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 Post subject: Implementing a Character Levelling System
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 5:52 am 
Worthy Tortoise
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All this talk with Malancthon about scaling OVA has made me think about how a levelling system of sorts could be implemented, but I'm not sure it even deserves its own post since my idea is basically just "every time they level up give them 10 more Health and Endurance." (So Extras would be level 1 characters, secondaries would be level 2, heroic would be level 4, etc -- in this way, you could scale higher than heroic. Characters' attacks would get higher not just with their stats but also because they'd have more Endurance to burn in combat so they could afford more Perks.)

This is definitely an idea aimed at "overpowered" games, which I usually don't run, but it's still interesting to think about.

My questions for GMs who tend to run higher-scaled campaigns with more character growth:
  • What kind of character creation guidelines do you use?
  • What kind of cost scaling do you use, if any?
  • How often do you expect characters to "level up" (get new Ability points etc)?
  • How many points in Abilities should characters get as they level up?
  • Do you allow players to buy off Weaknesses?


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 Post subject: Re: Implementing a Character Levelling System
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 10:19 am 
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I hope you don't feel I am antagonizing you, since I do appreciate the ideas you are bringing up.

Does Tough and Vigorous still come into play? Replacing Tough and Vigorous with your level up idea probably would not be overpowered, especially if you cap the level at 10 (therefore, the characters max at 100 Health and Endurance, equal to a character with Tough +5 and Vigorous +5). Going to level 99, though...

My own tentative thought about a level system is based more on the Base Zero idea, where you're "level" is equal to your difference in points between Abilities and Weaknesses. So a standard character with a 5 pt difference (say, 15 Abilities, and 10 Weaknesses) is therefore a 5th level character. Someone with only 1 point (+15/-14) is then 1st level, and someone with 10 points (+23/-13) is 10th level. But I haven't really gone any further in investigating the idea.

StarRaven wrote:
My questions for GMs who tend to run higher-scaled campaigns with more character growth:
  • What kind of character creation guidelines do you use?
  • What kind of cost scaling do you use, if any?
  • How often do you expect characters to "level up" (get new Ability points etc)?
  • How many points in Abilities should characters get as they level up?
  • Do you allow players to buy off Weaknesses?

I generally stick with the Base Zero rule, and usually recommend starting with +15/-10, as that gives plenty of freedom to build a decent character without going overboard (Although it isn't easy to make one, it always seemed weird to Me that a +37/-32 character is considered roughly as balanced as a +12/-7 character).

Personally, I think characters should get 1-3 points after a climax (whether it's a climactic battle or a culmination of a story arc). And yeah, they should be able to buy off Weaknesses. If a character had a Rival that they've defeated, unless they buy off the defect, they'll get a new Rival, and maybe the player doesn't want to repeat that story. As long as it makes sense in story, there is no limit to point differences after character creation.

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 Post subject: Re: Implementing a Character Levelling System
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 4:07 pm 
Worthy Tortoise
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Malancthon wrote:
I hope you don't feel I am antagonizing you, since I do appreciate the ideas you are bringing up.

Likewise! I know I can be (or come across as, anyway) pretty argumentative. XD

Malancthon wrote:
Does Tough and Vigorous still come into play? Replacing Tough and Vigorous with your level up idea probably would not be overpowered, especially if you cap the level at 10 (therefore, the characters max at 100 Health and Endurance, equal to a character with Tough +5 and Vigorous +5). Going to level 99, though...

The idea was that Tough and Vigorous would still have an effect, not that they'd be replaced. A Tough character would still have more Health at a low level than a regular character. At higher levels (I imagined this scaling as much as necessary -- level 99 and beyond if you've gotta) there would be less difference, unless you allow Abilities over +5.

Malancthon wrote:
My own tentative thought about a level system is based more on the Base Zero idea, where you're "level" is equal to your difference in points between Abilities and Weaknesses. So a standard character with a 5 pt difference (say, 15 Abilities, and 10 Weaknesses) is therefore a 5th level character. Someone with only 1 point (+15/-14) is then 1st level, and someone with 10 points (+23/-13) is 10th level. But I haven't really gone any further in investigating the idea.

I think this was initially my thought, as well, when I first picked this idea up years ago, but there's a pretty huge difference between even base zero characters if one of them overloaded on Weaknesses. I guess it might be best combined with a power ceiling?

Malancthon wrote:
I generally stick with the Base Zero rule, and usually recommend starting with +15/-10, as that gives plenty of freedom to build a decent character without going overboard (Although it isn't easy to make one, it always seemed weird to Me that a +37/-32 character is considered roughly as balanced as a +12/-7 character).

Yeah, yeah, that's what I was talking about! (This is pretty much the same guidelines I give players for character creation as well.) With Power Ceiling rules, "...all characters start with a number of Levels to distribute among Abilities but may gain more equivalent to the total Level of Weaknesses they take. However, the total Level of Abilities can never exceed a Power Ceiling set by the Game Master." The actual example in the book is 5 Levels plus up to 10 additional Levels offset by Weaknesses for a Power Ceiling of 15 -- exactly what you recommend.

