Re: Skills instead of Levels?

From: Christopher J. Dickey (
Date: 07/14/95

On Fri, 14 Jul 1995, Graham Gilmore wrote:

> 	Taken to the extreme, you would end up with basically a classless 
> system where anyone can learn any skill....  An interesting idea, I'm 
> thinking of doing it myself.  Anyone have any comments on this type of 
> system?

   The classes system is something you really need to think out, and it 
really depends on what kind of world you are trying to create.  How 
difficult is magic to learn?  Does everyone have access to the same 
education?  Do you have enough skills?  Do attributes play an important 
part in your system?  After learning certain skills, will it exclude 
or lower their ability to learn certain other skills?  Most of these 
questions deal with game mechanics, and I think it's important that your 
gaming system is suitable for a classes system.  This almost immediately 
leaves out D&D.  The basic reason is this:  players need to be distiguished 
by something.  If you don't have enough skills/knowledges/whatever, a 
classless system won't work.  Everyone will be the same.  The same seems 
to apply to a levelless system.

   On the code I'm working with, I've discovered that classes and levels 
basically mean nothing.  Attributes and skills determine who the player 
is, and NOTHING in the game mechanics is determined by class or level 
(ie, in my system you won't hit better because you are higher level and 
you don't get any special 'saving throws' because you are of a certain 
class).  One of the biggest things you need to think about is the magic 
on your mud (provided you have magic).  If magic is going to be powerful 
(which it is on my mud), then the cost for learning it must be high in 
order to keep balance (how can one spend time becoming a master with a 
blade AND become a master magician?).  However, if magic is easy to learn 
as everyone on your world is born with magical abilities, then magic 
probably shouldn't be terribly strong.

   Personally, I like a little from both schools of thought.  I don't 
think that being of a particular class should affect the game mechanics 
in that the code gives you a better or worse chance at doing something 
just because of your class.  I do see though that classes can bring some 
sense of direction to players which might be needed.  Taking an example 
from my mud, players can only be born with magical ability, as such is 
the world.  You can't 'learn' how to cast spells.  You can study magic, 
magical theory, and even create spells based off your study.  However, 
you will never be able to cast unless you are born with the ability to 
manipulate magical energies.  Another example might be between a mage and 
what is called a 'decker' on my mud.  Magic can only function around 
life (yes, no magic in the depths of space) and it would therefore be 
very difficult to learn 'computer' skills where you become submerged in a 
virtual reality.  It quite possibly could drive them a bit nuts to 
suddenly not be able to sense auras and feel life everywhere (think of 
Diana Troi in the ST:TNG episode where she lost her empathic abilities).

So I suppose the answer to this long-winded reply is that you can do it 
but you really need to think it out and have a reason for explaining why 
things work the way they do.  Perhaps the way it works on MUSH's might be 
worth taking a look at.  Players get on as generic people, and gain 
skills and such by joining guilds (though in some cases its exactly like 
chosing a class after you've started your character).


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