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Default Rampant Games - Class-based vs Skill-based

December 10th, 2009, 05:36
The Rampant Coyote's latest post looks at class-based vs skill-based character development and the difficulties in getting the latter right. I feel he misses some obvious examples for the different systems but, as usual, it's an interesting question:
When I "graduated" from Dungeons & Dragons to other dice-and-paper RPGs back in my teens, I became a big fan of skill-based systems. It was The One True Way of RPGs. I dismissed class-based, level-based games as merely quaint but entertaining relics of a bygone era to me. It took a few years before I came back around in my thinking and learned to re-appreciate the strengths of class-based games. I like both styles pretty equally nowadays.

But with computer RPGs, I lean towards class-based systems. This isn't a matter of preference, but practicality. I would love to play some more, well-done skill-based CRPGs, and my hat is off to those developers bold enough to build them. But it's tough to do well. Very tough.
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December 10th, 2009, 05:36
Oh, the original article was actually twice as long, and was comparing experiences in several different games. But it was long and rambling and boring. So I cut it in half, so now it's shorter and rambling and boring.
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December 10th, 2009, 11:03
I always preferred skill-based systems, based on a strong dislike for the rigid nature of most class-based systems.

However, I must say that the way D&D 3-3.5 handles it has resulted in the most entertaining system I'm aware of that's been used in computer games.

That said, I think the SPECIAL system is pretty close and it's a shame they messed it up in Fallout 3. Probably the best skill-based system out there.
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December 10th, 2009, 12:39
I am glad to hear that the idea of a GameMaster AI is taking root. Definitely an area that could use some spirited development.
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December 10th, 2009, 15:21
I actually prefer class based systems, well, since I prefer group based RPGs, so I can assign different classes to different characters (and deciding what classes to have in the party is half the fun), and I even think it's more "realistic". Skill based systems to me are sort of boring too, you pretty much always end up with a hybrid that can heal.
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December 10th, 2009, 15:47
Actually, SPECIAL has one significant flaw: you can become about as good as you will ever need to be in skills at a very low level. You can easily get skills over 100 by 3rd (or 5th? it's been a while) level.
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December 10th, 2009, 16:35
Originally Posted by BillSeurer View Post
Actually, SPECIAL has one significant flaw: you can become about as good as you will ever need to be in skills at a very low level. You can easily get skills over 100 by 3rd (or 5th? it's been a while) level.
Yeah, but 100 isn't max unless we're talking about the horrible Fallout 3.
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December 10th, 2009, 17:47
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Yeah, but 100 isn't max unless we're talking about the horrible Fallout 3.
No, but raising most skills above that is fairly useless. Think of it this way, I leave the vault and after shooting a few rats I become one of the best doctors (or whatever) in the world!
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December 10th, 2009, 18:17
Originally Posted by BillSeurer View Post
No, but raising most skills above that is fairly useless. Think of it this way, I leave the vault and after shooting a few rats I become one of the best doctors (or whatever) in the world!
I don't really agree.

Especially weapon skills are highly useful way past 100%. This is because hitting eyes at long range and similar takes a lot more than 100%.

That's not to say some of the skills can't effectively "max out" relatively soon, but progress is retained through the perks system. Tag skills increase by 3% (IIRC) - which leaves plenty of levels before you reach 100%.

I think it's a great system overall, but no system is flawless.

Also, realism is not my main concern. My main concern is the sensation of meaningful progress - and each level should represent a tangible step forward. That's the most vital aspect of any character system - and yet so very few designers understand that.
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December 11th, 2009, 22:22
Class based is pretty much required in a grouping game, online, etc.. Raid encounters and the like are designed around a 'well-rounded- group makeup, which may not ever be the case should everyone be a hybrid built up by their own skill choices.
In mostly solo type rpgs, I tend to like the skill based system, or as some have mentioned the special system, to keep you from totally gimping your dumb self.
UO is my most memorable skill based game, and it had problems because it tried to apply too much 'real logic' to character building. Want to be a blacksmith? have to have high strength. Have enough strength and pick up a bow for a while and oops, you just lost some strength and gained dexterity and now you can't blacksmith or shoot a bow worth a damn.. lol (yes, they eventually invented skill locks etc. to keep this from happening)
I see a place for all the systems depending on the overall game design.
I've finished Fallout 3 a dozen times with different characters with almost all the dlc's except the space ship one.. and I didn't notice any glaring issues.. /shrugs
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December 12th, 2009, 00:11
FO3s skill system issues are

a) lots of useless skills (most skill based systems have this problem)
b) you'll probably max out most skills in a playthrough (pretty much in the vein of the TES games)

It was harder to be a jack of all trades in the earlier Fallouts.

Obviously class based systems are easier to balance and implement, but I feel that actually building up your character tends to be less interesting in such games if the development is too railroaded. And a class based system that allows a lot of customisation (for instance 3rd edition AD&D which I like) wont play all that differently compared to a skill based system.
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December 12th, 2009, 11:19
Most Swedish RPG's are skillbased rather than levelbased. Our group have played since 1993 and it's usually the case that people have maxed out "often used" skills and have zero in "less rarely used". This means that a wizard will have 20 in magic as a starting character but will still have 0 in languages as an epic character, or a street thug have 20 in firearms as a starting character but 0 in streetwise as an epic character. Some of the skillsystems were awful in just pouring skills at you which you had not enough points to afford even a realistic character, and you naturally had zero in the stuff you hadn't invested in.

This is one of the reasons I begun to like classbased systems more and more even if there are things I don't like with those either. I kinda like how they often "spread out" your abilities when things like defense, attack and skills are separated and you get some in all three in every level. I do loathe the idea of prestige classes that have been used in D&D3 and Star Wars Saga Edition. When it comes to both classes and skills I always go for "less is more". Starting with few classes/abilities and expanding the core ones use from one book of another rather than adding a new one is a much better way to build a game since it allows more diversity.

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December 12th, 2009, 11:54
Most Swedish RPG's are skillbased rather than levelbased
Skill-based and level-based systems are not mutuallly exclusive concepts. We're talking about class-based vs skill-based (as in less rigid character structure). Levels can be a part of both - and indeed often are.
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