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View Full Version : Poll: Do you prefer class-based or skill-based RPG systems?



Hiraevun
03-02-2010, 05:59 PM
I'm curious if people prefer game systems that build characters using a class system or systems that have a classless, skill-based system?

If you do prefer one or the other, please tell us why.

If you think both systems have their merits, please discuss.

Freejack
03-02-2010, 06:26 PM
None of the above. I run Shadowrun because of the setting, not the mechanics. I'm not tied to a class or skill based system although I think Skills seems to make more sense.

Carl

Richard Littles
03-02-2010, 06:38 PM
I'm point based Hero System addict that doesn't use classes or levels since 92. :)

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
03-02-2010, 06:45 PM
Skill-based, all the way.

Great thread/poll, Hiraevun. Keep 'em coming!

Farcaster
03-02-2010, 07:20 PM
That's an interesting question. In anything other than fantasy, I prefer a skill-based system. I'm a hold out on the class based system for fantasy simply because I've been playing D&D for so long, nothing else quite feels right. That's just from being so accustomed to it though. That is hardly reason to say that it is actually better in a fantasy setting.

cplmac
03-02-2010, 07:23 PM
I went with the combination, because I like to pull everything together in one pot, give it a stir and be able to have all kinds of variations available. The more combinations means that there are so many possibilities for a character, before you have exhausted the variations.

fmitchell
03-02-2010, 09:33 PM
Another vote for skills alone. In the end skill mechanics provide far more flexibility than class-based advancement.

About the only "classes" I like are the following:

"career" systems a la Traveller or Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay to shape a character's skills along sensible paths
templates a la GURPS, Mutants and Masterminds, or Unisystem to speed up character creation and possibly enforce particular archetypes.
an initial Mage/not-Mage decision in certain older games like The Fantasy Trip and Witchcraft which influence character creation and advancement, on the premise that some people have magical talent and/or lifelong training, and others don't.

Webhead
03-02-2010, 09:56 PM
Skill-based systems.

I like the flexibility and the support for the idea that people don't fit into convenient little categories. Exactly why is it that a Wizard can't learn how to wield a sword or even begin the game knowing how to use one?

I do like "templates" or even "career paths" which help give inspiration and guidance to common skill selection but otherwise the nitty-gritty of where to advance a character should be left up to the ideas of the player (and guided by the GM to ensure contextual appropriateness).

Sascha
03-02-2010, 10:02 PM
While I don't object to classes, I do enjoy skill-based systems more.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
03-02-2010, 10:08 PM
That's an interesting question. In anything other than fantasy, I prefer a skill-based system. I'm a hold out on the class based system for fantasy simply because I've been playing D&D for so long, nothing else quite feels right. That's just from being so accustomed to it though. That is hardly reason to say that it is actually better in a fantasy setting.
Agreed.

I couldn't possibly imagine playing dnd w/o a class system, so i agree. Other than that, the closest i will play to a class system is a career system, WFRP. Of course, i will never play a d20 game other than dnd. Kinda weird, i know. I hate class and d20, yet, i will only play d20 and class with dnd, go figure... and love every minute of it.

Dytrrnikl
03-02-2010, 10:54 PM
I'm with Freejack, the setting is what attracts me to the games that I enjoy. However, I'm also with Farcaster in that any other setting besides Fantasy should be a skills-based system and fantasy should be class-based. I believe that for fantasy settings, a class-based system allows for portraying of the typical heroic archetypes to be an almost perfect fit.

Llayne
03-02-2010, 11:33 PM
Skill based all the way.

Some players seem to have difficulty looking at a whole pot of points though, so I find that things like Clans, Tradition, Caste, etc... from White Wolf are an acceptable compromise.

If gives you the 'norm' so to speak, but it's very easy to step away from that norm if that's what you want.

Webhead
03-03-2010, 12:09 AM
...I'm also with Farcaster in that any other setting besides Fantasy should be a skills-based system and fantasy should be class-based. I believe that for fantasy settings, a class-based system allows for portraying of the typical heroic archetypes to be an almost perfect fit.

