A Real Class Act

Okay… with a few recent posts around the internet on Classes vs Skills for characters in MMOs, I decided to go dig up the post I made on one of the previous incarnations of my site about how I would design classes in my game, if I ever got to make one. I’m a little pressed for time this morning, so what you are getting is actually two posts I made mushed into a single post, so make sure you read all of it before you comment.

The Basics:

Classes, in my opinion, in an MMORPG should not be set in stone. A player should never be forced to abandon a character because of a poor or uneducated decision made during creation. Much like real life where if you decide that you no longer wish to be a lawyer, you can still pick up a guitar and learn how to play. Changes made in later play, however, should not be “free”.

The second major point is that no class should be one dimensional, or even two dimensional. Each class should have many facets that allow them to adjust to a number of roles during game play. Another problem that will be avoided by not limiting a class to a specific small skill set is in balance. Any class that can only do one thing, must be able to be balanced, and because they have only one skill you can move it up or down, which leaves you with little in the way of options to fiddle with him.

To obtain both of these, I propose a school based multi-classing system, where all characters belong to all schools, but are allowed to decide to what level they participate in them. This will be achieved through both a ranking of schools and specialization points within the primary school.

The Schools:

The major schools of skills are broken down like this –

  • Priests – the arts of healing, from bandaging to ressurrection
  • Casters – throwing fire and ice and magic, damage based
  • Augmentist – alteration of stats, physical and mental
  • Melee – weapons wielded by hand
  • Non-Melee – trades, sneaking, pick locks, tracking, instruments

Each player will belong to all 5 schools, and they must, at creation, choose a ranking for each, 1 through 5 with 1 being the primary and 5 being the most feeble. During the life of the character, they will be able to earn experience and gain levels in each of the 5 schools. This split of experience gained will be through a setting of percentages which will total 100%.

Every skill within the school will have a rank attached to it, only players with the school at that rank or higher will be able to utilize that skill. For example: bandaging wounds will be a rank 5 skill of the Priest school, and as such, all characters will be able to use bandages to heal; bone setting (an advanced bandage wounds) would be a rank 4 skill, so would only be available to characters who have the Priest school at rank 4 or higher. Resurrection might be restricted to those who have chosen Priest as their primary school.

In each school, there will also be specializations. These will only be available to those of a primary school (i.e. – a character with Priest as his primary school cannot specialize in any melee weapon skills). A character will attain specialization points at a fixed interval (example: 1 every 5 levels of the primary school), and can spend them to gain additional specializations or focus further in a single specialization.

In secodary schools, there will not be specializations, but the player will be allowed to choose a “focus” which will become more prominant as they level their secondary school.

Re-ranking and re-specialization will be allowed. However, as perviously stated, these will not be “free”. They will have some sort of cost within the game, be it monetary or otherwise.

Specializations and Focus:

Priests –
As a rank 3, 4, or 5 school, Priests are healers. As a secondary school, the player will be able to choose a focus of healing or harming. As a primary school, players will be able to specialize as a Cleric or as a Necromancer.

Casters –
As a rank 3, 4, or 5 school, Casters wield magic as damage. As a secondary school, the player will be able to choose a focus of damage or summoning. As a primary school, players will be able to specialize as a Wizard or as a Hearder.

Augmentists –
As a rank 3, 4, or 5 school, Augmentists will have spells and skills that augment the player himself primarily and slowly grow into augmenting others. As a secondary school, the player will be able to choose a focus of augmenting or crippling. As a primary school, players will be able to specialize as a Shaman or as a Siphoner.

Melee –
As a secondary school, players will be able to focus in armed or unarmed combat. As a primary school, players will be able to specialize in specific weapons, locational damage, range, or martial arts.

Non-Melee –
As a secondary school, players will be able to focus in trade skills, hunting skills, or artistic skills. As a primary school, players will be able to specializes as master tradesmen, thieves, or bards.

Unique skills:

There will also be unique skills available to combinations of primary and secondary schools, and specialization and focus. For example, a player who Specialized in Melee locational damage, and focuses in Non-Melee hunting skills will recieve the unique skill of a high damage “backstab”, making them an Assassin; while a player who Specialized in Non-Melee Thief skills, and focuses in Melee armed combat will recieve a moderate version of the same “backstab” skill, making them a Thief.

Class Names:

Class names will be based upon the primary school and specialization and secondary school and focus, unless the players has a rank 2, 3, 4, or 5 school that is higher in level, in which case the player will get a hyphonated title.


Having played around with my ideas a bit, I am reconsidering the 5 classes that I had before. I still think the model is the best, where characters have all the classes, but simply choose the order or rank in which they participate.A new class has come up: Defense.

Defense is the characters hit points rank and armor wearing capabilities. A character with the highest rank would have the most hit points and defensive capabilities, likely wearing (or capable of wearing) plate armors, where the lowest rank would be weak and wear only cloth providing minimal defense.

Entering this new category caused me to rethink a bit on how I might group the skills, make more categories, and more flexibility in player creation. It also caused me to rethink the specializations. While having so many will make overall design and management harder, I think allowing the player to choose a specialization at every rank of a skill will result in character being more fitted to the player. The specializations will run like a 3 point system (though sometimes with more than 3 points): Extreme left, extreme right, middle ground (being an average of the left and right).

