Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

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Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

Post  Greywander on Sat Feb 23, 2013 12:28 am

Alright, I'll cut to the chase. "Harmony" is just a convenient way of having a shared XP pool so that you don't have to track the XP of individual PCs, and what I'm about to propose sort of defeats that purpose. But Pony Tales/Living Legends places a high priority on flavor, and we have to grudgingly agree that "Harmony" is meant to represent synergy within the party. That's all fine and good, but it just doesn't apply to some characters. Now, there's no reason villains can't be harmonious with their allies and minions, so that's not quite the problem, but what about loner characters, or one member parties?

So what I'm proposing is a sort of dual leveling system, where you have Harmony, which is group XP shared across the party and represents the bonds between the party members, and Anarchy (explanation here), which is personal XP, tracked individually for each PC and represents that character's progression toward a personal goal. Characters then gain levels in Harmony simultaneously and levels in Anarchy independently. This will allow both group-focused characters and self-focused characters to advance in levels (and create tension between those two camps, like it would in real life!), and with some patience and persistence, characters can even advance in both simultaneously.

"But," I hear you ask, "won't that mean they'll be twice as powerful if they reach level 10 in both Harmony and Anarchy at the same time?"

Not to worry, I've already got that covered. You see, while characters will indeed gain levels along two separate tracks, the level up rewards only go along a single track. The level up rewards consist mostly of generic power ups that are only given out once on reaching the requisite level in either track. In other words, reaching e.g. level 4 in either Harmony OR Anarchy might grant a combat trait, but reaching level 4 in both Harmony AND Anarchy... still only gives you one combat trait, not two.

"But what's they point, then?" I hear you ask.

Well, you'll notice I said the level up bonuses consist MOSTLY of generic upgrades. It also has some upgrades that are only given if you reach the requisite level on Harmony or Anarchy, specifically. For example, under this new system, you would only get Boons by gaining levels in Harmony, whereas you'd only fulfill your Destiny by gaining levels in Anarchy. The net result is that two level 10 characters will still have comparable abilities, but those who reach level 10 in both Harmony and Anarchy will be slightly stronger, as they should be. Let's not forget that the way the game scales as you level (specifically, that it doesn't) makes it entirely possible to "beat" a campaign while at level 1, so the discrepancy in power between those who advance only in one track and those who advance in both wouldn't be game breaking. Combat traits and extra utility talents are helpful, but not really required to overcome any challenge.

So here's how I propose XP be awarded. When the group works together and helps each other out, give Harmony. When they fight amongst each other, take away Harmony. If a new character joins the group, take away Harmony, at least until the new guy integrates him/herself into the party. When a character does something that advances their personal goal, give Anarchy. When they do something that sets them back in their personal goal, take away Anarchy. If they decide to change their goal (as characters evolve over time, and their goals in life change), take away Anarchy. This also allows DMs to set up a moral choice in which sometimes a character will have to choose between helping the party and helping themselves, with either choice rewarding XP but along different tracks.

As for the level up table itself, here's what it might look like. [H] denotes bonuses granted only for Harmony levels, [A] denotes bonuses granted only for Anarchy levels.

Level 2: Utility Talent, Combat Trait

Level 3: [H] Tier 1 Boon, [A] Tier 1 Destiny

Level 4: Combat Trait, [A] 1 Attribute point

Level 5: Utility Talent, Combat Trait

Level 6: [H] Tier 2 Boon, [A] Tier 2 Destiny

Level 7: Combat Trait, [H] Utility Talent

Level 8: Utility Talent, Combat Trait, Element Upgrade*

Level 9: Combat Talent, [A] 1 Attribute point

Level 10: [H] Tier 3 Boon, [A] Tier 3 Destiny

*A separate, but related idea that I'll post in a different thread. Link

As you can see, this retains most of the structure of the original leveling system, with a few things added and a few things (namely one utility talent and destinies) relegated to specific tracks, making a character slightly weaker then they would be currently if they only advance along one track, and slightly stronger than they would be currently if they advanced along both. And that's pretty much it.


Last edited by Greywander on Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:40 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

Post  AProcrastinatingWriter on Sat Feb 23, 2013 12:54 am

I have no real strong feelings and will probably annoy you considering my one and only "potent question" isn't all that potent, but...

