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Why didn't use Black Industries/ FFG the D20 System for DH/RT/DW?

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Kyorou said:

deinol said:

 

 I don't get why people use novels as a reference point for starting characters. Do you think Aragorn is a level 1 ranger at the beginning of Lord of the Rings? Experienced characters should be able to emulate characters from a story, but RPGs always start below that and leave room for improvement.

 

 

Always ? Feng Shui doesn't, nor does Agone and other non-reward-based systems. I can understand why DH took the zero-to-hero approach (it is the most common) but it was in no way a necessity.

Ok, not always. Traveller also tended to have characters not advance much beyond character creation. But most games have an experience progression from weaker to more powerful. As it is between the 3 games there are plenty of starting power levels available. Deathwatch starts a little too high for my tastes (at least as a longer game, it is perfect for one-shots as is), but I like having the option of starting a game with rank 1s in Dark Heresy.

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Peacekeeper_b said:

 

The biggest issue is rank 1 characters tend to be one sided and simple, and sorry that isnt the setting. Its the majority of the universe,but its not the setting. The setting is space marines, commissars, psykers, heroic guardsmen, inquisitors, arbitrators, rogue traders and so forth.

Adding 2-4 additional talents and skills to starting characters goes a long way to making them more competent without being super ninja death punch kewl awesome death rangers.

The secong problem with Dark Heresy is the higher levels, the skill and talent bloat phase.

Sure it's the setting, but you're NOT part of the setting, you're part of the majority: you're a normal guy taken under the wing of the Inquisition, willingly or not, and then you're send off, more or less knowing what's going on to investigate something and with some luck, faith and weapons, you come on top.  After a while the Inquisition starts REALLY taking you under it's wing and then you become like 'the setting'.  From what I see, the whole idea of Dark Heresy is that: to be one of countless billions, and rise up form the masses to be 'the setting'.

 

If you want to start as 'the setting' Rogue Trader and Deathwatch are there for that. Dark Heresy is Call of Cthulhu 38 000 years in the future with a grimdark coat of paint over the flakcrete

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Peacekeeper_b said:

and gain extra points for taking penalties

No, no, a thousand times no.

Every time I've seen that attempted, it has resulted in systems that are mercilessly warped by unscrupulous players, to a greater degree than almost any other mechanic I've encountered. It doesn't take much for a player to find a "penalty" that isn't actually a penalty and thus gain free points to spend. Beyond that, the idea of situational drawbacks granting permanent benefits just annoys the games designer side of me.

If that ever appears in a 40kRP game, I am houseruling it out immediately and without mercy. If I'm ever part of an official project that attempts to incorporate the idea into the system, I'll be protesting loudly (though not publically).

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And if I may add, that's just another thing for the GM to think about when he's doing missions or playing out situations

"Ok guys you only have a 2 foot high wall to move over and you're clear of the evil flesh eating mutants. No need to roll for that.  Ok, so you exit the plaza and.."

"Wait, I HAVE to roll climb because my char is a blind hunckback who limps and his left foot is actually a boot with concrete in it."

"What?!?!"

"Well yeah, how do you think I started the game with Inquiry+10?"

That or you end up with a bunch of anti-social ugly guys who are borderline mutants, dumb, clumsy, but boy they sure rock'n'roll with that starting 50 in BS!  Just send that NPC adept you joined in with the group because a rusty oil barrel got more charisma than the lot of them

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 Personally I have always found the ICON system by Last Unicorn Games to be very nice, and its spin off CODA system by Decipher. Both of which are quite well suited to managing the 40k setting.  

The oWoD system was broken at its core, in that mathematically the more dice you add to your pool the more likely you will botch. This was alieviated in the new WoD system, in that they had the foresight to hire a Statistician to review their new mechanics (would it be grand if more game companies did this?), I dont care for their new vanilla setting, but thats a rant for another time. D20 is likewise mathematically broken in its core, as is apparent in any linear system by those who recognize the difference between Mean and Mode. 

