I've come up with a working title for my new MMO RPG: Querulous Plains.
Now to talk about classes.
Basically the levelling system will be like pre-NGE SW:G. You have to earn experience by doing certain actions that are relevant to the skill you are pursuing to progress. An adventurer may have to kill things. A crafter may have to make things.
Levelling is towards a certain high point along a diminishing returns curve. For instance suppose you start with a generic 20% chance to hit that any adult character in the system will have. After X amount of experience you get to 40% chance to hit. After 2X you get to 50% chance to hit. After 3X you get to 55%. After 4X you get to 57.5%. You will never quite hit 60% nor will you ever max out.
You will never get combat skills so advanced that you can laugh at 3 peasants with pitch forks.
Every player gets a general package of skills that are either town-based, country-based or wilderness-based in addition to a set of class-based skills. Every class gets basic combat skills just like any reasonably fit adult in a medieval society. Each class then gets specialist skills to help them in their job. Progression in that job is related to actually doing the job, a cook won't become a better cook by killing orcs.
One of the key elements of levelling is the transaction system. This is a player-created quest system where one player pays another to do a job. For example a player could hire an artist to paint their house and the artist would get experience if the quest issuer signs the quest off. You only get experience and payment if the person asking for the work signs it off as satisfactory!
There are two timers on the transaction system. Basically you can only do a job once every four hours. And you can only do a job for a particular person once a week. You can't level up just by painting someone's barn 400 times.
Class: The Artist
This class depends on an extra functionality in the User Interface. Just as in Eve Online some of the basic Windows tools have been replicated in the game's UI (browser, calculator, notepad) this character will use an MS Paint type application in-game to create works of art.
At beginning level they have few colours and only broad brushes. Early jobs might be white-washing someone's barn. As they progress they get more colours and later on thinner brushes.
Class: The Assassin
Unlike other games the Assassin is not a combat character as such. This class functions more like a tradesman. Using the transaction system you accept a contract and then after terminating your target ask the contract issuer to sign the contract off.
The Assassin has good infiltration skills allowing them to pose as a lower level member of another class. They also have a surprise attack move on a long cooldown which is quite likely to kill a target. Chances of success are lowered by witnesses especially NPC guards and player police. If you think you might be a target stick to the crowds!
Assassins only get experience for gold received for completed contracts making this an arduous class to level.
Class Type: The Adventurer
This is actually several different classes, including the familiar Fighter, Mage, Cleric and Rogue. This class gains experience for completing player quests involving defeating monsters or outlaws. Someone has to want something killed, has to make a quest offering pay, then has to sign the quest off as completed in order for these players to receive experience.
Class: The Outlaw
This class levels by player killing. Any PK you do or help in counts. This is a combat class so the more players you kill the better at combat you get.
Class: The Builder
You progress by building structures. To start with you will probably build simple buildings like a barn. As you progress in the class you can take on more complex buildings and also can take on help. After a level or two you can have an unskilled helper. At high levels you can lead a team of high level builders (aka architects), supervising a gang of builders supported by a host of unskilled labour. You can at this level build Wonders of the World such as Pyramids.
Class: The Demonologist
You gain experience for player kills made by your summoned demons. Summoning demons is a high risk vocation. When you summon a demon the game generates some kind of minigame representing a contest of wills. This is on a timer and may take a different form every time - maybe a crossword, maybe a sudoku, maybe a game of bejewelled. If you lose the demon eats you.
In addition to the general difficulties of using a demon any witnesses that survive will trigger Witch Hunter visions.
Class: The Witch Hunter
This class receives visions when one of the supernatural evil character classes performs an act of supernatural evil in front of witnesses that survive 10+ minutes.
The visions are a clue to the witch's name and direction.
First you get the number of letters and a direction, eg:
_____ ___ North
Next vision will give you one letter of the alphabet as many times as it appears, eg:
N_NN_ ___, North-West
The Witch Hunter gets experience for PKing witches and can retain visions of two different witches at any one time. The more careless the witch the easier they are to track.
At higher levels your combat skills advance and you get better directions eg North-North-West.
Class: The Rock God
This is another class using a special application. This character can actually sing into the game. As they progress in the class they get to add backing music of increasing complexity. A low level Rock God might only be able to add a basic drumbeat while a high level Rock God could set up a Springsteen-class guitar riff to support their vocals.
Progression is based on a Thumbs Up system. Basically after they finish a song a "did you like it?" window pops up in front of nearby players. Players can choose yes or no.
If a Rock God is popular he can play louder in-game and the range on his Thumbs Up window increases. An insanely popular Rock God might be able to do a huge gig for hundreds of players at a volume to drown out the ambient noise. However if his massive audience didn't like him his volume and range would plummet!
Popularity decays over time so the only way to be able to play loudly is to continually receive positive approval from other players.
While some players might be genuinely adored by everyone most Rock Gods will probably go through something like the real world small band syndrome. You start off playing in front of small audiences packed with your mates. You get really over-hyped. You play in front of a big crowd and they are luke-warm. You fade back into obscurity.
