And it rocks! Great podcast, loved hearing about the early days of RPGObjects.
Chuck,Why do you like character classes as a design element in games so much?Kerry
I have played a lot of point based systems in my day, primarily GURPs and Hero, and those games have a lot to recommend them. However, I have a strong preference for classes and levels for a number of reasons.First, they make character generation faster. In a point based game, character generation can take DAYS. If you've ever seen a player dithering other which feat to take, you can multiply that by 500 if that same player were creating a character in a point-based system.Secondly, character classes make party construction much, much easier. If you look at point-based systems, it's much harder for characters to make sure they have a balanced party.Do you have the right mix of combat, skills, stealth and healing? In a class-based game, players can see the strengths and weaknesses of their party at a glance.I've seen many parties in GURPs that were the equivalent of an all-Brainiac Modern20 group. Finally, if the system allows for relatively free-form multi-classing, character classes don't even hinder a player's ability to get the character he wants much. One of the classic arguments against class-based D&D was "you can't make Conan".Well, once the multi-classing restrictions were largely lifted in d20, you can make Conan. Finally, I think levels are a more satisfying advancement system than just getting a few points every session, as tends to happen in point-based games.You get a larger bump in power, enough to really matter from a level.With point-based systems, players really have to be disciplined to grow their characters in a specific direction.Often times they're not, so you end up with a whole group of generalists, or ultra-specialists.Classes and levels take that onus off the player, letting him feel confident his character will grow in a well-balanced way without a lot of micro-management.
I'd also point out than an emphasis on party construction guided the Modern20 classes a lot. Modern20 classes are party roles.A lot of people don't like that approach, but it goes hand in hand with how I think classes should work and what they add to the play experience.While it might make sense to have a "fighter" and a "ranger" in D&D, where everyone can call on the collective unconscious of the Tolkien-Howardian mean to think "barbarian= Conan" "ranger=Aragorn", you immediately know what those characters add to the party.In Modern, this sort of archetypal-based system wouldn't work.What's a soldier? Is it the charismatic leader, like Dennis Haysbert's character in the Unit? Is it the deadly sniper from Saving Private Ryan? So rather than archetypes, I went for party roles, and tried to make each class strongly definable to allow for that "snapshot" effect of good classes.If a party has a Tank, a Brainiac, an Empath and a Star, they're going to be able to handle just about anything. Similarly, if a party has two Speedfreaks, a Brainiac and a Star, you know they're going to be very good out of combat, while in combat they're going to be relying on movement, hit and run tactics and coordinated strikes. In short, once you get to know the Modern20 classes, you can really get a feel for how a group is going to handle itself by its class breakdown.
Thanks for the eye-opening response.
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