Friday, December 16, 2005

Upgrade Fetish

One thing that really appeals to me on some level is the notion of upgrading character abilities and equipment. Some thoughts:

What I like about upgrading, as a concept: It gives concrete goals to strive for, and a sense of acheivement when you gain those goals. It adds tremendous amount of color to a character. It's fun to geek out about weapons and powerz.

What I don't like about upgrading, as I've seen in games: Cookie-cutter effects with different dressings. Goal of upgrading becomes only goal for character development. Upgrades handed out by GM fiat, or random tables.

Thoughts on upgrade systems: Characters start with some kind of signiture weapon, power or ability with a sympathetic link to that character (Arthur & Excalibur, etc). The overall system is fairly crunchy with a number of interactions between die types, rolls, sizes, etc. There's a certain set of base mechanical effects that can be associated with these signiture things, maybe you pick three. All of these mechanical effects have a unique "thing" that they do, with "medium" effects - allow the player to re-roll and have the GM pick a number, for example, or re-roll and drop the highest, stuff like that.

Now, the GM has a limited resource pool to provide adversity to the characters. Through the reward system, players get some kind of resource that they can save towards upgrading their signiture thing (or maybe buying a new one, as well). When they hit the upgrade threshold, they can either gain new signiture effects, or bump their existing effects to "good" (straight re-roll, roll and drop the lowest, add +1 automatically, stuff like that). This also refreshes the GMs adversity resource, allowing him to present the characters with stronger opposition now that they have stronger weapons at their disposal.

These new effects then have to be reflected in the character - maybe they add or change traits on the character sheet, or put new limits on resource pools - but its the players choice of upgrade that then impacts the characters being, not the other way around. More powerful upgrades have heavier fallout for the character.

The keys here are that striving for the upgrade, and then choosing to receive it, are both entirely the players choice and involve some kind of fallout that drives the characters progression as a character, as well. Also, I like the scalability - the characters get things that are just strong enough to overcome the opposition they are about to receive, not after the fact or randomly from a treasure table.

Of course, if there are games out there that already have something like this, I would love to check 'em out.

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