Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Risk to Remain Tight in a Bud

Previously on R.G. Male's Dark Corners... I set up some information for those uninitiated in the greatness of role-playing games, particularly the pen and paper kind that come with books and people track things and do everything more or less by hand or keyboard. Last week I discussed the unrealistic method of character advancement known as levels, whereupon reaching a new level of experience the character has an explosion of growth, as opposed to a more natural progression. This leaves us with the need to look at how to bring that sense of realism, or verisimilitude back to the mechanics of the game. Advancement of your playing character within the game is one of the best ways of gauging how well the game is going. It's like winning in a game where there isn't real winning or losing because, as a story shared among friends, the journey is more important than the destination.

Rather than levels where everything advances all at once some games measure progress incrementally. The Game Master takes note of when a skill is used, or the players track it themselves, and after so many successes--or in the best systems a measure of losses as well, since mistakes are important to the learning progress--the skill is advanced. This is a fair simulation of the real world. The same process is applied to powers that the character has whether that is super powers, psychic abilities, or magic. This is particularly useful to magic systems involving learned incantations and rituals. The other side of the coin in this incremental advancement is that the character is required to practice and study. This is especially true of picking up new skills, learning new spells or creating new magic. However it does have its issues with psychic abilities and super powers.

Depending on the setting, and the mood it looks to evoke, psychic abilities may not be something that is learned. The power is either there waiting to be unlocked or it is not there at all. Super powers tend to be dependent upon time for their advancement or exposure to new catalysts that cause new powers to develop. This is not to say that existing powers do not advance just as skills do, and characters should ultimately learn new tricks with use of existing powers even if they are not expressed in the mechanics. For the new powers and abilities a system must be in place that works in parallel with skill advancement or on a time scale. The problem with a time scale is that a game could run only hours at a time within the setting or stretch out for weeks in game. This leads to slow or fast power gain respectively. Tune in next time for some options to deal with this.

Mood: excited.
Music: Good Enough by Van Halen and Better by Guns N' Roses.

Van Halen: 5150
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Guns N' Roses: Chinese Democracy
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