Favorite character advancement systems?

For discussing role-playing video games, you know, the ones with combat.
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rusty_shackleford
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Favorite character advancement systems?

Post by rusty_shackleford »

When I was playing Ludus Mortis(Can't recommend, sadly), you had one giant XP pool that was used for advancing your character in various ways: level-up, increasing skills, attributes, etc., Which is different from most RPGs. Some might recognize it as similar to GURPS.

So, I thought I'd make a list of various advancement systems in RPGs:
  1. Games that allow free point assign(Fallout), may allow point-hoarding which encourages meta-gaming.
  2. Games with level-up that is mostly predetermined(D&D prior to 3E)
  3. Games that mix #1 & #2, post-3E D&D is an example with 3E's skill system.
  4. Games that have point-pools used for advancement that are typed. Age of Decadence has this: Image
    • 3e/3.5e D&D also has this in the form of feat points that are restricted to certain feats, such as fighter bonus feats.
    • Fallout is also an example of this. It has separate typed pools for perks, skills, and attributes.
    • Age of Decadence has the skill point pool itself typed, however. Along with an untyped skill point pool.
  5. Games that have skills which advance on use, most famous is obviously Elder Scrolls games.
  6. Games similar to #1 except to advance you're required to use trainers, often difficult to find and/or expensive, Gothic games fit here.
  7. Games that are full point-buy with a single untyped pool. An example is, as prior, Ludus Mortis or GURPS.
  8. Point-buy with diminishing returns in some form the higher the skill is. Fallout requires more points per increase the higher level the skill is.
As time went on obviously many of these systems blended together e.g., feats have pretty much become a staple of all these systems now.

If you have some more you'd like to add to the list please comment, I wouldn't mind making a more comprehensive list of various character advancement systems in RPGs. Otherwise, what's your favorite and why?
Personally, I'm partial to the typed skill system.

May break this down into multiple lists per advancement system, as there's a lot of variations upon the 'core' systems.
Last edited by rusty_shackleford on April 3rd, 2024, 02:43, edited 3 times in total.
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Post by Oyster Sauce »

I prefer systems where skills level as you use them, like The Elder Scrolls, but I don't like systems where you can invest points in magic even if you spent the entire level swinging a sword, like The Elder Scrolls. Feels the most natural.
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Post by Nooneatall »

Games like final fantasy tactics or disgaea or final fantasy 5 where I can gain ab by battling and then use it to buy skills to mix and match. I also didn't mind ff7 materia system which is pretty much the same thing. Ff12 had a good one too, before the newer versions removed build variety.
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Post by wndrbr »

I don't like learn by use systems.

I tend to do degenerate things in rpgs (like constantly jumping while traversing the world), and in TES games this leads to me being punished with attribute bonuses I wasn't planning to raise. I also tend to play all RPGs in the same way, and with 'learn by use' systems I just pigeonhole myself into the same role all the time by accident. Today I'll be playing as a warrior! few hours later - oops now i'm a stealth archer.

Learn by use systems are also easily abuseable, and thus unfit for rpgs with strict balancing. Colony Ship suffered greatly because if this, ITS should've just stuck to the tried and true system of Age of Decadence.
Last edited by wndrbr on April 3rd, 2024, 03:07, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by rusty_shackleford »

wndrbr wrote: April 3rd, 2024, 03:07
I don't like learn by use systems.

I tend to do degenerate things in rpgs (like constantly jumping while traversing the world), and in TES games this leads to me being punished with attribute bonuses I wasn't planning to raise. I also tend to play all RPGs in the same way, and with 'learn by use' systems I just pigeonhole myself into the same role all the time by accident. Today I'll be playing as a warrior! few hours later - oops now i'm a stealth archer.

