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[ERROR] No.15420260 [Reply] [Original] [4plebs] [archived.moe]

The following is partially pursuant to video games but, given the scholarly nature of /tg/ and its vested interest in RPGs in all their forms, I thought it more productive to discuss this here.

The topic at hand; one of the core components of RPGs - advancement - and its effect on player psychology and how any given game is approached.

>> No.15420266

As far as I have seen, RPGs are almost always designed to be finite, or at least succeed when they do so well. A good story, usually included, is best enjoyed the first time through, and its other mechanics (such as advancement) usually follow suit. However, we never want a good story to end - and we never want advancement to end, either.

The cycle I notice is as follows; a game is designed with advancement as a core mechanic, and is smooth and enjoyable until an end is reached, at which point it begins to buckle under the unassailable demand for More. Systems try to meet this demand, and the original game is buried under a kleptomaniac quest for improvement.

D&D (either edition) entertains players with a wealth of options for their characters in the core book alone. However, as characters climb in levels, the game begins to shudder under the weight of calculating all the myriad bonuses and perks collected along the way. Lateral expansion has similar detriments - endless splatbooks for new classes and feats eventually make the process of making a level 1 character require as much book-scavenging as making a 20th-level one.

WoW, though odious, has a similar problem. It is initially designed to make the process of advancement as enjoyable as possible, and succeeds - but it stutters and collapses once it approaches the end. Being a computer game, it handles the kleptomania much more effectively, but it still rears its head by enabling people to grind endlessly for minute advancement, its players becoming addicts chasing a high.

Many games have similar cycles and problems. Few people would argue that MTG doesn't suffer from (or discourage) its players "chasing the dragon", as it were.

>> No.15420271

There are many questions worth addressing here. For example, these issues exist because they were willingly added to the game, but the chicken-egg question comes up; Were these psychological traps added to create and exploit addicted customers, or did addicted customers demand More to the point where designers couldn't turn down the potential profits?

More importantly, can this pitfall be avoided while still including advancement? Can advancement be slowed, balanced, or even capped without disappointing or frustrating the player? Is there a solution to these problems that doesn't involve downgrading to a repayability-oriented game like Chess/Go or Repetitive FPS XYZ? Do these problems occur in other media, and if so, can solutions be found by analyzing their genre-specific solutions?

I'd be very interested to know what /tg/ thinks about this subject. I look forward to your usual levels of knowledge and discourse.

>> No.15420330

A single bump. /tg/ is surprisingly fast tonight.

>> No.15420337

There are only two solutions to this dilemma, OP.

First, ensure games are finite, in that they terminate before the end result is reached. If an architect didn't have the materials to build a skyscraper, he would settle for a more moderately sized building. Trying to build the skyscraper would be an inherently unstable and ultimately unrewarding task.

The second solution requires a different mode of thought retooling the way you might view advancement, though it does not solve the inherent flaws in the system since stories are, by their nature, finite.

Mechanics are one of, but not the only, ways in which you can show advancement to players. Relationships that the players create during the story, connections they make, secrets they uncover, continents they uncover, adventures they accomplish - these count too as advancement, though you may not think of it as such. If you run a game well enough, you could say you wouldn't need any mechanical advancement at all.

>> No.15420366

Not all RPGs treat advancement in the same way as D&D or WoW. Indie RPG systems in particular are more likely to either subvert or completely avoid the experience-gain/level-up treadmill. For example, characters in the narrativist Wushu system don't see an increase in the numerical value of their traits or weaknesses at all -- but the player can alter the nature of the traits themselves through play. So Wushu characters develop without growth, as it were.

OP, if you haven't already, look up GNS theory on the Forge forums. GNS stands for Gamist/Narrativist/Simulationist, a proposed classification system for RPGs. The model is not without its flaws, but has its uses. The sort of advancement that you referred to as a core component of RPGs tends to be found mostly in Gamist and, to a much lesser degree, Simulationist systems.

>> No.15420367

What keeps players coming back to Counter Strike or Day of Defeat day after day for years? It is not mechanical advancement, for their equipment and abilities in game never falter. They come for the experience, for trying out different things within that limited skill set, for the high of victory, the low of defeat, for a certain experience they have grown familiar with to the point they are able to reflexively grasp any given situation with a minimum of reflection.

Think of it in terms of running a game where your player was Superman. Superman's abilities are at their peak. Mechanical advancement is out of the question. However, the entertainment in the idea of superman is how he uses his defined abilities to defeat the villain, solve the problem, or uncover the truth. The very definition of having set abilities allows abilities to be ruled out of the equation altogether, allowing for pure, unadulterated gaming where both GM and Player know exactly what they are capable of. The Player is freed by this knowledge, and can invent from his defined skill set, while the GM can tailor challenges perfectly for the skills which he knows for fact that the player possesses.

