[Dungeon World] Alternative Advancement: As a Party

edited September 2011 in Story Games
In a recent post, Ryan Macklin addresses the issues that Keys and Highlighted stats pose for Dungeon World. And, regardless of the validity of the argument he did raise an interesting thought: what is the point of DW? He suggested the point is "being bold." While I definitely agree with the being bold, it is more about doing so as a party. In this light I think perhaps one of the fundamental problems we have been having with the advancement mechanisms is that they are all focused on the individual players, and not the party as a whole.

In this idea I propose eliminating the current advancement system with one that rewards the whole party.

First, drop the advancement for alignment and bonds. Instead, when you could mark XP for either instead carry +1 forward.

Second, as a replacement for highlighted stats come up with a party agenda. The agenda would contain different adventuring aspects, the players would highlight an aspect, and the GM would highlight another.

The list would including things like:

- Bloodlust (when your party routes the adversaries in an area, mark xp)
- Loot
- Investigation
- Exploration
- Infliltration
- Etc...

Whenever the party hits the trigger for the aspect everyone would mark xp. Additionally, the amount of XP would be relative to the difficulty of the trigger. So, if it was easy, mark 1, if it was challenging mark 5, if it took the party to their limits mark 10.

I would set the level advancement at 50 xp (10 challenging encounters). And, to compensate for lower level members there would be an underdog clause that allowed members below the party level to count the triggers as one difficulty level higher (nothing granting more than 10xp).

Comments

  • This is definitely an interesting idea. I'm not entirely sold on purely-party XP, but it's one take. And yeah, being bold as a group is pretty key to the experience, but so is demonstrating that boldness with individual action.
    First, drop the advancement for alignment and bonds. Instead, when you could mark XP for either instead carry +1 forward.
    And that is particularly neat. Even if not replacing alignments/bonds in DW, it's got me thinking sideways at it.

    - Ryan
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: Ryan MacklinThis is definitely an interesting idea. I'm not entirely sold on purely-party XP, but it's one take. And yeah, being bold as a group is pretty key to the experience, but so is demonstrating that boldness with individual action.
    I suppose the question is whether that individual initiative is worth marking XP for? One of the problems I've always had with individual XP advancement mechanisms is that it tends to reward spotlight hogs. I'm wondering if we might be better off sticking to an currency like +1 forward that rewards the initiative but does not put you at a material advantage over your party mates?

    What might be interesting would be a "shooting the moon" mechanic. Sure, you let someone steal the spotlight for a bit and regardless of the outcome, everyone ELSE marks XP for it. I don't know if that would be fun, or what kind of behavior it would be encouraging, but it is definitely different.
  • Posted By: jjafuller
    What might be interesting would be a "shooting the moon" mechanic. Sure, you let someone steal the spotlight for a bit and regardless of the outcome, everyone ELSE marks XP for it. I don't know if that would be fun, or what kind of behavior it would be encourage, but it is definitely different.
    Now that's intriguing. I've always liked group XP in D&D, it took the competition out of it and supported working, loosly, as a team. The question is what would trigger it? Would you highlight stats and when you roll that stat everyone else gets XP - that would fit with others highlighting your stats (It would also hold with AW mechanisms). It could also trigger some social rewards because, you know, when you get me XP for doing something awesome - high five! It could have some weird feedback when someone acts against another player, for example I parley you and you get xp for doing what I say and for my move, then I get XP your your aid/interfering with me?
  • Posted By: mease19Posted By: jjafuller
    What might be interesting would be a "shooting the moon" mechanic. Sure, you let someone steal the spotlight for a bit and regardless of the outcome, everyone ELSE marks XP for it. I don't know if that would be fun, or what kind of behavior it would be encourage, but it is definitely different.
    Now that's intriguing. I've always liked group XP in D&D, it took the competition out of it and supported working, loosly, as a team. The question is what would trigger it? Would you highlight stats and when you roll that stat everyone else gets XP - that would fit with others highlighting your stats (It would also hold with AW mechanisms). It could also trigger some social rewards because, you know, when you get me XP for doing something awesome - high five! It could have some weird feedback when someone acts against another player, for example I parley you and you get xp for doing what I say and for my move, then I get XP your your aid/interfering with me?

