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Author Topic: [Dragon Scroll] An introduction to the new game  (Read 3975 times)
Morgan Coldsoul
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Posts: 22


« on: August 21, 2009, 12:43:09 PM »

Based on our already ongoing discussion, and the suggestion of JoyWriter, I thought I would go ahead and post an intro to our project before I jumped too far ahead of myself. So, here are some brief details about the game and the answers to a few questions, supplied by JoyWriter (I agree that the Power 19 might be a little long for one post):

DRAGON SCROLL

What interests you most about the game?
The driving force behind the game is the desire to produce a system of mechanics and rules that is as simple as we can make it, but which retains flexibility, depth, and customization, and to combine this with an experience in which the player feels invested in their character and in the world of the Dragon Scroll. We hope that, through the use of storytelling and both new and classical fantasy and RPG elements, we will create a game in which the player feels like their characters mean something, and that they, as players, bring something to the table and to the story.

What do the characters do?
The fundamental idea behind the game is that the Pancreator wrote down all possible futures upon the Dragon Scroll; not all of these events are set in stone, and at certain points, specific people known as the Children of Change have the ability to decide which branch or fork history will take, based upon their actions. This is where the characters come in. Presumably, it is possible for a player to select any creature in the world as a character race or species, but only ten of these produce Children of Change--the Scroll Races. Characters from among the Scroll Races attempt, through their actions, for good or ill, to force the future onto the path they think best, and non-Scroll Race characters facilitate this (and remain important to the story, because without their assistance, the Children of Change could not operate). In general, this boils down to typical heroic or villainous activity, including high adventure, mystery-solving, political intrigue, and overall epic fantasy roleplay.

What choices and creative activities do the players have available?
Character creation is complex without being complicated, and is the central idea within Dragon Scroll, since it is the players' characters that affect the greatest changes in the game world. Players choose from amongst ten Scroll Races (or, at least, it is suggested that they do so, especially at first) to begin their character, then select one of ten Elements (light, darkness, ice, fire, water, lightning, stone, wind, wood, or metal), one of ten classes (barbarian, bard, black/red/white mage, ranger, priest, rogue, noble, or warrior), and one of many regions of origin to create a package of skills, abilities, and limitations. Finally, the players customize their characters with the selection of merits (improvements) and failings (character flaws) before venturing out into the world. The stories are designed to be open, giving players the freedom to explore the world and find multiple ways to participate in it, each choice they make affecting the direction that their adventures take next.

What kind of experience do you want it to be?
We would like for Dragon Scroll to be an exercise in immersive, cinematic high fantasy where the players feel that both they and their characters are important and that the story of the game is neither rigidly linear nor predictable, but constantly reacting to them, specifically, to create a series of meaningful adventures. Whether good or evil, male or female, two legs or more, the characters and their surroundings will draw the players into the game in a way that encourages genuine teamwork, creativity on the part of both the players and the Narrator (GM), lots of fun, intellectual and emotional stimulation, and both character and player growth.

And, most importantly, what kind of help would you like here? What's sticking in your game that you would like to see resolved?
We have designed a significant amount of mechanical rules and have a large framework for Dragon Scroll, including names for all the spells and items, a full bestiary, and even extensive details regarding various cultures. Now we are seeking to put it all together and close the holes. Some small but highly significant parts of the game, such as a name for the world in which it actually takes place, have escaped us, and the game is constantly morphing and flowing under our hands, so we are looking for any critical input that outside observers might offer, including first impressions of various game elements, critical overview of the various kingdoms and countries, an assessment of the combat and magic systems, and general ideas, questions, thoughts, or complaints about what we have so far. We hope this will help us to come up with the material we need to have that we don't already, and to revise our existing material and make it better. All commentary is welcome.

And here is a link to the ongoing discussion of terminology I've already started: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=28518.0
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2009, 08:05:59 AM »

Hi Morgan,

Your summary doesn't inform me of an important thing. You refer to meaningful content, like "the characters mean something," and a few other features like not railroading ... but not fully to what I call Creative Agenda. Rather than get abstract, I want to ask you a visual, practical question.

What features on a starting character sheet are subject to change through play? If you were to compare a starting character sheet with the same sheet after substantial, heavy-content play - preferably even several instances of such - what changes would I see?

OK, given that, what actual decisions and events of play resulted in those changes, in your current vision?

Best, Ron
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Morgan Coldsoul
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Posts: 22


« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2009, 06:08:42 PM »

Thanks for the feedback; this is an important question, and I'll try to answer it carefully in the way that I would advertise it to other developers rather than to a player.

