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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Zero Classes

More on the major changes I'm contemplating for Liber Zero. Traditional old-school fantasy role-playing games explain everything about creating characters first, including picking a class. In fact, considering how ability scores can range from having only a slight impact on the game to determining what race and class a character can be, character class is the only consistently important part of character creation. What characters actually do (how to handle combat, what happens when you encounter a trap, etc.) may actually be glossed over in the player section of the rules, relegated to the GM section.

I want to invert that. Describe ability scores, hit dice/hit points, and movement first, then basically everything you need to play the game without any character classes, as "zero level" mundane types. I suppose that seems similar to DCC RPG, but I'm not necessarily talking about a "character funnel"; I'm talking about how to handle mundane challenges, in case someone wants to use the game for historical or non-fantastic adventure.

In fact, I'm also considering including my background system as a sort of simple skill system, so that it will be easy to tailor character creation to specific settings. I probably won't include very detailed rules about defining what is and is not a background; I can reserve that for Liber Blanc, the supplement. So what this would look like is a slightly more defined but open-ended version of the Secondary Skills system from the DMG.

The classes would be defined after explaining how to handle classless play, as if they were an add-on. I'm thinking of naming the core classes HeroMagician, and Talent. Thieves would be Talents, but there would be brief examples of other talents, like Charmer. A fourth optional class would be Hybrid, which would include clerics (Hero/Magician Hybrid,) but there would also be examples of Hero/Talent and Magician/Talent Hybrids. How far I would go with describing class variants is still up in the air, but it's possible I could go full-bore and include an updated version of the class construction system. But most likely, I'd reserve that (and the many write-ups I've posted here) for later publications.

I figure I need to make changes like this because I'm going to include the rudiments of the level titles. The class names above are the default (mid-level) title, but there would be a beginner title, a high-level title, and the "name-level" title. Other than beginners, the titles wouldn't be linked to specific levels; the mid-level title applies once the character is "about hero level", the higher-level title can kick in any time a couple levels later, and "name-level" kicks in once the character does something specific, like build a castle.

Sound too radical yet?


  1. (Shameless opinions follow.)

    Like you, I prefer to consider characters as adventurers first (the mundane part) and specialists (the class part) second. Characters of different classes have more in common than in contrast. You don't say that explicitly here, but you have before, and I think it is implicit in the organization proposed above. I struggle with this organization myself, so I'm not sure if it will work well, but I like the idea theoretically.

    Regarding the class names, there is a grammatical mismatch. While one can say that "someone is a great talent," that is non standard, and I think as a general purpose noun will read awkwardly. A hero or magician is something someone is, whereas a talent is something someone has.

    1. On "talent": Maybe. But I've heard "talent" as a noun for people in the entertainment industry, for example. It didn't seem weird to me.

      The one everyone seems to use when they broaden the thief concept is "Expert". But, to me, that implies ordinary training. I wanted to suggest someone who excels above what is natural. In the past, I said "Gifted", but that probably has the same problems as "Talent".

  2. First, "talent" sounds fine to me, "gifted" would be more awkward, I guess.

    Second, I hope you will include those class construction rules in Liber Zero for they communicate structure very well.

    1. The hard part is deciding how much of the class construction rules is too much. I think I'm OK with mentioning a couple variant spell acquisition and item creation options for the Magician, plus some examples of changing a Talent's abilities. I might not include the full class construction rules, though, just three base Hybrid classes plus the clerical Turn option.

      Plus, by the time I have Liber Zero in a releasable form, maybe I'll still be thinking over some features of the class construction rules? Might want to delay including stuff that could change.

  3. If you look at The Fantasy Trip, you might find many good ideas there. This is the basis of the characters there. You can easily ignore the dice mechanics and port to d20 if you wished.