The definition of class-based

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    mudlab.org Forum Index -> General (Mud Related)
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 10:27 am    Post subject: The definition of class-based Reply with quote

When discussing class-based vs classless muds, a common argument I hear against the former is that "it doesn't make sense". Why can't a warrior pick pockets? Why can't a wizard learn how to fight with sword? Why can't a thief learn about medicine?

That's perfectly reasonable if your classes represent professions - but what if they represent something else? If your classes are "vampire", "werewolf" and "demon", then you probably don't want werewolves shapechanging into bats, demons summoning the aid of animal spirits, or vampires growing huge spiked tails. In such a case, the class restrictions actually make a lot of sense.

Someone will then usually respond that vampirism and lycanthropy aren't classes but races, or perhaps diseases. But while they may be races or diseases (depending on the theme), they are also classes; a means of arbitrating the capabilities of different characters.

Supposing I were to take a stock Merc mud, which has 4 classes and no races, and rename "warrior" to "dwarf", "mage" to "elf", "cleric" to "human" and "thief" to "halfling". Would the mud then be classless? Of course not - it would have races instead of professions, but those races would also be classes.

But does that mean that adding races to a classless mud automatically makes the game class-based? If not, where do you draw the line? At what stage do we move from classless to class-based - or is this just another of those drop-of-ink-in-a-bucket-of-water things, where some muds are clearly class-based, some are clearly classless, and the rest could be either depending on individual interpretation?
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Author Message
Zephen_Descartes



Joined: 21 Sep 2007
Posts: 20

PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 11:45 am    Post subject: Re: The definition of class-based Reply with quote

I think it really depends on how much you're basing your design and nomenclature around D&D and other traditional RPG concepts. One of the 26 results for "class" on dictionary.com is "the members of a given group in society, regarded as a single entity". I think that's similar to the traditional definition of class, however it is not the only one.

That definition easily encompasses Werewolves, Vampires, Dragons, and even political groups to some extent. Where you draw the line relies more on personal preference and cultural context than on a pure linguistical argument.

Class can also mean skill level, status, caste, excellence, and the obvious group of students undergoing the same study. The idea of class can be stretched as far as you want to take it really, although your community may get confused at some point due to cultural definitions of such a word.

I have seen MUDs where your class upgrades when you reach a certain level, going from Squire to Knight for instance. This would represent becoming more skilled or increasing your status, two of the other definitions of class.

Off the semantic line of reasoning though, I'd warrant that even most classless MUDs fall into some semblance of a class as it is come to mean. My MUD has no classes, it's a free for all as far as what skills you have but players classify themselves as Melees, Archers, Mages, Warrior-Mages, Shield-Mages, Hybrids, and a few other sub-classifications. Does this make us any less class-less?

I think people nitpicking over class vs classless are likely arguing for reasons other than semantics and more as an egotistical show of superiority over one system or the other. Class will take the context its given. D&D gives it one context, but within the context of your game or its derivatives class can come to take on a variety of other meanings. If you ask me, I think posting on Mudlab is class Wink.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Author Message
shasarak



Joined: 29 Jun 2005
Posts: 134
Location: Emily's Shop

PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 12:11 pm    Post subject: Re: The definition of class-based Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
or is this just another of those drop-of-ink-in-a-bucket-of-water things, where some muds are clearly class-based, some are clearly classless, and the rest could be either depending on individual interpretation?

Yes. Smile
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Author Message
Alister



Joined: 13 May 2005
Posts: 62
Location: Alberta, Canada

PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think in typical mud lingo, 'classless' has come to mean the ability to open-endedly choose skills with little or no constraints. It really has nothing to do with classes, or races, or guilds, or other organizing groups. I have no idea where the line would be drawn in theory. In theory, I don't know that it even makes sense to talk about a separation. In practice, though, MUDs either seem to orient their progression more or less around rigid skill progression or open-ended skill progression. Maybe class-based or classless are just terms in the eye of the developer to keep their bearings on how they are trying to direct development.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Author Message
Jimorie



Joined: 18 May 2005
Posts: 10
Location: Gothenbrg, Sweden

PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting topic. I would probably go with KaVir's last option as well. It'd be down to personal opinion whether most MUD:s out there are class-based or not. I myself would probably not be so strict as to judge a MUD that offers races as class-based MUD. But I would then assume that there were other ways of specializing and improving your character independent of the choice of race. But exactly where to draw the line is anyone's guess, I believe.

