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Random Thoughts of a Game Developer

Experience Chapter Done! One More to Go…

So, I’ve brought the 9th chapter (Experience) to a close. It actually went more smoothly and quickly than I expected. The Experience system is something I’ve been processing in the back of my mind almost since I started working on 16 Bit Heroes, and I guess that the usual kinks in the system I find when starting a new chapter were already worked out before I got to it. I usually have to work them out while I’m working the chapter, sometimes going back and editing previous references (the Equipment chapter has had to be re-worked in one way or another no less than eight times, and it’s still the chapter I am the most insecure about). Huh… I seem to be getting better at this.

In any case, I thought that a small excerpt of the Experience chapter might be illuminating for my few readers. You’ll noticed that Experience Points is abbreviated as “EP” rather than “XP”; more on that after the excerpt.

Chapter 9: Experience

16 Bit Heroes presents multiple methods of character advancement. Each method has its ups and downs; it is up to the individual Game Group to decide what’s going to work best for them[1]. Only one method should be employed in a given campaign; they do not provide identical advancement, so one character using one method while another character uses a different one can result in some serious character disparity.

All of the methods use a level-based system and an identical experience chart. As characters and adventuring parties succeed in battle, complete objectives, and engage in rewarding role play, they receive Experience Points (EP). Once they have enough EP, the characters gain new levels, improving their Abilities and Stats, and gaining new Spells and Techniques (or access to same; see the Improvement Tree method).

Common Experience Elements

There are several things that are common to all of the Experience methods. All of them use the same Level of Experience table, for example, determining at what amount of EP a character gains a new level.

In all of the methods below, the rules outlined apply to Classes on even levels, and to Races on odd levels. For instance, if you’re using the Improvement Test method, you make Improvement Tests for your character’s Class on levels 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and so on. Tests made for your Race or Personality are made on levels 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, et cetera.

Finally, all of the Experience methods use the same Multiclassing rules, which are described at the end of the chapter.

The Experience Methods in Brief

This section outlines each of the methods of improving characters through experience in brief. There are three methods outlined here. All of these are specifically “alpha”, which is to say that none of them are tested in any way – at least not yet. Some, all, or none of these methods may make it into the final system; it all depends on feedback.

  • Improvement Test Method: At each new level, the characters make an Improvement Test to determine how much their characters improve. Typically, a single Test roll is made, which is then compared to various Improvement Difficulties, each yielding a differing amounts of improvement.
  • Static Improvement: At each new level, a character gains specific benefits. There are no test rolls, and advancement can be easily predicted and tracked.
  • Point Based Improvement: At each level, characters receive a set number of Improvement Points, which can be used by the players to improve their characters.

There are also three special variants that modify the way the above methods work slightly; these are all optional. None of these has to be used at all, and one of them doesn’t even need to be playtested:

  • Buy It Up: The characters gain in level using one of the methods above, but new Spells, Techniques, and Skills must be purchased in game from trainers.
  • Party Experience: The characters do not track individual experience; instead, the Party has an EP total, and there is a unified Party Level.
  • EP Free: The characters automatically gain a level after a set number of Conflicts, or whenever the Game Group decides the time is right. This can be combined with Buy It Up and Party Experience, above.

So, here’s a little known fact in the history of RPGs: The abbreviation of Experience Points goes all the way back to the original Dungeons & Dragons rules put together by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. The original D&D had a lot of difference forms of currency, all based on different materials the coinage was made from. There were Platinum Pieces (PP), Gold Pieces (GP), Silver Pieces (SP), and Copper Pieces (CP). Between GP and SP, there was an additional coin, however – the Electrum Piece, which was, naturally enough, abbreviated EP.

A 640 BCE one-third stater electrum coin from ...

Image via Wikipedia

Electrum is a naturally occuring alloy of Gold and Silver, and was actually used for coinage in the ancient world Check out the picture… In any case, because EP is a completely natural abbreviation for EP, and the word Experience sounds like it should start with the letter “x”, XP was a natural abbreviation for Experience Points. And that’s why Experience Point is almost always shortened to XP – because Electrum Pieces (which hardly appear anywhere in RPGs today) stole the EP abbreviation.

Since 16 Bit Heroes doesn’t use Electrum Pieces (or any specific currency system, for that matter), I thought I’d go ahead and use EP for Experience Points. It made sense to me when I was writing Chapter 9, at any rate.

So, now that the Experience Chapter is done, I’m down to the Bestiary before the system is ready for playtest. It looks like I’m going to reach my “Done Before Christmas” goal. It would be nice to achieve a writing goal for once…

Well, that’s all for now. As always, feedback is welcome!

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7 thoughts on “Experience Chapter Done! One More to Go…

  1. When making blog posts, you wanna skip heading 1 ( <h1>). It’ll bleed the words together every time. I stick with heading 2 ( <h2>) myself.

    Outside of that, I have no idea about EP, but the historical stuff was interesting. (Didn’t MERP use EP?)

    (SHAMELESS PLUG: Tomorrow is another Console Quest. It’s a sort of… final… deal.)

    • YES! Got the HTML right up there!

    • I will be sure to check out the Console Quest. I love those; I was sorta hoping that RPG reviews would become a regular feature for you. Maybe not with all the nostalgia every time, but the reviews are awesome.

      Yes, MERP (and Rune Quest) use EP; I’m not the first. I just came across the historical context somewhere (I can’t remember where – it was a long time ago) and I thought I would share it.

      The formatting was the result of a direct copy-and-paste from the Word document. I saw the overlap in the preview of the post, and I thought it looked cool. Actually, what I thought was Wow – I wish I could figure out how to do that for the book! I’m actually looking into it; I think it’s a neat effect. I wouldn’t use it for the blog, probably, or for 16 Bit Heroes… but for Elements? If I can figure out how to do it in Word, I probably will.

      • I’m thinking a little more… insane than RPG reviews, but that’ll come if it comes and not before. (In the first place, I’m thinking of picking up a TV converter thingy for the computer. So that I might take screen captures. Of things.)

        Console Quest is, I hope, a regular feature up until I hit modern times. I’m trying to restructure WCP so that it has more consistency than usual. I also hope to set up something for comics on Wednesday, but you know how that is…

        As for not all the nostalgia… the next planned entry should cover the base mechanics of the console RPGS of our youth in more detail than I’ve done so far. It should follow with a single entry covering all the RPGs on the NES that I have played. This should be less Memory Lane History and more Memory Lane Review, as, unlike the games I covered so far I don’t have a lot of memories of them.

        (I’ve been really having a blast with the not-me history portions of things, even though I’ve had to go back and correct a few errors here and there.)

      • Ah! Forgot to add that duplicating that header effect should be easy enough just by either a.) making the image up via a drawing program or b.) fiddling with the space between lines (Check FORMAT – PARAGRAPH – INDENTS & SPACING in Open Office or the equivalent in Word)

        I dunno why you’d wanna do it, mind you, but if you do go that route, have the top line be a different color or be several shades darker than the lower one. It should look better.

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