The largest permanent, meaningful changes to a character sheet that you'd probably see after significant gameplay would be in four key areas (I won't count equipment or magic because those are very fluid, and change constantly without being concrete): Stats, skills, merits, and abilities.

Stats, of course, are the five (I think we're pretty solid on five--a big change the Forge has already helped us to make; thanks!) key numbers that determine your character's basic capabilities and limitations, in a dice-rolling, mechanical sense. Your stats can increase, affecting other factors such as damage, defense, and magical effectiveness, and can decrease, as well. It is difficult to improve a stat, but highly rewarding to do so, since raising your stats has probably the largest influence on your character than any other change you might make. This is especially important in a role-playing sense, since players need to modify their character's behavior to account for increased Grace or Power--and the only easy way to improve a stat is to roleplay it appropriately.

Skills are what your character does. Your skills will change dramatically during gameplay, but are dependent upon your character's actions. In Dragon Scroll, there are no "skill points" after character creation. Instead, after assigning your initial skill values, you roleplay your skills and are rewarded with improvements--a character who picks locks often will see an increase to their Skullduggery, while someone who focuses heavily on spellcasting can expect to see returns on their Magecraft. As with stats, it is possible to improve skills permanently in other ways, but these are few and far between; most improvement is dependent upon the player.

Merits are special qualities your character acquires by purchasing them with experience points. A merit enables a character to use a certain combat technique, magical trick, or social feat, or epitomizes some characteristic that the PC embodies, such as honor or loyalty. Merits are the most common improvements, and represent the most visible change to a character, but are dependent upon stats and skills for their functionality. Merits range from magical item creation to a noble inheritance to a pet or companion character, and are as diverse as the characters who acquire them.

Finally, abilities are the special powers, magical and mundane, that a character develops by advancing in their class or joining an order. The mage's telekinetic skills, the warrior's weapon prowess, and the priest's exorcism are all examples of abilities. A character who gains levels automatically gains new abilities, and by role-playing well and improving the correct stats and skills or purchasing the right merits, they may eventually enter an order that grants them additional abilities, such as the druid, with control over nature, or the mage-queller, with magic resistance and so on.

A character's every action and decision influences the development of these four key areas. The acquisition of experience points (awarded for overcoming challenges, role-playing their race, class, regional origin, and personal outlook well, and for acting out their position in the adventuring party) enables a character to advance in levels and to purchase some improvements, but actions speak louder than words, and so the greatest determining factor in character development becomes the player's ability to interact, via the character, with the world of Dragon Scroll.

Hope that's an adequate description, for now. Smiley
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2009, 07:30:34 AM »

I'm seeing something very familiar: plain and simple increase in character effectiveness.

That's not in itself a bad thing, but I hope you can see that it doesn't have much to do with "meaning." Nor does it have much to do with being more invested in one's character as a character. Bigger and tougher is only bigger and tougher; it means more if it provides a door into a specific change in how the character relates to the setting and to other characters.* So what I'm seeing is a disconnect between your game's reward mechanics and your stated purposes of play.

To paraphrase your stated purposes of play, you want people to get imaginatively and emotionally enmeshed in the fiction being created. They should be doing this by caring both about their character's decisions and about the impact and details of the setting. If I understand correctly, a person in play, especially later in play, should not be "leveling up to level up more," but rather operating almost like an intuitive author via deep engagement with the character, knowing that the character matters.

Bluntly, you are behind the curve. I mean, way behind - because RuneQuest, as of 1978, already achieved everything you are talking about. Use-based attribute and skill improvement, check; new abilities (exactly as you define the term) achieved through play, check. Merits (as you define the term) are a bit of a blunt instrument in old RuneQuest (they're called Geases), but they're there, and if you want a more sophisticated version, then Pendragon does it with a derived version of the same system.

Furthermore, RuneQuest provided all this with one of the most powerful and engaging settings in role-playing history, Glorantha, and specifically with the point that the player-characters would be stepping up to become serious players in the climactic events which will change the setting forever.

I'm not saying this to tell you to stop designing. I'm saying, look at your reward mechanics and see whether they actually mesh with what you want people to enjoy through play. What I'm not seeing, and of course I'm only seeing your posts and not the game itself, is why "getting bigger and badasser" has any point to it. If you do it just to do it, then you're talking about a hamster wheel, or at most, a video game - which of course has its attractions but is also sewn up quite solidly in the forms of World of Warcraft and D&D 4E, and it's not what you were describing as the point.

