Classless vs Multiclass vs Class Progression Systems

Frostorm

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I'm sure you all know there are a plethora of character progression systems and mechanics that an RPG can utilize. There are games like Skyrim which feature a classless system. Games like D&D (whether tabletop or video game version) feature multiclassing. And then there are evolving class progression systems which is where there are entry-level classes that eventually upgrade into intermediate and advanced versions of said classes, sometimes with branching choices, a la Fire Emblem. Which system do you prefer and why? What are some pros & cons of each? What other systems can you think of?
 
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TheoAllen

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When you introduce the class system, it is basically like saying "No, this (skill or item) can only go this way but maybe you can fix that (or not) by changing your class". When you introduce the classless system, it is basically like saying "You don't have enough of this stat to use this (skill, item, narrative stat check) and you can fix that (either re-spec or grind more)".

I have no hard preference. I prefer the one that lets me grind and unlock all available skills (with enough patience to do that) instead of hard locking them with a level cap. So, just use whatever makes sense to the game design.

A game with a lot of party members, and tactics? The class system may be better, so they can specialize in a certain feat (support, assault, heavy, special, etc).
In a game that focused on immersion, freedom, and solo party, a classless system may be better.
 

alice_gristle

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I'm gonna be a little off-topic here, 'cuz what I'm about to say ain't about mechanisms... but I like class-progression systems usually best, 'cuz they super exciting ("What kind unit they gonna turn into? Am I gonna get wings on my helmet?"), they make me feel like my dudes getting stronger by a ton ("I turned from a warrior to a hero? HOT MARMALADE!"), and they give a nice feeling of a character arc. :kaoluv:

That said, if it a solo RPG, where my party just one dude, I guess classless is best. 'Cuz I'm gonna hafta be everything and anything anyhow. Otherwise what @TheoAllen said!

As for other systems, you also have one like in FF5, where yo dudes train in various classes and get abilities from each... altho do you think that fits into multiclassing? I dunno. :biggrin:
 

Frostorm

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What do you guys think of the class system in Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark? It features several classes, most of which are unlocked by leveling up more basic classes. For example, the Druid class requires Mender 3, Wizard 5, & Alchemystic 3. The Mender class is a starter class (no prerequisites), while Wizard requires Mender 2 and Alchemystic requires Wizard 4.
 

GodCiunas

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I like class free systems. I feel like it is more immersive and rewarding to create and play a character u put effort into. But it does sometimes get repetivive in multiplayer games when someone is almost identical it takes aways the accomplishment. In my own game i am doing a few things give players unique identifiers specific to their own characters. Like legendary items are only available in one instance. An outfit change system, purchaseable skill system, and I am also giving a few unique abilities to each actor to give the feel of more individuality. And last i have got rid of proficiences and allowed players options of equipment. Instead having the items have alternative effects such as slower speed ect.
 

Milennin

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I like characters being bound to a class because it makes the most sense from a character-perspective. Class evolution like in Fire Emblem is totally fine, and pretty cool actually. Classless only really works with blank slate characters, like in Skyrim. I know some JRPG's let you choose whatever for your party members (such as Bravely Default) and I dislike that.
For my own games, I normally don't even use classes and instead have characters with skill sets that suit them and stick with that. There's a degree of freedom in how to build them, and I do like to give options to play them differently. For RTP, I basically just assigned a set class to each of the playable characters, but there's no real progression because the game is too short for that.
 

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I do like a class system where you have a path but you are granted enough options to move through the path at will, like a branch system where a class can morph into alterations of the class based on skills chosen and such. When a game has multiple characters, it's preferable for me when the characters have unique aspects to their classes or to just their build in general, like abilities or skills that the main character cannot use, And also the main character having unique aspects to their own classes.

It's also neat being able to learn skills from party members for say, completing their quests or getting to know them, that may bypass class restrictions a little. I'm including active and passive skills here. It's a way to reward engaging with the game and investing time into characters I may like.

However, I also like a system where there's classes, or skills associated with a class, and while skill points are limited, the player can invest in multiple. For example, there's a Necromancy skill which adds healing on hit and unlocks Necromancy skills that are tiered and get unlocked depending on points invested. Then, there's other skills like that do different things and add passives and the player can mix and watch them, but have to be careful since the amount of skill points they receive are limited.
So someone can go with a FULL Necromancy build or combine skill classes to create a hybrid that doesn't have access to the highest tiers but has a unique or unusual combination of skills. This has the disadvantage of a player possibly making bad combination choices which can be solved by having some ability to re-spec.

