Saturday, August 27, 2016

Leveling Up: I Do It Weird

  Thanks to my G+ feed and the great folks on it, I am going to talk about how I do things and confuse the heck out of everyone.

  The topic at hand is leveling up in AD&D 1e and the fees, mentors, etc. The DMG tells us;
"Experience points are merely an indicator of the character's progress toward greater proficiency in his or her chosen profession..."
"The gaining of sufficient experience points necessary [for] a character to be eligible to gain a level of experience but the actual award is a matter for you, the DM, to decide"
  Interesting, isn't it? Gary goes on to outline a system of rating a character and the roleplaying involved and then discusses a program where characters will be out of play for weeks and spend money, sometimes vast sums, to level up. The fun thing? Going from 2nd to 3rd level should typically cost you so much money that you technically should be 4th level already.

  I never really did the level up process as written and I only really knew one guy who did, and he dropped it after a little while. Lew Pulsipher in Tonilda just let you advance when you got the experience and got out of the dungeon and back to civilization. How I do it is weird and idiosyncratic, so bear with me.

  First, I use the maintenance rules, as modified in my Far Realms rules; based on class and level all characters pay a certain amount per in-game month in 'upkeep' for themselves and henchmen. This ranges from a fair amount for noblemen and mages down to a pittance for paladins and monks. In general I count any costs associated with leveling up as part of maintenance. The running gag with the party is I do charge them to level up because that is when we finally do our upkeep bookkeeping. This is about the same in my AD&D 2e campaign, Blackstone.
  But, and there always is one, that isn't always true.

  Side story time!
  When I was growing up I had a near neighbor who was into archery. I liked archery, too, and was pretty good at the time. But my neighbor was good enough to try out for the Olympic team. Beyond the difference in raw talent and drive, she also had a coach. Her dad worked a second job to make the money for the specialized equipment and to pay for the very best coach possible.

  So when I put in rules for weapons mastery, guess what? I included an unofficial need for a mentor or coach until you hit name level. I reasoned that Druids and Clerics get mentors no matter what because of their class nature. Same with monks and paladins. The description of magic-users and illusionists specifically mentions mentors, masters, etc. Thieves guild descriptions discuss training; assassins are mentioned as going to training and to mentors. It just made sense in context of the game.

  And, of course, there are those mentions from Appendix N - Sheelba of the Eyeless Face and Ningauble of the Seven Eyes. The mentors of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Mentors who send them on (sometimes ridiculous) quests but are sources of valuable insight. Sometimes.
  There is also the woefully neglected (except by Mischa Burnett) book And The Devil Will Drag You Under by Chalker. Part of the novel (which involves inter-dimensional travel) occurs in what appears to be a clone of the City of Greyhawk. Yes, really. While there a protagonist goes to the extremely professional thieves' guild for specialized equipment and training.

  So, some characters have mentors, some don't. Many thieves of a certain bent get training from a guild, others get it from those they meet (a retired boxman, a second-story man that lie to teach, etc), some have a mentor, etc. Monks might have a monastery, they might have a master teaching them a secret style, etc. I am, quite frankly, all over the place.
  Except for one thing - until you reach name level (if your class does that!) you need a mentor to learn extraordinary things.

  Here's is the first of two examples from Blackstone:
  Doomsman had always been good with the greatsword, even as a child. He had practices constantly as a young warrior and sparred with any who would meet him in the rope circle to practice, including warriors of other villages [Doomsman began specialized in the two-hander]. 
  After going out into the world he had continued to improve just from fighting a wide variety of foes and seeing styles from different people and races [improving as he leveled was automatic]. But he was always hungry to be the best, so he sought out a mentor and finally met Jhangor the Tall, master of the greatsword. impressed with his existing skills, Jhangor agreed to train Doomsman in The Steel Web, his particular style of greatsword fighting [Doomsman tracked down a mentor and studied double specialization under him].
  Doomsman learned a great deal and continued to train with Jhangor until he had nothing left to learn from the older warrior. Doomsman then set sail for a distant land where, as the rumors said, the last living master of the Imperial Headman's Style lived [Jhangor was only double specialized and couldn't teach mastery]. Doomsman met with Durrar, who did know the Imperial Headsman's Style, and  trained with him [Doomsman learned weapon mastery].
  Concined that he hard learned all he could from others [He reached name level] Doomsman began developing his own style. Combining the power of the Headsman's Style with the grace of the Steel Web, adding what he had learned of footwork and counter-striking he soon achieved a skill with the greatsword that was perhaps unmatched in the world [he eventually gained great mastery in the greatsword].

  The second:
  Mournglow had studied The Eight-Spoked Wheel and its descriptions of the art, philosophy, and practice of arcane magic for years, learning a tremendous amount. He had also pored through On The Art Of Casting, The Esoterica of Reality, and even the controversial Practical Guide to Battlefield Ontology. But he had learned all he could from them [he had taken the Arcane Knowledge non-weapon proficiency and added to the skill more than once]. So, he travelled. After a long sea voyage he reached Zinbar, the City of Seven Libraries. He approached the Tower of Mordan, Archmage. And was rebuffed. Mages from around the world came her and sought out Mordan, the greatest living scholar of magic. Mordan wanted those who wished to learn show that they needed him. 
  So Mournglow went to the libraries and worked on a treatise that showed how much he had to learn [A 12th level magic-user, I had the player do the steps of researching a 6th level spell, but to create a monograph on arcane theory, instead of a spell]. He returned to the tower with his small codex and presented it to Mordan's apprentice. Three days later Mournglow was invited to tea with the archmage. Stating that the treatise was 'a good start' Mordan agreed to teach Mournglow [Mournglow could then spend the points to gain the non-weapon proficiency Sage Ability: Arcane Knowledge].

  I like having mentor, trainers guilds, etc. bubbling away in the background. They can force the players into some roleplaying, be the motivator for an adventure, be Captain Exposition for the night, etc. And boy can they use of the PC's gold! Finding the right mentor can be a quest for the entire party or be critical to the arc of a character for many real-world years.
  Or, if the game is running smooth and quick, you can just give them a miss, level everyone, and drop their names as you go,
  "The Archbishop is pleased with your progress."

  So do I do the 'you have to pay to level up'?
  Eeh. Kinda'.
  Do I make you find a mentor?
  ...kinda'. Maby. But I think you'll like him. If you need one. Which you might not.

  How do YOU do it?