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GunDragon
2018-09-01, 04:33 PM
Over the years I have primarily seen RPG systems handle character progression in 1 of 2 ways.

Either it is XP Point Buy, where you start with a certain amount of XP at character creation and can spend it as you will on stats, skills, abilities, etc.
And then you get XP for winning battles or completing quests and story arcs, and then you spend it on your stats as you want.
It's a really great system because it gives players a lot of freedom in how they want to improve their character, but it has a slight problem that I've noticed.
Take this for example:
Suppose you have 3 player characters and they have been adventuring and doing quests together for quite a while, gaining and spending XP however they wanted. Then, one of them tragically dies. Then a new character is made to replace the old one. Since there is no leveling system, the new character is left to guess how much XP his/her new character has to spend in order to be on equal footing with the rest of the group. And that is an issue.
There is a way around this of course. The GM could just keep track of how much XP the group has been gaining over time, and just use that. But that's another thing that the GM has to keep track of.
There's also the issue of players spending their XP in the "wrong places." What if a character spent all of his/her XP in social stats just before go into a dungeon filled with mindless monsters? That character might feel useless in that situation.

The other option is leveling, which is what D&D uses. Leveling doesn't have the above problem, but it does have it's own issues. We all know what "dead levels" can be like :smallannoyed:
And at times, determining at what level you get certain abilities can just seem arbitrary and too meta. With leveling systems, I feel like I'm playing an MMORPG and not tabletop.
There's also the problem of "you can't go there or do that cool thing yet, you're not high enough level." Immersion broken :smallsigh:

I know both systems have their strengths and weaknesses, but which would you prefer?

Minty
2018-09-01, 04:45 PM
There is a way around this of course. The GM could just keep track of how much XP the group has been gaining over time, and just use that. But that's another thing that the GM has to keep track of.

I don't see why this has to be the GM's job. Let the players keep a tally of what they've spent on their character sheets.

Or use a system where it's easy to deduce from a character's stats how much XP has been spent on them.

Thrudd
2018-09-01, 05:34 PM
"Can't do that yet" isn't a level-system only problem. A starting character in any system is going to be limited in what they can do. In a point-build system, you probably aren't going to have enough points to get really powerful abilities at first. In either type of system, the GM can decide that the game will start at a higher power-level and either give the players more points to spend or allow them to start at a higher character level.

There are types of games that are best with levels, and other types of games that are best with point-buying.

Systems with levels let you control the progression of characters more closely. All characters are going to be within a certain range of ability, which lets you anticipate the sort of challenges that the group can handle. It's for the sort of game where you want predictable types of characters that fill certain strategic roles in the game, like a D&D party where you work as a team with everyone contributing something rather specific, or when the game is meant to be depicting specific archetypes. It also makes for faster character progression - level systems are the sort where characters might rather quickly (from the perspective of the players) go from average people to super heroes.

Point-build games work best when there is not meant to be a high degree of advancement in character ability throughout the game. XP awards are usually rather small in these systems, and the cost for advancement rather high, so during the course of a campaign the characters may not seem to have advanced as much as characters with levels do. Because players can spend on anything they want, you can also end up with very unbalanced characters and groups. A character that has pumped so many resources into combat effectiveness that they make the rest of the group obsolete can be a problem for adventure design. This is solved in some systems by having maximums on starting characters, no matter the point cost, and/or having restrictions on how a character advances (like no skill can be advanced to level four before at least three other skills are at level 3, or somesuch).

Point build characters are much more customized, but that is not always ideal for every game. Neither way is more or less "immersive". That is a matter of the player's expectations not being in-line with the character they have and the mechanics of the system being used. If you think your character should be able to shoot fireballs or to leap the grand canyon, but the game's rules say your character can't do that - that sounds like a player problem, not a game problem.

Quertus
2018-09-01, 07:08 PM
With spendable XP, one can simply add to an "XP earned" box / total whenever the GM hands out XP, and add to an "XP spent" whenever the character is improved. Not seeing the problem.

Quertus
2018-09-01, 07:10 PM
I'm a level one Jedi - Darth Snuggles is clearly beyond my capabilities.

I'm a point-buy Jedi who can barely lift a paperclip with the Force - Darth Snuggles is clearly beyond my capabilities.

I'm not seeing the difference, nor why either is immersion-breaking.

Kyrell1978
2018-09-01, 07:14 PM
With leveling systems, I feel like I'm playing an MMORPG and not tabletop.


This is an odd statement to me since the leveling system was around in table top RPGs long before MMORPGs were even a possibility.

Mark Hall
2018-09-01, 07:51 PM
One thing you might do is make "Total XP" a trackable, usable, stat in a "skill-based system" (the usual name for what you're calling XP Point Buy). One option is to use it as a rough gauge of reputation. Savage Worlds does this... you use your XP to buy things, but you also have certain XP thresholds... get past 20 XP, and you become "Seasoned", which opens up some new Edges, and you can improve one of your attributes again. At 40xp, you're a Veteran, and you have more edges and another opportunity to buy stats.

VincentTakeda
2018-09-01, 08:02 PM
I prefer levels myself. The drawback to systems that allow you to choose where your points go is that folks tend to overspend in a few areas while neglecting others. On the other hand if we're ok with the conceit of high lethality consequences.... I'm fine if a character with 45 points of feral carnage dies when he fails his swim check against a low flow showerhead. I don't like it when players complain when the weak points they created through poor planning start to do their job.

Knaight
2018-09-01, 10:10 PM
Between the two I vastly favor point buy - less because I really like point buy and more because I tend to strongly dislike level systems. There are others beyond that (e.g. Lifepath) which I'm also generally on board with.

As for your specific issue with point buy systems that's entirely avoidable. It's not that hard to keep track of XP earned as a player, or in systems with symmetry between character creation and character advancement (generally a good thing) to calculate the point value of a given statblock.

GunDragon
2018-09-01, 11:57 PM
Between the two I vastly favor point buy - less because I really like point buy and more because I tend to strongly dislike level systems. There are others beyond that (e.g. Lifepath) which I'm also generally on board with.

As for your specific issue with point buy systems that's entirely avoidable. It's not that hard to keep track of XP earned as a player, or in systems with symmetry between character creation and character advancement (generally a good thing) to calculate the point value of a given statblock.

Why do you strongly dislike level systems? I'm curious

Frozen_Feet
2018-09-02, 02:53 AM
This is an odd statement to me since the leveling system was around in table top RPGs long before MMORPGs were even a possibility.

Computer games stole majority of all of their rules and tropes from tabletop games. The joke is that computerized versions have since become more widespread and more popular, so a given player is more likely to have first encountered these tropes in a computer game rather than a tabletop game. Hence tabletop games remind them of computer games and not the other way around.

MoiMagnus
2018-09-02, 05:03 AM
I personately hate free Point-Buy system (has a player and has a DM).
Main reason is that I have any system that allow you to chose between specialise in combat VS specialise in non-combat. (And other similar choices)
It leads to team inbalance, or unadequacy to the campaign ... And the few system like that I've tried did not convince me in term of balance, so if a player is optimising, things completely break.
Additionnaly, I don't like counting XP, so ...

Thus, there is two systems that I like:
1) Level based system, without XP (leveling is chosen by the DM)
2) Constrained point-buy system. In controled point-buy system, you have to expand XP as soon as you get them (but you can start buying something even if you don't have enough point to finish to buy it), and you don't fully chose what you buy. What you buy is determined buy your RP. I've played one system were at each session, every character gain 3XP (sometimes 4XP if there is a personnal quest completed).
- One XP is voted by the other PCs. "According to current session, in what competence do you think [Name] is progressing?"
- One XP is chosen by the DM, with a similar reasonning.
- One XP is chosen by the Player, completely free.

Minty
2018-09-02, 05:34 AM
I personately hate free Point-Buy system (has a player and has a DM).
Main reason is that I have any system that allow you to chose between specialise in combat VS specialise in non-combat. (And other similar choices)
It leads to team inbalance, or unadequacy to the campaign ... And the few system like that I've tried did not convince me in term of balance, so if a player is optimising, things completely break.

I think point-buy works better for more narrativist systems where team balance is not an issue because combat isn't the focus (and the combat mechanics aren't "gamey" for want of a better term), and the adequacy of a character to the campaign is determined by their personality, background, and motivations rather than their mechanical capabilities.

Kyrell1978
2018-09-02, 09:40 AM
I think point-buy works better for more narrativist systems where team balance is not an issue because combat isn't the focus (and the combat mechanics aren't "gamey" for want of a better term), and the adequacy of a character to the campaign is determined by their personality, background, and motivations rather than their mechanical capabilities.

I've found that I like point buy in dice pool games. Shadowrun and World of Darkness both do the point buy as XP thing and I think it works there. I'm not a huge fan of any of the ways I've seen it implemented into a d20 type system.

Morty
2018-09-02, 09:54 AM
I've never seen much of a point in levels... though of course I've yet to encounter a non-D&D system that uses them. Really, it's not a very balanced comparison because there's many ways to spin "get points to spend on stuff", whereas levels are contained to just a few games. Either way, I see little reason to use levels. If a game does use levels, individual experience points become pretty redundant. Just level up whenever it's appropriate to do it.

jindra34
2018-09-02, 10:57 AM
I've never seen much of a point in levels... though of course I've yet to encounter a non-D&D system that uses them. Really, it's not a very balanced comparison because there's many ways to spin "get points to spend on stuff", whereas levels are contained to just a few games. Either way, I see little reason to use levels. If a game does use levels, individual experience points become pretty redundant. Just level up whenever it's appropriate to do it.

Anima: Beyond fantasy kinda uses levels. But then again all you get when you level is a bucket of points to spend, so its kinda wierd.