...why call it "Anarchy"? A lack of organized government (literal definition) or a general sense of chaos (usual connotation) have nothing to do with self-serving or even self-improvement.

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Re: Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

Post  Philadelphus on Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:17 am

Greywander wrote:Now, there's no reason villains can't be harmonious with their allies and minions, so that's not quite the problem, but what about loner characters, or one member parties?
It was my understanding that "Harmony", in the handbooks, was meant to refer primarily to the harmony of the world as a whole, not merely between party members. So anything the party does to increase the overall harmony of the world is reflected in their Harmony. The party's harmony is more or less irrelevant, as I doubt there are many parties out there without their fair share of bickering and arguing, which is pointed out in the handbook and stated not to be cause for losing Harmony (unless in extreme cases). Thus a one-member party has no problem gaining Harmony by performing actions that increase the world's harmony. (Also, I'm curious now, how many such parties actually exist out there?)

Greywander wrote:Let's not forget that the way the game scales as you level (specifically, that it doesn't) makes it entirely possible to "beat" a campaign while at level 1, so the discrepancy in power between those who advance only in one track and those who advance in both wouldn't be game breaking.
I'm not sure what you mean about the game not scaling. It does scale, it's just that the scaling happens "under the hood" so to speak and is not necessarily highly visible. But according to the GM's handbook, combat enemies that might be a challenging fight at level 1 should be easily beatable – perhaps in a single round – at level 10. Also, I know I remember seeing discussion about lowering DCs for various actions. Exampla gratia, some difficult activity like climbing a particular mountain at level 1 might be a DC of 35 or 40, but by the time level 10 rolls around it might only be 15 or 10.

Anyway, neither of those picked nits really reflect the idea itself, which is... interesting. I'll have to think about it for a bit.

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Re: Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

Post  Greywander on Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:56 am

AProcrastinatingWriter wrote:I have no real strong feelings and will probably annoy you considering my one and only "potent question" isn't all that potent, but...

...why call it "Anarchy"? A lack of organized government (literal definition) or a general sense of chaos (usual connotation) have nothing to do with self-serving or even self-improvement.
It's explained in the link given right after the first time the name is mentioned (or right here). Short story, it came from something else I was developing, where I needed a seven letter long acronym for chaos, and that was the best I could come up with at the time. I suppose "Liberty" would also fit the bill, but it sounds kind of... cheesy. And not quite what I was going for.

Philadelphus wrote:It was my understanding that "Harmony", in the handbooks, was meant to refer primarily to the harmony of the world as a whole, not merely between party members. So anything the party does to increase the overall harmony of the world is reflected in their Harmony. The party's harmony is more or less irrelevant, as I doubt there are many parties out there without their fair share of bickering and arguing, which is pointed out in the handbook and stated not to be cause for losing Harmony (unless in extreme cases). Thus a one-member party has no problem gaining Harmony by performing actions that increase the world's harmony. (Also, I'm curious now, how many such parties actually exist out there?)
Ah, this might actually be true, so I might be in error here. Wouldn't that power up all the NPCs including the villain, though, if "Harmony" meant "harmony of the world" rather than "harmony in the group"? If we use the Mane 6 as an example, wasn't the whole point to increase their personal harmony between each other in order to make them stronger, rather than to arbitrarily increase the harmony of the world to make them stronger?

And I wouldn't say to remove Harmony over minor bickering between party members, but more serious issues like physically assaulting party members, or interfering in their romantic or familial relationships, stuff like that would result in a loss of Harmony generally. Anything that would actually damage their friendship.

Philadelphus wrote:I'm not sure what you mean about the game not scaling. It does scale, it's just that the scaling happens "under the hood" so to speak and is not necessarily highly visible. But according to the GM's handbook, combat enemies that might be a challenging fight at level 1 should be easily beatable – perhaps in a single round – at level 10. Also, I know I remember seeing discussion about lowering DCs for various actions. Exampla gratia, some difficult activity like climbing a particular mountain at level 1 might be a DC of 35 or 40, but by the time level 10 rolls around it might only be 15 or 10.
Hmm, this is another good point. What I meant by things not scaling was that, e.g. you don't gain hit points as you level up, making it just as easy to die at level 10 as at level 1, nor do your skills increase as you level up (although in the above system, you'd gain a couple of extra points), which means you always get the same bonuses to skill checks. There are some utility talents that render less powerful versions obsolete, such as the flying ones, but for the most part, each utility talent is just as useful at level 10 as it was at level 1.

