Thursday, February 12, 2015

You're just like school in the summertime... [Chanbara post]

...No class!
So yesterday, after posting about my ruminations on simplifying Chanbara, I used Google+'s survey feature to run a quick, non-scientific poll.  Out of exactly 100 at the time of writing self-identified OSR gamers (or gamers who at least like to keep abreast of what the OSR is doing by joining the G+ OSR group) who use G+ and respond to surveys there, half of them (51%) favor having a small number of character classes, but having options to customize them.  So my idea to strip down Chanbara to three classes and have Profiles (like 2E kits or 5E backgrounds) for customization, along with special abilities, may indeed be the most popular way to go.  I was probably going to do that anyway, so there's a bit of a morale boost for me.

Interestingly, 10% clicked on the "classless" option, which I had added as a bit of an afterthought.  I was sort of curious how popular such an idea might be with the D&D-centric OSR crowd. 

Before I decided to make Flying Swordsmen as a retro-clone of Dragon Fist, I toyed with the idea of a classless wuxia game, partially inspired by the classless skill system of Star Frontiers. 

For those not familiar, Star Frontiers (Alpha Dawn, Zebulon's Guide does it a bit differently, I think) has you pick your alien race, then select a "Primary Skill Area" of Military, Technoloical, or Bio-Social skills.  You then select two skill sets, one of which must be in your PSA.  Having a skill grants access to all related subskills.  As you adventure, you gain XP which can be spent to raise your skill levels or gain new skill sets.  It's cheaper to purchase skills in your PSA.  You can also use XP to improve your ability scores or racial special abilities. 

Had Flying Swordsmen gone the classless route, it would have been something like this.  Different martial arts schools, adventuring skills (wilderness, thief skills, etc.) and types of magic would have been skill sets, and characters would have gotten a PSA and two skill sets at character creation.  It would have been quite customizable, expandable, and fairly easy to manage. 

Some people dislike the Star Frontiers skill system as being fairly limited, but I find that the constraints of the skill system are what inform me of just what the game is "about."  The designers imply that these things are what your characters should be doing: exploring worlds, communicating with aliens and helping explorers deal with the rigors of space travel, dealing with alien technology and robots and vastly complex computer systems, and of course fighting the Sathar and their terrorist agents with a variety of future weapons and some primitive ones as well.

I'm not planning to go this route with Chanbara at the moment, but maybe in the future I'll go back to this idea and create a new fantasy RPG (possibly Asian-inspired, or maybe not) using this kind of system.

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