Examining Experience Points, Part 3

And so we come to the final installment of our series on Survivor Points in Witch Hunter: The Invisible World.  In this installment, we wallow in theory-wank and psychobabble about things I have no control over (which is pretty much why it’s taken this long for this installment to hit the blog).  This time we set our crosshairs directly on Witch Hunter: Revelations, the “living campaign” produced and maintained by Paradigm Concepts and the primary marketing arm (so far as I can tell) for the company.

I’m posting this article in the interests of creating a vibrant and thriving community around WH.  A rising tide lifts all boats, as the saying goes.  The response to the previous articles on this subject matter have been…let’s say less than thunderous.  I can say from the few WHR I’ve run and played in, it IS an issue among the players.  But apparently not enough of one for more than a handful of people to speak up on.  So I’ll say my piece and let that be the end of it.

If you’ve read the previous articles here and here, you know that the changes in SP costs to advance a character made a dramatic jump with 2nd edition.  Unfortunately, while the core book recommends awarding 15 SP for each game session, the WHR rounds remain locked into an anemic 5 SP (MAX!  That’s with good roleplaying, defeating the villain, bringing cookies for the GM and walking his dog while he finishes prepping the round), which makes for impossibly slow advancement.  When you need to play almost a year’s worth of rounds just to afford a low ranking Talent, something is wrong.  This was pretty obviously a severe correction from 1st edition, so its a sure bet that advancement in the original was too fast, too cheap, too easy.  So a correction was needed.  But the current state of affairs just makes no sense.

Before we start crunching numbers, lets talk a bit about organized play.  I don’t see eye to eye with a lot of the assumptions in living campaigns and organized play.  Back when I was part of the Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdoms Triad, my first draft of The Bleeding Moon, featuring rain-soaked spider-climbing zombies and a baby mimic, also included a +1 sword.  Show me the 1-3 level AD&D adventure that does not pony up a +1 sword!  You can’t!!  It doesn’t exist! Yet that was edited out because it was too much, too fast (translation: we want to save the good stuff for core, but you guys have fun with your regional events).  Instead, what the RPGA gave us was the first of two ridiculously convoluted, broken treasure rewards systems, both of which may have only been a hair more fun than 4e’s Treasure Parcel system.

OP Advancement is about the slow, creeping burn.  The idea is to maximize the life of available rounds.  You don’t want your regulars outgrowing these rounds too fast or you won’t have easy inroads for new players.  And since you have a limited budget of events per year, you need to able to address the widest possible audience.  A wide gulf between regulars and new players makes it harder to seat tables.  The RPGA had to employ weird nonsense metrics to allow high level characters to sit in with low level pions.  So anyway, I do GET the logic behind the decisions PCI made for the first year.  But, like I said, when you do the math it doesn’t add up for long term play.  Not when advancement is part of the game.  You can make a game where advancement is not an issue.  WH is not that game.

So lets get to the numbers, shall we?  First, lets recap. Assuming 5 SP awarded per session (remember, this is the maximum available), here is a comparison of the advancement costs and sessions required to accumulate the required SP between 1st and 2nd edition Witch Hunter.

Ability Increase Cost (1st) Sessions Cost (2nd) Sessions
1–2 10 2 60 12
2–3 10 2 90 18
3–4 20 4 120 24
4–5 30 6 150 30
Talent
Basic 5 1 50 10
Greater 10 2 75 15
Heroic 20 4 100 20

In this next table, we take an SP award and measure how many sessions it takes to raise Abilities and buy Talents.  We’ll leave out skills since those costs remain unchanged.  We start at 5 XP per round and move up the chain until we match 1st edition for advancement.  That should allow us to find a happy medium that allows for a sense of accomplishment and advancement without blowing open the barn doors completely.

Survivor Points Awarded Per Session
Ability Increase SP Cost 5 SP 10 15 20 25 30 35
1–2 60 12 6 4 3 3 2 2
2–3 90 18 9 6 5 4 3 3
3–4 120 24 12 8 6 5 4 4
4–5 150 30 15 10 8 6 5 5
Talent
Basic 50 10 5 4 3 2 2 2
Greater 75 15 8 5 4 3 3 3
Heroic 100 20 10 7 5 4 4 3

As you can see, the closest match 1st edition’s rate of advancement would have each round awarding 30 XP.  That’s 6 times the current max award!  You could award 10 points per round, the minimum recommended by the core rules, and advancement would take 3 times as long.  15, the maximum recommended by the core rules is twice as long.  Either one of these awards would make more sense based on the number of sessions it would take to advance your character.

A Radical Suggestion

A more unorthodox solution, but best in my opinion, would be increase the award given based on the Tier of the character.  Witch Hunter characters have three “tiers.”  These aren’t “levels” in the same sense as DnD, but they do give a vague image of a character’s experience and power.  In WHR, characters begin at Tier 1.  Progression to Tier 2 is pretty quick (450 SP, or roughly 10 sessions, 5 if the character is loaded up on Flaws).  Progression to Tier 3 is much slower (600 SP or 35-40 game sessions, so about 2-3 years of regular play).

Because Skill rank is limited by Attribute rank, advancement costs increase as the character increases in tier.  Increasing awards based on the character’s tier smooths out the curve. Of course, this also shortens the span between tiers of power, but that has an almost negligible effect on the character itself.  Only Order Powers are tied to tiers.  Everything else costs SP.

So my proposal would be:
Tier 1 Rewards: 5 SP
Tier 2 Rewards: 10 SP
Tier 3 Rewards: 15 SP

This would keep most 1st year characters on an even keel, focusing on skills.  Tier 2 characters would have enough buying power for Basic Talents and Rites, maybe 1 attribute increase.  Tier 3 characters will be focusing on bumping their 3 and 4 ranked attributes to be able to maximize their skills.  But that still takes 8 and 10 sessions respectively.  At least they might be able to choose a Heroic Talent (7 sessions) as an alternative.

This would be relatively simple to implement.  Every achievement in a round would be worth 1, 2 or 3 SP depending upon the character’s tier.  Tier would have to be clearly marked on the Adventure Record, and any increase signed off by the GM.  It would still take 15-20 sessions for go from tier 2 to tier 3, easily a year’s worth of rounds.  So we aren’t talking leaps and bounds here.  But it would give the player the satisfaction of character momentum and make a lot of the advancements that are currently out of reach a bit more reasonable.  I don’t see where it would break anything, though I could be missing something – I’m a writer, not a mathematician.

With that, I’ll leave it for others to argue over.  I’m satisfied that the slight changes I’m making to my home game awards will be well received and easy to manage.  Whether Paradigm chooses to consider any of these suggestions is completely out of my hands.  However, if you are a player in the Witch Hunter Revelations campaign and you are dissatisfied with the rate of advancement, you should make your thoughts known here.  You don’t have to agree with any of my proposed remedies.  I’m certain someone smarter than myself can come up with a suitably brilliant solution.

FYI/CYA: The first of the year two WHR rounds debued this month at Origins.  It is very possible that the year two rounds have already begun to remedy this issue.  Which is great!  Hooray!  But those rounds are not available for general play yet.  These figures are all based on “Year One” rounds.

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One thought on “Examining Experience Points, Part 3

  1. Pingback: 2015: A Retrospective | …and a Brace of Pistols

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