I would also be very interested to hear whether some of you think the following design should be considered a class-based MUD:

The MUD has the typical fantasy classes with the typical names and the typical abilities. It is all very cliché, with exp, levels and the typical fantasy races to go with it. But you don't pick one class when you create your character. Instead you choose a class every time you level - in which to invest the gained level, so to speak. So you could, if you wish, be as many classes as you have levels - for as long as there are not yet chosen classes available, of course.

It seems to me that using classes in this way somehow goes against the original purpose of what classes were designed to do - lock characters into an easily distinguishable role. So in that light I'd say it wouldn't be a class-based MUD. But on the other hand it feels a bit false to claim not to be a class-based MUD when you are at the same time presenting your players with an array of typical fantasy classes to choose from every time they level.

This question could probably be extended to also include whether other multi-classing or dual-classing system should be considered class-based.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Author Message
KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jimorie wrote:
The MUD has the typical fantasy classes with the typical names and the typical abilities. It is all very cliché, with exp, levels and the typical fantasy races to go with it. But you don't pick one class when you create your character. Instead you choose a class every time you level - in which to invest the gained level, so to speak. So you could, if you wish, be as many classes as you have levels - for as long as there are not yet chosen classes available, of course.


Isn't that pretty much exactly the way D&D 3rd edition works? You pick one class at level 1, and each time you gain a level you can choose a class to level in (although there are incentives to specialise).

Yes, I'd personally consider that class-based. If you really change classes a lot, it could end up being a bit like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay's career system, where you follow a "career route" of different classes.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Author Message
shasarak



Joined: 29 Jun 2005
Posts: 134
Location: Emily's Shop

PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 12:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I use the term "class-based" I tend to use it to mean the opposite of "skill-based". The distinction comes down to whether decisions that you take at the moment your character is created significantly limit your options for character progression from that point on. In a class-based system you have to choose from a set number of pre-defined paths. The paths are substantially different from one another, with not much overlap; and there tends to be little or no variation available within each path. In a skill-based game, on the other hand, any character can acquire any skill with equal ease, and character development is completely free-form; there are potentially as many different development paths as there are characters.

While there certainly are games that are unambigously one or the other, these two terms refer to points at opposite ends of a sliding scale, and many games will inevitably fall at a point in between. We've already discussed some examples. Another might be a game like Morrowind or Daggerfall: these have quite a strong concept of class, but many (perhaps most) players will define their own customised class for each new character, which effectively makes the game as "skill-based" as it is "class-based".

I think asking "is this game class-based?" may well be the wrong question. The better question is "why does it matter whether the game is class-based or not?" If the game system works, great; the question of whether or not the game is "class-based" is purely a semantic one, and there is no sharp line between the two.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Author Message
KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
When I use the term "class-based" I tend to use it to mean the opposite of "skill-based". The distinction comes down to whether decisions that you take at the moment your character is created significantly limit your options for character progression from that point on.


Yet many class-based (pen&paper roleplaying) games also allow you to change class - therefore avoiding hard limitations on further progression. Other systems use classes as more of guide than an enforced development route (for example in Rolemaster you gain a number of development points every level, which can be spent on whatever you like - but warriors learn fighting skills more cheaply than wizards, who in turn learn spells more cheaply than rogues, and so on).

There's also the question "what is a skill?". If an elf has infravision, a pixie can fly, and a kender is immune to fear, then are those "skills"? If so (and I would say they are), then once again that suggests that such races are also a type of class - after all, you probably don't want dwarves learning how to fly, or elves learning how to be immune to fear, as those are specifically innate racial abilities.

Quote:
In a class-based system you have to choose from a set number of pre-defined paths. The paths are substantially different from one another, with not much overlap; and there tends to be little or no variation available within each path.