When a game has strict classes, I really want the classes to be different enough and change content enough that I will feel like I could replay them to see what they're like. I don't mind not being able to do everything on one playthrough as long as the game is fun and the length feels rewarding. Or having party members who contribute to the game and say, having them unlocks content for a class you're not playing, and you get to see how multiple classes play on one playthrough.

I also like having "social" and "combat" class aspects having some sense of seperation, like a fighter who can invest heavily into the arts of speech and lore...even if it may not provide that many benefits to their combat. This is mostly for solo games, when there's a party I expect party members to be able to contribute their own skills to the table, such as a lore-nerd being able to tell everyone about the importance of a location.

In an entirely classless system, where you can be EVERYTHING and do everything, I find that games rely on that fact a bit too much and tend to punish specialization and role-playing. Balancing matters all the time but SO much in classless systems. This can be sorta fixed by being able to re-spec or by having levelling not being a painful experience. Or by allowing save-scuming, that of which I am quite heavily specialized in.
 

gstv87

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multiclassing (D&D, Baldur's Gate, Pathfinder):
-start as Main, take a level of Subclass, get the Subclass level's skills as part of Main.
-forfeit progressing Main until Subclass is at same level.

subclassing (Mu, TERA, Lineage 2):
-start as Main, level up Main, get all skills from Main, pick a Subclass.
-level up Subclass independently of Main, switching to Main at will.
-play as Main, or Subclass, no mixing.

subclass certification (Lineage 2):
-start as Main, level up Main, get all skills, pick a Subclass.
-level up Subclass, get Skill Certification, use Certification to upgrade Main.
-continue progressing Main independently of Subclass status, including removing Subclass altogether and starting over.

hybrid tree (Wolcen, Diablo 3):
-start as Main, level up, take skills from closely related classes as you go.
-deviate from Main towards Subclass, with no possibility of specializing Main.

flexible hybrid (FFX, Drakensang):
-start as Main, take different skills as you level up.
-deviate from Main towards Subclass, in and out as you go.
-possibility of undoing changes to the skill tree at the cost of skill points, capping the late end limit of Main.

class-based progression (Zomboid, Oblivion):
-start as Main, take up XP, getting extra XP doing class-related tasks.
-use XP to buy Main and Subclass upgrades. Total XP is split among unlocks.
-get Main unlocks as you level up, get Subclass unlocks from 3rd party sources.
-Main's late progress is hindered, but not capped.

point-based progression (Shadowrunner, Deus Ex):
-start as Classless, level up, use Level Points to buy upgrades.
-Class upgrades cost different amounts of points.
-Total XP is split between upgrades.
-maximum number of upgrades is capped.
-collection of upgrades defines Class.

flexible point-based (NFS Most Wanted, Undercover):
-start as Classless, level up, use Level Points to buy upgrades.
-upgrades grant specialized Skills.
-Skills can be tuned to one aspect or another, within a capped margin.
 
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Sword_of_Dusk

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What do you guys think of the class system in Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark? It features several classes, most of which are unlocked by leveling up more basic classes. For example, the Druid class requires Mender 3, Wizard 5, & Alchemystic 3. The Mender class is a starter class (no prerequisites), while Wizard requires Mender 2 and Alchemystic requires Wizard 4.
It's just the Final Fantasy Tactics class system, so it's perfectly fine.
 

Frostorm

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It's just the Final Fantasy Tactics class system, so it's perfectly fine.
Ya, I just didn't have FFT emulated on PC so I wasn't able to alt-tab for a specific example like I could with Fell Seal lol. But yea, I like that system overall, but I dislike having to potentially invest in classes I'm not particularly interested in just to meet certain prerequisites.
 

VegaKotes

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What do you guys think of the class system in Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark? It features several classes, most of which are unlocked by leveling up more basic classes. For example, the Druid class requires Mender 3, Wizard 5, & Alchemystic 3. The Mender class is a starter class (no prerequisites), while Wizard requires Mender 2 and Alchemystic requires Wizard 4.
I don't know that I'd want a system like this in most games but I will say I had a lot of fun unlocking classes for each custom character I made in Fell Seal. Every single one of them had a story in my head and a class to go with that story so I settled in to get each one where they were supposed to go.

It's a good system. It's like a donut. Tasty/fun but I neither want nor need it for every meal.
 

Sword_of_Dusk

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Overall, I'm perfectly fine with any of these systems. I'm pretty adaptable when it comes to games, provided the gameplay isn't total trash.
 