Kyrell1978
2018-09-02, 11:01 AM
I've never seen much of a point in levels... though of course I've yet to encounter a non-D&D system that uses them. Really, it's not a very balanced comparison because there's many ways to spin "get points to spend on stuff", whereas levels are contained to just a few games. Either way, I see little reason to use levels. If a game does use levels, individual experience points become pretty redundant. Just level up whenever it's appropriate to do it.

The entire Palladium Mega Verse uses levels also.

Pex
2018-09-02, 11:22 AM
My issue with XP point buy is that most of what your character can do is determined at character creation. As you earn points all that happens is that you get better at one or two skills by a die pip. For example, in GURPS you would succeed on a 15 or less when it was 14 or less. You never significantly increase in capability, so you're playing the same character every game. It's boring for me because I'm not doing anything new. In level based games like D&D I get to do new stuff and things I was doing become more significant. It's not about the power, though it is a factor. It's that the character is mechanically different enough at level 10 than he was at level 5 than he was at level 1. In XP Point Buy you can be powerful. GURPS allows for superheroes. Ars Magic you cast powerful spells. However, your characters don't change. You do not get new powers as a superhero in GURPS. You don't get to cast new powerful spells in areas you couldn't at character creation in Ars Magica.

Grod_The_Giant
2018-09-02, 11:38 AM
I've never seen much of a point in levels... though of course I've yet to encounter a non-D&D system that uses them. Really, it's not a very balanced comparison because there's many ways to spin "get points to spend on stuff", whereas levels are contained to just a few games. Either way, I see little reason to use levels. If a game does use levels, individual experience points become pretty redundant. Just level up whenever it's appropriate to do it.
The main virtue of level-based systems, as far as I can tell, is that they force a certain minimal competence on all characters of a given level. In D&D, your party of four 3rd-level characters will all be roughly able to contribute in a fight against a CR 3 ogre; in something like Exalted, you can have four essence-3 characters with combat ability ranging from "any trained soldier could kill me" to "hi, I can kill armies of demons."


My issue with XP point buy is that most of what your character can do is determined at character creation. As you earn points all that happens is that you get better at one or two skills by a die pip. For example, in GURPS you would succeed on a 15 or less when it was 14 or less. You never significantly increase in capability, so you're playing the same character every game. It's boring for me because I'm not doing anything new. In level based games like D&D I get to do new stuff and things I was doing become more significant. It's not about the power, though it is a factor. It's that the character is mechanically different enough at level 10 than he was at level 5 than he was at level 1. In XP Point Buy you can be powerful. GURPS allows for superheroes. Ars Magic you cast powerful spells. However, your characters don't change. You do not get new powers as a superhero in GURPS. You don't get to cast new powerful spells in areas you couldn't at character creation in Ars Magica.
That can happen, but doesn't need to. You certainly do have games like M&M where you don't get more powerful so much as more flexible, but you can also have White Wolf style point-buy systems, where there's a fast enough xp progression and enough progression-grated abilities that you still get an upward power curve.

SimonMoon6
2018-09-02, 12:57 PM
Over the years I have primarily seen RPG systems handle character progression in 1 of 2 ways.

Either it is XP Point Buy,
The other option is leveling,


Another option is something like Call of Cthulhu, in which the various gains that you get from adventuring do not exactly add up to any particular level of experience. You might improve your skills (a TEENY TINY bit) when you use them, but then again, you might not. You may gain "sanity points" (which is the closest thing they have to XP), and while you can spend it on one thing (power), you also might need to keep it because you might not have enough after losing sanity from looking at things. (And of course, you can gain items, like in every other game, but these items might be books that might teach you spells that become a part of your character.)




it has a slight problem that I've noticed.
Take this for example:
Suppose you have 3 player characters and they have been adventuring and doing quests together for quite a while, gaining and spending XP however they wanted. Then, one of them tragically dies. Then a new character is made to replace the old one. Since there is no leveling system, the new character is left to guess how much XP his/her new character has to spend in order to be on equal footing with the rest of the group. And that is an issue.

Not necessarily. Often, in games where you spend XP as you like on your character, the difference between an experienced character and a new character is usually somewhat small. The "zero to hero" narrative does not necessarily come up in other games where it might be "hero to slightly better hero" (as in a superhero game) or "zero to still zero" (as in Call of Cthulhu). In those games, it doesn't matter that much that a new PC might come in as a newly created beginner character to adventure alongside more experienced characters. And in fact, this can be a feature (not a bug), as some GMs would like to give some sort of penalty for having your character die, and this works quite well, especially in games where death is more rare (superhero games); in games where death is super-common (Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia), it also doesn't hurt much because, after all, what are the chances that ANY PCs will last for long?



There's also the issue of players spending their XP in the "wrong places." What if a character spent all of his/her XP in social stats just before go into a dungeon filled with mindless monsters? That character might feel useless in that situation.

This can happen in "leveling" games too. One can easily design a CHA 20 bard who is all about conversations and diplomacy, perhaps with 8's in all physical stats. This character will suck in a dungeon full of mindless undead. And some DMs REALLY enjoy screwing over character concepts in this way. You can build a ranger whose special enemy is dragons, and then never see a single dragon. At least if you have the option to spend your XP as you like, it's easier to switch directions and build your character to be capable of handling what the GM is actually having you encounter.

I do prefer "spend your XP however you want" systems to artificial "levels", but the one drawback that I see is that PCs will never buy "useless but interesting" abilities as often (like gnomes talking to burrowing animals or monks' slow fall ability... if I want to avoid falling damage, I'll just buy the power to fly).

Mark Hall
2018-09-02, 12:59 PM
The entire Palladium Mega Verse uses levels also.

Yeah, but Palladium's system is houseruled D&D, so...

Kyrell1978
2018-09-02, 01:13 PM
Yeah, but Palladium's system is houseruled D&D, so...

Unless you count anything that has levels and a d20 as a house ruled D&D, I'd say not really. There are some pretty significant differences in the core mechanics of the system. Like each weapon skill having a different bonus to hit, to parry, to disarm, etc. Also it had the percentage based skill system when D and D still was ignoring skills altogether and it didn't even originally come out as a fantasy game. The first thing they published was Mechanoid Invasion. Combat is significantly different as well, so.....I'm not seeing the D&D clone here.

Cluedrew
2018-09-02, 01:34 PM
The main virtue of level-based systems, as far as I can tell, is that they force a certain minimal competence on all characters of a given level.I would agree with you but... I'm not sure it has ever really worked. Maybe in D&D 4e (but at what cost) and I've never played Anima: Beyond Fantasy, although it seems more like a tiered point buy system than anything else.

Point is... What is that minimum competency? For D&D is it the fighter? The Monk? Because so many characters and creatures are about that. For Palladium... OK I listen to the MegaDumbCast and there was just an episode (3 days ago?) that talked how the Physical Training power category (adding superpowers) is weaker at hand to hand combat than a non-physical class that picked up physical skills.*

Personally I have ended up using nothing that straight forward. In my system I started with a point buy system, but everyone built their characters wrong (seriously, no one created an OP build, but there were so many ones that could barely function). So I created walls. Your stat line is now arranged and your starting resources selected. I get less broken builds now.

* Why do they always mess up the straight physical class. Simple and straight forward should be the hardest to mess up.

To Kyrell1978: Although it is different from D&D (it is not a Fantasy Heartbreaker by any means) I have heard that Palladium was actually created by modifying D&D to a until it was mostly mod. The biggest hold over I know of is the 3d6 down the line stat generation. Which does seem like a relic of an earlier version, if not an earlier game, because it doesn't do nearly as much as the skills and yet it seems to get more attention in some ways.

Kyrell1978
2018-09-02, 01:51 PM
To Kyrell1978: Although it is different from D&D (it is not a Fantasy Heartbreaker by any means) I have heard that Palladium was actually created by modifying D&D to a until it was mostly mod. The biggest hold over I know of is the 3d6 down the line stat generation. Which does seem like a relic of an earlier version, if not an earlier game, because it doesn't do nearly as much as the skills and yet it seems to get more attention in some ways.

The 3d6 down the line pretty much only happens if you 1)play a human and 2) are playing in the palladium fantasy. Virtually every other race has different numbers of d6 for various attributes. Even when playing humans if you roll an exceptional score you get a simple exploding mechanic. I'm just saying that, even if it actually began as house ruling, when you get to the point that you have changed every single mechanic in some way, and added mechanics that didn't exist in the original material, it's probably its own game at that point.

Mark Hall
2018-09-02, 02:41 PM
Unless you count anything that has levels and a d20 as a house ruled D&D, I'd say not really. There are some pretty significant differences in the core mechanics of the system. Like each weapon skill having a different bonus to hit, to parry, to disarm, etc. Also it had the percentage based skill system when D and D still was ignoring skills altogether and it didn't even originally come out as a fantasy game. The first thing they published was Mechanoid Invasion. Combat is significantly different as well, so.....I'm not seeing the D&D clone here.

I see it as very similar... on par with someone's house rules.

"What if everyone had skills?"
"What would that look like?"
"I dunno... what about thief skills?"

"Why don't I get to DEFEND myself against the attack?"
"What do you mean? You've got your AC, right?"
"Yeah, but I can't actually DO anything about getting attacked."

I tend to view them as starting as someone's houserules simply because, if you're familiar with AD&D, you don't really need much explained, aside from the "Rolls a different amount of dice for attributes" part.

Kyrell1978
2018-09-02, 02:58 PM
I see it as very similar... on par with someone's house rules.

"What if everyone had skills?"
"What would that look like?"
"I dunno... what about thief skills?"

"Why don't I get to DEFEND myself against the attack?"
"What do you mean? You've got your AC, right?"
"Yeah, but I can't actually DO anything about getting attacked."

I tend to view them as starting as someone's houserules simply because, if you're familiar with AD&D, you don't really need much explained, aside from the "Rolls a different amount of dice for attributes" part.