Flaw/Disadvantage systems that exist in a multitude of systems have their place, and can be used quite pleasantly, ICON handled this quite well. But more often than not I would tend to agree with the dissenters. When improperly introduced into the games, they can easily spin out of control, and create more problems than Character Development opportunities they introduce. 

I must echo Peacekeeper_b's sentiment in that despite other issues I may have with the 40kPRG mechanics the glaring nightmare of the Career/Rank system is its biggest weakness.  I once ran a RT game where we tried using the Careers only at Character generation (similar to the ICON templates), to represent some basic background skills and training for the PCs and then going forward did XP costs for all Skills at 200 and all Talents at 500. This worked very well for our group.

 

-Skallagrim

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The Glen said:

Bad Birch said:

 

 I don't think that I understand the term "meta-gaming". I alway thought that reference to the meta-game was reference to events outside of the game as it is played, basically to add depth to whatever millieu you are playing in. 

 

 

Metagame is the overall plot of an RPG setting, it can ruin a game when Uber-NPCs get to do all the great stuff and PCs get to watch.  Metagaming is using out of character information to build a character that maxes out against the campaign.  Like building an Undead Hunter because you know you're going to Ravenloft, or a Giantslayer because you know your DM wants to run Against the Giants.  Similar name, different meanings.

 

I don't think either of you grasps what meta-gaming is. Here is from Wikipedia:

"In role-playing games, a player is metagaming when they use knowledge that is not available to their character in order to change the way they play their character (usually to give them an advantage within the game), such as knowledge of the mathematical nature of character statistics, or the statistics of a creature that the player is familiar with but the character has never encountered. In general, it refers to any gaps between player knowledge and character knowledge which the player acts upon."

This is not metaplot, and it is not choosing to play a character that has skills/abilities to fit a certain type of game. For instance if the GM informs you that this campaign is gonna be mostly investigation and little combat, it's not metagaming to choose to play adepts, scum, etc. instead of guardsmen. The choise of what character to play is an Out-of-Character choise, not IC choise.

If however your guardsman in game chooses to buy a certain named weapon simply because the players knows it's statistics are awesome, then that is a (mild) case of metagaming.

A much worse case of metagaming would be if after the players hear that one PC is stealing something, have their PCs decide to "randomly" search said PC's possessions even if there is no reason why their PCs would have any suspicion of wrongdoing.

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Friend of the Dork said:

 

The Glen said:

 

Bad Birch said:

 

 I don't think that I understand the term "meta-gaming". I alway thought that reference to the meta-game was reference to events outside of the game as it is played, basically to add depth to whatever millieu you are playing in. 

 

 

Metagame is the overall plot of an RPG setting, it can ruin a game when Uber-NPCs get to do all the great stuff and PCs get to watch.  Metagaming is using out of character information to build a character that maxes out against the campaign.  Like building an Undead Hunter because you know you're going to Ravenloft, or a Giantslayer because you know your DM wants to run Against the Giants.  Similar name, different meanings.

 

 

 

I don't think either of you grasps what meta-gaming is. Here is from Wikipedia:

"In role-playing games, a player is metagaming when they use knowledge that is not available to their character in order to change the way they play their character (usually to give them an advantage within the game), such as knowledge of the mathematical nature of character statistics, or the statistics of a creature that the player is familiar with but the character has never encountered. In general, it refers to any gaps between player knowledge and character knowledge which the player acts upon."

This is not metaplot, and it is not choosing to play a character that has skills/abilities to fit a certain type of game. For instance if the GM informs you that this campaign is gonna be mostly investigation and little combat, it's not metagaming to choose to play adepts, scum, etc. instead of guardsmen. The choise of what character to play is an Out-of-Character choise, not IC choise.

If however your guardsman in game chooses to buy a certain named weapon simply because the players knows it's statistics are awesome, then that is a (mild) case of metagaming.