Frostorm

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How would you guys go about the ideal multiclassing system, in your opinion?
 

freakytapir

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I really like the FF XIV system where you can be any class on your character, but only one class at once, switching all stats when you change. it also has this weird thing where there's technically a class progression system, Lancer changing to Dragoon and so on, but then they made the choice for the upgrades to be purely linear. Conjurer only goes to Wite mage, Thaumaturge always becomes black mage, ... Except for The arcanist who splits into Scholar and Summoner.

It also used to be you needed Two classes to advance, so paladin would need 30 levels in Galdiator and 15 in White Mage.
Then you also had Cross class skills ( now long eliminated). For example, you had to level Black Mage to unlock Quick Cast on your White Mage.
Now, for an MMORPG, I can see why they axed that.
"What do you mean, you're still a Gladiator? Why aren't you a Paladin yet? What, you don't like healing so didn't level White mage?"
"What do you mean you can't QuickCast+ Ressurrect? You didn't know you had to level Black mage for that?"
That kind of discrepancies between characters of ostensibly the same level is a big Balance nightmare.

But in a single player RPG? That would work.

I liked the Final Fantasy XII Zodiak system where you could choose one class for a character, but then you later unlock the ability to add a free second class.

Now, this system had some problems too. One, I always waited to pick my first class so I could also pick my second, agonizing over the choices to make for eight characters, not wanting overlaps, leading me to just make a save right when you unlock the ability to choose your second class, without anyone already having picked a class.
What if you had to make all those choices at the startof the game? Even worse. I don't know what the classes do except a vague description and a look at the licence board.
I don't even know what the character's stat growth will be ( as that's independant of class in Ff XXII)
You can srew yourself into not being able to finish the game if no one picks white mage.
What if i make an archer early in the game, and then the character with way beter archer stats joins the party later?

So yeah, everything that requires me to look up a guide to even have a vague idea of what I'm going to do is a hassle. Plus, it kind of destroys the character if Fran is suddenly swinging an axe, Peneolope is carrying heay armour, and balthier is tossing healing spells about while swinging a Samurai Sword.

Now, Skyrim, the 'classless' RPG did have it's fair set of problems.

Namely tying 'Level progression' to 'Skill progression'.
So, I leveled my Blacksmithing to a hundred, so now I'm level ten, giving me the hit points of a level ten character. Or maybe I put it all into Mana.
Not a big problem you think, I'll just stick to the low level zones and balance it out a bit.
Except the game still thinks you're level 10, and whoops, it has level scaling so suddenly my level 10 character is stuck against enemies nine level higher than his combat skill would suggest.

So yeah, Level scaling tied in with a non linear power system, and tying level gains to skill gains makes it possible to really screw yourself over.
"Oh, I'll level Light, Heavy and Medium armour, so I can be versatile." Gives you the same problem. Suddenly enemies outlevel you, and your armor skll is too low for those enemies.

It kills any attempt at leveling your crafting skills early, or to try and diversify. You're making yourself actively worse by leveling other things. Any attempt at being organic in your character building is penalized heavily. Skyrim doesn't say it's really a classbased system, but it sure discourages trying to be good at everything.
It's not a multiplayer game. If I want to grind my ass off and level all the crafting skills, why should the game punish me for that? (Hats off to FF XIV for allowing lall crafting classes on one character too, by the way).

Now, a system I like would actually be a nice middle ground between all these.

From final fantasy 14 I would pull the 'Omniclass' Main character, where you can be every class on your main character after you've unlocked the class, but for the party members I would pick a changed Final fantasy XII system, where te base class of your partymembers is always set, but you can develop them in a second class of your choice, if they meet the requirements, adding the skills to their skill list, but retaining their base stat growth, with a small boost from the class chosen to the main stat for that class.

So the Tank of the party would start as 'Warrior' but would be able to add Wite Mage to become a "Paladin" boosting MDF and adding Healing spells, add Black Mage to become a 'Mage Knight', Boosting MAT, Adding Sage to become a Tactician, boosting TP generation and learning some better support moves, and so on.
But the reverse is also true, If the White Mage adds Warrior, He gets an ATK Boost, and becomes a Paladin, with slightly different stats than the Warrior who chooses White mage. Enough of a difference that you feel it, but not enough that the build is suboptimal. So the White Mage + Warrior => Palaldin might have slightly more MDF ( Labeled Wisdom in my game), while the Warrior +White Mage => Paladin will have more ATK.

There are two version of this I would consider where it comes to the skills.
Either they have the full skill set of both, and are thus 'True Multiclass' characters ( and less work for me), ... But that would be a bit boring.
Or the 'Paladin' class has it's own skillset, combining the two skillsets, but not giving out the whole of both.
So the White mage to Paladin would still learn Cure, Cura, Curaga from his base class, and Learn Holy Sword, Heavy armour proficiency, and Sword Proficiency from the Paladin class.
The warrior would learn Holy Sword, Cure, and Cura from the Paladin class, but not Curaga. He would still learn Double Strike and 'Triple strike' from being a Warrior.

