How fast should a character advance?
This is the question I’m currently pondering as development of the 6d6 RPG moves from focusing on individual abilities to the wider questions that face campaigns and long running games.
Character generation is a points-buy system with starting character having 36 + 6d6 points. A basic 1d6 ability costs four points and an average character starts with around 15 cards and a couple of these cards will be raised to 1d6+1 or 1d6+2.
Progression will also be points based, allowing characters to buy new abilities or increase existing ones. The problem is how fast?
The Miserly GM
A consistent theme in my GMing is a tight control of the power levels. Characters start weak and slowly improve. My adventures tend towards the low-fantasy “realism” reflecting the hardships of life and a scarcity of magical items.
Naturally my gut reaction for the 6d6 RPG is to build an experience system that reflects this. However, I realise that my style of play is not the only one or even the most common. Clearly this is one area of the game where my vision for the game should give way to a more populist view of gaming.
Mechanical Advancement or GM’s Rewards?
Should advancement be based on a game mechanic or purely at the discretion of the GM?
Games like AD&D had a simple experience point mechanic based on the power of monsters killed. More nuanced games such as Call of Cthulhu use a mechanic where successful use of a skill gives the character a chance to improve it. Either approach relied on a mechanic defined within the game and gave GMs only indirect control of advancement.
The alternative approach is to place progress purely in the hands of the GM. Rewards are given out based on the GM’s assessment of the characters or players performance. This could be a goal orientated “complete the dungeon, earn 10,000 xp” approach or a purely discretionary reward.
Both approaches have their own strengths and weaknesses and around most gaming tables, a combination is used. The lesson here is that the 6d6 RPG has to be flexible but this doesn’t help answer the question of how the rules should work.
Power to the GM
One of the aims of the 6d6 RPG is to reinforce the role of the GM as the centre of the game. They should not be roboticaly following a set of rules but be free to, and expected to, use their own GM skills to manage the game. Character advancement is a key aspect to this.
My current thoughts on advancement borrows from the Warhammer RPG where characters get to improve their characters at the end of each session. These are small improvement, e.g. 5% on a skill, but it keeps the character constantly improving. Additional bonuses are awarded at the end of adventures.
One Point Per Hour
The simplest system I’ve thought of so far is to award characters one point per hour of play. With most game sessions lasting around three or four hours it allows characters to gain a new ability every week or two. Alternatively, the same points would increase a skill from 1d6 to 1d6+2 (with one point left over).
Critically it allows the GM to use rewards to manage the game. If the players spend an hour talking about last night’s TV, the GM simply awards less points at the session’s end. If the party is focused and gaming well, reward extra points. Individual excellence can also be reward with an extra point or two without unbalancing the game.
Your Thoughts Please
How does this approach sound to you? Would you prefer a system more focused on achieving goals rather than simply turning up? How would you do it?