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Skill System vs. Level System


D&D or Wod Game Mechanics  

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  1. 1. Would you prefer a Skill System (point buy) or a Level System?

    • Skill - I get rewarded with points I can spend on any skill like Wod. I would have one pool for combat skills and one for noncombat
      66
    • Level - Like D&D you have fixed paths you follow, and as you gain XP you level up.
      23
    • Hybrid - Combat skills level up like D&D, but you have a Wod like point by system for all non-combat skills
      45
    • Other - Please provide how the mechanics would work
      9


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I know there are supposed to be separate combat and non combat skills, but how do you want to handle leveling them? In the history of games, there have been two main ways to handle character advancement.

 

There have been games like D&D that had fixed levels you take as you gain XP. Most of these systems restrict you to a path, so a fighter can never be as good as diplomacy as a bard. Further mixing classes is restricted, or has consequences (like XP penalty) if not balanced correctly.

Sample rules: http://www.d20pfsrd....ter-advancement

 

The next system is something like World of Darkness, where you gain points and you can spend them wherever you like. So you could be equally good at Weaving, Diplomacy, and making fart jokes plus be really good with sword.

Sample rules: http://wiki.white-wo...ld_of_Darkness)

 

Do you want one or the other, or a mix of the 2?

 

I would personally like to see a full point by system, so I can choose exactly what combat and non-combat skills I am good at.

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it could be sort of like the Drakensang system. Classes determine starting values for skills and add bonuses and penalties to the points required to level them. I guess that would be a hybrid because any of them can learn to do anything, but to truly shine in a skill the character needs to belong to a class that specializes in it.

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I'm not sold on this one pool for combat and another for non-combat thing.

If that's how it works, I hope there's a way to change the balance of the two. So somewhere in character creation I could choose if I want to get more combat skills or more non-combat skills. Kotor was like that with feats and skills.

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For all my admiration for IE games, I don't like the D&D leveling system much. It doesn't give you nearly enough choices, you basically just watch your character grow in power according to how you set your character at the start of the game. I'd much rather have points to invest as I please, Diablo 2-like.

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No "classes" and no "levels", would be the way to go in my opinion. All the narrative benefits of class can be replaced in most free-form systems by hooking on to different selected aspects and adding a comprehensive "background"-section to the character creation.

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I know there are supposed to be separate combat and non combat skills, but how do you want to handle leveling them? In the history of games, there have been two main ways to handle character advancement.

 

There have been games like D&D that had fixed levels you take as you gain XP. Most of these systems restrict you to a path, so a fighter can never be as good as diplomacy as a bard. Further mixing classes is restricted, or has consequences (like XP penalty) if not balanced correctly.

Sample rules: http://www.d20pfsrd....ter-advancement

 

The next system is something like World of Darkness, where you gain points and you can spend them wherever you like. So you could be equally good at Weaving, Diplomacy, and making fart jokes plus be really good with sword.

Sample rules: http://wiki.white-wo...ld_of_Darkness)

 

Do you want one or the other, or a mix of the 2?

 

I would personally like to see a full point by system, so I can choose exactly what combat and non-combat skills I am good at.

 

While in general I prefer classless, skill-based systems, there are plenty of class-based systems that provide a lot of freedom while still preserving the unique feel of having a class. Pathfinder, the 13th Age, and Iron Heroes all open up third edition D&D's system by giving more feats and somewhat doing away with class-skills. In Pathfinder, your class does give you a bonus to certain skills, but all skills have the same cap and cost the same amount of points to raise, irrespective of class. As such, classes that favor a certain skill will have an advantage in that area, but if you are set on being a charismatic, persuasive fighter, you can do so through choosing the right feats and background traits. I ran a Witch with 14 dex who could outstealth the party's ranger, who had 18 dex, by a significant margin because I had decided to specialize in that skill, even though it wasn't a class-skill for witches. I'm sure it would be possible to make a Fighter whose Diplomacy skill was as high as a Bard's.

 

In Iron Heroes, there are no class skills at all, just skill groups that make it cheaper to improve in areas related to your class. As such, a Berserker could put as many points into diplomacy as any other class. In one campaign we had a Man-at-Arms whose primary attribute was charisma (he started with 18), and he was the spokesperson for the party. He also put a lot of points into perform, and bought feats that would allow him to gain a following and manipulate people through his music.

