TAGS Vs. LOOT: How do you like your classes in ICRPG?

question

#1

This is a question I’ve had on my mind for a while: How should classes work in my ICRPG game?

So far, I’ve seen a couple of different styles: in the core rulebook, you have classes based on their starter reward, a piece of gear that gives them their first ability. In the quickstart, and in Altered State, classes have a choice of TAG, an ability that you have that can’t be lost, unlike loot.

With LOOT based classes, they can lose their abilities. On the other hand, you have characters who accumulate TAG abilities and steadily grow more powerful and remain consistent.

Honestly, both these options sound interesting, and I’m not sure which one I like better. Here is an example of a loot-based class I made in the style of the core rules:

Commando:
Starter Reward: Targeting Laser: Spend 1 TURN aiming to either hit with no roll or inflict maximum damage on a rolled hit.

Milestone Rewards:
TAC Comm: With an INT or WIS roll, give your allies tactical info, granting them +3 EFFORT.
Sensor Device: Make an EASY WIS roll to locate or disable traps, never be caught by surprise.
Portable Cover: Attack rolls against you and CLOSE allies are hard.
Blastgun: State of the art particle-accelerator weapon used by elite squadrons. Deals SPECIAL damage, doesn’t use ammo, aiming is EASY.
Mono-Bayonet: Slice your foes in two with a monomolecular blade attached to your rifle. Deals ULTIMATE damage at close range.

Here is a similar class, but done in a style inspired by Altered State and the Quickstart, with two TAG abilities and three pieces of starting equipment to choose from:

Hunter

Starting Ability (Choose One):

Marksman - Whenever you hit one target and do damage, also do damage to a second target up to Far.

Resourceful - Find or pull out any minor item with a successful WIS roll.

Starting Equipment (Choose One):

VISR: Infrared vision allows you to see through smoke or vision-impairing effects and track targets. Selected target cannot be lost until you designate a new target.

Homing Darts: Instantly hit up to 12 targets at NEAR range with lethal explosive darts (1d8 damage) or non-lethal shock darts (targets are stunned for 1d4 rounds). 12 capacity, rare ammo.

Lasso gun: Capture a target at close range. Target must make a HARD STR roll or be incapacitated indefinitely.

Which kind of character/class do you prefer? What would you want to play as? What do you guys think are the pros/cons of using either method of character creation? I know there isn’t a definitive right or wrong answer, but regardless I’d like to hear what your guys preferences are, thoughts, opinions, all that stuff.


#2

Also, of course, there is the classless option. I’ve thought about this too; I’ve been playing the Fallout games lately and had an idea for a game inspired by it, adopting a similar system to the skills and perks you get in those games.

Like, maybe at character creation, you’d have a list of starting equipment, some of which make rolls for a certain skill EASY, like a set of lockpicks or a doctor’s bag for instance.

Tools (one type): Rolls with associated skill are EASY, and also does AUGMENTED effort. Examples: Auto lockpick, hacking tool, repair kit, pilots headset, etc.

Then, there could be a list of Milestone TAGS that you can pick and choose from at “level up” or milestone moments, or what have you.

Also, I made this tag, which I thought sort of acts as bringing back skills without having a whole list:

Affinity: Rolls involving a chosen skill (hacking, lockpick, repair, etc.) are always EASY.

I imagine that if you have the affinity TAG for a chosen skill, like lockpicking, AND the associated tool, like a set of lockpicks, lockpick rolls would be VERY EASY, a -6 to the target number.


#3

3r1k,

It’s a style question. Seems ICRPG, at the least the Quickstart version of it, has started going down the abilities and mastery path, lots of starting points, getting similar to how a lot of games work with levels. Classes used to be about what you started with and were formless after that - everyone is hitting with a D6 anyways. Wizard with a butter knife - D6, Fighter with a greatsword - D6. Plasma gun -D6, Laser Sword D6. Now we have hard abilities locking you into classes, guns and magic do different dice damage, and we have mastery levels. I assume this is based on feedback of some kind.

Regardless - do your players have a preference? If not I’d go with what you think would be fun and easy for them. If you think hard wired classes are easier on them and you - go for it - you have some great ideas in the post.

My two drachma,
Deathbare


#4

I think classes work well for getting people started and loot is great for tables who enjoy a slow burn and more liberty with rounding out a character concept


#5

I would say “they shouldn’t.” A class is a way to encapsulate a professional skill, and focus one’s growth in that skill almost exclusively. Honestly, I find that boring.

My coworkers have an absurd amount of skills, hobbies, and interests beyond their paid job. Some of those skills make them better professionals. Many of those skills make them better human beings.

