Monday, June 22, 2009

Meeting interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture... and NOT killing them

I decided to post this when I read this good little piece. And how so few games emphasize the adventure that is exploring new lands without slaughtering things. Consider this a follow up to my post on how murder gets boring.

So often RPG's reward mechanism (Experience Points) favour certain play styles and the playing invariably end up leaning towards that play style. I talked about how murder versus capture could be made a choice and not a problem before, so now I'd like to talk about how the need for a fight in the first place can be removed with the same concept.

In piecemeal it is fully possible to be an epic adventurer who doesn't feel the need to use violence or have others use it for you, you can be an explorer. Mechanically this works by rewarding XP for travelling and rewarding XP for reaching destinations.

XP for travelling works by going through a checklist of how dangerous, uncharted and difficult to navigate the terrain is, to give you a per day value. A benefit of piecemeal being computerized is that this calculation can be done for you.

This could work out to as high as 650 per day (travelling into the complete unknown, through dragon infested mountain range comprised of steep chasms and current volcanic activity) down to nothing for travelling in safe and familiar terrain.

What is to stop a character from just walking in a circle until he reaches level 20? A few things. The first is that after he goes through a terrain a few times it will become better known and mapped, and eventually the dangers will either eat the character or be driven away (and thus the area becomes safer). The second is that Keypoints (think milestones) prevent a character from exceeding certain levels until they complete deeds of certain magnitudes.

This is where reaching a destination comes in. When you find a new destination you also gain experience points and may (or may not) qualify as breaching a Keypoint. Some examples listed in Piecemeal are:

Uncommon Locations 50xp (ie, a border fort deep in the woods)
Rarely Visited 400xp (ie, a far off mountain monastery)
Unseen for Years 1000xp (ie, a far off kingdom across the sea)
Unseen for Generations 2000xp (ie, the same kingdom if the sea is infested with sea monsters)
Of Questionable Veracity 5000xp (ie, uncovering Troy or Machu Picchu)
Fabled Locations 10,000xp (ie, finding El Dorado or Shangri-La)
Mythic Locations 50,000xp (ie, finding the Garden of Eden or Noah's Ark)

These are just rough guidelines if you have your own unique XP awards for various locations.

What does this do? It opens up another play avenue besides killing, exploration. If your players are even out of ideas for what to do in a player driven game they can simply say "I wonder whats off the map?" and go. That combines well with player classes having a built in need to adventure.

This is an easy portion of piecemeal to plug into your current RPG of choice if it does not already have a similar mechanism.


  1. I like the sound of the milestones holding back people from leveling. Usually, in stories, people don't realize their power until they have acheived a milestone and milestones are often referred to to explain things.

    I don't think the whole "you get experience from killing things" ever affected our playstyle. Generally speaking, we never "grinded" for experience and we probably all expected challenges to be around our level. That said, I can't think of any campaign where gaining power has been the focus of the campaign. I think it'd be hard to fashion in some systems.

  2. Another excellent mechanic. Perfect for the wilderness sandbox I'm working on.

    I had forgotten about it but I believe it was Rolemaster or it's lil brother, MERP, were I first saw "1xp per mile traveled".

  3. @ Norman Harman: Im glad I could be of help, be sure to check back and check the archive (or the whole game) to see if anything else catches your eye.

    @KingSpoom if you'd like more info on Keypoints (Milestones) let me know, Im pretty sure the "Murder Gets Boring" post has some more info on them too.

  4. Rolemaster did it first. I remember reading a review in an old issue of Dragon where they commented on how cool and logical it was that characters could gain xp by traveling, and even by dying, IIRC.

  5. I think it goes waaay before Rolemaster, who had a very simple (too simple) system (ug, the boat exploit). This is an old mechanic that got dumped rather than developed. Travelling XP is part and parcel of most Computer Roleplaying games, it seems to be tabletop that lost its way.

  6. Glad to have provided the spark!

    On the 1 mile per xp travelled; I don't know if you could apply this on a recurring journey to and from a town without calling shenanigans.

    I do like the xp for visiting legendary settings - a nice touch - I'd personally tie these to story goals rather than set specific xp items for visiting somewhere over the rainbow... but that's just me.

    Cool post!

  7. I suppose it depends on how you view visiting someplace over the rainbow?

    For alot of people merely finding the lost and unexplored is goal enough, doing something while your there is just icing on the cake (if it even interests you). After all, Sir Edmund Hillary didn't climb mount everest to DO anything once up there, just prove he could. Similar are tales about heroes climbing mountains are much the same (such as to pick an eidelweiss flower)

    Its all about the type of gameplay options you want.