What We Can Learn from the Dungeonomicon (not really)

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FuzzyBoots
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What We Can Learn from the Dungeonomicon (not really)

Postby FuzzyBoots » Sat Jan 19, 2013 10:28 pm

So, I had someone introduce me to the Dungeonomicon as a good example of someone taking a given work, with all of its flaws, and finding ways to explain the flaws away. I highly advise it, particularly the sections where the author discusses how the world of D&D is socially a Bronze/Iron Age world, not Medieval, despite the plate armor and the section on economics and how it would likely work in a world with wishes and magic items. But mainly, what I'm going to discuss is one of the author's other works, the Book of Gears. This book is ostensibly about Crafting rules, but the author makes a very fascinating side trip on the issue of level advancement and when, or if, it's necessary, and what he comes out with is essentially what Mutants and Masterminds typically does, with small bits of the Weis Marvel RPG.

Essentially, most good fantasy literature is about the characters not advancing. I'll give you a second to bring up a long list of counter-examples, but honestly, throughout the Conan books, Conan probably does not gain any real class levels. Drizz't Do'Urden starts as a highly trained swordsmen and acquires a small handful of magic items that he makes smart usage of. Jamethiel remains a wildling Highborn with a chaotic streak. Threats might scale up on occasion, but by the end of the book, the protagonist is more likely to be a little bit more scarred and wiser than they are to have suddenly improved their combat prowess by another 5%. The character neither level up nor do they acquire an ever-growing horde of magic baubles, trading their old +1 magic sword for a +2 Fireblade. So, why do we do it in RPGs?

Mutants and Masterminds gets things mostly right. Characters don't acquire gear. Advancement is relatively slow, with players gaining 1-2 pp at most for complete campaign arcs, and often PL advances more slowly, meaning that characters become broader rather than becoming intrinsically more powerful. In making rewards happen at the end of campaigns, we also follow one of his suggestions of not rewarding players for every trap disarmed, every monster killed, but rather on completing the scenario (as has often been pointed out, particularly with computer RPGs, avoiding combat generally means you advance too slowly. Thieves, in particular...). So, why do we still advance? I think that some of it is that people like their characters to gain the ability to battle stronger opponents. We've all had the case where we've been outmatched by an opponent several PL higher than us, and we dream of being stronger so that we could battle Omega toe-to-toe rather than fighting a running battle, or just running and trying to accomplish some other objective first. Some of it is that joy of expansion, of making our character more able to pull out neat tricks without having to invoke Extra Effort or Fatigue. Sometimes, it's buying those things that we simply never realized we'd need, like commlinks, or feats that would have proven useful.

Ultimately... this is as much me rambling as anything else. I loved reading these sourcebooks and I wanted to share them with others. :-P So I tried to find a tenuous link. Tell me whether I found a good enough one?

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Re: What We Can Learn from the Dungeonomicon (not really)

Postby Thakowsaizmu » Sun Jan 20, 2013 11:22 am

The need to advance has actually always been a little bit of an issue for me as a GM when it comes to certain ideas, stories or what not. To take D&D for example (or any other leveling up style game), sometimes, especially the lower levels, it feels like the story has to drag while the players are learning to walk. I mean, as a GM I always make sure that there is ample story and fun even at lower levels, but it always kind of feels like we are waiting to get to the cool. Robert E. Howard didn't write story after story of Conan's learning to wield a blade, he just delved into the good stuff. That is one thing I have always liked about MnM, the fact that you are expected to start at a Power Level that makes you competent and powerful enough that you are expected to be able to fight a dragon in your first adventure (as per a game I started on Thursday!) as opposed to having to wait for months on end and encounter after encounter until you can finally muster the level and the requisite magical items to do so. And, on that train of thought, I have also always hated the magical item economy of most fantasy games.

I'll have to check out some of those links though, I am curious to see where the idea that it is late bronze age comes in. I am not going to necessarily argue it, I am just curious to see the case for it.
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