Skill Advancement

Personae in roleplaying games have advanced, become better at what they do, since the hobby began. There is room for debate over whether this is necessary for roleplaying in general, but as one of the main themes of Kannagara is personal development, it is clearly necessary for this game. Indeed, advancement should be rather fast, because players should feel that their personae are developing.

Because development is one of the themes of the game, development should happen in play. This means that skills and knowledges must be handled differently, because personae do different things to improve them. Basically, one improves a skill by using it, but one improves a knowledge by studying.

This makes skill improvement easier to handle. The improvement process involves the persona doing things with the skill, and “doing things with skills” is what we play out in the game. So, the first point is that using a skill in the game will improve that skill. People learn from their mistakes as much as their successes, but do not learn much from succeeding at things that are easy for them. Failing at something that should be easy for you can be a great learning experience, of course, and you can learn a lot from both success and failure at a difficult task.

This is a place where the precise numbers will be determined by playtest, but as a first pass a persona gets an experience point when she attempts an important task with a difficulty that is greater than four times the number of dice she gets to keep. It does not matter whether she succeeds or fails. The chance of getting greater than 4 with one die is one in three, while the chance of getting 9 or greater on two dice is less than a quarter, so these are tasks at which failure is likely. Of course, the number of dice being rolled will also affect this probability, so personae with high knowledge scores might well advance while succeeding, but that is not necessarily a problem; as mentioned above, advancement should probably be fast.

Similarly, a persona gains an experience point if she fails an important task with a difficulty that is less than or equal to four times the number of dice she gets to keep. Succeeding at this level does not teach much, but failure certainly can. To put this another way, a persona gets an experience point whenever she fails at a task, and when she succeeds at a task with a difficulty greater than four times the number of dice she gets to keep.

Experience points go with a particular skill, and when a persona has a certain number of experience points, the skill increases by one die. I think I want to use a flat number of experience points per increase, so that it might always cost 10 experience points to raise a skill by one die, whether the persona has a skill of 1 or a skill of 10. However, the actual number involved will have to be decided as the game is developed and playtested. It might even be something that players are invited to change, to set an advancement speed that their group likes.

I noted above that these rules apply to “important tasks”. That means a task that is part of the narrative of the game. Players cannot just have the characters go off and fail consistently at hard tasks in order to acquire lots and lots of experience points. However, it is obvious that personae can go off and practise their skills in downtime, and that they should improve if they do that. This is a mode of improvement that also applies to knowledges, and so I would like to discuss it in its own post.