Creative Corner > Game Design

A Class-Based System W/O Levels?

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Hello, everyone, I have a question for you all, and this seems to be the best place to put it:

How difficult do you think it would be to make an RPG without any form of (directed) advancement?

What got me thinking about this was an idle thought, oh, 2 years ago? about a joke variant for the d20 system called d1, where everyone played 1st level characters and leveling was removed in the name of "simplification." I think I had it so you could still get minor boosts to skill points as you progress.

But anywho, that idea got tabled for being excessively silly; I mean, seriously silly.

But, I remembered a website recently; the author of has a challenge where he will eventually write up 300 different mechanics, for video-games or for board games, and in a recent read-through, this idea caught my eye.

Now, what I basically thought of, to bring it into the realm of P&P gaming, was:
1. There are 3 types of classes; temporary and its subtype forced, and permanent.
2. Temporary classes are a one-time use; you use the portal-mage class to open a gate to another realm, or the technician class to operate a machine, then they are gone. They represent small bursts of ingenuity, and all that jazz; a forced class would be something like Mind-Controled or Poisoned.
3. Permanent classes are core features of a character; you can slap 'em on or take 'em off, but you don't lose them if you do so.
4. Each player can only hold so many classes at once; I would think restricting it to maybe 2 permanent classes and 3 temporary classes at a time sounds like a worthy idea, though uncapping Forced classes sounds like it would be in order.
5. Each class is tiered, like in the linked example, though permanent classes would have a range (so the portal-mage class might be 3rd tier, while a basic Mage class might be 1-3 tiers.) This determines the order of stacking.

And finally, the whammy idea...

6. You don't get to pick what classes you have; temporary classes are given out as loot, bought in a shop, or can be freely added in given circumstances (you could grab a Medbay Operator class when you were in a medbay, for example), while Permanent classes must be bought (A big shiny suit of armor), or earned (slaying a dragon might give you the Dragonslayer class permanently).
7. Each class is a physical card; the entirety of the rules for that class should be able to fit on said card.

To give an example, let's write out a Mage card:

Tier: 1-3
Type: Permanent
Ability: Spellcaster: You can apply a Temporary class with the subtype [spell] as a Forced class to one target within X range.

OK, that sounds nice, but what about spells?

Tier: 5
Type: Temporary [Spell]
Ability: You are attacked by someone with a skill roll of [X]; the damage is fire based. Remove this class after resolving the attack.

I'm thinking this would be layered over a really simplified combat/social system (maybe FATE based?), and each card carries its own rules, so...

It would be like playing M:tG, the RPG, which is not something I'm afraid to do.
An additional point to note; the above classes took me literally 10 seconds each to think up. And, stop to consider this for a moment...

Homebrew just got really easy.

Of course, Gentleman's Agreement to stop people from adding their own outside cards to their "loot hand" should be in effect.

Just found this.

A system without levels works. GURPS.

A class-based system without levels... well...
Your system here is very interesting. I would not call it a class-based system. More of a status-based system. You have permanent statuses and Can inflict forced statuses upon others. Buying loot gives you temporary statuses... Essentially the whole thing is highly dissociated from any sort of fluff. You can give any explanation for having the High-Jump temporary status (as an example), but the only rules on the matter are that it cost 500 moneys and stops working after 50 uses (or whatever). Jet boots? Steroids? Mounted wings?

The system sounds extremely fun in a group with a lot of imagination. I can honestly say that if someone took the time to make a huge list of statuses, I would play it--maybe even buy it.

You could make actual cards and maybe even throw in variant rules to add randomization to capitalize on the natural deck state. Whatevs.

You have something here, Amechra!

Thanks! I was trawling through the 300 Mechanics section on, and found a simple idea for a card-based system kinda like this, so I yoinked it. Then I got to thinking about the encounter deck rules that Miniatures Handbook has... Basically, it lets you have random encounters, based off cards that you draw, that can be easily customized so that, for example, the wolves only show up with their Goblin Handler, or whatever.

I'll be thinking further about these rules... (and yeah, Statuses are better names for them; Classes are because computer programming.)

And, you want to know something funny? I've had this private joke with myself that at one point I will totally make E1 for DnD (Like E6 but it only goes up to 1st level! Tremble before the unholy might of a cow!)

I like this.

Fireballed as a class seems a bit awkward, and the spellcasting didn't seem to account for spells that affects more than one target. Possible solution: let spellcasters apply (lower tier?) classes to multiple targets.
A fireball is when you apply the burned class to several people.

My first system ever didn't have levels, but did contain something like classes. I may be able to find some of that, if you'd like to use some ideas.

Hmm, I like that.

Might as well combine this with my "minimal math" RPG idea. So one status could be "Damaged", which would make certain other Statuses stronger.

Then "Burned" could be like:
"Counts as the Damaged status, but is destroyed if affected by another Burned status."

Spellcaster could be affecting multiple, Wu-Xin could be applying one as part of an attack (replacing Tier I damage with Tier I Burned, or whatever.)

Another idea is having something like:
Damaged Tier I
Damaged Tier II
Damaged Tier III

Where applying Damaged Tier I multiple times worsens their condition until they die. A Warrior card might replace the generic Damaged I status that everyone inflicts with Damage II, for example.

So, my thoughts: each character has a couple basic Statuses that they can inflict or use on themselves; stuff like Damaged I, Fatigued I (for after they sprint), Angered I (Taunts could inflict this.), and so on.

And then, as treasure, characters get cards that alter how statuses work; each character will have 5 "Tiers" of cards they can have applied to them, in the order of I, II, III, IV, and V. When a status is inflicted, it fills up one of those slots (so Damaged I will fill in the first "orbit", as it were, destroying your, say, Armor (Tier I, Disposable), which made it hard to hit). A natural consequence of this (besides supplying a neat little damage track) is that Classes and other real important stuff would take higher Tiers (So Spellcaster could be applied to any Tier that was above III.)

Damaged I+ might have a clause that doesn't let you remove it unless you apply the Healed status of an equal or higher Tier, which would heal all damage of lower Tiers.

But a key bit of this would be that Tiers I, II, and partially III would all be temporary stuff that would be thrown out of whack by being hit and damaged, while partially III, IV, and V would all be more permanent things.

Of course, some cards would mess around with these basic rules; like Berserker might only be allowed to be placed into the Tier III slot, but can't be replaced by Damaged III, so you thus can't die through Damage, or whatever.


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