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Author Topic: Decay RPG - Experience Levels  (Read 11166 times)
Sentience
Member

Posts: 43

Sentient Games - Living Breathing Thinking Games


« on: March 29, 2007, 06:30:29 AM »

Greetings!

My company has been developing a post-apocalyptic/cyberpunk game for about four months now called Decay (http://www.decayrpg.com), and I've been mulling over the problem of Experience Levels for about three of those four months. So, I figured it was time to consult the forums.

Basically, instead of characters having a lot of numbered Levels to denote their relative power, there are five named Experience Levels that set the character's maximums for Skills and other game-related statistics.

They are:
Green
Regular (Default Starting Level)
Veteran
Elite
Legendary

Obviously, it takes a while (about 8-12 game sessions) to reach the next level, which is why there are only five of them. As characters gain Experience Points, they eventually reach the next benchmark which allows them to increase their skills and stats above the limit of their last Level. Also, when creating a character, the Arbiter (GM) can choose to allow the players to start at a higher or lower Experience Level to allow for "off-the-farm" characters (Green EL) and "badass-from-the-start" characters(Veteran EL).

My questions are: Do you forsee any issues with using a system like this? Does this seem like a viable way to temporarily limit characters from getting too powerful? Do I need to elaborate more for these questions to be answered?

Thanks in advance!
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Majidah
Member

Posts: 17


« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2007, 10:16:08 AM »

The idea that characters must spend a certain amount of time as scrubs before becoming "too" powerful has become a common trope in RPG design.  It's valuable in gamist situations where players conflict with other players and in simulationist situations where the setting is largely predefined (ie. lots of npc profiles) and required to be very robust (i.e. resistant to changes by players).  I'm not sure what your goals are in this game so I can't say if power levels make sense.  Since a portion of the game is online, I suspect you want power levels because of the latter reason. 

If this is so, and you're using the power levels to enforce a) realism and b) world robustness, it may be simply better to define different "starting points" akin to classes rather than arbitrary power levels.  For example if you were a vault dweller, you may be better versed in science and 50's era pop culture than a tribal, but worse in gecko-skinning.  The caps on science would be higher for a vault dweller.  This would enforce local robustness while maintaining global realism. 

In any case, what are your avowed goals in the game, and how to the power levels help deliver that experience to the players?
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Sentience
Member

Posts: 43

Sentient Games - Living Breathing Thinking Games


« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2007, 10:57:27 AM »

I'm not sure what you mean by "avowed goals".

There really isn't a central goal to the setting. There are a plethora of different archetypes for what a group's campaign could be centered around: from corporate sabatoge and gang/syndicate related wars in the Megaplex, to bitter survival and rebuilding in the Outlands, the players can choose what they want their game to be about.

For example, you might have one group whose campaign centers around street-mercenaries who do the Megacorporation's dirty work. Their characters would be a crew of highly trained covert-ops specialists who make their money by taking under-the-table contracts from whatever type of proprietor will pay the most.

On the other hand, another group might have a campaign centered around a group of wandering scavengers just trying to survive in the wasteland. Their characters would spend most of their time exploring the ruins of the old civilizations, encountering strange creatures, avoiding mutants and marauders, and doing their best to find enough food and water to make it through the next twenty-four hours.

Though there's no reason it can't be, the game isn't set up to be a deep study of character personality so much as an adventure game centered around realistic action and gritty (sometimes depressing) science-fiction. If I were to have to pin one of the three titled on it, I suppose it would be a 'simulationist' type of game, though I don't particularly agree with labeling games in such a way.

Is that what you're asking?

The Experience Levels, in my eyes, serve two functions:
1) To allow a GM to judge how powerful a character is in comparison to an enemy or situation or even another player's character. We plan on having printed adventures that use Experience Levels to give a benchmark for how powerful the characters should be if they plan to undertake the adventure. So, you might have an adventure designed for very experienced characters that's labeled "Best for 3-5 Characters of Veteran Level".

2) To prevent players from creating unbalanced characters by imposing limits on them based on how much action their character has seen. A sixteen-year-old momma's boy (a Green character) who gets thrust into living on the streets when his parents die obviously shouldn't be as well versed in the use of a fire arm as, say, a grissled mercenary whose seen more then his fair share of gun fights (a Veteran character).

I'd rather not use anything related to predefined sets of points based on what "class" or occupation your character has. I mean, if the player and game master can decide on a believable reason why it should be so, who are we to say that a tribal character cannot be as well versed in the use of a car as a cityslicker. As long as the Game Master sees it as a plausible situation, there's no reason we should impose limits of who can be good at what. However, to promote balance between different characters in a group, there has to be some limit to how good any character can be at any one thing.

Let me know if I want out on a tangent that didn't relate to your questions.
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scrandy
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2007, 02:28:37 PM »

Hi!
Well, I think the big question is:
- Do your Skills rise depending on these Definitions (green...)
- Or do they rise and later you get this title (regular...)
If it is the later, then I think there is nothing wrong with it. But if your Players have to wait 8 Days to raise any Skill it would definitely be too long to wait.

What I would do:
If it is only a limit you want, you can use a Title-System like with my RPG. So a high level number will help your players feel, that they are advancing every evening, and a title will make them comparabel (especially in a forum). I have a Fantasy-RPG where this works great: 25 levels, where you advance every evening and titles for each guild that your Character can earn at a certain level (a Novice, an Apprentice, a Honourable Member, a Master and the Leader of the Guild). So you wouldn't say "a level 5 Hammerite" but "a Hammerite Apprentice" if you were an Apprentice in the Warrior-Order of the Hammerites. A player at a certain level can get these titles, and will have great advantages in his guild and in society. But it is not directly connected to your level, so that you can still spent points regularly. And for the limit, you can limit certain Abilities or level of Abilities to each Status.

