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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 36 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Golden Age RPG] Experience as a physical item in-game.  (Read 2286 times)
Enker
Member

Posts: 9


« on: March 08, 2011, 02:27:12 AM »

Hello all, I wanted to make my first post on the board about something that I personally have found fun and compelling within an RPG system of my own creation. I'm a roleplaying fan from England who cut his teeth on 'Vampire: The Masquerade' before going on to try different officially produced RPGs and finally making my own - entitled Golden Age.

The Golden Age RPG is part of a larger project of the same name, centered around an indie Audio-Drama (radio show) set within an original fantasy world. The idea being that players can enter the world of the show and explore it for themselves, carving out their own adventures. The world setting (called the Continent) is essentially steampunk fantasy, and is built around the premise that the world is split evenly between five Noble Houses, but that an over-reaching military force called the CORE oversees the laws and keeps the people safe from the rising number of monsters that have started to appear. Set in the aftermath of a great war between Humanity and magical elemental beings called Dijinn, the world is split between the reborn land of the Continent and the Catacombs below that are all that remain of the old-world. A great sprawling labyrinth of ruins that underlays the whole world. The greatest law the CORE upholds is the ban on magic, ensuring that a second war can never rip the world in two. However there are still those on the fringes who make their trade dipping into these ruins and peddling relics on the black markets . . .

There is much more to the setting, but I'll leave a link to both the main page and direct to the game pdf below. The game has a strong focus on ease of play for newbies (a fast battle system and character creation stage that does not randomise characters) and freedom of character growth in-game.

What I actually want to discuss here is the subject of experience points for character growth as a physical entity within the game setting and system, and how this affects the way players approach the game. As far as I am aware thereís not another example in main-line pen and paper roleplaying of this, and Iím keen to know if anyone else has experimented with the idea and its use? In-game experience points take the form of small Mana Crystals that can be purchased, traded, found and are left behind after some monster kills. It comes in various colours denoting how many points a piece is worth, and gathering set amounts allows a player to create new skills, spells and upgrade their base stats. I have noticed two distinct different approaches to the way players approach this system so far:

Teams work together and pool their Mana, deciding which character needs a stat boost based on their performance in the game to date, or holding on to it to create a skill when occasion occurs that they need to accomplish something tricky. I think of this as the team-method, where everyone puts aside grinding and treats the party as a single character that they boost rather than themselves.

The second is the opposite. Players steal mana from kills quickly and from under eachother in order to be the one to progress the fastest, sometimes going as far as to wait for other players to sleep and taking any they have on their person. This normally becomes a penulty for one player making a bad decision that screws the party in some manner, with the others stripping him of his rewards. Sometimes these parties have two members bickering over decisions while another acts decisively and swoops in the claim the prize before they can act. I think of this as the self-method.

Itís very interesting to see how parties take to the concept, as these two methods are extremes and sometimes groups fluctuate between them. Has anybody else played a system with a similar physical experience method? How did/would you react to physical experience in-game? I am very interested to know.

--- LINKS ---

Golden Age main page: http://cascadestudios.co.uk/goldenage/

Direct Link to the rpg PDF: http://www.cascadestudios.co.uk/goldenage/extra/rpgbook1.pdf
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simon_hibbs
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Posts: 689


« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2011, 08:38:43 AM »

By making experience physical items, you are introducing them into the economy. They will have a monetary value, so now it's possibe to arbitrate wealth into skills and experience. Merchants in this system are going to be badasses! You won't need to actualy go on adventures to become powerfull, just get rich first and let impoverished schmucks take all the risks for you. Not only that, but a wealthy character can employ many lower level schmucks to take all the risks and harvest the experience for himself. Becoming powerful is not only divorced from risk, it's divorced from limitations such as how rapidly one person can acquire experience as the advancement rate is now limited only by economic and logistic factors rather than factors such as time buecasue now the time it takes to gain experienced can be multiplexed across many underlings.

All of this will feed directly into character behaviour. At least it would if I were one of your players. I note that on page 34 it says that mana crystals of less than yellow (5 points) aren't worth much. If so, why not buy up large quantities of them? It sems to me that it would be trivial to manipulate the mana economy as described and build a super-character fairly easily, unless I'm missing something.

Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
Enker
Member

Posts: 9


« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2011, 04:45:56 AM »

A very interesting point, and not an angle that anyone has taken in-game yet with me as GM yet. Which kind of makes this whole forum post worth it :) I'm looking for new angles and opinions.

Yes there is the ability to farm through use of minions, and I imagine that a player character given time could set themself up with a network of underlings (NPCs) to buy or fight monsters for Mana. However what will you pay them with? Characters start the game with just 2D10 gold in their possession and would have to find a way to earn more in order to pay out for the time of their workers, and since Mana's only source comes from defeating monsters then you would be paying people a premium to do so. Remember that you also need to eat and sleep, etc. Even when living in your own home there's food and water to consider.

In a similar nature the quantity of Mana available would be limited because of its source in the setting. Simply walking into a shop and asking for all their Mana wouldn't produce more than a handful of pieces on most occasions as you have to take into account a feasable stock in an economy where the military force spends its time keeping the monster population as low as possible outside of key areas, and therefore most of the experience would lie with the upper brass of their ranks if anywhere at all.

Also with an ever present and not entirely nice military force unifying the gaming world, surely the GM would have them take an interest in somebody amassing power for personal gain and either try to A) quash them or B) recruit them for more dangerous work.
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Devon Oratz
Member

Posts: 75


« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2011, 08:47:05 AM »

I like this idea. A highly experimental LARP (boffer combat, not theatre-style jeep whatever) I ran in 2009/2010 called The Last Day used it. XP were called "Memory Spheres" and were dropped by monsters and hidden throughout the setting. PCs were free to fight over them, and dropped what they were carrying when they died--death in the game was generally temporary, which meant after you died you'd have a chance to regain your XP. Once you spent them however, they were safe.

It was, in a word, really really fun. Because it was a LARP, we had actual physical physical objects (shiny crystal beads) to represent the memory spheres. This was also really fun, and you could physically feel the weight of the unspent XP you were carrying around at higher levels, and hence the risk you were at.
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simon_hibbs
Member

Posts: 689


« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2011, 11:21:53 AM »

Ok, so perhaps your game system doesn't have rules for playing a merchant, or a character oriented towards trading or wealth acquisition. That means it's hard to player characters to pursue that option, but it's an entirely artificial barrier. Surely mercantile and wealthy characters will exist in the setting and will therefore have the means to acquire experience commercially either for themselves or for their underlings. You can deprive that option from PCs, which is kind fo fair enough because you choose what aspects of the setting you choose to emphasize in your game system, but to retain credibility this possibility needs to be reflected in the setting. Unless your setting has no trade or economy, of course.

A few other consequences: The children of wealthy or powerful people will have a huge head start in experience on everyone else. Game mechanical experience in terms of levels is potentially divorced from real in-the-field experience so high level characters might have little or no practical know-how. Mana crystals could be hoarded against dire need, so for example a kingdom might keep a strategic reserve of crystals and boost up the abilities of their troops as required, in a way customised to the nature of a crisis. Also experience is divorced from age. A very young character could be fed a crystal rich diet and potentially be speed-advanced up to high level perhaps while still a child. Maybe the player characters won't have the opportunity to do all these things, but it seems to me that they will happen in the setting.

On the point of it being trivial to build a super-character I was working from the position that mana crystals are not worth much to sell. Therefore of course they must be cheap to buy which implies high availability - basic supply and demand. You may need to recalibrate this. Increasing the value of mana crystals of course increases the ability of characters to convert them into wealth, but you will need to find a balance point where selling them for wealth doesn't make characters too wealthy, but conversely being wealthy doesn't make building a super-character too easy for wealthy characters. I have no idea what that balance point is likely to be.

On farming mana crystals, again it might be hard to players to do this, but think about whether that's because it's intrinsically impossible or just hard for them due to lack of opportunity. NPCs in different situations may find it relatively easy to set up schemes like this, so that could be a source of scenarios.

Ultimately I wonder what you are trying to achieve by having experience a physical resource. The natural result is that wealth and experience are now inextricably linked. That's the first consequence I saw. But what were your reasons for introducing the idea in the first place? That would help get a grip on the kinds of play that might come out of this idea.

Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
Enker
Member

Posts: 9


« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2011, 04:31:04 AM »

Thanks everyone for all of your comments so far - they've all been very helpful and I'm keeping notes on all of the points raised.