    That's a good question. I have never tried to explicitly define what spotlight hogging is, although I always know it when I see it.
  • Why not combine the best of both worlds? People still mark XP for individual accomplishments—be it stat highlighting, or keys, or whatever. But the group doesn't level up until the group as a whole has 40 XP (4 x 10).

    Matt
  • We played tonight with RAW stat-highlighting, plus social agreement that everyone would have their prime stat highlighted, but leveled up only when the group hit 40 XP total. It worked great.

    Matt
  • ...DUDE. That's simple, yet compelling. Me likey.
  • Thanks!

    We are planning to switch to LB/TSoY-style Keys next week, but as temporary kludges go, this was great.

    Matt
  • Posted By: DeliveratorWe played tonight with RAW stat-highlighting, plus social agreement that everyone would have their prime stat highlighted, but leveled up only when the group hit 40 XP total. It worked great.
    That sounds really cool. I'm running a game this weekend. Some people have played before, but a couple people haven't. I'd like to ttry this, but I wonder if I should play by the book for the first-timers, so they get a feel for the "real" game.
  • Nah, I wouldn't bother sticking with the original. A) It's not a huge change. B) This whole XP issue is the one part of DW that isn't really done, anyway.

    Matt
  • I like the idea of group-as-character. I wouldn't restrict individual advancement to it, but I'm definitely throwing around some ideas about having a "The Party" playbook for each team of adventurers.
  • Posted By: skinnyghostI like the idea of group-as-character. I wouldn't restrict individual advancement to it, but I'm definitely throwing around some ideas about having a "The Party" playbook for each team of adventurers.
    Meh.

    I've never really seen the value in individual leveling up in a party-based game.
  • Competition?

    (Otherwise, I agree with you.)
  • Yeah, Paul hit the nail on the head there: competition. Just look at a game like Agon, where the whole point, even though you must work together, is to garner as much glory as possible for yourself.
  • I don't know to what extent D&D had PC-on-PC competition as a major theme. Conflict, sure, but competition for advancement? Sounds like someone wants to win D&D... :-)
    Seriously though, with Agon there is an explicit element of competition and players are pushing each other for brinkmanship. I think that goes against the party theme of DW.
  • Competition, for sure. Also, individual identity. Advancement as a singular entity allows for two things - the fluidity of the party not to impact each player so directly (Lisa can't make it today? That's okay, we can all still play. We have our own characters.) and for each character to be their own unique unit.

    To me, what party advancement might bring to the table is a sense of voltronicity. Which is a word that I just made up. To describe the feeling that, while each individual component of the party is unique and cool on their own, they combine to form something that is bigger and cooler than all of them could be alone.

    There's tension, power and risk involved in partying up - I'd like to find a way to show that mechanically in the game while supporting the idea that the more you work with your dungeoneering "buddies" the better you all get at working together.
  • To be clear, I think party advancement is a nifty idea and I don't think it's worth keeping individual advancement for the sake of preserving PC-PC competition. There my be other good reasons to keep it but I don't think competition is in the spirit of the game.
  • Voltronicity is a feature, not a bug.

    Matt
  • I'm just thinking out loud here, so don't put too much stock in this, but... as part of the whole together-we-stand thing, it might be cool to have a Move that begins, "When an ally gains a level...." How does that sentence end? I dunno.
  • Posted By: skinnyghostI like the idea of group-as-character. I wouldn't restrict individual advancement to it, but I'm definitely throwing around some ideas about having a "The Party" playbook for each team of adventurers.
    This concept sounds really cool to me. I usually like the concept of individual XP, I want to be rewarded for my actions, but I also really like working together as a team and having group resources.