Why I wouldn't pick Green, Regular, Veteran, Elite, Legendary:
I think these Names are not Colourful enough. An example: Who is a better fighter? The Regular Ninja or the Rugular Mech (I don't know if these Chars are even possible but I think you got my point). The Idea is to give them Names that express, what they are but still give each type an individual touch. For example this COULD be an idea: The Ninja: A FOLLOWER of the lightning path; The Mech: STANDARD Model 207d. These names could be extended to Novice, Follower, Master... or for the Mech: Old, Standard, Improved, Prototype...
A test: Who is better: The Master of the Lightning Path or the Improved Model 207d.

So, I hope I understood your questions, if not simply ask again.
Your Website looks great, anyway, even if I don't see the point in a forum based game.
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Callan S.
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Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2007, 11:01:59 PM »

My questions are: Do you forsee any issues with using a system like this? Does this seem like a viable way to temporarily limit characters from getting too powerful? Do I need to elaborate more for these questions to be answered?
I think I'll need some more elaboration on characters getting 'too powerful'

To frame my question: Some online MUD's seem to have a game progression where you start out just as a player, but once you get to the top level you become a 'wizard' and create some of the game world.

In my mind the point of that design is for the player to have to accept, internalise and agree with some of the game world designers concept of the world, before they make the world (which the designer then has to internalise himself).

If that made any sense, is that why you want to temporarily limit characters from getting too powerful? So when they are ass kicking, world changers they have absorbed how the game world works to some degree and will continue to shape the world with that foremost in mind?

I hope my question makes sense - sometimes I'm confusing!

Also - are you aware of stagnant power scaling? Take this example - a warrior does 1D6 plus his strength score of 3, to monsters who ignore an amount of damage equal to their constitution of three. Now a level 100 warrior has a strength of 300!! And monsters are soo tough at con 300!

But you can see the stagnancy - there was no point in higher numbers, nothings really changed. BTW, you find this in D&D 3.x to an extent (a rather heavily developed RPG) - its a common design redundancy.
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Sentience
Member

Posts: 43

Sentient Games - Living Breathing Thinking Games


« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2007, 05:21:00 AM »

Wow! Thanks for the replies! Smiley

Okay...

To explain the online portion: It's hard for me to get into too much detail (the rest of my company basically said: "Don't give away too much information!") but, I can tell you that Decay Online will be neither a MUD nor have a Play by Post format. Therefore, world changing ass kickers will only be affecting their local world (local meaning the Decay world that exists within one groups imagination, not the "official" world that everyone who plays the game experiences. We plan to have a section of the web site where players can submit their ideas of world-changing events and, subject to review, will actually become part of the official setting).

To Scrandy: To answer your question...

The GM will award experience points at the end of each play session. These XP translate to benefits that allow you to improve your character's skills and statistics. Once you've reached the next benchmark (Say a Green character reaching 100 XP), you ascend to the next Experience Level which raises the cap on how high your Skill levels can be, as well as a handfull of other things. So, your skills rise and later you get this title.

I see what you mean with Level - Title system, however I was attempting to stray away from the 'Level 4 Gunslinger' type of gig. Also, there are no classes. Each player basically comes up with an adjective/noun 'Concept' for their character (Grumpy Merchant, Sly Thief, Charming Reporter), so having specific names for each type of character is kind of impossible, unless I come up with a catagorization (class) system such as, Combat, Stealth, Negotiation, Psionics, etc etc.

While I do agree that the titles Green, Regular, Veteran, Elite, and Legendary are sort of bland, I can't seem to come up with anything else along those lines that doesn't sound too 'midieval'. It's pretty hard-edged sci-fi, so I can't see myself using terms like Apprentice and whatnot.

As far as who is better a fighter: a Regular Ninja and a STANDARD 207d? This is a tough one to answer... First of all (and I know you were just giving an example) comparing a human ninja to a ten ton mech is like apples an oranges. However, I think you were referring to the mech-pilot rather then the mech itself. But, if we trying to figure out who's a better 'fighter' between a Regular Ninja and a Regular Mechpilot, I'd have to say the Ninja's skills are more focused on combat, so he'd probably be the better 'fighter'. If we were comparing an abstract level of 'ability and prowess', these two character would be relatively equal, so long as both had the same number of Experience Points. But, once the Mechpilot gets seated in the cockpit of his STANDARD Model 207d Heavy Reconnaissance Walker (hehehe, I love technical names) all bets are off!

Thanks for the compliment on the website! But you don't see a point for it?

To Callan:

By 'too powerful', I mean when a particular character maxes out his Fire Arms skill to the point where he never misses things that the other characters in his crew have a hard time hitting. Basically, since there are no preset classes define how good your character can be in a Skill, we instill limits on the characters to keep them from becoming unbalanced (too powerful in particular area of expertise). Obviously, as a crew progresses together, the difficulty of the tasks they're challenged with can progress as well.

 To keep the element of challenge in the game, it's important that the players don't (quickly) ascend to a level of ability that requires the GM to throw fifty-foot, fire breathing, mutant-demon-dragon-spawn at them just to ensure there's some excitement in the game. While the game allows for this (the Legendary Experience Level), it takes a long time to get to this point.

By 'stagnant power scaling' you mean assigning specific, unchangeable, score to characters based on what they are? Like how a Level 1 Fighter in D&D always has a +1 To Hit score?

If thats what you're referring to, it would be difficult to include an element like that into the game when it has a relatively abstract, open ended, classless system. Besides, not every brand new gunslinger has the same level of Skill in Fire Arms.

I continue to hear the terms: 'robustness' and 'redudancy'. Could you briefly explain these to me, if it's not too much trouble?

Anway, thanks again guys. Simply discussing the topic is sort of deepening my understanding of whats going on.



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Majidah
Member

Posts: 17


« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2007, 10:56:54 AM »

I'm not sure what you mean by "avowed goals".

By goals I mean: "What are the players of the game meant to enjoy about it?"  Are they going to fight other players or npc monsters to demonstrate that they have a sound understanding of tactics?  Are they going chat with their friends about what life would be like after the bomb? Are they going to explore a big sandbox?  Something else?  It helps to know how the game is supposed to be enjoyed before I make reccomendations on how to enjoy it.

