Sunday, November 29, 2015

Back to Levels

It is so quiet here.

The house in which we reside in Paraguay is this cavernous, concrete, wood, and tile conglomeration in which sound echoes and carries. And my family (excepting the wife) is loud anyway. Here, even with beagles, you can sit in one part of our home and know next-to-nothing about what's going on in a different section. Right now, the loudest sound is the tapping of keys on my laptop. In fact, I might have to move so I don't wake the boy (who is sleeping in the bed in which I currently write).

Anyway...this is the first post I've written since being back in Seattle (just too much to see and do). It's a cold, Sunday morning with football starting in a couple hours and oh, how I miss days like this. By next Saturday I'll be back in Paraguay with the heat and bugs and...ugh, I just don't want to think about it. Too depressing. Best to enjoy the moment.


When I started writing EID, my latest-greatest in fantasy heartbreakers, I was working within a different paradigm...specifically one that didn't use levels, as in "levels of experience." It had other ways to increase competence over time, through accomplishment (the basics? providing a replenishing resource pool that increased as characters met various milestones, said resource being available for a number of different purposes: buying off damage (extra HPs), increasing attack/save rolls (extra competence), gaining more "skills" (think "feats"), etc.).

However, after working with Holmes the last couple-three weeks. I find again that I really dig the ease of levels, even though there are problematic aspects to it. Problematic? the artificial progression of advancement, across a set spectrum/range. What if I'm a wizard who spends ten years to learn one high level spell, rather than the accumulation of a plethora of low-level spells? What if I'm a thief who focuses on a particular skill at the expense of others? What if I'm a fighter that specializes in a particular style and weapon? Etc., etc. Real world people seldom progress in such broad - and tidily packaged - style.

But,'s a game. I finished reading Alexis's The Dungeon's Front Door a few days ago (I'll write some sort of review in a bit), and if there's one thing he emphasized for me...has been emphasizing's the essential game nature of Dungeons & Dragons. Not that the game is "just a game;" D&D is much more than a game of Risk or Gin-Rummy. But it's not reality, either...whether purposefully designed as such or not, it delivers a particular experience to the players and the main product of that experience should be, must be fun. A strange type of "fun," perhaps, to people who've never played, but fun nonetheless.

Levels are fun. Treasure (not treasure units) is fun. Dungeons are fun.

We already know these things aren't "realistic;" realism isn't what we're striving for in a game of magic and monsters. Are they sensible? Probably not...but even ridiculous nonsense can be fun to people who dislike such things so long as it is contained within the proper context. And in the context of a game designed (even by accident) to deliver a particular experience, these things are appropriate (perhaps even essential) to increasing the fun factor. And if your design would otherwise diminish fun, Why O Why would anyone be interested in playing?

So...the 48 page FHB? Probably dying a stillborn death on my hard drive. Sorry, folks.

Note, when I say "probably," I mean with 99.9% certainty...however, there are aspects, snippets that might make it into something else. However, even so, one has to ask: WHY? Why, why, why would I want to write Yet Another class-based, level-based game based on D&D?

Talk about spinning your wheels! The EID project was, at least, different...a different paradigm, maybe even a more sensible paradigm. But if it's not as fun as D&D, if it doesn't offer the same fun potential as D&D, what's the point? Really. Practice? Well...

At the moment, I've got an idea for something that (even I think) is really dumb. I mean, truly stupid. And, no, it has nothing to do with megadungeons, if that's what you're wondering. But I'm a little in love with the idea. Let me see if I can make any headway with it (probably after I get back to Paraguay) before I discuss it more. But it really is pretty stupid, so don't get too excited.

All right, that's it for now. The boy just woke up so we're going to go play a game.
: )


  1. Thing of it is, there's levels everywhere in life if you think about it. Our schools are organized into levels, and in those levels we teach the basic concepts first and then the advanced concepts. Our jobs are the same way. Degrees? Certifications?

    A wizard might want to spend ten years of his life mastering that one high-level spell. But he'll need to practice, he'll need to study, he'll need to learn. In so doing, he'll pick up the skills that he needs in order to cast lower-level spells, almost incidentally.

    Now, I tend to prefer skill-based systems, in which you can say, well, I'm putting all my points/gains/dots into spellcasting. But that kind of thing is built into the OSR "level" concept -- your "skill" is "Wizard," and all that entails. Not just spellcasting, but also surviving in a dungeon -- because wizards are dungeoneers. So it makes sense that you'd get better at spellcasting, and also tougher and better with a crossbow/dagger/whatever as you level up.

    Just some thoughts. :)

    1. @ Jack:

      I appreciate your thoughts, man.