels to get people started is good business sense.

Morty
2016-01-26, 02:50 PM
I agree; it's a weird half-step hybrid. I thought it was amazing when I cracked open the books in 2000, but since then I've grown to rather loathe it.

With that said, though, 5e reintroduced it.

5e isn't interested in what works, but in what's familiar, that's not exactly news.

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-26, 02:57 PM
When you think classes are boring, this is what my younger brother rolled up once. This character was never played, is was just for fun

A Gnome Barbarian/Bard/Wizard with all skills on rope usage, a feat on horsemanship and leadership (despite the low charisma) and the gear was 1700 GP in hats

D&D 3.5e fun

Echoing Obryn, what do character classes add to this. I'm currently playing a GURPS game with the characters:
-Skydd (real name Daxtor), a Skaven ex-army officer with an array of phobias, serves as the party investigator.
-Yutana, a dwarf engineer who serves as the party face (the game takes place in a dwarf hold).
-Reichardt (me), a human Warrior Priest of Sigmar (I didn't have the CP to be a dwarf), serving as emergency medkit, party warrior, and backup face (mainly for public speaking).
-A human alchemist I've forgotten the name of, who serves as the party doctor (as in, non-emergency medkit), grenadier, liability, and police correspondent.
-A shadowdancer who I also forget the name of, I forget what she does apart from act snooty, dance, and occasionally teleports us. The cornerstone of my emergency 'get away from the big bad' plan (...by teleporting the big bad to the other side of the mountain).

Here we have 3 characters who match roughly to D&D classes (a rogue, a cleric, and a wizard), and two where I'm not sure how I'd build them. Expert fits for the engineer and maybe alchemist, but it sort of restricts them into a 'no class features' chassis (not that I've never wanted to play an expert). They aren't really even easy to build with multiclassing, but one of them is a vital part of the setting and something a player will likely want to play.

It's not that classes are boring, it's that aside from making it easier for new players (and even then, there are classless systems that aren't as bad at that as GURPS or M&M: CofD and Fate spring to mind as easy to introduce) and arguably balance they don't give any benefits.

EDIT:


5e isn't interested in what works, but in what's familiar, that's not exactly news.

Am I the only one who noticed that they don't seem to care that prepared casters get more spells prepared than the Sorcerer gets spells known? It seems really odd to me.

...yeah, my biggest beef with 5e is that the sorcerer gets too few spells. Excuse me while I wonder where I left my copy of 2e, and how Paladins could have done with a lesser Charisma requirement (also, 4d6b3 place as desired, because otherwise qualifying for classes is entirely luck).

obryn
2016-01-26, 03:03 PM
It involves the craziest selection of classes
That's pretty much a manufactured craziness, though. It's a kind of craziness that only occurs because of a weird system quirk, and doesn't make any sense outside of it.

Komatik
2016-01-27, 10:43 AM
I can't believe someone brought the word "balanced" up to defend classes...

Despite TSR and Wizards' best efforts to prove the contrary, "Balanced" and "Classes" aren't actually oxymorons.

One of the more interesting parts of classes is that they can force people to accept workable, but less than stellar tools as a method of balancing. Granted, this is less of a thing in group PvE RPGs where people get turns in the spotlight, and generally works better in PvP games where you have to make do with what you\re given and mitigate weaknesses and just make do with those less than stellar options.

The big thing with classes is that you can balance really specific things - to give an example, in Warhammer it can be right to cost a human at 3pts, human+bow at 6pts, a human+greataxe at 5-6pts, but a human+greataxe+bow is not actually worth 8pts, let alone 9. This is the exact problem point buy systems run into - some additions shouldn't even be costed, or they quickly become overpriced.

With a class, you can lump a lot of that kind of stuff together and evaluate the worth of the total package based on actual performance, not theoretical formulas.

8BitNinja
2016-01-27, 01:25 PM
I don't think PvP was the intentions of D&D

CharonsHelper
2016-01-27, 04:35 PM
I don't think PvP was the intentions of D&D

No - co-op inherently allows quite bit more leeway with balance so long as the different classes don't step on each-others' toes too much.

For example - in D&D one major way to make martials feel 'better' is to remove summon monster spells & polymorphing spells (other self-only buffs too for that matter - but polymorphing are the worst offenders). Are those two groups the most potent spell choices? Maybe not - but they're the ones which let casters do the martials' job.

In the same way - the balance between the fighter & barbarian has to be tighter than between the bard and the monk.

That is actually a big design advantage for a class systems is when you make certain classes have more obvious 'roles'.

Jay R
2016-01-27, 04:51 PM
I note that sometimes, in games that have no classes, players sort of fall into them by choice. In super-hero games, many people choose to build bricks, blasters, martial artists, gadgeteers, and mystic heroes anyway.

Milo v3
2016-01-27, 05:37 PM
I don't think PvP was the intentions of D&D

Tell that to NPC's.

Lord Raziere
2016-01-27, 06:08 PM
I note that sometimes, in games that have no classes, players sort of fall into them by choice. In super-hero games, many people choose to build bricks, blasters, martial artists, gadgeteers, and mystic heroes anyway.

In superhero games I've built a dragon, the first robot guardian of humanity, and other niche concepts. so what if people fall into archetypes anyways? I seem to be such a fan of niche, weird concepts that I kind of need things to make those concepts to my liking. not everyone falls into those archetypes, and yes they're the minority, but.....there is such a thing as a tyranny of the majority, and having to at some point be accommodating of something other than the most general easily thought of concepts.

Milo v3
2016-01-27, 06:17 PM
In superhero games I've built a dragon, the first robot guardian of humanity, and other niche concepts. so what if people fall into archetypes anyways?
Admittedly, in D&D/PF I've done though things as well (though guardian of elvenkind rather than humanity). Admittedly my most niche D&D character was only just a seven foot tall spider with tron-lines, another set of legs that point up, head that swivels, ability to produce tiny little spawn as minions and was trained in creating buildings from the organic material of creatures corpses.

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-27, 06:30 PM
I note that sometimes, in games that have no classes, players sort of fall into them by choice. In super-hero games, many people choose to build bricks, blasters, martial artists, gadgeteers, and mystic heroes anyway.

Okay, I'm a fan of archetypal characters, my current character is quite literally a D&D cleric, but even when talking about archetypes point buy systems have a major advantage class systems don't.

If the archetype fits into the points limit I can play it, even if the designers didn't think of it.

For example, let us assume core D&D 3.5 and the GURPS 4e basic set, and pick the archetype of the general who isn't particularly good at fighting, but wins campaigns (...it's a court intrigue game, okay?). In D&D 3.5 I use, erm, maybe the wizard? Not really a PC class that fits. In GURPS I can buy the Intelligence Analysis, Leadership, Military Planning (not sure what the skill is called, AFB), and various social skills to help at court, as well as a few ranks of Charisma and lots of Rank (as well as some status), heck let's get back some points by being ugly (several scars from close shaves when commanding an army) and unused to current courtly etiquette from having just come back from the latest war if we need it.

Okay, but that's the sort of game D&D isn't built for. Let us now use a different archetype: the magician who gets his magic from bargaining with otherworldly powers. In D&D, unless we have Complete Arcane, we are stuck with the cleric, which might not be what we want (I have this Turn/Rebuke Undead and proficiencies I don't want!). In GURPS, you simply take the powers you want from it and the Pact limitation so you can only use them while following the terms of your bargin, or just apply pact to Magery.

What about the plotter, the guy with no mystical or martial might, but grand social skills and schemes within schemes that allow him to change the world. I literally cannot think of a class outside of Expert or Commoner that can be used, even though the scheming politician is a great archetype (usually a villain, but that can also be said of mages). In GURPS, I buy up my IQ (as I probably did for my other two example characters, seriously SJG you really need to split up IQ or increase it's cost), buy a bunch of social skills, Allies, and Contacts, and start scheming.

