Saturday, July 7, 2018

Alternate Progression Methods

As I delve further into the endless abyss of do-it-yourself (and the reality that my games are destined to be pick up episodes rather than long-running consistent campaigns), I am becoming less invested in even gold-for-xp. So here are some musings on alternate progression systems.

Insight / Wonder

Ripped straight from Bloodborne. You gain Insight when you catch a glimpse of the true nature of things that lies underneath what you think you know.
  • Characters begin with 0 Insight.
  • Insight is gained by glimpsing the eldritch truth of reality.
    • Gain 1 Insight at the baseline
    • Gain 2 Insight for large revelations
    • Gain 3 Insight for significant revelations
    • Gain 5 Insight for shattering revelations
As one gains Insight, the world will begin to change around them. They will see, hear, and be able to interact with things others cannot. Doors will open. New beings will be encountered. More secrets will be revealed. You could build an entire adventure area map out of a bullet list of Insight triggers. Example:

At 10 Insight, the chains upon the cellar door in the Abandoned Farmhouse are shattered and scattered across the room. Muffled organ music might be heard from below.

Insight can be spent to gain spells or items. A lonely mailbox in the middle of nowhere, a talking doll, a Man of Leng; whoever the seller they ought not be reachable without Insight.

Wonder works just the same as Insight, but is triggered by different criteria. Wonder is gained by leaving your comfortable life of limits and known quantities and heading off to the hills, and seeing wonderful and fantastic things. The more Wonder you have, the more you are able to see, as it means you have gone further from home.

Wonder is spent at the expense of power. You can return home with a head full of the stuff and be no worse for wear, but the great temptation is to sell your experiences for all those shiny magic items.

Faction Progression

The best mechanical part of Degenesis, is how progression is linked to gaining higher rank within one's cult. The game attaches a lot of extra stuff like skill level requirements that you have to buy with XP and those will be ignored,

Progression within a faction is based around rights and privileges. As a character ranks up, they have access to better equipment, more connections,  greater authority, and so on. Along with the privileges, there will also be responsibilities; low-ranking members of the faction will be given commands, higher-ranking members will find themselves beholden to needs on a greater scope.

In my head, I see four major stages. You rank up by accomplishing major tasks:

  1. Initiate - Sign of faction allegiance, basic equipment, basic rights.
  2. Member - Connections, proper agent's equipment, privileges.
  3. Veteran - Authority, access, the good stuff.
  4. Leader - Top of the line, iconic stuff. Significant power within the faction and influence without. Underlings. Secrets.

This progression system is all about giving the players more tools to work with, rather than new abilities to learn. I've explored some of this in my Shadow of the Eschaton hack, and want to play with it more in the future.

Faction progression can also be used alongside typical class progression, or trimmed down into faction-specific reaction modifiers as one desires.

Party Progression

A variant of faction progression, except the party is the faction in question. In my mind the first comparison is the hamlet from Darkest Dungeon, where your investment improves the available services as the game goes on. Gold as XP for a building (which would have classes of their own) turns it all into "we have enough money to afford better equipment", rather than "I am rich, I am better at swinging a sword". Blacksmith, apothecary's shop, temple, etc.

Gold invested in the hamlet / home base / caravan wagon / spaceship etc. grants bonuses to the entire party, regardless of who is dropping in or out. To this is added the soft progression of allies, access, and authority that is gained naturally through adventuring, and we can have forward progression without falling prey to power creep (hopefully)


  1. As I'm currently going on a bit of a Darkest Dungeon bender at the moment, I can't help but agree with the last one especially. Have you got thoughts on any mechanics behind those bonuses? In addition, how would you wrangle that last one in a drop-in/drop-out game where the group is constantly moving through a subterranean location?

    1. Moving without a central base puts option 3 under a lot of stress, but is not undoable if you're up for weird mobile bases.

    2. Sounds to me like the party is part of a roving caravan, Traveling People - style. That gives the additional option to upgrade the party's conveyance as well. I'm envisioning a gypsy wagon pulled by giant cave lizards with a ballista mounted on the roof.

  2. Insight would be perfect for a modern fantasy campaign (something like Kult or Esoteric Enterprises in particular).

  3. Check out the Homesteads supplement for Five Torches Deep