student 20 Productions

Random Thoughts of a Game Developer

The CCS and a Plea for Art

Heya. I thought I’d post the Class Creation System as it appears in the 16 Bit Heroes beta book so that all three of my fans could give it a go. I’ve included the complete Dancer class (created as an example for the CCS), and the Simple Skill List (without the complete rules descriptions, but with the brief descriptions that appear in the table in the book) to show how it’s supposed to work and to provide the other tools needed to play with it. If anyone comes up with anything, post it as a comment!

That’s all found by clicking the little “more…” at the bottom of this post. The other thing I wanted to put out today is a plea for pixel art.

I’m looking for pixel art that looks like it could have been taken from – or was obviously inspired by – classic 8 and 16 Bit RPGs. I’m looking for original art only, and it has to be stuff you don’t mind being shared with the world at large. I can’t pay anyone, but I can promise an Art credit. If 16 Bit Heroes ever sees print publication (in electronic or dead-tree format), I will try to give a free copy to anyone who provided art or other content, but I can’t make any promises at this time.

I will include any copyright information you like in the credit, including web addresses or whatever you tell me. Although the rules for 16 Bit Heroes will most likely be Creative Commons Share-Alike licensed, the art won’t be unless the contributor wishes it to be. I don’t want obvious imitations of characters like Link or Zelda, or other such famous characters – I’m interested in original art only.

In any case, if you have any such contributions to make, drop me a line at student (dot) 20 (at) live (dot) com.

In any case, on with the show.


The rules are easy to follow and direct enough, but there is a certain amount of creativity involved in getting a coherent concept going. The real challenge comes in with getting Class Powers, Ability Bonuses, and so on to work together in harmony.

The CCS is represented in the following steps. Things will work out better if Class Creation is a cooperative process where the GM and one or more Players work together, preferably sitting around the same table at the same time. While this is good practice, the only part where the GM really needs to be directly involved is during Step 4 (Class Ability Creation).

1. Name and Define

2. Select Skills

3. Select 1st Level Modifiers and Determine Difficulty Tests

4. Create a Class Ability

The ins and outs of each step is given full treatment in the sections below. None of this is especially complicated; only the first and the fourth steps are difficult, and then only because of the level of creativity (and, in the case of step 4, restraint) [1]involved. Step two is basically choosing ten things from a list, and step three is basic math[2].

Throughout the process below, and example class (The Dancer) is shown as an example. Each step brings this class closer to usability, and makes it closer and closer to being playable. The final class made in this example is perfectly playable, since it was made using the same rules as all the other classes in the game.

CCS Step 1: Name and Define the Class

In this step, you come up with a name for the class, and decide on things like what sort of things a character with that class might know about. Things to think about include where the class picked up their particular sorts of abilities, and what sort of background such a person is likely to come from.

At this point, you should also be thinking about what the class’s relative strengths and weaknesses will be. Will they be front-line combatants? Spell casters? An amalgam of the two? How will the class fill a particular role? Do they take up the front line as meat shields, or as high-damage dealers? If you’re working with a spell caster, what sort of magic do they use?

Dancers come from many walks of life, but most come from the entertainment business. Dancers tend to know quite a bit about music and the arts, and are often good at getting information from people, especially when it comes to gossip.

Dancers are primarily spell casters, using a combination of both Defensive and Offensive magic. Although they are weak combatants, their true strength lies in their ability to affect more allies or enemies than usual with their magic and their quick reaction time relative to other casters.

CCS Step 2: Select Skills

Look over the Simple Skills in Chapter 5 (the list begins on page 54). Select 10 Skills for the class. Feel free to select any you like, but keep the work done in Step 1 in mind as you make your selections. Skills that have multiple tiers count as one skill per tier.

After perusing the Simple Skills list, the following skills look the most like what we’re going for: Simple Weapon Group, Armor (Tier 1; Dancers could work in leather, right?), Offensive Magic (Tier 2), Defensive Magic (Tier 2), Utility Magic (Tier 2), and Agile. The final skill selection is a toss up between Combat Reflexes (to reflect the heightened reaction time idea the class is essentially based on) and Kenning (because they’re primarily a casting class, it seems reasonable that they should be able to see auras). After careful consideration, we’ll go with Combat Reflexes, since it keeps closer to the concept.

CCS Step 3: Determine 1st level Ability bonuses and Improvement Difficulties

This is a fairly simple step. Among the Six Abilities, distribute bonuses totaling +15. No single score can have a bonus higher than +7, and anything above +5 should be carefully considered. No score can have a penalty, either, so the minimum bonus is +0.

Once all 15 points of bonuses are distributed, it’s time to determine the Improvement Test Difficulties. Take the bonus listed for each ability and subtract it from 10, then multiply the result by 4. The result is the Improvement Difficulty. For the mathematically inclined, the formula looks like this:

4(10-x) = I

Where x = the modifier for a given ability and I = the Improvement Difficulty.