That might be a stereotypical class-based system, but it's certainly not the only one - take a look at the Rolemaster approach I mentioned before, for example (and note that Rolemaster also has a staggering number of classes). Even D&D no longer holds true to the above definition, and I would consider that to be perhaps the most famous class-based roleplaying game.

Quote:
In a skill-based game, on the other hand, any character can acquire any skill with equal ease, and character development is completely free-form; there are potentially as many different development paths as there are characters.


Even within what you refer to as a skill-based game, it is very common for certain skills to block each other, preventing specific combinations of skills.

There's also no reason why you can't permit a wide range of development paths within each class - after all, a classless mud where each player has 100 skills to choose from is no less restrictive than a class-based mud where each class has 100 skills to choose from.

Quote:
I think asking "is this game class-based?" may well be the wrong question. The better question is "why does it matter whether the game is class-based or not?"


It can be useful to categorise things, and when it comes to mud listings you often don't have a choice in the matter. I also think it's interesting to draw attention to the huge gray area that lies between "classless" and "class-based", as some people are fond of comparing the two extremes without considering just how blurred the line between them can be.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Author Message
shasarak



Joined: 29 Jun 2005
Posts: 134
Location: Emily's Shop

PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 2:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
Yet many class-based (pen&paper roleplaying) games also allow you to change class - therefore avoiding hard limitations on further progression. Other systems use classes as more of guide than an enforced development route (for example in Rolemaster you gain a number of development points every level, which can be spent on whatever you like - but warriors learn fighting skills more cheaply than wizards, who in turn learn spells more cheaply than rogues, and so on).

[...]

Even within what you refer to as a skill-based game, it is very common for certain skills to block each other, preventing specific combinations of skills.

Well, that was kind of my point: it's actually relatively unusual to come across a game which is purely class-based or skill-based these days. A pure class-based game would be the original D&D; even 1st edition AD&D had dual-classes for humans and multiclassing for non-humans, so it was already moving away from the pure form.

You could define "class-based" as "a game that has things in it called classes" but honestly, where does that get you?

Really the entire gaming industry has moved past the point where describing a game as "class-based" or "skill-based" is meaningful any more. Each individual class/skill system needs its own individual description.

I guess when designing a game it can useful to ask the question "where on the line between class-based and skill-based do I want my game to sit?" But even then it's probably better just to think of something that works rather than trying to fit it into other people's terminology.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Author Message
Detah



Joined: 20 Sep 2007
Posts: 4
Location: USA

PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a couple of thoughts.

I have always thought the term 'classes' was inappropriate for how a profession 'might' get organized in a fantasy world. I prefer to use the term 'guilds'. Guilds in my world are quite similar to Universities, in that, they are simply a physical building where teachers, with similar or related interests, come to teach. The teachers get to study with other teachers who share like interests. The guildhall provides them with compensation and a center to do further research (practice) in those fields that interest them. And the students get to learn about skills, spells and powers that interest them. Its a win-win.

So in my mage guild, you can find all manner of teachers who are teaching some form of spellcasting. Some teach straight Evocation (to borrow from D&D terminology), some teach Summoning, while others teach Shadow magic. A guildmember has the option to learn a little bit from 5 schools or they can focus all their time in a particular school; this is how mages develop their spellbooks and powers (apart from the school skills themselves, there are few auxiliary skills that a mage is taught, it is mostly spells and powers).

There is a simple logic to my University-system, because it conforms to what would probably occur if magic (or warrior tribes or prayer-generated magics or whatever) existed. Mages flock to the libraries and alchemy labs (the mage guilds). Warriors flock to the practice rooms which have trainers in a variety of weapons and techniques. Priests flock to the monasteries and cloisters to learn prayer, meditation and healing. It seems completely logical that people of like interests would gather together to learn a particular topic. It also seems logical that potential students who wish to learn these skills will go there to learn.

I have always disliked the way most muds deal with the switching from one guild to another. On most muds, you lose all the skills/spells/powers that you gained in the former guild. Is it reality alteration? Is it a memory wipe? More often than not, there is no in-game justification for this. Players just seem to accept it as part of the normal suspension of reality that one must accept when one plays a fantasy game. I completely disagree with that sentiment. I think it is up to the admin to create a fair and balanced world without totally severing reality. [Someone once said that you create good science fiction by altering one aspect of reality. The goal of the storyteller is the get the viewer to buy-in to this one reality alteration.] More than one reality alteration is asking too much of the viewer. And by asking the viewer to believe in mindwipes or sheer forgetfulness, you damage the integrity of your game.