From your posts it sounds like the game is designed to be a big sandbox world with lots of neat stuff in it to learn about and explore.  I'm sure people can find other ways to enjoy it, but that's what you're spending most of the time creating, and hopefully will be the source of most enjoyment.  In GNS slang we call this a "simulationist" impulse (you're simulating life after the bomb with as much attention to detail as possible).

Powerlevels as you've described seem to exist soley to prevent over-specialization.  Players have to spread points around until they reach a new plataeu when the hard caps on skill levels go up.  (Side note, what prevents me from saving my points until I attain a higher powerlevel and dumping them all into my gunnery skill?).  This is a mechanic used mostly to promote "balance" which is a concept more closely related to competative play (what we GNS geezers call "gamist play") rather than simulationist.  It serves to promote a level playing field between the players (note, the GM is a player. by limiting the other players power with powerlevels you are making the game easier for the gm in a competative framework), this is unnecessary if you're only going to explore a big sandbox. 

What I'm getting at here, is that there's a division between Setting--(post apocalypse wastes) and System--(power levels of characters).  If the goal of the game is to explore the wastes, it doesn't matter if the players choose to be 10000000th level mechwarriors or dirt farmers, they're just exploring different parts of your world.  In fact to enjoy all the work you put in, they must play both.  If they are meant to compete or prove themselves, then power levels are nessecary to ensure the playing field is level otherwise, they just serve to make it more difficult for a group to successfully explore the extent of what the world has to offer.  The only case in which you'd bother to include both is what Callan S. said, you want them to learn the world from the bottom up, so the changes they initially make are small, and by the time they make large ones, the changes will be in accord with your original vision.

In answer to questions:

1. Stagnant power scaling--
This refers to the ratio of power staying constant, while the absolute value changes.  If my character inflicts 10 damage at level 1 to monsters which have 100 hps it takes me 10 swings to kill a monster.  If my character inflicts 100 damage at level 10 to monsters with 1000hps it still takes 10 swings to kill a monster and I might as well not have bothered.  The only difference is that I get to see different monsters, which I could still do if all the monsters just had 100hps initially.  The point here is that increasing power serves no purpose except as a series of gates seperating your world into sections, you could just install the gates and get the same effect more easily and elegantly.

2.  Robustness--
Roughly, resistance to change. A robust game world will basically ignore the actions of the players.  There will always be more dungeons to clean out (hell sometimes it's the same dungeon over and over), the king will always be there.  Power levels are one way to accomplish this.  A non-robust world hinges on the actions of the players.  Players are intended to assassinate the king and clean up the dungeons.  Of course there are many points on this spectrum, but the question in design is "what do I want the players to be able to change and why?"

3. Redundancy
Doing something more than once.  Imagine your players are in Dirtville, USA.  To travel to Mudton, USA they will need to drive through a war zone.  If they are too weak to defeat the soldiers in the war zone they cannot make the trip.  If they are out of gas, they cannot make the trip.  It may seem like these are two different things, but the outcome (don't make it to Mudton) is identical so either powerlevels or gas could be removed without changing the game in any way (Alternatively, you could have both if you wanted to make it REALLY hard to get around). 
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scrandy
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2007, 02:58:29 PM »

Hi!
I have something to add to my last post, because I think you missunderstood me in some way:

At first, yes your webside is great and I love the design and I think you are creating a very interesting mood with it. What I personally don't understand is, why I would want to play a non PC-RPG where I have to use a PC. You know what I mean. One of my main values of a RPG is meeting real friends in a real room. But this is only my personal thing and perhaps when your game is ready I change my mind about that.

So to the Ninja/Mech thing:
My point in this perhaps a bit crazy example was, that both are called regular (Regular Ninja/Regular Mech). By using that naming idea the two characters seem somewhat compatable, but as you saw for yourself they aren't. A Ninja has complete different Skills than a Mech and I think for that there should be different names. So i suggested the STANDARD 207d and the FOLLOWER of the lightning path, where the words standard and follower should simply stand for a regular Character and could be exchanged by other words for higher levels later. It is really the same like "REGULAR 207d" and "REGULAR of the lightning path" but it sounds more fitting.
But in the end it is not my game and as I don't know enough of your game and its goals and features it maybe is not that important thing that HAS to be changed.
For example, I don't find the need of stopping newbees to get a supermunchkin Stat at the beginning in my game, but in your game it could make sense (especially with the web part in it).

Which leads me to my final concern: Why do your people at your firm make such a hiding game out of your ideas? As I see it, your idea is allready in progress and not so far from launch, so who should be earlier with the same idea like you, even if some lame idiot would copy every idea from you. I think what is much better for your business is to shout it out! Let everybody know what you are doing! If it is good they will tell others and you will do more for your business then with hiding things, and if you are lucky they all await your game before it is even finished. And if you did bad, well, you get a chance to make it better before it is published. I don't think that anybody could steal your idea here, because even if you tell many details, there will still be much left that you can sell and it will never be enough material out here to make a copy of your game or your game idea. And instead of hiding things you should release more information at least about the basic idea, goals  and mechanics, because then we can help here improve it or at least give you the feedback you want.
But in the end it's your policy.
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Callan S.
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Posts: 3588


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« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2007, 03:01:46 PM »

Hi Sentience,

I'm not sure I agree with Majidah's overall direction and I wont rush into GNS stuff and things yet.
Quote
To keep the element of challenge in the game, it's important that the players don't (quickly) ascend to a level of ability that requires the GM to throw fifty-foot, fire breathing, mutant-demon-dragon-spawn at them just to ensure there's some excitement in the game. While the game allows for this (the Legendary Experience Level), it takes a long time to get to this point.
Taking an overview of the leveling process (which would take quite a few sessions), this is what I see:
At first PC's react to the GM's depiction of the world. They are going to raise the skills they need to live and get on with things, of course.

