I guess I've come full circle on the class issue. First I started all against it. All against it. As the source of all that is evil and inflexible in RPGs. Why would anyone want to build a game around the concept of a player taking a sacred oath so their character may forever be what is chosen during character creation? Why after two decades of beating the dead horse of multiclassing does D&D still miss the point? Do away with classes, begone evil things from Hades himself. Or so I though.
I started on a point buy system that could make your character multiclass easily. A nice set of rules to self balance and off you go. Want to be a fighter magic user? No problem. Thief magic user? No problem either. Just plain bad ass figher? No problem there!
The system works pretty well. You can be all sorts of magic users. The nerdy all power spell caster. A threatening warlock. A paladin styled heavy armored and magic backed character or just some cleric or monk type wandering the fields. All was well.
Until I started playtesting it. Problem was there were so many options it was hard for the unexperienced player to make up his or her mind as to what to include. If only I had.... mhhhh noooo!! If there were.... nooooo!! I resisted, and resisted, and resisted to say the dammed word. The it finally came out as "character templates". I would not, for the life of me, call it class. But it is a class. In a way at least.
So what took me so long to come around to the same point I started from? Mhhh I felt damned. All that work for nothing. I had spent countless hours working up a system that brought me to using the one thing I vowed not to use: the class. But then it hit me. The problem with D&D is that its building blocks are classes. There is no smaller element than class. Yes there are skills and feats, but that's like left over pieces. Image a Lego you buy not only prebuilt, but glued together too (a D&D class). Then Lego out of their good will adds a couple of scattered pieces in the box so you can add to your prebuilt Lego (skills and feats).
Real Lego comes disassembled and in small bags. It includes a booklet with instructions to build a few models. You quickly build them and get to play with your Lego. You build block A with a few pieces. Then block B and then C. Put B and C together with some other pieces and get D which you add to A to complete the model.
So in the end I realize that the concept of a class is necessary, but only as the top level item. It's building blocks are roles which are in turn built up by skills. Roles are like fields of training and experience. They group together a set of skills which are know to well define and balance the role. Characters then multi-role rather than multi-class.
D&D has the pyramid upside down it builds on top of classes and decorates these with skills and feats. It should take skills and feats, and build roles with that then define classes as a set of roles. For example a rogue would have a basic role of rogue. An assassin would have rogue plus a specialization role of assassin. Game masters can then build roles as they see fit for their campaign setting and customize and intermix them into classes rather then modify the rather inflexible concept of class we have always lived with.