Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Playing With Experience, Part II - Adding

Yesterday I posted about about using Uniform Level Progression and a simplified system for accruing experience as a way to save me the trouble of too much point counting. Today, my thoughts go to adding in a few more ways to gain experience while keeping to that design goal.

The estimable Jeff Rients made quite a splash a few days ago by articulating a convincing argument for and method of granting experience based upon exploration. Like many others, I find this idea enchanting, not least because I have come to the conclusion that exploration is what this crazy old game is all about. Not killing things, not taking their stuff; those are by-products of the act of venturing into the unknown. Can you run Ye Auld Game without exploration? Sure you can. But I do think that this is what the game is really designed to do.

The strength of the exploration idea is the flexibility of the concept. Exploration can be defined in this context as the stepping into terra incognita, the twin classics of the Wilderness and the Underworld. But it needn't be limited to that. As has been said, travel broadens the mind, and you don't have to go where no man has gone before to explore. A game which has a fantastic city along the lines of Lankhmar or Sanctuary might well give experience the first time a yokel ventures onto it's decadent streets. Indeed, if it's a city-based campaign, you might well grant experience for different sections of the city--the first time you see the Great Tyrant's palace, the first time you wander the Great Bazaar, the first time you make it back out of the Thieves' Quarter, and so on.

Or, take a game in which information is important. Experience might accrue from finding out things, whether you do it by looting ancient tombs or from the safety of your armchair. A certain Lovecraftian-sense might be given if characters earn experience from learning Awful Truths. A noirish twist would grant experience for learning Secrets from the Past. The possibilities go on an on.

Now, let me descend from the heights of theory to the ground of design, specifically the design of Under the Dying Sun. I'm perfectly persuaded that Dying Sun should grant experience for exploring. The theme of a dying world, in which travel is inherently dangerous and the inhabitants have grown insular and isolated just calls out for rewarding the adventurer. Now how to do it is a more difficult thing. I intend to hew to the simplifying ideas from yesterday's post. I might, for instance, take various features--mountains, hills, villages, cities--and rank them in simple increments of 100's of xp's. So, visiting a little village grants 100 experience points, while visiting the infamous City of Hajal might grant 1,000. Getting close enough to smell the sulphurous effluvia of Devil Lake might give 500 xp's and descending the great sinkhole in it's center is worth an additional 500.

That's an idea for physical exploration, but as discussed above, there's much more that can be worked in. One nifty thing about this system is that I can, at last, feel totally comfortable granting experience for discovering artifacts and relics. Any time one comes upon tools of the Old Men, one learns that much more about the unfathomably vast history of the world. Similarly, I think I might give half the experience for killing a monster when one is first encountered (50 xp/Hit Die rather than 100).

That's a few ideas. It's all still percolating through my brain and, as always, I'm thrilled when any of my hypothetical readers feels like a tossing an idea at me. And, while the ideas percolate, tune in to our next installment--Complexifying.

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