Conan without Levels?


Now, this may seem a little strange questions, but Im thinking about running Conan without the Level-system. Why? Well, I guess its personal taste, but I really dont like level-systems, simple as that.

So, have any of you tried it? Given it some thought? Maybe its already done and out on the Web somewere?

I breaked every class down, and the result was that - a soldier, for example - could buy up to a maximum advances: be they HD, BaB, saves or feats. Its seems like it can work really well, if I find the balance in handing out Xp (I decided for 100 Xp per advance). It seems like every class will be more varied than before, and players get a little more freedom in their building of a character.

But maybe I missed some major problems with this method? I will continue work with this, and hopefully get some thoughts from you guys here on how this could be done - of if its even worth it.

I have not solved multi-classing properly yet. And as for all those things that count with levels: all characters and npc's will depend on their Hit Dice for that, in the exact same way as monsters.
I'm not very fond of the existing level / exp, neither, but I went in the opposite direction: I threw exp completely out of the game and give my players every couple of sessions another level. This way I have no trouble with exp calculating, the players aren't looking at their exp progress and enjoy instead the game and finally it adds some more realism (you dont know, when you wil advance).
I have made a document for a level free B5, it's pretty much done, IIRC, but I have decided to not use it and give the level system a try.

I can mail it to you, maybe you'll find some usefull stuff in it so you don't have to do as much work as I did. You will have to change some stuff, but at least you'll get some ideas. I think it's around 12-14 pages.
Tegman: Im very interested in your writings about this. Please send me your stuff... and many thanks!
How can one possibly run a "level free" game using a system that is entirely based on Class Levels? Even if you arbitrarily assign a starting XP lelve, or a certain numebr of feats or skill points, you still ahvfe to eventually default back to a level mechanic because that's the way everything is ballanced in OGL d20. Doing point-buy doesn't work.
Aye, that's why I decided to not use it. It wasn't too difficult to come up with costs for feats, skills etc. But the thing that was more diffcult to solve was the "You get you prestige class level as a bonus to X". I did come up with one sollution, but not one that I liked (don't think I wrote that one down).

But I have played Star Wars d20 now and the d20-system is easy and quite quick, so I for one will use it in my B5 game :)
I think I have solved it, and its a simple system: as simple as the existing one, and yet, equally balanced. Remember: I keep the classes, not the levels.

But, its all theoretic for now, I have not runned my first session yet, and time might very well tell me that this indeed does not work.

I, on the other hand, can not see why it could not work properly and balanced. There are other games out there without levels, and most game systems share a common core. You can easily create a level-system for a game that does not have levels... and - hopefully - it workds the other way around too...

Well. I guess I'll soon find out.
Please tell us, or at least me, how it works out. You'll see after a few sessions I guess and if it works out nicely I might try it myself since I'm not too fond of level based progress. I think it limits the character. Most of my games are level free and I rarely play or referee level based games. So I know it's something I just have to get used to.

OT: My favourite game system is used in a Swedish RPG, it has skill oxidation and a very nice combat system that makes it possibly to hit any part of an opponents body. It's in the Western era, but I have made lots of modern weapons for it since I use it in an X-Files style of game that I have made myself.
Yes, Higa, tell us please. I'm intrested in your solutions of level substitution.

Tegman, does this Swedish RPG of yours have a name? I'd rather have a look on it too.
The games name is 'Western'. It's a fun game to play, I run two games with it, one where the characters are lawfull and one where they are desperados :D
Well, first we have some general advances any character can take. In paranthesis are numbers, and those numbers represent the maximum number of times you can buy the advance. I plan to let my players start in level 4, so they get some feats and statistics from their chosen class as a starting package in that class.

