View Full Version : D&D with no classes or levels?

2007-08-09, 01:23 PM
(Yes I know GURPS has already done this type of thing. I'm not interested in GURPS for various reasons which I do not wish to discuss here. If, however, a particular feature of GURPS is applicable in the discussion of this idea, feel free to mention it. Just don't tell me "GURPS already did this".)

So, one of the things a friend of mine and I have discussed a lot is the idea of an RPG with no level system. He began creating a completely home-brew RPG that had classes but no levels where you spend XP to purchase advancement in your class's various attributes and abilities. Rather than start from scratch, though, I recently thought of taking D&D 3.5e's list of classes, abilities, rules, feats, skills, etc. and just rewriting the character creation process to eliminate levels and classes completely.

The basic idea would revolve around spending some kind of points to obtain class features. Everything would have a price. So, for example, if I have earned X points to spend by adventuring, I could buy +1 BAB for Y points, or +1d6 sneak attack for Z points, or a level of spellcasting for W points. This would allow for completely custom characters that mix and match your favorite class features. Sure, some people will still just buy all the features of a Cleric and leave it at that, but I think this could be great for allowing really organic characters if the players get into it.

The hardest part of this would be pricing everything. I imagine a twentieth level character in a PHB base class as having spent, let's say, 2000 points. Thus, 100 points is equivalent to a level. So, taking a fighter as an example, +1 BAB, +1/2 fort save, +1/3 ref save, +1/3 will save, and half the cost of a feat should add up to 100 points. Based on this, a full level of spell casting should cost around 80 or 90 points (although I may subdivide that cost into purchasing additional spells known or spells per day or unlocking a new level of spells). Also, there may need to be some limiting factor on how far a single feature can be advanced (e.g. someone should not be able to have +20 BAB and nothing else at "level 5").

Do you think such a system is even possible? What are some of the potential pitfalls? Anybody got any thoughts? Advice? Cookies?

2007-08-09, 01:36 PM
I'd recommend that you tie your increasing abilities to Experience Points - these are already factored into the D&D mechanics.

Look at the amounts of features characters gain each level in the RAW, and how much XP they have to earn to get those, then try to break up the cost of those features.

Skill points should be relatively cheap, feats more expensive, spell slots should cost according to level, of course.

Also, one should factor in an increasing cost for more powerful features: in Cyberpunk 2020, Skill Points were bought with Improvement Points at a cost of the current Skill level x 10 for a 1 point increase - making it cost more as your skill increased.

You're looking at a lot of work here. It'd be easier to scrap classes and keep levels, or to scrap levels and keep classes - both is going to take a lot of work and not necessarily be worth the effort.

2007-08-09, 02:58 PM
I've actually created a system that has no classes and no levels, although it is no longer anything close to D&D. Personally, D&D is kind of too easily abused for my tastes.

Are you going to do killing things as getting you experience, or something else? Killing things alone makes it fairly limited, and will make the balancing of stuff fairly tough.

2007-08-09, 03:24 PM
I like the idea. It''ll be insanely hard to balance if you include a lot of abilities though. Because there are no separate classes, one character could grab so many random class features that normally require lots of levels in different classes.

One thing I think needs to be included (just the first thing to come to mind) is prerequisites for some things. You have to have X max hp before you can get y BAB. You have to have X ranks in spellcraft to get Y levels of spellcasting. Just something like that so you have to get related features instead of pumping every point you get into one feature.

The problem that comes to my mind with this, is that all the good abilites would have to be hidden behind enormous walls of conflicting prerequisites to prevent abuse... hmm. You've made me start thinking really hard. >.<

2007-08-09, 06:20 PM
It's probably not what you're looking for, but I have created a D&D conversion based on point-buy. It's in my sig (d20 total conversion). It is sort of homebrewed beond recognition as its name implies, but you might find some inspiration there.

2007-08-09, 08:36 PM
There's the really badly balanced BESM D20 thing, if you manage to understand what they did for PHB class breakdown according to their system, it works like that... only reason I say it's badly done, is basically a lack of in depth discussion of what they did. If you really want to change over DnD to a point buy system, I do recommend reading through a few point buy systems... Like Besm and a few others... also look at True 20... actually what you want to do sounds a lot like True 20... or Spycraft 2.0....

Rob Knotts
2007-08-10, 02:08 AM
One thing you could try is getting a copy of Mutants & Masterminds (d20, entirely point-based) and rework it to fit a fantasy setting. I honestly doubt it would be all that difficult, working in spells and weapons reminiscent of D&D would probably be the biggest hurdles.

2007-08-10, 07:16 PM
I've been thinking of a system where every protagonist would simply start as a "commoner" and basically the whole "1st level character creation" would only mean minimal customization on your attributes. I'll talk more about BAB, classes, saves, skills and feats later on.

There would be a total of 12 different attributes:

STR is divided into strength and speed, strength meaning muscular power that increases your max carrying weight, melee damage etc. and speed meaning how fast you're able to hit people with a fist or sword in melee, basically representing AB.

