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An Alternative to Levels and Classes

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B Hanson:
and one more...

RMU has an optional rule to just award DP instead of XP if you prefer to do things that way. It requires more frequent character updates but your PCs may enjoy that. Aside from that, it's a pretty trivial change.

I don't really care for classes/professions in modern and SF settings. I've also run a cross-genre game so it would have been a bit awkward there too. I was heavily into GURPS for a while, which has neither classes nor levels. But I think levels do a better job of encouraging a wider skill base (pure points-based systems don't have much to prevent extreme specialization and that's what I saw), and as a GM levels make it easier to assess what foes I can throw at the party. Classes/professions help people think about what role they want to play in a party of cooperating players; those archetypical roles are easy to grasp. So for fantasy, despite trying some alternatives, I've come back to preferring professions and levels.

My personal preference is a mix of MERP/RM and Runequest (and this is a mix that I use in the system I'm presently working on). The latter is a professionless/levelless skill-based system and I'd copy how it handles skill progression over to a simplified (fewer separate skills) version of Rolemaster (perhaps using MERP as a basis and adding some skills). Runequest simply gives you experience points to individual skills as they are being used successfully - allowing you to roll for skill increase for each of them at a suitable rest period in the story (= roll higher than your present skill bonus on D100 to increase). Thus, you develop in the skills that you actually use or train in as the game progresses.


--- Quote from: Vladimir on December 31, 2021, 06:07:11 PM ---  How can a non-level system work? Games that use pure skill systems, like Battletech and Element Masters (later released as Gatewars) award points to improve skills at regular intervals, such as after each session or after concluding a mission. Sometimes the players are allotted points during routine down time.
--- End quote ---
RM also awards points to improve skills at regular intervals. These intervals are 10,000 XPs in the beginning and later increase. And yes, along with this the "level" of the PC's skills increase. But this "level" label is only an abstract attribute on a meta-level that describes how often the PC was able to increase his skills and thus roughly tells how powerful he his. It's nothing a PC would really know of or even tell someone else "I'm a 10th level Rogue". So far in this debate I can only see an advantage for a system using levels because this quick power estimation based on this level attribute is available.

--- Quote ---In RM, each level is awarded upon achieving so many experience points and upon reaching that level, a player is awarded DP with which to allocate among his skills. Easy enpugh -If I have 75 DP and the point difference between Level 4 and 5 is 10,000 then 10K divided by 75 would be 133.33 rounded down to 133. So every 133 experience points equals 1 DP.
What prevents a player from just putting points into the same skill? Skills that have received points could be marked every 75 DP/10K EP so they won't be over-allocated to a particular skill. In Gatewars a skill didn't advance until a player used the skill and both succeeded and failed with that skill, which made advancing higher skills much slower, while in Battletech advanced skills cost more.
After 5th level, the experience cost between levels is 20,000 so the points for each DP doubles to 266.66 rounded to 267. 

  Instead of awarding experience points, a GM could award a player's DP in increments up to 100%.

  Let me know your thoughts and ideas.

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Yes, a GM could award DPs instead of levels. The problem is indeed how to avoid that e.g. a Fighter would increase his primary weapon skill (cost of 1/5) by one rank everytime he gets a new DP. Don't get me wrong, such a mechanic can certainly be found, even though I think it's not that straightforward to implement for RM, with it's skill results from Blunder over Partial Success to Absolute Success and its attack results from Fumble over a few hits up to many hits accompanied by a critical. But it needs to be devised.

I just wonder what's the gain of such a level-less system. On the plus side I see that a player can more often get his PC improved by gaining a skill rank in some skill area. Is there anything else? If players want this and see more progress for their PCs, then a completely different approach might be to award more XPs and level faster. E.g. I have often heard that GMs are awarding ~1500 XP per PC after a ~5 hour session. We tried to use the RM2/RMFRP XP system with its first time XP multipliers etc. for years and got used to 8,000-15,000 XP per PC for an ~8 hour session. That way you can progress your skills almost every session in the beginning of a PC's career.

And what's the downside of using level-less Rolemaster? You'd have to at least come up with your own system that regulates when a skill can be increased again and for which costs. E.g. a Fighter might certainly quickly spend 1 DP for his first rank in his primary weapon but then should probably spend 5 DPs for the second rank. And then, after some time he could develop the next two ranks. If using a variant like in Gatewars then this might involve quite some book-keeping in order to keep track of the success and failure for every skill. Btw., you may recuce the amount of book-keeping considerably if you keep the levels in the system but hand out DPs in portions, so that they don't get let's say 50 DPs for a full level but instead 5 times get 10 DPs. So the players still can increase skills of their characters a bit more often than only once per level and at the same time the book-keeping is greatly reduced because you only need to track which skills got already increased since the last level.

  I consider a DP dump ever level a complication of the game -Instead of casually allocating your DP while you earn them, a player has to take the time to "do homework" instead of gaming to spend a pile of DP before playing. In Gatewar two boxes on same line as the skill with all the multipliers indicated where a player would use a pencil to place a checkmark in the appropriate box; The bookkeeping of yes/no was not complicated at all and even simpler with a spreadsheet. Skill advancement would occur during gameplay without a moment's pause other than a player's short celebratory victory dance.
  Battletech uses a similar system with skill failure and critical success adding to experience and a player could also increase skills by spending time and money on training courses.
  A professionless system makes players far more cautious. A party could all have the same or similar equipment. That guy with the halberd might be a mage with a stylized staff. In some worlds, magic use might be universal, with the inability to use magic being the exception (as in the series Black Clover, where everyone used magic but the hero).


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