A fighter getting more levels in “fighter” means that they can hit more often, for more damage. But there’s so much more that that fighter would actually learn and know that is never properly captured in a skill tree. They would know a little of metallurgy to identify a good blade from a poor one. They would know a lot of anatomy to know how to maim or wound. I would hope they’d know a lot of first aid, maybe some sewing and mending, possibly some animal handling (care, feeding, etc). So little of this is captured in “level 4 fighter” in most RPGs.

My opinion: abandon classes. Have wonderfully interesting and complex characters.


#6

In my altered state game, one player wanted to be a monk style character and we flavored the cybernetic upgrades and some equipment as martial arts abilities. So like “Polyresin Skelton - +1 Armor and +5HP” became “Iron Shirt Technique”. Because the other players didn’t reflavour things, I said that for the monk his abilities could be damaged.

So for example, I have ruled that if an enemy scores a critical hit a piece of player equipment is destroyed. In the case of the monk his Iron Shirt Technique would be disabled until he could take downtime to heal and refocus. Or better yet we could roll a d4 and say it takes that many days to get the technique back. I think that’s a fair compromise between both TAGs and Loot.


#7

While I lean toward classless options, I find the idea of classes and archetypes as easily accessible touchstones. I would disagree with getting rid of classes but, instead, using it as an initial framework. With the idea of Loot, there is nothing stopping “The Fighter” from keeping a Spell as Loot. “The Mage” is just better at it initially. Instead, I would borrow from Blood & Snow and offer Tags (Abilities) to be discoverable as a Milestone. You want to be a heavily armored battle mage? Sure! Where do you want to start? More martial or more magical?


#8

When I ran my StarWars game, we started with loot based as that’s all there really in 1e but a couple month in my players wanted to have a more permanent and secure feeling of advancement.
So I began adding tags in and we all liked that more, it just made sense that someone who trained in hand2hand combat wouldn’t forget how to do that if they lost a robe. Or that my droid player would lose the ability to magnetize to something when he’s body is metal.

So I use tags in all my games now.


#9

I’m making a sort of 5e-ICRPG hybrid, mainly because my player pool are 5e people. My goal is something thats intuitive to them, but serves the fiction in removing the over-complicated and restrictive fat of 5e, whilst maintaining some crunch. One key departure from IC is that my players tend to dislike abilities being solely tied to items, though i find other ways to make abilities/skills losable :smiley:
This will have a lot of overlap with what others have already said, but might be useful for you anyway:

666 Character Design

6 MAIN STATS: for ability checks and damage [I like EFFORT mechanic, but going for reduction in overall numbers on character sheet. Alternatively damage can JUST come from weapons and abilities]

6 SKILLS: Start with 2. Grant +2 to ATTEMPTS or +4 if you improve them again [you could also simply make this an EASY/Always-EASY bonus instead]. Skills describe character’s experience, background and knowledge, including their main class - so specificity is good. E.g. “Ko’bah City Bounty Hunter” would include any tasks involved (eg. using bounty-hunter weapons/equipment, tracking, intimidation, being stealthy, knowledge of Ko’bah City, etc). “Merchant Ship Cook” would include (not Fine) cooking, knowledge of food, interacting with sailors, moving around a ship, knowledge of some port-towns/lands. The player should discuss with the table what they imagine that skill entailing so things stay consistent. If a player chooses an extremely specific skill (eg. Rhino rider), they get Advantage doing that.

6 ABILITIES: Start with 2, 1 related to race/background, 1 related to class. These can be specific techniques or ‘moves’, magical/technical/biological mutations, physical or mental properities, etc - but they each have specific mechanics. Eg. Bionic arm (advantage on str checks using arm), Defender (once per turn intercept NEAR attack on ally), Veteran’s Will (Wis/Cha saves have advantage), Veteran Archer (on 15+ hit with extra arrow), Backstab, etc. They can also be improved, eg. Master Veteran archer (on 15+ fire 2 arrows, on 18+ fire 3)

Alternatively you could easily merge skills and abilities into TAGS. Especially with each “skill” being broad enough to include many things to give the feel (and numerical advantage) of your class + background.


#10

I like both. Here’s the thing: the SETTING determines how I usually create characters. Most of the time I use a balanced combination of Loot and Tags.

For “fast and loose” settings that change a lot or are more gonzo, I stick to LOOT. These settings have heroes that have the world one day and nothing on the other. Loot is lost and it’s no big deal, because the implied GM/Player trust is that loosing Loot is part of the story and just how the world works and it won’t unfairly (is that a word?) harm the PCs. But even in these settings I still let them get a few tags or keep a “iconic” item or artifact that’s representative of the character, if that’s the case.