>> No.15420398


I'm familiar with GNS theory, and see the mentioned flaws in Gamist/Simulationist logic as the foremost problems to tackle, since it is the main progenitor of games that I view as largely exploitative.

That said, there is immense value in turning to narrative for both finality and manageability. Though some of the same problems do arise - for example, tracking players' actions too finely can, in some cases, make a narrative game as frustrating to run as a mechanical one, to say nothing of attempting both.

>> No.15420420

>D&D (either edition) entertains players with a wealth of options for their characters in the core book alone. However, as characters climb in levels, the game begins to shudder under the weight of calculating all the myriad bonuses and perks collected along the way. Lateral expansion has similar detriments - endless splatbooks for new classes and feats eventually make the process of making a level 1 character require as much book-scavenging as making a 20th-level one.
Kind of a fundamental misstep from my perspective into yours, here.

>> No.15420421

I've always felt that advancement as most RPGs represent it is utterly unnecessary. People do improve with practice, but it's a fairly gradual process that in the scope of time most adventures represent likely wont be felt is any substantial fashion. It's entirely possible that with the way you make use of your skills in an adventure (you don't usually have time to fuck around with new shit, you gotta use what works if you enjoy not dying, at least from the perspective of the character) it's likely you wont learn anything new. It's possible, considering the stressful or even traumatic nature of many adventures you could actually regress in capability, as the inability to recognize the difference between correlation and causation that is very common in people works its wonders.

>> No.15420439

You could also have something like the FATE system wherein the end goal is not necessarily the success of the character, but the success of the story. The story must have an end, and the ending is usually a satisfying one because of the work you put into not just your character, but the setting as a whole. You get a sense that these things will continue to live on in their own world, the same way you get that sense from finishing a book.

At least, that's how I've always played the Dresden Files RPG.

>> No.15420486

The problem with advancement is as you deliver more abilities to the players, you must scale the difficulty of whatever challenge they face next to higher and higher levels, until the weight of all the statistical prowess collapses in on itself into a pile of unmanageable rubbish.

Why does the player feel accomplished in gaining the +2 sword when it means from there on out he will always be fighting +2 enemies? It is not a mechanical advantage the player seeks, it is the idea of maturation, in which through story a character becomes stronger and more capable.

Why, therefore, must 'advancement' as we know it be tracked at all? Surely it would make more sense to balance a character's attributes at first, so that the strong man is stronger than the smart man, and then denote a few powers which define that character, and then simply scale the difficulty of all challenges based on how far along the story the players are.

Without a rigid system in place, you could always ensure that the 'current' enemies were challenging, even though the only scaling would be in how you describe them.

>> No.15420502


that's pretty much exactly what FATE done right does.

>> No.15420505

Bump just because I like this post so damn much.

>> No.15420518



>> No.15420530


I would point out something like Shadowrun, or oWoD has sufficient randomness in the structure of the game to ensure that even mooks can be a threat if the players are incautious.

>> No.15420549

When it comes to the use of experience points, if I'm going to have a "spend experience points as you get them on certain things" rather than a "You get a bunch of Xp then level up", I much prefer a system like Warhammer Fantasy than World of Darkness. For WoD you feel like you have to save and scrounge XP to get the good stuff, with Warhammer Fantasy almost everything costs 100 xp, so the moment you get it you can spend it on something. Its a very nice feeling rather than worrying about what to save your XP for.

>> No.15420560

Yes, but then that sort of danger is so unpredictable that it sucks the fun out of things. It's like if every time your DM rolled a 13, rocks fall and 1d6 player characters die. Your players need to be challenged, not murdered.

If you're doing it right, they will be unsure they'll actually be able to succeed right up until they actually have.

>> No.15420572


Even without specifically tracking player progress, the lowliest of enemies would still be able to be deadly depending on how you treated combat rules. Maybe your near-story-end party can crush most tasks easily, but, on the order of your rules, these lowly mooks still pose a low threat although a dragon or two might only be at high. The henchmen stay relevant because their difficulty only drops so far until it is at a constant level which the players are comfortable confronting, but can still be dangerous if mistakes are made.

>> No.15420573

Comparatively, that's nice. But it's the rigging on a sinking ship. I think we're trying to find something here that eliminates that sort of progress entirely in favor of something more...substantial for want of a better word.

>> No.15420591

Why wouldn't I run a game without mechanical advancement? Not that I'm unwilling to play a game without it, but I don't see any specific reason to avoid games with it. It doesn't detract anything from the game, at least as long as you're not playing with people who are primarily there for mechanical advancement. In that case I'd say the problem lies with the players, not the system itself.

Also, mechanical advancement allows for the quantifiable improvement (or at least change) of a character. It's as >>15420337 said: Mechanics are one of the ways, but not the only one, in which advancement can be demonstrated. If you're running games with a limited narrative over a short space of time then such improvement might not be that likely, but it can still take place; look at the standard heroic fantasy. Hero starts off naff, outclassed by BBEG, by the end he's improved enough to be able to overcome said BBEG, whether that be through raw skill, cunning or what have you. Many games run for longer, though, and can involve large periods of downtime where events are skimmed over. Characters improving over such time is hardly unreasonable and demonstrates that they've evolved beyond what they once were.

