Saturday, August 18, 2012

My take on "Experience Points and the Numenera GM" as revealed so far



Monte Cook wrote in his Design Diary recently about how XP (Experience Points) or the equivalent is headed towards in the upcoming Sci-Fantasy RPG, Numenera. What strikes me about the post is that it takes a fairly good Gamemaster to pull off what he is proposing. Please indulge this lengthy quote, as it describes best what the mechanic would look like:

"For the GM, experience points are a narrative tool. The GM can introduce complications into the game that affects a specific player whenever it seems appropriate, but when he does so, he offers that player 1 xp. The player can “refuse” it, but then it costs the player 1 xp.

Here’s how that might work in play. Say the PCs find a hidden console with some buttons. They learn the right order to press the buttons, and a section of the floor disappears (this happened in the second playtest session I wrote about). As GM, I don’t have the players specifically tell me where they’re standing. Instead, I give one player an XP and say, “unfortunately, you are standing directly over this new hole in the floor.” Now, if he wanted, the player could refuse the XP and spend one of his own, and then he would say, “I leap aside to safety.” Or, he could just make the defensive roll that the GM calls for and let it play out."

Ok, I can dig that there is interaction between the PCs and the Gm as to what may actually happen in play. I can dig that the player can refuse the XP award and try to avoid the complication at hand. I dig that the player, if they accept the XP award can also pass one to another player for what they deem as good roleplaying of some sort. What may be difficult for lesser-experienced Gamemasters to do is to not railroad the PCs. However, Monte deals with that in the design post rather well.

I think it is a good mechanic as so far proposed (we shall see more about this later) because it actually teaches the Gm to be a better GM. I am not saying I am the best GM, because I am always evolving as one. As a GM that likes to do as much on-the-fly game mastering as possible, keeping my prep time for my sandbox wilderness hex crawl campaign to a minimum. I like this approach, because it is interactive. It puts the story of the game first instead of only the purely random factors of roleplaying, which are important in their own right, but are not always desired for either the players or the GM.

In my Sylvaeon game, I give the players "Wyrd" points that may be used to avoid or cause certain circumstance to be. That is a bit different than what Mr. Cook is proposing, but it is similar enough to make me want to know more about this XP system, because I may well adopt/modify it for my own uses.

Monte Cook notes: "Obviously, this kind of thing requires a light hand." I agree wholeheartedly. The risk of this mechanic seems worth the outcome. I feel it will introduce into the game something that many are missing: a synthesis that creates flexibility and greater creativity for a truly interactive experience that has the best of both storytelling games and random dice games It seems to be a balanced approach, which is usually a good thing when it comes to RPGs. I am looking forward to trying it out.

That is my two cents for what I have seen so far. I could be wrong and misunderstanding things, but even if I am, this design diary entry has me thinking.

-Jeffrey



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