Best, Ron

* This is one of the most significant forms of Drift in long-term play of earlier forms of D&D: interpreting the names of the levels as increases in social status and as opportunities to have a greater impact on the setting. I suggest that playing any version D&D in the 1970s and 1980s with and without this particular Drifted element resulted in two extraordinarily different games, despite their superficial resemblance. You are describing the goals of one of these game-forms but utilizing the reward system of the other.
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Morgan Coldsoul
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Posts: 22


« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2009, 02:50:10 PM »

Perhaps I answered your comment incorrectly, or interpreted it wrongly; since I have most of the mechanics and the ideas behind the game in my head, it's easy to draw lines for yourself between the question and the answer that others without that information can't as easily see.

I am well aware that other games have, in the past, implemented many of the things we are trying to do. The Wizardry series also utilized use-based increases in skills, for instance. In fact, it can probably be said that, in a general fashion, all the good ideas have probably been had. However, I strongly disagree that encouraging good role-playing in a role-playing game is ever "behind the curve." But to address the "disconnect" you spoke of, I should point out that getting "bigger and tougher" is not encouraged to be an end unto itself. That particular type of character development is a product of role-playing well and interacting with the world in a meaningful way. If you play specifically towards that purpose alone, you are highly unlikely to get anywhere, I'm afraid. Let me give an example.

Each race and character class has a place in the world and, as a Child of Change, each character has a contribution to make to its future. Even though players will probably know, characters are not typically aware of their status as Children of Change until, possibly, much later on. They set up later events, which may alter the world significantly and possibly permanently, through their early actions and choices that they must confront and deal with later in their careers, when they become aware of what they have been doing. They have the power to send the world down the path of hope or spiraling into despair and destruction, each and every member of the party, and they also, via this power, have an obligation to use it wisely. Increases in hit points, skills, and spell power are simply side effects of their progress through the world as they deal with these circumstances.

The noble class is an excellent example of this: Nobles have a contractual duty to the Dragon Scroll itself and the dragons who ward it to guide the world down the course of sanity and peace, as best they can. In turn, the dragons grant them special powers to do so. Nobles are seen, even at 1st level, to be leaders among all peoples and exemplars of the best of their soceity or their race. Nobles who turn to selfish ends or use their powers for evil find them waning, as the dragons withdraw their support from those who break this covenant. So, anyone who plays a noble pursuing the goals of greater power alone will very quickly find themselves losing their powers, in fact; they must instead focus upon the more heroic goals of stopping a titanic cataclysm, slaying the evil sorcerer who threatens their territory, or protecting the innocent and enforcing the peaceable rule of law. Nobles also have other responsibilities--lands, vassals, the folk over whom they rule and which must be protected. Swerving from these aims will result in a loss of experience points and abilities, not a gain.

By the same token, any character who represents a hindrances to the party's goals or progress begins to advance more slowly, and then not at all. Poor role-playing leads to poor rewards, since those who are supposed to be heroes, engaged in the fight against evil and the triumph of good, and who instead go looking for the next class level or the shiniest armor, are not really the heroes they are supposed to be. This attitude will be reflected in the game world, as well: Poor choices by a Child of Change will create poor circumstances for others, as every action taken has its consequences.

If there must be a point to, specifically, growing "bigger and badasser," then it should be that, as the characters do slowly gain in power and control over their choices, then they will feel more confident in tackling larger and realer problems, such as preventing an evil deity from unleashing a deadly curse upon the world as opposed to simply killing highwaymen. The "leveling-up" process is a carrot to lead the party in the direction of grander adventures, not a device to encourage them to seek out even greater power.

I suppose I know what I mean, and I realize that all the information is not really available here for others to peruse, but I'm afraid I don't know how to explain it much better than that. Leveling up is not a goal, but a byproduct. The adventure is the point, and everything else is simply gravy, if the game is being played right. If there is anything I can clarify further, or if you can ask additional pointed questions, I may be able to add more.

Thanks!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2009, 04:16:07 PM »

I do understand you, Morgan, perfectly. It's not my understanding you have to deal with. What you have to deal with is your own game and the fact that its reward mechanics apparently do not reflect what you want playing the game to be about.

I asked, what changes are evident on the late-stage character sheet? You pointed to bigger and badassad-er. I'm saying that, given your stated goals of play for this game, that this is the wrong answer. Your post simply confirms how wrong it is.

I think you should consider whether there's anything else about that character, far into play, which you do value in terms of the goals of play, which could be evident on that later-stage sheet.

Best, Ron
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Morgan Coldsoul
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Posts: 22


« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2009, 06:15:32 AM »

Sir, I have thought and thought about your last post, and I must be honest in saying that I truly do not see the problem you are driving at, although I would like to. I thought I was driving away from the direction you indicated as inappropriate, and am making a sincere effort to indicate that simply leveling your character up is not the point of the game, but a side effect of playing. Since you seem to be looking for a very specific answer, I would like to ask you if you can simply state what you would like to see on your character sheet, were you playing the game. How does my previous post indicate that level grinding is the inherent idea of the game? And what changes would you like to see in your character over the course of play, within the outline I have provided of our goals and concepts?

