2019-01-11 No Advancement

If I were to design a simple new RPG it would not have advancement. Much like Traveller. So how do you get an ever changing game experience? Different spells might be a way. But what I would like to do would be the adding of powerful named enemies. Nobody knows you at first, you have no friends, and no enemies. Later, you know more about the world, you have made friends, and you have made enemies.

Personally, I think that “inner changes” and growth as a person don’t need rule support, that just works as-is. I guess the reason I was thinking of this was a podcast episode by Ray Otus I just heard about Advanced Sellswords and Sorcery. The idea was to have some sort of “advancement” which meant being able to take more wounds (being able to have more negative tags/aspects before being taken out) and I thought to myself: but this just makes combat longer, that’s boring!

Have you ever played Traveller? It doesn’t have any meaningful advancement at all. The only thing that changes over time is that you might have more money, better equipment (including a starship, of course). I still think it has long term appeal.

Same with the basic idea Fate as I see it: you might shuffle the skill pyramid around, but you’re not going to actually get better in absolute terms. And that suits me fine. Even though it’s very different from the D&D family of games. At least, that’s how I remember it. On Mastodon, @hawkjohenson remembered some sort of advancement (adding more skill points to the skill pyramid), but we both didn’t check the books. :)

The Fate rules I read and used were Spirit of the Century, Diaspora (and that Mass Effect game based on Diaspora, not the other one), and some reading of Fate 2 way back when I revised my own Mesopotamian Fate variant (in German) – and I never noticed a way to grow the skill pyramid. I just reread my own Fate variant and it mentions switching skills in the pyramid and removing consequences and the like – but not getting more skill points.

What I am looking for is the promise of changing gameplay over time. Classic D&D achieves this in a way with spell levels. The game with and without fly spell is very different. Same with a host of other spells.

To take a very different example: I love how the gameplay of A Dark Room changes over time. So breaking away from that single axis of change (in the words of @halfjack) is central.

That is also why I don’t want to play a variant of D&D where characters get more and more hit-points and it’s all about the attrition, the slog, the grind, the endless back and forth. This happens if hit points are inflated, or special attacks like level drain and various save-or-die effects (poison, petrification) are removed from the mid-level game. If these are not in effect, then all you are left with is the slow back and forth of melee. Ideally, however, combat is over in two or three rounds when I run the game: at low levels, two or three hits should take people out; at higher levels, it’s spells, save-or-die and level drain and similar attacks that speed things up.

That’s also why I don’t want the armour class of the opponents to increase as the attack bonus of the characters increases. If you do that, nothing changes. I’m fine with fighters hitting every single round at higher levels. It’s supposed to feel different!

Changing gameplay is more important than more staying power, better chances to hit, or similar “advancement”.

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