Thursday, June 11, 2009

Building Characters in Stages

I've been thinking about building characters in stages over time. This has a few purposes.

- Provide qualitative change to players. 4E is a numbers wankfest because the main thing that happens over time is that your numbers get bigger. Part of the compelling nature of 1E is how the nature of the game changes dramatically over time, from individual survival to running a kingdom.
- Make the game approachable to new players who need fewer options.

So, I'm thinking of something like this:

- Characters have six ability scores and barebones derived statistics.

- Characters fully flesh out their derived statistics (Select skills known, buy gear, etc).

- Players select one of their "active" ability scores to be a "prime" (STR, DEX, or CHA) indicating their primary strategy for success and role in the game world. STR characters acquire equipment, DEX characters become mobile, and CHA characters start leading followers.

- Players select one of their "passive" ability scores to be a prime (INT, WIS, or CON) indicating their primary power source. This grants access to spells or other abilities beyond the pale of normal heroes.

- Players begin to expand their scope. They start running larger territories and get involved with managing baronies.

This allows for more organic growth of the character over time. It also makes magic rarer and more special: it is a longer road to become an arcanist. Of course, groups with experienced players could start at higher tiers of play for more options right off the bat.


Nazim said...

I have to admit that I like this a lot. As the game scope broadens, so do a character's powers, and vice versa. Not bad, Chris.

Vedron said...

I got my copy of "Hero with a Thousand Faces." ;)

Looking at old school D&D in that light, one of the essential elements of the game is qualitative change to define different stages of play. OD&D captures this quite well with Basic D&D (PCs in the dungeon with limited hireling support), Expert (PCs in the wilderness with some henchmen and hirelings) to higher levels (where running baronies and strongholds is the focus). There's a qualitative difference between a level 1-3 and a level 4-7 character.

This matches with the hero's cycle, where at the end of each heroic journey there is a boon to be won that changes the hero in a qualitative way. He isn't just stronger or faster. He has mastered something altogether new.