Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Adventure Points

It's pretty easy to make an argument for classes in tabletop games. Classes are a way to let people quickly infer a large amount of detail about a character, so long as they've played in/read about the setting before. They're also a good way to balance the game between players, ensuring everyone has a distinct role to play and no-one can dominate every single part of the game. Not only are they healthy for the game, they're also pretty fun. Someone can pick up an outline of a person labelled 'Fighter' and then spend x sessions turning that into an actual character. So yeah; classes, levels, all that baseline RPG shit is there for a reason.

That all said, I think I'm going to ditch classes. I'm slowly setting up a little viking themed hexcrawl, in which my players are shipwrecked on a compact, flavourful island. To start them all off I'd like to drop the standard system, which always ends up with everyone I know wanting to be a druid, and instead start everyone with 4 Adventure Points.

Adventure Points are cashed in at character creation in order to get your character an adventurey... thing, just like filling in inventory slots. You want to be competent with sword and shield? That's one AP, thanks. After skills as an alchemist? One AP. Pet cougar? An AP again. Rock-climbing gear and mastery of knots? One AP! General rogue skills are one AP, while specific expertise in trap-making might also be one AP. This works for spells, too. You want to be able to cast Magic Missile once per day? That's one AP. You want to be able to cast Fireball on demand? That's... probably 10.

And the AP system lets people build a class anyway. If you're really really into playing fighters you can start off strong with all your favourite ideas for what a good fighter can do. Sword and shield (1). Ability to do that thing dragon slayers do where they crouch behind their shield and are somehow unaffected by AoE (2). Ability to baseball-bat spells back at people with your sword, Zelda style (3). Suit of nice armour (4). Fighter done, and they're probably more fun than the stock standard duelist that knows Power Attack.

Or people can just make a character out of disparate elements that are tied together by who their character is, which is a nice variation on the character boxing that a class system can enforce. Nobody has to pitch a new class to the DM, they just grab abilities they think are thematically appropriate and then have the DM cost them in AP.

Yeah guys, narrowly defined archetypes make me grumpy, too.

The next obvious step is to get rid of levels. While clearly, yes, you can level up and get +1 Adventure Points, I'm a lot more attracted to the idea that people pick up and wield power by just finding it on the floor of a dungeon, or going away and training for a few months.  Though it could be a little kitsch to throw a magic boon for every player at the end of every major dungeon, isn't that kind of what levels are anyway? Wait, isn't that kind of what major dungeons are for anyway?

So no more leveling up, and no more levels. You can measure power levels in approximate AP if you really need to. This also means you don't have to worry about players exchanging magic swords or even spells, so long as it makes sense.

All this might totally fall to shit if my/your players start power- or meta-gaming too hard, but running a session is kind of a dialogue, and you can always just tell a player that something's too powerful. Anyway. Hopefully my next post has less rhetorical questions, but for now here is a little party of "level 1" vikings.


  1. Carries big old war-hammer of crystal bone. Shaft is hollowed into a kind of oboe thing (1).
  2. Three cute lil cuttlefish follow her around, drifting through the air (all cuttlefish can fly, obviously) and following the commands she plays on the oboe (1).
  3. Battle Yodel 1/day. Basically a first level spell. Can spend a round just yelling super loud. Nobody can cast spells. Everything nearby with ears is deafened. Con checks each round to keep going (1).
  4. Decently good healer. Herbal medicine, bandaging wounds, amputations, all that. The cuttlefish totally have anaesthetic saliva that helps or something (1).
[Psuedo-Cleric I guess, based on the supporty kit, but why should a cleric not be allowed a weird pet?]