After leveling to a certain extent, the characters now have so much power that instead of PC's reacting to the world, the world reacts to the PC's power. This also includes funky demon mutants being created because of the players skill choices.

Basically I'm seeing a see-saw where at first players react to the GM's game world but over time that changes to the GM('s game world) reacting to the players characters.

Noting this because it may help with designing.

If it doesn't sound right, here's a question : Why couldn't the very first minute of play likely require the GM to throw in fifty-foot, fire breathing, mutant-demon-dragon-spawn? Ie, players can be at top level right at the start.

Is it because the fifty-foot, fire breathing, mutant-demon-dragon-spawn are only there because of numbers - the numbers the players pumped up to epic levels? Ie, a player pumps his resist damage skill to epic levels - that means the firebreather is only because player put resist damage ultra high. There's no game world reason for the firebreather to be there. Does that sound a bit right?

While if the players start off weaker, then their stats reflect the needs of the game world. That means when they do get to higher levels, their stats choices are very much about the game world - so if you were to use a firebreather, it's rooted in game world reasons. Ie a character is a beaten slave/fighter (bit like conan) when he was at weaker levels - he pumps up his resist damage as a reaction (so as to survive). Then at high levels, when you find he's got epic resist damage, bringing in the firebreather (to challenge that epic damage resist) works because it's foundation is in the game world. The epic damage resist skill exists for game world reasons. While in my example above, there are no game world reasons behind the damage resist, so bringing in the firebreather just seems pretty lame too.

Well, if that was a bit obscure, just one question: Why couldn't the very first minute of play likely require the GM to throw in fifty-foot, fire breathing, mutant-demon-dragon-spawn? Ie, players can be at top level right at the start. Why wouldn't that be fun?
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Philosopher Gamer
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Majidah
Member

Posts: 17


« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2007, 05:31:10 PM »

Callan S.  That's what I was getting at, but you've probably put it in clearer terms. 

I'm guessing here, but I suspect that Sentience & co. are going for an Legend of the 5 Rings or One World by Night thing with the website.  As individual players play, their submit their post-game transcripts to the website, some of which become cannonical events in the game world.  This is a faboo idea, it's quick content creation that's garunteed to appeal to the people who enjoy the game.  It allows people who play the game in different groups to still feel that they are part of a larger community of players as they would in an mmog.  Thus, powerlevels are an attempt to as Callan said, restrict the initial impact players can have.  If this is the case, then powerlevels are sort of unenforcable.  Different groups will just use different levels or claim they've worked their way up.  If there is an enforcement organization ah la OWBN, it'll be difficult for newer players to feel relevant since they lack the 'world reacts to me' level powers of older players (this got pretty absurd in OWBN, every Tom, Dick and Harry Wampire owned a multinational corporation or two).  I think it might be best to do away with power levels and just use a careful hand in the editting process for what becomes cannonical. 
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Sentience
Member

Posts: 43

Sentient Games - Living Breathing Thinking Games


« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2007, 06:36:03 PM »

Again, I'm quite impressed with the responses I'm getting. However, with such good responses, my post will be unfortunately be extremely long!

To Majidah: Thanks for the explanations. My GNS Skill Level is a bit low, but I think it just leveled up!

Quote
By goals I mean: "What are the players of the game meant to enjoy about it?"  Are they going to fight other players or npc monsters to demonstrate that they have a sound understanding of tactics?  Are they going chat with their friends about what life would be like after the bomb? Are they going to explore a big sandbox?  Something else?  It helps to know how the game is supposed to be enjoyed before I make reccomendations on how to enjoy it.

Now that I understand your question a lot better, I suppose my avowed goal is a bit of a mixture of your examples. On one hand, the game includes alot of exploration of the setting, since survival in the wasteland involves alot of exploring the ruins of the old civilizations. However, there is also an element of 'corporate/street intrigue'  because of the existance of the Megacities that involves the players breaking into Megacorp research facilities and things like that, so tactics and planning play a big part as well. And of course, every game based on the end of the world involves alot of discussion on what life would be like after a nuclear winter. So, at the risk of making the game sound too convoluted, all of these elements play a role in the game, especially when you consider where in the setting the game takes place. (I hope that makes sense)

Quote
Powerlevels as you've described seem to exist soley to prevent over-specialization

In essence, yes. My goal was to prevent, say, an Infiltrator character from raising her Stealth Skill to the point that she can sneak past just about every creature or person you throw at her.

Quote
Side note, what prevents me from saving my points until I attain a higher powerlevel and dumping them all into my gunnery skill?

While a player can store up as many points as they wish, you can only upgrade a character in between game sessions, and each skill can only be upgraded by one level at a time. So if you wanted to boost your Gunnery skill by six points when the cap has been increased, you'd have to improve the skill by one point over the next six gaming sessions. Does this seem like a good rule?

Quote
If they are meant to compete or prove themselves, then power levels are nessecary to ensure the playing field is level otherwise, they just serve to make it more difficult for a group to successfully explore the extent of what the world has to offer

In effect, yes, this is one of the reason. Basically, as characters gain power, it essentially opens more dangerous areas to them. A 'Green' Level Scavenger would have an extremely tough time exploring the torid, intensely hot Southern Wastes, but once that Scavenger has reached Legendary status and has acquired the necessary skills and equipment, it may not seem like such a far fetched idea. Did I understand that correctly?

Quote
In answer to questions:

1. Stagnant power scaling--
This refers to the ratio ...

Thank you! I was quite confused by those terms.

To Scrandy:

Quote
Why do your people at your firm make such a hiding game out of your ideas?

Well, to put it bluntly, they're extremely paranoid that someone's going to try to rip the idea off. I'm not so paranoid myself, but just a wee-bit.


Quote
Let everybody know what you are doing! If it is good they will tell others and you will do more for your business then with hiding things, and if you are lucky they all await your game before it is even finished. And if you did bad, well, you get a chance to make it better before it is published

You make a good point. While we're quite dedicated to our project, we've already made significat strides in the online portion, and we're prepared to dump as much time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, and money to make the thing work, I'm still a bit worried that I may end up promising a piece of it that turns out to be impossible to deliver. However, I suppose there's no point in hiding it since it's been done before, just not to such a degree and not in the same fashion and level of quality.