Thank you in advance.
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JoyWriter
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Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2009, 12:44:51 PM »

I sort of don't want to step in as I'm as interested as you to see where Ron takes it, but hopefully I can add a line of observation of my own without disruption:

Each race and character class has a place in the world and, as a Child of Change, each character has a contribution to make to its future. Even though players will probably know, characters are not typically aware of their status as Children of Change until, possibly, much later on. They set up later events, which may alter the world significantly and possibly permanently, through their early actions and choices that they must confront and deal with later in their careers, when they become aware of what they have been doing. They have the power to send the world down the path of hope or spiraling into despair and destruction, each and every member of the party, and they also, via this power, have an obligation to use it wisely. Increases in hit points, skills, and spell power are simply side effects of their progress through the world as they deal with these circumstances.

....

By the same token, any character who represents a hindrances to the party's goals or progress begins to advance more slowly, and then not at all. Poor role-playing leads to poor rewards, since those who are supposed to be heroes, engaged in the fight against evil and the triumph of good, and who instead go looking for the next class level or the shiniest armor, are not really the heroes they are supposed to be. This attitude will be reflected in the game world, as well: Poor choices by a Child of Change will create poor circumstances for others, as every action taken has its consequences.

Sounds like in your specification there isn't really use-based skill change to any significant extent; players only advance in their skills if they are following a heroic path. So what if you remove the side effect? What if character capacities do not advance for the entire game, or what if they only advance as you change the world? That shifts the focus back towards "making a difference in the world", drawing all eyes towards those interactions and consequences that you want to make.

To put it in comical form, adding gravy to your meal is a bonus, unless that meal is mango yoghurt!

Also I was pondering stat roleplay bonuses; I thought it pretty interesting that matching your characters stats is the only way to improve the stats. Presumably portraying someone as dull (low wits) doesn't increase their wits! That would mean that a player who is really getting into roleplaying a disadvantage is rewarded by taking it away! Instead presumably you mean that if the player plays out the weaknesses and strengths of their character well they can choose to change/increase them?
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Morgan Coldsoul
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« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2009, 08:10:12 AM »

Sounds like in your specification there isn't really use-based skill change to any significant extent; players only advance in their skills if they are following a heroic path. So what if you remove the side effect? What if character capacities do not advance for the entire game, or what if they only advance as you change the world? That shifts the focus back towards "making a difference in the world", drawing all eyes towards those interactions and consequences that you want to make.

That was one of the original problems we ran into during early design. Our first system involved purchasing skills with the same XPs you use to buy merits and some other improvements, but that didn't work too well, as skill levels quickly became unbalanced. We tried different kinds of points, and that worked better, but eventually just settled on a system of guidelines for use-based skill improvement, as that seemed both more realistic and more conducive to roleplaying, having removed the goal, at least partially, of leveling up solely so the character's numbers would improve. Ideally, the system is now supposed to work along the lines of skills and stats, being use-based, improving as they get utilized, and everything else, by and large, only increasing as you change the world; for example, you cannot gain a new class level until you complete a meaningful adventure, no matter how many XPs you might have acquired. They cap out at your current maximum until you do something useful for the world. Well, actually, that's kind of a crude way to put it, but that's the essence of the idea.

Since there is no alignment, I'm really afraid that most of the alterations to a character record sheet must be mechanical, but in reality, that's all a character sheet is for--keeping track of numbers and equipment. A character sheet is a guide that reminds you which dice to roll for what, and that's it, plain and simple. Period. The greatest, most important, and most influential changes to a character's growth cannot be written down on a character sheet. They must be roleplayed. I don't know where to put a box or a line for something like "Character Worldview" or "Private Moral and Ethical Obligations/Code," and wouldn't want to try to find one, frankly. If you can't roleplay character growth during the game, then you should be playing World of Warcraft online or Warhammer 40K at a miniatures table, not a roleplaying game. That's really all there is to that. I believe the game system, by encouraging character development and investment in the adventure, should facilitate the player's ability and desire to roleplay well, and in return for making that investment, the player should be rewarded with increased ability to affect the world via that roleplaying.