Feats (7)
Raising a single ability (5)
Raising all abilities (4)


BaB (20)
Dodge (15)
Parry (7)
MaB (5)
Fort save (12)
Ref save (12)
Will save (6)
Hit Dice (1d10) (10 + 10) = after the tenth advance, the barbarian can buy +3 HP for up to 10 times.
Skill Points (4+int mod: 20 times) (Can have no more ranks in Class Skills than Hit Dice +3) (We see here that the number of times a character have taken advances in Hit Dice is used to calculate everthing that involves calculating with Level)

Versatility (-2 pen)
Versatility (no pen)
Versatility (double threat)
Versatility (triple threat)
Bite sword
Crimson mist
Trapsense +1 to +6)
Uncanny dodge
Improved Mobility
Greater Mobility
Improved Uncanny dodge
Damage reduction 1 to 4
Greater crimson mist
Wheel of death

Now, after every session the GM can hand out as many hundreds XP as he want, depending on how fast he wants his players to advance. For example, for an ordinary adventure, he could give 300 Xp, and every advance cost 100 Xp. The variations is endless depending on what kind of game one wants.

As mentioned, some things calculates with levels, and when doing that with this system, calculate with HD instead, just as with monsters, really.

Well, this was a short description. I hope my point gets through here. If you have questions or critic, please feel welcome to comment on this.
Higa, the problem I have with your system is that it treats all advances as equal (100 XP per advance, right? At least thats how I understood it.) I think this can potentially create some very unbalanced characters if there is no other limiting factor than the maximum number of times you may purchase an advance. For example, a character might chose to spend his first 1000 XP on getting 10 HD, before going on to other things.
Also, all advances are clearly not equally good; Greater Mobility is just so much better than Bite Sword and getting +1 to BAB is far superior to the Weapon Focus feat, for example.

A similar system to yours has been created for D&D (its called "Buy the Numbers" and is available as a pdf on RPGNow). In that system, every different type of advance is given a cost based on how "good" it is, and advances also cost more, the more times you take them (for example BAB might cost 500 XP the first time you raise it, 1000 XP the second time, 1500 XP the third, and so on). This makes it more cost-efficient to get a little bit of everything for your XP.
I guess something like this could also be done for Conan, but it would take a LOT of work. My advice to you would be to stick with the level-system (I used to despise levels, but now I love `em :D ) or to run Conan with some other system (I think Stormbringer or The Riddle of Steel could work well).
Yeah, all that're still using the level system. If you are starting the characters at level fourn adn them basing things off of thier hit dice, that's th elevel system. Also, the GM handing out 100+ xp at the end of a session is how it works now - monsters aren't worth a certain ammount of xp; the GM just decides "Hey, what you folks did today was worth 300xp."

If you're goin got try a point buy system, you need to do it from the ground up. The problem will be that you then have to decide how much everything costs in points. By that I mean, abilities, class abilities, BAB, MAB, Dodge, Parry...all that, not just skills and feats. Why?

D20 is structured so that, theoretically, everyone evens out eventually. Some classes start off more powerful and with lots of cool powers while others start off reletively weak by comparison. However, each level, this disparity shuffles around so that the "experience graph" of any two classes with end up at the same power level...sort of. Scholars are always going to have fewer HP than Soldiers, but they'll be capable of dishing out tons more death at distance. Everything is tracked that way. The most complicate of which is the per level increases of saves and attack bonuses. How do you pay to increase that?

I also see that 5 single ability raises and 4 total raises puts them on par with a 24th level character. Every 6 levels you can raise all of your abilities in Conan, so your idea there is a little over the top.

Since you haven't run this game yet at all, why not try it first as written. I think you'll find that without challenge ratings and with the 20 point Massive Damage threshhold, it's not going ot be D&D at all. Even a super human can drop in a single blow.

Why do you want a "no level system" if you haven't even run Conan as written yet?
Thanks for your thoughts, alot worth concidering for me. As for why I do not want to have levels? Well, during my major pause from WFRP (and other games) some five years ago, I runned DND 3 for three years. Im sure there is nothing wrong with levels, its just that it brings out the worst in my players. They completlly forget playing ( and they are mature and experience players) and just look ahead, for all those cool powers and stuff like that. When I went back playing WFRP, they altered their style back to normal again, concentrating on the character and roleplaying again.

Conan seem to be a very good game (Im an old Conan fan) in a fantastic setting - a setting to roleplay in, not just leveling in.