I see nothing where classes have helped me to construct these Archetypes. They'd be even easier to build in Fate, where the GM sets the skill list based on what the game's going to be about (so if it's a social intrigue game I might have 'combat' and 'warfare' as separate skills, as opposed to 'melee' and 'archery' for a dungeon delving game, and 'brawling' and 'guns' for a cyberpunk game).

Milo v3
2016-01-27, 06:48 PM
Okay, I'm a fan of archetypal characters, my current character is quite literally a D&D cleric, but even when talking about archetypes point buy systems have a major advantage class systems don't.

If the archetype fits into the points limit I can play it, even if the designers didn't think of it.

For example, let us assume core D&D 3.5 and the GURPS 4e basic set, and pick the archetype of the general who isn't particularly good at fighting, but wins campaigns (...it's a court intrigue game, okay?). In D&D 3.5 I use, erm, maybe the wizard? Not really a PC class that fits. In GURPS I can buy the Intelligence Analysis, Leadership, Military Planning (not sure what the skill is called, AFB), and various social skills to help at court, as well as a few ranks of Charisma and lots of Rank (as well as some status), heck let's get back some points by being ugly (several scars from close shaves when commanding an army) and unused to current courtly etiquette from having just come back from the latest war if we need it.
Bard or Rogue with ranks in profession soldier.


Okay, but that's the sort of game D&D isn't built for. Let us now use a different archetype: the magician who gets his magic from bargaining with otherworldly powers. In D&D, unless we have Complete Arcane, we are stuck with the cleric, which might not be what we want (I have this Turn/Rebuke Undead and proficiencies I don't want!). In GURPS, you simply take the powers you want from it and the Pact limitation so you can only use them while following the terms of your bargin, or just apply pact to Magery.
Sorcerer.


What about the plotter, the guy with no mystical or martial might, but grand social skills and schemes within schemes that allow him to change the world. I literally cannot think of a class outside of Expert or Commoner that can be used, even though the scheming politician is a great archetype (usually a villain, but that can also be said of mages). In GURPS, I buy up my IQ (as I probably did for my other two example characters, seriously SJG you really need to split up IQ or increase it's cost), buy a bunch of social skills, Allies, and Contacts, and start scheming.
Rogue.

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-27, 07:14 PM
Bard or Rogue with ranks in profession soldier.

I want a general who isn't particularly skilled at combat, by the time a bard or rogue gets to 'campaign-worthy general' they can beat a couple of soldiers in a fight without help. It's workable, but still too much of a 'front-line general' for what I was going for.


Sorcerer.

So sorcerers lose their magic if they break the terms of their bargain? :smalltongue:


Rogue.

Still too martial.

Seriously, did the fact that I mentioned them not being good at fighting get lost? I have a choice between 'do not level up' and 'abandon your concept'.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-27, 07:24 PM
I want a general who isn't particularly skilled at combat, by the time a bard or rogue gets to 'campaign-worthy general' they can beat a couple of soldiers in a fight without help. It's workable, but still too much of a 'front-line general' for what I was going for.

D&D isn't a game about being a commander but a weak combatant. If that's what you want to do - pick a different system.

GURPS can sort of do both, but it, like all such broad systems, runs into issues of too much complexity & rules which are unneeded in any given game. General master of none issues. GURPs fixes that some with the more specific books... but that really becomes different games which use the same core rules.




So sorcerers lose their magic if they break the terms of their bargain? :smalltongue:

Moving the goalposts much? That wasn't what you asked for.




Still too martial.

Seriously, did the fact that I mentioned them not being good at fighting get lost? I have a choice between 'do not level up' and 'abandon your concept'.

See point 1. If you don't want to have your character be in combat directly - get a true wargame instead of D&D.

Milo v3
2016-01-27, 07:39 PM
I want a general who isn't particularly skilled at combat, by the time a bard or rogue gets to 'campaign-worthy general' they can beat a couple of soldiers in a fight without help. It's workable, but still too much of a 'front-line general' for what I was going for.
That's nothing to do with the class system, that's to do with the fact that in D&D everyones combat ability automatically scales. Also, bards and rogues that suck at combat aren't exactly hard to make..... Just don't take any combat feats or spells... done....


So sorcerers lose their magic if they break the terms of their bargain? :smalltongue:
If they break the terms of their bargin they would be labelled an Oath breaker, but the power is still in the sorcerers possession until it is (rightfully) taken back. Though, I don't see why cleric/druid/paladin don't work personally... since each of those specifically use pact magic.


Still too martial.
Except rogue isn't a martial class. They only have "I can backstab people" as their only martial ability which is... well fitting for nobles. Unless you take combat feats, you can't even backstab people well. Simply don't take any combat feats. Take the feats that increase your social abilities, give you followers, make you a better manipulator, etc. Done.


Seriously, did the fact that I mentioned them not being good at fighting get lost? I have a choice between 'do not level up' and 'abandon your concept'.
Nothing to do with classes or not. Same issue exists in any game where you are expected to increase in combat efficiency as you increase in level. Your issue is with the themes of the game, not the classes of the game. D&D is a combat game. If it was point-buy, you'd have the same issue, because D&D expects that characters have a certain level of combat proficiency for every level.

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-27, 07:41 PM
D&D isn't a game about being a commander but a weak combatant. If that's what you want to do - pick a different system.

GURPS can sort of do both, but it, like all such broad systems, runs into issues of too much complexity & rules which are unneeded in any given game. General master of none issues. GURPs fixes that some with the more specific books... but that really becomes different games which use the same core rules.

That's the point? That because the D&D designers didn't believe that 'bad at combat' was part of an archetype I might want to play, I can't play it.

This isn't saying that D&D is bad, it's just that class systems 'allowing you to play archetypes easily' isn't completely true.


Moving the goalposts much? That wasn't what you asked for.

True, but the fact I mentioned the cleric as mostly working was meant to imply that it was an intended component. I'm not in a position where I can afford to spell out things that are generally part of the archetype (really, do entities that grant powers let you keep them if you don't keep your end of the bargain).


See point 1. If you don't want to play combat - get a true wargame instead of D&D.

And playing a wargame allows me to roleplay being the scheming courtier with no battlefield experience (either fighting or leading)?

For all three I can get a 'yeah, this is the closest you can get in the game', which is annoying when I'm trying to play General McPlan instead of Stabby the fighter, or Lord Talksalot the Count of Doesnotfightville instead of Spyman the rogue. It's not like the scheming politician isn't a genre character already, even though the general who hangs back stretches the genre slightly.

Here's the point I was trying to make.










And here's what the responses I've been given are replying to. Bit of a gap.

I know the real answer to the characters is 'don't play D&D'. The real point isn't 'D&D doesn't let me build these', but rather 'classes don't guarantee that you can easily play an archetypal character'. The examples were meant to be examples, not 'help me make a close enough character'.

For the record, I have no problems with games where every PC can fight, but I also like games where not everybody is a warrior. That's why I own both Qin: the Warring States and Legends of the Wulin.

Milo v3
2016-01-27, 07:49 PM
That's the point? That because the D&D designers didn't believe that 'bad at combat' was part of an archetype I might want to play, I can't play it.
No. The point is that "You wanting to play a character bad at combat" is irrelevant to the D&D designers. They likely know there are people that want to play that archetype. It just doesn't matter. It's like.... Okay some people might want to play the archetype of Spellcasting Wizard in Firefly the RPG, but I don't think the makers of the Firefly RPG would have cared. It's like when the GM says "Okay, we are going to play a game set in Ancient Egypt." and then you complain because you cannot play a gunslinging cowboy.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-27, 07:50 PM
For the record, I have no problems with games where every PC can fight, but I also like games where not everybody is a warrior. That's why I own both Qin: the Warring States and Legends of the Wulin.