What are the biggest changes that a player should make to their character over a period of play? By enjoying the experience of roleplay and the adventure, they should come to feel sentimentally attached to the world of the game, and thus develop a desire, in themselves and in their character, to perform actions and tackle adventures that will better it. If their Vitality or their carrying capacity increases as a result, fine; but this should become an indicator of greater responsibility; by virtue of being more powerful, they should feel obligated to take on more of the world's evil in order to quell it for the greater good. If there must be a measure for the true growth of a character that is not mechanical, then it must be this, and it can only be assessed through the quality, the intensity, and the fun of a game session. That is my philosophy, developed over 20 years of roleplaying games, and I hope to pass it on to Dragon Scroll.

Since it is a roleplaying game that involves dice-rolling and the slaying of monsters, I feel as though the mechanical increases of leveling up and stat improvement, etc., are largely unavoidable; it's what people are used to, what we're comfortable with, and we enjoy it, even if it's not revolutionary. But, we can attempt to take the focus off of that aspect of gameplay, and so far, in playtesting sessions, it has worked; people want to play more, they tell me, because it's an exciting new world with likeable characters, villains they love to hate, and an intricate and carefully coordinated system of politics, religion, nature, magic, and culture that they have fun being a part of. (Well, actually, that sounds more like an advertisement than something that someone would actually say, but they make similar comments.) They comment on the combat system and the skill sheets, too--but only afterward, when we ask them about how they liked it. To me, forgetting the combat system and the numbers on your sheet are even there is the highest compliment a developer can receive from a player.

Also I was pondering stat roleplay bonuses; I thought it pretty interesting that matching your characters stats is the only way to improve the stats. Presumably portraying someone as dull (low wits) doesn't increase their wits! That would mean that a player who is really getting into roleplaying a disadvantage is rewarded by taking it away! Instead presumably you mean that if the player plays out the weaknesses and strengths of their character well they can choose to change/increase them?

I'm glad you like the idea. To address this, yes, you got it exactly right. Someone who successfully roleplays a low Wits score would be dull and bumbling, etc., and it would not increase; if they strive to overcome this deficiency, however, by learning and occasionally offering some new insight or thought to the party, then that disadvantage can eventually be overcome. As I said before, the only realistic way to improve a stat permanently is to roleplay as appropriate for the score. Ideally, skills would be like this as well.
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JoyWriter
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« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2009, 05:47:57 PM »

For example, you cannot gain a new class level until you complete a meaningful adventure, no matter how many XPs you might have acquired. They cap out at your current maximum until you do something useful for the world. Well, actually, that's kind of a crude way to put it, but that's the essence of the idea.

How do you get xp? If the "value" of xp is decided by changes you produce, perhaps how you earn it should be too? There are a lot of conventions you can jettison completely if they don't fit your concept, so instead of having a "classic" (ie D&D based) character change system, overlayed with restrictions to make it into what you want, you can just turn those restrictions around so that they become the advancement path. You can make it as obvious as "all xp is quest xp" or you can do all sorts of other things.

I don't know where to put a box or a line for something like "Character Worldview" or "Private Moral and Ethical Obligations/Code," and wouldn't want to try to find one, frankly. If you can't roleplay character growth during the game, then you should be playing World of Warcraft online or Warhammer 40K at a miniatures table, not a roleplaying game.

There's a difference between roleplaying and recording, but they don't have to be mutually exclusive!
I take a character sheet to be an aid to memory about everything you require to play the character according to the rules, so I stick info on my character sheets about my character's principles, their quirks, bits of their history, culture, stuff that helps me get back into their head after a week or month being me! Some games use this information, and that is awesome, others just ignore it mechanically, but it helps me dramatically. (Hmm double meaning there, I mean it helps me very well, but I suppose it does help the games be more dramatic)

It sounds like you've got lots of interesting stuff on the cultural front, and if it matters, if it's core to the play experience then it should probably be on the sheet. If it was me playing it would be, even if just in pencil on the back: I'd write who my character had favour with, who shared her views, who had a grudge against her and all kinds of relationships she had with the world. This would be intermixed with all the personal cues as a sort of shorthand history of my time playing her, so I could dig into it at a moments notice for advantage or just to make her more nuanced.

What are the biggest changes that a player should make to their character over a period of play? By enjoying the experience of roleplay and the adventure, they should come to feel sentimentally attached to the world of the game, and thus develop a desire, in themselves and in their character, to perform actions and tackle adventures that will better it.

I can get behind that, as an objective, even if it is more about player change than character change. It is pretty much my own, for my game (forever in development) about becoming people of influence in a fantasy world. So I get the objective, I suppose I'd like to see it merge with the stuff you are doing on experience and character change, rather than interacting with it as a break.
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Morgan Coldsoul
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Posts: 22


« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2009, 02:05:37 PM »

How do you get xp? If the "value" of xp is decided by changes you produce, perhaps how you earn it should be too? There are a lot of conventions you can jettison completely if they don't fit your concept, so instead of having a "classic" (ie D&D based) character change system, overlayed with restrictions to make it into what you want, you can just turn those restrictions around so that they become the advancement path. You can make it as obvious as "all xp is quest xp" or you can do all sorts of other things.