For “average” settings (most sci-fi or fantasy) I hand out a close mix of both Loot and Tags. This is my standard. Basically, Milestones are TAGS, while Loot are extras that come and go. You get fewer Milestones (once every few adventures) than Loot (once every one to two encounters), but they will always be there. If you go to Core, I treat all Milestones from the classes (which are Loot) as TAGS instead. Their Loot comes from the tables.

For certain special settings I focus on TAGS (Milestones) more than Loot. In these settings Loot is also much weaker than the standard. Examples would be the “Beneath the Door” setting/adventure from Core, or most modern day settings.


#11

P Frota’s post might be the best answer here.
However, i have bristled at may comments in this thread. The idea of “classless characters” and loot being the factor that determines your class is an idea that is not easy to sell. Trust me.
Take any 5e D&D player and explain the idea and you will get a look somewhere between incredulity and horror. It ain’t pretty. This is the only fault i have with ICRPG, otherwise it is the most brilliant system ever designed. But, it is a DIY system, so it was never intended to be on a carved stone tablet.
A similar disease does enter the 5e system, but in fairness it is only an OPTION, and that is multi-classing—the single worst thing to ever happen to D&D.
Here’s my problem. You don’t simply take a few broom handles out in the back yard and become a Fighter. It takes years, dedication, muscle memory, and the comfort of wearing armor and weapons and getting use to the shock and pain of hits against you. To think a wizard character just up and declare to the DM that “I think i’ll take a level in Fighter” is ludicrous. Having LOOT do that for you is even worse.
The direction that ICRPG 3e (quickstart 2e) is going is promising.

This statement i find troublesome. It is placing our modern, soft sensibilities and mindsets into a fantasy world where things are often Life and Death and survival is the focus of life.

You know what you call a really bad wizard, fighter, or thief? answer: Dead.

and… this, of course is only my opinion, which isn’t worth a copper piece.


#12

This is something i started working on the other day. It divides characters into 1 of 3 Archetypes; Arcane, Martial, and Scoundrel. This is a “refocusing and reorganizing” of stuff from ICRPG Quickstart 2e. Almost none of this is original, the mechanics and loot and tags are all Hank. Just wanted that to be clear before i proceed… Here is the Arcane Archetype

Arcane Archetype Those with arcane abilities are driven by the quest for knowledge and power despite what they may say, for magic is a means of power for individuals blessed with intrinsic arcane power.

Arcane Archetypes have the following 3 Starter Abilities :

  • Can cast/perform Spells or Spell-like abilities per their Character Class. They will be allowed 3 spells to start. These spells will be determined by a collaboration of the player and DM.
  • Arcane Senses - can detect the presence of magic when concentrating. (no roll, DM determined)
  • Esoteric Knowledge —arcana, obscure religions and cults, and ancient history and legend. All CHECKS concerning these topics are EASY.

Arcane Archetypes have the following Starting Gear:

  • Armor:TRAVELER’S GARB: A lighter, more comfortable set of clothes for travelers. Only +1 DEFENSE, but includes 2 extra spaces for inventory.
  • Weapons: Dagger, Staff, Club
  • Spell Caster’s Kit: leather pouch with Journal, potion ingredients, odds and ends, parchment, ink bottle and quill.

Arcane Archetypes can have one of the following Character Focuses. Choose 1 of the following:

  • Chosen Priest- The Priest can evoke arcane power granted by his patron deity to cast spells or to oppose that which is abhorrent to the gods.

Starting Ability = HEALER: Any healing magic you cast does ULTIMATE EFFORT.

Starting Loot = Choose 1 of the following: BOOK OF TRUTHS, RADIANT POWER, AMBER BEADS

  • Sorcerous Heritage - you have the blood of an ancient arcane entity, often a dragon, and with it, arcane power that you barely understand.

Starting Ability = WILD POWER: Any time you roll a max die, roll it again.

Starting Loot = Choose 1 of the following: SUMMONER, MEMORY RING, IRON FIST(? maybe during the heat of combat the sorcerer takes on dragon-like characteristics such as scaly clawed hands?)

  • Arcane Scholar - You were born with insight and spellcasting ability and have delved into esoteric writing on such subjects to increase your power. you have extensive Book Knowledge of eldritch topics and can use this for CHECKS concerning such topics.

Starting Ability = SPELL SCHOLAR: If you find a written SPELL, gain an extra SPELL.

