D&D General [o5e/a5e] Classless D&D? Spitballing thread

niklinna

Abstraction is a tool that streamlines gameplay.
A joke response I made in another thread about the risk of turning D&D into a freeform, classless system got a response of its own saying that would be really cool, although the design "would have to be incredible". Well! Were you to accept this challenge, how might you go about it?

You got your martial features, your caster features, your ribbons, your exploration & social. Can you break it all apart into à la carte features, some possibly in progressive chains or even merging/branching structures? Maybe you get a feature-purchase budget at each level. Maybe you ditch levels altogether and characters advance directly by features costing a certain amount of XP, spendable whenever is appropriate.

Also, since classes are one of the key design features that make D&D what it is for many people, would you make any part of your design still try to reflect that somehow? For example, maybe you have to pick a traditional/recognizable role as your area of specialization, so that features outside of it are still available, but cost more. Anybody who's played the NERO larp will recognize that one right away. (Also see True20 for a partial implementation of this idea.)
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
I don't like the idea. GURPS is not what I come to D&D for. I want a best fit tool to tell the stories of our characters together.

Breaking the system down into its component parts sounds great but in practice it just leads to options paralysis.
 

niklinna

Abstraction is a tool that streamlines gameplay.
I don't like the idea. GURPS is not what I come to D&D for. I want a best fit tool to tell the stories of our characters together.

Breaking the system down into its component parts sounds great but in practice it just leads to options paralysis.
I'm not asking whether folks like the idea; I'm asking, assuming the premise, what would folks do? If you don't accept the premise, there's nothing to discuss. :p
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
I'm not asking whether folks like the idea; I'm asking, assuming the premise, what would folks do? If you don't accept the premise, there's nothing to discuss. :p
Gotcha sorry. I got nothing, so I'll just apologize and leave the thread. Good luck!
 



A joke response I made in another thread about the risk of turning D&D into a freeform, classless system got a response of its own saying that would be really cool, although the design "would have to be incredible". Well! Were you to accept this challenge, how might you go about it?

You got your martial features, your caster features, your ribbons, your exploration & social. Can you break it all apart into à la carte features, some possibly in progressive chains or even merging/branching structures? Maybe you get a feature-purchase budget at each level. Maybe you ditch levels altogether and characters advance directly by features costing a certain amount of XP, spendable whenever is appropriate.

Also, since classes are one of the key design features that make D&D what it is for many people, would you make any part of your design still try to reflect that somehow? For example, maybe you have to pick a traditional/recognizable role as your area of specialization, so that features outside of it are still available, but cost more. Anybody who's played the NERO larp will recognize that one right away. (Also see True20 for a partial implementation of this idea.)
Many many years ago in 3rd edition I saw this done once. I can't recall a lot of details but they basically gave everything in the game a point value. Want to buy evasion ok that will be 3 points. Want to buy access to another leve of spells ok thats 15 points since you've already baught up to level 3..... It was that style as I recall. I think they still used levels but it wouldn't matter they just kept track of when you earned enough xp to get more points for your upgrades.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Many many years ago in 3rd edition I saw this done once. I can't recall a lot of details but they basically gave everything in the game a point value. Want to buy evasion ok that will be 3 points. Want to buy access to another leve of spells ok thats 15 points since you've already baught up to level 3..... It was that style as I recall. I think they still used levels but it wouldn't matter they just kept track of when you earned enough xp to get more points for your upgrades.
Yeah, this sounds really familiar.
Long time ago, I picked up "Buy the Numbers", but never used it. As I recall, it's an à la carte system for d20 that assigns values to all the various class features, with the intent of allowing players build out PCs to very specific designs. I wonder if that's what you're thinking of?
(Fwiw, the pdf is available for free at dtrpg.)
I'm thinking I had a couple other d20/OGL games from that era with a similar goal to eliminate/tone down the class silos, but I don't have my old hard drives available to look for them.
 

Hm. The idea is interesting, but I have no idea how you'd do it and still claim to have D&D when you got done with it. I think you'd need to completely overhaul the whole system, since without classes, character levels don't really work right in my experience.

Maybe it's easier to start with other systems for examples.

If we're going to point to existing classless systems that do a decent job of D&D, I'd say Modipheus 2d20 Conan does a good job at emulating 1e AD&D in the sense of being a survival dungeon exploration game with higher lethality. The game is skill based and more or less classless, though you do pick a very broad archetype during chargen that is more like picking a background than a class. My only complaint is that the books are pretty poorly organized and the magic rules have been rewritten since the books were published. Actually, this is the most spot-on review I've seen for the game.

I think it's hard to impossible to take a class-based RPG, turn it into a classless RPG, and still end up with a game that feels the same to the extent that you would say it's the same game. If I were to do it, I'd take 2d20 Conan, make it slightly less lethal, clean up the rules a lot and then I might be happy with the results.

Many many years ago in 3rd edition I saw this done once. I can't recall a lot of details but they basically gave everything in the game a point value. Want to buy evasion ok that will be 3 points. Want to buy access to another leve of spells ok thats 15 points since you've already baught up to level 3..... It was that style as I recall. I think they still used levels but it wouldn't matter they just kept track of when you earned enough xp to get more points for your upgrades.

