Following the discussion of RPG systems with class vs. those without class, I feel now is the perfect time to present my “classless” (but tasteful!) version of the d20 character development system. I hope the brief notes presented here serve to outline how it works without too much concentration on the detail.

Liberating hit points and saves from class

The main way in which class is important in D&D3.5 is in the assignment of feats, saving throws and HPs to classes. The feats part is easy to change, but liberating saving throws and HPs from their class origins requires a little more care. This is done in Compromise and Conceit by turning both Hit Points and saving throws into skills. The four skills for all saving throws are:

Fortitude: Fortitude is the skill which determines your resistance to poison, disease, etc., and also the number of wounds you can suffer before dying.

Reflexes: Your save against traps, elemental spells, and also your difficulty to hit in combat.

Will: Your save vs. mind attack spells

Presence: Your coolness under fire, used to determine intiative and for resistance to  fear

Every wound suffered is a -1 penalty on all actions; so there is a direct trade-off between ranks in fortitude and other key skills.

Other key skills: Base Attack, Spellcraft and Concentration

Concentration: serves the same role as in the d20 system, but also determines how many fatigues a spell-caster can suffer from failing to beat spell DCs

Spellcraft: spell attacks are resolved as a challenged skill check between spellcraft and the appropriate saving throw skill.

Base Attack: Combat attacks are resolved as a challenged skill check between base attack and reflexes. The DC to hit the target is 10+reflexes, or 2d10+reflexes if the target has the dodge feat.

All these actions are penalised by wounds taken. The damage done by a spell or attack is given by the difference between the skill roll and the target, with a maximum determined by the weapon or the spell. For example, maximum damage for a dagger is 1 wound. Armour can reduce this by up to the damage reduction value of the armour, but a successful attack always does at least one non-fatal wound.

Ability scores

The character gets 2 points to distribute between the six scores (strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, charisma), which are represented as positive or negative effects on all the skills they affect. So for example a fighter might choose +2 on strength and constitution, +1 on dexterity, and -1 on the remaining scores.

Class and non-class skills

At first level, all players choose 5 skills to be class skills, and the remainder are non-class skills.

Skill development points

Characters at first level have 20 skill development points, and then 5 at every level thereafter. Skills are bought at 1 rank for 1 point (class skills) or 1 rank for 2 points (non-class skills).

Class skills can have a maximum of [level+3] ranks; non-class skills half that (rounded up).


At first level characters take 5 feats. Characters can opt to spend 1 feat on minor magic, 2 feats on major magic, or 1 feat on extra skills.

Magic and skill feats

Minor magic: character can use spells of a level up to that of the character. Spells are resolved using a skill appropriate to the realm of magic (e.g. presence for the  Regency School).

Major magic: characters can use spells of up to [level +3]. Characters need to choose spellcraft as a class skill.

Extra skills: character gains 24 skill points at first level and 6 per level thereafter.

Fatal and non-fatal wounds

Fatal wounds can be healed slowly or by magic, and when a character receives more wounds than their fortitude skill total they are dying.

Non-fatal wounds are bruising and shock, and heal at a rate of 1 per hour of full rest. If the last wound a character takes before exceeding their fortitude skill total is non-fatal, they go unconscious and do not die.

That’s the whole character creation system. Characters gain a new feat every 2 levels (including level 2), and a stat increase of +1 every 5 levels. Gaining levels is essentially trivial – distribute 5 skill points and choose a feat. I tend to be pretty casual about what feats can be (witness Anna Labrousse’s powerful voice) and have broken most of the rules at some stage, but that’s because I like characters to be interesting rather than balanced. Does it work? Comments welcome…