Introduction to Terms and Definitions
Every character has to have certain statistics in a role-playing game. Depending on the system, the necessary statistics change. Complete Control: Character Design for the Uninhibited is designed for gaming systems that incorporate known quantities like Hit Dice, Base Attack Bonus, six Ability Scores, three Saving Throw modifiers, Skills, Feats, Magic, and even Psionics and Channeling.
Of course, these are only a handful of things that make up a character to be role-played. Since this product has to begin somewhere, it might as well begin with the most easily definable quantities. Even still, before we can get to the basics there are three fundamental mind-shattering principles that must be accepted. I suppose – to be honest – it is more like one principle and two additional corollaries.
What Do You Mean My Character Has No Class?
No, it isn’t quite what you think. A character can have as much class or as little class as desired. Anyone can role-play class into or out of any character. But the principle that must be understood is that this system frees characters from the concept of having a class or a prestige class. A character can have class, but a character no longer has a class.
Let that thought sink into the mind for a little bit. How much of current role-playing is centered on this concept of class? Many abilities that a character can attain are dependent on their class. The amount of damage a character can endure is based on class. The skills a character can have are based on class. The psionic powers, magic spells and incantations, or divine abilities are based on class. But what if this no longer had to be true? What if – like in some top grade spoof that combined The Matrix with role-playing – Morpheus was sitting before you holding out two pills? One of them was red and the other was blue. And you are told, “Take the one pill, and life goes back the way it was. You go back to gaming, close this document, and make characters based on class like you’re familiar with doing. But, if you take the other pill, your eyes will be opened and your mind will be freed. Character design will know only the boundaries of your Game Master and your imagination. The choice is yours.”
Think about it. What would it be like to play a wizard who actually can have d10’s as their Hit Dice if they are willing to sacrifice something in return? What would it be like to play a functional melee bard that gets Base Attack Bonus and Hit Dice like a fighter by selectively choosing to give up a few of the typical bard abilities that don’t really fit the player’s concept of their character anyway? What would it be like to play a fighter who gets to keep their Hit Dice but gives up a few fighter feats in exchange for a few levels of psionic power progression and some actually functional skills – maybe even a few sneak attack dice?
The mind-shattering fundamental principle that absolutely cannot be overlooked is that role-playing done through spending earned experience is most free when it is classless. Yes, that’s right – without class altogether. In this system there are no such things as class skills or cross-class skills. There are no such things as class abilities. There are no such things as feats that you have to take because they are built into the class. There is no such thing as a predetermined save progression, Hit Dice progression, or even Base Attack Bonus progression. None of these things are predetermined by a choice of class! Not only does the concept of “dead levels” go away completely, but all of a sudden an increase to Base Attack Bonus, Saves, or spell casting mean something significant again. All of a sudden experience is collected, hoarded, and spent as it’s earned instead of all at once in the form of a new predetermined class level.
That is the fundamental difference between playing in a standard role-playing game and playing in a game where class is eliminated from the system. Not that there is anything wrong with playing in either system. To be honest, a classed system is far easier for the Game Master to manage. But in a classless system, every part of a character is the way that the player wants it to be. It is as close to ultimate freedom in gaming as we can get without holographic technology!
Corollary One: Character Level
There are certain inherent problems that creep into game play when a system that was originally designed to have class as a part of it suddenly has class yanked out of it. For example, what if a player is trying to decide whether the effect of a spell can affect their character based on the number of Hit Dice they have? Since Hit Dice in this system will be bought as desired instead of gained every level (see Hit Dice section below), Hit Dice no longer becomes a legitimate means for determining the ability of a power or spell to effect a character. In this case, and cases like it, in place of determining a character’s Hit Dice it is easiest to find their effective character level based on the amount of total experience that they have earned. Then, treat that result as the number of Hit Dice that a character would have when considering the effect of spells and power effects. In cases where total Hit Dice is the determining factor, this system will always use total character level instead.
Additionally, certain class abilities talk about class level and character level. Later on, this document will get into more detail this subject; but for right now understand that these distinctions will be handled. Character level remains the same in all cases. Simply compare the experience earned with an experience table and you have the character level. However, class level is not so easy to overcome because class is no longer a word that has any meaning in this kind of game. For now, know that all abilities that are class level dependent will have individual ability levels. As will be discussed later, that too is an incredibly freeing proposition once the mind is allowed to absorb it.
Corollary Two: Purchasing New Elements of a Character
From a player’s perspective, this is almost always the first question that is asked once the new system is absorbed. When can experience be spent? How much can be spent at one time? Do I need training or do I just get better?
These questions are honestly best left answered by each Game Master rather than by some author who doesn’t know the individual game dynamics of every game across the world. In my games and with my players, I know that it is safe for me to let them spend their experience as they earn it – although I do sometimes impose time periods of training. Those are usually meant to explain part of what the characters did during adventures as well as explain some down time between gaming sessions. But, for the most part I like the fluidity of a character improving on the spot as they are actually fighting, honing their skills, and overcoming challenges. To my mindset, that is dynamic that makes the game more fun and realistic. However, I also game with my laptop computer and have a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to do all my number crunching on the spot for all the characters in the game. That makes the game easier to adjust on the fly.
Other Game Masters might consider that scenario a numerical nightmare. Keeping up with a large number of players’ changes as soon as they can make them might bog some groups down and make the game less enjoyable. In those cases, Game Masters are certainly within their right to limit experience point spending to between gaming sessions. There is nothing intrinsically wrong about that restriction. It is a decision best left in the hands of the one who is most often charged with making the game balanced and fun to play.