Well, generally, you gain XPs via two major routes: 1) Good roleplaying, which entails portraying your character's attitudes, outlook, morals, ethics, and other assorted psychological, social, and spiritual aspects as actively and realistically as you can during gameplay, as well as their race, class, and regional background. Of course a mage will handle a situation differently from a warrior in most cases; it's important to remember that an elf will also handle it differently from a human, and that an islander has a different perspective from a plainsdweller. Traps, challenges, and combat are based on a level system that provides a guideline for the Narrator as to how many XPs they might award; the Narrator has discretion, however, to reduce or increase this amount based on how it was overcome.

If a rogue figures out not only how to disarm or bypass a trap, for instance, but also cleverly alters it to the party's advantage, perhaps even turning it on their enemies, or if he makes a quick sketch in a "trapbook" of the device's schematics so that he might later replicate it--these are examples of better-than-average roleplaying. Merely saying "I check for traps;" "You find one;" "I attempt to disarm" is a fine way to suck the fun out of the game. For that performance, your XPs are reduced. A worse attempt would net a big fat 0 XP.

The emphasis will always be on "quest XP," as you put it. The most XPs will be gleaned from advancing the storyline, reacting to the game world, and attempting to put oneself forward as particularly heroic (or villainous, as the case may be; we promise your Narrator won't judge). A greater investment in the game also increases your XPs; when you feel like it was you who slew the dragon, personally, or you really care that the priest is in danger and risk life and limb to help, the game is doing its job. Other than Deadlands (a fun game I highly recommend, but only if you have a perfect GM), this is probably the only game where you will be awarded bonus XPs for getting excited or jumping up from the table and shouting.   Smiley

There's a difference between roleplaying and recording, but they don't have to be mutually exclusive!
I take a character sheet to be an aid to memory about everything you require to play the character according to the rules, so I stick info on my character sheets about my character's principles, their quirks, bits of their history, culture, stuff that helps me get back into their head after a week or month being me! Some games use this information, and that is awesome, others just ignore it mechanically, but it helps me dramatically. (Hmm double meaning there, I mean it helps me very well, but I suppose it does help the games be more dramatic)

It sounds like you've got lots of interesting stuff on the cultural front, and if it matters, if it's core to the play experience then it should probably be on the sheet. If it was me playing it would be, even if just in pencil on the back: I'd write who my character had favour with, who shared her views, who had a grudge against her and all kinds of relationships she had with the world. This would be intermixed with all the personal cues as a sort of shorthand history of my time playing her, so I could dig into it at a moments notice for advantage or just to make her more nuanced.

I believe I will post a picture of our character sheet here as soon as I get finished revising the current version. I, too, think that the character sheet can be a part of the experience and even enhance it; I merely think that to treat character growth or roleplaying as though it is a number and to assume you can accurately track it on a sheet is misguided. However, I heartily agree with your suggestion of intertwining the sheet with the character, and to that end, our sheet is designed with spaces for social contacts, favors the character is owed, debts he/she/it owes someone else, a small family tree, and some other personal information. Players are also very highly encouraged to change the terminology of their sheet and make it more personal: Write the skill names in Elvish. Call your scramasax your "goblinsticker." Use the margins to jot down what times your religion requires you to pray. Whatever makes it more fun, hopefully the sheet will help--it just can't become your character.

I can get behind that, as an objective, even if it is more about player change than character change. It is pretty much my own, for my game (forever in development) about becoming people of influence in a fantasy world. So I get the objective, I suppose I'd like to see it merge with the stuff you are doing on experience and character change, rather than interacting with it as a break.

As I mentioned above, you'll get increased or bonus XPs for portraying the changes that you think would occur in your character as a legitimate result of play. You can't say "my character is more selfless and altruistic" or "Sharwyn now thinks her deity has forsaken her" on a whim; you must develop these qualities over time, based on game events. This results in bonus awards. And, hopefully, as a player becomes more invested in Dragon Scroll, the changes they make will become the changes in their character--not necessarily the exact same ones, but anything that causes the player to react strongly should also initiate a reaction from the character. If you slam your fist on the table in anger because that horrible necromancer got away with 3 HP again, then it's time for your character to start thinking some vengeful, obsessive thoughts about that particular villain, as well. In these fashions, the two should mesh and become a single experience--which gets you experience (XPs.)   Smiley
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JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2009, 05:24:12 PM »

However, I heartily agree with your suggestion of intertwining the sheet with the character, and to that end, our sheet is designed with spaces for social contacts, favors the character is owed, debts he/she/it owes someone else, a small family tree, and some other personal information. Players are also very highly encouraged to change the terminology of their sheet and make it more personal: Write the skill names in Elvish. Call your scramasax your "goblinsticker." Use the margins to jot down what times your religion requires you to pray. Whatever makes it more fun, hopefully the sheet will help--it just can't become your character.

