D&D General How would YOU do "classless D&D"?

Reynard

Legend
First: this is not a seeking advice thread. it is a discussion thread. i don't actually plan on creating classless D&D, and you probably don't either. But that doesn't mean we can muse and theorycraft on the subject.

Second: I know some people think it is impossible to do and/or that classes are fundamental to D&D. I appreciate that. But this isn't the thread to come in and argue that point.

Okay, with that out of the way, I am asking you to put your designer hat on and roleplay a little. You have been contracted by WotC to make D&D 6.pi and the single immutable mandate is "no classes." Levels remain. You have to still allow for all the fun character options that have historically be a part of D&D, up to and including 5.5.b.delta. How do you do it? What is your design philosophy?

The first thing I would do is Feat-ify everything that I reasonably could and make Feats the basic unit of structure in the system. While I would try to avoid overdoing Feat chains, some would logically have to exist (you can't have, say, improved evasion without having evasion first). Trap feats would of course have to go, and I think (not sure) I would have increasing magical capability based on continuing to devote feats into one's "caster level" -- although I would certainly readjust how "caster level" and access to more powerful magic works. i might even be inclined to get rid of different levels of spells entirely and fold similar spells into high level castings of some core spell (fire bolt ->fireball->meteor swarm like that).

How would you build a classless D&D?
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I think you'd have to do something like 3e and 5e have done and rate abilities numerically and then give PCs X points at 1st level to buy abilities. So if you want heavy armor, semi-spellcasting, sneak attack, and bardic inspiration, you would spend your points on those things. You'd also gate abilities not just by point cost, but the levels(the lowest level if different among multiple classes) at which they are offered. So when you hit 3rd level, you could purchase from among the 1st-3rd level class/subclass abilities. You might also create chains in which you need a lower form of an ability before you can get the higher one. As an example, you could not buy extra attack(2) at 11th level unless you had purchased extra attack already.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I am currently working on this, building on the Adventurer ("Class"???) here: Adventurer by /u/aeyana

I started working from scratch and remembered this from a thread I posted a couple years ago, and after a deep dive into history, finally found it.

As I said, it is currently a work in progress.
 


DrunkonDuty

he/him
The first thing I would do is Feat-ify everything that I reasonably could and make Feats the basic unit of structure in the system. While I would try to avoid overdoing Feat chains, some would logically have to exist (you can't have, say, improved evasion without having evasion first). Trap feats would of course have to go, and I think (not sure) I would have increasing magical capability based on continuing to devote feats into one's "caster level" -- although I would certainly readjust how "caster level" and access to more powerful magic works. i might even be inclined to get rid of different levels of spells entirely and fold similar spells into high level castings of some core spell (fire bolt ->fireball->meteor swarm like that).

I agree with feati-fy everything. BAB, hit dice, spells, saves, stat bumps, class features. We would need to make sure that class features are balanced against not just each other but also basic things like BAB and saves. By which I mean who'd take a feat for +1 BAB if you could get Rage that grants +2 hit AND damage for the same cost? So all of the feats would have to be carefully balanced against one another.

Also agree that feat chains should be limited if used at all.

In conjunction I'd remove levels. Characters don't get "levels," they get feats.

Characters start with:
X number of feats. (Probably half a dozen.)
A standardised hit die. d10, why not?
STR, DEX etc. which should be purchased.

Spells... spells are going to require a whole lot of work. In the long ago times there was a 3rd party supplement for 3.5 that had a system for designing spells that was basically modular. A spell's level was determined by things like range, base damage die, damage cap, saving throw. Once you have a spell's level you have to work out how many feats it might be worth.
 


Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
I'd do a mix of feats and items/equipment based progression. And I'd put extra features in Races and Background to carry the bulk of the mechanical side for the players.

So a Dwarf Acolyte might start with proficiency with axe, religion and stone cunning, and a access to a Magic Tradition.

Spells should be classified by Tradition (fire magic, tree magic, force magic, mind magic etc) and you gain better spells in the traditions you've unlocked based on your proficiency (and you spells effects are improved based on your proficiency, not because you ''upcast'' them''

Items could have special property mimicking class feature, like a Berserker's Axe giving you access to Rage or things like that.

Other features are transformed in feats that are tier-gated and may have some other prerequisites.
 


Stormonu

Legend
I like my D&D with class and levels, but I've played several RPGs that lack classes.

Basically making everything feats would be the way I go, though I'd also kill leveling too. Your character could still get good at things at different rates, but if I were to go classless, I'd go levelless too.
 

LadyElect

Explorer
Dividing out weapon/armor proficiencies, abilities/feats, and the total list of spells into some sort of point buy system seems like it could be an interesting attempt at more truly modular character creation (nightmare to balance, be damned).

That would also probably work well with a move to break race into a combination of ancestry/culture/background as some other games have. You could fill those options with some set of either inherent features, subsets to select from, or a combination.

And moving the spell lists away from class could instead give you the ability to make the various schools of magic a more meaningful investment. Perhaps exponential benefit as you invest your point pool more heavily into any of them—like multiclassing but crunchier.

Of course, that wouldn’t likely be something that as many people are willing to parse prior to booting up a game.
 