A much worse case of metagaming would be if after the players hear that one PC is stealing something, have their PCs decide to "randomly" search said PC's possessions even if there is no reason why their PCs would have any suspicion of wrongdoing.

Okay, thank you for a clearer definition of meta-gaming, although for my part I didn't claim to know what the phrase meant in reference to RPGs. In which case, it doesn't matter what system you use, you could meta- game it if that were possible. In my group, however, we have an agreement to edit this kind of "cheating" between us so that a truer story develops.

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N0-1_H3r3 said:

Peacekeeper_b said:

and gain extra points for taking penalties

 

No, no, a thousand times no.

Every time I've seen that attempted, it has resulted in systems that are mercilessly warped by unscrupulous players, to a greater degree than almost any other mechanic I've encountered. It doesn't take much for a player to find a "penalty" that isn't actually a penalty and thus gain free points to spend. Beyond that, the idea of situational drawbacks granting permanent benefits just annoys the games designer side of me.

If that ever appears in a 40kRP game, I am houseruling it out immediately and without mercy. If I'm ever part of an official project that attempts to incorporate the idea into the system, I'll be protesting loudly (though not publically).

I take it you are not a fan of the starter package, then? 

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Bad Birch said:

I take it you are not a fan of the starter package, then? 

Background packages and the like are fine - they're taken as a whole or not at all, and can be considered as a single entity. Just going "Oh, your character is allergic to monkeys, have 200xp extra to compensate" is what, in my experience, doesn't work.

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N0-1_H3r3 said:

Bad Birch said:

I take it you are not a fan of the starter package, then? 

 

Background packages and the like are fine - they're taken as a whole or not at all, and can be considered as a single entity. Just going "Oh, your character is allergic to monkeys, have 200xp extra to compensate" is what, in my experience, doesn't work.

 

Absolutely! That reminds me of my Shadowrun experience (about 15 years ago) where my Elfish Street Samurai had a very mild sunlight allergy (gave a lot extra points due to the ubiquity of sunlight) that had no real effect except maybe in a desert at noon and a very strong silver allergy (gave a lot extra points due to being 'strong') that no one knew of.

Besides wearing an ice-hockey mask for that matter…(good old teenage days sonrojado.gif)…

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N0-1_H3r3 said:

Every time I've seen that attempted, it has resulted in systems that are mercilessly warped by unscrupulous players, to a greater degree than almost any other mechanic I've encountered.

 

Like anything in moderation its ok for the purposes of character background, otherwise you need to be an exteremely firm GM from the get go that any exterme buggering with the rules system will result in a equally, extermely horrible repercussions to pay for your rank 10 allergy to cats and rank 9 phobia of carrots, as I bury them under a pride of hungry lions in a market garden at some later date.

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N0-1_H3r3 said:

Background packages and the like are fine - they're taken as a whole or not at all, and can be considered as a single entity. Just going "Oh, your character is allergic to monkeys, have 200xp extra to compensate" is what, in my experience, doesn't work.

Well, it depends on what kind of players you have. I had some great time GMing Deadlands and L5R and the Edge/Hindrance system has never been a problem. The way I see it, powergamers will always try to abuse the rules and munchkins will always make an annoyance of themselves so it is easier to just get rid of those players rather than limiting everyone's options in order to make the game powergamer-proof. 

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N0-1_H3r3 said:

Bad Birch said:

I take it you are not a fan of the starter package, then? 

 

Background packages and the like are fine - they're taken as a whole or not at all, and can be considered as a single entity. Just going "Oh, your character is allergic to monkeys, have 200xp extra to compensate" is what, in my experience, doesn't work.

I see the point you are making, but it relies ultimately on the package itself holding water versus individual penalties/talents/skills. In theory, it shouldn't be any different, as long as the value of each penalty really does balance with the value of each advantage. But you are right- there is always a "monkey allergy" in practice! As someone with more experience than me with a wider variety of games, though, isn't it really down to the individual player to do this kind of char. gen. in a "responsible" way?