That's what I'm talking about, and if you consider how the game events change those things, I think that's part of what Ron was talking about.

But back to speaking for myself, your xp system is more complex than I had anticipated, so I have a number of comments, but it's probably better if we chat about them one at a time:

It seems like you have three kinds of xp, xp for detail and colour (the skill check ones), xp for accuracy/immersion (the stat, excitement and character change ones) and xp for external change.

Now, of these, the last is the one that most relates to your world; the second category could but doesn't have to ie "I suppose that character really would run in fear because of their low bravery and their memories of their father's death, have some xp". Now in a sense that person is playing to their characters weaknesses and history, so deserves it as much as the dull fighter who doesn't consider to scout before charging in, perhaps more because of the potential for personal conflict. It's real drama and characterisation.

If you want to have that mechanic but still push things towards big world-changing heroes, then you could do with getting the external xp really clear and a good incentive, like a climber who knows he will get an award for climbing a mountain. Many will do it just cos, but they will be even more likely to do it if there is an incentive there. But he doesn't do it because he can look good while climbing, but because he wants to get to the top.

I'm sure you get all that, so how currently do you focus player gaze onto the world; are there built in xp totals for elements of the setting? And changing them substantially gains you that xp? Is it just the xp cap system? Is there a scale of influence that effects how much xp you get/size of the cap? Are there gm "story" waypoints which you have to reach? Do npcs give xp if their desires are fulfilled? How does that particular element of your xp system work?
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Morgan Coldsoul
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2009, 10:30:29 AM »

Currently, we have a level-to-XPs system of suggestion, which is modified by the Narrator as appropriate. A challenge is given a level based on its complexity and difficulty, and the level determines its base worth in XPs, as follows:

(level of challenge x 100) - (average level of party), per character

So, a 1st-level goblin is worth 100 XPs per character in the party, which means a 1st-level party gets no XPs for killing or outsmarting them (1 - 1 = 0); this seems unfair, but is actually quite appropriate, since goblins are neither durable nor intelligent. Characters should only receive XPs in our system for overcoming a challenge, not for doing something easy; after all, if you just do the same old routine things over and over without blinking or batting an eye (killing goblins falls into this category, I believe), it's not really a challenge, is it? On the other hand, the 4th-level boss at the end of the adventure is worth 300 XPs per character--a significant reward, since it requires only 1000 XPs to reach each new character level. This way, leveling up maintains the same consistent rate of speed throughout a campaign, as characters should face numerous small challenges during an adventure, several significant challenges, and one or two truly fearsome threats. Of course, at higher levels, these are spread out and the adventures are longer and more complex, resulting in multiple levels gained during the course of a single scenario, so the party doesn't get bored and feel like their investment is wasted.

All that being said, the XP value of any challenge can be modified, at will, by the Narrator, based on player performance. For example, being clever is often better than rushing in and slaughtering a dungeonful of orcs and ghouls. So, an intelligent response to a challenge may increase the XP value of that challenge by 10, 25, or even 50%, as the Narrator sees fit. When the brave warrior tries to taunt and draw the attention of a powerful enemy, distracting him from weaker comrades and giving others a chance to regroup and coordinate their attacks, he will also receive bonus XPs on his portion of the normal XPs granted for defeating that enemy. As long as the challenge is overcome in some fashion, XPs are granted, but better roleplaying equals better rewards. Likewise, poor roleplaying can reduce an individual character's rewards, too.