  1. Weaponised tattoos. Ten barbs across each forearm. 20 is the hard limit, probs. Can be magically extracted and throw like a shuriken. Redoing a tattoo takes about the same amount of time as fletching an arrow. (1)
  2. Inkspray at will. Looks like colour spray, hurts like burning hands. Costs one arm tattoo per 1d4 damage. Use as many as you want, but does 1 damage per tattoo used. Feel free to kill yourself nuking the mega lich. (1)
  3. Seance 1/day. Touch a dead thing's brains, speak with its voice. Gives out when the ghost is out of useful stuff to say. Need someone to take notes for you. Maybe translate, too. (1)
  4. Ogle 1/day. Make eye contact with target in order to make them freeze up, missing a turn and shitting themselves. No save b/c that's much funnier. (1)
[Proto-Wizard and yet so much more colourful! If you want more spells you have to not have arms and armour, but you can totally just take the standard bow and make it something more exciting]


  1. Groom's Tear; a great sword that can cut ghosts. Knows how to cut normal people, too. (1)
  2. Seal blubber armour. AC as scale. Keeps you dry and warm while swimming in icy water, doesn't weigh you down. (1)
  3. Sunspear 1/day. If under daytime sky can do a sweet anime pose and call down bolt of sunlight. Strikes any target that can be seen for 3d6 damage in fireball size AoE. Also, can use this before jumping off cliff in order to do sweet, explosive three-point landing, etching your name into the ground around you. So sweet that it costs: (2)
[Wow what a dank, uh, Paladin thing? You could even have a character that's just one giant 4 point spell and a lot of running away from things until you decide to just vanish the appropriate challenge. Kind of like standard DnD wizards.]


  1. Yeah this is super on point. Creativity stems from quick thinking and that includes character building! (No more 3 hour prelude to actually playing D&D). As long as every character is thematically consistent then this could work really well. I envision a whole new wave of D&D'ers getting on board with this modified version. Nice one!

    1. I have been making coffee's and drawing tiny cartoons. I mainly want to be in the wilderness all of the time and I struggle to deal with that on a daily basis but otherwise I think that my cartoons are getting better. Woo!

  2. Sometimes I don't get you
    It's like an endless night
    All I do is a waste
    And the look on your face is like a knife
    Am I fooling myself making believe
    Together as one happily
    Sometimes I don't get you
    And I never lie

    Sometimes I don't know you
    It's like we never met
    And what seems fine by me
    Is your litany of regrets
    Am I'm clinging to something that's passed
    That was never intended to last
    Sometimes I don't know you
    Messes with my head

    Sometimes I think I don't know
    How to be on my own
    Sometimes I won't answer the door
    Or talk on the phone
    With you by my side
    I don't have to hide
    The twig needs a trunk
    So that it can continue to grow

    The twig needs a trunk
    So that it can continue to grow

    Sometimes I don't get you
    It's like I'm lost at sea
    But then you say you're okay
    And I know that you'll stay with me
    Though it never comes soon enough
    We'll get through the difficult stuff
    No matter what we do
    I'll be there for you
    And maybe I'll get you
    And you'll get me

  3. hey mystery halton, have you heard of sword and backpack? i can see your system melting into that game so goddamn hard.

    1. I totally haven't! Or hadn't. Just read the first edition just then and really liked it!

      Backpacks are great and I'm going to make everyone draw their own sigil from now on.

  4. I've been experimenting with a system sorta like this - shooting for a dark souls style game. Did the math on 3E levelling and it comes down to killing 3 1/3 HD of critters per player per level, so xp is given out in single HD chunks and they spend it as they go. Single chunks can be "spent" whenever, others you need to find the right person to train you in berserker rage or whatever. They're currently trying to tackle Stone-Sky-River-Place with level ~1.5 characters.

    1. Are you keeping 3rd ed stats and combat systems and all? I'm trying to figure out a good way to strip it all down. Thinking maybe just STR, DEX, WILL as stats and then... some system where you can trade adventure points for stat increases and health buffs? A little lost at the moment...

  5. This is cool, and almost reminds me of the GLOG a little bit. I could see it working with the right group.

    But what I really want to know is: what system were you running before that led to everyone playing a druid??