Experience, Luck and Combat

One trend that has become widespread in RPGs in recent years is the (relatively speaking) ultra fast progression from novice character to demigod … particularly the idea of mandated level progression every X levels especially prominent in level-progression based systems … a development is not only unrealistic in the extreme but one that also makes gameplay and GMing more an arms race and numbers game than actual fun.

Does it have to be this way? Can you have player rewards that are satisfying and still allow the GM to have fun as well? Can the arms race of experience based progression be satisfying and yet at least somewhat resemble the real world?

I believe that it is possible and that the D10 system used in RtA achieves it.

The base assumption in RtA is that skill advancement (there are no levels) will be slow … or potentially so … that it will be a tradeoff and that this tradeoff will encourage (and probably require) Players to balance a desire for survival and instant gratification with longer term goals.

How is this achieved? Well, Characters have a Luck characteristic which can be used to protect them somewhat from the game world at a fairly major level – that lethal explosion that rendered their corpse into its constituent atoms may not actually have been what it seemed if you have enough Luck (shades of the Fu Manchu or Sherlock Holmes and the Reichenbach Falls!) … something happens that means they survive … maybe there was some unseen physical feature that protected them so that they are merely wounded and unconscious, maybe there was a hidden door they could exit through (retroactively found) before the explosion.

Something along those lines.

Now, this sort of thing isn’t at all new, especially in level-less game systems … and is quite an interesting way of handling those major effects. And a popular one, too. The problem is that it often doesn’t have a way of handling more minor, but no less threatening, problems.

This is where D10 is, I hope, different. PCs gain Experience Points for certain die rolls and other game effects, and also for some of the usual role playing schticks – and each unit of 20 EP allow a character to potentially increase a skill or acquire a new one.

Fairly standard.

Now, Combat in RtA is vicious … characters have relatively few Hit Points and weapons often do enough damage, unmodified, to kill them with one shot … and a successful attack roll can increase this base damage to really nasty levels. Body armour protects … a bit … just as it does in real life. But any player who has his character run around in the open trading fire with the enemy … well, they’ll soon be dead.

Absolutely Dead.

And even their Luck Characteristic will run out fairly quickly (it’s hard to replace/regenerate, as you might expect).

Obviously, characters should use cover and concealment and a fire off a lot of bullets to throw their enemy’s aim off … just as in real life … but, of course, Players won’t (or won’t want) to do that as often as they should … so how can they survive?

Well, this is where the EPs come in … and where Players will need to make tradeoffs with Skill advancement. You see, those EPs can be used for minor luck enhancements.

1 EP can add +1D to any roll they make, or add +1 Diff to any roll made against them, or reduce Damage by one grade … amongst other things. So they can do all those heroic things players want their characters to do … and probably survive doing so … but there will be a cost … slow, probably very slow, advancement … yet they’ll get to have fun, if they’re careful.

Just as importantly, the GM will still have fun without having to introduce more and more extreme measures (and ‘monsters’) to try and match the almost demi-god-like status that comes so fast in so many game systems … that RentaCop Mall Security guard can still get off a lucky shot, if the PCs are careless with their EP expenditure, and cause serious damage … no need to have a Boss Monster Mall Demon to make the contest ‘balanced’!

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