Same here (not that I own those systems - but that I sometimes like both types) but the two don't really mesh well in the same system.

After all - if one player is an intentionally squishy courtier and another is a badass knight - they can't do too much together outside of maybe in an abstract system like FATE. So - really - both probably shouldn't be choices within the same system. If both are easily possible then it leads to all sorts of table difficulties.

I'd consider not having both be possible as a feature rather than a drawback.

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-27, 08:17 PM
No. The point is that "You wanting to play a character bad at combat" is irrelevant to the D&D designers. They likely know there are people that want to play that archetype. It just doesn't matter. It's like.... Okay some people might want to play the archetype of Spellcasting Wizard in Firefly the RPG, but I don't think the makers of the Firefly RPG would have cared. It's like when the GM says "Okay, we are going to play a game set in Ancient Egypt." and then you complain because you cannot play a gunslinging cowboy.

Consider you're sitting down to play the firefly RPG and you're tol you can't play a merchant because the game won't allow it. Or you're about to play a game set in Ancient Egypt, and the GM says you can't play a priest of Set. It's a genre archetype you can't play (for the record, I'm not faulting old school D&D where it was dungeon delving, I'm faulting 'generic fantasy RPG D&D. I like 4e because it's honest about it's base assumptions).


Same here (not that I own those systems - but that I sometimes like both types) but the two don't really mesh well in the same system.

After all - if one player is an intentionally squishy courtier and another is a badass knight - they can't do too much together outside of maybe in an abstract system like FATE. So - really - both probably shouldn't be choices within the same system. If both are easily possible then it leads to all sorts of table difficulties.

I'd consider not having both be possible as a feature rather than a drawback.

I'd agree, except sometimes you want a 'party of specialists' thing, where the face can't fight. Just like there's nothing wrong with parties where everybody is 'combat+role', there's nothing wrong with a character which is intentionally bad at combat. It's the player telling the GM what sort of game they want.

Milo v3
2016-01-27, 08:39 PM
Consider you're sitting down to play the firefly RPG and you're tol you can't play a merchant because the game won't allow it. Or you're about to play a game set in Ancient Egypt, and the GM says you can't play a priest of Set. It's a genre archetype you can't play (for the record, I'm not faulting old school D&D where it was dungeon delving, I'm faulting 'generic fantasy RPG D&D. I like 4e because it's honest about it's base assumptions).
D&D is primarily a combat game. And you are trying to make a character with no combat abilities. So either play an NPC class such as Expert or Aristocrat or play something like a rogue which sucks at combat but has lots of skills. That's all you need to do. Yes, it has the flaw of "Characters in this game get stronger over time", because it's a combat game.

goto124
2016-01-27, 08:43 PM
Something something a feature not a bug.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-27, 09:26 PM
It's the player telling the GM what sort of game they want.

Can't you do that back when you pick a system and definitely before the GM has already spent a bunch of time planning the campaign? (I'm not sure why you can't just tell them straight out.)

ImNotTrevor
2016-01-28, 01:42 AM
Something something a feature not a bug.

I'm not sure if this is a criticism or not, but I don't think that's an apt comparison if it is.

If you're just making a joke, it was a good one.


Okay, I'm a fan of archetypal characters, my current character is quite literally a D&D cleric, but even when talking about archetypes point buy systems have a major advantage class systems don't.

If the archetype fits into the points limit I can play it, even if the designers didn't think of it.

For example, let us assume core D&D 3.5 and the GURPS 4e basic set, and pick the archetype of the general who isn't particularly good at fighting, but wins campaigns (...it's a court intrigue game, okay?). In D&D 3.5 I use, erm, maybe the wizard? Not really a PC class that fits. In GURPS I can buy the Intelligence Analysis, Leadership, Military Planning (not sure what the skill is called, AFB), and various social skills to help at court, as well as a few ranks of Charisma and lots of Rank (as well as some status), heck let's get back some points by being ugly (several scars from close shaves when commanding an army) and unused to current courtly etiquette from having just come back from the latest war if we need it.

Okay, but that's the sort of game D&D isn't built for. Let us now use a different archetype: the magician who gets his magic from bargaining with otherworldly powers. In D&D, unless we have Complete Arcane, we are stuck with the cleric, which might not be what we want (I have this Turn/Rebuke Undead and proficiencies I don't want!). In GURPS, you simply take the powers you want from it and the Pact limitation so you can only use them while following the terms of your bargin, or just apply pact to Magery.

What about the plotter, the guy with no mystical or martial might, but grand social skills and schemes within schemes that allow him to change the world. I literally cannot think of a class outside of Expert or Commoner that can be used, even though the scheming politician is a great archetype (usually a villain, but that can also be said of mages). In GURPS, I buy up my IQ (as I probably did for my other two example characters, seriously SJG you really need to split up IQ or increase it's cost), buy a bunch of social skills, Allies, and Contacts, and start scheming.

I see nothing where classes have helped me to construct these Archetypes. They'd be even easier to build in Fate, where the GM sets the skill list based on what the game's going to be about (so if it's a social intrigue game I might have 'combat' and 'warfare' as separate skills, as opposed to 'melee' and 'archery' for a dungeon delving game, and 'brawling' and 'guns' for a cyberpunk game).

What's interesting is, i can build 2/3 of these in Stars Without Number... which has classes. And only 3 of them.

First one, Expert class. Make sure your skill packages include Tactics, Culture: military, Culture: Politics (or whatever planet they live on), and a smattering of other social skills to fill in the gaps. Probably the Noble background package.

Middle one, there isn't any magic in SWN...so...

Last one is basically the same as the first. You just have to swap out the culture skills. I'd probably take the Noble and Conman packages.

And the best part is, levelling in SWN is based on accomplishing goals. So you can specifically pick goals that make you not level up until after the end of the campaign.

Of course, how one comes to lead men into battle without being at least somewhat trained is highly dubious. And any slight increases in combat ability due to levelling can be explained as continued exposure to soldiers and watching their training. You might not practice yourself, but you'll pick up on things second-hand that would make you better than someone who doesn't know which end is the sharp one.

Honestly, I think neither is objectively better. Some people prefer the benefits of classes. Others prefer the benefits of classless. Some like something between or don't care.

Most of my players don't really like classless systems. They tend to feel overwhelmed. But 2 of them like classless systems (not enough to dislike classed systems, though.)

It's just preference. *shrug*

8BitNinja
2016-01-28, 01:25 PM
I just want to say thank you for being so active on this thread

But now I just want to say that NPC classes are different from character classes

An NPC usually doesn't fight or adventure, a PC will

Talakeal
2016-01-28, 02:06 PM
D&D is primarily a combat game. And you are trying to make a character with no combat abilities. So either play an NPC class such as Expert or Aristocrat or play something like a rogue which sucks at combat but has lots of skills. That's all you need to do. Yes, it has the flaw of "Characters in this game get stronger over time", because it's a combat game.

Every DM I have ever played under has explicitly banned the NPC classes from player use.

8BitNinja
2016-01-28, 02:19 PM
Every DM I have ever layed under has explicitly banned the NPC classes from player use.

That's because a commoner plows a field, not fight orcs

obryn
2016-01-28, 02:25 PM
Frankly, NPC classes shouldn't exist. They're a weird attempt to mechanize the entire world, in a game that is focused about exploring dungeons and fighting dragons.

