Thursday, December 10, 2015

XP for Treasure (sneaking up on Level Advancement in Lost Songs of the Nibelungs)

Level Advancement for Lost Songs of the Nibelungs is a monster to write. Who would have thought (my guess? everyone knew, nobody told me). Anyway. I could go for big-ass monster post with thousand different ideas and directions (as I do by default more often than not, I'm afraid) or sneak up on that bastard to get double damage on the final delivery ... Yeah, let's try that last one and start with something related and harmless like "xp for treasure". It's also something that could easily be swapped for D&D (and friends), so that's good. Right?

XP for treasure doesn't work

For me at least. The very idea that gaining wealth is somehow connected to getting more experienced in life somehow sits wrong with me. I know, I know, it's about what you had to do to get that treasure. I get that. Same difference. For me it's more about how to spend it and that's how I did it in my D&D games. Characters got xp for carousing. And if that meant economies breaking down and people getting fat and decadent wherever characters decided to leave thousands and thousands of gold coins, so be it. That's part of the fun.

Well, it doesn't work that way for Lost Songs. Mostly because it's a somewhat historical setting and you can't always expect to find huge amounts of gold and get the opportunity to spend it all without travelling thousands of kilometers to the next metropolis (like Rome or Constantinople) beforehand. No, it really doesn't work that way. Sure, they party and all that, but it's a community thing.

Characters also got obligations to their tribe. Imagine, your parents and other families just like them, settled where they are right now just a few years ago. They sure could use all the valuables they can get their hands on. And there are gods to honor, don't forget that. Never forget that, actually. They could really get pissed. And finally there are those that helped your tribe getting where they are to begin with: the leaders and warriors (and the gods, of course, just to be sure ...).

This was not about spending or giving, this was about balance. You honor your guests to be honored when you are a guest. You honor your gods and leaders and families to get honored by them in return. So you don't bought that sword you got, you either received it as a gift or as battle trophy. It's a very different kind of thinking, but I believe a game like Lost Songs will benefit from such little details a great deal (same should be true for most fantasy games, actually).

Honoring your host for fun and profit 

Presents can be anything from pelts to war trophies from Monsters, simply gold and jewelry (but, you know, that stuff is not just laying around, it all got a history and what not), fancy weaponry, even hostages or exotic animals! A Good Will Save will determine how well those presents are received. It's just one Save, the group needs to decide who has to do that role, but the effect will be on all characters. So if the Save fails, the whole group looses some Wyrd. The gift is still accepted for it's value, but it will affect the course of their stay. A table about it might look like this (early test material):

Open in new tab for a closer look ...
The worth players invest in their tribe and the honor the tribe feels for receiving it will influence everything else that happens between quests. Players will at least get what they invested in Gold as xp and will be able to advance, but if the reception is poor, it might lead to ill will that will further damage the groups ability scores one way or another.

The idea here is to allow the blooming of a narrative for their stay at home, without it taking too much time. They arrive and honor the host (Good Will Save), Carousing (random table to decide if oracle dice get involved and/or opportunities arise) and advancement takes place.

After that the characters are back on the road, fully equipped for their new quest by their tribe ...

A final word on "oracle dice" and D&D-ifying

This is mentioned in passing on the document and right now it's nothing more than a loose concept. But I found it needs a random dynamic for the DM to use actively in the game (most of it is dealt with by active/passive player rolls). Oracle dice will be a random tool for the DM to see how the machinations of the world gear towards (or against) the characters. So with Tasks and Saves influencing characters on the player-side (changing Qualities and so on), there'll be a third roll doing very much the same on the DM-side of things. It'll even be possible to directly attack/threaten Qualities beyond what Saves already do ... But that's a post on it own.

If you use this system with D&D (and friends) you basically use the same procedures: one player offers the gift (roll appropriate Ability Score, like Wisdom or Charisma), keep everything regarding xp and change the effects to penalties or boni for reaction rolls. I'd use -4 after a critical fail, -2 with a normal fail, nothing for a success and a +2 for a critical success. Please let me know if you try this at home ...

The following weekend I'll post some more about Level Advancement and how to make a random character in Lost Songs. Also need to write a post about getting those xp :)


  1. What a good idea! Adventuring, not for personal gain, but to help your family, who are typically characters who never come up unless something horrible happens to them. I like it, it makes for a better motivation then just adventure for adventures sake.

    1. Thanks, Ripper! And that was basically the intention, too. I think you can do a lot for a game by being specific like that in the details. When people using this system talk about getting the xp to advance to next level, they automatically talk about what gifts to bring and who has to get something, which automatically makes them talk within the setting. Next up will be a post about how they have to keep track of the damage they got to get more xp (and why it's a good thing to push it a little every now and then) :)

  2. This is a good concept, but should there be a chance the folks back home really get mad at you if you bring them any loot? wouldn't adventurers just go rogue if they got a couple bad reactions despite trying to appease the tr8be?

    1. It's a little more subtle than that, actually (sorry, turned out to be a long response). It's a ritual and people will most certainly be polite (just like most people would when given a present they have no high opinion of). So what happens is that people start talking behind the character's backs. People might be unfriendly (if a save fails, that is) but most likely not in a way that connects one event with the other. Say a character is courting for the hand of a fair maiden and his save fails because the difficulty was high as a result of this system. The father would just say no, keeping his reasons for himself (as people would).

      It's also gearing for a system response. Say they critically fail their Good Will Save (vs. a difficulty of 20), loosing Wyrd in the process (up to 11 for a character with a weak Save) and that hits home with a character with a scarred Wyrd in a way that would reduce the Quality permanently to zero (Wyrd of 5 or lower would do that ...). So fate would decide that the character is betrayed and finds a bloody end because of it (just like in the Nibelungenlied). There is no telling where that hate (envy from a competitor, intrigues, an angry god ...) came from that kills the character as far as the narrative is concerned (but it will be colorful). Or better yet, it wouldn't kill him right away, but hurt him high enough to allow a consecutive roll to do him in (another classic: rides his horse, fails Good Will Save, looses too much Wyrd (player looses control over character, character is effectively dead), snake surprises horse, character falls unlucky and breaks his neck, end of story). In other words: it's fuel for the narrative, not a direct effect the characters could point their fingers on.

      So from a numbers game point of view I need a system like this to give randomness a chance to do it's worse (or best). If they decide to go rogue, they'd really loose that benefit for as long (and that's important) as it takes to find a new patron they can honor. But that will be part of another post about Level Advancement (damn thing got really complex on me ...).