View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next Class-based Classless hybrid system?

2019-03-31, 03:02 AM
It's no secret that I tend to prefer classless systems to class-based ones (in which case, D&D is probably the wrong system for me). I've played with the idea of created a classless system for 5e, but never went through the monumental effort that would be required to do so. A thought occurred to me, though: why not do some sort of hybrid system? This would minimize the work needed to make it functional, while also having elements of both a class-based and classless system, hopefully to please both crowds.

Not only would it be nice to be able to grab select features from another class, but I've seen people expressing the desire to skip over features in a class before. A common one is rogues that don't want Sneak Attack (they're not assassins). A bit more specific one I saw was someone who wanted to play a druid, but didn't want Wild Shape, as shapeshifting was seen as a trait of villains in that person's folklore.

Thus, the goal here is to allow both the possibility to grab features from other classes in a free-form way as well as the possibility to skip over features in a class.

The short, short version:
You have to spend XP to gain levels. Pretty normal so far.
But, you do not gain any class features just from gaining levels. Class features must be purchased separately.
But, your level restricts which class features you can purchase.
Some things, like "multiclassing", or buying ASIs/feats, have escalating costs.

The long version:
Initially, new characters start at level 0. Race + background, but no class.
HP and hit dice depend on size, i.e. medium races start with 8 + CON mod HP, 1d8 hit dice, while small are 6 + CON mod and 1d6.
Since hit dice depend on racial size, there would be a new feat that would allow you to upgrade your HP and hit dice, up to d12s.
When level 1 is purchased, the character gets nothing extra, except to unlock a class. They still have to purchase the class features separately, though.

Thereafter, each level increases proficiency bonus (at the normal intervals) and HP/hit dice.
Your level also limits which class features you can purchase, e.g. to purchase a 14th level class feature like Diamond Soul, you have to actually be 14th level or higher.
A feature that specifically calls out "your level", such as the druid's Wild Shape ("You can stay in a beast shape for a number of hours equal to half your druid level"), scales with your level with no further purchase required to upgrade it.
For other features that scale with level, like Sneak Attack, I'm a little less certain, but my inclination is that you'll have to spend XP to upgrade to better versions.
You can skip over a feature if you don't want it, but if one feature depends on another or upgrades as you level, you have to purchase the earlier feature first and can then purchase the later feature. E.g. you can't just purchase the strongest version of Sneak Attack, but have to purchase the weakest version first, then buy each upgrade separately.
A feature like Spellcasting will likely need to be broken up, e.g. spell slots are purchased independently, as are cantrips, and each "rank" of class-specific Spellcasting simply increases the highest level of spells from that class you can learn, or allows you to learn/prepare more spells for that class.

The XP cost to level up will likely be decreased, and each class feature will need to be assigned an XP cost. Say, half cost to level, with the remaining half being split among class features. The final total might cost more XP than the vanilla leveling system.
Initially, you only have one class "unlocked", meaning you can only buy features from that class.
You can "multiclass", basically paying an XP fee to "unlock" another class. Once unlocked, you can buy features from that class.
The cost to multiclass would probably escalate. For example, it might cost 300 XP for the first one, 900 for the second, 2700 for the third, etc.
You can also multi-subclass, using the same system of escalating costs.
You can buy ASIs/feats at any time, probably using the same system of escalating costs.

As your level increases, it might increase the cost of buying class features, ASIs/feats, multiclassing, and so on.
This might create an incentive to remain low level, making it cheaper to buy more features. "Weak, but skilled" is the TV Tropes entry, I believe.
There might also be a price ramping for buying features "out of class". The best way to do this might simply be to charge extra for each feature after the first of a particular level. E.g. the first 14th level feature you buy (from any class) uses the base cost, but the second such feature (even from the same class) costs extra, and the third costs even more, etc.
You could buy every feature from every class and subclass, given enough XP, but with price escalation it should make it prohibitive to be "level 1 in everything". The intent is to pick and choose, not to get it all. At the same time, no hard limits are placed on "how much" you can get, it all just comes down to how much you're willing to pay.

The conclusion
Well, there's a lot of fiddly bits that would need to be ironed out, but it would still end up being a lot less work than a true "classless" system. Would a system like this be of interest to anyone? Got any ideas how this could be improved?

2019-03-31, 07:58 AM
Seems like a good start.

2019-03-31, 09:29 AM
I just had a talk to a friend of mine about this exact type of thing just yesterday.

10/10 would play.

2019-03-31, 10:07 AM
I'd love to see a prototype of this system, just to get a feel for it.

2019-03-31, 10:18 AM
Level 1 - 50xp
+2 Proficiency Bonus
You can choose a Bloodline, and purchase the 1st Level sorcerer features: Cantrips, Spells, Proficiencies, and bloodline features.