With that said, we're working on an integrated "chatroom" type environment that allows people to play the game at a Virtual Table Top. While there are a few similar ideas out there, they're generic and quite clumsy (no offense), designed to work with just about any game you want to play. The one we're working on will be completely stream-lined and integrated with the game system to allow a nearly seemless transition between Physical (real life, in your living room) Table Tops and Virtual Tables Tops.

Quote
What I personally don't understand is, why I would want to play a non PC-RPG where I have to use a PC.

You don't have to use a PC to play the game. You're not required to even have an internet connection to play at home with your friends. However, there are alot of people who either don't have friends who want to play RPGs, would like to play RPGs more often then they do, or would like to play with someone in another city, state or even country. With Decay Online, the four of us in this discussion could, for all intents and purposes, play the game from hundreds or even thousands of miles away without having to rely on difficult forum dice rollers, lengthy downtime where your waiting for the other people to reply, or lacking the integration with the game your playing in some random yahoo chatroom. Knowing that much, we aren't presenting an online world, so much so as a method to play your own games without having to be sitting in the same room or even same hemisphere.

Quote
My point in this perhaps a bit crazy example was, that both are called regular (Regular Ninja/Regular Mech). By using that naming idea the two characters seem somewhat compatable...

I see what your saying, but again that's a comparison between a character and what is essentially a prop in the setting. Machines and electronics will have a unique grading-system to differientiate between a hunk-of-junk and a top-of-the-line-prototype. And as far as naming the Experience Levels, I believe the correct way to explain it is, the names of Subjective, meaning no one in the game world would call you a 'regular' or 'elite' bartender. They're simply a (relatively) generic term used to describe whether your character is just starting his or  her career, or has been at it for years. There will, however, be 'in-game' titles that fit the setting, such as an "Arcodon of the Legion of Ash". But those in-game titles are more or less for vanity and don't have any statistical value for your character (aside from, perhaps, a Reputation bonus or something).

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I don't think that anybody could steal your idea here, because even if you tell many details, there will still be much left that you can sell and it will never be enough material out here to make a copy of your game or your game idea. And instead of hiding things you should release more information at least about the basic idea, goals  and mechanics, because then we can help here improve it or at least give you the feedback you want.

I tend to agree with you, but I want to avoid any negative feelings from my co-workers. I hope you understand.

To Callan:

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Why couldn't the very first minute of play likely require the GM to throw in fifty-foot, fire breathing, mutant-demon-dragon-spawn? Ie, players can be at top level right at the start. Why wouldn't that be fun?

I suppose it could be fun, but then if the characters start out as 'the best of the best' right off the bat, where do they go from there? Part of the fun in an RPG, in my eyes, is advancement. Earning new skills and abilities is part of the experience. It keeps the players wanting more. I've GMed games many times where, after a night's gaming session, one of the players lacks just enough experience to level up, or just enough skill points to upgrade their favorite skill. This leaves the player yearning for more, asking me, "When are we gunna play next?!". That's a very satisfying feeling and let's you know your player(s) are eager to play again.

If every player starts out with full knowledge of every skill, where the only thing that can challenge them is, say, the Terrasque, and they've acquired every ability available, there's no sense of accomplishment because everything is handed to them without any work involved.

To put it in perspective, I HATE cheating in video games because once I've obtained all the weapons and abilities, there's nothing new to give me a feeling of achievement. There's no earning a new item or spell or whatever.

But, while the book doesn't give rules for starting out at Legendary Experience Level, it does give rules for starting with Elite characters, so at least the players still have one step before they become the creme of the crop. But, if the GM insists on starting the characters off as the guru's of their trades, there's nothing stopping them from awarding free Experience Points and letting them manually improve their characters to Legendary.

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Basically I'm seeing a see-saw where at first players react to the GM's game world but over time that changes to the GM('s game world) reacting to the players characters.

This is a very interesting and thought provoking concept to me. I've never thought about it like that, but you're very right.

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Is it because the fifty-foot, fire breathing, mutant-demon-dragon-spawn are only there because of numbers - the numbers the players pumped up to epic levels? Ie, a player pumps his resist damage skill to epic levels - that means the firebreather is only because player put resist damage ultra high. There's no game world reason for the firebreather to be there. Does that sound a bit right?

If I understand where you're going with this, then yes, the mutant-demon-dragon-spawn are only there because they represent a statistical challenge for a group of characters with really high skill levels. The reason I want to avoid this is because monsters of this stature should be a unique thing that fits the story and plays a role in the setting, rather then something that only exists because it's the only thing that still leaves a challange for the characters.

I'd probably sit here and type forever if I could, but it's getting late and my girlfriend wants to watch some silly movie that I'll probably fall asleep to. If there is something I misunderstood (which is likely since I tend to over-think things alot) please let me know and I'd be more then happy to re-evaluate my responses.

Thanks again guys! I appreciate the help immensely.


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Callan S.  That's what I was getting at, but you've probably put it in clearer terms. 

I'm guessing here, but I suspect that Sentience & co. are going for an Legend of the 5 Rings or One World by Night thing with the website.  As individual players play, their submit their post-game transcripts to the website, some of which become cannonical events in the game world.  This is a faboo idea, it's quick content creation that's garunteed to appeal to the people who enjoy the game.  It allows people who play the game in different groups to still feel that they are part of a larger community of players as they would in an mmog.  Thus, powerlevels are an attempt to as Callan said, restrict the initial impact players can have.  If this is the case, then powerlevels are sort of unenforcable.  Different groups will just use different levels or claim they've worked their way up.  If there is an enforcement organization ah la OWBN, it'll be difficult for newer players to feel relevant since they lack the 'world reacts to me' level powers of older players (this got pretty absurd in OWBN, every Tom, Dick and Harry Wampire owned a multinational corporation or two).  I think it might be best to do away with power levels and just use a careful hand in the editting process for what becomes cannonical. 