I'm no longer married to this idea as I once thought I was. Using class-like "templates" as a foundation for character inspiration is nice and maybe even preferable but (for me anyway) the less prescriptive and more evocative the "class" is when building your character, the better.

That said, I play different games that use different systems in order to evoke a different play experience. Not every game needs to or should use the same method for character building and having different creation mechanics helps a game feel unique.

cliff
03-03-2010, 12:23 AM
One really has to wonder how indicative the response here is... I realize that statistically, there haven't been enough votes to really get a viable result, but 0 votes for class based? Wow. Of course, it could just be because the P&PG forums are so big that many of us don't read every sub-forum, and the folks likely to read the Indie sub-forums are more experimental, but dang... the poll results definitely do NOT resemble my real life experience with finding gaming groups.

Hiraevun
03-03-2010, 07:09 AM
Thanks for all the responses so far. :) It's interesting to me that a couple of people stated that the setting rather than the mechanics attract them to a particular game. Very good to know. Thanks for sharing that.

Freejack
03-03-2010, 08:34 AM
For me (to expand a bit) the setting is what draws me to the game.

Shadowrun I was reading William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy when I spotted the 1e book.

All Flesh Must Be Eaten Everyone likes Zombies. I was in Hobby Town I think and spotted Fistful 'o Zombies. I have all of Louis L'Amour's westerns. Woah, Zombies and Westerns.

Paranoia I'm a computer geek since 1980 or so and a gamer. That's why I got the first one way back. Then again in Hobby Town I spotted Paranoia XP.

Eclipse Phase I've recently been reading Transhuman books (can't think of the name off hand; Richard something) and thinking of how it would work with Shadowrun when someone on rpg.net mentioned that Eclipse Phase was coming. I got the PDF and then the dead tree book at GenCon last year.

The list goes on. I don't look at how the rules work to get a book. Heck, I spotted a bunch of Spycraft 1e books at, again Hobby Town that were going for 70% off so I snagged the ones for something to read. Hollow Earth Expedition was one I played in our game day last Thanksgiving. I picked up the core and expected it'd be a great game. The GM, unfortunately doesn't normally GM so it was a bit stilted so I picked up the rest and will be running it at Tacticon in September.

Like any other book I see at the book store, the story has to be interesting. Game books don't say "Mechanics are class based with leveling to gain new abilities" or "Combat is managed though Attribute + Skill tests with a success of 5 or 6 and a shitload of modifiers that aren't in one place in the book" on the back. It talks about fighting dragons or jacking in to the matrix.

Now perhaps one part of longevity is because the mechanics make sense. As people start to play the new game, they pop up here and talk about how realistic the game is or how easy combat resolution is.

That's my observation and experience for what it's worth :)

Carl

Richard Littles
03-03-2010, 08:36 AM
Game books don't say "Mechanics are class based with leveling to gain new abilities" or "Combat is managed though Attribute + Skill tests with a success of 5 or 6 and a shitload of modifiers that aren't in one place in the book" on the back.

Carl

Depends on the rule system because GURPS and Hero System don't have a setting attached to the basic rules. They are toolkits and they talk about what you can do with the rules inside the book. ;) Their setting and genre books are separated from the core rules.

Webhead
03-04-2010, 01:26 AM
For me (to expand a bit) the setting is what draws me to the game.

That's true enough. A compelling setting is key. An RPG without a setting is just Yahtzee...and I have that game already.

That said, I can like a setting and if its "official" mechanics don't agree with me, I'll find something more suitable to plug it into. Just because I like a setting doesn't mean I have to be chained to the rules it comes packaged with.

Shadowrun is an excellent example. I really like a lot of the aspects of the setting but I never did reach a comfort zone with any edition of the official mechanics. Thus, I would have no problem running in the Shadowrun setting but if I did I would end up using some other ruleset that works better for me.

Banshee
03-04-2010, 03:05 AM
I'm going to have to go with "skills based" for my preference. As you mentioned, there are definitely merits for both, but I think a skills based system gives the player more control over the idea he/she is creating. I think it also allows for greater customization and unique characters.