Class: The Fashion Designer
This class gets its own special application like MS Paint but for fashion design. Otherwise very much like the artist.
Secondary class: The King
Politics is a disguised democracy.
The way this works in once every three months players are invited to Cheer for Their King. Players turn up to a big parade and vote for who they want to be King. If the current King wins the game launches a zone-wide cutscene of wild popular acclaim.
Any character of any class can run for office in three-monthly elections. The winner retains full class abilities and also becomes King.
Kings can cause NPC guards in their kingdom to aggro other players. They can have guards kill or capture players.
Royal consent is required before new buildings are placed in the Kingdom.
Kings can also set a tax rate, up to 99%.
After three months a player election happens. If a King loses an election there is a zone-wide cut-scene where the current King is dragged by cheering peasants to a guillotine and decapitated. The winner of the election then becomes the new King.
Example of play
A band of Outlaws is having a fine old time ganking and murdering. The local town collapses as non-outlaw players flee and the outlaws have the numbers to vote their leader Zogg the Black to the Crown.
King Zogg is ambitious. His outlaws have rubbish armour, just looting what they find and pretty rubbish weapons. He has captured two player weaponsmiths in the takeover. One of them is happy to work for the outlaws. The other has been coerced into working for them by King Zogg assuring him that any where in the world he goes he will be hunted down and murdered if he tries to leave. He could just not log on but the player finds the situation interesting in a soap box kind of way and figures he'll get plenty of exp in the short term and his freedom in the long term. He stays on as an unwilling prisoner of the Outlaws rather than leave and get killed, permanently losing his rather advanced character.
The outlaws daringly capture a caravan of iron and bring it back to town. This has certain political repercussions but the outlaws win the ensuing war and capture more non-outlaw players. King Zogg now presides over a thriving war economy and the outlaws are starting to look quite well-equipped. However three months has flown by and another election is looming.
Horrified King Zogg realises he actually has more non-outlaws than outlaws. He decides to ritually execture 20 non-outlaw players the night before the election warning his citizens that more executions will follow if anyone votes against him. (Incidentally getting a fat exp bonus in his primary class, outlaw, for 20 PKs).
The next day he wins the election unanimously and enjoys his wild popular acclaim.
The executed players now start over at level 1. They might become outlaws, part of Zogg's growing army. They could become heroic knights sworn to defeat him. Or they could move a long way away and go back to crafting.
A party of adventurers wants to loot a treasure said to be hidden in the remote Vale of Akatosh. The Vale is guarded by a terrible monster that is said to be invulnerable. However scholarly research indicates it has a weakness to music.
At the last moment they realise they don't have anyone with wilderness skills but are lucky enough to find Bert, a lumberjack who can keep them from getting lost and set up camps during their trips. With their highly successful Rock Goddess friend, Britnay, they set off for adventure!
It's a long trek and they have to log out for the night. Britnay complains that she didn't realise it was going to take so long.
Next day they progress. Bert helpfully reminds them they are paying him by the day and pockets some more of their gold. It doesn't give him exp like the old logs do but it sure pays better! Britnay asks Bert if there are any Fashion Designers out here.
They reach the Vale. Britnay has a panic attack. No one has appreciated her artistry for a whole day! She's ruined! (Her skills have indeed degraded slightly).
Before they can approach the monster the party has to sit politely through three warm-up songs by Britney, applauding rapturously each time except for the time when Bert clicked No by mistake (he was watching telly). That almost caused the group to collapse until someone pointed out to Britnay that it would take three days to get back alone without Bert's wilderness skills.
The party makes it past the monster and gets hold of the treasure. A treasure map is a special item that functions like a player transaction: effectively the party will be paid as if for completing a player transaction if they get the loot back to civilisation. Unfortunately Bert gets himself eaten by a crocodile.
It takes three days to get back. Britnay's singing skills have deteriorated alarmingly mostly because the party are all thumbs downing her now they no longer need her to soothe the monster. Even worse her expensive outfit is ruined since in this system style needs to be compensated for by lowering durability. All those sparkly gold bits and tassles lower the durability of a piece of clothing when the Fashion Designer makes it.
However they check into civilisation and get their exp.
Unfortunately the King is not happy to hear he is now short of one lumberjack. He demands compensation. The group has to grovel and hand over half of their loot.
I've tried to give an example of a system where the design of the system itself will cause roleplay to happen. The key to this is that players should have different goals and are rewarded differently.
Sure a bunch of griefers might just try to mess things up for everyone but this system gives them a role and a RP purpose. They are playable content for other players and other players are playable content for them.
One interesting facet of this system is that some of the classes have an ecology. If there are too many competent Witch Hunters then Witches and Demonologists become very rare and very careful so Witch Hunter becomes uninteresting and hard to level. People re-roll thus allowing more of the evil supernatural characters to enter the system.