8BitNinja
2016-01-28, 02:40 PM
Frankly, NPC classes shouldn't exist. They're a weird attempt to mechanize the entire world

NPCs are Skynet confirmed

Stubbazubba
2016-01-28, 02:54 PM
I know the real answer to the characters is 'don't play D&D'. The real point isn't 'D&D doesn't let me build these', but rather 'classes don't guarantee that you can easily play an archetypal character'.

That doesn't follow, either, though. You're conflating "classes" with "the scope of the game." D&D's inability to model these characters is not because it relies on classes, it's because they are outside the contemplation of the designers who decided what to include in the game. GURPS' designers made a different choice; they brought military planning and such into the scope of the game, and then created mechanical options for them. D&D could have easily done so; they would simply have decided to make military planning a thing and then built a class that does it or integrated those abilities into already existing classes. The fact that D&D uses classes does not prevent them building any of these characters; the limitation is on what the game designers decided was part of the game, not on how they decide to represent a thing mechanically.

IOW, while it is true that "classes don't guarantee that you can play a specific archetype," that is equally true of point-buy. If GURPS didn't have options for military planning or leadership or rank, you wouldn't be able to play that archetype in GURPS any better than you could in D&D, classes or no classes. Similarly, if you're really hankering for a resource-gathering-based development model in a strategy game, you will never get there with Chess. But that is not because Chess is a strategy game, it is because that is not within the scope of that specific game. It says nothing about the limitations of what Chess is, only about what Chess is not.

veti
2016-01-28, 03:14 PM
Consider you're sitting down to play the firefly RPG and you're tol you can't play a merchant because the game won't allow it. Or you're about to play a game set in Ancient Egypt, and the GM says you can't play a priest of Set. It's a genre archetype you can't play (for the record, I'm not faulting old school D&D where it was dungeon delving, I'm faulting 'generic fantasy RPG D&D. I like 4e because it's honest about it's base assumptions).

I think you're hinting at an important point here. The very concept of a "class" - as presented in D&D, at least - implies a package of abilities that are inevitably bundled together because of the setting.

Paladins are LG, not because of any kind of logical necessity, but because the laws of the universe demand they must be. Likewise rangers have animal companions, druids can shapeshift, clerics can heal (and wizards can't), elves are proficient with bows... There's no very compelling logic to any of this, it's just - that's the way the world is.

At the same time, traditional D&D tries/claims to be agnostic about the setting. Despite the availability of published settings, DMs are still encouraged to mix and roll their own. Worse, players are invited to help them. This inevitably can lead to conflict between the embedded assumptions of the game system, and the way the DM and/or players want their world to work. This tension is what leads to the ridiculous cultural melting-pot that is D&D, where not-Shaolin monks and ninjas routinely rub shoulders with knights and shamans and runepriests and even sillier combinations.

The constraints of D&D classes are just another aspect of the (absolutely humungous) stack of "undocumented assumptions" on which D&D is based. And because the game itself never actually lists those assumptions, it never invites players to consider the possibility that they could be changed.

Niek
2016-01-28, 03:20 PM
I think anonymouswizard does have a point about 3.5 not being entirely honest about its scope. Its billed as being able to cover the gamut of fantasy stories, but starts showing its flaws the moment you step out of the dungeon crawler box, and has a lot of Greyhawk setting fluff baked in

Easy example: the assumption of universal Henotheism. Try playing a character who receives divine power from different deities according to the nature of the task at hand in non-houseruled 3.5

ImNotTrevor
2016-01-28, 05:16 PM
I think anonymouswizard does have a point about 3.5 not being entirely honest about its scope. Its billed as being able to cover the gamut of fantasy stories, but starts showing its flaws the moment you step out of the dungeon crawler box, and has a lot of Greyhawk setting fluff baked in

Easy example: the assumption of universal Henotheism. Try playing a character who receives divine power from different deities according to the nature of the task at hand in non-houseruled 3.5

I could have sworn there was a prestige class from Faerun or Eberron that makes you a cleric of multiple deities. (Of course, the matter of deities is 100% fluff. They're just packages of domains but any cleric can worship no deity and get any domains. Refluff 0 deities as >1 deities and you get the same thing.)

I agree that d&d makes claims it can't deliver on, but that's a fault of advertising rather than design.

It's not really valid to say that classless systems are always going to accomodate a greater variety of archetypes. Shadowrun, for instance, has its standard few archetypes and everything else is just... midway points between those.

For instance I can't use Shadowrun to make a character with a crafting focus. There isn't any crafting in Shadowrun. (Not that I've ever seen, anyway.) That's because of the scope of the system.

In FATE you can play anything. But the only real difference is Fluff and made-up "feats" and the like. It runs on homebrew. Literally every character in FATE is partially homebrewed. Sure, it's not hard, but coming up with new abilities for a character is... still homebrewing.

And as far as I've seen, Mutants and Masterminds uses the same sort of "the fluff makes all the difference, not mechanics." For instance, maybe someone can tell me, is there a significant mechanical difference between "I have gloves that shoot hot plasma" and "I have a pair of small super-flamethrowers?" Because as far as I've seen there wouldn't really be any. It's all fluff. So when I hear these "well I played X Y or Z crazy concept in this system" I go "Okay, but how many other things could that same mechanical skeleton be refluffed as?" Probably many.

Lord Raziere
2016-01-28, 06:07 PM
I
And as far as I've seen, Mutants and Masterminds uses the same sort of "the fluff makes all the difference, not mechanics." For instance, maybe someone can tell me, is there a significant mechanical difference between "I have gloves that shoot hot plasma" and "I have a pair of small super-flamethrowers?" Because as far as I've seen there wouldn't really be any. It's all fluff. So when I hear these "well I played X Y or Z crazy concept in this system" I go "Okay, but how many other things could that same mechanical skeleton be refluffed as?" Probably many.

Wrong.

hot plasma behaves differently from fire.

since hot plasma would likely be in beam form, that means their attack is either Damage, Ranged, Multiattack, or Damage, Area (Line) Multiattack.

while flamethrowers would have Damage, Area (Cone), Multiattack, so there is a mechanical difference between them, as it determines whether or not its a cone or line or ranged, which is important to consider in an attack, because it determines how many targets it hits and what way.

and I'm more of the mind that a close enough approximation using an off-the-rack mechanical skeleton isn't enough, and that I should be able to build it from scratch, even if the result ends up looking similar. its the process that matters, because you never know when the process might make something that isn't an off-the-rack skeleton, that might do it better, and I need to have the feeling that I MADE it, rather than settling for something that looks a lot like it but not exactly.

Telok
2016-01-28, 06:19 PM
You can totally make a character with a crafting focus in Shadowrun, it's just not very useful. The ability to build radios and cellphones from parts is pretty meaningless when half the population has that already wired into their skulls and the other half buys it from a vending machine at the corner store.

Milo v3
2016-01-28, 06:31 PM
Frankly, NPC classes shouldn't exist. They're a weird attempt to mechanize the entire world, in a game that is focused about exploring dungeons and fighting dragons.

Nah I like NPC classes, since it means NPCs can run on the same rules as the player. Which I prefer infinitely more than PC's and NPC's having different mechanics.

NichG
2016-01-28, 06:39 PM
One of these days I want to make a system that does everything using only fluff, but does so in a way to force the fluff to be self-consistent with itself and with its setting, and to also have self-consistent consequences. That's really vague, so a more specific example...

If I look at D&D's specification of the process of your character casting a fireball, it looks something like: if you take the Wizard class up to Lv5, and select 'Fireball' as one of your spells to learn at level up, and select 'Fireball' as a spell to prepare for that day, you may spend a standard action and expend that spell slot to cast Fireball, which has a range of X and causes CLd6 fire damage (Reflex halves) in an area Y.

