Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Super Psychic Power Ability Increase Time

Last we left off our discussion we came to one of those difficulties that are, well, particularly difficult. How do you balance between the desire to progress a character and the practicality of retaining some sense of reality? It is easy to simply suggest throwing out reality in this instance or work with something in a more abstract manner to reach the desired practicality. The abstract method at least deals with the issue. This is not to say that leaving the unreality be is unacceptable. Role-playing games are all about story elements and game elements together in the same experience. It is a layered experience where not everything need meet in the middle. That said how do you go about solving our issue of improving super powers and psychic abilities in a manner that deals with both short and long in-game timeframes?

Both psychic abilities and super powers can actually advance in the same mechanical manner as skills with the right story framework behind them. It is pretty much a de facto standard that psychic abilities are a function of the brain--the pituitary in this scenario may effectively be the gas tank, or not. For the purpose of producing psychic effects the brain is likened to a muscle. As blood flows into the sections of the brain responsible for psychic abilities other adjacent, or close by, sections serving a similar function, but so far unawakened power-wise, become activated over time. Thus like skills there is a chance every time the character uses their powers they might trigger a new psychic ability. Some kind of limit might be put on how soon the next chance might be, especially after having already gained a new power.

A similar scenario can play out when super powers are involved. Whether the character is a mutant or an experiment or gains their powers from some other method, the physics of gaining powers is the same--for a setting like this. Powers are caused by elements introduced within the body. These elements can range from chemical compounds to forms of radiation that leave residual traces in the body, to magical substances. They react to other body chemicals secreted during the use of super powers. Again like building bigger muscles new compounds are created that combine with some other chemical, hormone, or compound and result in new powers or further mutation. In either case, super or psychic power, the progression chance could be coupled with points, which are used to determine when a chance becomes available preventing too frequent progression on a dice fluke.

Mood: empowered.
Music: Music: Power Of The Sun by Bruce Dickinson and Main Attraction by Quiet Riot.

Bruce Dickinson: Tyranny of Souls
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Quiet Riot: QR III
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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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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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