I’ve been giving some thought to the freeform vs. classes debate. And it seems to me that, in the end, there isn’t really a great deal of difference.

In most RPGs, there are three basic templates: Fighter, Spellcaster, and Rogue. They might have subdivisions or subclasses, as when Fighter can split off into Ranger and Paladin, but overall they are pretty similar within each template.

This is true also in games such as Oblivion that allow for custom classes. There are fighting skills, magic skills and rogue skills. The one difference is that custom creation allows for mix and match, without the need for multiclassing.

A player in a freeform game will usually go one of two ways. The first is to stick with the traditional, and make a character that specializes in one of the three basic classes.

The other way, of course, is to take a little from each. So you have a character with some weapon skills (usually two, ranged and melee); some magic for buffing and offense, and possibly some thief abilities, if there is no way to simulate them with magic.

For instance, in Morrowind I had Max. Max Open, the spell that could unlock anything. And who needs Hide In Shadows when you have invisibility?

In Neverwinter Nights 2, you can have as many as four different classes. With careful choosing, a very powerful character can be created, much the same as in freeform.

Certainly, different players will tweak their characters in different ways. However, in the end, it’s likely that such variations will be minor at best.

Of course, not all games allow for such freedom. The shooter types, like Titan Quest, start you off in one, and allow only one more. And Diablo was strictly single-class.

When we get to the MMOGs, the situation may be different. There I am at a disadvantage, having no experience with any of them. It could be that straight classes, with no multiclassing or freeform, works out better in the balance.

However, as far as single-player, or small groups (as in the NWN mods) go, freeform may not be that much of an advantage over the traditional style.miniscorp