The commonality here is that it focuses on state changes. The game universe has a state. When you X, the state changes in Y way.

The thing I'd want to experiment with would be specifying stuff entirely in terms of what it feels like to do. So 'Experience of casting a fireball: you feel as if some kind of current of warmth is collecting on your skin from every ambient heat source. This sensation flows along your right arm, and you feel a point gathering just above the surface of your hand. You feel that if you focus, you can collect all the warmth flowing to you into that point and have it burst into flame that would act, just for a brief second, as an extension of your will. When you release it, you have only a short time to control it before it becomes a thing of its own, no longer compressed into a tight point of light but now exploding outwards, capable of harming you just as well as anyone else. As the process ends, you are left feeling cold and exhausted'. There'd also be 'experience of being burned', etc.

Its a bit of a weird idea of course, but the thought would be that by specifying the details of the experience as the 'rules', the players can then actually improvise new ways of using the effects based on those details. For example, you feel the energy come from ambient heat sources, so could you use that to detect warm bodies nearby? Could you make the fireball more powerful by casting it near a bonfire? Could you actually extinguish a blaze that way, if you were a powerful enough caster? Maybe if you work on lengthening that control period you could make the fireball swerve, or protect yourself from the burst?

8BitNinja
2016-01-28, 06:57 PM
Wow, this is a very deep discussion on mechanics

Speaking of mechanics, in defense of classes, they do provide direction, more direction than archetypes

Morty
2016-01-28, 06:58 PM
In all fairness, I think that as far as D&D is concerned, levels are more responsible for how restrictive it is than classes.

JBPuffin
2016-01-28, 07:12 PM
So...there's a lot of thread here, and I'm pretty sure none of it will change my answer to the original question (although there've been a LOT of good points made), so I'll keep this simple, albeit possibly a wall of text.

NOTE: I am talking about character classes, I am not trying to argue with Socialists

I keep seeing all of this "classless (fill in the blank)" threads everywhere, what is so wrong with them?

I know that people want freedom to create a character, but with classless games I play, I usually conform to a Class Build

I get what this is going to go to, battlemages and ranged tanks, but you can already have both with most games.

D&D probably gives an arcane spell failure with armor for balance, but the rules can be changed

Why you've seen "a lot of flak" for classes? Answer: you're on a tabletop forum, and a sizable portion of the gamer community has bad experiences with classes or has better/more experience with point-buy. In a community where a) one can have their own opinion, but b) that doesn't stop other people from sharing theirs, and c) at least some of said community has a substantial amount of time to spend thinking about these things, you're going to get a lot of support and dissent. I'm guessing that you fall in the class "camp", so to speak, or at least aren't on the classless side; therefore, you might simply register the "nay" over the "yay" because you're used to seeing what you agree with rather than disagree. More than any particular flaw in class systems or clearly-objective benefit in classless systems, you see more dissent because of simple psychology and sociology. Just basic people functions, nothing more.

At least in stereotypical thought, classes are rather limiting and in many cases make unbalanced aspects of a system more obvious. Even in 4e DnD, often called out as "homogeneous" in comparison to other editions, one can quickly figure out which classes are easier to maximize or have a higher peak capability. Honestly, this has been true since the original, but at the time far fewer people thought about it much. Nowadays, after so many editions of DnD, other RPGs, and the MMO revolutions of WoW and similar games, the gaming community (digital and not) has become a lot more proficient at discerning which packages are more powerful than others. If there's any problem I have with class systems, it's this aspect of obliquely-tilted scales. Now, if I wasn't so avid a gamer, I could probably keep playing 4e without having a second thought. As it is, after reading the WotC optimization forums (and these)...it's harder to play the game just to play it.

On the other hand, you know what's great about classes - at least, 3.5 and 5e? The sheer amount of people willing to make square pegs for their square holes. I mean, just LOOK at the Homebrew forum sometime if you haven't - there are thousands upon thousands of class options in there, and quite a few are roughly balanced, too :smalltongue:. The popularity of the DnD model has substantially reduced the restrictive aspect of classes to the point where, if nothing else, a Google search will get you something to at least start with. That, at least, is amazing.

Quite a few people think that classless RPGs are, by their nature, less restrictive than class RPGs, and if you just want to build A character, you're totally right. But, just as in any system, there are always trap options and must-have options; all the classes do is prepackage the unbalance and make it easier to spot. Take Exalted, for example - with the basic system mastery I had, I can promise you, that character had serious issues in comparison to just about any character that has been partially edited by a more experienced player of the system. Would it matter in normal play? Maybe not, I kinda only built it for fun, and that certainly is an important distinction. Is it just as possible, however, to build a character in a classless RPG that lacks traits that are required for a character to survive? I'd argue that it's much easier to do so than in a class-based RPG, where if nothing else a character will have abilities that tilt them in a direction. FATE literally requires no mastery of the system, but is in essence half a game - the other half is all player and GM sourced, most of it fluff but on occasion actual game mechanics. In Savage Worlds, your first character will have at least one crippling flaw in its design that makes it difficult to play as you intended. GURPS? Option paralysis is quite possible at character creation. World of Darkness? Those things are mechanically dense, man. Class-based RPGs, from my line of sight, streamline the character-building process much more than if that same system didn't use classes. (Just look at classless attempts at 3.5).

Now, to be fair, I quite enjoy building classless characters. FATE is such a simple system, it takes practically nothing to build a character with a decent backstory and some real defining traits. Savage Worlds likewise has a good amount of flexibility along with some more crunch. GURPS has plenty of crunch and options. All of these games allow you to build ANYTHING you want to out of the box, in essence, and the character I've been trying to build for quite some time now simply does not fall in line at first level with a class system I've found. For many concepts, if you want to play strictly RAW, they either have to deal with extra baggage or don't get everything you want - often both.

And as for WoD/White Wolf games in general with their dots and things...frankly, I have trouble understanding how it all works together, at least if Exalted and Scion are indicative of the others. Now, if the actual WoD games (Vampire, Werewolf, Mage etc.) are more like archetypes+, then scale that back to Exalted and Scion, but those games...my brain spins thinking about them >.<.

And that's all I've got. If anyone read all of this, a) did you ignore the labels? and b) thanks.

Morty
2016-01-28, 07:40 PM
I object to the notion that there's a "class side" and "classless side".

Illven
2016-01-28, 08:38 PM
Every DM I have ever layed under has explicitly banned the NPC classes from player use.

Which is strange, because I've always wanted to play a plucky Adept underdog.

8BitNinja
2016-01-28, 09:04 PM
@JBPuffin

I appreciate everyone having their opinion and I have mine, but I am addressing the fact that the vast majority disagrees with the idea of classes

Since I like the class systems presented in many games, I am presenting a forum to argue about it, we can still argue without being able to physically kill each other

Milo v3
2016-01-28, 09:06 PM
@JBPuffin

I appreciate everyone having their opinion and I have mine, but I am addressing the fact that the vast majority disagrees with the idea of classes

Since I like the class systems presented in many games, I am presenting a forum to argue about it, we can still argue without being able to physically kill each other

Why would you say that the vast majority disagrees with the idea of classes?

veti
2016-01-28, 11:15 PM
I appreciate everyone having their opinion and I have mine, but I am addressing the fact that the vast majority disagrees with the idea of classes

[Citation needed]

If you hang about on forums that talk about RPG systems, then people are going to be expressing opinions a lot. No doubt some of those opinions are going to point out... issues, of some degree, with classes. But to call it "a fact" that "the vast majority" disagrees with the idea - well, you'd need to do some pretty solid statistical groundwork to defend that.

