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Seattle, Washington, United States
I'm an old time roleplayer who became a soldier who became a veteran who became a developer who became a dba who became a manager who never gave up his dream of a better world. Even if I have to create it myself.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Classless Systems

Every so often - say every 12 minutes or thereabouts - I see an RPG bragging about their classless system. Standard text follows:

"It's better than classes because YOU CAN PLAY ANYTHING YOU WANT!"

"It's like other RPGs except YOU CAN PLAY ANYTHING YOU WANT!"

"It uses skills which are way better than classes because YOU CAN PLAY ANYTHING YOU WANT!"

I want to play a beholder. What skills for that?
photo credit: estherase via photopin cc

This reasoning is a bit silly to me. I can play an OD&D fighter and play something no one at the table has ever seen before. Or I can play GURPS 4e and be a completely boring dwarf fighter clone.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. I have lots of friends that are dwarf fighters. We all do. But admit it, there's a little bit of a yawn-factor there. Unless maybe the dwarf has four extra eyes because he was cursed by the gods for falling asleep on watch when his cavern got overrun by orcs. Oh and he is partially insane from never being able to sleep again. Also hallucinations. Yep.

See, being able to play what I want, and do it well, is a player skill unrelated to the system. I could play the above dwarf with only cosmetic variations and no mechanical changes.

Of course, the GM has to be willing to help out at times for the greatest effect. I wonder if the underlying cause for the (Classes == Restricted Gameplay) theory is really just GMs or DMs that don't relax enough and let people explore wacky ideas. I mean, it's their game, so they can restrict gameplay as much as they want, presuming players still want to play in their campaign. But being a rules nazi is unfortunate from my perspective.

In other words: If a GM plays too strict and no one is around to play it, are they really a GM?

Remember Rule #1: The game must be fun.

There are design pros and cons to classes, and also to skill driven systems. Skill systems tend to be a lot easier to min-max, for instance, which might be a pro or a con depending on your preference.

So, the moral of this story is to relax, enjoy playing, and be creative in methods of expressing creativity. And for the love of all that is good and holy in the multiverse, please stop blaming classes for a lack of creativity at the game table.

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