Quote
Ultimately I wonder what you are trying to achieve by having experience a physical resource. The natural result is that wealth and experience are now inextricably linked. That's the first consequence I saw. But what were your reasons for introducing the idea in the first place? That would help get a grip on the kinds of play that might come out of this idea.

A very fair question. When I began to put the system together I knew from an early stage that I wanted to approach progression from a different standpoint to most systems I had played, where experience was dolled out externally from the campaign after sessions and not a part of the game world. Mana became a physical representation of experience because of this. Character classes based around the idea that you were given a starting point and asked to create your own skills based on how you wanted the evolution of your character to develop and within confines deffined by your character's main profession, required a fuel that was easy to acquire but not massively useful in other ways (you'll notice that weapons and attack/defence values rely far more heavily on additing items and upgrading weapons.). Since characters have a limited amount of skill spaces we reasoned that players would be reserved in their creation or build on the strengths they'd already started. In setting terms Mana is crystallised energy that first came about over the course of the Mana Wars, though the full reasons why are being withheld so as to not interfere with the second season of the Radio Drama it is based on's story twists.
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simon_hibbs
Member

Posts: 689


« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2011, 03:00:37 PM »

I don't see the relationship between wanting players to be able to allocate 'advancement points' as they see fit and making advancement points physical. For example in GURPS the GM allocates advancement points to characters, and the players allocate them as they see fit to improve abilities, but these points are simply tracked on the character sheet. They have no in-game-world physical representation, so they can't be bought, sold or swapped. BRP based systems have players put check marks next to skills they have used successfully under stressful situations in play, and then have a chance to improve those abilities when the characters rest, but again the check marks are a meta-game mechanic and aren't represented in the game world, so again they can't be traded.

It seems to me that you don't need the many side-effects of making character advancement physical in order to achieve your goals.

Having said that, it's an intriguing idea and it's fun to consider the possible consequences.

Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
Enker
Member

Posts: 9


« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2011, 01:15:41 AM »

But the whole point I was making was that too many games use experience with no rationalisation in-game. Throwing experience at players in downtime and having them upgrade between sessions with no realisticly explained gaming reason in-setting. In creating a physical representation of experience you are giving both a story based reason why characters grow and adding an item of contension between players. Throw a piece of experience into the middle of three players and see how they react rather than letting them all have one at the end of the session and spend it outside the game. By making experience more real you create new situations and don't break the sense of world.
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Baxil
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Posts: 84


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« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2011, 02:45:43 PM »

By making experience more real you create new situations and don't break the sense of world.

I'm curious; have you had a chance to playtest the system yet?  How has that worked out in play for you?  My gut reaction is that, for many groups, the unintended consequences could eclipse the benefits, but arguing about gut reactions here isn't going to help you much.  (By "unintended consequences" I mean things like: The first time a player loses a bought-and-paid-for ability because a fellow PC stole their mana, your game is going to end explosively.)

I also agree with Simon that the side effects of a mana crystal economy are worth exploring.  I'll go farther, and say they have potential as an explicit feature.  For purposes of argument, let's say a clear mana crystal (1 CP) is worth 50 coin.  Johnny Badguy is the evil millionaire head of an evil corporation and goes on a shopping spree.  He maxes all Traits out to 10 from his starting scores of 3; fills all 11 Skill slots with game-breaking Level 3 skills; and makes a bandolier out of mana crystals so he has a spare 100 levels of healing always on hand.  This requires (168 + 440 + 100) = 708 CPs of mana crystals.  At 50 coin per, that's a total cost of 35,400.  Anyone in this world with 35,000 coins can walk into a store and become an end boss!

Now, 35K is a lot of money, when the game's best weapons and relics max out at ~1000.  But there are going to be a lot of NPCs with those sorts of accumulations -- heads of Households, Judges, Monarchs ... exactly the sorts you'd expect to make great villains.