If we reduce it to 4 Levels with a Power Ceiling of 14, it makes characters start at "level 4", which matches up with my 10 Health/End per level idea. In that case, whenever a character levelled up, they'd also get a point to put into their Abilities (or to use to buy off Weaknesses; either way it would increase their total Ability Level by +1.)

Have you tried Scaled Costs at all?


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 Post subject: Re: Implementing a Character Levelling System
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 6:35 pm 
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The wording for Power Ceiling is a bit funky, so I usually just say "+15 in Abilities, -10 Weaknesses", as I think that's enough guidance to not overwhelm players. But yeah, going the +14, -10 route could work.

I haven't tried Scaled Costs. I'm not a fan of escalating costs in other games, because it'd either require an escalation of XP to justify the higher costs or it takes forever to gain enough XP to increase your abilities, and most of the time I've experienced the latter. Could be worth expiramenting with, though, since Scaled Abilities don't get expensive until level 3, especially with something like the Monstrous Abilities.

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 Post subject: Re: Implementing a Character Levelling System
PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2017 5:57 pm 
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I mean, that's pretty much how it works in other games -- higher levels mean it'll take longer/more EXP to improve -- so I don't see too much of a problem with that.

So how should EXP and levelling work, then? I guess the easy way is:
  • Accrue experience points.
  • When you reach X experience, you level up.
  • You get an Ability Level and +10 Health/Endurance.
This way everybody levels up at the same speed, but you might end up with players that min/max because it costs the same to go from +1 to +2 as it costs to go from +4 to +5.

However we could also do it like this:
  • Accrue experience points.
  • Spend experience points on Ability Levels, using scaled costs.
  • When you raise an Ability by one level, you level up.
  • Get +10 Health/Endurance.
This way each player decides individually how fast they level up. Players who choose to improve many low-level Abilities will level up faster than players who choose to improve only a few high-level Abilities.

Scaled costs are +1 for 1, +2 for 2, +3 for 4, +4 for 8, and +5 for 15. If we multiply these (say x10), we can give players multiple EXP per session. This way, players can split their points between a few different Abilities.

If we want to, we can impose a maximum number of points players can spend on each Ability per session. If we make it based on their character level (say 2x their level?), that number can scale up as the players gain experience so that higher-level characters can raise their higher-level Abilities faster.

If we make a rule that players can't buy a new Ability unless their character has been studying/practicing it during the game, that should minimize players buying irrelevant +1 Abilities just to level up their character. (Some Abilities shouldn't be spontaneously learned at all, of course.)


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 Post subject: Re: Implementing a Character Levelling System
PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 3:00 pm 
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The way I usually approach leveling in OVA is in a much broader sense. I elaborate on this in my blog post about Sword Art Online (itself an anime about playing a VR massively multiplayer online RPG), but I'll paste it below to save everyone having to hunt for it:

Quote:
Levels
Unsurprisingly, level too can be treated with much broader strokes. Instead of incrementing a multi-digit number one-by-one, characters instead receive a much more abstract Level Bonus, ranging from +0 (for the newbie rif-raff) to +5 (for the top tier, maxed out heroes of the story.) This Bonus applies to every action the character does. However in contested rolls, characters’ Level Bonuses will cancel each other out. Should a Level Bonus +3 character attempt to attack a Level Bonus +2 character, the effective bonus is only +1. And so on.

For the sake of simplicity, I don't really mess with Health/Endurance totals. There's too many moving parts, and damage doesn't really scale well enough to keep excessive HP totals from becoming a slog.

As for when one levels, I think that depends on the kind of campaign you're doing. You can just run a separate XP total (basically, every XP you've earned, even if you "spent" some of them.) and increment the Level once you hit certain milestones.


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 Post subject: Re: Implementing a Character Levelling System
PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 4:11 pm 
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I never saw that SAO post! That's a really good one! I feel like that's similar to something that got touched on on the forums before, maybe -- something about how if you wanted to run a grittier campaign, you could do away with the default two dice? I did think about adjusting that according to level rather than Health/Endurance.

I totally agree with you on most of this. I like Health/Endurance where they're at (for various reasons, but a big one is the way Complications work) and I don't think damage in OVA is supposed to scale high enough to keep up with absurd HP pools. Here, the idea is that as characters and their enemies get higher Health, they also get more Endurance, which they can use more freely on perks like Effective and Accurate to increase their damage output. I thought that was a little more customizable than just straight increasing number of dice and DX, and it also frees up those precious Ability Levels to be put into things that aren't necessarily combat-related without worrying that min-maxing compatriots are going to vastly outscale you in a few levels.

A fair few GMs on these forums tend to run... I guess I'll call them "overpowered" campaigns -- games where characters either start or can continue growing toward levels of power that OVA generally isn't meant to handle. While I don't think I'll ever personally use this as written, I wanted to give some thought to how I'd tackle such scaling myself. It was a fun thought experiment and there's stuff I definitely want to use later.

OVA's experience system is very informal, which is good for the way OVA is intended to be run (as sort of anime-flavored roleplay rules system.) At the end of an adventure, I can just go, "Okay, guys, make any adjustments you need to make to your character to show how they've changed through the course of the game so far," which is awesome. It's rough on a GM for a more standard D&D-ish tabletop game, though, where finding small ways for characters to change and grow more powerful (whether through experience points and levels or money and loot!) is a major gameplay aspect.


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