It ain’t what you do…

12 09 2009

As much of my early role-playing experience was linked to home-made games, the concept of levelling up was foreign to me.  We played for a few sessions and then the GM would allow us to pick a few new skills, or increase our proficiency in the ones we had. 

It wasn’t until I started to play Warhammer that the whole concept of experience points was brought to my attention.  In that game, the GM didn’t give us weekly points to tally – instead he told us when we could level up.

Furthermore, he wanted us to have a good reason for our changes in skills or profession.  In my first campaign, my character went from being a magic user to a knight templar.  The GM had already spoken to me about where I wanted to go with the character and he’d instructed me to demonstrate in the game that I was committed to Sigmar and thus my change in career was appropriate. 

I remember the looks on my fellow player’s faces when I spent my share of the loot on graves for those that fell in our skirmishes.  I can also remember the feeling I had when the GM said I could indeed take the templar career upon levelling up.

My point here is twofold.  Firstly, regardless of the official rules of the game, I firmly believe that character progression should be logical and secondly, as a GM you get the sort of players your XP awards deserve.

In my most recent game, the history of XP allocation encouraged players to kill things and grab loot – as that is what the game system said should be granted XP.  It’s a subject my first blog entry referred to. 

To take the argument further – if XP is awarded for just killing and treasure accumulation, your characters won’t make a real effort to role-play.  Why should they?  Further, they’ll expend all of their XP on skills and feats that mean they can kill more and grab more swag.

As a GM, I want players to role-play.  I want a back-story that allows them to be a fleshed out character and I want them to develop that persona.  I want XP allocation to be a logical progression of their character.  A third level cleric that decides at fourth level to become a rogue makes little to no sense unless it’s backed up with a sound story.  More often than not it’s just a case of power-gaming.  Players often know which classes to take at which levels to maximise their character’s stats. 

As a player, I tend to roll a character with a long term goal in mind.  I may start as a rogue class because I want to end up a sneaky silent assassin.  Therefore, if I later take a fighter level or two, there is a logical reason.  Or perhaps a level of ranger for the bow skills.  My point is that role-playing is about being a character.  You’re not playing a bunch of stats.  Rather you’re supposed to be a person that can simply be identified as a series of numbers.

Or am I the odd one out?

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