In the thread Skill Wedges: An RPG Subsystem
, commenter @Paul_T
I'm thinking of novels where a country bumpkin challenges the local jousting champion because he's in love with the princess... except he's never been on a horse! He has a month to learn, and he doesn't know anyone in the city. What will he do? Can he prepare in time for the duel/tournament/concert/Hunger Games?
Or perhaps a ship full of marines is heading on a sleeper ship to a dangerous alien planet. You must deal with politics, drama, romance, and the hints of a traitor on board in the last few months of the trip. How prepared will you be for the challenges of the alien planet when you finally land, and what will it cost you?
We were discussing the possibility of tying the resources used in skill advancement
into a character's overall budget of time, energy, discipline, ongoing pursuits, etc. These were basically strategy game concerns, though of a very different type than the solo character-optimization challenges of D&D3 or Pathfinder's hunts for rule synergies.
At the same time, we were pondering whether and when realism matters, and how much realistic skill advancement really adds to play.
Paul's examples with bumpkin jousters and feuding space marines ask about the incentives or even themes available for sculpting, instead of or in addition to strategic or simulation concerns. Should a skill advancement path resemble or enforce certain story dynamics? What sorts of characters, on what sorts of paths, does it need to be relevant to?
Is there something about his ample free time, deep love for the princess, untapped natural abilities, or other factors that will allow our bumpkin abnormally quick progress? Or will the rules enforce that a month's study has no hope at all of preparing him to fight a decade-trained opponent, and so he needs to seek ways to cheat as his only hope?
Does a space marine who manages to survive heavy on-ship intrigue arrive on the alien world hardened and stoked or drained and despondent?
"Advancement is good!" never tells the full story of a reward system. As part of a reward system, any good skill advancement system needs to connect the right behaviors to the right changes. So what are our options here, beyond the old tried and true "go on fun adventures to get better at adventuring so you can eventually go on bigger and badder fun adventures!"?
Sorry that this first post is kinda half-baked. I mainly wanted to raise the topic before I forgot. Hopefully I'll have more to say later... or someone will beat me to it.