Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A False Sense of Growth

Sometimes a role-playing game will use a set of mechanics, a.k.a. rules, to simulate a facet of the real world in a less than realistic manner. There are a number of reasons for doing this, the primary one being simplicity. The most prominent of these convenience simplifications is the level system. For those that don't know, the level system involves earning points that represent the growth of a character in the game. The points are experience points and many games refer to them as XP with the X standing for experience. XP rules can exist without a level system, but I'm not aware of any level systems without XP or a similar concept because the level system is co-dependent. A character reaches a new level after every so many XP earned. This is where the level system fails.

When characters reach a new level of experience--these are usually characters run by the players--they improve their skills and abilities. This is a vital part of the gaming process. The problem, the artificial quality, is that everything improves all at once. All of the character's skills are raised by a level, even if they haven't been used recently or at all. New powers or spells or psychic abilities, etc. suddenly appear to the character from out of the blue. Bonuses are applied to different combat rolls that didn't have such high bonuses before or maybe no bonuses at all. The changes all occur without training, instruction, or time spent mastering them. The new abilities and bonuses do not even have to have any tie to existing ones or reflect a previous desire for growth in the character.

Players and Game Masters take it upon themselves to fix this falseness to some degree by saying that characters practice their craft, self-teach themselves things, and plan ahead for the future that will be represented when that character gains a new level. Occasionally a game will suggest this as well. Spell casters are known to research books and at times, according to the setting's mood and details, settle down and meditate upon the world and their place in it, and from this they gain insight, which informs their new spells, or the idea to research specific spells. Most of the time though this is a stretch and as something glossed over it lacks a certain depth and feel. It does not deal with the improvement flood all at once either. Next time we'll look at a better way.

Mood: forward-thinking.
Music: The Iron Road by Widomaker and Fake by Motley Crue.

Widomaker: Stand By For Pain
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Motley Crue: New Tattoo
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