In a post on his blog, John Wick makes some very good points about the differing goals of a board game (victory) and a roleplaying game (character development) and argues that D&D, especially 4e as it’s cast, is more of a board game than anything else.
Now, a lot of the people in my gaming group hate John Wick with the fury of a thousand suns, because he is an asshole. I concede this point; however, he’s an asshole who frequently makes good points. I see their point too, however – his anecdote about his thief named Rav seems to be an example of people who “roleplay” as a thinly veiled excuse to make the other gamers’ lives more difficult. Although perhaps he would have stuck by his ideals and, if the rest of the party had caught him stealing and decided to lynch him for it, applauded the resulting story.
My related thought is that I hear a lot of people say that “a roleplaying game’s rules have nothing to do with roleplaying; you can turn Monopoly into a roleplaying game if you want.” These are people without enough experience in RPGs. There are many, many games which base character progression off of roleplaying (XP for RP being the most basic implementation) to giving bonuses in-game when a character is pursuing their loves and hates.
Here’s some examples as a public service to those who have never heard of such a thing. Minor copyright violation is the soul of the Net after all.
Typically, each player should receive between one and five experience points in a game session. Everybody who participates gets one experience point (call it the “You Drove a Half Hour . . . oh, and Picked Up Twizzlers Before Playing” award). If the characters succeeded in thwarting evil through teamwork, heroic butt-kicking and creative thinking, an additional one or two points should be awarded. Players who stayed in character and helped move the story along should get another one or two points. At the end of major story arcs, another point should be awarded to everyone in the group, plus one more at the end of the Season Finale.
This is one of the more trivial examples, where character advancement simply isn’t linked to kills and loot but participation and forwarding the story.
These are actions for which you can award dice to PCs:• Doing things. A full session of talking, lying, being lied to, fighting, sneaking, watching your back, following clues and so forth should be worth a die, unless the PC was generally incompetent.• Succeeding at some major task, such as solving a mystery,neutralizing an enemy, or gaining a hard-won prize.• Getting severely torqued, betrayed, tricked, and jerkedaround, but surviving to tell about it. “Experience is what youget when you don’t get what you want.”• Executing a brilliant maneuver. If a PC dumbfounds you bythinking his way out of certain death or manipulating a situation the way a pianist manipulates a keyboard, another die for the pool is a concrete way to acknowledge the feat.• Excellent role-playing. A player who breathes life into a sheet of paper (the PC) adds depth and wonder to the series. Again, awarding a die acknowledges this proficiency.In general, one die should be awarded for each session of worthy play, plus dice for any exceptional accomplishments. A PC who struggles well, vanquishes a foe he’s been after for three sessions running, and imbues his character with energetic personality might get three dice forthat one session (one for a session’s play, one for defeating his enemy, and one for good role-playing). At the rate of one or two dice per session, it will take a PC about three sessions to develop a new trait. If that’s too slow or too fast for your style of play, be more or less generous awarding dice.
DrivesThe Heart and Soul of a hero is their drive—their determination, if you will—to succeed no matter what the cost. This Drive is their motivation,but it is also that little extra heroic oomph that they can dredge from within themselves to succeed at nearly any task, when all hope seems lost. Drive is a central element of H&S play. It is the reason your characters do what they do. It is the core reason that they are super-heroes.There are 4 primary drives for heroes:
- Spirit of Adventure(etc etc etc)Drives in PlayThe Drive in play allows the player to re-roll dice that did not return acceptable or successful results by creating a thought bubble or spoken monologue (both shared aloud with the group), that details why the hero should succeed.Examining Doctor Radiant in the introduction, one can see his drive being used to let him succeed at a task (essentially re-rolling the dice until he succeeds). The character’s Drive allows them to continue to attempt actions, as long as their player can justify it to the Editor and other players—within the context of their Drive and using a monologue to deal with situation at hand.