29 November, 2017

Career Paths

I've seen two common ideas for character progression in LARPs. The first is the point buy system, where players accumulate experience points (or whatever other name the system uses) over the course of play, then spend those points to improve their character, often finding that more potent upgrades have a higher cost. The second is the levelling system, where players gain a level in a profession for each game they attend, or maybe earn experience points toward levels in a manner similar to a D&D game. There are variants on these two options, where some levelling games allow multiclassing, and others don't... or where some point buy systems vary the costs for different things depending on the nominal "class/profession" or "race" of the character (eg. Dwarves are known for using axes, so they get 20% off their Axe skills, Elves aren't known for using axes and might have even made an ancient pact with tree spirits to avoid using them, so they pay 20% more.) A lot of those games that claim to be "more realistic" are just games that make things more complicated or add to the bookkeeping. It's basically the same things seen in the tabletop world, with the same types of people who have only ever played one game and who are rabidly fanatical that this particular game is the best without a good point of reference or comparison.

The local Boffer scene is a bit like this. One game was developed from first principles, with minimal referencing to other systems around the world that had been operating for years/decades. Other games spinning off from this were basically devised as heartbreakers...fixing one particular element of that original game, then claiming to be "new and revolutionary". Some local games use "point buy", some use "levelling", the first game actually used a quirky blend of both...perhaps a bit like Warrior, Rogue & Mage, where "body" score improvements automatically gave hit points and weapon proficiencies (thus reflecting the Warrior side), "mind" score improvements allowed more quirky abilities (reflecting the Rogue side), and "spirit" improvements gave more spells and access to more mystical effects when purchasing those quirky abilities associated with the mind score (reflecting the Mage side). It's not a perfect analogy, but it vaguely works. It's what most of the local players think of when they think "LARP". But there are some really annoying elements to it, mostly because a bunch of things are bundled together, so a single increase can be expensive, and some of the cascading benefits have been left hanging (eg. One player buys an extra point of Body, but doesn't want the extra weapon proficiency because a different weapon doesn't match their character concept... another player spends just as much on a Mind upgrade, but this only opens a slot for a new ability, they don't actually get anything mechanically advantageous. The same points spent and one players gets more than they want, while another gets less than they want). Similarly, after a couple of upgrades we've been seeing the issue that players need a few games to get any further improvement, which can feel slow and tedious. I've tried to push things in directions, to improve what I saw as issues in balance, because other people were also seeing those balance issues and certain optimal builds became common.

Basically it's time to start from scratch, because the tweaking and modifications are starting to show strain and cracks in the system.

For one, I want the improvements in characters to be more incremental. By that, I mean smaller improvements, more often. Early in a characters life there would be two or even three upgrades per game, gradually this would drop to one upgrade per game. I similarly want upgrades linked to storyline effects, and trying to do this under the existing system has proven problematic. Finally, I've been trying to get the career path system from Warhammer Fantasy RPG into a LARP for years, so this feels like it might be a good opportunity.

Warhammer Fantasy is a dark gritty system, and since this new game is a fantasy post-apocalypse, it kind of works.

I'm aiming for characters who will start a couple of steps above the bottom of the heap, but with a long way to climb before they reach the top. A bit like the way characters in Dark Sun start at level 3, because anything less powerful doesn't stand much chance of survival in the wild. Since we're talking fantasy post-apocalypse, this is another synergy that I'm happy with.

So, we'll start with characters who were "ratcatchers", "thugs", "street urchins", "scavengers", and "apprentices", but who have either expanded their skill sets by pursuing a couple of paths, or have started the process of mastery in a single field.

Warhammer Fantasy RPG gives careers a range of possible attribute upgrades, and some associated skills. While a character is pursuing the path they get a special power; but unless they master the path by buying everything associated with it, the power is lost when a new career is pursued. So, I'm thinking of something similar, but streamlining it a bit.

More to come...

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