It's obviously influenced by D&D, but AC works differently (a 5 hits but you only do damage to the armor if you don't roll above its Armor Rating for those who are unfamiliar) and you get a chance to defend (in multiple ways dodge, parry, roll with punches, disarm) and hp works differently and the to hit, to parry, etc. is determined by weapon type rather than class, and that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to differences. That's a little beyond the scope of "house ruling" in my opinion. But hey you're welcome to yours as well.

farothel
2018-09-02, 03:18 PM
I don't think the level vs. point buy is the problem, but how the mechanics are handled in the game itself. I've seen here examples of point buy where the party members are widely out of each other in for instance combat ability. But in D&D you have the same thing. A 1st level fighter is much stronger than a 1st level wizard for instance (3 magic missiles and he has to lie down for a rest). But take the same characters at level 15 for instance and the fighter still does about the same damage (he can have a magical sword and hit better, but opponents also got tougher) while the wizard just points at someone and it's save or die.

The same can happen in any point buy system, but it's more the system than the fact it's point buy. It also depends on what the players do and what the GM does to steer it. Yes, you can build a character that can easily convince the king to hand you his kingdom and dies when you look at it angrily, but where's the fun in that. One fight and you're down. If you make a one trick pony then that's what you will be and you know that up front (or you should know that).

In L5R for instance character can stay easily close together, even if they are different classes. Yes, a bushi will fight better than a courtier and a courtier will be better in social situations, but a bushi with some XP in social skill can still defend himself in court quite well and a courtier with some XP in combat skills won't be a pushover. In a like Scion, they quickly run wildly out of sync.

So for me it's more the system than what type (level or point buy) it is. And how the players spend that XP of course.

Reversefigure4
2018-09-02, 04:23 PM
There's also the issue of players spending their XP in the "wrong places." What if a character spent all of his/her XP in social stats just before go into a dungeon filled with mindless monsters? That character might feel useless in that situation.

That's pretty much a game issue rather than a rules one. If the character is temporarily of very limited utility, only to shine in the next social situation while Bob The Mindless Monster Fighting guy twiddles his thumbs, that's normal for most game systems.

If the game is going to be entirely about mindless dungeons, or entirely about social situations, then the GM needs to advise the players on what sort of characters are appropriate and what sort of things their XP should be spent on.

MoiMagnus
2018-09-02, 06:08 PM
I've never seen much of a point in levels...

Levels only make sens in technical heavy games for me. They are a way to communicate with other players "from a scale from 1 to 20, where are we in the campaign".

It encourages long-term builds (because you know when you will unlock everything, and you also know at which pace the difficulty of encounter will scale), and allow players to project themselve in the future in a mostly certain way.

But more importantly, as a game desiner, and DM, it allows an "illusionary progression". Meaning that the players get to feel their character progress a lot, while not changing the balance of your game all that much (since monsters progress in a very similar way).
And that's a very important point, because if the characters do progress too quickly, the balance go out of the way (see any film scenario where the hero progress way too fast), and the plot might even break. But if the character progress at a reasonable pace, you can lose the "epic" part of D&D. Thus the importance of having this illusion of epic progression.
(That's very similar on how you actually want encounters to feel dangerous, but not want it to be really dangerous to not kill your PCs)

However, if you do not seek particularly the feeling of epic progression of your character, or if you are more interested in narrative progression (rather than just numerical progression), I fully understand that you don't feel like levels are an important thing.

Mr Beer
2018-09-02, 07:52 PM
My issue with XP point buy is that most of what your character can do is determined at character creation. As you earn points all that happens is that you get better at one or two skills by a die pip. For example, in GURPS you would succeed on a 15 or less when it was 14 or less. You never significantly increase in capability, so you're playing the same character every game. It's boring for me because I'm not doing anything new. In level based games like D&D I get to do new stuff and things I was doing become more significant. It's not about the power, though it is a factor. It's that the character is mechanically different enough at level 10 than he was at level 5 than he was at level 1. In XP Point Buy you can be powerful. GURPS allows for superheroes. Ars Magic you cast powerful spells. However, your characters don't change. You do not get new powers as a superhero in GURPS. You don't get to cast new powerful spells in areas you couldn't at character creation in Ars Magica.

This is not really true of GURPS, you can definitely use points to buy new abilities, depending on the DM and setting. The amount of points makes a difference though. I've run campaigns where PCs started at 500+ and got 2 CP per session - they don't change much. I've run campaigns where they started at 100+ and got 8 CP per session - they changed a lot.

To really D&D it up, you'd probably want to start at 125 CP and hand out blocks of 25 -> 50 CP every few games. Of course, there's a limit to how much you want to emulate D&D. At a certain point you may as well just play D&D instead, which is maybe where you're coming from.

Anymage
2018-09-02, 08:52 PM
Point buy often runs into the problem of caps. Either you start as good as you can possibly go, you wind up with a bunch of one-trick ponies who plow all their points into their specialties, or else you try to fix that problem by having costs scale too high and wind up with the optimum strategy being a bunch of generalists. You can fix this by having mundane competency be cheap but have a lot of powers to buy on top of that, but that only works in a very limited sort of game.

Levels tend to imply classes. Which come with a generally agreed upon scaling and niche protection (ignoring mistakes in specific systems, because point buy systems can make mistakes too), as well as being easier to wrap one's head around. Point buy games tend to be set in more interesting universes, so I'd be open to giving one a whirl. But with a random group, classes and levels seem generally safer.

Quertus
2018-09-03, 01:08 AM
So, this seemingly simple thread has produced a number of cool insights about the way we think about XP and advancement. One point I seem to have not quoted involves how fun leveling itself is.

Another is which pieces of which systems make for the best simulation, or best help one retain immersion.


My issue with XP point buy is that most of what your character can do is determined at character creation. As you earn points all that happens is that you get better at one or two skills by a die pip. For example, in GURPS you would succeed on a 15 or less when it was 14 or less. You never significantly increase in capability, so you're playing the same character every game. It's boring for me because I'm not doing anything new. In level based games like D&D I get to do new stuff and things I was doing become more significant. It's not about the power, though it is a factor. It's that the character is mechanically different enough at level 10 than he was at level 5 than he was at level 1. In XP Point Buy you can be powerful. GURPS allows for superheroes. Ars Magic you cast powerful spells. However, your characters don't change. You do not get new powers as a superhero in GURPS. You don't get to cast new powerful spells in areas you couldn't at character creation in Ars Magica.


That can happen, but doesn't need to. You certainly do have games like M&M where you don't get more powerful so much as more flexible, but you can also have White Wolf style point-buy systems, where there's a fast enough xp progression and enough progression-grated abilities that you still get an upward power curve.

Hmmm... I've got a WoD character with around 1,000 XP (perhaps half of which is still unspent), and, conceptually, he plays much like he did out of the box.

In Mutants and Masterminds, a single XP can mean a new spell (or whatever they call getting as new variant on an existing power), or a few XP can buy a totally new ability / item. Or you could use that XP to just stay on the numbers treadmill.

In D&D, Quertus, my signature academia mage, for whom this account is named, will often research new spells to give himself new capabilities completely independent of XP or leveling.


The main virtue of level-based systems, as far as I can tell, is that they force a certain minimal competence on all characters of a given level. In D&D, your party of four 3rd-level characters will all be roughly able to contribute in a fight against a CR 3 ogre; in something like Exalted, you can have four essence-3 characters with combat ability ranging from "any trained soldier could kill me" to "hi, I can kill armies of demons." .

But they are unlikely to contribute equally to dealing with a CR 3 trap, or a "CR 3" diplomatic encounter. At least in D&D 3e.

And my "one level of 10 different classes" character experiment really wasn't contributing much against CR 10 monsters.

So... what can we actually say about leveling systems? That they are designed and intended to provide a basic framework whereby, in certain activities, characters should all be able to contribute, and, in certain other activities, they should not? That leveled systems attempt to communicate game balance, cooperative activities, spotlight sharing, and encounter design by means of the areas and levels of expertise of various character archetypes?


1) Level based system, without XP (leveling is chosen by the DM)
2) Constrained point-buy system. In controled point-buy system, you have to expand XP as soon as you get them (but you can start buying something even if you don't have enough point to finish to buy it), and you don't fully chose what you buy. What you buy is determined buy your RP. I've played one system were at each session, every character gain 3XP (sometimes 4XP if there is a personnal quest completed).
- One XP is voted by the other PCs. "According to current session, in what competence do you think [Name] is progressing?"
- One XP is chosen by the DM, with a similar reasonning.
- One XP is chosen by the Player, completely free.

That's an interesting variable to consider. I generally prefer the opposite, not letting the GM get their hands on the character. Although, for the WoD character I mentioned above, I had to have permission to upgrade his abilities. It wasn't completely horrible - I'd just do what I could, and present the GM with my XP spending wish list & rational for improvement each session. Or, if I really wanted something, I could always just ignore the story and train until I got it.


I think point-buy works better for more narrativist systems where team balance is not an issue because combat isn't the focus (and the combat mechanics aren't "gamey" for want of a better term), and the adequacy of a character to the campaign is determined by their personality, background, and motivations rather than their mechanical capabilities.

So, what do you mean by this? Usually, I'm trying to argue that ability to affect the narrative is there only thing worth balancing, and it almost sounds like you're claiming the opposite stance.


I don't think the level vs. point buy is the problem, but how the mechanics are handled in the game itself. I've seen here examples of point buy where the party members are widely out of each other in for instance combat ability. But in D&D you have the same thing. A 1st level fighter is much stronger than a 1st level wizard for instance (3 magic missiles and he has to lie down for a rest). But take the same characters at level 15 for instance and the fighter still does about the same damage (he can have a magical sword and hit better, but opponents also got tougher) while the wizard just points at someone and it's save or die.