Learn by use systems are also easily abuseable, and thus unfit for rpgs with strict balancing. Colony Ship suffered greatly because if this, ITS should've just stuck to the tried and true system of Age of Decadence.
The first RPG I'm aware of that used 'learn by use' was the tabletop RPG RuneQuest(late 70s) and it was immediately being abused by weaponswapping in combat in tabletop :lol:
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Post by aweigh »

don't really have anything to add other than that i also dislike learn by use. rpg character development lends itself to abstraction better than simulation.
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Post by maidenhaver »

It works when classes matter and buying minor skills costs more.
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Post by rusty_shackleford »

maidenhaver wrote: April 3rd, 2024, 03:27
It works when classes matter and buying minor skills costs more.
Is this a comment on learn-by-use? If so, you can have that without learn-by-use.
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Post by maidenhaver »

Yes, learn-by-use is nice when classes limit growth to what a class is good at. I think the way TES do it is boring, and they must have thought so too, but their solution was combining the worst parts of Fallout and TES.
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Post by wndrbr »

Bethesda will likely drop learn by use in the next TES game, and replace it with something akin to Starfield (i.e. unlock the next skill tier by passing a challenge, like 'whack ten hobos with a club', 'whack twenty hobos with a club', 'whack 50 hobos with a club').
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Post by rusty_shackleford »

learn by use needs extensive railguards that most developers won't ever bother to do in a singleplayer game. Hard to come up with an example other than the popular MMORPG Run Escape.
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Post by aweigh »

wndrbr wrote: April 3rd, 2024, 03:43
Bethesda will likely drop learn by use in the next TES game, and replace it with something akin to Starfield (i.e. unlock the next skill tier by passing a challenge, like 'whack ten hobos with a club', 'whack twenty hobos with a club', 'whack 50 hobos with a club').
i gotta hand it to bethesda.

they managed to find an even worse system than the one i didn't like, making the one i didn't like now seem genius by comparison.
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Post by TKVNC »

M&B Warband has a strange system where you can pool points on attributes, abilities, and (weapon) skills - but you can also only buy them under certain conditions, for example any Strength skill has to be less than 1/2th of your Strength to buy, e.g Viking Conquest:

Ironflesh 9 requires Strength 18.
Weapon Maintenance 9 requires Intelligence 18.

It's a pretty decent system, I guess, but it's a context specific one - it doesn't -really- function like a conventional CRPG. That said - it still uses XP which is already an abstract and immersion breaking concept.

There's also Kenshi that's entirely based on what you use - and it has no level up at all, you're effectively Level 1 the entire time - but your skills all (theoretically) go to 100, though it takes days in real life to go from 99 to 100 in some skills without major cheese. I would say this is the most organic levelling system - as others have stated, same as Morrowind or Oblivion - though their level up point assignment actively encourages meta-gaming
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Post by Element »

Free assignment or typed pools. Both are fine, and allow you to build the character you want without much hassle.
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Post by Val the Moofia Boss »

The Last Remnant and The Romancing SaGa series (JRPGs made Final Fantasy II staff) had an Elder Scroll's esque system where you gained certain stats by doing stuff. You gained strength by using melee attacks, gained HP stat by being hit, gained magic by casting magic spells, etc. The most exciting part of the system was your character spontaneously learning a new ability or spell during battle. That was always cool. The issue with this system though is that you couldn't plan your build ahead of time without looking up a wiki and spoiling yourself as to what the abilities are and what are the stat requirements for your characters to spontaneously learn them, which destroys the excitement of your characters spontaneously learning new spells or abilities during battle.

I liked how in Final Fantasy Tactics and FF11 where you could level up jobs, and then switch jobs and still equip abilities from prior jobs you levelled up, so you could sorta create your own thing. Maxxing out a job gives you a sense of progression, and once you have a character that has maxxed out and is using stuff from half a dozen different jobs, you feel powerful.

I liked how in WoW you could learn abilities by doing specific quests where you learned the lore of that ability. That was immersive. Unfortunately this was at odds with the live service nature of the game where the game is constantly being rebalanced, with the functionality of abilities being changed or sometimes even removed, so the devs stopped doing those quests.

The Trails' series Orbment system was pretty unique. The setting is set in a fantasy world that resembles the early modern period. 50 years prior there was a industrial revolution powered by magic. Every party members owns an "orbment", a magical device that looks like a pocket watch that can be slotted with 7 magic crystals that can affect that character's stats, effects, and what spells he can cast. Sorta like an iteration of Materia from FF7. Trying to squeeze in the combination of stats, effects, and spells you want is very fun.
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Post by Element »

Enderal iirc used 6. It broke up the experience points into three pools - combat, craftsmanship, and memories. Memories were comprised of 9 ability trees. The combat and craftsmanship points allowed for leveling up their respective skills, but only if you had found/purchased training manuals for the appropriate skill.
I don't remember if the points that a level up gave you depended on the skills you used. I don't think it did. You got 1 memory point with every level up, and a I think a fixed amount of combat and craftsmanship.