The key to this step is to keep in mind the previous steps. In order to deal a lot of damage in combat, for instance, a character will need either a high ST or a high AG with the Agile Attack skill. Most spell casters will need a high IN and a reasonable WI; Defensive casters and Summon Magic users can get away with just a high WI, although they’ll be a little short on MP. +4 or better can be called a “high” bonus, with +2 and +3 counting as “average”, and +0 or +1 being “low”.

Our Dancer class needs a high AG to be sure, but the reliance on both offensive and Defensive magic means that a high IN and WI are important, too. None of the other abilities seem to matter as much, but having a decent VI seems both useful and in line with the class’s concept. So, for Ability Bonuses, we’ll go with AG, IN, and WI +4 each, and VI +3. The other Abilities are set to +0, since we’ve run out of the +15 bonus we have to distribute.

To determine the Improvement Difficulties, we use the formula described above for each Ability:

· ST = 4(10-0) = ID 40

· AG = 4(10-4) = ID 24

· VI = 4(10-3) = ID 28

· IN = 4(10-4) = ID 24

· WI = 4(10-4) = ID 24

· LU = 4(10-0) = ID 40

This seems like a pretty good deal for the Dancer class. They won’t be as powerful of a spell caster as a Mage or a Wizard or anything like that, but they’ll be very quick, and their Magic will certainly be passably good.

CCS Step 4: Create a Class Ability

This is the most difficult step because there are no real rules for it. A Class Ability has guidelines, and that’s all. Class Abilities need to be useful throughout an Adventurer’s career. This means that they must either provide an ability no one else has that will never stop being useful, or the Class Ability must operate on a sliding scale, improving as the character gains in level so that it never goes out of style.

A good place to start is by looking over the class abilities of other classes to see if something similar could be used for the new Class. If a class is poorly armored but quick and expected to last in the front line, something like the Oracle’s class ability could be useful. If the class’s concept centers around fighting a particular type of foe (a Dragonslayer class, for instance), something akin to the Cleric’s class ability might be of more use.

Sometimes, however, nothing quite fits what you’re looking for in the new class. In this case, a discussion among the GG is a good idea to sound out the new Class Ability. It is important to exercise a degree of restraint; a too-powerful class ability can make the game less fun for the rest of the group, or make normal challenges to easy to be fun at all.

It’s also possible to provide an impressive ability, but give it a high cost. For example, if using a class ability requires a Full Turn (two Actions rather than one), it is less likely to be abused regardless of how powerful it is. If the ability costs MP, that will limit its use as well. Finally, the class ability can be limited to one use per battle, or one use per day. Because other abilities in 16 Bit Heroes seldom uses this constraint, and it almost never appears in the video RPGs that this game is based on, this should be considered carefully, since it can feel rather artificial.

The Dancer is supposed to be able to affect a broader target set than other casters, as mentioned in the initial description. None of the other class abilities really do anything like this, with the exception of the Cleric, who can damage all Profane creatures on the battlefield. This isn’t really enough for the Dancer, though. After much discussion, a Game Group might come up with this:

By taking a Full Turn (two Actions) and spending double the normal MP cost for a spell, the Dancer can choose to affect All Enemies or All Allies on the battlefield with any spell they can cast, instead of using the spell’s normal range.

Being able to change, for instance, the Lesser Heal spell into a spell that affects all your allies instead of just one is certainly a powerful ability, and will come in handy throughout the Dancer’s career. That said, it’s a pretty powerful one, so limitations were added (the extended casting time and the added MP cost). The ability has a good feel to it, too – instead of just normally casting the spell, the Dancer… well, dances it out. It takes longer and is more tiring, but it also has a greater effect. The Game Group decides that it’s a pretty good Class Ability, and so it sticks.

That completes the class creation process. The Dancer, written up as the previous classes were, appears on the next page. As you can see, although the CCS provides a simple and flexible framework for class building, it also requires paying attention and moderation.

CCS Sample Class: The Dancer

“I ebb and flow with the movement of magic; now, prepare yourself for the dance of your life!”

There are many in the world who can dance. There are some in the world with a natural talent for magic. Only the Dancer has both. Lithe, graceful, and with an intuitive grasp of magic, the Dancer can do things with the forcers of the elements that no other can accomplish.

Dancers usually discover their unique talents by accident as they pursue a calling to entertain – or just to party… Although some Dancers are trained under masters, the typical one got his or her start on the stage, and retains all the abilities of a professional entertainer, from sizing people up to putting on a good show.

Dancers are multipurpose magic users, providing offensive, defensive, and utilitarian support to any group. Their primary strengths are in the swiftness of their actions and their unique Spelldancer ability, which allows them to affect the entire battlefield at once. They are poorly armed and armored, however, and their weakness in front-line combat is hard to deny.