The same can happen in any point buy system, but it's more the system than the fact it's point buy. It also depends on what the players do and what the GM does to steer it. Yes, you can build a character that can easily convince the king to hand you his kingdom and dies when you look at it angrily, but where's the fun in that. One fight and you're down. If you make a one trick pony then that's what you will be and you know that up front (or you should know that).

In L5R for instance character can stay easily close together, even if they are different classes. Yes, a bushi will fight better than a courtier and a courtier will be better in social situations, but a bushi with some XP in social skill can still defend himself in court quite well and a courtier with some XP in combat skills won't be a pushover. In a like Scion, they quickly run wildly out of sync.

So for me it's more the system than what type (level or point buy) it is. And how the players spend that XP of course.

So, certainly, one aspect to consider is how visible how viable the character is, is. When I make a first level Wizard / Sorcerer with Magic Missile, is it obvious how (badly) that character likely will perform?

Another, yes, is how well the system allows you to make a character that matches your vision. Can I make a diplomatic Fighter, or a fighting Wizard?

I think I tend to prefer seemingly opposing things: systems where the character can be built to match vision, continue to grow in ways that match my adapting vision of their growth... and systems where you don't have to plan out a twenty level build to be effective.


If the game is going to be entirely about mindless dungeons, or entirely about social situations, then the GM needs to advise the players on what sort of characters are appropriate and what sort of things their XP should be spent on.

I generally strongly agree with this. Unless being useless is somehow the point, the GM should generally inform players when their character concept is poorly suited to the adventure.

Satinavian
2018-09-03, 03:04 AM
I vastly prefer point buy.

But pointbuy has always the problem of allowing both specialists and generalists to an extreme degree. Which gets into the way of difficulty design fast, because there is little expectation what a character of a certain experience should be able to do.

One solution i nowadays prefer is tiered pointbuy. Basically pointbuy but with higher power abilities only available to choose after certain point threshholds. That kind of forbids ultra-specialisation and produces characters more comparable with each other.

Pex
2018-09-03, 06:04 AM
I vastly prefer point buy.

But pointbuy has always the problem of allowing both specialists and generalists to an extreme degree. Which gets into the way of difficulty design fast, because there is little expectation what a character of a certain experience should be able to do.

One solution i nowadays prefer is tiered pointbuy. Basically pointbuy but with higher power abilities only available to choose after certain point threshholds. That kind of forbids ultra-specialisation and produces characters more comparable with each other.

Sounds boring to me if every character is doing (almost) the same thing. Even in level games I wouldn't want everyone to be a melee tank or artillery spell slinger. Two characters with the same role doing it in different ways is fine. It's good to have back up and some relief of pressure. More than that and the party is weakened by roles not covered. If everyone can do everything, circumstances can force individuals to do certain things more often while others do something else. I think the party is better off if those players were experts in what they're doing rather than only somewhat competent because they used build choices to be somewhat competent in things they aren't using.

MoiMagnus
2018-09-03, 06:34 AM
So, what do you mean by this? Usually, I'm trying to argue that ability to affect the narrative is there only thing worth balancing, and it almost sounds like you're claiming the opposite stance.

(I'm not the one you asked the question to, but I will still answer)

Here is my claim:
+ The focus of a rule system is to balance the technical part of the game (combat, ...)
+ The focus of a DM is to balance the narrative part of the game

When you play a technical game, you want that after 20 session of play, the fighting power of every character is mostly the same, whatever the choices made by the players in character development. This is very difficult to achieve in point-buy rule systems, and much simpler in level systems (though still not easy).
This is particularly important in D&D, where a lot of session can look like 50% pure fight, 30% fight with some RP/narration, 10% technical discussions, 10% RP/narration.

When you play a narrative game, it is not a problem if one character is not very good at fighting, because combat is not central to the game, and you won't use half of the session playing a tactical boardgame with your character as a figurine.

Unless they are very badly designed, point-based system will not cause more narrative unbalance than character background, and character relations with the NPCs of the world, so that's not really a problem for narrative games.

Minty
2018-09-03, 06:49 AM
So, what do you mean by this? Usually, I'm trying to argue that ability to affect the narrative is there only thing worth balancing, and it almost sounds like you're claiming the opposite stance.

My point was that weak point buy is not an issue for games where characters and story are more important than gamist things like the mechanical balance of a party in a tactical combat encounter. Not everyone in a story needs to be competent, and the objective of combat or other obstacles is to provide drama, not challenge.

For instance, I played a long-running VtM game where another PC completely drove the narrative through sheer force of personality, despite being a mechanically useless weak-blooded 14th-gen schlub who was easily overshadowed in most dice-rolling situations by pretty much every other character. Half the campaign was sustained by that PC's stubborn pride, furious temper, and complete obliviousness to her own limitations. Deliberately bad point buy did not in any way diminish that character's impact on the game.

Jay R
2018-09-03, 09:57 AM
They do very different things, in very different ways. And I can enjoy different games with different approaches, just as I can enjoy both football and baseball.

But I think it's a little simplistic to try to split the many different ways to simulate growth and personal development into merely two categories.

For instance:

The point buy system has at least two different possibilities:
1. You earn points which you can spend on any ability In Hero Systems, you earn character points, which you can spend in any way. Beat up some giant robots, and then use the points to learn sleight of hand, or get a follower, or gain the power of Invisibility.
2. You earn points for activities, which only can affect those activities. In Flashing Blades, for instance, winning fights with a rapier only affects your ability with a rapier. Successes with the Stealth skill only improves your Stealth skill. [This is modified by the fact that your Class (Noble, Gentleman, Soldier, Rogue) has a large effect on which skills you can buy, what professions are open to you, and how you learn combat styles.]

Similarly, there are at least two approaches to levels.

1. In early D&D, a class is a lifestyle. A wizard, for instance, is somebody who has devoted her life to the study of magic. The next level is an improvement of all aspects of that lifestyle. So your character is supposed to be adapting to an archetype of a fantasy hero.
2. From D&D 3e onward, levels are merely bundles of ability, and classes are just hierarchies of those bundles. You are building a customized character, different from any other.

So this means that D&D 3e (levels) and Champions (point-buy) seem far closer to each other than either is to Flashing Blades (point-buy limited by class) and early D&D (pure class development).

farothel
2018-09-03, 10:08 AM
Point buy often runs into the problem of caps. Either you start as good as you can possibly go, you wind up with a bunch of one-trick ponies who plow all their points into their specialties, or else you try to fix that problem by having costs scale too high and wind up with the optimum strategy being a bunch of generalists. You can fix this by having mundane competency be cheap but have a lot of powers to buy on top of that, but that only works in a very limited sort of game.

Levels tend to imply classes. Which come with a generally agreed upon scaling and niche protection (ignoring mistakes in specific systems, because point buy systems can make mistakes too), as well as being easier to wrap one's head around. Point buy games tend to be set in more interesting universes, so I'd be open to giving one a whirl. But with a random group, classes and levels seem generally safer.

I agree with the fact that character creation as a general rule (there are Always exceptions) is easier with a level system, since you choose your first level and a lot of numbers automatically come with that, while with a point buy system you have to make every decision seperately.

As to your first comment, that's why in our group we almost Always make characters together (or at least email concepts around). That way everyone has their niche, their specialisation. And it makes sure the party can work together. Of course, sometimes the GM can also come up with some restrictions and/or requirements. For instance: every character has to have at least one social and one combat ability. A combat character will have the minimum amount of social ones and the social characters the minumum of combat abilities, but they can at least defend themselves and stay alive until the specialist character can take care of the problem. That way you still have specialists, but everyone can still have a minimal contribution in most situations.

I often do that on my own as well. To give an example, a L5R character I make will not leave the door without at least etiquette at 1, one combat ability and one skill in the arts.

Tanarii
2018-09-03, 10:51 AM
Sounds boring to me if every character is doing (almost) the same thing.
"Comparable to" doesn't mean "has same functions as".

To use an analogy to a non-point buy system, it he post you quoted is saying you won't have:
a guy with 1 5th level spell per day but a -1 to all skills and attacks/damage, 1 hp & AC 5
vs
A guy with AC 12, 6 hps, 2 1st level spells per day, and a moderate ability to shoot a crossbow or use cantrips at-will

Pex
2018-09-03, 02:50 PM
"Comparable to" doesn't mean "has same functions as".

To use an analogy to a non-point buy system, it he post you quoted is saying you won't have:
a guy with 1 5th level spell per day but a -1 to all skills and attacks/damage, 1 hp & AC 5
vs
A guy with AC 12, 6 hps, 2 1st level spells per day, and a moderate ability to shoot a crossbow or use cantrips at-will

Satinavian may clarify, but he mentioned he prefers generalization over ultra-specialization. Point Buy is easier to achieve that, but it's not a question of Point Buy vs Leveling here but rather character creation preferences. There is lots of room between generalization and ultra-specialization. You can be specialized without being a one-trick pony, but if it means the character still can't do a particular thing well, Satinavian sees that as a bad thing to be avoided. I don't. I'm happy enough another player's character can do that thing well in its specialization and let it not do well in what the first character specialized in. A one-trick pony is bad because there are too many things that are not that trick so the character is incompetent too often, but Satinavian and I disagree on whether a character should have an incompetence at something at all.

