April 15, 2011

Replacing classes with skill areas

I have wrestled with the question of whether Gaia Gamma should have a class based system. The first outline for the table of content and the character generation outline already hinted at my decision: Gaia Gamma won't have a class system. Let me explain my reasoning.

Whenever I play science fiction games (or Gamma games at that) I feel rather restrained by class systems, a lot more so than in traditional fantasy. Probably because the archetypes in traditional fantasy seem to be (except for nuances) a lot clearer than in SF oriented games.

Thus I decided not to try to find an appropriate range of character classes for Gaia Gamma but rather simulating them "the other way round" by grouping skills into skill areas. I seem to remember having seen this approach first in the venerable Swordbearer, but I'd have to pull it out of my collection to check.

At character creation you then prioritize your skill areas basically expressing on what skills you spent more time and which ones you neglected in favor of other ones.

In order to retain a fast character generation system I so far intend to limit the number of skill areas strictly: to a total of six. These six skill areas are:

  • General
  • Combat
  • Roguery
  • Knowledge
  • Science
  • Interaction
Each skill group will have at most six skills, maybe even less.

During character generation the player then distributes priorities ranked from 1 to 4 among those skill areas (1 being best, 4 being worst). Priorities 1 to 3 may be distributed but once to express the specialization of the particular characters (the general skill area additionally will be ranked 2 for everyone). Skill area priorities have several effects:
  • Priority 1 and 2 grants additional attribute bonusses (helping non-PSHs and even further enhancing PSHs). Priority 1 in combat e.g. might grant Strength+2, Dexterity+1 and Toughness +1. Priority 2 in Knowledge might grant Intelligence+1. The general skill area does not provide any special bonusses.
  • Base skill scores will be determined randomly when the skill is initially gained (something taken from e.g. Boot Hill 3rd edition - another game I dearly love). Higher priorities yield higher base scores (on average, priority 3 might yield a base score of 3d6 while priority 4 might yield a base score of 2d6).
  • As this indicates attributes will not influence skills. This nicely allows to simulate the Groo effect (being an absolute klutz but at the same time excelling at sword play). But attributes will somewhat influence the effects caused by successful skill use (e.g. more damage in combat by high strength or more quality of work by high intelligence).
  • Higher priorities will make it easier to increase skill scores.
  • Higher priorities initially will grant more skills from the given area.
So in summary:
  • No classes but skill areas in Gaia Gamma.
  • Quick character generation despite a skill system because you just have to distribute the numbers 1, 2 and 3 among five skill areas.
  • Quick character generation because there is no skill point fiddling but skill scores initially are determined randomly.

1 comment:

  1. I prefer classless play as well, especially insomuch as it doesn't box you into a particular path of character progression. I'm about to start up a game of Mouse Guard which has a classless system centered around traits, skills, and "wises" in particular areas (i.e. you might have a boatcrafting skill from growing up on the coast and therefore also be coast-wise, granting you bonuses to tests involving coastal navigation). I can't report on how it plays out over a campaign, but I look forward to trying!

    We'll use canned characters for the first campaign, but I'm going to create a character skilled as a rabbit-wise loremouse who scouts around on rabbit back. : )