Friday, December 7, 2007

Improvement by Time and Training

In general, I don't like systems that require or incentivize training. Frankly, training is rarely exciting. An occasional montage might work, like Luke with Yoda, but mostly it gets old quick. To make that the only method of advancement sounds uninspiring.

Enforcing realistic improvement rates slows character development to a crawl, so it's generally better to skip on this realism unless you have some way of guaranteeing the same playgroup for consecutive years. If you have a foolproof retention method, please publish it!

That said, Time & Training works admirably for Continuum. Largely because it's a time-travel game. The PCs control their own development, being capable of saying "I need to know about Art History to answer this question, so I'll jaunt off for a semester at MCAD before attempting the roll." Time & Training is not the only XP system therein, they also have an Improvement by Attempt sub-system. Players can fluctuate between actively seeking skill upgrades and just incrementing those things that the GM asks them to roll.

It can also work pretty well for any game that features sweeping leaps of narrative time. I don't recall what the XP systems of Pendragon and Orkworld are like, but I imagine you could work a fairly realistic advancement system into any game that uses their concept of "winter season".

My old "Hearts of Darkness, v2" LARP did so fairly effectively, though it was using a hybrid system of this mixed with XP by Accomplishment. The game featured immortal vampires as PCs. We'd run 6-8 session story arcs, then advance the timeline by 5 to 20 years. Experience could only be spent between story arcs. Your accomplishments in the previous arc made various things cost less XP. We'd give each player an individual list of things that had reduced costs due to their efforts.

What are your thoughts (or anecdotes) regarding games that use strongly simulationist methods of character advancement?

No comments: