Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Experience and Training Times

I posted the following to the Scion Forums today. It was in response to someone saying that the "Speed Reader" knack should have an extra benefit of allowing people to raise knowledge-based skills faster. It's pretty coarse as-is, but I may refine it into a more useful essay sometime...

In most RPGs, I neither require people to spend time training in order to raise their stats or skills, nor do I reward those who spent time doing so with bonus xp or free dice or the like. It's a little unrealistic, to be sure, but that extra level of realism doesn't really benefit the game more.

Generally speaking, I just accept that XP is an abstract medium that exists purely for purposes of game balance. It doesn't really model character development - instead it's a way to reward player participation and enable them to tune their PC after character-creation. I don't figure it is meant to approximate the way people actually progress in the real world.

For example, in the real world, if you chose to specialize in a particular field, you tend to lose some of your skill in other areas. While we're in school (college, training programs, etc) we have all sorts of knowledge that we forget later. I, in the real world, am not as good at math or oil painting as I was 10 years ago, though I've honed other skills in the meantime. You may be a great cardiovascular surgeon, but you're not as good a General Practitioner as a result. That's just a reality of life - if you don't practice your skills, they get rusty. I can't say that I've seen that modeled in gaming - the closest I've seen is aging rules, but even those most often just penalize physical attributes.

I wouldn't reduce a PCs skill by GM Fiat because he hasn't rolled it in several sessions, or because we skipped 6 months of downtime between scenes. Increasing his skills 'cause he spent those 6 months studying something (but didn't spend XP to back it up) is just the opposite side of that coin.

While I'm okay with the "skills are cheaper" school of knacks, I feel no compulsion to extend such benefits to other knacks just cause it might seem more realistic.

Honestly, there's just not much realism in most XP systems, and I have no problem with that.

In White Wolf games (and many other point-based, not level-based, RPGs) you can go from rank amateur to an award-winning pro (in the skill of your choice) in just a few sessions that might represent as little as a few days in-character, but in the real world that typically takes years of dedication and practice.

The closer you model character advancement on reality, the less fun the game becomes.

(There are exceptions to that statement, of course, and a game using the "winter season" concept from Pendragon can get away with things other RPGs can't.)

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