 

My point is, just because second edition AD&D was very restrictive with its class system, doesn't mean that all class systems work that way. Obsidian could definitely design a D&D style class system that offers a great amount of flexibility. Furthermore, I think it would be the best way to incorporate the system proposed in Update 7 where spending points on combat skills doesn't reduce your ability to spend points on non-combat skills. Basically, when you level up you could go through a screen where you spend points on combat abilities and a screen where you spend points on non-combat abilities. For each screen at level up, you would get a certain number of points and/or feats (the number being determined by your class) and could buy what you want. You would have a separate pool of points for each, so spending the combat feat you get at second level on Shield Bash wouldn't prevent you from spending your second level non-combat feat on Empathic Awareness. Basically, it would work like the dichotomy between spending ability points to raise your intelligence and skill points to raise your tumble skill in D&D.

 

*EDIT* after thinking about it a bit, I suppose you could have something similar with a point buy system. Assuming you got experience for completing objectives, like in Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines, all experience gains would feed into two equal pools: one to spend on combat skills and one to spend on non-combat skills. You could then purchase skills from one area without impacting your ability to purchase skills from the other.

Edited by eimatshya
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I'm curious why we don't see more game systems where you automatically and gradually improve as you use skills.

 

Use diplomacy a lot? Your ability in it would improve, just like in real life. No need to clicky buttons on a level-up screen. Suddenly decide you like to chop, chop a lot with mighty axe of vorpalness instead? In that case your ability with axes would start improving -- perhaps even slowly degrading the diplomacy skill if you rarely use it anymore.

 

The only place explicit points ever made sense to me RP-wise was during chargen.

 

That aside, I loathe the level system a whole lot more than the skill system. Although the skill system doesn't make much roleplay sense, it's more flexible and fun than the artificial railroad of the level system.

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I quite like the role master pen and paper system however it could be customised quite heavily to make more palatable. Different cost structures for different classes to allow anyone to develop the skills they like at a reasonable rate that won’t unbalance the game but show the difference between them.

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I enjoy Skyrim's skill-use level up system, but it would be nice that for every 5 points you level up, you can place one point into any other skill of your choice.

 

The only problem with Skyrim tho, is that the leveling up over all is too simplistic. Needs more meat too it. But yea, I like leveling up skills as you use it.

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I have to say I like the Dragon Age Origins system with Stats (Str, Dex etc) you get as you level up, Skills (thieving, traps, poisons, herbalism) and Abilities (class specific like Pummel, Shield Bash, Arcane Blast). Some of the skill and ability tiers requires specific stat levels to acquire, like you can't get max level thieving without X amount of Dexterity, you can't get max Shield ability without high Str etc.

 

A Warrior could get Thievery even though his main focus would be Strength, he just has to put some points in Dex to access later levels of Thievery.

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I'm curious why we don't see more game systems where you automatically and gradually improve as you use skills.

 

Use diplomacy a lot? Your ability in it would improve, just like in real life. No need to clicky buttons on a level-up screen. Suddenly decide you like to chop, chop a lot with mighty axe of vorpalness instead? In that case your ability with axes would start improving -- perhaps even slowly degrading the diplomacy skill if you rarely use it anymore.

 

The only place explicit points ever made sense to me RP-wise was during chargen.

 

That aside, I loathe the level system a whole lot more than the skill system. Although the skill system doesn't make much roleplay sense, it's more flexible and fun than the artificial railroad of the level system.

 

In case you haven't noticed, Skyrim just sold 10+ million copies

Edited by Infinitron
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While in general I prefer classless, skill-based systems, there are plenty of class-based systems that provide a lot of freedom while still preserving the unique feel of having a class. Pathfinder, the 13th Age, and Iron Heroes all open up third edition D&D's system by giving more feats and somewhat doing away with class-skills. In Pathfinder, your class does give you a bonus to certain skills, but all skills have the same cap and cost the same amount of points to raise, irrespective of class. As such, classes that favor a certain skill will have an advantage in that area, but if you are set on being a charismatic, persuasive fighter, you can do so through choosing the right feats and background traits. I ran a Witch with 14 dex who could outstealth the party's ranger, who had 18 dex, by a significant margin because I had decided to specialize in that skill, even though it wasn't a class-skill for witches. I'm sure it would be possible to make a Fighter whose Diplomacy skill was as high as a Bard's.

 

I play Pathfinder and find that what you say is very difficult. You practicly have to build select feats and focus everything to get a diplomatic fighter.

Which is not good.

Since it takes you 2 point to raise diplomacy by 1 level compared to a bard, you spend a whole lot of points for little effect.

Now I know what you'll say - just get a skill focus feat. No.

Why should I?