>> No.15420592


I will point out that different people like different things. I for one enjoy a system where every skill is hard earned. I do also enjoy systems where I can get what I want whenever I level up, though. It's simply a matter of taste.

>> No.15420596

I would like to point out that you can have great fun with a character without any advancement. There's no reason why you shouldn't stop progression in DnD after level 6, 8, 10 or 12. Usually since beyond that things get silly.

>> No.15420611

Good luck convincing your average player of that. They've been so brainwashed by things like World of Warcraft, that they believe that sort of mechanical advancement is the entire point of having a character. If you give it to them, then take it away, they'll see no point in playing and quit.

You'd have a far better chance if you tie the advancement to the actual storyline, as >>15420439
suggests with a system like FATE.

>> No.15420644

I'd like to point out that running a game devoid of mechanical advancement is just another way of running games. It is not for everyone, just as science fiction or urban fantasy is not for everyone. It could be something interesting to try out, but no one is under any compulsion to do so, and it should not be viewed as superior or inferior to any other form of playing pen and paper role playing games.

>> No.15420649

>Why does the player feel accomplished in gaining the +2 sword when it means from there on out he will always be fighting +2 enemies?

That +2 sword and the +2 enemies don't exist in a vacuum. +0 enemies were probably giving the town guard a run for their money. +2 enemies will menace entire regions. Regular people could have stood toe to toe with +0 enemies and had a chance. +2 enemies will make a mockery of their defiance. The heroes, improved as they are, may have about as difficult a time defeating the +2 baddies as they did with the +0 ones a while before, but they'll be dealing with foes who are more powerful, cunning and/or influential and are regarded as such within the setting.

Not that characters should exclusively come into conflict with carefully balanced foes. An overpowering one is good every now and then, as are encounters with weaker ones. It helps establish how potent the characters are themselves, whether it comes to killing stuff or otherwise.

>> No.15420664

Evil Hat Productions as a whole has got this idea down pat, I'd say.

I've never played FATE, but I have played Don't Rest Your Head, and it sounds about the same for both games. Advancement comes just as it should be: along with actual character advancement. Instead of increasing some arbitrary attribute, the player is making decisions that show growth (or degradation) of his character. It's all story-based, with a slight tie-in to mechanics. This way, the focus stays on a strong narrative structure, rather than some sort of hack-'n-slash grindfest.

>> No.15420683

>'pacification unit'

I lol'd

>> No.15420715


Very true. Yet there is a trend in games to match the players tit for tat in terms of abilities, a practice which renders any sort of advancement, mechanical or not, meaningless. A good game master knows how to avoid this pitfall. This is more of a thought exercise than anything. My campaigns have their fair share of +2 swords as well.

>> No.15420746

It's a phenomena that I only ever really encounter in D&D. Or hear about occurring in it, anyway. D&D is particularly problematic, though, since advancement is mostly about increasing numbers counterbalanced by other increasing numbers. Other systems, at least in my experience, place more focus on what the characters can do which they couldn't do before. They'll know more stuff, be able to make shots that would have been previously impossible, give effective orations to entire crowds and so on.

>> No.15420775

In the end, systems aside, it's up to the game master to decide how to handle advancement and its affect on the game.

My personal methodology is to ensure there are repercussions for player actions. If a player does something stupid, they may succeed, but there will be a tangible effect for it - maybe loss of limb, an NPC's life, or some scarring. If a player does well, I have no qualms about giving off a skill point or two, an improved item, relationship, connection, a bit of insight into the setting, or a unique ability or 'perk'.

>> No.15420788

I'll post a few more images in here to draw in interest before I go to sleep. Just in case I've confused anyone during my musing, my posts are all the ones with pictures in them up to this point, save for OP's.

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>> No.15420816

I once ran an X-com RPG where I told the players that their characters are already at the peak of human ability and there will be no stat advancement. I figured if they weren't distracted by the thought of their next level up, they could focus more on story and character advancement.

It worked.

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>> No.15420834


My point exactly, good sir. Like I said, it's not for everyone, but it's definitely worth investigating to see what it does to the game.

>> No.15420847

Welp, I think that's enough to keep people entertained for a while. Goodnigh/tg/entlment.

>> No.15420858

rolled 45 = 45

In the system that I'm writing, the 'currency' used for advancement is time, measured in days spent training/learning.

>> No.15421042

I'm very impressed with all of you. Glad to see literacy is still alive and well here in /tg/.

However, I have a daring question to ask as a follow-up; can any of these non-mechanical solutions be adapted to apply to a video game? For example, an MMO where people are more interested in epic battles than the EXP it would yield?

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