Yesterday’s blog post about the best RPG character development system is getting series of good comments.
I spotted one comment, written by Jake:
The XP model, whilst commonly used, is weird if you think about it. You kill a load of monsters with a sword, then can spend your XP on magic. It’s totally unrealstic.
I agree that this type of development system (kill monsters, gain experience, spend points on whatever) is unrealistic but there are ways to make it more realistic.
For example, Lorezo Gatti commented:
I personally like (at least in theory) point buy systems, even if they are unlikely to be very balanced, because they are flexible: if some change makes sense (e.g. the GM decrees that during a long cruise everybody picks up some Sailing skill points), it can be compensated with available experience pools and other changes without changing the power level of the characters; if the power level changes (through experience awards or planned inflation) there is the maximum flexibility for converting the improvement to actual power; the character’s point value can take into account gear and other externalities.
This style works (I believe) well in some pen & paper RPGs: if the player can convince the game master that his character learned certain skills, then he can put some points to those skills. This can actually create more drama in the game as you try to find a way to convince the GM.
Another thing to ponder is: is it always bad?
It might be unrealistic, but does that really matter (in all cases)? Most games are unrealistic anyway. GTA 4 – you’d be dead very soon if those car crashes would be realistic. In Left 4 Dead you would be scared to hell if you’d see screaming zombies running towards you. There’s probably not a single real time strategy game where they would always display “failure” after campaign instead of “victory” (there’s no winners in wars) and no civilian kills or mental health aid that the soldiers require after killing people. All the games are somewhat unrealistic.
I think if the system works and makes the game feel fun – even if it’s unrealistic – it can be a good system.
I do agree with Jake, that there are games where this type of “kill monsters with sword, learn fireball spell” sounds dumb, and totally takes away something from the immersion. If it ruins the gameplay, it’s bad.
Your thoughts? (or suggestions for character development system)