Sunday, November 15, 2009

Class based vs Skill based vs Someting else

As I have been reading DragonQuest the last week, I've realized it is a very peculiar mix of a class based, skill based system and just Something Else. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. Today I got a small reminder of a sensible way to approaching designing games.

In DragonQuest you usually roll against your stats, but there's also skills. Now, skills are not skills the way I'm used to them. A skill can, for example, be Troubador. The Troubador can charm people, have some ability with magic, plays music and can disguise himself. Don't you think it looks kind of familiar? At least to me it looks a lot like the Bard class in D&D. You pay Experience Points to buy Ranks in the skill Troubador, and gain new abilities for every rank, or increasing the proficiency with the abilities already gained.

So I guess this could almost be described as a class, but one which is optional if you'd rather pay for ranks in your weapons, or buy increases to your stats. Naturally you could also buy ranks in spells, or different skills if you have EP to spare. Now it do sound more like a pure skill based system, or does it?

You might say that I come to my subject with preconceived notions of how a game system is to be constructed. Fair enough, I do have some expectations and they are coloured by how common games look. I don't think I've seen any game before where buying a skill gives you all those effects that buying, say, Troubador, gives you in DragonQuest.

Talking about a common reference makes me think of Tunnels & Trolls. In that game system everything you do involves your stats. Even though there's a lot of rules in DraqonQuest, it explicitly say that you roll against a stat to succeed. Many of the procedures included do just that. So, obviously it's a lot like T&T. But, it still have those skills which at least look a lot like classes. What a wonderful mix of ways to approach roleplaying rules!

When you sit there with your familiar game, wondering why anyone ever would need anything else I think this is the answer. I love to collect and read lots of different games, because something comes around that expands your mind. A designer of games should read at least twenty before starting their own. Try it, it's fun.


  1. I am the same way, but sometimes I wish I'd started with one game and simply stuck to it. As it is, I have so many different ideas of how to do things in RPG rules, that I find it hard to just accept a game as-is and actually play the darn thing. I have dozens of abandoned rules and house rules I have wasted time on over the years.

  2. Some of us are tinkerers by heart. That's how it is.

    Personally I'm right now lacking a regular game, which makes it harder not to.

  3. I sadly find myself in Anonymous's camp. I no longer think of new(to me) games as something to play but rather something to raid for good ideas to incorporate into my mega-houseruled game that will never be finished/played.

  4. I was orphaned a long time ago because game designers all followed each other around. D&D begat the lineage of cloning and "improving" it by adding details and changing details around until it was no longer D&D. Without actually making it a better game -- just a different game.

    T&T remained quiet stable; its one idea I've seen little cloning of. SPI put out heavy skill based d100 games like Universe and Dragonsquest; TSR had Star Frontiers and others made their d100 games. When Savage Worlds came out I was noticed how several people started designing games based on d4/d6/d8 skill rolls. Die pool games like West End Games d6 begat each other.

    None of those are pure father-begatting-son examples, just examples of how people designed games based more on each other's ideas than their own.

    Where are the original designers? Gygax and Arneson are dead and others tend to remain in hiding. Many of today's "game designers" are "game house rulers", taking other people's games and house ruling them and claiming to be a game designer.

    People can play with games all they want. What I personally would like to see are designers isolated on a desert island with only references for common things (not games) designing games from scratch. Stop ripping off other people's ideas and "improving" them by slapping them together into monsterosities -- and actually take the time to think their own out.

    I was orhpaned by the hobby early on because, while I liked the hobby, the games I found were not perfect and needed to be improved to suit my needs. instead, the designers in it started spending more time ripping off each others ideas than trying to make fun games to play for people like me.

  5. Take a peek at some of the indie/Forge games, and some 24h games. Innovation can still be found.

    I'm not sure it's all that valuable as an end in itself, though.


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