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Kyorou said:

N0-1_H3r3 said:

 

Background packages and the like are fine - they're taken as a whole or not at all, and can be considered as a single entity. Just going "Oh, your character is allergic to monkeys, have 200xp extra to compensate" is what, in my experience, doesn't work.

 

 

Well, it depends on what kind of players you have. I had some great time GMing Deadlands and L5R and the Edge/Hindrance system has never been a problem. The way I see it, powergamers will always try to abuse the rules and munchkins will always make an annoyance of themselves so it is easier to just get rid of those players rather than limiting everyone's options in order to make the game powergamer-proof. 

I loved Deadlands! Also, a player in our group is kicking off his GMing career with L5R, so time to see if I put my money where my mouth is! Time to create that blind, one legged sword master...

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In the case of Deadlands (because I play it right now, the OLD system mind you) Hinderances are mandatory, and from the feel of the game, it's more a way to add life to the character you're playing rather than getting a few extra points to buy a better stat.

 

Compared to, let's say Shadowrun 3rd, where Edges and Flaws are optional.  I belive putting the option on the table is more 'bait' for powerplay and such, while having them mandatory makes the process more 'clean'.  I saw more players in Deadlands 'abusing' the attributes than the Edge/Hinderances so you end up wiht a mild mannered doctor from back East who just so happen is short of a God with revolvers, despite having no connection, time, or location 'back-up' to explain how he can shoot better than any cow-poke out West.

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N0-1_H3r3 said:

 Just going "Oh, your character is allergic to monkeys, have 200xp extra to compensate" is what, in my experience, doesn't work.

Well GM approval is very important. I once had a player try to take a Irrational Attraction to Ice Cream in a game of DC Heroes. I didnt allow it. Its that simple.

The types of Drawbacks I would implement would not be free form player builds.

The examples given of cat allergies and carrot phobias are just as much fault of the GM as the player. And lets be honest here, how much of a benefit is 200 extra XP in DH? What, two skills?

But what I am saying is I would like to see a well designed drawback system, akin to the one used to make background packages. Or be given a set of guidelines on how to build background packages the FFG way!

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Peacekeeper_b said:

Or be given a set of guidelines on how to build background packages the FFG way!

Well, I can't speak for anyone else, but personally, when doing that sort of thing, I go by gut instinct and my experience with the system to determine composition and cost. Certainly, that's how I did my part of the Origin Path chapter in Into the Storm.

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Peacekeeper_b said:

 

But what I am saying is I would like to see a well designed drawback system, akin to the one used to make background packages. Or be given a set of guidelines on how to build background packages the FFG way!

 

 

I kind of like the New World of Darkness drawback system.  It isn't perfect by a long shot, but it's definitely a step up from the standard (which was also used in Old World of Darkness) that you describe here.

Basically, instead of getting a reasonably large "lump sum" bonus for each of your "flaws," you got a smaller bonus that only paid out after sessions where your flaw was a considerable penalty during play.  So you could take your "irresistable attraction to ice cream" flaw if you wanted, but it wouldn't give you anything at all until and unless your inability to turn down ice cream somehow caused a significant problem for your character.  (Not that I would allow such a ridiculous flaw anyway, I'm totally with you on the "knowing when to say no" thing.)

It's not perfect because players will still take obscure flaws for no apparent reason, but at least the obscure flaws players wanted from me in nWoD were of the "minor adversary" variety instead of the "total phobia of pink W's" variety.  Also, I had the satisfaction of knowing they don't actually get anything unless their minor adversary shows up.  (And if they kill him the gravy train ends.)