Hehehe! You posted this as I was writing this insanely long post. While I'd like to respond this second, my g/f is becoming more and more rabid!
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Callan S.
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« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2007, 09:52:18 PM »

Hi Majidah (what's your real name, btw?),

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Thus, powerlevels are an attempt to as Callan said, restrict the initial impact players can have.
Basically we were saying something similar, but I disagree in terms of it being a restriction. It's basically a turn order - PC's react to the GM's world, then over time that switches until the PC's have their turn with the GM's world reacting to them.

Alot of the time you find these games never mature to that second turn though, so it seems purely restriction for no actual payoff. That's something we should talk about here - ensuring the game matures and gives both sides a turn.


Hi Sentience (what's your real name, btw? For more direct discussion we usually use real first names atleast),

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Quote from: Callan
Basically I'm seeing a see-saw where at first players react to the GM's game world but over time that changes to the GM('s game world) reacting to the players characters.

This is a very interesting and thought provoking concept to me. I've never thought about it like that, but you're very right.

I'm really glad we could arrive at this mutual ground Smiley.  Thinking about the see-saw along with everything else will likely make alot of things fall into place, in terms of design.

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If I understand where you're going with this, then yes, the mutant-demon-dragon-spawn are only there because they represent a statistical challenge for a group of characters with really high skill levels. The reason I want to avoid this is because monsters of this stature should be a unique thing that fits the story and plays a role in the setting, rather then something that only exists because it's the only thing that still leaves a challange for the characters.
And I think we have mutual ground again (forge point for me thanks, Ron! hehe). Smiley

I'm just going to talk about this in terms of features: Think of a monster who has hugely damaging firebreathing, but the GM brought it in because at lower levels the players conan/slave fighter reacted to the GM's harsh damage dealing world by investing heavily in damage resist skills. Can you see a story there - how each element is dependent on the other? Also the unpredictability - who can guess where the story is going when both GM and player are in this tight story knot, aye?

As I said, just talking about features to think about - not really discussing anything there Smiley

What I do think needs to be discussed is ensuring the game matures and both sides have a turn reacting to the other. Also your idea of a community of players posting and how that would fit in such orders. Are you interested in a quick look into that? It doesn't have to be where the thread goes in general, just some quick ideas. Smiley
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Sentience
Member

Posts: 43

Sentient Games - Living Breathing Thinking Games


« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2007, 02:32:17 PM »

My name is Zack. Smiley


To Majidah:

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I suspect that Sentience & co. are going for an Legend of the 5 Rings or One World by Night thing with the website.  As individual players play, their submit their post-game transcripts to the website, some of which become cannonical events in the game world

Fundementally yes. As well as new items, characters, places, adventures, ect ect. However, all of this will have to be heavily screened since we cannot allow anything that doesn't fit the tone, goes beyond set technology levels, conflicts with anything established or something we're planning to establish. But otherwise, I suppose alot of people will just start out at Elite and already be able to effect the GM's world. While not all of the effects will be seen in the official canon, those that have a place in the setting most definetely will.

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If there is an enforcement organization ah la OWBN, it'll be difficult for newer players to feel relevant since they lack the 'world reacts to me' level powers of older players (this got pretty absurd in OWBN, every Tom, Dick and Harry Wampire owned a multinational corporation or two).  I think it might be best to do away with power levels and just use a careful hand in the editting process for what becomes cannonical.

I'm not quite sure what OWBN is. As far as we're concerned, there's nothing wrong with allowing Tom, Dick, and Harry to own a Megacorp in a GM's local world. So long as the GM agrees, anything can happen in a group's individual game. But, if that was submited, it may have to be tweaked to fit into the setting, or it may just be too significant of a change to allow it to affect the canon.

If we were to do away with powerlevel, do you mean therefore making everyone start out as a novice? But as far as having a careful hand in the editting process for what becomes cannonical, this is a good idea and a must. Everything needs to be carefully considered before it's 'made official'.

To Callan:

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I'm really glad we could arrive at this mutual ground Smiley.  Thinking about the see-saw along with everything else will likely make alot of things fall into place, in terms of design.

I think you're right. But how would you suggest encorporating this concept into the design?

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What I do think needs to be discussed is ensuring the game matures and both sides have a turn reacting to the other.

Would that be something that had to be interweaved into the mechanics of the game, something that just needs to be considered with the online portion, or just something that should be suggested to Game Masters in the book?

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Also your idea of a community of players posting and how that would fit in such orders. Are you interested in a quick look into that? It doesn't have to be where the thread goes in general, just some quick ideas. Smiley

Certainly! Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?

Zack Wolf
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Majidah
Member

Posts: 17


« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2007, 03:28:37 PM »

Hi Majidah (what's your real name, btw?),

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Thus, powerlevels are an attempt to as Callan said, restrict the initial impact players can have.
Basically we were saying something similar, but I disagree in terms of it being a restriction. It's basically a turn order - PC's react to the GM's world, then over time that switches until the PC's have their turn with the GM's world reacting to them.

Alot of the time you find these games never mature to that second turn though, so it seems purely restriction for no actual payoff. That's something we should talk about here - ensuring the game matures and gives both sides a turn.

It's Pat!  

Yess...... Restrictions are only so if one never reaches the second turn. Your wisdom is most enlightening, Callan Sensei.  Yours is a better way to think of it.  I humbly point out that power levels are simply one possible mechanic to implement the switching of impact from one player (usually GM) to the others (usually PCs).  The same could be accomplished with story techniques or competition between players.  However, I grant you the point, I made powerlevels sound overly negative, simply because they're out of fashion.  I'm glad you were around to remind me of the purpose.

Again, I'm quite impressed with the responses I'm getting. However, with such good responses, my post will be unfortunately be extremely long!

To Majidah: Thanks for the explanations. My GNS Skill Level is a bit low, but I think it just leveled up!

dadada-daaa-da-da-dun-dadada!

