Saturday, February 26, 2011

Adventures vs. Encounters

In Legend Quest, “experience” comes in the form of character points- points you use to build your character, increasing attributes like Strength or skill levels like Magical Power - Sorcery. There are no character classes. (Don’t get me started on classes - that will be another blog and not a nice one.) Well, the two main ways to get character point are adventures and encounters. Now adventures consist of extended things that make you encounter dangerous things several times over (and make you late for supper), while encounters are more typically single events. Case in point: Exploring the hidden forest while fighting off wolves and bears, eventually finding the hidden castle, and getting past all the evil wizard’s guards to rescue the princess and then escape through the hidden forest - That is an adventure. Going to the bandit camp and fighting all the bandits there to recover the stolen goods is an encounter. Now if you had to track the bandits across hundreds of miles, dodge hostile tribes along the way, and battle first the bandits and then their conjurer leader and his minions, well, that would probably be an adventure too.
But what about normal life, or at least non-hostile things? It is suggested that during the normal course of life in general, a character would earn about 10 points per year. Using this logic, I tell players that their starting characters are either going to be 25 years old or be able to tell me why they have earned more than the base average points per year. For most this is no big deal. Veteran of a war, gladiatorial experience, travels to distant lands (even without conflicts), these all can legitimately explain earning points outside the 10 per year. But what else?
The possibilities are endless, but I want to put some thoughts in the heads of you GMs out there. Think back to your childhood. (Probably not that far back for some of you.) Remember playing baseball or soccer in the summer? Most years you played on a team, got to know some guys, maybe even got a little stronger - the normal stuff that should be included in your 10 points per year. But was there one year that was different? One year where you were legitimately in the running for the championship maybe? You trained harder, you paid more attention to the coaches, you bonded more strongly with your team mates. Not only that, but while the other years on a team kind of blend together, that one summer stands out in your memory. Know why? Because it was an adventure.
Maybe it wasn’t sports for you. Maybe it was one year at summer camp. Maybe it was a really long vacation you took with your family. There was just something different about it that made it more of a learning experience, more of a life directing (not necessarily altering, but certainly focusing) experience. Probably some things went wrong, but those experiences taught you something that stayed with you the rest of your life. That’s it! That’s the point of experience. Something happened to you, and now that you have survived it, you know better how to handle that situation in the future. Maybe you were just scared, not actually in danger. Maybe you and your friends tried to start your own newspaper. It could be anything. But it stuck with you. That is what experience is supposed to be like. The number of monsters you kill is a poor substitute for figuring out what you may have learned along the way. As a GM, you need to try and figure out if this adventure they just went on was enough to alter the character’s perceptions of life.

No comments:

Post a Comment