Who Needs Classes?

Each night, I discuss things with other games to get a better feel for this system, what I want out of it, and how I should proceed with it. Tonight I had one of those discussions with an old friend of mine who I used to play with every other week when I still lived in Florida. He is as big a RPG-geek as I am and probably knows more rules systems than I do. So with that, here is the evolution of Transcendence.

Basically, I want to stay with a d20 base. Its simple, its straightforward, and it works pretty well. So with that in mind, I feel that for now at least, its best to just go with a simple d20 plus modifiers for actions. Its easy to do, most people can roll one die and add a few numbers fairly quickly, so it has a low point of entry.

There are a few things I want to change though. Modifications based on past games I’ve played and run, as well as things I want to do a new take on to fit my Xenomega campaign.

Attributes are the centerpiece of the game. I still like my nine attributes in a grid. There is one attribute for every section, they are roughly analogous across the three types, and each one has a specific and unique place in the game and setting. They will still be of a similar range as in old style d20, so roughly from 0- infinity with 3-18 being the human norm. I will keep those.

Now for skills. For the Power and Finesse attributes, each has four skills. These are broken up so that each attribute has a dependent number of skills, and they cover the broad range of skills needed in the setting without having any be too specific or useable in only specific instances. Each skill fits a need, and I think I have everything covered that needs a skill for it.

But at the core of d20 is the race/class combination for a player character. Races are fine, I’ll keep those and add to them. But I have an issue with classes. In a post apocalyptic setting, I don’t think classes fit as well as they do in a fantasy setting. A character may pick up a new skill with a weapon or technology they’ve never used before. They might develop a new mutation or a learn a spell from a wandering mage, but nothing more. I don’t want my characters to be limited in what they can do, and at the same time, I don’t want them to be able to do anything at all imaginable. Since things like spells and prayers can be learned, it should be possible to pick up a smidgen of arcane knowledge without becoming a full-fledged mage. The character might not be very good with the arcane arts, but they can still learn the methods and practice and use it in the future. For this reason, I am abolishing classes completely. I will be going through as many d20 books as I can find and taking out class abilities and turning them into feats that any player can take. And that leads us to…

Feats are things that add special abilities or new ways to use the rules. Feats have been around since beginning of the 3e era, with some being poor choices and others being so crazy good that everyone took them. I want most of them to be relatively balanced, but also have enough of them that characters will be completely unique from one another. Feats can be things like advanced skill expertise, casting a spell, a special combat technique, and so forth. There will be feat trees, paths that require one to have the predecessor in order to advance farther, as well as some feats that can be taken multiple times and their bonuses stack. Along with skills, feats are core to the system in defining a character and detailing what they can and cannot do.

Finally, there are levels. We don’t need levels. While some games use levels to determine strength and thus opponent’s strength, in Xenomega, I don’t think levels are needed. There will be some creatures that will be hard to kill, no matter who you are or how experienced you may be. When writing out the monsters and challengers, I’ll have to figure out some way of telling the GM how powerful something is, but I am hoping it becomes self-evident. As characters progress in Xenomega, they will get more powerful. They will accrue Experience Points which can be spent to increase attributes, skills, or buy new feats. Their character sheet will grow and it should become obvious what they can handle and the GM should be able to fine tune challenges to their abilities.

And that is the basics for now. Of course, all of this may change as Transcendence evolves into a complete game. I’ll start working on the structure tomorrow, then begin putting it all together.

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