Quick Note - Class vs Skill based characters

Quick Note – Class vs Skill Based characters
One thing that I have become quite used to in the many Western RPGs I play is the openness of character design on the part of the player. I don’t mean the more casual things like being able to make a 400lbs, 7’7” tall blue man who wears nothing but a lion cloth, but more along the lines that this same blue man can run around with a long sword, beating the crap of lizard men before finally shoving his giant blue hand in their face and casting lightening.
If blue man had been a traditional table top character he would have been rather boned. Sure he could have multi-classed but part of something is still a whole of nothing. A fighter/Mage would have a horrible spell check failure due to the needs of armor for the close to the line stuff and the hp and to-hit vs AC would also suffer due to the nature of multi-classing.
Now, some people will tell me that this is what systems like Fate are for, to be able to approach character creation with wild abandoned. I don’t disagree, I think that Fate is a wonderful system for that (even if I can’t wrap my head around it enough to play), however, I think the framework of the traditional d20 model would work as well …
First let use assume the creation of three generic skills:
1.       Magical
2.       Martial
3.       Espionage
All three of those “generic skills” are easily linked to the traditional  six attributes of the original fantasy roleplaying game.
Marital – Strength and Constitution
Magical – Intelligence and Wisdom
Espionage – Dexterity and Charisma

From the three generic skills we can then split into six sub-generic skills:
1.       Magical
a.       School of the Divine
b.      School of the Arcane
2.       Martial
a.        School of the Sword (or other hitty object)
b.      School of the Shield (Otherwise known as the school of the eyepatch J )
3.       Espionage
a.       School of Silence
b.      School of the Mask

Each generic skill would be able to be trained in at the beginning of the game. Let us say 1d6 skill points at character creation that could be placed in any of the generic skills.

Example: John wants to play an uber-strong barbarian thief from the northlands who abhors magic and believes civilization has made city-folk weak and ripe for the taking. John rules a 4 for his beginning skill points and places 3 in Martial and one in Espionage.
This means now when John wants to sneak around he adds his Espionage rank into the roll with whatever modifier he receives for the action (in this case stealth).

                                                D20+Generic Skill Rank + Appropriate Attribute Modifier = Result

When a character moves from the first to the second level they receive another 1d6 worth of skill points. To “unlock” the individual schools the player would need to use two points. The sub-generic skills would be inline with their heading and linked attribute score. Defense skills with Constitution, offensive skills with Strength, so on and so forth. When roll after the sub-generic skills are unlocked the roll would look like this:

                D20+Generic Skill Rank + Sub Generic Skill Rank + Appropriate Attribute Modifier = Result

In the end, however, this is just pondering and I can rightly see any use of this moving the game away from its roots. Still it is an interesting thing to ponder and I wonder if possibly just to complex and already done VIA other systems.          


  1. While I would normally point to Bushido as a good class/skill hybrid, however it seems that you are trying to fix something that was broken for no reason initially. For years before D&D was published, Dave Arneson let magic users walk around in whatever armor they desired and use whatever weapon they wanted. His magic item tables even include magic swords that could only be used by magic-users and some that could only be used by Clerics! Dave invented clerics so the whole blunt weapon nonsense wasn't part of the original concept. Likewise, before the thief was invented, any ol' character could be all sneaky and such just by not wearing heavy armor.

    As D&D turned to AD&D, all the new classes they added forced the writers to restrict the existing classes to make room for the new ones. That's how we ended up in this mess.

    1. My wife wanted me to tell you that she agrees. Also, I never knew any of this and am very interested.

      Actually I wonder if anyone will ever make a Arneson/Gygax mvoie in the vain of the "Pirates of Silcon Valley".

  2. That's definitely an interesting dynamic, something I have been sort of thinking about. I like the idea of trimming it down a bit. As far as the extra skill points, depending on the end mechanic, you would have to put a cap on how many extra skill points they get when they level up etc.

    I still don't quite get fate either. There's another free system I believe its called FAE using the same fate type dice. I've read that, still don't get it lol.

    1. Yeah, I was thinking that it might get a little too complex myself after a bit. I wonder if keeping it to three skills would be better and maybe awarding bonuses points to the skills that the characters use more. Like a check system on the referee's side. ex: john used his martial skill 20 times he gets 1 more point in martial!

      I maybe over thinking this a bit.

  3. This reminds me of Warrior, Rogue, & Mage (http://www.stargazergames.eu/games/warrior-rogue-mage/), a game from Stargazer Games. This game has three attributes, the three in the title. These are basically your skills in those three areas.

    It's more akin to TFT than D&D, but the concept is there.

    Speaking of TFT, it had three attributes as well, STR, DEX, and INT.

    1. Awesome! Thanks for the link, Brett. It is really interesting to see that there are systems like this out there. Can you tell me what TFT is though? For some reason my mind keeps inserting Team Fortress into any thing I can come up with.


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