ImNotTrevor
2016-01-29, 03:51 AM
Wrong.

hot plasma behaves differently from fire.

since hot plasma would likely be in beam form, that means their attack is either Damage, Ranged, Multiattack, or Damage, Area (Line) Multiattack.

while flamethrowers would have Damage, Area (Cone), Multiattack, so there is a mechanical difference between them, as it determines whether or not its a cone or line or ranged, which is important to consider in an attack, because it determines how many targets it hits and what way.

and I'm more of the mind that a close enough approximation using an off-the-rack mechanical skeleton isn't enough, and that I should be able to build it from scratch, even if the result ends up looking similar. its the process that matters, because you never know when the process might make something that isn't an off-the-rack skeleton, that might do it better, and I need to have the feeling that I MADE it, rather than settling for something that looks a lot like it but not exactly.

Real flamethrowers actually shoot flaming liquid in a line. Look up a video from WWI. Hollywood uses propane fire in its flamethrowers because it's less brutal and safer, while looking visually impressive. An actual flamethrower would likely destroy the set on take 1. And we have no idea how plasma would behave since we've never shot it. Both could be either. The shape of the blast is a really small difference in the grand scheme of things.

And I imagine there's also a very limited amount of mechanical difference between firing a bunch of homing plasma balls and flinging mystical spheres from your fingers that do the exact same thing.

I'm of the mind that reinventing the wheel over and over is a massive waste of time. But then again, these are preferential differences rather than verifiable evidence that one is better. Something about strokes and folks and differences.

Cazero
2016-01-29, 06:18 AM
Wrong.

hot plasma behaves differently from fire.

since hot plasma would likely be in beam form, that means their attack is either Damage, Ranged, Multiattack, or Damage, Area (Line) Multiattack.

while flamethrowers would have Damage, Area (Cone), Multiattack, so there is a mechanical difference between them, as it determines whether or not its a cone or line or ranged, which is important to consider in an attack, because it determines how many targets it hits and what way.

Or you could just say "power stunts".
A flamethrower can start a forest fire in a matter of seconds. Hot plasma is better at melting through reinforced metal. Neither is well modelized with damage (well, the second sort of is, but going with weaken toughness resisted by fort make it much stronger against structures).

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-29, 07:00 AM
I appreciate everyone having their opinion and I have mine, but I am addressing the fact that the vast majority disagrees with is ambivalent towards the idea of classes

Fixed it for you :smallbiggrin:

I'd say that classes seem to be disliked because of a simple process:
1) D&D uses classes.
2) D&D is the most well known RPG, and therefore people expect RPGs to have classes.
3) People who prefer classed systems have no reason to push their favourite games as much and sobare less loud.

There's also the fact that the theoretical optimal classless system is more versatile than the theoretical optimal classed system essentially by definition.

obryn
2016-01-29, 09:44 AM
Nah I like NPC classes, since it means NPCs can run on the same rules as the player. Which I prefer infinitely more than PC's and NPC's having different mechanics.
They use the same rules as the players if they have similar mechanical expressions for the important stuff, too. If all you need to know is that Bob Smith has +12 in Smithing, or "can make real nice swords," then that's enough. If you need to know hit points, he has what he needs and those hit points act just like every other hit point.

It's not a different rule-set. It's a different building process, and eschewing PC-scale complexity (that is, the amount of work for characters who will be in literally ever session and scene of the game).

Milo v3
2016-01-29, 09:53 AM
They use the same rules as the players if they have similar mechanical expressions for the important stuff, too. If all you need to know is that Bob Smith has +12 in Smithing, or "can make real nice swords," then that's enough. If you need to know hit points, he has what he needs and those hit points act just like every other hit point.

It's not a different rule-set. It's a different building process, and eschewing PC-scale complexity (that is, the amount of work for characters who will be in literally ever session and scene of the game).

Nah, my personal preference is NPC's work like PC's as much as possible.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-29, 11:25 AM
Nah, my personal preference is NPC's work like PC's as much as possible.

I mostly agree - but it does annoy me that levels in expert add HD/BAB/saves. Why in the world should an awesome tailor be able to beat up low level adventurers!? (I house-rule it so that levels in expert only give skills.)

Telok
2016-01-29, 12:11 PM
I mostly agree - but it does annoy me that levels in expert add HD/BAB/saves. Why in the world should an awesome tailor be able to beat up low level adventurers!? (I house-rule it so that levels in expert only give skills.)

That's really just a WotC D&D issue. In many other systems making characters is usually much easier/faster/rational. The few systems as complex as WotCD&D for making and using npcs generally either have ways of making it easier (templates, generics, packages) or the nature of the game expects you to need all those aspects of the npc.

8BitNinja
2016-01-29, 01:37 PM
Fixed it for you :smallbiggrin:

I'd say that classes seem to be disliked because of a simple process:
1) D&D uses classes.
2) D&D is the most well known RPG, and therefore people expect RPGs to have classes.
3) People who prefer classed systems have no reason to push their favourite games as much and sobare less loud.

There's also the fact that the theoretical optimal classless system is more versatile than the theoretical optimal classed system essentially by definition.

Thanks, you seem to always know how to help

Morty
2016-01-29, 01:47 PM
I mostly agree - but it does annoy me that levels in expert add HD/BAB/saves. Why in the world should an awesome tailor be able to beat up low level adventurers!? (I house-rule it so that levels in expert only give skills.)


That's really just a WotC D&D issue. In many other systems making characters is usually much easier/faster/rational. The few systems as complex as WotCD&D for making and using npcs generally either have ways of making it easier (templates, generics, packages) or the nature of the game expects you to need all those aspects of the npc.

It's also not only an with classes but also with levels, like I said above. If character advancement didn't happen in pre-determined packages at arbitrary intervals, it wouldn't be so much of an issue.

Telok
2016-01-29, 02:22 PM
It's also less of an issue with classes and more with levels, like I said above. If character advancement didn't happen in pre-determined packages at arbitrary intervals, it wouldn't be much of an issue.

Mostly true. Back in AD&D there were two things that stopped that, 0-leven npcs and 'butt kicking power = authority'.

Thre greatest tailor in the world may have skills that the player characters can never hope to match, but because he isn't a trained combatant he's 0-level and has no combat ability. In this case it's because non-combat skills aren't tied to the combat skill level. WotC and the d20 system are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head where every character's ability to do something like cook a decent meal is directly tied to how well they can punch things.

TSR D&D also made character level a measure of social power, which fit the implicit setting and the source material but wasn't really explained anywhere. The characters were assumed to be competent and capable people outside of combat and it was left to the players to represent that in game. Modern D&D versions assume incompetent characters where people without stat bonuses and training fail roughly half the time at any endeavor more difficult than routine everyday living.

WotC changed the model away from competent characters defined through roleplay an toward characters who are incompeyent unless they have skill ranks which are now tied to levels.

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-29, 02:37 PM
Thanks, you seem to always know how to help

Sorry I said it in a really bad way, but the point of my argument is this: most players don't really care about whether or not a game uses classes, and such the 'class-haters' appear to be larger than they are when they are, in the grand scheme of RPGs, a vocal minority. This doesn't quite hold true for people who are really into RPGs, as you can see on this forum, but even in the case of those who prefer point buy systems their main argument will always be that the want to play their character, not the closest approximation.

On the other hand, if GURPS was the most popular RPG (I personally think it's better than D&D and M&M, and it's my favourite system, but it really shouldn't be the RPG most new players are given) you'd find more people complaining about how 100CP abilities are overpowered and that new players have no structure to help them easily create characters. Also, there are many games that use a class system that shouldn't, I'd argue that D&D 5e really missed the mark in not returning to the 2e class system (you effectively have 4 'basic classes': Cleric, Fighter, Mage, and Rogue, and then classes like Paladins, Bards, Druids, and so on are subclasses of one of the four), which I think is a bigger complaint than classes in general.