So instead of getting 200XP at character creation for a drawback, consider a house rule where the character gets 10 or 20XP every time the chosen drawback causes a significant hitch in the session's play.  The good thing is that drawbacks which seriously impair the character on a regular basis will pay out consistently (potentially giving way more than 200XP), while drawbacks that almost never show up will also almost never give the player anything (as is appropriate, I think.)  The bad thing is that now you have to learn when to say "no" to the question "was that a significant hitch in the players' plan?"  If the player makes a point of always having an ice cream bar in his hand in a scene, that's funny but it shouldn't pay out.  If the Navigator's love of ice cream causes him to get the ship lost deep in Chaos territory because he was paying more attention to his snack than the psychic beacon, then it probably should pay out.

PS: The 10 or 20XP bonus would be consistent across the board for all drawbacks.  More serious drawbacks will cause more problems and therefore pay out more.  Less serious (or conveniently forgotten) drawbacks won't pay out as much because they don't surface as much.

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I'm really surprised by the amount of people who don't like the 'Class/Career/Rank' system. As far as I see it, a system where you don't have that and can just buy anything is more open to 'meta-gaming'. If there was no structure of progression why wouldn't you take the best upgrades to start with?

I also like that the careers are distinct. Whether branching rank strucutres are a good thing or not is up for debate (Black Indutries obviously liked them, FFG obviously hates them), but having the careers themselves is a benefit for the game IMO. I like the fact that a Cleric or a Voidmaster or an Apothecary are special, have their own rules, and their own advance schemes. If there were no careers and no rank structure, and everything was open from the word go, then you'd only be a Cleric/Voidmaster/Apothecary because you say you are, not because you chose that career type. That seems a little loose and, to be honest, a little dull to me. Generic even.

I mean, could you imagine playing, say, Diablo II except there are no different character class. There's just one class, who can take every skill, spell and special ability in the game? Where would be the sense of identity beyond the one in your own head?

BYE

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 @Steve-O

PS: The 10 or 20XP bonus would be consistent across the board for all drawbacks. More serious drawbacks will cause more problems and therefore pay out more. Less serious (or conveniently forgotten) drawbacks won't pay out as much because they don't surface as much.

This is the only point of the post I disagree with. Strong, but rare drawbacks should come with higher bonuses at the relatively few times they surface. Consider, for example, a campaign playing in a Hive. One player may have the drawback Enemy (some large gang from his non-inquisitorial Scum days). Whenever he goes to the underhive, this gang and its allies may pose an obstacle, though not a really large one seeing as this is an inquisitorial cell we're talking about. Another character may have Enemy (The Crow Father), a warp entity that can only make use of its few cultists and the even fewer powerful sorcerers - this enemy would likely come into play more rarely, but would certainly pose a greater danger to the character when it does. In sum, both are somewhat hindering to the two characters. Now what do you do? Do you consider most of the gang encounters not sufficiently hitchful? Then that player will probably feel cheated, as the encounters are a constant nuisance to what would otherwise be a smooth investigation. On the other hand side, if the player receives the full XP, the other one would wonder how that compares to the rare, but rather more life-threatening encounters his character experiences.

No, IMO the solution is making the XP-gain dependant on the actual danger presented by the encountering of the drawback.

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H.B.M.C. said:

I'm really surprised by the amount of people who don't like the 'Class/Career/Rank' system. As far as I see it, a system where you don't have that and can just buy anything is more open to 'meta-gaming'. If there was no structure of progression why wouldn't you take the best upgrades to start with?

I also like that the careers are distinct. Whether branching rank strucutres are a good thing or not is up for debate (Black Indutries obviously liked them, FFG obviously hates them), but having the careers themselves is a benefit for the game IMO. I like the fact that a Cleric or a Voidmaster or an Apothecary are special, have their own rules, and their own advance schemes. If there were no careers and no rank structure, and everything was open from the word go, then you'd only be a Cleric/Voidmaster/Apothecary because you say you are, not because you chose that career type. That seems a little loose and, to be honest, a little dull to me. Generic even.