As for the XP "cap:" This is a device that keeps characters from becoming too powerful too quickly, so that their range of abilities and experiences causes them to lose interest in the current quest before it is finished, or reduces the target challenge level of said quest. Just like an individual challenge, every quest has a level, which determines the bonus XPs you get for completing it. The level of a quest, however, is slightly different--it represents, approximately, what character level the average party member should have reached by the end of it. If they gain significant bonus XPs or happen across a randomly-generated item that provides an unexpected increase in power, etc., this can affect play and the challenge of the quest. So, no matter how much experience they gain during that quest, they cannot rise, in character level, above the level of the quest itself, until after it is completed. You can only draw so much from a given experience, and to come out of a level 3 adventure at character level 5 doesn't make any sense. This prevents that, and keeps the game moving by encouraging the players to finish their adventure and move on to the next, rather than lingering around in town shopping or something (I could tell you stories), as well as keeping it interesting by ensuring that the final challenges of the scenario will remain just that: Challenges. XPs are still earned, in this case, but they are not applied until after the quest. This can produce an additional feeling of accomplishment; by finishing the adventure, in addition to doing heroic things, you level up, allowing you to tackle larger quests. For those mechanically inclined, this is a "Yay!" moment; for those more interested in roleplaying, it represents character development.

Sidequests that are not necessarily part of the "story" are also considered challenges. If the characters (being the heroic figures that they are) happen across or deliberately seek out good deeds to do and mysteries to solve in addition to the primary campaign goals, they receive XPs for those, as well. However, since these tasks are a) not typically central to the storyline of the campaign and b) usually less of a challenge, they do not possess a level; instead, they are simply worth a specific amount of bonus XPs, modified as the Narrator chooses. It is senseless to assign a a "level 4" sidequest during a "level 8" major adventure, since this would result in no XP gain, assuming the characters are level 4 or higher. We have found this to be a much more successful tack, so far.
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Caldis
Member

Posts: 359


« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2009, 11:26:09 AM »


So what's the role of the GM in this game?  Is he the creator of the stories the pc's play out or do the players choose what the story will be?  Can a player choose to be a villain character if the other players have chosen heros?  Does the game have a story line to follow or is it up to the gm to create it?

To be honest I dont think you need much help here.  It sounds like you have everything important worked out and it shouldnt take you much effort to come up with a name.  I'll be blunt though, what Ron said earlier rings true to me.  I dont see anything innovative in your game, nothing that couldnt be done with RQ as he mentions or Gurps or Hero, or a dozen other games, so what is going to make your game special?  Why would I want to play your game rather than one I already have?  Is it your background story, artwork, your system... etc.?
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JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2009, 05:34:30 PM »

Thanks for the explanation Morgan, I appreciate being able to look at a game from someone else's angle

I've observed strange things happening with caps, as you may have; they make all values above them irrelevant. In other words, say you follow a level 3 quest with a level 4 quest. One person does a load of challenges competently, and another person does all the roleplaying you love. Each of them will reach level 3 at the end of the quest, and though the enthusiastic guy has enough xp to reach level 6 already, he must wait until the new quest is over to reach level 4. What do you do during the level 4 quest? Do you reduce the number of challenges to make his xp level meaningful? So only he has the xp to reach level 4 by the end of the quest? Or do you insure that there is a base level of playing that covers levelling up, making his bonus xp irrelevant?

This is similar to something I observed when running a D&D campaign; "I want them to be level 5 by the time they meet this threat, how do I produce it?" It then occured to me that my careful calculation of encounters was wasted, and I should just chuck appropriately levelled threats at them and ignore xp, and just level them up when dramatically appropriate. Like you, I put it at the end of quests, although these were semi-player-authored quests that I checked had more than enough challenge to meet the xp quota.

In other words, by implementing a similar system, I rendered xp irrelevant. Now technically it could have been relevant, as the characters never used D&D3.x's magic item rules, with their xp penalties. These would have meant characters not levelling at the same time as the other players, with a slight time delay, and it is this penalty that the quest-cap system keeps; you either have enough xp or too little.

Now if I'm right you've already detached skills partially from the level system, which means you could, if you wanted, just have people change level at the end of each quest, and provide non-mathematical explanations to the prospective GM of how much the PCs can handle. Skills and stats could still change in their own ways, but limited however they currently are by the level of the character.

That would just leave those who hadn't treated the quest with respect (I thought at first that your challenge xp was for detail, for gilding up how your character does stuff, but if I understand this latest stuff correctly it's actually about their engagement with what the GM has created, how they use it and value it in their descriptions), and they would have delayed levelling.

Now that's another question, do you use lack of engagement to trigger further dis-empowerment? It seems an easy way to slide someone out of your game. Now to many people that might be a good thing, but I wonder whether it is better to combine a mix of adaption to the preferences of those at the table and honest complaint at someone being really picky.

On the other side, I think it's pretty valuable to make engagement a fundimental resource; if you value other people's contributions and work with them you go further. That's a great strength of Universalis, and I wonder whether there is some other way to implement it in this game, considering that the cap stops extra xp from mattering. Seen as it is about causing big changes, what if those who are most engaged get to effect the path of the story? Or would that be counter-productive to identification with the character?
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