Knowledge Advancement

Knowledge Advancement

Knowledges do not get better as you use them. Remembering what you know about Japanese mythology does not teach you more about Japanese mythology. Knowledges improve when you read books or attend lectures. Some knowledges can also improve if you just sit quietly and think about them, putting information you already have together and drawing new conclusions. Personae should be encouraged to pursue these kinds of activities.

The problem is that they are not obviously exciting to play out. “I sit in a comfy chair in a nice warm room, with a cup of coffee, and read a book for a couple of hours.” There is no conflict, no interaction, and nothing more to say. Certainly, the GM should not offer a lecture on the contents of the book. The same problem applies to practising a skill. “I sit in a comfy chair in a nice warm room, with a cup of coffee, and write norito for a couple of hours.”

So, the question is how to incorporate these activities into the game.

The first step is to award experience points if the player says that her persona is doing such things. Even at this level, the activity becomes a part of the game, as it is something that the persona does. It takes time, and so the persona should not get experience points immediately, but this is also a good thing. It establishes an ongoing task in the persona’s background, and that helps to flesh out the world.

This is not really enough, however. The next step is to define sources of experience, such as books or practice exercises. The personae gain access to these sources in play, and a source either grants bonus experience points, or access to an element. Realistically, sources should have a level, and grant more experience points the closer the persona’s current ability is to that level, but that might be too much book-keeping.

At this point, sources of study would have about the same level of detail as they do in Ars Magica. Years of experience have shown that this is a reasonable level of detail, and does make study quite important in the game. However, I would like to make it even more important in Kannagara.

One possibility is to define the subject of a source of study in some detail, and grant a bonus experience point if a persona, in the course of play, connects that subject explicitly to events that are important in the narrative. “I read about it in Hogwarts: A History” would be the simplest possible form (although not that exactly, of course), but it should be possible to do it a little more elaborately. In effect, this would allow a persona to gain experience points for using knowledges, as long as the player explicitly tied the use of the knowledge to whatever the persona was currently studying. This might work best if invoking the study allows the player to claim experience as if the roll were for a skill: one point on any failure, and a point on success if the difficulty is greater than four times the number of dice kept.

Another possibility is to give the source of study specific features, which could be as simple as a physical description of a book, or of an exercise, and give the player bonus dice to roll if she makes those features important to the narrative. That is, she uses the features to make the fact that the persona is studying from this source into part of the story.

This may be enough to add to the Ars Magica model. Study should be an important part of characters’ lives in Kannagara, but it should not dominate. However, there is still one important source of study that we have not considered: teachers.

2 thoughts on “Knowledge Advancement

  1. I’m not entirely certain that a distinction in Knowledges and Skills is really necessary. As you already pointed out, everything a persona does in the game in order to improve herself should be played out in the game. So a knowledge is, like a skill or a creation, something that can be attained by playing the game and that, once you have attained it, helps you to attain more “stuff”.

    1. If I switch to advancement through elements, this will become true. Actually, later development has suggested that this might be true even under the current rules, in which case things will get simpler. Always a good thing!

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