And if the PCs want to try the same thing -- they'd better have some serious connections.  Because the mana salesman, by definition, has the crystals on hand to max out his Social trait ... how much were they paying for those crystals again?  ;-)
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Enker
Member

Posts: 9


« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2011, 12:05:35 AM »

I've playtested it across three groups of three - each different people at the time of writing this. Interestingly they each took a very different approach to their use of physical experience (Mana). The original reason I started this thread was to see if people knew of other systems with physical exp and if there were any big problems that had cropped up when playing. I'm pleased that people have taken enough of an interest to debate it and help me out with this issue. Anyhow, the groups I GMed with worked out thusly:

Group 1 - Freelancer / Nightsire / Phantom Brave [Three Sessions]

Were marginally competative, especially since the Nightsire wanted to ingest Mana to learn skills and the Phantom Brave wanted to keep the Fury alive as a bound pet, meaning that there would be none. The Freelancer chose instead to purchase Mana from a local shop, however had little cash and so had to complete several tasks beforehand. They dived on each piece and normally made rolls to determine who snatched it first.

Group 2 - CORE Soldier / Healer / Tech Knight [Four Sessions]

Much more conservative, possibly due to the dungeon-bound nature of their campaign. They saved up Mana comunally and then after each session took stock of what they had found lacking in their previous day's adventure and spent accordingly. Eventually the Healer had a second level healing spell (based on evolving his first level class skill) and the other two created base level 1 skills to cover a basic counter attack and to build a small two-way communications device (phone).

Group 3 - Cut-Purse / Bard / Riskbreaker [Two Sessions]

Interestingly this goup had a more Ďheistí styled campaign and decided to all create skills based around sneaking in their own ways. The Bard learned a way to charm, the Cut-Purse to move without making a noise, and the Riskbreaker added points to his Social trait in order to talk his way out of some situations rather than have to fight. This scenario had the group backed by a wealthy investor who made a gift of some Mana to them at the start of their mission.

In all these sessions the persuit of Mana has of course been secondary to more pressing campaign based story elements (else what would be the point in playing at all), with Mana only produced from slain monsters it isnít possible to just wonder into a store and buy 1000 pieces. Most towns would have very few in stock if any, depending on the local monster population. For me the system has worked very smoothly so far, but of course Iím the guy who wrote it and so the game WOULD run smoothly when I GM it. I have arranged for a group to play GMed by another player, which I will sit in on and take notes without participating to see how that goes.

Quote
The first time a player loses a bought-and-paid-for ability because a fellow PC stole their mana, your game is going to end explosively.

It is not possible to lose skills once they have been created, the Mana used is destroyed in the process and so is not stealable post-use.
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Baxil
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Posts: 84


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« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2011, 04:20:40 PM »

It is not possible to lose skills once they have been created, the Mana used is destroyed in the process and so is not stealable post-use.

Oh! ... Oh.  Huh.  The rules as written are ambiguous on that.  Might be worth specifying (as well as mana prices).

I'm simultaneously relieved and disappointed.  I think it's a much edgier choice to have your experience points be something that at any time you can convert, give away, or lose.  This way, they are just a generic/intangible character boost that briefly spends a stage as a physical object.  PCs shouldn't ever be banking more than 40 points at a time (the single most expensive thing you can buy, a Level 3 skill), and crystals are going to be a lot rarer because the spent ones never make it into the economy.

To answer the question you asked for your thread topic: Come to think of it, Fantasy Flight Games' Fireborn does have a partially physical XP system.  PCs are reincarnated dragons, and to advance in rank, they need three different types of XP.  There are Humanity Points (earned by dealing with present-day problems), Heritage Points (earned by reliving mythic-age problems via flashbacks, or otherwise connecting with their old self), and Hoard Points.  Which are just what they sound like.  Having physical objects that your mythic-age dragon once possessed gives you a tangible connection to your past self, and is necessary to strengthen your abilities.

Interestingly, these ARE vulnerable to theft - if you have 40 humanity points and 40 heritage points and a Rank 4 karmic item, you're level 4.  But if you lose your karmic item, you drop down again until you can pick it back up (or a different, equally powerful item).  This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the value of the item is in your previous ownership ... so that the item has no power-up value for anyone else, only the basic karmicness.  And stealing another dragon's hoard item won't do anything for you.
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simon_hibbs
Member

Posts: 689


« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2011, 07:07:24 AM »

But the whole point I was making was that too many games use experience with no rationalisation in-game.

People learn stuff from experience, study and practice. Many games even have explicit links between in-game activity and ability improvement.

Do characters in your game world not learn from experience, training, etc? If they do, how do you model that?

Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
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