    For example, the Party could be equal level to the lowest level member (but doesn't regress if you add someone new). So if I'm ahead of someone by 2 levels, it might be worth my time to help shine the spotlight on them so they earn XP to unlock some cool new party option.
  • I like the sound of that, BS.
  • I kind of like the idea of a "party" as a Thing you can belong to. Maybe its level is dependent on the group, so that it helps people who are behind catch up, but holds you back if you're growing faster than the rest: you have to work together.

    Being a member of the Party gives you access to certain moves or avenues of gaining XP. ("We're the group that's good at breaking into ancient tombs!" "We're really good at organizing in combat against enemies that outnumber us, because we've practiced battle formations.") They're synergistic effects that come together because everyone on the team is combining their talents and efforts.

    But if you feel like the group is holding you back... you'd best leave and strike out on your own.
  • Posted By: Bad SantaPosted By: skinnyghostI like the idea of group-as-character. I wouldn't restrict individual advancement to it, but I'm definitely throwing around some ideas about having a "The Party" playbook for each team of adventurers.
    This concept sounds really cool to me. I usually like the concept of individual XP, I want to be rewarded for my actions, but I also really like working together as a team and having group resources.

    For example, the Party could be equal level to the lowest level member (but doesn't regress if you add someone new). So if I'm ahead of someone by 2 levels, it might be worth my time to help shine the spotlight on them so they earn XP to unlock some cool new party option.

    Part of something "Party as Character" helps solve is "what happens when new folks join the party?" too. It's something that, unless some really significant thing comes along to change it, it's something I'd like to see in the final version.
  • I've only played one session so far, so I'm wary of coming up with too much stuff yet (though in fits of boredom at work, I'm already naming moves).

    My initial thoughts are:

    1) The party starts with zero moves (especially for new players, there's already enough to take in)
    2) The party accumulates moves slower than characters (less mental clutter for decision making)
    3) Every level needs to give something
    4) If the party only gains moves, it needs to level slower than the characters (see 2)
    4a) if an additional resource is added, that can add filler levels so that the party can scale the same as the characters
  • What about re-rolls? Depending on how the party presents itself, they get a re-roll once per session in a certain situation...looting a corpse, let's say.
    And the re-roll can only be used if the GM and at least two players (the player re-rolling included) agree. That way it has to fit into the fiction, as like a lucky break.
    I'd enjoy that for the filler levels. Either that or once/adventure, a character doesn't have to roll for Last Breath, and instead chooses their own result.
  • Or even a growing pool of communal hit points...
  • Posted By: UserCloneWhat about re-rolls?
    I actually really like the lack of re-rolls or Awesome Points or anything like that in Dungeon World. It feels pure -- pure and harsh.
  • Posted By: UserClone Either that or once/adventure, a character doesn't have to roll for Last Breath, and instead chooses their own result.
    I was actually thinking something like this as a move:

    Cheating Death - once per session, per party, if you fail to live up to your bargain with death you have a chance to break free. 10+ you cheat death, twist the bargain, or convince it to take someone else, getting away free and clear. 7-9 You manage to break your bargain and survive, but you'll never be the same again.

    I don't know what the 7-9 means yet, but it's not going to be good. I'm thinking that the DM gets to select one move for you, class or basic, and when you get a 7-9 on it, you still get the positive part of it, but the DM gets a hard move anyways.
  • Posted By: Bad SantaCheating Death - once per session, per party, if you fail to live up to your bargain with death you have a chance to break free. 10+ you cheat death, twist the bargain, or convince it to take someone else, getting away free and clear. 7-9 You manage to break your bargain and survive, but you'll never be the same again.
    Interesting idea, though to me that sounds like you've got your 7-9 result on your 10+ Instead give it to them no hedging.

    When you Cheat Death, just roll.
    10+ You are free and clear, you've cheated Death and are no longer bound by your bargain
    7-9 You can twist the bargain, but have to give something up, pay the price, or convince Death to take someone else
    6- Hey, you just tried to cheat Death. As hard and irrevocable as the DM likes, here.

    The interesting part will come from leading with the fiction- just what are the fictional requirements that must be fulfilled to allow you to cheat death? Chess is the classic...
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