I mean, could you imagine playing, say, Diablo II except there are no different character class. There's just one class, who can take every skill, spell and special ability in the game? Where would be the sense of identity beyond the one in your own head?

BYE

Personally, I feel that "all the best upgrades" could be given sufficiently high requirements to be mostly unavailable to starting characters, or at most make the specialization to gain them show in weaknesses in other areas.

I feel that most of the flavor involved with the various classes and ranks could end up as advances themselves - Being a Schola Empyrean could involve passing tests and gaining new knowledge/abilities (changes required for Psy Rating increases), while being a Sharp-Shooter would have more to do with the talent tree built around sharp shooting.

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H.B.M.C. said:

I'm really surprised by the amount of people who don't like the 'Class/Career/Rank' system. As far as I see it, a system where you don't have that and can just buy anything is more open to 'meta-gaming'. If there was no structure of progression why wouldn't you take the best upgrades to start with?

I also like that the careers are distinct. Whether branching rank strucutres are a good thing or not is up for debate (Black Indutries obviously liked them, FFG obviously hates them), but having the careers themselves is a benefit for the game IMO. I like the fact that a Cleric or a Voidmaster or an Apothecary are special, have their own rules, and their own advance schemes. If there were no careers and no rank structure, and everything was open from the word go, then you'd only be a Cleric/Voidmaster/Apothecary because you say you are, not because you chose that career type. That seems a little loose and, to be honest, a little dull to me. Generic even.

I mean, could you imagine playing, say, Diablo II except there are no different character class. There's just one class, who can take every skill, spell and special ability in the game? Where would be the sense of identity beyond the one in your own head?

BYE

I'm guessing you haven't really played a classless game before. A class or career is simply a bunch of abilities, skills etc. bundled together in a fitting or not so fitting manner. If you have all those abilities and skills available you can certainly create the same type of character - but you are not limited by arbitrarily boundaries on what you can or cannot learn. For instance, you could learn climb and common lore: Imperial Guard right off the bat as starting character... or how about Survival?

Even more you could customize your character alot more. Want to make a heavy weapon's specialist? Sure, go ahead. The only thing that should remain constant is characteristics advances, that you need Scrutiny skill before you could purchase Scrutiny+10%, and that certain talents would have to be more expensive to balance it out. In fact such a game would be better without talents at all and be entirely skill-based.

How this is supposed to be more "bland" is beyond me - after all you can still use the titles, you can still call your character an Imperial Guardsman, or Mercenary, or Tribal Warrior or Musketeer - and you would even get more relevant skills and abilities. What does it matter if you choose something off a table or just decide upon it? This is all just a common imagination anyway, it's not like DH is real. If the players agree that you are a Apothecary then that's what matters.

This is even more advantagous when trying to "branch" out character types. In DH to become a Lieutenant you need to go through the ranks from Conscript and learn basic grunt stuff. Never mind that the Career is supposed to represent everything from Penal Legionaires to Hive Thugs. In real life however a wannabe officer does not work up his way through the ranks, and it has been this way since the birth of professional militairies. Now there is such a thing as Officer Candidate School where potential officers get's the training and expertise they need that ordinary soldiers don't. While a veteran Sergeant may be as good a warrior or a better shot than many officers, it is their special training (and historically their high-class backgrounds) that seperates them from the masses of soldiers. So it doesen't make sense that in order to make a leader type soldier, an officer really, you need to be the basic stupid guardsman who only focuses on fighting and doesen't learn basic orientation skills until several sessions of play. Would it really be unbalanced to have such a character be able to have leadership skills, tactics etc?

The whole other drawback of the career system is the actual names/titles used - should they have any impact in the game? When an Arbitrator goes away on a long mission to a far away planet he may gain enough xp to go from Abitrator to Justicar in a fairly short time span and without there being any in-game reason for the major promotion. Also does this mean he has the power of a Justicar, which I now hear is one of the highest in the Arbites... despite the fact that he has done nothing to improve his actual rank?