Starting Loot = Choose 1 of the following: ASTRAL GRIMOIRE, MAGIC THEORIST, GLYPH MAKER

  • Mystic - raised in a monastery, you value meditative processes with the acquisition of arcane skills and the perfection of body and unarmed combat. You have deep spiritual beliefs on many matters.

Starting Ability = MONK: Use your WIS STAT when making unarmed attacks.

Starting Loot = Choose 1 of the following: BEND MAGIC, MASTER, CHOSEN ONE

  • Warlock or Witch-You are an outcast who has to learn your craft on your own, by making a bargain with other witches, or a pact with Otherworldly Beings for arcane insight. You throw caution to the wind in your pursuit of power and make a deal with these patrons.

Starting Ability = DARK PACT: Sacrifice any amount of your HP to boost any 1 roll by that amount.

Starting Loot = Choose 1 of the following: THE MASTER’S SKULL, PALE CLONE, PRIMAL FORM

  • Druidic - The wolf, the eagle, the forest are your brothers, your connection to The Infinite… To defend the Natural Order you have created rune stones and the sacred wooden staff called the “Shillelagh”.(GREENSTAFF) You draw your power from Ley Lines and Magic Nodes that exist in the Natural World…

Starting Ability = ELEMENTAL: Nature or weather magic is always EASY to cast.

Starting Loot =, Choose 1 of the following: GREENSTAFF, ATTUNED, STORMCALLER


#13

I think that’s a disconnect between concept and class design, hence why classless tends to work better for me at the table, for example :

Paladin. Paladin generates a certain archetype. What if you don’t want to be a knight? Maybe you want to be an exorcist? Fine, a GM says, don’t take heavy armor and don’t wield a sword. Those are Loot.

5E Eldritch Warrior. A fighter that gains spellcasting ability. Those are Loot in terms of ICRPG.

You’re right in that a wizard doesn’t just pick up a broom and become a fighter. However, if the character is supposed to be the classic spell-wielding fighter, then, yes, grabbing that broom makes sense. A character is created with a concept in mind.


#14

This is beautiful, and I would definitely recommend looking at Whitehack. Then, maybe merge Whitehack with ICRPG.

(edit to clarify)

Whitehack uses three archetypes : Deft, Strong and Wise as classes. Deft classes rely on skill and ability; strong depends on being confrontational; and Wise creates “miracles” to perform special abilities.

You can be a Deft warrior, a Strong warrior, or a Wise warrior. You can even be a Deft Wizard, a Strong Cleric. Whitehack’s concept would allow you to take your Mystic, for example, and have the player choose : Do you create amazing and miraculous abilities, or are you Deft and specialize in one particular thing? Perhaps you’re a Strong Mystic and take on the abilities of the monster you just fought.


#15

Well met Urfaes,
I agree in that if a character starts as a “mixed class” like eldritch knight they can progress with both wizard stuff and fighter stuff. It’s just an insult to the dedication needed to become a true knight or a true wizard that someone can just declare they want some of the abilities of the other and gain them instantly. To quote the Dungeon Professor , “multi-classing is almost NEVER for role-playing purposes”. It is for people who are think you suppose to “win the game”. I’ve gamed since '81. They are always the ones who drift away from the game eventually.

As you can tell I am very restrictive to the loot accessible to certain player character classes and generally to that allowed/ inserted into my game.


#16

I’ll have to check on the White Hack. im familiar with the Black Hack, but that’s clearly not the same thing.


#17

I’ve been gaming as long as you, and I kinda sorta agree with multi-classing angle. In 3.5, for example, you multi-class to cover “dead levels.” There are a plethora of characters that multi-class, though. Elric. Gray Mouser. Taran…

I disagree it’s an insult but agree that it’s something that is earned. Most heroes progress and learn “other class” abilities. Focusing on class requires that you forego development. For example : Aragorn was a fifth level Ranger.

I get it. People want people to be 20th level characters. A warrior is never just a warrior, neither is a wizard, or a thief. If you can defeat Sauron at fifth level, what do you do for the other 15?


#18

I think you touched on the problem. Levels. The only reason to have levels is for more HP. Hit Points is where systems go wrong. Even Hank realizes this with characters having only one heart and scaling everything to that. The system is almost NEVER what makes the game fun. It’s the roleplay and immersion of the players. The system can mostly just get in the way.
“Dead levels”? It’s a term for players trying to “build” a character and not “be” a character.
Please tell me you understand what I’m saying. Wizards of the Coast is not a gaming company anymore. It’s a cult. Please tell me it doesn’t have you… :disappointed_relieved: