Comments on 2012-01-24 Changing Gameplay Over Time

How much of this “promised longterm change” do you think is necessary? 3.5e and 4e really shine in that regard but what about all these OSR games? Searchers of the Unknown Is pretty cool but certainly doesnt promise anything and also stuff like LL with its rather small spell selection and only with a short blurb about what happens at name level seems to fall into the same place as many indy games. Does a game need a huge amount of source books to be able to deliver on the promise of change?

– Florian 2012-02-03 07:15 UTC

I don’t think we need a lot of source books to achieve it – in fact I think Labyrinth Lord is close to the minimum. It has changes over time in a couple of dimensions. It has changing dynamics for some classes: start slow as an elf, start weak as a mage, have a level cap as a halfling, etc. It has enough of the game-changing spells: invisibility (2), fly (3), dimension door (4), teleport (5) to name the ones I am most familiar with.

I agree that it doesn’t offer rules for strongholds and mass combat like the Rules Cyclopedia did or like Adventure Conqueror King promises.

Searchers of the Unknown doesn’t have rules to differentiate races and classes as far as I can tell. No level caps, no different XP requirements, no spells, no specific abilities (those abilities contribute to the long term changes in that they are very important at first but loose importance as the characters gain levels).

As for how necessary this “promise of long term change” is: I don’t think it’s necessary at all. But it helps. If the system provides for change, then the game master will be forced to follow suite. Basically the system promises “this game will change over time.” At first we will have murder mysteries, but once we learn how to speak with the dead, we’ll have different adventures. At first we’ll do a lot of dungeons, but once we gain a castle, we’ll have different adventures. At first we’ll do a lot of exploration, but once we gain access to teleportation, we’ll have different adventures.

Now, I think that the game master can make the same promise. First we’ll run errands for the Jarl. Then we’ll travel south for a long time. We’ll be pirates of the seven seas. And then we’ll infiltrate a secret society. It sounds great, I’m in. The difference is that I can’t read the rule book and think “this is going to be great.” I need to trust the game master to pull it off. And if I’m a struggling game master, the system doesn’t encourage me to change my game. This may increase the risk of the campaign stagnating.

AlexSchroeder 2012-02-03 09:46 UTC

Ian Burns wondered Character advancement in RPGs, how important is it to you? I said:

I think character advancement is illusionary if your monsters just keep growing in power. I was thinking of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I think that’s what D&D does right: As you advance in levels, gameplay changes. AC doesn’t grow as fast as attack bonus. New spells. Save or Die gains in significance if you have more hit-points. That is why I like D&D character advancement: changing gameplay over time.

Another advancement style I like is the FATE style where “advancement” is actually just slow changes in your character: swap skills, swap aspects, that’s it. It’s much less effective than the D&D style, because the gameplay stays essentially the same.

Another advancement style I like is the Traveller style where characters stay the same but one way of playing the game involves earning a lot of money and buying better equipment. In a way, D&D has this as well in that magic items start to replace leveling up as your method of advancement.

(The statement is basically my takeaway from the main post where I said I should give Traveller another try and emphasize changes to the equipment over changes to the setting.)

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-16 13:51 UTC

Recently, I’ve seen some related posts online:

– Alex Schroeder 2015-05-15 16:37 UTC

I just reread a post by Justin Alexander: The Subtle Shifts in Play. There, he offers the following summary at the end:

As you play D&D, the game shifts. At 10th level you aren’t playing the same game you were playing at 1st level.

If we consider this narrow slice of the game, D&D basically used to say: “Okay, you start out exploring a nearby dungeon for 2 or 3 levels. Then you start exploring the wildnerness and you have to really focus on how to make those explorations a success — supplies, navigation aids, clear goals, etc. We’ll do that for 3-4 levels and then, ya know what? I’m bored with that. So we’ll keep doing the explorations, but we’re going to yank out all that logistical gameplay, replace it with some magical resources, and start shifting the focus of wilderness exploration to staking out fiefdoms and clearing the countryside. We’ll do that for 3-4 levels. By that time you’ve probably transitioned pretty thoroughly into realms management, so we’ll just give you this teleport spell and we can probably just phase that ‘trekking through the wilderness’ stuff out entirely.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

– Alex Schroeder 2016-01-27 16:44 UTC

Arcandio wonders: Is Crunch Required for Long-Running Games? I don’t agree with his analysis: for me, leveling up does not feel great. The leveling up is not the thing I enjoy and when I played in that Pathfinder game where we gained a level every single session, I was not excited, at all. And more specifically, I don’t think that games “benefit from having crunchy, detailed rules, at least as long as they’re intended to be played for longer periods.” I think that sometimes the detailed rules can provide the promise of long term change, but like long lists of specific spells, specific monsters and specific magic items, they don’t have to add to actual rules and require only minor, additional “navigating the rules”. I recommend looking at the blog post and thinking it through for your own games, though. Perhaps it’s a better fit for you than for me?

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-27 21:53 UTC

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