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Now that I understand your question a lot better, I suppose my avowed goal is a bit of a mixture of your examples. On one hand, the game includes alot of exploration of the setting, since survival in the wasteland involves alot of exploring the ruins of the old civilizations. However, there is also an element of 'corporate/street intrigue'  because of the existance of the Megacities that involves the players breaking into Megacorp research facilities and things like that, so tactics and planning play a big part as well. And of course, every game based on the end of the world involves alot of discussion on what life would be like after a nuclear winter. So, at the risk of making the game sound too convoluted, all of these elements play a role in the game, especially when you consider where in the setting the game takes place. (I hope that makes sense)

It's good to see such ambitious undertakings.  One thing I've noticed when writting a system is that easy and tempting to put alot in.  In the setting and color catergories, more is almost always better.  When you have a lovely detailed system, you'll get a lot of different desires on the players part.  Some will want to do Shadowruns, others will want to be junk collectors fighting off rad scorpians.  The players will find a way to play the game they wish to play, and ideally the rules should aid them. I think what Callan and I are worried about with the powerlevels is that you've started with some ideas about mechanics and now you're filling in the stats of the world to match.  This is the thing about the fire-breathing-hellbeast.  Is it there because the ecology, history and plot of the game require fire-breathing-hellbeasts? Or is it just to provide high powerlevels with something to fight?  It can be both, but at least one of the things will likely feel a bit artificial.

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Part of the fun in an RPG, in my eyes, is advancement. Earning new skills and abilities is part of the experience. It keeps the players wanting more. I've GMed games many times where, after a night's gaming session, one of the players lacks just enough experience to level up, or just enough skill points to upgrade their favorite skill. This leaves the player yearning for more, asking me, "When are we gunna play next?!". That's a very satisfying feeling and let's you know your player(s) are eager to play again.

 Advancment works two ways, the first is stagnant power scaling, where your numbers scale up to meet those of higher threat levels, so you're essentially running on a treadmill, the second is diversification.  You never knew you'd need to wield a lighsaber when you created your whiny farmboy, now it's a good thing you've got those experience points cause people need slicin!  Think of it as depth vs. breadth of development.  Depth divides the world into "zones" that require different levels or types of characters to explore.  Width allows characters to react to moving between zones  that may or may not be specified by depth.

The appeal of advacement comes from the attachment players form with their characters, and thus (hopefully) the game.  This is like the see-saw effect Callan mentioned. At first characters have little impact, then they have larger and larger impact.  Eventually it feels to the player like the world (through their character) is somehow their's.  This attachment can also be fostered through good story telling, interesting adventures, competition etc.  

When you first discussed putting in powerlevels, why did it seem appealing?  Were there other ideas?  I'm trying to understand how the goals and premise of the game yielded the power level idea.


Dang you Zack and your postin durin mypost!

OWBN is one world by night, an organization that used to oversee a large national group of Vampire: the Masqurade games.  It maintained a cannonical world based on what individual players did.

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Would that be something that had to be interweaved into the mechanics of the game, something that just needs to be considered with the online portion, or just something that should be suggested to Game Masters in the book?

mentioning it would be ideal!  It's always surpising how close to the vest so many games play with thier structural ideas.  You can avoid a lot of headaches by just saying "here's why we put this in." If it's something you'd like to have in your game, these powerlevel mechanics could be one of the ways to support it.  Also include some setting details about how the wastes might be changed by the players to give them a leg up.

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Also your idea of a community of players posting and how that would fit in such orders. Are you interested in a quick look into that? It doesn't have to be where the thread goes in general, just some quick ideas. Smiley
Certainly! Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?

One of the things the legend of the five rings guys did, was to write a big scenario that was supposedly going down.  A good example might be, two great powers go to war.  Then players play little vingettes each of which explores a small part of the great war.  Inspired by some of this input, designers write an event which takes place at a Con or a big online gathering.  This event decides the outcome of the original big scenario.  Rinse and repeat. It's a great way to give the players a kind of proprietary feeling.
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Sentience
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Posts: 43

Sentient Games - Living Breathing Thinking Games


« Reply #14 on: April 01, 2007, 06:28:48 AM »

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dadada-daaa-da-da-dun-dadada!

... The sad part is I know exactly what this is. Hehehe!

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It's good to see such ambitious undertakings.  One thing I've noticed when writting a system is that easy and tempting to put alot in.  In the setting and color catergories, more is almost always better.  When you have a lovely detailed system, you'll get a lot of different desires on the players part.  Some will want to do Shadowruns, others will want to be junk collectors fighting off rad scorpians.  The players will find a way to play the game they wish to play, and ideally the rules should aid them. I think what Callan and I are worried about with the powerlevels is that you've started with some ideas about mechanics and now you're filling in the stats of the world to match.  This is the thing about the fire-breathing-hellbeast.  Is it there because the ecology, history and plot of the game require fire-breathing-hellbeasts? Or is it just to provide high powerlevels with something to fight?  It can be both, but at least one of the things will likely feel a bit artificial.

Well, when I originally mentioned the uber-monster, I was explaining that I didn't want to the PCs to become too powerful right away, so that this creature was the only thing that still held a challenge for them in the combat department.

Part of the setting includes two features that give reason to why these gargantuan monstrosities exist. The first is the idea of adaptation, reactionary evolution, and the influence of radiation.

One of the stories I remember so vividly from 7th grade science class took place in the UK. There was a forest outside of a town, and the forest had nearly stark white barked trees. On these trees were thousands of white butterflies that used their camouflage to prevent from getting eaten by the birds that hunted overhead. Then, something changed. The people who lived in this town because to build factories, and the smoke from these factories drifted into the forest, turning all the trees black. Now, all the white butterflies began to get eaten. But, some of those white butterflies had offspring that were black. Pretty soon, the forest was covered in black butterflies! Low and behold, when England began to crack down on the pollution, and the trees slowly turned white again, the black butterflies disappeared and what was left was their white children.