Satinavian
2018-09-04, 01:35 AM
Satinavian may clarify, but he mentioned he prefers generalization over ultra-specialization. Point Buy is easier to achieve that, but it's not a question of Point Buy vs Leveling here but rather character creation preferences. There is lots of room between generalization and ultra-specialization. You can be specialized without being a one-trick pony, but if it means the character still can't do a particular thing well, Satinavian sees that as a bad thing to be avoided. I don't. I'm happy enough another player's character can do that thing well in its specialization and let it not do well in what the first character specialized in. A one-trick pony is bad because there are too many things that are not that trick so the character is incompetent too often, but Satinavian and I disagree on whether a character should have an incompetence at something at all.
In principle i like if a system allows room between generalization and specialisation. But in unrestricted point buy this room tends to get to big as in "it is pretty much impossible to make characters from different ends of the spectrum work in the same party". You could easily build a character for a comparably low level adventure who always auto-succeeds in their one thing and always auto-fails in everything else because they by far don't reach "typical commoner"-competence

Tiered point buy adds a limit of how good a specialist is allowed to be in his specialisation. And that limit is rising with experience. You can't build a character that starts with an ultimate high level ability and pays for that with five dump stats and having no other skills. Instead your specialist is a specialist but can actually still improve his specialisation when he gets more experience and is also not helpless in daily life.

And of course your character can still be utterly incompetent in some things. But not all of them except for his stupid single trick. He is forced to invest a certain part of his point in other things.


Levelling systems enforce that automatically because a new level tends to improve a lot of things a little bit and you can't focus more on one of those things than the class that gives the highest bonus to it and special abilities where you can chose an improvement allow. You can't take a D&D wizard and trade your measly BAB and your skill points for even more spellslots and caster level. But in point buy any such trade is allowed and there is no minimum value you have to pay for

farothel
2018-09-04, 08:52 AM
Levelling systems enforce that automatically because a new level tends to improve a lot of things a little bit and you can't focus more on one of those things than the class that gives the highest bonus to it and special abilities where you can chose an improvement allow. You can't take a D&D wizard and trade your measly BAB and your skill points for even more spellslots and caster level. But in point buy any such trade is allowed and there is no minimum value you have to pay for

That would depend on the system. Some systems come with a minimum in all attributes and while that minimum is below human average, it can't be bought off to 0. And more and more the point buy systems also put limits on what you can buy at character generation.

Also the GM has to agree with your final character, so he can also serve as a break on some of the one-trick pony types.

YohaiHorosha
2018-09-19, 08:10 AM
This thread has me reflecting on what I love about combat simulation games and about narrative-focused games.

Levelling is cool, mostly because it's always been cool. New levels, new powers, new things I can do to fight stronger enemies and obliterate the weak (muahahahah, take that you goblin that almost killed me 4 levels ago! Hello, demon that would have made my character crap themselves 2 levels ago!).

Point buys are cool, because constant tweaking. Hello, new specific thing thing I learned today. Tomorrow, i look forward to learning new specific thing (or enhancement). It's a wonderful gradient that echoes how we actually learn and progress, which is nice.

I also love the narrative systems, which use milestones of narrative. For example, end of episode, end of season, etc. PBTA has a "you failed, gain experience " mechanic which is also wonderfully unique for character progression.

But getting to the OP, if your character dies, gets retired, etc...that's not always an opportunity for "parity". And the net result of gaming isn't always parity either. Maybe a party would enjoy "training the noob". Yes levels are "easier ", but savage worlds point buys are easy to track (seasoned, legendary, etc). Other point buys shouldn't be that hard either...few points high or low shouldn't really matter in a fun campaign.

And if the GM didn't get the parity right adjust it later. While players may gripe on their power levels, it's always about the narrative and the challenge. Do what supports the narrative and the challenge. Oh no, i should have given you 120 points instead of 100...ok, double up for next few games. Oh no, i gave you too many points...you get half or 1/3 everyone else does for the next 5 adventures.

If the answer isn't based on "what ensures everyone is having fun?" then why bother?

CharonsHelper
2018-09-19, 09:22 AM
I vastly prefer point buy.

But pointbuy has always the problem of allowing both specialists and generalists to an extreme degree. Which gets into the way of difficulty design fast, because there is little expectation what a character of a certain experience should be able to do.

One solution i nowadays prefer is tiered pointbuy. Basically pointbuy but with higher power abilities only available to choose after certain point threshholds. That kind of forbids ultra-specialisation and produces characters more comparable with each other.

I sort of agree with your premise - but I disagree with your solution.

I think point-buy is great in theory, but I've never seen it done well for reasons similar to what you mentioned.

Your tiered point-buy solution seems like a very complex solution - and would still have the balance issues of point-buy. (Not that levels guarantee balance - but point-buy pretty much guarantees poor balance.)

I've come to prefer a level/point-buy hybrid system. Where when you level you gain some standard increases (The HP/whatever mostly - to give a baseline of durability across the party) in addition to points in various pools. Such as 10 skill points, 10 ability points or whatever - either the pools themselves or the cost of abilities varying by class, and with each class maybe having a signature ability or two.

That way it keeps most of the customization of point-buy (why I like it in theory) but make it far better balanced to make party balance better and make things far easier for the GM/adventure designer, as there is a baseline of competence for the group.


Note: No single solution is a one-size-fits-all. Different systems give different feels. I wouldn't want any sort of class/levelling system when playing a CoC one-shot because it wouldn't fit the tone. I just figured that I'd throw in my $0.02.

Xuc Xac
2018-09-19, 10:28 AM
Why do you strongly dislike level systems? I'm curious

I don't like them because they give packages of abilities when I don't necessarily want all of them (or they give you things you don't want but you have to take them because it's a package deal).

I once played a wizard in AD&D who had a 16 in Strength. I didn't want to waste my first level spell, so I kept it in reserve for emergencies. I spent my entire first and second levels bashing kobolds with my staff and never cast a single spell. When I leveled up, I got better at casting spells but didn't improve at beating things with my staff.

I had a friend who played a pacifist wizard in a D&D3e campaign. He spent every combat encounter hiding and casting defensive spells to protect the party. He never inflicted a single point of damage or even aimed at an unwilling target. When he leveled up and was doing all the paperwork that comes with that, the GM said "remember to raise your attack bonus this level" and he replied "Do I have to?"


Computer games stole majority of all of their rules and tropes from tabletop games. The joke is that computerized versions have since become more widespread and more popular, so a given player is more likely to have first encountered these tropes in a computer game rather than a tabletop game. Hence tabletop games remind them of computer games and not the other way around.

The bizarre and arbitrary limits imposed by many leveling systems are acceptable in a computer game, because computers are very limited. If you walk down a road in a computer rpg and see something cool in the background, you can't go investigate it unless the game was programmed with some content related to it. If a human GM described a big stone head sticking out of a hillside near the road as you travel but then says "uh, you can't leave the road here, you can only continue on to the port or go back to the village from here", that would be unacceptable.

Levels usually force you to stay on a constrained path of character development.


My issue with XP point buy is that most of what your character can do is determined at character creation.

That's not a bug. It's a feature. Not everyone wants to play "zero to hero to superhero to demigod to regular god". Some people just want to begin playing heroes and continue as heroes.

Luke Skywalker goes from farm boy bush pilot to starfighter pilot to jedi apprentice to knight, but Han Solo just goes from awesome smuggler/pilot/gunslinger with a price on his head to older awesome smuggler/pilot/gunslinger with less enemies, more friends, and more responsibilities.

James Bond doesn't go on the same mission over and over again with more and more powerful abilities to take on increasingly larger hordes of enemies. He just goes on different missions with his same skill set and his Walther PPK and a random grab bag of toys from Q.

In movies and books and TV shows where you could say the cast is like a group of PCs, the characters develop in their attitudes, relationships, and personalities. They gain and lose allies and enemies. Actually demonstrating a significant change in their abilities is usually a "jump the shark" moment.



This can happen in "leveling" games too. One can easily design a CHA 20 bard who is all about conversations and diplomacy, perhaps with 8's in all physical stats. This character will suck in a dungeon full of mindless undead.

Only if you limit your CHA 20 bard to things like waggling eyebrows and saying "ladiiies..." after suggestive comments. A CHA 20 character would be pretty useful against a bunch of zombies if they used their charisma to raise and lead a militia or mercenary company.


Yeah, but Palladium's system is houseruled D&D, so...


Unless you count anything that has levels and a d20 as a house ruled D&D, I'd say not really. .....I'm not seeing the D&D clone here.

It was literally a heavily home brewed AD&D game.


I don't think the level vs. point buy is the problem, but how the mechanics are handled in the game itself. I've seen here examples of point buy where the party members are widely out of each other in for instance combat ability. But in D&D you have the same thing. A 1st level fighter is much stronger than a 1st level wizard for instance (3 magic missiles and he has to lie down for a rest). But take the same characters at level 15 for instance and the fighter still does about the same damage (he can have a magical sword and hit better, but opponents also got tougher) while the wizard just points at someone and it's save or die.

D&D presents levels as a way to compare different characters but it doesn't really work that way outside of one class. A 5th level fighter is better than a 3rd level fighter. A 5th level wizard is better than a 3rd level wizard. Are fighters and wizards of equal level always equally effective? No.

GunDragon
2018-09-19, 03:33 PM
I see the merits of both levelling systems and XP Point Buy systems, but ultimately I have decided to stick with the XP Point Buy way, at least for the foreseeable future.
The system I created uses XP Point Buy rather than levels, but it has certain limitations.
For example, want to become a Lich? You can, and it only costs 100 XP. But, you have to choose the Necromancer Background at character creation. Even then, you can't just save up 100 XP and expect to become a Lich immediately. Before you can spend that XP and become a Lich, you must first find a magic book or a trainer that teaches you how to do it.
This goes for most abilities and skills.
Having the XP to gain an ability or skill is just one part of it. You also need to find a trainer or book or something that gives you access to that ability or skill first.

I also thought it might be interesting to have an XP Point Buy system and a Levelling system both in one game, sort of like a hybrid system. The XP you gain goes towards leveling up of course, but you also might get some other side points that allow you to increase your character as well. Like evolution points, or something. Or maybe you find special mutagens that permanently increase your physical stats or give you a certain ability, such as tough skin or low-light vision. However, if these mutagens are poorly made, you will mostly likely get a random side effect from the mutagen, such as all your hair falling out or going temporarily insane.

