Day 31 - Experience
One of the things I dislike in roleplaying games is Experience Points or any mechanic that simulates it.
My dislike of Experience Points (henceforth as "EPs") stems from the days of D&D back in my early rpg days as well as with systems that I ran in the 1980s. (Yes, I even disliked EPs in the classic DragonQuest RPG that I ran back then.) I understand the need to have some way for player characters in rpgs to develop their skills, abilities, whatever, but the mechanics are just irritating. Players tend to gain 1 EP for showing up to game, X EPs for killing beasties, Y EPs for preventing the wizard from accomplishing their goal, and so forth. And then there are the game systems that give player characters EPs for things in the down time between adventures! Why? Why does it have to be about rewarding players for adventuring? What ever happened to the joy of gaming at the table for the fun of it, without having to deal with Experience Points and then the costs for raising abilities?
This is not to say that I'm against some means of having players learn new skills, progress in learning of skills they already have, and so forth. And to do that, I've come to appreciate how some of the indie systems out there (and even a few of the non-indie systems) handle this. For lack of a better term, it's a system called the (Experience) Arc. The example I'll use for this is the Zorro: The Roleplaying Game mechanics.
In Zorro: The Roleplaying Game, it's called the Character Improvement Arc. The arc is an individual story your character attempts to fulfill. When the player chooses an arc, the player works with the GM and the other players to ensure that all the arcs work together narratively, but are not identical. Each arc is a series of narrative steps and goals the character must fulfill, but at the end of the arc they gain an increase to an Attribute or a Skill. The steps and the arc must tie logically into the Attribute or Skill that is being improved by the arc. And thus, an example will suffice.
Don Diego (aka Zorro) wants to improve his Melee Skill, which is currently a 4D rating. He will need to create a 5-step arc focused around his sword skills. It might look something like this:
Step 1: Don Diego must acquire a new sword from the Master Blacksmith Juan Lopez.
Step 2: Don Diego must travel to San Juan to purchase a rare book on fencing techniques from the Spanish Master of Fencing, Gabriel de Alatriste.
Step 3: Don Diego must return home, and practice in secret.
Step 4: Don Diego must defeat three or more enemies at once with his new blade.
Step 5: Don Diego must defeat a more talented swordsman in single combat.
After all of these events have unfolded, Don Diego would then increase his Melee Skill from 4D to 5D.
As the reader can see, this is an elegant method of increasing abilities in a roleplaying game, and doesn't require Experience Points. The majority of Character Development Arcs shouldn't be side stories, but having a piece or two happen off-screen can work well. In the example above, if Don Diego's player cannot be present for one game session, perhaps the character heads off to San Juan off-screen, thereby advancing the arc and moving his personal story and quest forward.
I can see myself using this method of character advancement in other game systems as well. To be honest, it's a lovely way to get past the number crunching mechanics of typical roleplaying games' Experience Point systems. And who knows, perhaps this will be something that catches on in rpgs...
And there you have this thirty-first, and last, post for this #RPGaDay for August, 2020. Hope folks have enjoyed this month's worth of thoughts about various aspects of roleplaying games and gaming. Comments, thoughts, questions, etc. are all welcome, of course.