I think I remember that. I think it was from 3.0 still? On the old WotC community boards? Maybe it was GitP. All I remember is that it was a huge thread, and it seemed to get increasingly clear how monumental the task would be. It was like Joker toxin. X by itself was fine, or Y + Z would be alright. But if you combine X + Y + Z, well, suddenly you could do everything. And once you found those things it just... didn't hold up no matter what you did unless you put little block lists on everything. For spellcasting you either had to make it too expensive to take 1st level or everyone just took it. It emphasized all the problems of frontloading and LFQW, and didn't solve anything else. Like Monk and Druid basically can't exist or you end up with a wild shaped kung fu master throwing fireball. Sure, that's awesome, but it kind of dominates play.
 

niklinna

Abstraction is a tool that streamlines gameplay.
Yeah, this sounds really familiar.
Long time ago, I picked up "Buy the Numbers", but never used it. As I recall, it's an à la carte system for d20 that assigns values to all the various class features, with the intent of allowing players build out PCs to very specific designs. I wonder if that's what you're thinking of?
(Fwiw, the pdf is available for free at dtrpg.)
I'm thinking I had a couple other d20/OGL games from that era with a similar goal to eliminate/tone down the class silos, but I don't have my old hard drives available to look for them.
Well, I wasn't thinking it had already been done, but I can't say I'm surprised! This book hews very closely to the list of specific abilities in the core rules (3.x); otherwise its design is pretty much right in the ballpark of what I figured somebody might do. The spellcasting chapter is a little confusing—it looks like you can only pick from the existing classes based on the three parameters the author defines, instead of being able to combine those three parameters freely. Again, sticking very closely to the core rules rather than giving more open formulas for feature costs.
 

niklinna

Abstraction is a tool that streamlines gameplay.
Hm. The idea is interesting, but I have no idea how you'd do it and still claim to have D&D when you got done with it.
Aye, there's the tricky part. A much broader thread would be, "What is it that makes D&D the game it is?" You have the six abilities, the classic core races, the classes & levels, particular class features, the slot- and recipe-based magic system, the specific corpus of spells, and the combat and skill systems—which have changed from edition to edition, but there's a recognizable thread nonetheless. Of all of those, I think you could drop the races and the classes and still have something very recognizable as D&D, particularly if you keep the special abilities generally the same—it's just that they aren't siloed arbitrarily, but by prereq chains at most. Prereq chains, though, are halfway to classes already, which is why I suspect there's little incentive for a freeform system for D&D, even if D&Ds class-based system makes many possible concepts difficult or unviable.

But the NERO larp managed a hybrid class/point-buy system, barring some complaints about rogues being overpowered. Of course, their corpus of spells and special abilities and such is vastly different from D&D, even if the character classes are the archetypal fighter, rogue, arcane (celestial) caster, and divine (earth) caster. Not that I expect to see many people here who know much about NERO. :)
 

It's hard to do classless with logarithmic spellcasters. Like, fighters and other martials don't get new options at the same rate that that wizards get spell slots, so it's not easy to set the powers up as fungible.
 

Yeah, this sounds really familiar.
Long time ago, I picked up "Buy the Numbers", but never used it. As I recall, it's an à la carte system for d20 that assigns values to all the various class features, with the intent of allowing players build out PCs to very specific designs. I wonder if that's what you're thinking of?
(Fwiw, the pdf is available for free at dtrpg.)
I'm thinking I had a couple other d20/OGL games from that era with a similar goal to eliminate/tone down the class silos, but I don't have my old hard drives available to look for them.
Interesting. I didn't know they published it. I used to follow it on boards similar to these. Seemed a lot of people liked their ideas
 

cbwjm

Legend
I think if I was going to do this, it would look similar to pathfinder 2. I'd still use levels though it is character level rather than class level and proficiency bonus would still be tied to it. Then, much like others have already mentioned, I'd assign either a cost and/or a level to the various class abilities. Subclasses would be gone. Level 1 might look something like this:

Level 1 | +2 proficiency bonus | Choose 3 (level 1) abilities.

Level 1 abilities might be: fighting style, sneak attack, spellcasting (costs 2 picks), expertise and a bunch of others. Things like weapon & armour proficiencies and hit dice could also be chosen at this level. I'd probably start everyone out with d8 hit dice.

Spellcasting I'd make similar to PF2 in that choosing it at level 1 gets you the first few spell levels as you level up but you'll need to choose more advanced spellcasting options to get to the higher levels.
 

Buzzqw

Explorer
(sorry for my english)
in my game system it works like this:
1) at each level you choose whether to take +1 to weapon knowledge or +1 to magical knowledge
2) every 2 levels you take a feat that simulates some class ability and each feats grant bonuses on saving throws (different feat mean different bonus on ST)
3) skills depend on the choosen profession and the intelligence score
4) hit points are 4 + Constitution bonus + 3 if you gave the point to weapon knowledge
5) every point on weapon knowledge give you a +1 to hit. you can give weapon knowledge point to a specific list of weapons which, depending on how much the points assigned, grants different bonuses and abilities
6) spells point and spell levels depends on magical knowledge

and no class is present!
if you can read italian you can freely download the (italian full 550 pag) manual TUS/OBSS.pdf at master · buzzqw/TUS

BHH
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top