It is stupid that I get a penatly to skills and I have to waste a feat jsut to get rid of it. Why should diplomacy be a penalty? Why should ANY calss have a penalty to ANY skill? Being diplomatic has nothing to do with your class. It's a social skill. And how much your character socializez depends on your background.

 

1 point in skill = 1 point in skill for every class and every skill. It's simple. It keep the playing field leveled and allows for much more freedom in character creation.

 

Now you might be wondering - what about skill-based classes like rouges? What about them? They are already a DPS monster because of stupid backstabbing. What more do they need? If you want, you could give them extra starting skill point in specific skills, so they get a head start in some skills. But that's all they should have.

 

I'll give you an example of problematic builds.

In a recent Pathfinder session I wanted to create a specific character - an orphan who fell int othe wrong crowd early on. Componded with the poverty that struck his village he started to ssteal. One very unfortunate incident led to the death of his friend and him being accused of it, promting him to flee the village. He survived by latching onto a group of forest bandits, basicly being their little servant and even engaging in robberies with them. Untill the entire band was destroyed ina raid, with only him fleeing and resuming banditry alone. Up untill he tried to rob the wrong person, a renowned swordsman who beat the living snot out of him, but didnt' kill him. Insted he showed mercy and brought him to the paladin order, where he was trained and set forth into a new light.

 

Now you see the problem

- the character neded to have some basic bluffing, survival and street skills - all of which are not class skills for paladins. Even with inital trais carefully selected, I'd have to waste enourmeus amount of feats just to make this character work. Made even worse by a paladins low number of skill points.

 

I hate the way classes are so rigid.

People want ot enforce that false "uniqueness" at the expense of character freedom. There was never a good explanation as to why X class is so penalized for skill Y.

 

People end up playing classes, not chanracter. Because any character that diverges fro mthe stupid class stereotype ends up being unplayable.

 

 

In Iron Heroes, there are no class skills at all, just skill groups that make it cheaper to improve in areas related to your class. As such, a Berserker could put as many points into diplomacy as any other class. In one campaign we had a Man-at-Arms whose primary attribute was charisma (he started with 18), and he was the spokesperson for the party. He also put a lot of points into perform, and bought feats that would allow him to gain a following and manipulate people through his music.

 

I like the sound of that.

* YOU ARE A WRONGULARITY FROM WHICH NO RIGHT CAN ESCAPE! *

Chuck Norris was wrong once - He thought HE made a mistake!

 

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I would prefer a more D&D system. I prefer when classes remain a bit more distinct from each other, otherwise some classes simply become obsolete, like rogue classes who often rely on skills.

 

This.

 

And as has been made known... there will be several playable classes. I want to advance with a class when I level up. I trust Obsidian to make the right decisions despite some dubious polls.

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I'm curious why we don't see more game systems where you automatically and gradually improve as you use skills.

 

Use diplomacy a lot? Your ability in it would improve, just like in real life. No need to clicky buttons on a level-up screen. Suddenly decide you like to chop, chop a lot with mighty axe of vorpalness instead? In that case your ability with axes would start improving -- perhaps even slowly degrading the diplomacy skill if you rarely use it anymore.

 

The only place explicit points ever made sense to me RP-wise was during chargen.

 

That aside, I loathe the level system a whole lot more than the skill system. Although the skill system doesn't make much roleplay sense, it's more flexible and fun than the artificial railroad of the level system.

it makes sense when you think about it, but it rarely works well in game imo. It almost always encourages a playstyle of grinding specific skills instead of just playing how you want to play.

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That's more of a player problem. And there is always a limit anyway.

 

The main problem is if it Is abusably grindable. Take for example JA2 - all skills increased only by use. PROPER use.

* YOU ARE A WRONGULARITY FROM WHICH NO RIGHT CAN ESCAPE! *

Chuck Norris was wrong once - He thought HE made a mistake!

 

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For tabletop roleplaying I prefer a points-buy skill system, but I dunno call it nostalgia or whatever, I could really buy into a class and level system for this. Ideally I'd like really broad base classes that can specialise in areas really evocative of the world, like the fighter class can become a mage-hunting gunslinger, the wizard class can become a soul-burning pyromancer.

Does this unit have a soul?

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I play Pathfinder and find that what you say is very difficult. You practicly have to build select feats and focus everything to get a diplomatic fighter.

Which is not good.

Since it takes you 2 point to raise diplomacy by 1 level compared to a bard, you spend a whole lot of points for little effect.

Now I know what you'll say - just get a skill focus feat. No.

Why should I?