 

 

However there is one major drawback with an open system like in Shadowun: Time. The more freedom you have, the more choises you have and thus the slower and harder it becomes to create a character. And the beauty in WHFRPG (2nd ed) was just that you could create a new characer in no time. Sure it meant the straightjacket careers there were even more limited than in DH, but the premise remains that rolling up a character and taking your first few 100 xp on talent, skills etc. is a pretty easy and quick process.

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H.B.M.C. said:

 

I'm really surprised by the amount of people who don't like the 'Class/Career/Rank' system. As far as I see it, a system where you don't have that and can just buy anything is more open to 'meta-gaming'. If there was no structure of progression why wouldn't you take the best upgrades to start with?

 

 

What do you mean by "best" ? More powerful ? More appropriate for the character ? More funny to play ? I remember playing a fixer type of guy in a gangster game. Due to my choices in character creation, my character was totally useless in a fight and carried no weapons anyway. As any upgrade that had to do with hitting or shooting people wouldn't have made much of a difference, I never picked any. That didn't mean my character wasn't extremely competent at what he did and wasn't known by half the city as the guy to go see whan you need something 'special".

H.B.M.C. said:



I mean, could you imagine playing, say, Diablo II except there are no different character class. There's just one class, who can take every skill, spell and special ability in the game? Where would be the sense of identity beyond the one in your own head?

BYE

 

 

 

Being a trained physician does not only matter in your head. I'm pretty sure the patients care too. Yet some physicians can also be very good at hunting deers.

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Cifer said:

 

No, IMO the solution is making the XP-gain dependant on the actual danger presented by the encountering of the drawback.

 

I did say that the system is not perfect.  It's something to consider if you're looking for alternatives, feel free to make whatever modifications you like to the system I proposed (up to and including ignoring me and going to look for something different.)
 

H.B.M.C. said:

 

I mean, could you imagine playing, say, Diablo II except there are no different character class. There's just one class, who can take every skill, spell and special ability in the game? Where would be the sense of identity beyond the one in your own head?

 

Debating classed vs classless RPG mechanics is sort of like debating vanilla vs chocolate ice cream.  Everyone has a personal preference.  Some people like one but not the other, some people like both, others like neither and generally go for a third option.  It's all a question of what you have fun playing with.

Classless systems (assuming they're well-designed) will generally be built so that all of the options available for a given cost are roughly equal in benefit.  As such, there is no "best" choice, there's only your choice.  More powerful options will cost more, and therefore take longer to acquire.  Depending on how the system is set up, you might be able to sink all your points into one really powerful option, in which case, bully for you.  You have exactly one thing that you can do, and you're really good at it, but you're useless anywhere that it can't be applied.  I still think that's balanced.

Some players will say "obviously the combat skills are the best."  Others will say "my ability to charm the ever-loving crap out of anyone who gets in my way is unbeatable!"  At the end of the day it's just about what you want to play, and hopefully your GM has the werewithal to play up everyone's advantages so that you all have fun.

To answer your question, yes, I can see myself playing a game like Diablo II without classes.  And loving it.  My character will be distinguished by the gear I'm wearing (visually) and by my own unique brand of combat (mechanically.)  I would argue that the sense of identity in my own head is the single most important sense of identity in a role-playing game.  Even more important in a class-based game than a classless one, since the identity in my head is the only thing that differentiates my dragonborn great weapon fighter from the other 20-odd dragonborn great weapon fighters that me and my firends have made over the years.

If classless systems make your head spin, you should check out free-form RPGs like Bust or the quasi-theological game Children of Fire to really melt your brain.  (Both of those are free downloads for anyone who's interested, btw.)  Like I said before, it's a question of what flavour you like.  Some people like one style, others like something else.  There's nothing wrong with having a difference of opinion.

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