Vaalingrade

Legend
  • Break class abilities into feats.
  • Rejigger spells into rituals, cantrips and per encounter abilities and then make a spell known cost a feat and a small collection of rituals and cantrips cost a feat.
  • Per day abilities require a feat to increase uses.
  • Everyone gets all weapon proficiencies. Screw it.
  • Armor proficiency is a feat tree.
  • Higher hit dies is a feat
  • Everyone gets one good save. More good saves is a feat.
  • Everyone gets a big, heaping pile of feats at level 1.

Feats: They're what's for dinner.

Pretty much the best RPG innovation in my time as a player.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
How would you build a classless D&D?
When I see “classless” I think either skill based or player defined.

For skill based you’d double the skill list and make them more specific. Add in things like weapons and armor as skills. Lots of the features of classes could easily become skills.

For player defined you’d have players write up a description of the character and what they can do. That’s all you’d need. A bit of oversight for power levels and you’re good.
 
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Egon Spengler

"We eat gods for breakfast!"
My fundamental approach is (1) "everyone is a fighter"; so (2) you can let fighters do things they normally can't, like magic and thieving (and add magic items to the game to fill the gaps); and then, radically, (3) nix the ability scores because they're kind of pointless in a classless D&D.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
For class design, I prioritize both customizability and balance. They are somewhat antithetical principles, but can be friendly to each other.

I am mostly happy with 5e class design. There is a wide viable range between lumping concepts into a single class and splitting concepts into separate classes. I feel 5e designs its classes in an appealing way somewhere between the two extremes.

My only "grievance" is, I need every class to decide its subclass archetype at level 1. Not level 3, nor 2. Even so, this can be minor nod, mechanically. For example, a magical Fighting Style for the level 1 Fighter can presage the decision to be an Eldritch Knight: perhaps a high elven Fighting style swapping heavy armor for Mage Armor, plus a Shillelagh-like cantrip that wields a longsword attack magically to substitute the casting ability instead of Strength. There can be more than one "eldritch" Fighting Style − maybe an other bypasses damage resistance.



I love feats and rely on them for character concept actualizing.

I am happy with the recent development of a "setting feat" at level 1. It allows the DM to incentivize the players investing in the themes of a particular setting. Compare Theros, Ravenloft, Strixhaven, etcetera.

I prefer every class to gain feats at the same levels: 4, 8, 12, 16, and I would have 20 (not 19), so that the PLAYER chooses which capstone they want for their character concept.

Ideally, I would like to separate out the combat-pillar feats, and silo them separately for these every fourth levels.

Then, have noncombat feats separate at different levels, to expand the concepts of the Background and the exploration and social pillars.

But the dual-use feats make such separation messy.



I prefer the tiers likewise increment by every fourth level, timing with the proficiency bonus improvement and capping with the feat choice:

Levels 1-4: Student Tier (Basic)
Levels 5-8: Professional Tier (Expert)
Levels 9-12: Founder Tier (Champion)
Levels 13-16: Master Tier (Master)
Levels 17-20: Legend Tier (Master wielding Wish spell etcetera)
Levels 21-24: Epic Tier (Lesser Immortal)
Levels 25-28: Cosmic Tier (Greater Immortal)

These tiers feel very different from each other, and inform the scope for designing an appropriate adventure.

Correlate "fame" with tier. So that the number of people who recognize (love or fear or both) is approximate: 10 ^ (level/2). Thus, levels 9 to 12 is a tier that has some influence over about 30,000 to 1,000,000 people. This is something like the population of a town or nation. At this tier, the character might "found" or reinvent a magic school, build a fortress, become a popular warrior hero like Beowulf, a prominent leader like a mayor, or so on, in similar scope.

At the Legend Tier, the challenges are planetary or planar in scope involve the populations of the entire planet recognizing the character.



The feat at level 20 (not 19) should be a highly desirable capstone. The player should think about its possibility even when building a level 1 character. As level 20 approaches, the player should drool in anticipation.

Different players want different things. So a capstone needs to be a choice among several excellent choices. In other words, the level-20 capstone needs to be a feat. Recently, the UA granted feats with level prerequisites. I find the level limits excellent, because the high level feats can be much more powerful than the lower level feats. The feats can organize by the every-fourth-level tiers, increasing power as appropriate to each tier. The level 20 feat is essentially the choice of an "epic boon", as found in the DMs Guide.

D&D 4e had the concept of the "Epic Destiny". There are many different ways to become immortal, and the player chooses how their character does it. Some achieve celestial apotheosis, some become a lich, etcetera. There are many interestingly diverse possibilities.

The level 20 feat for 50e should be a feat chosen from various feats, need a level 20 prereq, be equivalent to an epic boon in power − and also define how the character becomes an immortal.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
There can be a "classless class". The classless class is purely determined by point-buy and player preference. Essentially, it can mix-and-match features from other classes. But, the classless class coexists alongside the traditional classes including Fighter, Wizard, etcetera.

Then the traditional classes are more like readymade pregenerated classes, for convenience. Meanwhile, a more experienced player can experiment with the classless class to mix things up.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
A per feat system where you take you base character

HD 6
Background Skills
Archetype Fighter Styles, Magic School, Rogue Talents etc
9 Feats

Archetype: Defence Fighter (0)
HD 6 + 2 steps (2 feats)
3 xArmor, Shield (4feats)
Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons (2 Feats)
Tools: None
Saving Throws: choose 2 (0)
Feat: Second Wind (1 Feat)

Experience is exchanged for Feats which includes +d6 HD
 


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