Arbane
2018-09-19, 03:43 PM
I see the merits of both levelling systems and XP Point Buy systems, but ultimately I have decided to stick with the XP Point Buy way, at least for the foreseeable future.
The system I created uses XP Point Buy rather than levels, but it has certain limitations.
For example, want to become a Lich? You can, and it only costs 100 XP. But, you have to choose the Necromancer Background at character creation. Even then, you can't just save up 100 XP and expect to become a Lich immediately. Before you can spend that XP and become a Lich, you must first find a magic book or a trainer that teaches you how to do it.
This goes for most abilities and skills.
Having the XP to gain an ability or skill is just one part of it. You also need to find a trainer or book or something that gives you access to that ability or skill first.

I also thought it might be interesting to have an XP Point Buy system and a Levelling system both in one game, sort of like a hybrid system. The XP you gain goes towards leveling up of course, but you also might get some other side points that allow you to increase your character as well. Like evolution points, or something. Or maybe you find special mutagens that permanently increase your physical stats or give you a certain ability, such as tough skin or low-light vision. However, if these mutagens are poorly made, you will mostly likely get a random side effect from the mutagen, such as all your hair falling out or going temporarily insane.

Sounds a bit like the Warhammer FRP system - you have Careers and each career says which careers you can take next (or you can get another starting career, but the higher-tier careers have better stuff), and each career provides various skills/stat-raises/etc you can buy with XP.
So, for example, Squire > Knight > Commander.

Cluedrew
2018-09-19, 06:31 PM
Your tiered point-buy solution seems like a very complex solution - and would still have the balance issues of point-buy. (Not that levels guarantee balance - but point-buy pretty much guarantees poor balance.)Ironically though I have found that practically speaking the point-buy games tend to be more balanced in the end. Not because they are balanced (whatever that means), but because they are clearly unbalanced and so people kind of just... don't unbalance it. Once you know to look out for it (and how to recognize it, which takes a bit more work) it is a lot easier to keep it balanced that hides different power levels besides identical seeming rankings and can kind of force you down the wrong path because of the structure that was supposed to enforce balance.

Also they seem to come across the "unusable weak archetype" problem less often, but that one I am less sure of.

CharonsHelper
2018-09-19, 08:30 PM
Ironically though I have found that practically speaking the point-buy games tend to be more balanced in the end. Not because they are balanced (whatever that means), but because they are clearly unbalanced and so people kind of just... don't unbalance it. Once you know to look out for it (and how to recognize it, which takes a bit more work) it is a lot easier to keep it balanced that hides different power levels besides identical seeming rankings and can kind of force you down the wrong path because of the structure that was supposed to enforce balance.

Also they seem to come across the "unusable weak archetype" problem less often, but that one I am less sure of.

So basically because everyone is aware of the game imbalances, the players at the table make more of an attempt to rein themselves in to maintain table balance? Sounds good - but hardly the guaranteed result.

Frozen_Feet
2018-09-19, 08:45 PM
@Xuc Xac:

The "bizarre and arbitrary" limitations of level-up systems were ALL invented by tabletop iteration of D&D first, partly for game balance reasons, partly to emulate genre archetypes, and partly because character advancement had not been codified in any way before so it was unclear how it should even work.

A lot of early CRPGs lifted or expanded some of those limitations, because their rule systems were essentially the game designer's homebrew version of D&D, and they didn't like how D&D did things.

Hell, I know several old CRPGs which implemented a point-buy system precisely because the designer was fed up with how D&D did things. :smalltongue:

So your argument of what "makes sense" for a computer game versus a tabletop game is just as historically backwards and ironic as the earlier one.

Bruno Carvalho
2018-09-19, 09:21 PM
Point-buy vs Leveling

Why (https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/legend-of-the-five-rings-roleplaying-game/)

not (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/622/John-Wick-Presents/subcategory/1629_26265/7th-Sea-1st-Edition)

both? (http://ffrpg4e.wikidot.com/)

Knaight
2018-09-19, 09:24 PM
The "bizarre and arbitrary" limitations of level-up systems were ALL invented by tabletop iteration of D&D first, partly for game balance reasons, partly to emulate genre archetypes, and partly because character advancement had not been codified in any way before so it was unclear how it should even work.

Bolding mine.

This is exactly the point. A substantial reason that level systems were originally used is because the entire concept of mechanical character advancement was new, and it was the first design found. That's not remotely the same thing as it being a particularly suitable design, nor is it an indication that it's not a well suited design for something completely different. That sort of thing happens all the time, in all sorts of fields.

Xuc Xac and I have some disagreements about suitability, so I don't presume to speak for them beyond that first paragraph. Personally though, I'd split classes and levels into two separate categories of mechanics that happen to go together often, to be evaluated differently in what design goals they meet well; said goals just have enough points of practical overlap they show up together a lot.

For classes, this is archetype emulation, rapid communication of setting elements through mechanics, and to some extent granting players the ability to pick characters instead of make characters. There are niches in tRPGs where some or all of these are helpful, but in videogames these are extremely prevalent. Take JRPGs, which tend to follow specific premade characters that often fit archetypes well. Here you can have basically one class per character for all playable characters and call it a day, or fit several playable characters in broader archetypes. The same thing applies to unit types in SRPGs, and even classes in games that don't have RPG elements much at all, e.g. Team Fortress.

Now take levels. Levels work as mechanical rewards far better than spendable XP, and differences in focus between tabletop and videogames really tend to push mechanical rewards; levels are a pretty natural fit in the latter. They also are a very natural way of representing dramatic growth of power in a game, which also tends to fit videogames well, focused as they often are on power fantasies specifically. That doesn't mean they don't fit in tRPGs, just that they're the sort of thing better suited for being a niche mechanic there.

Then there's a la carte multiclassing. As far as I'm concerned it's basically just a way to do point buy, except for it's opaque, convoluted, and needlessly difficult. I'd call that an objectively worse mechanic that has no reason to exist, except that I know the opaqueness, convolution, and difficulty that is so terrible if you just want to make a character and be done is a downright positive if you enjoy the idea of a character creation minigame, where navigating those difficulties is itself fun. Videogames probably benefit less from this, mostly because that sort of optimization puzzle is all over the place in them.

Pex
2018-09-19, 09:40 PM
That's not a bug. It's a feature. Not everyone wants to play "zero to hero to superhero to demigod to regular god". Some people just want to begin playing heroes and continue as heroes.

Luke Skywalker goes from farm boy bush pilot to starfighter pilot to jedi apprentice to knight, but Han Solo just goes from awesome smuggler/pilot/gunslinger with a price on his head to older awesome smuggler/pilot/gunslinger with less enemies, more friends, and more responsibilities.

James Bond doesn't go on the same mission over and over again with more and more powerful abilities to take on increasingly larger hordes of enemies. He just goes on different missions with his same skill set and his Walther PPK and a random grab bag of toys from Q.

In movies and books and TV shows where you could say the cast is like a group of PCs, the characters develop in their attitudes, relationships, and personalities. They gain and lose allies and enemies. Actually demonstrating a significant change in their abilities is usually a "jump the shark" moment.



That's a playstyle preference issue. Doesn't change my preference for a level-based system. I decided for myself on this issue in college. I played D&D. I played GURPS. Gaining levels in D&D felt like an accomplishment. Getting a couple of points in GURPS felt like a waste of time. Obviously having fun playing is the point, and it was fun playing GURPS, but D&D provided more fun in the metagame factor.

oxybe
2018-09-21, 07:28 AM
level based progression allows for a more controlled progression and to some extent you don't need to worry about two particular abilities ever interacting, barring allowing something like D&D's multiclassing.

This can, in a way, allow for more creativity on the designer's part, as each class can (theoretically) be focused onto making one particular concept the best it can. And because the abilities are parsed out at a similar pace, you can better focus on making a balanced game experience. theoretically.

on the flipside, point buy games gives you the theoretical freedom in making whatever you want from a often generic skillset (or at least generic for that genre). Because of this you're not technically bound to what the devs want you to play, it's a bucket of legos and all you're told is to build a spaceship.

It really comes down to what you want: do you want a more controlled progression of defined & realized concepts or do you want more control over your progression and design goal for your character?

For me? I'm happy with either as long it's a well done system.

Classes I find are better for games with an evolving scope of power, like D&D. You start off as a zero and grow into a titan. Stuff that used to challenge you are now a cake walk.

Classless i find works best when you focus on one band of a scope and you want differentiation between characters. Something like Genesys: you're all competent and skilled within a certain power level but the scope of the power doesn't really change over time.

Otherwise point buy games can devolve into a weird mess of "i spent all my points on punching" and while you can punch out gods, you can't tie your shoes, or level-based games where your progression doesn't feel like you're really getting any better.

Lapak
2018-09-21, 08:32 AM
Several people have already made the point that these mechanisms do different things well, and I am in agreement. I like point buy quite a lot when it's tied to a system with gradually diminishing returns; that tends to lead to characters who are quite good at their shtick but also competent at a few other things. Point-buy systems where specialization builds on itself exponentially, however, tend to lead to situations where you have builds that can flip an 'I win' switch in some circumstances and are useless in others. Something like the Sanguine system (Ironclaw, etc.) is at one end of this spectrum; something like the non-WoD White Wolf games (Exalted, Scion) is at the other.

In games without diminishing returns, leveling systems mostly keep similarly-experienced characters at similar levels of specialization (and usually, but not always, similar levels of power.) OD&D is a good example of this; a fighter with X experience is roughly as specialized and powerful as a thief or a cleric or an elf with X experience, whether X is zero or 125,000.

Details vary; the point above that D&D 3.x has a lot in common with point-buy is well made.