I don’t know. Maybe most players don't care, but I find it silly. Therefore, I allow players to switch guilds whenever they wish and players never lose any skills, spells or powers, regardless of which guild they join. I feel that the responsibility falls upon me, the admin, to make sure that the guilds advance in power in a fair and roughly equal manner. That is, I go to great lengths to prevent a guild from being 'front-loaded' with new skills (or spells or powers).

Detah@Arcania
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Author Message
chaos



Joined: 24 Aug 2007
Posts: 35
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2007 1:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think what the "class-based" label is trying to get at is, more or less, whether there's one major choice you make during chargen that's going to determine almost everything worth knowing about your character as time goes on. In old-school D&D before all these fancy-pants character development options they have now, if you knew a freshly generated level 1 character was a fighter, you knew pretty much everything you would need to know about what that character would be like at level 20. That's the sort of cookie-cutter genericism that "class-based" implies, to me.

It sounds like you're pondering whether GWII is meaningfully class-based, KaVir. My question would be: how likely are you to be able to accurately tell whether you can PK someone, knowing only that they're a level 15 vampire? The more likely that is, the closer you are to class-based in the vague vernacular usage.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Author Message
Vopisk



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 99
Location: Golden Valley, Arizona, USA

PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2007 7:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Chaos hit the nail on the head with that last post. The idea of class-based is that when you choose a class, you are going to have these such and such skills. Warriors will get good skills in the fighting arts, mages will get the skills in the magical arts, thieves will get the skills that pertain to stealing or backstabbing and assassination type stuff.

In the old-school style mud, or roleplaying game, you made your choice and you gained access to your particular skills. You might be able to decide which skills you advanced at each particular level (practices and trains) but in general, in the end, all warriors would end up looking like one another in terms of race, stats and skills.

This is what I define as class-based. Where there is really painfully little decision to make as to the progression of your character, i.e. this path is the best path of advancement for this race/class grouping.

If anything, I would define GWII as being race-based, in that, it is really your race that defines and limits you as far as what your character can and can't do. But that said, there are meaningful decisions to make as to what race-specific abilities and skills you choose, and many can be viable options in selecting a "build" that works well for your race.

I think as soon as you move away from the "you have chosen this class, you get all these skills at such and such a level and can train any of them at your discretion", you move away from the class-based definition and start to enter that gray area.

Like another poster suggested, in Morrowind, you would define your own "class" and select from it any particular skills you so chose. I would define this as being entirely "skill-based" or "class-less" in that you weren't limited in what you could or couldn't do, but there wasn't much structure or suggestion as to the "best possible path".

-Vopisk
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address MSN Messenger
Author Message
shasarak



Joined: 29 Jun 2005
Posts: 134
Location: Emily's Shop

PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2007 11:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vopisk wrote:
This is what I define as class-based. Where there is really painfully little decision to make as to the progression of your character, i.e. this path is the best path of advancement for this race/class grouping.

While class-based systems often work like that in practice, I'm not sure that an absolutely rigid development path is a requisite for "class-based". I think it's more to do with certain options only being available to certain characters, and a single decision at character creation determining which ones they are.

For example, we might imagine a system where a fighter who has mastered "slashing weapons" could then go on to study the more specific "long-bladed swords" skill, and then the even more specific "katana" skill; orr, equally well, having mastered "slashing weapons" he might then go onto study "stabbing weapons" or "offensive shield use" instead. Fighters therefore have quite a wide range of choice as to what skills they improve; but the system is still class-based if only warriors are able to study any of the above skills, while magic-users are limited to studying only magic (albeit potentially choosing from hundreds of different possible spells).

The system becomes less "class-based" once you allow warriors to study magic or mages to study sword-fighting.