Dancer Class Ability: Spelldancer

Dancers have a unique insight into the ebb and flow of mystical power that allows them to dance with the flow of magic. Although it is costly and takes longer to do, Spelldancing greatly increases the impact of even the weakest of spells.

By taking a Full Turn instead of a single Action to cast a spell, and spending double its usual MP cost, a Dancer can cause a spell to affect all enemies on the battlefield or all allies on the battlefield instead of the spell’s usual targets.

Dancer Skills

Dancers have the Simple Weapon Group. In addition, Dancers have Agile, Armor (Tier 1), Combat Reflexes, and Offensive, Defensive, and Utility Magic (all at Tier 2).

Dancer Improvement Tests


1st Level Bonus

Improvement Difficulty



















Simple Skills




Defensive Magic


Learn spells that heal, provide Elemental Affinities, and improve defenses

Offensive Magic


Learn spells that cause harmful effects. It sounds less impressive than the other magic types when I put it that way, doesn’t it?

Oracle Magic


Learn subtle spells of the mind, time, and the forces of the universe.

Summon Magic


Learn to summon and control monsters



Learn techniques to use in battle using bare hands, weapons, defensive maneuvers, and movement.

Utility Magic


Learn spells that boost Abilities and provide useful effects.


Protective Gear

Make the most of armors, from leather and chainmail to full plate armor.


Protective Gear

Make the most of a Shield, be it a buckler or a tower shield.


Special Ability

Take the better of two rolls when making an Improvement Check for AG.


Special Ability

Make potions that restore MP and remove certain status conditions.

Combat Reflexes

Special Ability

Gain a bonus to Initiative checks.

Dual Weapon

Special Ability

Effectively use a weapon in each hand.


Special Ability

Make herbal poultices that restore HP and remove certain Status Conditions.


Special Ability

Take the better of two rolls when making an Improvement Check for IN


Special Ability

Sense magical auras and determine their strength and see in the dark to a small degree.


Special Ability

Take the better of two rolls when making an Improvement Check for LU.

Natural Weapons*

Special Ability

The character has claws, horns, a bite… something innate that can be used as a weapon.

Poison Resistance

Special Ability

Take half damage from the Poison Status Effect.


Special Ability

Take the better of two rolls when making an Improvement Check for ST.


Special Ability

Take the better of two rolls when making an Improvement Check for VI.


Special Ability

Take the better of two rolls when making an Improvement Check for WI.

Agile Attack

Stat Modifier

Use AG to determine ATT instead of your ST.

Clever Defense

Stat Modifier

Use IN to determine DEF instead of your AG.

Enduring Defense

Stat Modifier

Use VI to determine DEF instead of AG

Fortunate Defense

Stat Modifier

Use your to determine DEF instead of your AG

Lucky Strike

Stat Modifier

Use LU to determine ATT instead of your ST


Stat Modifier

Gain a bonus to MP.

Mystic Endurance

Stat Modifier

Use your VI to determine MDEF instead of your WI


Stat Modifier

Add 1 to your Move.


Stat Modifier

Gain a bonus to HP.


Weapon Group

Effectively use axes, maces, and heavy clubs.


Weapon group

Effectively use a boomerang or other exotic thrown weapon in combat.


Weapon Group

Effectively use bows and crossbows.


Weapon Group

Effectively use daggers, clubs, broken bottles, and other simple weapons.


Weapon Group

Effectively use long hafted weapons, including those that have pointy bits at the end.


Weapon Group

Effectively use mystical staves, rods, wands, orbs, and tomes.


Weapon Group

Effectively use a Sword – be it short, broad, two-handed, fencing, ninja, samurai – if it has a hilt and a long blade, it’s probably a sword.


Weapon Group

Effectively use weapons that are thrown or flung at a target. From throwing knives to slings to flying beer bottles.


Weapon Group

Effectively use any of a variety of very long flexible weapons, be they bullwhips, three section staves, or just a length of chain.

[1] Step 4 is mostly difficult because it requires both forethought and restraint, not to mention the ability to make relative comparisons. Creativity is needed too, so in many ways, it’s the most difficult step, and the place where things are most likely to go wrong.

[2] You’ll be using addition, subtraction, and multiplication, to be exact. You won’t even need division or fractions; better than some game systems where you need logarithmic functions just to make some characters, right?

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2 thoughts on “The CCS and a Plea for Art

  1. I’ll struggle through this later – I’ve got irons in so many fires right now it’s not funny. I’ll also try to whip up some sprite art for you. The only ones I might have on hand are OtORtR related, and you ain’t getting them out where the world can have them. :-)

  2. Thanks! I appreciate any help you can give me. I know this post is a lot to wrap one’s mind around, but I’m hoping that maybe a post this substantial, that actually gives folks something they can work with and makes a direct plea, will draw at least a little attention. Not a lot, mind you – just a little.

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