It is stupid that I get a penatly to skills and I have to waste a feat jsut to get rid of it. Why should diplomacy be a penalty? Why should ANY calss have a penalty to ANY skill? Being diplomatic has nothing to do with your class. It's a social skill. And how much your character socializez depends on your background.

 

1 point in skill = 1 point in skill for every class and every skill. It's simple. It keep the playing field leveled and allows for much more freedom in character creation.

 

Actually in Pathfinder 1 point in a skill does equal 1 point in that skill for all classes. Pathfinder doesn't have D&D 3E's penalty for cross-class skills. The only difference between a class skill and a non-class skill is that you have a +3 bonus to use the class skill. Buying one rank in any skill always costs 1 point, and you can have as many ranks as your total hit dice. So, the only difference between a class skill and a non-class skill is the +3 bonus. I agree that it can be annoying to have to buy the Skill Focus feat to excel at a non-class skill that you feel you should have, but there are often alternatives to spending a feat.

 

If you want to make a diplomatic warrior, there are a few ways to go about it. If you are a human or halfling you could take a racial trait to make diplomacy a class skill (World Traveler for humans and Well Informed for halflings). If you aren't from either of those races, you can take the Adopted trait and then one of those racial traits. If your fighter grew up in a religious environment, you could potentially get the Ease of Faith trait. If none of those options work for roleplaying reasons, you can still take either the Cosmopolitan feat (which will give you two extra class skills and two extra languages) or the Skill Focus feat to approximate the bonus you would have gotten if Diplomacy was a class skill. If you are a half-elf you get a free Skill Focus feat through the race's Adaptability feature. So, to make a warrior with Diplomacy as a class skill could take only one of your two starting traits or, at most, 1 feat (and warriors get a ton of feats).

 

I'll give you an example of problematic builds.

In a recent Pathfinder session I wanted to create a specific character - an orphan who fell int othe wrong crowd early on. Componded with the poverty that struck his village he started to ssteal. One very unfortunate incident led to the death of his friend and him being accused of it, promting him to flee the village. He survived by latching onto a group of forest bandits, basicly being their little servant and even engaging in robberies with them. Untill the entire band was destroyed ina raid, with only him fleeing and resuming banditry alone. Up untill he tried to rob the wrong person, a renowned swordsman who beat the living snot out of him, but didnt' kill him. Insted he showed mercy and brought him to the paladin order, where he was trained and set forth into a new light.

 

Now you see the problem

- the character neded to have some basic bluffing, survival and street skills - all of which are not class skills for paladins. Even with inital trais carefully selected, I'd have to waste enourmeus amount of feats just to make this character work. Made even worse by a paladins low number of skill points.

 

That one would be more problematic. I wouldn't say it would require an enormous amount of feats (probably two feats + your two traits, depending on your race and religion), but it would definitely take a big bite out of your key abilities. So, yeah, I agree that Pathfinder would make it hard to play a character like that. I had a similar problem creating my current Pathfinder character, a half-orc fighter who, due to her upbringing (which I won't get into here since it's pretty complex), is a classically trained singer and is well educated in the academic fields. I eventually just paid the feats to make her the way I wanted, and figured her combat abilities will catch up as I level up.

 

Anyway, the point I was trying to make was that it is possible to have a class-based system with a fair degree of flexibility. In Pathfinder, excelling in a single, non-class skill is pretty easy and won't generally intrude much on your core proficiencies. You are correct, however, that its system still restricts your ability to come up with complex, unconventional backgrounds. There are some class systems that give you almost as much freedom as a purely skill based system, like the True20 system and the old Cyberpunk 2020 (IIRC, it's been a while since I've played it), but a completely skill based system like WEG's D6 system, Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying System, or White Wolf's Storyteller and Storytelling systems will always give you more freedom to come up with creative characters. However, since Obsidian is clearly planning to make a class-based game, I wanted to point out that, while such a system may not be ideal, it does not necessarily preclude the possibility of making non-conventional characters (just reduces the possibilities, somewhat).

Edited by eimatshya
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Classes come with a lot of baggage. Pathfinder did a lot of good things to aleviate this by offering a lot of cunstomization. But that massive list of options is not really conceivable in a computer game of this scale. It would in fact simply be easier to drop the use of class and simply make a system that is flexible to begin with without starting with limiting lables. And for those who need inspiration/frameworks; there will of course be pre-generated characters.

 

As for an example of class baggage: The Ranger

The stereotype most people will limit their imaginations with is that the ranger should either dual-wield or use bow and arrow. Some will also expect them to have animal comapanions or even a little bit of magic.

The fighting-style limitation is perhaps the worst straight jacket here.

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