Friday, March 20, 2015

A dual-track XP system?

 Brushing off the cobwebs and blowing clouds of dust.

Just when I think I'm gonna get back on the blogging regularly horse, real life intervenes.  I'm now a university English instructor, which is better than my last job, but since I don't need to keep regular 9-5 hours, I'm spending more time at home with the wife and baby which means less time for blogging. 

Additionally, I received some awesome feedback from JB of BX Blackrazor regarding Flying Swordsmen, and he's got me thinking of all sorts of cool things I could do to create a worthy wuxia game.  I might call it Flying Swordsmen 2nd Edition, but the way I'm thinking now, it won't be a D&D-based game so it wouldn't really be a new edition.  Just another wuxia game (with mechanics to hopefully better emulate wuxia fiction/film's drama elements) that also uses my campaign world of Zhongyang Dalu.  Tentative title for the new game would be "Wu Xing" (that's the 5 Chinese Elements). 

I'm only halfway through my point-by-point response to his lengthy feedback.  Need to finish that up and get it to him. 

And that leaves me pondering just what to do with Chanbara.  Should I keep it as a fairly OSR compatible game like Flying Swordsmen, or start modifying it so it will be compatible with the eventual release of FS2/Wu Xing.  Many of JB's ideas actually already parallel things I've been modifying in Chanbara, but he's got me considering going back to my original idea of a classless, skill-based system for FS2/Wu Xing.

Today (finally getting to the question I pose in the title of this post), I was thinking about the feasibility of a dual-track XP system.  Would it kill the game (Chanbara, where the idea is to have samurai and ninja battling spirit-creatures, demons and monsters in order to protect the lands of Man) with complexity to have to earn XP the traditional way, by slaying things and taking their stuff (then giving the stuff to your lord) to earn levels [hit dice, attack bonus, saves], but also have a "justify your actions" type set of questions for the end of each session to earn Skill Points which can then be spent as you wish to improve your various martial/magical/ninja abilities (or raw ability scores)?

Just to clarify --
Kill monsters, earn XP
Donate loot to your liege (daimyo, temple, clan, etc.), earn XP
Role play appropriately within the tropes of Japanese fiction, earn Skill Points

XP gain you levels when you hit certain benchmarks, continue to accumulate, and are measured in the thousands.  Standard D&D fare.
SP are small awards (1 to 5 per session) and are then spent between adventures/sessions to improve certain aspects, with increasing costs to gain higher levels [borrowing from Star Frontiers].

So, what do you think?  Too complex?  Should everything be tied to only one or the other method of character advancement?  Or would something like this work? 


  1. I'd be worred about keeping the game balanced. Not in the "every encounter has to equal this many XP's" way but in the "we're all about 3rd level, so we have a feeling of what a reasonable foe we can hunt is" type of balance. How would you compare different levels of advancement between the two trackers of progress if they advance on completely independent tracks? Or does it not even matter if they get out of balance, so to speak? Done well, I think it offers really interesting mechanical agency for the players to choose some of their gaming focus.

    1. I was thinking about this. One way to do it would be to make sure that the things that get improved by "role play" XP are things that affect role play, while things that get improved by "murder hobo" XP are things that make it easier to kill things and take their stuff.

      Probably the easier way to do it, however, would be to put some limits on how the RP XP can be spent relative to character level. Of course, that then would eventually punish groups who prefer heavy RP instead of dungeon delving/wilderness adventure style play.

  2. There are other games that use a multi-track XP system (Fantasy Wargaming immediately comes to mind), but while you earn different categories of XP for different things (combat XP versus magic XP, for example), you're still earning the same type of points and still leveling up.

    One idea I had back when I was writing a B/X based Star Wars game was to have different "tiers" of power. Your character class would go from level 1 to 14 (or whatever), but your character would be one of three different tiers, taking your skills to a different level. As a basic example, a jedi character could be an apprentice (tier 1), knight (tier 2), or master (tier 3). Some "powers of the Force" were only available to characters of a certain tier; however, going up in tier was based on accomplishing certain in-game goals, unrelated to the acquisition of XP and level. It was designed as an incentive for ambitious players that wanted to do more than just "cap" stormtroopers.

    1. Something like that might work. If you're a Ninja, you start as a "genin" and can level up all you like at that level. But if you RP the right way, you can get promoted to "chunin" or even eventually "jonin" and get to be one of the movers and shakers in your ninja clan.

      Likewise, for a samurai you could start as a member of your lord's warband, but could move up to become a bannerman, or even a general (or a daimyo?).

      Etc. and etc. and etc. for other classes/archetypes.

      Something to think about.

    2. That sounds pretty awesome, actually.