Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Playing With Experience, Part III - Complexifying

[Yes, that really is a word. Look it up.]

Part I saw me trying to simplify the awarding of experience in Under the Dying Sun and Part II saw me changing one of the bases of experience accumulation by rewarding exploration in a relatively broad sense. This third installment sees me trying to complicate things again now that I have a relatively stable base. Having somewhat deprived players of experience rewards for treasure due to their scarcity while inflating the award for killing monsters, I was concerned that I was making a pure blood-bath game. There was some mitigation due to exploration rewards, but they clearly wouldn't be the fast path to advancement. The question then is "what do I want to reward" which is much the same as asking "what behaviour do I want to encourage?"

I don't intend to rehearse all the arguments about what experience "means" in Ye Auld Game nor the consequent arguments regarding the rationale behind awarding experience for A, B, and C, but not X, Y, or Z. Frankly, I haven't the stamina to attempt such a resume, valuable though it probably is. Instead, I'm just going to jump into the idea and hope my hypothetical readers ride along.

The idea of class-specific experience rewards has floated around for years. I always ignored it as too fiddly and complicated. But having boiled the classes in Under the Dying Sun to three very broad archetypes with less mechanical distinction than is usual, it occurs to me that the idea may have merit. When a player selects a class, they have a lot of leeway as to how that character embodies that class. A Slayer could be a soldier, a gladiator, a bandit, or just a scary, scary man. A Survivor could be a crazy old hermit, an ardent tech-head, a grim-faced frontiersman, or a clever rogue. And a Sorcerer could be a desert eremite, cult leader, court magician, scholar, or even that creepy kid from The Twilight Zone.

But the class has meaning; it gives a solid core idea to the character: he kills, he survives, or he masters psychic sorcery. And that makes me want to reward behaviour that plays to the character core. The trick to this is to make these rewards general enough to fit the broad scope of the class without making them so broad as to eliminate the interest in the universal awards. What follows are my preliminary thoughts. I will definitely need to keep working on these ideas.

Slayer--Receive double the usual experience award for killing things when they do so single-handedly.

Well, that was easy. At least until the real world of play-testing. Let's try another:

OK, this one is a lot tougher. It's hard to see rewarding someone for not dying. That falls into the "too broad" category. So now I have to think. Surviving in this game is, at least in part, about mastering your environment. Stealth, Jury-Rig, Back Stab, Survival Instinct, and the Appraising Eye all go towards that.

Now I don't feel the need to reward being stealthy nor for making a Saving Throw (too broad). I could see rewarding killing a foe from behind or with a jury-rigged trap or the like. That's kind of cute. I could also see giving them extra experience for finding and/or deciphering artifacts. Hmn, I need to think on this some more.

Let's move on to Sorcerer.

Well, this one makes the Survivor seem down-right obvious. I'm definitely not going to reward the successful use of sorcery; it makes all kinds of sense, but it's just too broad. But if I tighten focus, I might give them a reward for using psychic sorcery to solve some kind of problem, like killing a monster purely by sorcery. That may still be too broad, though.

And that's about where I am, dear reader. I was holding off on this installment until I had something more definitive, but then realized that the whole point behind this blog, as recorded in my first post, was to stop that tendency on my part. So I present this half-arsed idea and hope to have it jell more soon.


  1. You could give Survivors a head start of half the normal amount of experience for escaping a close encounter with a monster (like being ambushed, mind-controlled, thrown in the Rancor pit, etc). They could also get once again the exploration experience for escaping a hazardous locale unscathed (like being lost in the Howling Ravines of Death without breaking a leg or your personal pack lizard falling into the abyss).

    Sorcerers could gain experience for acquiring sorcerous items, as opposed to only gaining experience for nonmagical treasure (because Slayers and Survivors don't understand these artefacts like they do). Or twice the experience that others would get if they do get experience, if you want to be generous. Sorcerers should also get experience for magic items others find, as long as the Sorcerer identifies it for them.


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