I've not played KaVir's MUD, but from his description it sounds as though werewolves, vampires, demons, etc. certainly could be regarded as classes. However, that isn't necessarily enough to label the MUD as "class-based"; it depends how much overlap there is between the options available to a werewolf and the options available to a vampire.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Author Message
shasarak



Joined: 29 Jun 2005
Posts: 134
Location: Emily's Shop

PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2007 11:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
There's also the question "what is a skill?". If an elf has infravision, a pixie can fly, and a kender is immune to fear, then are those "skills"? If so (and I would say they are), then once again that suggests that such races are also a type of class - after all, you probably don't want dwarves learning how to fly, or elves learning how to be immune to fear, as those are specifically innate racial abilities.

That's true, yes. In a sense you have more than one class decision to make - first you choose what's called a "class", then what's called a "race", but the choices are similar in concept: a choice you make once at character creation, with permanent consequences. One can imagine other, similar choices with different names. In Morrowind for example, you have to choose your character's race, class and star-sign, and all 3 choices have class-like effects. The practical difference is that in most class-based MUDs the difference between races is relatively small compared to the difference between classes: classes offer access to dozens of skills, races only to one or two.

As I've no doubt moaned many times before, a pet peeve of mine is the way that too many race systems effectively are a direct extension of the class system in that, of the available races, only a couple generally make sense for any given class (e.g. if you're going to be a warrior you've effectively got to be a dwarf, mage = elf, thief = halfling, etc.) If that's true you might as well just roll the abilities of the race straight into the class choice and have done with it. If race is actually orthogonal to class, that makes it more interesting.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Author Message
KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2007 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chaos wrote:
It sounds like you're pondering whether GWII is meaningfully class-based, KaVir. My question would be: how likely are you to be able to accurately tell whether you can PK someone, knowing only that they're a level 15 vampire?

Knowing their power level can make a big difference, but knowing their class doesn't really help at all. My class system was originally inspired by Diablo II, in which each class has three skill trees - and each character specialises in only a small number of the available skills, so that two members of the same class seldom play the same.

However I've taken it to a more extreme degree, to the point where almost every class can be used for any particular style of play. Thus that vampire might be a heavily-armoured warrior dressed from head to foot in bloodsteel, or stealthy assassin dressed in shadowcloth and wielding a blade of elemental darkness, or a summoner who calls forth wolves and rats to fight for him, or a ranged archer riding a nightmare, or a spellcaster who uses psionics and shadow magic. They might even shapechange into a wolf or a cloud of bats, or transform into a mist and leech the lifeforce from their enemies.

Thus while seeing that someone is a "vampire" can give you an idea of the sort of things they might be capable of, it doesn't actually tell you what they can do; even the most powerful vampire can only train a fraction of his available powers, and many of the stronger options are mutually exclusive.

shasarak wrote:
I've not played KaVir's MUD, but from his description it sounds as though werewolves, vampires, demons, etc. certainly could be regarded as classes. However, that isn't necessarily enough to label the MUD as "class-based"; it depends how much overlap there is between the options available to a werewolf and the options available to a vampire.

There certainly is some overlap between the classes - for example, both vampires and werewolves can transform into a wolf (and if you choose that option, it almost certainly means you're going to spend all your time playing in that form). Demons can turn into hellhounds (by customising the arms and legs of their demon form), which works a similar way.

However that only represents the core style of play. The vampire, werewolf and demon might all be canine-shaped, and be roughly on-par with each other in a fight, but they still can't all do the same things (click here for a comparison).

I still tend to think of it as a class-based system though. Your class might not dictate how you play (like the old D&D where warriors fought, clerics healed and thieves disarmed traps), but it still divides (most of) the abilities into distinct catagories, of which players can choose only one.

shasarak wrote:
The system becomes less "class-based" once you allow warriors to study magic or mages to study sword-fighting.

Even if warriors have their own separate type of magic unique to them, while mages study how to fight with elemental swords (something which no other class can do)? I.e., are you saying the system becomes less class-based if the classes can learn each others skills, or even just when they're able to play in a similar way to each other?
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    mudlab.org Forum Index -> General (Mud Related) All times are GMT
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group
BBTech Template by © 2003-04 MDesign