For the record, although I'm a point-buy proponent, I like classes, but only as 'cost templates' or 'power sets', not as background/skills.

Otaku
2016-01-29, 05:16 PM
That actually brings up another point. One thing (neither advantage or disadvantage - just different) is that classes can help make the characters fit the setting's vibe. For RPGs with a heavier/more developed setting, classes help keep both PCs & NPCs being consistent within that setting.

GURPS accomplishes this with character templates. Unlike a Character Class, a character template is a suggested guide that a player may elect to use entirely, partially or not at all. All the "pieces" of the template are listed, along with the individual values (GURPS being a point-buy system). There is no cost discount for the package, because the reward in using it is saving yourself time and effort selecting all these things individually. Being able to freely modify the template means the player takes the risk of being lacking in an area... but in an RPG like GURPS that can be intentional. It also can simply mean a character that is just as competent but in a different manner.

Obviously not all character templates accomplish the goal as well as others, and the rules in GURPS Basic Set: Campaigns (the second of the two core books) gives a warning about what templates you present your characters, as it can be misleading about the setting and what is needed for/expected of it.

So... helping to set the tone is not unique to Character Classes though you are correct that they can indeed be used to do just that! I merely wanted you to know that there are other ways of doing much the same thing.


On the other hand, if GURPS was the most popular RPG (I personally think it's better than D&D and M&M, and it's my favourite system, but it really shouldn't be the RPG most new players are given) you'd find more people complaining about how 100CP abilities are overpowered and that new players have no structure to help them easily create characters. Also, there are many games that use a class system that shouldn't, I'd argue that D&D 5e really missed the mark in not returning to the 2e class system (you effectively have 4 'basic classes': Cleric, Fighter, Mage, and Rogue, and then classes like Paladins, Bards, Druids, and so on are subclasses of one of the four), which I think is a bigger complaint than classes in general.

For the record, although I'm a point-buy proponent, I like classes, but only as 'cost templates' or 'power sets', not as background/skills.

Are you familiar with character templates in GURPS?

I apologize if that sounds like anything other than one it is: a straightforward question. GURPS was my first RPG (specifically 3e). Well unless you count video game console RPGs (D&D by way of the original Final Fantasy?).

Yes, if it was the norm people would have a different chief gripe... because part of the complaint is that something deemed to be at least less than optimal is instead part of the dominate system.

Anyway, character templates are most useful for helping a player quickly design a character. As stated above, they are basically a non-binding character class. New players get the help they need narrowing down their options while still getting a character suited to its intended role, which can be in terms of story, profession or both. As you are free to alter them, they can be mixed and matched so long as you stay on budget. Experienced players can still find them a useful shortcut for this reason.

So getting back to the overall discussion, I think that is a reason why I really, really consider Character Classes a negative. If I missed where the term does not refer to binding design then I apologize for missing it. ^^' If you take the basic D&D set-up, find a way to balance the costs of everything and create character classes that allow more wiggle room, I'm fine with character classes. Granted I've also just turned them into "character templates" instead. ;)

CharonsHelper
2016-01-29, 05:27 PM
So... helping to set the tone is not unique to Character Classes though you are correct that they can indeed be used to do just that! I merely wanted you to know that there are other ways of doing much the same thing.

Except... that wasn't my point at all.

Sometimes it's might be a GOOD THING to limit the potential character options so that you can be guaranteed that they fit within the setting. The archetypes are just suggestions and aren't binding. Sometimes allowing certain things in a setting can make all of the world's fluff feel wrong and/or awkward.

If that's not your schtick - that's fine. But it's a thing that classes have which archetypes do not.

Otaku
2016-01-29, 05:41 PM
Except... that wasn't my point at all.

Sometimes it's might be a GOOD THING to limit the potential character options so that you can be guaranteed that they fit within the setting. The archetypes are just suggestions and aren't binding. Sometimes allowing certain things in a setting can make all of the world's fluff feel wrong and/or awkward.

If that's not your schtick - that's fine. But it's a thing that classes have which archetypes do not.

My apologies for misunderstanding your point. Granted I don't think I quite get your point: in all RPG systems I have played, if the GM says something is off limits, it is off limits. If the GM wants certain roles filled by the PCs, the GM tells them that. Character templates and Character Classes are one way to do that, but neither are necessary. So if we are going beyond suggesting a certain feel or direction for the game, then it doesn't matter whether its Character Classes or character templates; we are now dealing with a separate aspect of RPGs.

If I am still not getting your point, my apologies for being so thick. >_<

Anonymouswizard
2016-01-29, 05:49 PM
Are you familiar with character templates in GURPS?

I apologize if that sounds like anything other than one it is: a straightforward question. GURPS was my first RPG (specifically 3e). Well unless you count video game console RPGs (D&D by way of the original Final Fantasy?).

Yes, if it was the norm people would have a different chief gripe... because part of the complaint is that something deemed to be at least less than optimal is instead part of the dominate system.

Anyway, character templates are most useful for helping a player quickly design a character. As stated above, they are basically a non-binding character class. New players get the help they need narrowing down their options while still getting a character suited to its intended role, which can be in terms of story, profession or both. As you are free to alter them, they can be mixed and matched so long as you stay on budget. Experienced players can still find them a useful shortcut for this reason.

So getting back to the overall discussion, I think that is a reason why I really, really consider Character Classes a negative. If I missed where the term does not refer to binding design then I apologize for missing it. ^^' If you take the basic D&D set-up, find a way to balance the costs of everything and create character classes that allow more wiggle room, I'm fine with character classes. Granted I've also just turned them into "character templates" instead. ;)

Oh, I agree, I just find Character Templates to be a pain to create, although as my next plan for a GURPS game uses 100-point characters it'll be significantly easier than all the previous times I've tried.

Talakeal
2016-01-29, 07:09 PM
Easy example: the assumption of universal Henotheism. Try playing a character who receives divine power from different deities according to the nature of the task at hand in non-houseruled 3.5

Out of curiosity, in historical polytheistic societies were there frequently priests who were dedicated to the entire pantheon? Normally when I here about ancient world priests and temples they are usually devoted to a single deity and it is only the lay-people who follow the pantheon as a whole.

CharonsHelper
2016-01-29, 07:47 PM
My apologies for misunderstanding your point. Granted I don't think I quite get your point: in all RPG systems I have played, if the GM says something is off limits, it is off limits. If the GM wants certain roles filled by the PCs, the GM tells them that. Character templates and Character Classes are one way to do that, but neither are necessary. So if we are going beyond suggesting a certain feel or direction for the game, then it doesn't matter whether its Character Classes or character templates; we are now dealing with a separate aspect of RPGs.

If I am still not getting your point, my apologies for being so thick. >_<

I think we're coming at it from different perspectives.

You're coming at it from your own personal use - which is fine. Likely where the GM of your game creates the setting.

I'm coming at it from a game design perspective. If the RPG that you're creating is heavily based around a particular setting as many are (GURPS is pretty much the opposite - and if that's your main RPG, that's probably where the miscommunication lies) then, as a game designer, you may feel that certain things are required of the characters in it to retain the world's vibe, and for some RPGs, the vibe is the major selling point.

Perhaps in a game's fluff, psychics are inherently weak because using the psychic energies literally destroy a character's body from the inside out. A class which shows that fits the world. Allowing a player to be a warrior and dabble in psychic powers doesn't fit - but that would sort of be inherent to a point-buy.