RazorChain
2018-09-21, 01:17 PM
That's a playstyle preference issue. Doesn't change my preference for a level-based system. I decided for myself on this issue in college. I played D&D. I played GURPS. Gaining levels in D&D felt like an accomplishment. Getting a couple of points in GURPS felt like a waste of time. Obviously having fun playing is the point, and it was fun playing GURPS, but D&D provided more fun in the metagame factor.

This is just a matter of scale, 2 points in Gurps can level up a skill that you haven't spent many points in or you can save them to buy a advantage or raise a stat.

The point is in this case that with point buy you can have more gradual increase in power and the power curve isn't as steep. Character that has gone from level 1 to 10 isn't 10 times as powerful, he's probably 100 times more powerful if we count equipment. This is what I often want to avoid, I want to start the characters as competent individuals from the beginning and have them become more powerful and they'll maybe end up doubling or tripling their starting power level during the course of the campaign.

Leveling is great when you want the PC's to gain a lot of power, relatively quickly and have a structure for it in place.

CharonsHelper
2018-09-21, 11:22 PM
Character that has gone from level 1 to 10 isn't 10 times as powerful, he's probably 100 times more powerful if we count equipment.

While true in D&D, all its clones, and most games with levels, it isn't actually inherent to leveling systems. I know that in the system I'm working on, a level 10 would have trouble dealing with 2-3 level 1 characters. I specifically designed the system to both make #s matter more and for levels to add more breadth than pure power. (Though as I said up-thread, it uses point-buy elements. So - maybe it doesn't count? :p)

Though I will say - if a system does intend a zero to hero progression, they should almost certainly use levels.

RazorChain
2018-09-21, 11:27 PM
While true in D&D, all its clones, and most games with levels, it isn't actually inherent to leveling systems. I know that in the system I'm working on, a level 10 would have trouble dealing with 2-3 level 1 characters. I specifically designed the system to both make #s matter more and for levels to add more breadth than pure power. (Though as I said up-thread, it uses point-buy elements. So - maybe it doesn't count? :p)

Though I will say - if a system does intend a zero to hero progression, they should almost certainly use levels.

You can always use point buy with levels, a lot of CRPGs do that. You go up a level and gain points to invest in stats, skills, buy perks etc. I would call that kind of a system mostly point buy as the level only dictates how many points you get.

Telok
2018-09-22, 01:44 PM
So basically because everyone is aware of the game imbalances, the players at the table make more of an attempt to rein themselves in to maintain table balance? Sounds good - but hardly the guaranteed result.

An interesting note is that the Hero system, in a resourse kit/online supplement thing, has a couple of sheets for campaign ground rules and character building guidelines. The GM fills it out, runs off a couple few copies, and hands them out before character building begins. They list things like the tone of the campaign (realism, morality, continuity, etc.), starting character points, and the expected or allowed ranges of attributes and powers.

It's a more formalized was to convey the expectations and power range of a game. Obviously the limits are negotiable (based on the GM) and more responsible players usually get more leeway in edge cases.

RedWarlock
2018-09-25, 07:47 PM
The system Iím building operates on an XP-as-point-buy function, but also uses levels for power-rating and CR-equivalent functions. Class levels are purchased independently, and scale incrementally (level 1 costs 10xp, 2 costs 20xp, and so on..), and are focused active-encounter/combat powersets more than total packages. Characters are expected to mix multiple paths to create a well-rounded character. Non-combat is a separate system, allowing one to focus on one side or the other with some of their XP gained. (XP is gained in three pools, active/combat, social/knowledge, and general which spends for both.)

Drascin
2018-09-26, 03:58 AM
Anima: Beyond fantasy kinda uses levels. But then again all you get when you level is a bucket of points to spend, so its kinda wierd.

Anima Beyond Fantasy in general is "And The Kitchen Sink: The Game", both mechanically and narratively. We like levels, so put in levels. But we also like point buy, so put in point buy. But we also like spell levels so put a class with spell levels. But we also like spell points so put in a system with spell points. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

I often call it Throw It In: The RPG.

GunDragon
2018-09-26, 03:30 PM
Anima Beyond Fantasy in general is "And The Kitchen Sink: The Game", both mechanically and narratively. We like levels, so put in levels. But we also like point buy, so put in point buy. But we also like spell levels so put a class with spell levels. But we also like spell points so put in a system with spell points. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

I often call it Throw It In: The RPG.

Lol. Good one, mate. I am so annoyed by Kitchen Sink games/settings

Mark Hall
2018-09-27, 09:01 AM
The system Iím building operates on an XP-as-point-buy function, but also uses levels for power-rating and CR-equivalent functions. Class levels are purchased independently, and scale incrementally (level 1 costs 10xp, 2 costs 20xp, and so on..), and are focused active-encounter/combat powersets more than total packages. Characters are expected to mix multiple paths to create a well-rounded character. Non-combat is a separate system, allowing one to focus on one side or the other with some of their XP gained. (XP is gained in three pools, active/combat, social/knowledge, and general which spends for both.)

Earthdawn did something similar. You could stay 1st circle and improve those talents more or less indefinitely, but to qualify for 2nd circle, you had to have a certain number of 1st circle talents to a certain level of skill... at which point, you could start learning 2nd circle talents. It was a nice combination of levels and point buy, with levels serving as a gatekeeper for certain skills, but with unlimited advancement potential with any skills you had.

Max_Killjoy
2018-09-27, 10:25 AM
An interesting note is that the Hero system, in a resourse kit/online supplement thing, has a couple of sheets for campaign ground rules and character building guidelines. The GM fills it out, runs off a couple few copies, and hands them out before character building begins. They list things like the tone of the campaign (realism, morality, continuity, etc.), starting character points, and the expected or allowed ranges of attributes and powers.

It's a more formalized was to convey the expectations and power range of a game. Obviously the limits are negotiable (based on the GM) and more responsible players usually get more leeway in edge cases.

That sort of explicit sharing of expectations and starting assumptions is IMO critical when using an open-ended point-buy system, and at least in 4th and 5th edition HERO is was spelled out as necessary...

...and yet many of the complaints I see about point buy systems are clearly from people who've either played systems that don't expressly advise those limits, or who have missed/ignored that step.

Max_Killjoy
2018-09-27, 10:26 AM
Anima Beyond Fantasy in general is "And The Kitchen Sink: The Game", both mechanically and narratively. We like levels, so put in levels. But we also like point buy, so put in point buy. But we also like spell levels so put a class with spell levels. But we also like spell points so put in a system with spell points. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

I often call it Throw It In: The RPG.

Which to me sounds a lot like some iterations of D&D, especially certain settings.

CharonsHelper
2018-09-27, 10:29 AM
Which to me sounds a lot like some iterations of D&D, especially certain settings.

While true to some degree - Anima turns it up to 11 on being a kitchen sink. So MANY sub-systems.

aaron819
2018-09-28, 11:25 AM
I prefer point-based. You can customize your character completely to your liking (within GM constraints), and there's no max level. And in fantasy games, you don't need to worry about balancing homebrew races or spells. More powerful stuff generally costs more points.

Drascin
2018-09-28, 01:39 PM
While true to some degree - Anima turns it up to 11 on being a kitchen sink. So MANY sub-systems.

Yup. Each subsystem gets its own chapter, with its own mechanics that largely bear no resemblance to anything else. So you have Ki techniques which are sort of M&M-style "puzzle effects together" build-your-own-attack system, magic which works off a strange combination of spell levels but also points but also school but also mana, Summoning which actually includes two sub-subsystems for different things, psychic powers which IIRC (it's been a while) use a "beat target difficulty to cast" system...

Cluedrew
2018-09-30, 07:25 AM
I have been busy recently and forgot to come back to this.


So basically because everyone is aware of the game imbalances, the players at the table make more of an attempt to rein themselves in to maintain table balance? Sounds good - but hardly the guaranteed result.There is no silver bullet, this is true. However I find that this strategy has worked out FAR better than trying to have balance enforced mechanically. Every system I know of that took that approach (which, since it not out right stated, is only a few I have figured out) has failed and ended up broken, exploitable and imbalanced. Any unchanging system with people actively looking for flaws is going to have to be pretty refined. Perfect symmetry is pretty much only way to get that, and there chess is not symmetric enough as white has first turn advantage.

So what I am saying is: it may not be guaranteed, but I have seen much better results from it than the other main option.

There is also the third option, make mechanical balance irrelevant by shifting focus and providing a lot on non-comparable options. In terms of actually achieving balance I don't think that counts but it keeps the problem from coming up.

NomGarret
2018-09-30, 10:35 AM
Interesting that while L5R has come up a few times in this thread, itís hybrid status has not. At its core youíre leveling in a point-buy fashion, but once you hit certain milestones of overall power, you gain class abilities and those class abilities improve. The exact ratio varies from edition to edition, but generally speaking spreading your points in a more generalist build will rank you up faster than specializing. A swordsman who focuses solely on hitting things with a sword might have a bigger dice pool, but wonít learn the deeper secrets of their school. Iíve found that outside of certain builds, this approach does a pretty good job of encouraging characters to stay within a reasonable bandwidth of one another.

Speaking of my experience with point buy systems in general, I have a pretty predictable arc. I create a specialist, though not necessarily a one-trick pony. Then the game begins and the first few sessions are a scramble to cover my weaknesses. After that, I typically mark the skills I use in a given session and put points there. Usually thereís a mix of quick skill boosts and saving up for attributes.

Max_Killjoy
2018-09-30, 10:41 AM
One, "balance" depends on what you're trying to balance. A system that focuses on balancing "narrative input" might end up with significant combat imbalance, but for the "right" players for that system, it might not matter.

Two, balance needs everyone, so to speak. The game designers can't blow off balance and say "the players will take care of it", and the players can't say "the system has to be perfect as published, the rules have to do all the work".

