One assumption that I’ve been toying with is that PC advancement is tied to accumulated, earned experience points. For most, this is a no-brainer.
I, however, lack a brain… so I had to question it. Once I did, I stopped and wondered… why, if D&D assumes an average rate of advancement of one level per 11 encounters, does it bother with experience points? Why don’t we just count encounters?
Last night, I played in a game using the new WoD system (which I prefer to the old one). The GM is using the default xp system, which gives a variable number of xp. One xp is given for the ‘learning curve’ – you get an xp if you mention something your PC learned that session. This isn’t a new idea, but it is sort of interesting… primarily (to me) because the effect is that there is this floating xp award out there that is yours to lose. That is, its effectively a default award that a player may (but rarely will) fail to claim.
Still questioning, I now wonder, what if all xp worked like that?
What if you didn’t earn xp at all? What if it came to you at a default rate? What if you could collect some or all of that xp depending upon your PC’s actions?
This isn’t really any different than a GM laying out the potential xp awards in a session… and realizing that not every PC will earn all of them. It is, instead, a different way of conceptualizing that. It opens up some new design space.
Well, for one thing, each PC could have different criteria (I’ll call them Traps here) which could cause them not to gain full xp. I’ll take a character from last night’s game as an example: Hector is a mechanical genius and technophile. He’s also socially awkward. His Trap could be: Lose 1/2 xp in a session if you (a) pass up the chance to fix or improve something mechanical or (b) make a good social impression on someone. This provides a way of reinforcing character shticks without worrying about bookkeeping.
It also allows for some stranger advancement options.
One thing I’ve been toying with is a character advancement scheme based around the pursuit of eudaimonia. I have rather particular ideas about virtue theory. I didn’t want a system that rewarded you for practicing discrete virtues. Instead, I wanted a system that would reward you when you acted from all virtues – without conflict between them. Ultimately, I want something that effectively penalizes your advancement when your virtues and goals are in conflict…. and to do this, it would be simplest to have a fixed advancement rate that could then be tuned down at need.
(I don’t know that this would be a fun system, but its something I was contemplating…)