It's nice to be rewarded for completing quests.

Image
Last edited by Element on April 3rd, 2024, 11:16, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Xenich »

1. Games that allow free point assign(Fallout), may allow point-hoarding which encourages meta-gaming.
2. Games with level-up that is mostly predetermined(D&D prior to 3E)
3. Games that mix #1 & #2, post-3E D&D is an example with 3E's skill system.
5. Games that have skills which advance on use, most famous is obviously Elder Scrolls games.

I miss #5, as I really liked Morrowind's development (not a fan of the later series because they disconnected a lot of skills from this in their engine design), but I do really like Wizardry which tends to mix a lot of the above as well.

I would love to see more attention put into this type of system. I think a first person game similar to the Elder scrolls, with the "increase by use" system, balanced with level progressions, and transition points to continue advancement through a mix of trainers, ranks, specialty, and limits on required use to reach those ranks which disallow being able to let any specific area progress (making all elements of the system required to progress such as actual use, then gates with trainers, research, specialization, etc...

Would be nice to see actual use even be required to open up what is available with them (using slash, thrust, block, parry, etc...) all if used enough in play open up new applications of those skills which provide benefits or additional stances/methods, then trainers or special research hidden in the world (old tome on ancient fighting styles) would provide the means to advance in further study ultimately reaching various ranks in those specific abilities up to a mastery of them.

Apply this not only to physical combat skills, but to all skills (various thieving abilities, social skills, etc.. basically all the things Morrowind had in selections of skill focus, but a lot more and using the above system in depth).

What would be really cool is to see this style of play be translated into a Shadowrun style system where you have not only magic/physical combat skills, but extensive other focuses such as hacking, cyber tech, rigging, as well as extensive development trees and options with social interactions.

Granted, to see this level of detail would result in essentially creating your own gaming world and system first (far more than what the average cRPG does today) and the engine would have to be tailored from scratch (or be a very flexible existing system) to properly fit the translation of the system and a seamless feel to the play, but once that core was done, you could essentially churn out multiple setting and era games where the only upkeep would be keeping the engine updated over time. The initial cost for development would be rather large (though a lot of it could be done on paper with the real cost development being the engine creation.

Though this in order to work well, would have to be PC only (no controllers, cross platform, etc...) as it would force in a bunch of restrictions at all levels which would harm the games feel, size, scope and function. Personally, nothing destroys a game more than having to design it to fit a consoles limitations. Not to mention, I wouldn't trust any studio today to even attempt such a project as they would turn it into gimmicky shit. Oh well, to dream.
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Post by boot »

Favorite system...

Warband, obviously. Killing your enemies and growing in Wisdom and Strength makes total sense to me.

3.5 DND, including Pathfinder. Like the complex builds you can scrap together, though many people make builds that make no sense conceptually.

and...

2nd edition ADND, love the simplicity.
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Post by Dorateen »

I appreciated latter Wizardry's mixed learn by use (in combat only) with skill point allocation upon level ups. Even random attribute increases, which is a staple of the Wizardry series, adds an interesting wrinkle to character advancement.
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Post by J1M »

I prefer fewer, more important, choices. I also prefer picking an archetype versus choosing between 5% damage and 3% crit. However, if the game does have skill point incontinence, I prefer passive modifiers over dozens of buttons to press.

Finally, the most important thing is to make sure if I enjoy the system I don't need to spend 15 hours replaying the game to try an alternative set of choices.
Last edited by J1M on April 3rd, 2024, 23:41, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Acrux »

The old training rules are my favorite method of character advancement. There are very few, if any, games that do it right. KOTC2 comes closest with gold requirements for leveling. It's obviously difficult to make the in-game time requirements have a meaningful impact without annoying lots of players (not to mention being designed for it), but I would love to see it more.
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Post by rusty_shackleford »

Acrux wrote: April 4th, 2024, 03:11
The old training rules are my favorite method of character advancement. There are very few, if any, games that do it right. KOTC2 comes closest with gold requirements for leveling. It's obviously difficult to make the in-game time requirements have a meaningful impact without annoying lots of players (not to mention being designed for it), but I would love to see it more.
Image

Image
I always saw it as a blend of both, if you look at it from a different POV. Rather than viewing it as 'gain experience to level up at the trainer', the trainer teaches you new skills and you have to go master them before you can learn more. Perhaps it could be conveyed better through gameplay by either e.g., gradually unlocking the level's benefits or gradually getting better at an unlocked skill, etc.,
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Post by aweigh »

experience points are an abstraction, like most things with rpgs.

it is only natural that the better character advancement systems are the ones which dovetail best with the other abstraction layers, while the systems which pursue simulationist design, like bethesda, find themselves in conflict.
Last edited by aweigh on April 4th, 2024, 04:13, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Tweed »

I like Gothic's model of finding a trainer and spending your points. I especially like how when you pay for training in something you don't just get the skill, they talk to you as if they were instructing you on what to do. It feels like real training instead of just +skill.

