Skill Advancement

Skill Advancement

Personae in roleplaying games have advanced, become better at what they do, since the hobby began. There is room for debate over whether this is necessary for roleplaying in general, but as one of the main themes of Kannagara is personal development, it is clearly necessary for this game. Indeed, advancement should be rather fast, because players should feel that their personae are developing.

Because development is one of the themes of the game, development should happen in play. This means that skills and knowledges must be handled differently, because personae do different things to improve them. Basically, one improves a skill by using it, but one improves a knowledge by studying.

This makes skill improvement easier to handle. The improvement process involves the persona doing things with the skill, and “doing things with skills” is what we play out in the game. So, the first point is that using a skill in the game will improve that skill. People learn from their mistakes as much as their successes, but do not learn much from succeeding at things that are easy for them. Failing at something that should be easy for you can be a great learning experience, of course, and you can learn a lot from both success and failure at a difficult task.

This is a place where the precise numbers will be determined by playtest, but as a first pass a persona gets an experience point when she attempts an important task with a difficulty that is greater than four times the number of dice she gets to keep. It does not matter whether she succeeds or fails. The chance of getting greater than 4 with one die is one in three, while the chance of getting 9 or greater on two dice is less than a quarter, so these are tasks at which failure is likely. Of course, the number of dice being rolled will also affect this probability, so personae with high knowledge scores might well advance while succeeding, but that is not necessarily a problem; as mentioned above, advancement should probably be fast.

Similarly, a persona gains an experience point if she fails an important task with a difficulty that is less than or equal to four times the number of dice she gets to keep. Succeeding at this level does not teach much, but failure certainly can. To put this another way, a persona gets an experience point whenever she fails at a task, and when she succeeds at a task with a difficulty greater than four times the number of dice she gets to keep.

Experience points go with a particular skill, and when a persona has a certain number of experience points, the skill increases by one die. I think I want to use a flat number of experience points per increase, so that it might always cost 10 experience points to raise a skill by one die, whether the persona has a skill of 1 or a skill of 10. However, the actual number involved will have to be decided as the game is developed and playtested. It might even be something that players are invited to change, to set an advancement speed that their group likes.

I noted above that these rules apply to “important tasks”. That means a task that is part of the narrative of the game. Players cannot just have the characters go off and fail consistently at hard tasks in order to acquire lots and lots of experience points. However, it is obvious that personae can go off and practise their skills in downtime, and that they should improve if they do that. This is a mode of improvement that also applies to knowledges, and so I would like to discuss it in its own post.

2 thoughts on “Skill Advancement

  1. I’m not happy about the current concept of experience points. It means that a player would have to keep track of a lot of variable game values (one per skill) during the game. Also I don’t know how many skills there are in total, but with this system whenever you roll for a skill that you don’t have yet, you will probably fail, so you get your experience point and write it up, and then you might not use that same skill for a long time, so essentially your persona sheet could become clogged with all those skill value 0, experience points 1 skills … so its not just book keeping, its also highly redundant book keeping.

    I thought about this for a while, also in context with how elements work and how a persona will be able to change into everything she wants at any time, and came up with the following idea: How about making character developement into a kind of element?

    After all, elements are things that you acquire and that provide you with certain bonusses and/or extras (and at some points also negative effects). You attained them, you write them down, feel proud about them and use them to achieve even higher goals.

    If you look at it like this, then every creation’s existence is proof of the skillfullness of its creator and also of his ability to create something even better next time. So a character developement / skill raise could become a secondary element of a creation, or it could become and automatic side effect of creation, or creating something could open up the option to roll for a corresponding character developement next. Or maybe a combination of those three concepts.

    Also the concept of “learning by mistakes” would need to be attached to this whole mechanic, but I see a variety of ways to get that done without problems.

    The effect of this would be that a typical persona sheet would hold only the most basic information, and everything else, creations and character developements (=skills) are added later. It might even make sense to have no sheet of paper at all and instead represent everything a persona has achieved/learned/gained as separate cards. A cards based game obviously has a lot of advantages and disadvantages. If you consider to go that way, please let me know, I had (and still have) a fair share of experiences with that.

    1. That’s a very interesting idea. I don’t actually think the book-keeping will be that overwhelming, because I plan to have a well-defined set of skills, so the persona sheet won’t be taken over by score 0 experience 1 skills, but using elements for advancement has a lot of appeal as an idea.

      I’ll let it simmer for a while. Off-screen development has nearly reached the point where I can write a sample scenario, and at that point I’ll pull everything together. That might be where I change the experience mechanic.

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