Sorcerer Proficiencies - 5xp each
You gain proficiency in one of the following weapons: Daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs, light crossbows. You can purchase this perk multiple times.
Saving Throws: You can add your proficiency bonus to one of the following saving throws: Constitution, Charisma. You can purchase this perk once for each ability score.
Skills: You can gain proficiency in one of the following skills: Arcana, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Persuasion, and Religion. You can purchase this perk up to two times.

Sorcerer Cantrips - 5xp each
You add one cantrip from the Sorcerer Spell list to your list of known spells. You can purchase this perk up to four times.

Sorcerer Spell Slots and Spells Known - 5xp
You gain a single 1st Level Spell slots, and one 1st Level Spells known. You can purchase this spell up to two times.

Draconic Bloodline 1st level features - 5xp each
Dragon Ancestor
Draconic Resilience

Conclusion: I feel like each level's features will have to be balanced internally, so that the most effective feature costs the most. So you might even divide the Bloodline features in two, and separate the different proficiencies, and even have to pay for each cantrip and Spell separately. And a balancing point needs to be found, since right now I don't know if I would buy anything but proficiencies and spells, and then save 570xp for Level 2, Level 3, Font of Magic and Metamagic. I'd probably just make due with a crossbow until then tbh. Also, it doesn't scale very well. Right now the maximum cost for a single saving throw proficiency is around 40xp, but the effect is not at all comparable to some ribbon at 12th level that would cost hundred times more. So balancing feature cost between multiple levels won't be a thing.

At first glance it seems simply letting a player know "you don't have to add wilde shape to your character sheet if you don't want to" seems the best option. The benefit you get out of picking and choosing your features, but it having no effect on the selection of features you can pick from, doesn't seem to add anything to the game.

Unless you overhaul the entire xp and levelling system, that is. Don't really see it having the desired effect, I'm sorry :/

2019-03-31, 10:41 AM
You will need to have certain higher level features require the possession of lower level features before a player can purchase them. Specifically the ones that are a direct upgrade of lower-level features.

For example: Most martial classes get Extra Attack at 5th level. That's fine. However, the Fighter gets more Extra Attacks at 11th and 20th level.

So Extra Attack (2) requires that the character be 11th level and possess Extra Attack (1). Extra Attack (3) requires 20th level and the possession of Extra Attack (2).

Extra Attack (2) and Extra Attack (3) also cost significantly more if you're not a Fighter class.

Edit: Thinking about getting spellcasting progression to work with this system is giving me a headache. Good luck.

2019-03-31, 11:11 AM
Edit: Thinking about getting spellcasting progression to work with this system is giving me a headache. Good luck.


While on the topic, what other strictly fantasy rpgs are out there, that use a different (non) class system?

2019-03-31, 12:07 PM

While on the topic, what other strictly fantasy rpgs are out there, that use a different (non) class system?
Just... so, so many. Class based systems are probably a minority-- mostly just the different editions of D&D and games based off of it.

The first thing that jumps out at me in terms of class/classless hybrid systems are White Wolf games like Exalted. In most of their systems, there are ~5 different types of PC-- in Exalted, for example, they're called Castes. Dawn Castes are warriors and generals, Zeniths are priests and paladins, Twilight are scholars and mages, Eclipse are diplomats, and Night are rogues. Your Caste gives you a unique special power and makes certain skills/spells cheaper, but you also get to pick a few more non-caste skills to specialize in. After that, though, you're just spending experience to buy stats, spells, and so on. It's guided point buy; a solid hybrid.

The second approach is True20, a D&D-like system by Green Ronin. By default there are just three classes (Adept, Expert, and Warrior) which determine a bunch of your chassis elements, while your class features come from feats-- you start with 4, and gain a new one each level. Some feats are general (ie, "Animal Empathy" or "Iron Will"), while others are class-specific (ie, "Familiar" is an Adept feat, while "Sneak Attack" is an Expert one). It also includes rules for creating custom classes. I've not had the chance to actually play it, but there are a lot of commonalities with Mutants and Masterminds, which is one of my favorite games, so it's worth a look.

(Star Wars Saga Edition has a similar structure, but with 3.5/4e style breadth; 3.5 had variant rules for "generic classes (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/classes/genericClasses.htm)" that worked similarly, but were incredibly unbalanced because, well, 3.5 is incredibly unbalanced and they were written way before designers got a handle on how good spellcasting was.)

Powered by the Apocalypse systems like Dungeon World are closest thing to a non-D&D based "class" system I can think of, though they're not level based at all. The different "classes" (I can't remember what they're called; I'm not a huge fan of the system, though many are) each give you access to unique Moves, which are things only you can do. I don't remember much else, but there are like a thousand games based on the engine.