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Intersectional Advancement

May 4, 2008

Most rpgs work on this simple formula:

Do things on this small list of activities (X, Y, Z) and get points/level up/advance your character.

That list could be “fight monsters”, “get gold”, “solve the mystery”, “show up to play” etc. The list could be large or small, and you might even be able to personally customize the list as a player (as in Burning Wheel, The Shadow of Yesterday, or Riddle of Steel). What the list provides is alternate ways to get reward in the game, and, probably weights the list based on what actvities the game is mostly about. (like older D&D gave more points for getting gold, fighting monsters wasn’t worth crap.)

But, there’s an area of the reward/advancement school which is sadly under-explored. Intersectional advancement says “Do X AND Y in order to advance”. Instead of making it different options to the same end, it becomes requirements for advancement.

The best existing example is AD&D, where an optional rule made it so that you had to have experience points AND gold (to pay for training) in order to level up your character. Having one or the other didn’t cut it. Since D&D was built on dungeon crawling, fighting monsters and getting gold, it was really more of a subtle shift in focus of play.

But what if instead of gold, you needed X amount of points earned from pathos, roleplaying and story based goals?

D&D Comraderie Hack

Whenever a PC shows trust, loyalty, respect, friendship or sacrifice for another PC, the player gets 100 Comraderie Points. In order to level up, you have to make 1/2 your required XP normally, and 1/2 in Comraderie Points. If you make more than 1/2, in either category, those points are wasted and capped off until you level up.

D&D Dirty Deeds (ala Pirates of the Carribean) Hack

Whenever a PC shows trust, loyalty, respect, friendship or sacrifice for another PC, the player builds up 100 Drama Points which are held back by the GM. When you betray another PC, all those Drama Points are awarded to you. In order to level up, you have to make 1/2 your required XP normally, and 1/2 in Drama Points. If you make more than 1/2, in either category, those points are wasted and capped off until you level up.

You could pretty much do this for any thing you want in your game. You could have an investigative game where you have Clue Points, or whatever. Or a romance game with Love Points.

Basically, by forcing players to meet TWO requirements, you guarantee that it’s going to show up in play- the players can’t opt out of it (at least, if they want to engage the reward mechanics). While most people try to get their game “style” down based on harshly enforced social contract, maybe it’s better just to codify it and make it clear to folks from get what the game is about…

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2 comments

  1. It seems like the betrayal hack could be problematic, just because there’s a “revolving door of betrayal” effect if you actually want to have party adventure (if you do, no biggie.) Since you need to betray every time you go up a level, that’s a lot of betrayal.

    Seems like it might be better to just have the points build up, and up, and up: maybe they accumulate as fast as you accumulate XP? That way, there’s this escalating reward for the stab, so it can be a big one.


  2. Well, there’s this interesting thing about betrayal in Pirates of the Carribean- for the most part, it’s pretty neutered in terms of actual meanness.

    For this hack, the thing to note is that you can choose to betray nice or betray mean. Betraying nice is the way to go if you want to keep milking everyone for xp in the long run. Betraying mean is the way to go if you want things to implode into usual kinds of D&D betrayal.

    I suppose I could further hack it, but it’s there mostly as an example for folks to consider intersectional rewards in their own games (though I am planning on using the Comraderie thing in my next game).



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