Saturday, August 6, 2016

RPGaDay 2016 #5

Again, I'm breaking from the list of topics because I have nothing to say on it. I don't have enough character stories to sustain a month of them.

So I'll take an alternate topic and tell you about the game with my favorite character improvement rules.

I like rules that encourage different styles of play, creating incentives to do play into a genre or to be active rather than reactive. And what you award experience points for can be one of those things.

While D&D gets a lot of guff as the Lowest Common Denominator of gaming, its well-worn "XP for monster kills" is very much this type of rule. It incentivizes a certain style of play. In fact, while some games may use in-game mechanisms like fate points to reward players, very few systems use experience and advancement to support their genre and playstyle.

One exception to that is the Apocalypse Engine, the rules behind Apocalypse World, Dungeon World and Monsterhearts. Most of the awards in these games are either relationships and connections or experience points.

But I think my favorite character improvement rules are the ones that add to a character's flexibility without necessarily giving them bigger and bigger numbers. I first encountered this sort of rule in Pokethulhu. Only it's not really a rule so much as an assumption. There are no character improvement rules at all in that game. Your character will never be a better thulhu trainer than they are at the moment they enter play. What really makes your character is the monsters that they are able to tame and battle with. So even though your character sheet will never change, you are still growing more powerful by collecting all the pokethulhu critters.

I was so impressed with this idea that I incorporated it into my own design, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. Though instead of collecting monsters, adventurers in Oz collect friends that increase the variety of benefits you can get when you spend an Oz Point.

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