Thursday, April 26, 2018

Why I'm Anti Class and Level

Like most gamers, my first table-top RPG was Dungeons and Dragons. I didn't start quite early enough to have played First Edition. No, I came in with Advance Dungeons and Dragons, Second Edition. The basics are the same as First, just with more stuff attached. A player in the game decides on a character to play, choosing between Fighters, Magic Users, Clerics, and Rogues, and starting out at 1st level. As one adventures, the character gains experience points until, at a set number, the character increases in level, gaining more skills and abilities.

All of that is great, until you look at it from a more objective sense. If you were to place a 1st Level Fighter up against a 10th Level Fighter, it would be no contest. Each level, a Fighter gains 1d10 Hit Points, meaning that the maximum a 1st Level Fighter could have would be 10, and the max the 10th level could have would be 100. That means that the 1st Level guy has to do 10 times the amount of damage to win that the 10th Level guy does. The odds of this happening at pretty slim before our 1st level guy croaks.

A little while after I started playing AD&D, I also started playing the West End Games version of the Star Wars RPG. In this game, there are no classes or levels. Oh, there are templates that you can use to start out with, but nothing like a class. This game is entirely skill based, meaning that as you go along, you increase your skills or gain new ones.

Similarly, I played the Marvel Superheroes RPG, put out by TSR, the same people behind AD&D. This game had Powers and Skill, that you could use your Karma rewards from adventures to increase.

In either Marvel or Star Wars, it was conceivable that a lower level character could take down someone much more powerful. The way the dice rolls were structured you had the possibility of shifting your result up high enough to take down a much more formidable opponent. It wasn't easy, but it was a lot more likely than rolling a critical in AD&D.

Increasing skills and abilities over time, but physically staying pretty much the same just makes more sense to me. I could get healthier and stronger, but there's no way that I would be 10 times harder to kill because of it. I could increase my fighting abilities, though, and that would make me much more effective in combat.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy playing class & level games. I'm in a (mostly) monthly Pathfinder campaign that it really fun. But if I'm choosing a game, I'm going to lean more towards things like WEG Star Wars, Marvel Superheroes, or Pendragon than AD&D.

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