  1. Defense, as stated, is the character’s hit point, defensive ability and armor wearing capabilities. The character can specialize in damage taking or damage avoiding. Damage taking is the ability to take a hit, absorb a blow, to stand while injured. Damage avoidance is the sidestepping of blows, glancing blows, rolling with hits, and taking the occasional blow and remaining standing. A character that doesn’t specialize will dodge better than a taker but not as well as an avoider, and will use armor better than an avoider but not as well as a taker.
  2. Material Weapons are the skills of using physical weapons, swords, claws, maces, fists, bows. Characters will be able to specialize in a single weapon becoming more proficient in it, while losing skill in the others. A character that does not specialize will be moderate with all weapons.
  3. Magical Attack is the using of magical or otherwise “non-material” powers. Characters will be allowed to focus in high damage single target distance ranged attacks, mid damage area distance ranged attacks, very high damage single target melee ranged attacks, or high damage area melee ranged attacks. Specialization in one is not a loss of the others, but they will be less efficient to use and less powerful. A character that does not specialize will be moderate at all, but noticably below the specialist.
  4. Healing. This is actually a very wide ranged category that encompasses all healing abilities. Every player will be able to some degree heal himself and/or others. Specializations here will be self healing, single other healing, area/group healing. Each of these will be futher specialized by how the healing is obtained.. self sufficient healing requires no target, drains require a target to siphon from, and transfers take health or energy from the character himself. A character that does not specialize can only use self sufficient methods and will be weaker than all specialists.
  5. Augmentation/Siphoning. As before, this is the category of increasing the stats or abilities of other players or yourself and decreasing the stats and abilities of enemies. The specializations will be self only or area/other, and within each there will be “cast” abilites and “presence” abilities. Within the area/other abilities, the player will be able to choose augmentation or siphoning powers. The presence abilites are always on and augment any player grouped or in area range of the augmentor, or in the case of siphoning powers they will affect all foes within a given range of the player. Cast abilites are several degrees stronger than presence, but require they be refreshed and have a casting cost. A character that does not specialize will have weaker version of all powers available.
  6. Non-Combat Skills. As before, these are the tradeskills, instruments, tracking, thievery, etc. This category will be different in that a player can choose more than specialty, but multiple specialties result in weaker specialties and far weaker non-specialties, single specialization will also result in bonus rewards. A character not specializing will be passable in all skills, but far from a master.

I think that’s it for now. Just the one extra category and multiple specializations.

Quickly reading back over my posts, one thing I want to add is that I’m still not sure about the experience point system I’ve come up with… while I like the idea of spending exp to increase skills (the best part of Asheron’s Call, in my opinion) and the gaining of specialization points, I also dislike the idea of creating artificial “level” gaps between players causing them to not be able to play together where both sides enjoy it. I’ve considered revising it so that spent experience doesn’t give a player an extreme advantage over a lesser experienced player, but perhaps just opens up titles for the character to wear and perhaps cool looking animations for the skill increased (flashier swordplay, etc). I’m still on the fence about that.


  1. Part 1: So you have 25 classes. With AAs.

    Part 2: All your “specialization” and “categories” and “flexibility” boil down to an overcomplex skill system. We’re both aiming for the same goal; only I’m trying to ditch the class system in favor of a skill system with player-manipulated limits (gear and group needs), and you’re trying to give players more freedom within a class system with structural limits (you specify some numbers but can respec in the future).

    Really, the only beef I have with your system after a quick scan is that respec. I believe that a player shouldn’t be able to switch primary skills at will without spending time first getting good at the second one. At the same time, time dedicated to multiple skills should be rewarded by letting the player switch between them with minimal effort €“ in this case, a change of gear which must be purchased or otherwise earned. Your system only requires that a player improve his skill in one generalized role to be able to switch roles and be at the same level in the new one. Not only is this an illogical “lateral progression” within the context of the game world, it limits replayability and destroys a sense of character identity (as briefly explained in this comment).

    For those readers of Jason’s who are wondering what the hell is going on with all the self-reference, most of the debate between him and me has occured over at Wondrous Inventions here and here.

  2. You’ve been on the blogroll for a while now… and I only argue with the people I respect. 🙂

    Like I’ve said on your blog, I don’t care how a system is implemented, as long as it works well. I see where you are coming from with the sense of identity and all that (you should read the stuff posted by kohs over on the MMO Round Table forums, he’s big into immersion as the only important game factor), but I also don’t like over penalizing someone for making an uninformed decision. In the real world, it take time to switch careers, so personally, I don’t want it to take time to switch jobs in a game.

    One thing I don’t mention in here is the role of gear in my design, which is simply that gear is pretty unimportant. Frankly, I would design an MMO the same was I run pen and paper games, magic items are very rare, most people use fairly common stuff that can be bought, repaired or found in all the usual places like town or your local dungeons off dead badguys. I don’t want Uber +89 Swords of Vorpal Badassness in my game, I want finely crafted longswords, which, if you are very lucky or work very hard you might get one with a +1 on it.

    I’m also for hiding numbers from the players. If they want to parse my game and figure out formulas, fine, but I’d rather not give them nine tenths of the data.

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