The point of this story, for me, is the idea of forced adaptation and evolution, what I refer to in the book as "Reactionary Evolution". Though most perished, many of the creatures of the earth that endured this great holocaust were able to quickly evolve (over about 600 years) to completely new species that reflect their new planet. Here's an (abridged) example of one of these creatures, straight out of the book:

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The Burrowing Reaper: Standing about four-feet off the ground, these strange creatures resemble gangly, massively deformed, bipedal moles. Though they're completely blind, their ability to sense vibration is uncanny. They posses bony scoop-like appendages called 'scythes' that they use to burrow through the parched underground, creating vast networks of warrens that interconnect with natural caverns and caves as well as manmade tunnels, shafts, and even into the basements of ruined buildings. Though they meet once a year to mate (they are hermaphrodites, but they still require a mate), they are solitary creatures by nature. This doesn't stop them from using each other's tunnel networks and even building on them. When they do occasionally bump into one another in the darkness, they seldom turn violent, most of the time stopping for an inspection before moving on. These creatures generally feed off decaying plant matter, but their favorite food is the plump, juicy larvae of the giant insect species known as the Lokust. They pose little threat to humans, but if they feel cornered or otherwise threatened, they respond by viciously thrashing with their scythes.

While this creature doesn't represent an 'uber-monster', I was just giving an example of how Reactionary Evolution has given rise to some outlandish and strange creatures, some of which could be seen as uber-monsters.

The second idea that helps support why these hellbeasts exist is something we've dubbed the Revenance. When the bombs dropped, and 90% of life on earth was obliterated, something awakened. An ancient evil of such magnitude that it's presence manifests constantly, in eerie and often demonic forms. Think HP Lovecraft a bit. Anyway, some of these manifested creatures are small, relatively insignificant beings like Firebrands (something like a troublemaking imp) and Whisperers (spirit-type beings that enjoy planting negative thoughts into people's heads). However, some of these manifestations are insidious, gargantuan, and powerful, such as Abominations (large, ghastly monstrocities that range from things that resemble undead, demonic elephant-like creatures, to something more along the lines of a grotesque humanoid whose bones jut out from it's leathery, burnt skin that's clad in sharp metal scrap armor).

So, to conclude, these uber-monsters exist for both reasons, but primarily because the setting requires them. The Revenance provides a deep mystery for players to investigate and ponder on. It also serves as venue to bring a 'horror' element into a game that is essentially based on 'shadowruns' and 'wastelanders'. Lastly, it provides a host of particularly tough opponents for more powerful characters to encounter and (hopefully) defeat.

Basically, as a designer, I'd like the Revenance and these uber-monsters to be something unique and important in the game; something the players have to work at before they can hope to encounter something of this nature. The Revenance isn't something the Crew should encounter every adventure. It should be a mysterious element to the campaign that's always just out of the player's grasp. Something they're confused about and they don't quite understand why it's there, if it's following them, if it wants to kill them, or just watch them.

But, when designing the stats for these uber-monsters, I do intend to keep an eye on the Experience Levels, so that they can provide the duel purpose of being both an integral (albiet enigmatic) element to the setting, and also provide a statistical challenge for Crews that have ascended beyond the normal scope of play.

Does it seem like one of these sides will be artificial?


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Advancment works two ways, the first is stagnant power scaling, where your numbers scale up to meet those of higher threat levels, so you're essentially running on a treadmill, the second is diversification.  You never knew you'd need to wield a lighsaber when you created your whiny farmboy, now it's a good thing you've got those experience points cause people need slicin!  Think of it as depth vs. breadth of development.  Depth divides the world into "zones" that require different levels or types of characters to explore.  Width allows characters to react to moving between zones  that may or may not be specified by depth.

Although I didn't intend for it to be this way, now that you mention it, regions of the setting are kind of set up into 'zones'. Some areas have harsher climates or suffer from varying degrees of radioactivity. These places will obviously be harded to survive in, as well has playing host to much more vicious and nasty (and powerful) creatures. Likewise, these areas will probably have a plethora of choice 'treasure' to locate as well, since humans don't usually scavenge places that are too dangerous to go into.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "Width allows characters to react to moving between zones that may or may not be specified by depth."
Could you explain that a bit better, my friend? Smiley

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OWBN is one world by night, an organization that used to oversee a large national group of Vampire: the Masqurade games.  It maintained a cannonical world based on what individual players did.

Wish I knew about that when I was in to V:TM!

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mentioning it would be ideal!  It's always surpising how close to the vest so many games play with thier structural ideas.  You can avoid a lot of headaches by just saying "here's why we put this in." If it's something you'd like to have in your game, these powerlevel mechanics could be one of the ways to support it.  Also include some setting details about how the wastes might be changed by the players to give them a leg up.

I see what you mean. With the help you guys have given me, I'd like to include that idea as a core feature of the game (if you don't mind!). So what you're suggesting is when writing the Game Master section of the book, I should explain the 'see-saw' of power and how at lower levels, the characters will be reacting to the GM's world, while at higher levels the GM will be reacting to the players choices. Should I, then, also explain that both sides of the spectrum should certainly be explored?

Quote
One of the things the legend of the five rings guys did, was to write a big scenario that was supposedly going down.  A good example might be, two great powers go to war.  Then players play little vingettes each of which explores a small part of the great war.  Inspired by some of this input, designers write an event which takes place at a Con or a big online gathering.  This event decides the outcome of the original big scenario.  Rinse and repeat. It's a great way to give the players a kind of proprietary feeling.

L5R was probably one of my favorite games, and I'm not surprised that they came up with such a sweet idea. We have already been planning a free (free to those who purchase the game) set of adventures that makes up a campaign wherein the players choices have a significant effect on the canonical setting. We would suggest that everyone who runs the campaign submit their session transcripts, and the most popular outcome would become set in stone (thereby literally putting the fate of the official setting into the hands of the people playing the game).

Does this seem like a good idea?

Thanks alot Pat! I'm loving this discussion!

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