DEX is divided into agility and reflexes, agility meaning hand-eye coordination, balance, ability to move silently (pretty much every rogue skill), ranged AB and so on. Reflexes represent your reaction time, initiative, reflex save, and AC ya know, stuff like that.

CON is divided into endurance and stamina, where endurance works pretty much like constitution in dnd, your body's immunity system and general toughness of bones etc. and stamina representing how long you can run or fight, for example (a new factor, now even fighters have to rest, even if they've got plenty o' HP).

INT is divided into tactical- and analytical intelligence (figure out better names for these yourself), where tactical intelligence represents your cunning, ability to create plans, quick thinking, creativity, and generally how well you fare in mind games. Good for raising up certain skills and gaining entry for feats such as combat expertise.

Analytical intelligence represents your char's ability to learn, logical thinking, memorizing many complicated things and understanding abstract concepts. knowledge skills and the like, primary attribute for wizards.

WIS is divided into wisdom and perception. wisdom represents your ability to control your own emotions in stressful situations (in other words, how calm you are, absence of fear), your understanding of ethical concepts (note: I'm not saying wisdom = good) and the ability to clear your mind of distracting thoughts. Will save and concentration skills come from here.

Perception represents the acuteness of your senses, whether they be vision, hearing or sense of smell. Not only you have better senses than most people, you can also understand other's body language well. Obviously, this stat commands the skills of spot and listen plus entry requirements for some classes along with some feats.

(I'm having a hard time deciding whether sense motive should be affected by wisdom or perception. See, perception allows you to read body language and thus helps catching liars and manipulators. wisdom on the other hand, grants you insight on people's motives in certain situations and so on)

CHA is divided into personality and mystical traits (again find a better name, this attribute basically represents your skill in magical devices, the sorcerer's casting, how powerful your pally and cleric abilities are ie. turn undead and the power of spell like abilities, increasing their DCs).

Personality basically affects how you are perceived in the world, your ability to fake body language, the things that make a storyteller a good story teller or a comedian a good comedian. It also manges your personal beliefs and skills such as intimidate or perform.

I left appearance out as I fell there should be a separate meter for that, that appearance would do is giving certain circumstance bonuses to charisma based skill checks. However, you couldn't utilize it on creatures with with a radically different race, or any creature with gender as "none". Example: A charming elf woman gets -2 to her appearance modifier when talking to a dwarf and the modifier reverts to 0 regardless of where it was (even from negative) when she interacts with beholders.

Now that we have gone through the attributes, let's talk about classes.

In this system, there wouldn't really be actual classes like ranger, but by cherry picking certain abilities or "feats", you could easily create a ranger flavor-wise. So how do you get to pick new abilities? By gaining XP of course.

I understand D&D is a combat oriented game and people don't want to play gardeners through the whole campaign. I also understand that we need a simple way to calculate how much XP you get from this and that. So I think killing is probably the only reasonable source of XP (aside from occasional diplomacy using, enslaving or imprisoning opponents) After all, this is no runescape. The downside for this is, you can be a mage who does nothing but bashes people with a club, yet still learns new spell levels.

Mkay, lets say I want to make a ranger. well, I go and massacre a bunch of critters and ding! i get to pick something from a list of class ability feats that could mean I get more BAB or I get more sneak attack or I get 0 level spells. I'll probably take some BAB and put some skill points in animal empathy and knowledge wilderness. This way I get more ranger oriented feats and one of those could be trackless step or an animal companion. (Note: the first CA feats would probably not have any prereqs but high level ones like crippling strike certainly would have, both CA feats and normal feats). Better saves would also require CA feats to use. Clearly this type of system requires you to get a lot more feats as you gain experience. I was thinking something along the lines of 2 CA feat per level. By the way, your "level" would be calculated from your existing experience, as you don't have any concrete levels. And challenges would be adjusted accordingly.

For skills, remove the cross-class skill idea completely and allow any class to take any skill. Though maybe use magic device and animal empathy should have a class ability feat that you'd have to take before being able to invest skill points in them. so that we wouldn't have every fighter using UMD.


2007-08-10, 09:30 PM
There was a system on the WOTC forums that you might like
i uses levels but flows much more organically


2007-08-10, 10:09 PM
One thing you could try is getting a copy of Mutants & Masterminds (d20, entirely point-based) and rework it to fit a fantasy setting. I honestly doubt it would be all that difficult, working in spells and weapons reminiscent of D&D would probably be the biggest hurdles.

As mentioned by someone else, that is True20. Made by Green Ronin, same makers of MnM. I just picked up the main rules on 'free game day' and the companion about a week ago. I love it!


Rob Knotts
2007-08-10, 10:16 PM
As mentioned by someone else, that is True20. Made by Green Ronin, same makers of MnM. I just picked up the main rules on 'free game day' and the companion about a week ago. I love it!I own both systems, and while they share some of the same basic rules, True20 uses both classes and levels, and the special abilities for the characters work somewhat differently than powers in M&M.