Take, for example, the Assassin class in 1E AD&D. I don't know about you, but I think that just about any character class could in theory be useful as an assassin. The act of stealthily killing another for money and not getting caught could be accomplished by fighters, thieves, clerics, mages or whatever. It's more like an occupation than a class. Leave the class out of it and go by skill-sets, and you could build pretty much whatever you like.

That's my take on the subject. I hope I explained that right, and it doesn't just read like babbling! LOL

Great question, Hiraevun.

yukonhorror
04-14-2011, 11:37 AM
Depends on the rule system because GURPS and Hero System don't have a setting attached to the basic rules. They are toolkits and they talk about what you can do with the rules inside the book. ;) Their setting and genre books are separated from the core rules.

Of course I like HERO a lot more than I do GURPS. That's off-topic, but had to put that there.

I chose both, because what I liked doing with HERO was toolkit classes, while giving them TONS of flexiblity, which I guess would be like a skill-based system. At least in fantasy (and maybe other genres) classes help promote variability and niche roles amongst the players, so they all can shine but in different ways and without outshining another player.

E.g. my classes had powers I defined for them. So the fencer felt different than the lancer (or whatever). They were both warrior classes, but how they were built allowed them to fill different niches in combat. But that class really helped guide character creation.

Of course, what I really like is archetypes and balance. As long as it is straightforward and easy to build towards a certain archetype and be just as useful as another character, I don't care if that came from skills or classes.

Saulster
04-16-2011, 11:57 AM
Hey guys, I am a D&D player from way back in the late 70's. Started with the little books from the white box. So playing in a game that uses classes is natural to me. I do like the idea of skill based advancement, but sometimes people make characters with all kinds of skills that are all over the place and don't have a good concept. But if you have a good GM to guide people in making characters then Skill based systems does allow a lot of flexibility. But I also agree that the setting is what attracts me to many games. ShadowRun a great setting. Dresden Files, Eclipse Phase and many others. I am almost to the point that I think that the rule system is less important than the GM's Skill and the players involvement in the adventure or game.

Saulster

Descronan
10-09-2011, 10:49 PM
I'll have to put my vote in with skill based systems. What I've seen so far with class/level based systems is an unbalanced and unsmooth transition of power. Effectively the characters plateau in power in a lot of areas all at once and there is no natural progression. Now I did like Warhammer Fantasy's occupation system if the GM allowed flexibility. That system was effectively a skill based system with some structured "archtype" templates to guide you.

At present, I've been developing my own system and of course its skill based. But at the same time you can fairly easily add up the points it would take to build the character and make that a "level". But there are no strict rules preventing say a wizard from learning a fighter skill or vise verse. Role-playing games are supposed to be an escape from reality's confines so why do RPGs have rules "preventing" unusual skills in unusual characters?

Another reason for skill based systems is the organic growth of your character's power. If you have a role-play heavy game then RP skills will take center stage. If it shifts to a combat focused game then combat abilities will take center stage.

As for the setting, I've always been the kind of GM/player who created my own worlds and settings so the existing game setting is kind of a waste for me. I'll use elements of almost any setting. For example, in Star Wars I allow cybernetics and pretty much use the Shadow Run cyberware rules. I also like sanity loss so use a modified Call of C'thulu sanity rule. So while the setting is important, so too are having the right rules that fit your setting. And with the right rules it just amplifies the setting and makes it seem all the more engaging.

I think that's what frustrates me so much about so many D&D games I've been in. The setting is this high fantasy, high action game yet so many players/GMs play it as a boring strategy game instead of the dramatic cinematic system it is supposed to reflect. If only the combats felt more like the battles from LOTR...

Skunkape
10-10-2011, 08:49 AM
I voted a while ago for skill based systems, in particular, I prefer the Basic Role-Playing System by Chaosium! All skills are scored with a value from 0 to 100 %, 200 % with an optional system. The 101 to 200% lets you get multiple attacks with combat skills but no need to go into those rules here.

The nice thing about BRP is that once you successfully use a skill in a game session, there's a chance for that skill to improve. I've been working on some house rule modifications for my fantasy world which I think work really well. I can't really do that with a class based system like DnD or Pathfinder, but can with BRP.