Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Character Advancement in Lost Songs of the Nibelungs Part 1

 A bit unusual to post on a work day, but here we are. I need to get this finished for next Friday to test it with the group, so I should at least try. This first part will handle level advancement and xp awards, the second part will be about the special benefits players can choose from with advancing a level. For all those not so much interested in Lost Songs of the Nibelungs, most of this is very well portable into D&D. In fact, most of this are some streamlined house rules from my D&D game ...

The easy part: xp per level

Characters start at level zero (character creation is here). They need 500 xp to achieve level 1 and 1500 to reach level 2. After that it's just doubled (rounded up from level 7 to 8):
  • 0  - 0
  • 1  - 500
  • 2  - 1.500
  • 3  - 3.000 
  • 4  - 6.000
  • 5  - 12.000
  • 6  - 24.000
  • 7  - 48.000
  • 8  - 100.000
  • 9  - 200.000
  • 10 - 300.000 (Name Level)

That's what I'll be working with for the moment. Seems like a whole lot of gaming to reach level 10 and it begs the question if I should really go old school with this one.

Gaining xp for gold

It gets a bit tricky here. Traditionally round about half the xp needed to gain the next level is for the gold a character found on an adventure. Admittedly, we are talking huge sums here and I've seen the argument made every now and then that this premise is ridiculous (which is, historically speaking, true enough). And yet, the game is (loosely) oriented on the Nibelungenlied and they were obscenely lavish in their spending*. So there is a very good reason to keep this relic in Lost Songs.

But since those epics are about spending and not about finding, it's an ideal opportunity to introduce some carousing rules. The short of it is, every piece of gold a character is spending just for the sake of partying Big Time is worth 1 xp. Same goes for the money others spend for the characters. So if the characters decide to give a beautiful sword they found (say, worth 50.000 gold) to a king as a present and he decides to throw a party for a week, with tournaments and balls and what not, to honor them (say another 50.000), the characters would get 100.000 xp to share among each other.

Furthermore, only partying will give characters to new equipment. The they are able to spend, the higher are the chances to attract wealthy donors. Buying stuff won't have a very important part in the game, since there aren't shops in a classic sense where you just get what you want like in a supermarket. They either find it or they get it for their generosity.

There are net effects in the game to support the idea further. Characters will go on adventures during the proper seasons (late spring to early autumn) and stay at home (or where they are invited) to regenerate and spend the loot in those seasons where adventuring isn't possible or advised (late autumn to early spring)**.

Other reasons to spend money would be courting a lady (or a noble) and a marriage is always a good opportunity to throw gold at strangers, so there is that (having a family at home will also help regenerating some of the permanent damage characters will most likely receive during adventuring, so there are good reasons for characters to have something like this going ...)***.

A hero about to go on adventure ...
[illustration by Hermann Vogel]

This isn't an exact science, so characters need to spend at least as much gold as is needed to advance a level. They'll most likely aim for spending more and that's good fortune. For every 10% of the original amount they get a +1 to their fate roll for that season****.

With reaching name level, characters will automatically earned enough good will and fame to get their own castle or wizard's tower or holy site just by reaching the level. I think keying gold and xp the way I described above goes a long way in adding the flavor I want in the game through the system instead of just through the narrative. Characters need to spend those amounts of gold and make those decisions, so festivities, tournaments, marriages and all that will be part of what they experience and thus part of the game.

The other half

It's quite easy: every time characters deal or receive damage, they receive 10 times that amount as xp*****. This includes damage resulting in scars and permanent reductions of qualities, if they enrich the character's personal history ("This is the scar I received from Gunar Reyklinson in a fight about a beautiful horse...") or the setting ("We had told the stories about the evil ceremonies in that village to some travelling folk and it were those rumors that helped in the end to force that cult into hiding ..."). Same goes for the healing of permanent damage during holidays (you know, spending some quality time with the spouse and so on).

With this all the bases are covered. Good role playing, for instance, will result in "damaging" the reputation of others (reducing Fate of an enemy) or will make them nervous enough to make mistakes (reducing Nerve), to name but two examples. This way there is no need to add some artificial xp values for "good role playing" and so on. It's all in the game******. But dying a glorious death (you know, something the bards will sing about for decades to come ...) will give some extra xp to a player for his next character (I'm thinking 250 right now, half of level zero).

Again, the main idea here is to reward role playing by using the system to advance a character's goals in a way that lets the epic tale of the characters grow.

It's still a bit vague, but ...

This is a starting point. Most of it has been a part of my house rules for some time, but not in the context of Lost Songs. Damage works a bit different in the new combat system and I need to see how all of this works in connection with each other. But that's what play-testing is for and I need to start somewhere.

I hope this was able to give you all an idea where this is going. As always, comments, ideas and questions are very welcome.

* If you want to get an idea what I'm talking about here, feel free to check out my posts about explaining the Nibelungenlied for gamers: Part 1 and Part 2 (there will be more, but that's a different story ...).

** I wrote a post about the seasons and adventuring, going further into detail. It can be found here.

*** It's a post I have yet to write, but the basic idea here is to encourage players to build a dynasty, just like in the stories of old. Historically those successful warriors would end up being the ancestors of the kings to come, so (and this is far in the future, as far as this game goes) it will be possible to write games in later periods where the heroes are actual descendants of characters played before!

**** We're still talking about Nibelungs here, so there is the real threat of getting betrayed and killed for some random reason (envy, revenge, love, take your pick). So every character needs to make that roll for the holidays. Likewise it will be possible to spend one point Fate to substitute 100 missing gold pieces for advancement. It'll just lower a character's chances to make it happy holidays (this mustn't ultimately mean death, might as well be a child's death or an open enmity ...).

***** this is not my idea but the damn best way to handle xp in all things D&D. I don't remember where I had found it originally, but here's a post with at least one reference.

****** A post with everything you need to know about Qualities can be found here.

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