I also like learn by doing. I think Kenshi handles it well in the fact that it takes so damn long to master most skills that all of your guys will be specialists because who wants to spend that time training every single person in every single thing? Plus your dudes get swoll as they get strong.
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Post by Dorateen »

I've long been an advocate for characters returning to a trainer in order to level up, which was a feature of many old school games from Gold Box, to the Might & Magic series. In Pool of Radiance, which only had the four core classes, it was neat that there were individual trainers for Fighter, Clerics, Thief and Magic-users, to report to for advancement.
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Post by Xenich »

rusty_shackleford wrote: April 4th, 2024, 03:40
Acrux wrote: April 4th, 2024, 03:11
The old training rules are my favorite method of character advancement. There are very few, if any, games that do it right. KOTC2 comes closest with gold requirements for leveling. It's obviously difficult to make the in-game time requirements have a meaningful impact without annoying lots of players (not to mention being designed for it), but I would love to see it more.
Image

Image
I always saw it as a blend of both, if you look at it from a different POV. Rather than viewing it as 'gain experience to level up at the trainer', the trainer teaches you new skills and you have to go master them before you can learn more. Perhaps it could be conveyed better through gameplay by either e.g., gradually unlocking the level's benefits or gradually getting better at an unlocked skill, etc.,
Agreed. It is like when you learn some martial arts. You are given a set basic forms, stances, principals, etc... and you are then to drill them until you have perfected them according to your instructors requirements. Once that foundation is established, new forms that build off the existing ones are taught by the instructor, increasing new tactics as well as continuing to solidify the previous cores.

Ultimately, upon complete mastery of each stage and to the pinnacle of all that is taught, a master can then develop new techniques through this knowledge and experience which may lead to new schools of thought or applications (ie branching into ones own specific styles).

This concept can easily be put into skills, levels and experience which follow the progression. A sword master through extensive experience could essentially create a new style of attack after reaching mastery, making it unique to that character itself and borne from a specific use in battle to which it was derived.
Last edited by Xenich on April 4th, 2024, 14:05, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by TKVNC »

Xenich wrote: April 4th, 2024, 14:04
Agreed. It is like when you learn some martial arts. You are given a set basic forms, stances, principals, etc... and you are then to drill them until you have perfected them according to your instructors requirements. Once that foundation is established, new forms that build off the existing ones are taught by the instructor, increasing new tactics as well as continuing to solidify the previous cores.

Ultimately, upon complete mastery of each stage and to the pinnacle of all that is taught, a master can then develop new techniques through this knowledge and experience which may lead to new schools of thought or applications (ie branching into ones own specific styles).

This concept can easily be put into skills, levels and experience which follow the progression. A sword master through extensive experience could essentially create a new style of attack after reaching mastery, making it unique to that character itself and borne from a specific use in battle to which it was derived.
Kenshi has this - to an extent. The higher your Martial Arts gets, the more advanced your moveset becomes. I can't recall if it's managed that way for weapons too, but it might be to an extent, as certain weapons have different styles.
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Post by maidenhaver »

I liked it when your combat animations improved with training in Gothic. Its the difference between throwing haymakers and stepping into a hook, where most games are lazy, PB remembered they were making a 3d video game.
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Post by Norfleet »

rusty_shackleford wrote: April 3rd, 2024, 02:35
[*] Games that allow free point assign(Fallout), may allow point-hoarding which encourages meta-gaming.
How does point-hoarding encourage metagaming? I would think if you were metagaming, you'd already know how much and where you'd need those points, so wouldn't have to hoard them. The main reason I end up hoarding points is simply "can't be bothered". Nothing immediately strikes me as needing them so I don't interrupt gameplay just to fiddle with some points I don't currently have a use for.
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