I've been playing X-Com lately. You control 14 dudes as they die, panic, succumb to alien mind control and turn into zombies. At the end of a mission you level up the survivors and buy another crateload of rookies. Death is constant and hard to anticipate, so a lot of the strategy revolves around sending in the cannon-fodder rookies to protect the guys you care about.
It's interesting, because as far as I can tell early D&D worked the same way. A lot of the traps in the DMG seem totally ridiculous for the current fashion of ~4 PC's. Save or Die effects, level drain, diseases - Matt's poor PC died to Rotgrubs in a single turn, before he had any way to tell what was happening or how to stop it. These things only really make sense if you have 10+ PC's, with some hirelings for good measure.
(You'll have to excuse me if I'm reiterating stuff everybody knows. D&D is still a strange new land to me.)
Creating 10 normal characters and trying to keep track of the results would take hours and drive me insane. So, here's an experiment: Jack McNamee's 10 Second System (Matt helped).
Roll one d6 for each starting ability score, then roll an occupation and starting equipment (You can use this DCC character generator for those). Your starting character is finished.
|Dret thiefton turned out to be only average at thief skills. His parents will be shattered.
Here's what the scores mean.
Strength: The weapons you can use. Whenever the PC's find a weapon, rate it out of ten; you need that much strength to wield it. Bonuses to damage and to-hit are inherent in the weapons you find, rather than something you earn as you level up. Roll under it on a d10 for strength checks.
Constitution: The hit dice you get whenever you level up. Roll under it for fort saves.
Dexterity: Skill checks and reflex saves. Whenever a PC needs to make a skill check, rate the task: 5 for trivial tasks, 10 for normal tasks, 15 for hard and 20 for impossible. Your dexterity shows which dice you roll for it; d6 to d20+10. At 1 dex, you cannot perform any kind of skill checks.
You can learn skills from expert thieves. If you haven't been trained in a skill, use 1 less dex when rolling for it. If Dret Thiefton has 3 dex, he'll roll a d6 instead of a d10 for any skill he hasn't trained in.
You can use any skill list you want, or just use the DCC list: Backstab, Sneak, Hide, Pickpocket, Climb, Locks, Find traps, Disable traps, Forge, Disguise, Read Languages, Poison, Cast spell from scroll.
Intelligence: Which spells you can learn, and will saves. Whenever the PC's find a spell, rate it out of ten; you need that much intelligence to cast it.
Intelligence applies to both Wizard Spells and Cleric Spells. You go to a wizard to learn spells from the Wizard list, and a Cleric to learn spells from the Cleric list. They hate each other, and they'll want you to become one of them before they'll teach you the better spells. You could obviously cheat them to learn both.
Wisdom: The number of spells you can hold in your brain at once. Vancian rules. Roll under for Perception checks.
Charisma: Which Hirelings you can get. Hirelings can be level 1 to 10; that's how much charisma you need to hire them. At 5 Cha, you can hire level 5 guys. High level hirelings will also have better equipment, and may know some skills or spells. Roll under it for a morale check to stop your hirelings panicking or stabbing you in the back.
Every time you level up, you get one hit dice of HP and one extra point of ability score to allocate wherever you want. Max level is 10.
The system assumes every player will have 2-4 PC's. You get 2-4 new PC's when the last PC from your old batch dies - until then you have to rely on hirelings to restock.
So, most of the traditional leveling up choices occur in the world. You have to find spells and skills, instead of being abstractly given those things when you level up. This is partially inspired by the old D&D ideas to that effect, and partially inspired by the way Dark Souls and X-Com work. Your PC is defined by the things they have, and their stats define the things they can have.
It's fast as lightning and completely classless. It's not going to be for everyone. I'll try running it on Monday, I'm excited to see if it works. Tell me what you think in the comments..