Experience and Advancement in Role-Playing Games
In many ways, what makes a role-playing game is the ability of our “counters” to grow and change as the game progresses. Most games include character improvement as part of the game rules, but games differ in how these rewards are acquired, what behaviors they encourage, and what parts of the character they affect.
Most role-playing games provide for the acquisition of some form of tokens or points which can be translated into character improvement. Depending on how these points are awarded, improvement can become a game within the game.
Over the next four weeks, I’ll be surveying experience awards and character advancement in role-playing games, covering some of the more common games as well as a few moderately obscure games.
- Rewards and improvement in Dungeons & Dragons
- Experience in generic role-playing games
- Experience in world-based role-playing games
- Experience in thematic role-playing games
- Facets of character improvement rules
I’ve been haunting eBay over the past few months to acquire some of the important ones that I’ve lost over the years, or that were owned by friends who no longer have them or who I’m no longer in touch with.
Going over these old games has been a trip. I’ve really enjoyed looking over some of the old artwork. Everybody who wrote a game back then tried to put art on it no matter how bad. One of the best covers, though, was from Game Designers’ Workshop. Rather than use bad artwork, they went for a text-only cover for Traveller. I remember it really standing out in the game store and on our dorm floors.
It was simple, stark, and evocative, the White Album of role-playing games.
I think the coolest dedication was Steve Perrin’s and Ray Turney’s in RuneQuest:
This book is dedicated to Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, who first opened Pandora’s box, and to Ken St. Andre, who found it could be opened again.
That box has been opened many times since then. It appears to have several false bottoms.
The cat who became an ornithologist
I was at the comic-con, attending one of the Comic Arts Conference sessions, and for some reason I no longer recall began thinking about character advancement and improvement in role-playing games. How many forms of it exist? How has it changed since D&D?
I’ve played several games over the years and own even more. I figured I could do a nice short survey of character improvement. That expanded into this five-part series that included my haunting eBay and Noble Knight Games for important games which I felt had to be included.
Even though I’m playing again on a somewhat regular basis, I’m certainly not playing as often as we did in college. Whenever I take on a task like this survey, or maintaining a food site, or writing a role-playing game, I find myself thinking of Brother Francis in A Canticle for Leibowitz. That my interest in studying these things is “like that of the fabled cat who studied ornithology” when forbidden to eat birds. Well, there you have it, but it was fun to research this and write it. Hopefully, I’ll be gaming tonight.