And one thing too: about balance. Neither me nor my character care about balance anymore. WFRP v1 was not so balanced (compare elves and humans starting stats) and it never bothered us.

As I see it, if one player wants to buy a maximum in BaB or Parry or whatever, he will still suck in the rest of his abilities etc. A wise player will advance in a somewhat balanced way, because leaving behind scores will make the character vulnerable. So, Im trusting my players to be sensible here - which, since we all know players, can be a huge mistake.


Well, I will concider many things you said, and maybe fix a little here and there, but I will make a try for it (I plan to start my Conan-game in september). If it does not work, I guess I will have to go back to levels again.

If you have some advice on improving my above system, please come with suggestions.
Higa said:
A wise player will advance in a somewhat balanced way, because leaving behind scores will make the character vulnerable. So, Im trusting my players to be sensible here - which, since we all know players, can be a huge mistake.
Yeah, maybe I should have said that in my previous post; if you have sensible players that want to create balanced and realistic characters (and have fun in the setting, not just with the rules), your system will probably work fine. But I still think your system is very open and exploitable to powergaming, so with the wrong players, beware!

Higa said:
Well, I will concider many things you said, and maybe fix a little here and there, but I will make a try for it (I plan to start my Conan-game in september).
Good luck, and let us know how it works out!

Higa said:
If it does not work, I guess I will have to go back to levels again.
Levels can be fun, I promise! :D

Higa said:
If you have some advice on improving my above system, please come with suggestions.
Well, the one thing I might do would be to implement the idea of escalating costs I mentioned in my previous post. So have for example the first increase in BAB (or HD, or whatever) cost 100 XP, the second one 110 XP, and so on. This would give a little incentive to spread the XP among various things.

EDIT: I just realised that I don't really see a reason for why you should retain the different Classes at all. Your system won't really preserve balance between the different Classes, and it seems silly that a Soldier should pay 100 XP for 2+Int skill points, while a Scholar gets 8+Int skill points for the same amount of XP. In my opinion, you might as well just do away with Classes all together and have all advances available to everyone. You could then have a general cost of, for example, 100 XP for 4+Int skill points, or 100 XP for d8 HD, and so on.
I've been working on a similar system -- I'm basing mine off of Decipher's CODA system, which is a LOT like the d20 system, actually, but where 'levels' are a lot more open-ended.

I've never liked how, in the d20 system, you get a set amount of things and that's it. It makes some character concepts not work. You can't have the amazing diplomat and strategist without that character also being a pretty good soldier.

Static levels like the d20 system uses hamper creativity and many concepts, I think. I like a system with more freedom - though not so much freedom as to not work -- and not so much freedom that it becomes a classless system.

CODA is almost exactly what I wanted, so far as the way "levels" (advancements) are handled.

So if you've never heard of it -- check it out. I have The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game Core Book by Decipher, but I believe you can also get the CODA basics through the Star Trek RPG by Decipher.

If nothing else, it'll help you out quite a bit.
I will work out different - or raising - costs and implement it, it seems necessarry to do so.

As for skipping classes: well, as I see it, the scholar lives a totally different life (off-adventure time) than a soldier. Therefor, he will buy advances especially made for him: the scholar class, in which he will get more skill points for the same amount of Xp than a soldier (the soldier is not so likely spending time with his nose in books).

I will check out LOTR.

And finally, I must say that I am impressed with the Conan game so far. The setting is great, the system seem great and altough I have played almost all RPG's in my days, I have only been this excited for a game once, and that was in the 80's when I for the first time opened up WFRP.

Today, I start working with my first session-adventure. Cant wait to play.
Like a previous poster, we don't deal with EXP any more..I award levels when it makes sense to do so. the PC's have advanced a bit faster than they would normally, but we are all adults with careers and this has given us the ability to see the nice progress of a character up to the mid/high levels. It has kept the game fresh and the players eager for the next challenge. We have one more major series of adventures with these characters then they will be 'retired' and we'll start another set doing the same thing.