06 July, 2017

Getting too old for this

(also known as "One last mission before I retire")

Adventurers shouldn't constantly be improving. There comes a time when their battle scars catch up to them, when they need to use their knowledge to train a new generation, when they lose their edge and know that they'll probably be more of a liability in the field.

I always thought this was missing from the development and experience systems in a lot of games. Conversely, it's one of the things I loved about Necromunda and Mordheim. Characters don't improve, they develop... sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. But the more they develop, and the more they take risks, the higher the chance that those risks will eventually catch up to them. PTSD. Physical scars. Nervous tics. Bones that ache when the weather changes. A bad reputation that just won't go away. I can't remember who said that we like characters for their strengths but we love them for their weaknesses, but this is what I've decided is missing from The Law. Character creation is quick and easy, but over time we should become more invested in these Agents who uphold the law in a post-cyberpunk dystopia.

At the moment, there is an improvement system in the game, which is pretty typical as far as RPGs go, but I also want to include a degradation system. The improvement system follows the pattern of rapid character improvement early in the narrative, but gradually slowing down as characters reach "higher levels". I think the degradation system should be flat. At first the positives of the job outweigh the negatives, it is in a character's best interests to go out, make friends, learn new abilities and gain strength... the chances of a loss are small compared to this. Then there comes a point where the improvement rate slows down far enough to match the chance of degradation... this is when the characters have reached their prime and ny chance of improvement is met with an equal chance of loss. Eventually there comes a time when the chance of improvement is outweighed by the chance of returning from the mission worse off. It is during this end game that we get stories like "The Dark Knight Returns" or pretty much any point in the "Lethal Weapon" movies. It won't take much to add something like this into the game, and at the moment it feels like a really worthwhile addition.
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