Knaight
2018-09-30, 03:53 PM
There is no silver bullet, this is true. However I find that this strategy has worked out FAR better than trying to have balance enforced mechanically. Every system I know of that took that approach (which, since it not out right stated, is only a few I have figured out) has failed and ended up broken, exploitable and imbalanced. Any unchanging system with people actively looking for flaws is going to have to be pretty refined. Perfect symmetry is pretty much only way to get that, and there chess is not symmetric enough as white has first turn advantage.

The degree of imbalance can vary though. Chess has fairly little, and there are a lot of well but imperfectly balanced competitive games, where people are trying to win and thus the barriers to exploiting the system in RPGs aren't there.

For RPGs system design can also help. Transparent imbalance makes things so much easier on the players than opaque imbalance, and making character creation a direct process and not an oblique one full of weird processes tends to discourage optimization by removing the puzzle aspect from it.

GreatWyrmGold
2018-10-02, 09:06 PM
Suppose you have 3 player characters and they have been adventuring and doing quests together for quite a while, gaining and spending XP however they wanted. Then, one of them tragically dies. Then a new character is made to replace the old one. Since there is no leveling system, the new character is left to guess how much XP his/her new character has to spend in order to be on equal footing with the rest of the group. And that is an issue.
Most character sheets for those game systems have a place to record total XP (or karma, or character points, or whatever) earned/spent. Ones that don't have an obvious place to record thatóright next to
Then there are systems which just naturally record how much you've received. For instance, in Shadowrun's second edition, your karma pool was equal to 1/10th the karma you'd earned over the character's lifetime. Or you have GURPS, which records the character's total point value.


There's also the issue of players spending their XP in the "wrong places." What if a character spent all of his/her XP in social stats just before go into a dungeon filled with mindless monsters? That character might feel useless in that situation.
That's hardly a problem unique to levelless systems. You can always make character advancement choices which don't line up with your build, role, or campaign.
Same goes for "Oh, point-buy systems let people overspecialize in one area." Please, let's not pretend that's not a problem in D&D. We all know someone who always plays a dumb, uncouth barbarian-type, and we've all seen guides talking about how casters need to dump physical stats. In most systems not designed for generalists, raw power in one area and a few other specialists to shore up your glaring weaknesses is generally better than playing a generalist...and players always find ways to specialize in one area if given any agency in character advancement. And there's nothing wrong with that. From Lord of the Rings to the local bar & grill, specialization is how groups of people work together; it doesn't matter if it's the real life or just fantasy.


The other option is leveling, which is what D&D uses. Leveling doesn't have the above problem, but it does have it's own issues. We all know what "dead levels" can be like :smallannoyed:
And at times, determining at what level you get certain abilities can just seem arbitrary and too meta. With leveling systems, I feel like I'm playing an MMORPG and not tabletop.
There's also the problem of "you can't go there or do that cool thing yet, you're not high enough level." Immersion broken :smallsigh:
I don't see that as the biggest problem with level-based systems. Level-based systems usually don't give you many options in what you get when you level up. Take D&D; you can choose feats and spells, and sometimes between two possible paths of class features. (Always between 2-3 or so, in 5e.) But your core features are mostly locked in when you pick a class. (This is another way martials get the short end of the stick in D&D; not only are they weaker overall, but they don't get as many choices in what strengths they have.)


So, yeah. I prefer point-buy. It just gives more flexibility. (That's one thing I like about Pathfinder 2nd edition; it bridges the gap by letting you choose from a variety of class feats, which are essentially modular class features.) But level-based systems have their place; they make building and advancing characters into a much simpler process. This is important for D&D, since it's going to be most peoples' first RPG. You don't want to drown them in options, you want to give them a way to easily figure out what they get, how it works, and then move forward.

lacco36
2018-10-03, 06:09 AM
I know both systems have their strengths and weaknesses, but which would you prefer?

I prefer point-buy for advancement and either point-buy or priority selection for character generation.

(In addition, I was very pleased with the random generation as presented in Reign, but that's completely different story.)


Take this for example:
Suppose you have 3 player characters and they have been adventuring and doing quests together for quite a while, gaining and spending XP however they wanted. Then, one of them tragically dies. Then a new character is made to replace the old one. Since there is no leveling system, the new character is left to guess how much XP his/her new character has to spend in order to be on equal footing with the rest of the group. And that is an issue.
There is a way around this of course. The GM could just keep track of how much XP the group has been gaining over time, and just use that. But that's another thing that the GM has to keep track of.

As GreatWyrmGold and others already answered, the easiest way to deal with this issue is to delegate this to the players. My favourite solution lies in Riddle of Steel: characters get advancement points and when they spend them, they write the amounts down as "Insight". When you create a new character, you "spend" the Insight points to get an improved character (in best case the original priority buy of ABCDEF changes to AAABCD, giving you very good starting character). The other part of the solution is that even the ABCDEF priority character is competent in their field - so the difference is "well-trained fencer" vs. "veteran" or "master" in case of martial characters, instead of lvl 1 (soldier) vs. lvl 10 (UberConan equivalent).


There's also the issue of players spending their XP in the "wrong places." What if a character spent all of his/her XP in social stats just before go into a dungeon filled with mindless monsters? That character might feel useless in that situation.

First question would be: In case the character spent the XP on social stats, what was his courtier doing in a dungeon filled with mindless monsters?

But aside that, the advantage of point-buy is that the players basically tell the GM what they want to play - what kind of adventures should be available - in a way, this is something like "session 0". Taking your example, if I got two fighters and the "social" character, I would know that they should definitely stick to the civilized society. Or would discuss this with the player to find out if he is ok with his role in "we gotta protect this squishy talky guy because we need him for X" scenario.

Again, the XP point-buy is a tool, which, when used in wrong circumstances can get very strange results (e.g. a courtier in deadly dungeon, a barbarian rager in court). But the same can be said for levels. Consider a game set in court, focusing on politics and intrigue...starring the "classic" D&D party. Workable? Of course. Intuitive? Well... why not stat a courtier, a spymaster, a bodyguard and a femme-fatale assassin in XP-buy?

That said, if "combat balance" and/or "challenge balance" are important for the game, level-based games are definitely easier to manage.


Between the two I vastly favor point buy - less because I really like point buy and more because I tend to strongly dislike level systems. There are others beyond that (e.g. Lifepath) which I'm also generally on board with.

I have only seen the lifepath generation in Cyberpunk and Traveller. Do you have any other examples? Ideally of good lifepath systems.

Also: lifepaths as advancement? Or just character creation?


For instance, in Shadowrun's second edition, your karma pool was equal to 1/10th the karma you'd earned over the character's lifetime. Or you have GURPS, which records the character's total point value.

It would be very interesting to see if this worked as good motivation for the players to do their "homework" and check their karma spendings.

GreatWyrmGold
2018-10-03, 10:16 AM
Yup. Each subsystem gets its own chapter, with its own mechanics that largely bear no resemblance to anything else. So you have Ki techniques which are sort of M&M-style "puzzle effects together" build-your-own-attack system, magic which works off a strange combination of spell levels but also points but also school but also mana, Summoning which actually includes two sub-subsystems for different things, psychic powers which IIRC (it's been a while) use a "beat target difficulty to cast" system...
That's one of the reasons I'm not fond of the base GURPS magic system. It works for simulating magic as it is in many settings, but since it's based on the "Skill subsystem," it doesn't mesh nicely with the "Advantage subsystem" (which covers psychic powers, "innate" magical abilities, having friends, being a bear, etc etc). I suppose the same is true of most martial arts/ki stuff...though some of it can only be done with advantages.
Further GURPS supplements include rules for advantage-based magic spells, as well as other kinds of (minor) "superpowers" which work off of skills. That's nice, though I wish I could find rules for turning advantages into special skills.



There is also the third option, make mechanical balance irrelevant by shifting focus and providing a lot on non-comparable options. In terms of actually achieving balance I don't think that counts but it keeps the problem from coming up.
Theoretically. Theoretically, transmutation and conjuration provide non-comparable options, but we all know which was considered stronger in 3.5.



It would be very interesting to see if this worked as good motivation for the players to do their "homework" and check their karma spendings.
I doubt it. There's not much room for error with karma-to-karma-pool stuff, and hence not much chance of getting a benefit from double-checking.
(There's also the additional wrinkle that karma doubles as "hero points," ie you can spend it on rerolls, not dying, etc. I seem to recall one book even mentioning an optional rule for spending karma to get a windfall of cash, e.g. from a moderately-sized lottery prize.)

Cluedrew
2018-10-03, 06:35 PM
Theoretically. Theoretically, transmutation and conjuration provide non-comparable options, but we all know which was considered stronger in 3.5.Well... Yes. (Transmutation right?)

In fact you can never make two options truly incomparable because there are always abstract comparisons like "which ones have larger effects on the plot" or "how effectively does it solve types of problems, weighted by how often those types of problems show up". But the more abstract the comparison the more wiggle room you tend to have for "imperfect balance".

It might be better to say that these three options (and any other that have not been mentioned) aren't simply A, B or C but instead you can mix how much you use each technique. For instance although I honestly feel that any system* that relies on mechanical balance alone is doomed to failure. But at the same time I know some systems that have simply gone to far, where you have whole archetypes that are unplayable because they are so pathetic. So not paying any attention to mechanical balance is not an option either.

* Well not any, but any of sufficient diversity and complexity will fail eventually.

GreatWyrmGold
2018-10-05, 09:18 AM
(Transmutation right?)
...Could have sworn I said "evocation and conjuration," which probably would have been a better comparison.



It might be better to say that these three options (and any other that have not been mentioned) aren't simply A, B or C but instead you can mix how much you use each technique.
Which is why I argued with someone who was framing them as distinct options, one of which could solve the problem, even though I more or less agreed with their position overall. I'm weird like that.