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I'm working on an alternate ruleset for a tabletop pen-and-paper RPG (like D&D). Recently I've been toying the idea of abolishing a level system. However, I don't want to remove the ability for a player to multi-class. Are there any games which don't have a levelling system, yet allow multi-classing? How do they do it successfully?

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Assuming characters improve or adapt by getting new stuff they can do (skills, feats, moves, special abilities, whatever you call them), multiclassing ist getting those from a class you don't originally belong to. To give a more precise solution, it would help how you intend characters to change (and differ) in general. Also, it might help to have a look at some systems that don't have levels (maybe even don't have classes) and see what they do and if that's something you like. – Anaphory Feb 12 '13 at 21:39
Most games that don't have a levelling system don't have a class system, either. Check out Savage Worlds, for example, or GURPS. But as anaphory as suggested, to decide how you're going to build multiclassing, you'll need to know how you're building character advancement. – Mike Riverso Feb 12 '13 at 21:39
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I suppose that the simplest way to address this would be to make skill cost something (i.e. experience points) and define that a given "class" gives a discount (like, 50% off) to a given set of skills.

Example (numbers and skill names are totally invented, of course):

  • +1 with a weapon class: 12000 exp., can be bought more than once.
  • Magic use:100000 exp. can be bought only once.
  • Memorize & Cast first-level spell: 20000 exp. Can be bought more than once.
    • Prerequisite: Magic use
  • Pray for first-level divine spell: 18000 exp. Can be bought more than once.
    • Prerequisite: Adept of one Deity
  • ...
  • Memorize & Cast second-level spell: 80000 exp. Can be bought more than once.
    • Prerequisite: (Memorize & Cast first-level spell x 3)
  • ...

Then you can say:

At creation gets:

  • (+1 with weapon class x 3)
  • (Wear and use Chain mail)
  • Discounts (after creation of PC):
    • +1 with a weapon class Discounted 50%
  • ...

At creation gets:

  • Adept
  • (+1 with weapon class x 2 - Blunt weapons only)
  • Pray for first-level divine spell x 2
  • (Wear and use Chain mail)
  • Discounts (after creation of PC):
    • +1 with a weapon class (blunted) Discounted 50%
    • ...

And so on. Maybe you can also impose loss of some skills (which are actually state markers, or "traits" or whatever you want to call it) in some cases -- i.e., for some special Paladin powers you must have "Paladin" as a prerequisite, and this may be "lost" during game, and require atonement or other special circumstances to be gained (or regained).

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I'm thinking of implementing something similar, thanks. – n0pe Feb 14 '13 at 0:08
Then I'd appreciate if you accepted my answer ;) – p.marino Feb 14 '13 at 9:33

As veritascitor points out, most games without a levelling system don't have a strict class system either. But many of them, like Shadowrun, have archetypes, essentially bundles of skills and abilities that players are expected (but not required!) to take together. You can get a dual-archetype character by just taking some skills from each of the archetypes you are interested in.

Looking at Shadowrun, you could build a decker(hacker in later versions)/street-samurai character. You would just select both combat abilities and computer abilities and then purchase both computer gear and combat oriented cyberware.

Such a character would lag behind a specialized street-sam in combat and lag behind a specialized decker/hacker in cyberspace, but it would be be able to play both roles. And it probably should lag behind, a generalist normally should not be as good as a specialist within their field.

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+1 Savage Worlds is another excellent example of this type of system – Wibbs Feb 13 '13 at 21:18

You're looking for a system that has: - Some kind of advancement which is not by levels; - different classes, instead of a pool of options from which anybody can choose.

I know of some games that work this way (so yes, they do exist), the first example coming to my mind is Apocalypse World and most of its hacks.

In AW each booklet (let's call it a class... it's more of an archetype) has a series of moves the player can purchase by spending experience. One option is to choose a move from a different booklet but you can do it a limited number of times and you can't do it at character creation.

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You remember correctly. – Ich Feb 13 '13 at 15:46
AW would actually be a really good game to familiarize yourself with as research for the game you are writing, and so would Dungeon World, which uses the AW system modified to be very much like D&D. What they've done in DW is keep leveling but taken away most of what leveling actually does. In D&D terms, when you level up, you add 1 to any stat, and get a new feat or 'move'. Stock classes still have spell lists, but they've been replaced by optional classes without spell lists. They have moves that allow you to do magic, but with a cost, such as drawing attention, fatigue, backlash, etc. – Ich Feb 13 '13 at 16:05
@Ich I'd actually recommend Apocalypse World to any budding designer, simply because it is on the cutting edge of modern game design while also being ridiculously accessible and playable. – SevenSidedDie Feb 14 '13 at 0:26

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