Now - a GM could limit it at the table, but that gives them more work. Plus, if you start playing the game before you read a lot of the fluff, you might not even realize that your characters don't fit the world at all.

JoeJ
2016-01-30, 12:41 AM
Okay, but that's the sort of game D&D isn't built for. Let us now use a different archetype: the magician who gets his magic from bargaining with otherworldly powers. In D&D, unless we have Complete Arcane, we are stuck with the cleric, which might not be what we want (I have this Turn/Rebuke Undead and proficiencies I don't want!). In GURPS, you simply take the powers you want from it and the Pact limitation so you can only use them while following the terms of your bargin, or just apply pact to Magery.

In 5e that's a warlock, although there's nothing explicit in the rules about losing your powers if you violate the pact.


In all fairness, I think that as far as D&D is concerned, levels are more responsible for how restrictive it is than classes.

I know there are games with levels but no classes (Tephra). Are there games with classes but no levels?

Milo v3
2016-01-30, 12:48 AM
I know there are games with levels but no classes (Tephra). Are there games with classes but no levels?

Cyberpunk 2020, High School Harem Comedy, Monsterhearts are games I've played with classes but no levels.

JoeJ
2016-01-30, 03:34 AM
I said it had no superpowers "outside of psionics." I included that psionics are superpowers. But laser beam eyes and machineless flight are not exactly Sci Fi staples, are they? Psychic powers are, because psychic aliens seem feasible. But not the ability for a normal-looking human to throw a car and shape shift into a T-rex. Those are very different, feel-wise, than being able to see flashes of the future or move a wrench through the air or read someone's emotions. So the point is actually still very very valid. If you want eyebeams and super strength, go play Mutants and Masterminds.

I don't know about throwing cars, but Khan Noonian Singh clearly had superhuman strength. There was a shapeshifter character on Space 1999, as well as the face dancers in the Dune universe. And I can't even list all the cyborg characters in non-superhero science fiction.


Astronauts don't have any particular extra resistance and they can live in space for like 18 months at a time with no ill effects other than a loss in bone density.

18 months is not exactly colonizing space. It certainly isn't the same as being born and raised there.


And really, a space colony would likely have artificial gravity of some sort either by spinning or by science magic. So what is MORE likely to be the case is that they are a bit more dextrous than usual, bones are less dense, and they are extra good at space suits. If you're going the Hyperion route with the Ousters and all that, you can do something like that, too. But it would be done primaroly via stats and skill packages.

Spin gravity requires very large structures to avoid problems because of the Coriolis effect. Gravity through science magic requires different laws of physics than the ones that are currently believed to be in effect. What if I want a setting that doesn't have magic, but does have something like the Quaddies from the Vorkosigan universe?


I gave an option to build am android, but stated that sentient computer programs are hella dangerous and I wouldn't want to have a player playing one because it can cause a lot of problems. If they figure out how to jerry rig themselves into interfacing with the ship, well now they are a ship. And if they keep putting points in Computers they may figure out how to get into highly secure databases. And take them over. And access nuclear codes without needing to be anywhere near the people who would stop them.

AI. Don't let your players be one unless you reeeaaally trust them or think they're too dim to figure out their potential. Since androids in fiction are almost universally described as better than humans in every way, I would be ridiculously wary of players trying to play one. In Star Wars, where Droids are basically machine people, it's fine. But outside of that realm pretty much all androids are dangerously overpowered compared to humans.

Different =/= dangerously overpowered. You're making all kinds of assumptions that might be true for the specific setting of SWN, but which do not apply to science fiction more broadly. Which just illustrates my point. SWN lets you play almost any kind of character in one specific fictional universe. If I wanted to run a game that explores transhumanism, or Asimov's robots, or a multi-species civilization like Anderson's Polesotechnic League, SWN doesn't give me the tools to do that.

ImNotTrevor
2016-01-30, 06:14 AM
I don't know about throwing cars, but Khan Noonian Singh clearly had superhuman strength. There was a shapeshifter character on Space 1999, as well as the face dancers in the Dune universe. And I can't even list all the cyborg characters in non-superhero science fiction.
"These things aren't common staples of sci-fi"
"yes, but I can name like... 4 exceptions!"

Common.

and we already talked about cyborgs. You can play a cyborg in SWN really, really easily. Why are you still working up a butthurt about it?
YOU
CAN
BE
A
CYBORG
EASILY




18 months is not exactly colonizing space. It certainly isn't the same as being born and raised there.
Spin gravity requires very large structures to avoid problems because of the Coriolis effect. Gravity through science magic requires different laws of physics than the ones that are currently believed to be in effect. What if I want a setting that doesn't have magic, but does have something like the Quaddies from the Vorkosigan universe?

"Science Magic" is basically the exact same thing as "Superscience Bull%#@" that makes gravity work on the Starship Enterprise. Or most ships in sci-fi since forever. (Remember, MOST. Exceptions exist. I am aware of them. But they aren't the MAJORITY. I shouldn't have to walk on eggshells with these words. Seriously.)



Different =/= dangerously overpowered. You're making all kinds of assumptions that might be true for the specific setting of SWN, but which do not apply to science fiction more broadly. Which just illustrates my point. SWN lets you play almost any kind of character in one specific fictional universe. If I wanted to run a game that explores transhumanism, or Asimov's robots, or a multi-species civilization like Anderson's Polesotechnic League, SWN doesn't give me the tools to do that.

You... you do realize what a robot mind would be, yeah?
Programming.
Computer programming.

The exception might be a human brain in a robot body, but then I'd have them play as (BUM BUM BUM) aforementioned Fluff Cyborg. (their metal bits are fluff-based, with no specific mechanical advantage, or they can put a +2 in one stat at the cost of a -2 in another, as per non-human rules)

The fun thing about Binary Code is that all computers can read it, provided they have the right Operating System. An intelligent program driving a robot body around could easily adapt its own programming for other kinds of systems (or wipe the system with its body and install its own OS and then run itself on the ship computer)

An android with human-level intelligence IS an AI, just an AI stuck in a robot. Once it gets out, it's out. So I, personally, as a GM, would say no to that concept as being too easy to powergame with little effort.

As for the other concepts...

Transhumanism: Cybernetics are a thing in SWN... how many times have I mentioned this? As it happens, so are neural shunts that let you download into a computer. (Or at least, I could homebrew that in 2 seconds. "Is that a thing?" "Um...Yeah. It costs 10k credits, but yes. It's a thing." done.

Asimov's robots: AI accomplish this just fine. They just don't run around in robot bodies...or rather, they don't run around in just ONE robot body.

Multi-species civilization? SWN has alien species rules. They just don't get to be way more powerful than humans for free. Bummer, I know, but game balance is still a thing.

I'm still getting the vibe that you have an expectation of having like... a level 10 character right out of the box. I guess if you started at higher levels then sure, you could make twice as many sorts of characters as SWN gives you for level one. You just can't use a character concept to screw the balance. *shruggles*

Cazero
2016-01-30, 06:35 AM
You... you do realize what a robot mind would be, yeah?
Programming.
Computer programming.
Data.
From Star Trek.
The show you're cool with adaptating science magic from if it's for gravity generator and stuff.


The fun thing about Binary Code is that all computers can read it, provided they have the right Operating System. An intelligent program driving a robot body around could easily adapt its own programming for other kinds of systems (or wipe the system with its body and install its own OS and then run itself on the ship computer)
It doesn't have to be binary. Quantum computers could explain all sort of progress AND block the kind of mind transfer you're against, as can software and/or hardware incompatibility, and an incompatiblity created deliberately for the explicit purpose of preventing mind transfer can be trivial to make for any big sci-fi faction. Just like how I can't open my gameboy because of weird screws, but with electronics.