A third option would be to give them te skills of both classes, but only let them equip a set number.

I mean, there's just so many options.
 

Basileus

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As others have mentioned, classless systems can be fun in an open game like Skyrim, but tends to result in either "master of everything" or "every run devolves into stealth archer". The first is because there is nothing stopping you from maxing out every skill if you feel like it - there can even be incentive to do so, like gaining levels by mastering skills you don't plan to use and then using the perk points in the skill trees you actually care about. The second is because every action can be performed by any character at all times, so there is no reason not to use powerful options like ranged sneak attacks since they are available even without investing in archery or sneak.

I'm not really a fan of rigid class systems, but having defined classes can be a good way to define a character's strengths and weaknesses. However, if a character is locked into 1 class and can only advance to "the same class but better" then I'd rather you skip classes entirely and just give characters predefined skill sets.

Multi-classing is how I prefer my class systems. Final Fantasy V and Dragon Quest III are my go-to examples for this. FFV's job system lets characters unlock passive abilities and new command options by gaining job levels. Each job has one inherent command/passive and a second that the player selects from anything the character has currently learned. A character's selected job gives some stat bonuses and allows access to all of that job's passive abilities, so job selection remains important even after all jobs have been mastered.

Dragon Quest III uses a re-classing system that allows characters to retain all spells and half of their current stats when switching to a new class (but revert to Level 1 in their new class). The remakes add a personality system on top of this that can raise or lower stat growths on level up and can be changed permanently by books or temporarily by certain accessories. Players can select classes based on what spells they want a character to learn or what stats they want to transfer over, and can use personalities to cover a class' weaknesses or double down on its strengths.

Ideally, I'd like a multi-class system that allows characters to receive some permanent stat bonuses and abilities for investing in a class on top of other bonuses and abilities that are only available to their current class. This would make the character's previous classes meaningful while not allowing them to have access to everything at once even if they master every class. Each character can also have their own inherent stat growth rates and spells/skills not related to their class, which allows for some lore-friendly specialization and gives players something to work off of instead of making every character a blank slate.
 

Frostorm

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So when I started my project, my vision was that of a classless system. But recently, I've decided multiclassing is the way to go. However, I'm having a hard time structuring it in a fun/clear way. See, I have 2 categories of "classes". Not sure if they're true "classes" since they're pretty much just skill trees, but I'll use the term "classes" for convenience.

Anyways, the 2 aforementioned categories are Weapon classes and Elemental classes. I wanted Weapon classes to be reminiscent of various Martial Arts disciplines, especially those focusing on a particular weapon type. Japan has a lot of these in the form of Kenjutsu. There would be 1 weapon class for each weapon type or group of weapons. So there would be a class dedicated to using Bows (Archery), another for heavy 2-handers (currently called "Berserking" but I may change its name to "Great Weaponry"), and another just for using Shields (Protection), just to name a few examples.

The Elemental classes are just that, the elements. I'm currently using the suffix "-mancy" on most of them, so they're called: Aeromancy (Wind), Cryomancy (Ice), Geomancy (Earth), Hieromancy (Holy), Hydromancy (Water), Keraunomancy (Lightning), Necromancy (Death), & Pyromancy (Fire).

My original plan was for characters to be able to mix and match a total of 3 "classes", aka skill trees. Thus I made all trees available to all actors by default. But I feel like making significant changes to this system. 1st, I'm thinking of changing the Weapon classes into something more like traditional classes, but still elementally neutral. They'd still need to cover a certain weapon style or proficiency. So I might make them into stuff like "Archer, Berserker, Caster, Lancer, & Saber. Yes, those are FATE classes, and yes, I have a tree just for casters (elementally neutral) aka staff users.

However, I'm struggling to make all of this fit into a cohesive system. Like, should I make all the "Elemental" classes available to everyone? If not, how should they be limited or unlocked? I was also thinking of making the "Weapon" classes a branching class system, albeit a somewhat rudimentary version with at most 2-3 tiers/branches, assuming I go with something like the FATE-style classes. Any thoughts, suggestions, ideas, or epiphanies?
 

AphoticAmaranth

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Lately I've been favouring a classless system, because it makes more sense from a narrative standpoint. Kinda makes no sense to learn all sorts of magical spells, then suddenly forget how to use any of them because you decided to pick up a sword and call yourself a warrior.
 

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