Basically, at level 10, all your tricks and abilities are just as useful as they were at level 1, you just have a few more of them.

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Re: Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

Post  AProcrastinatingWriter on Sat Feb 23, 2013 2:16 am

Yeah, but why chaos? Chaos and Harmony aren't opposite things; Chaos and Order are.

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Re: Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

Post  Greywander on Sat Feb 23, 2013 2:33 am

AProcrastinatingWriter wrote:Yeah, but why chaos? Chaos and Harmony aren't opposite things; Chaos and Order are.
Well, Harmony can be seen as a balance of Order and Chaos, but in this context I'm using it as an idealistic expression of Order: not enough that it becomes Authoritarian, but just the right amount. Harmony, even in the show, seems to be about friendship, and getting along as a group (not to mention that it seems directly opposed by Discord, the "spirit of Chaos"). Chaos, as sort of the supplement to that, is about the individual. This isn't really about Order and Chaos, but the Community vs. the Individual. The two aren't necessarily opposed, and ideally you'll have a balance of both. I realize "Anarchy" doesn't quite work as an idealistic expression of Chaos, but I came up with the term while limiting myself to certain constraints, and even when I moved on to something else where those constraints no longer applied, the name still stuck. It kind of works if you think of Anarchy as self-government, being able to carry yourself as a strong and capable person without needing to rely on others to tell you what you should be doing.

If you consider the negative aspects of Order (authoritarianism, suppression of the individual identity, suppression of creative thought, reliance on the system, etc.), then it's easy to see what the positive aspects of Chaos would be, and how they would mesh well with the idea of Harmony presented in MLP. This is why I have you gaining both Harmony and Anarchy alongside one another, instead of doing it either/or.

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Re: Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

Post  AProcrastinatingWriter on Sat Feb 23, 2013 2:49 am

Well, that was pretty darn well thought out.

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Re: Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

Post  Philadelphus on Sat Feb 23, 2013 6:19 am

Greywander wrote:Ah, this might actually be true, so I might be in error here. Wouldn't that power up all the NPCs including the villain, though, if "Harmony" meant "harmony of the world" rather than "harmony in the group"? If we use the Mane 6 as an example, wasn't the whole point to increase their personal harmony between each other in order to make them stronger, rather than to arbitrarily increase the harmony of the world to make them stronger?

And I wouldn't say to remove Harmony over minor bickering between party members, but more serious issues like physically assaulting party members, or interfering in their romantic or familial relationships, stuff like that would result in a loss of Harmony generally. Anything that would actually damage their friendship.
I think the idea is that the party gains strength through doing harmonious actions, whether those actions are between individuals in the party or the world at large. NPCs don't level up because they didn't do anything to increase the harmony (unless they did, and subject to GM whims, of course). And villains don't get stronger because they generally embark on courses that tend towards decreasing the harmony of the world anyway.

Second paragraph I definitely agree with.

Greywander wrote:Hmm, this is another good point. What I meant by things not scaling was that, e.g. you don't gain hit points as you level up, making it just as easy to die at level 10 as at level 1, nor do your skills increase as you level up (although in the above system, you'd gain a couple of extra points), which means you always get the same bonuses to skill checks. There are some utility talents that render less powerful versions obsolete, such as the flying ones, but for the most part, each utility talent is just as useful at level 10 as it was at level 1.

Basically, at level 10, all your tricks and abilities are just as useful as they were at level 1, you just have a few more of them.
True. Like I said, all the scaling is done by the GM behind the scenes. But yeah, I agree that most skills stay pretty much the same as you level up.

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Re: Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

Post  Greywander on Sat Feb 23, 2013 6:49 am

Philadelphus wrote:I think the idea is that the party gains strength through doing harmonious actions, whether those actions are between individuals in the party or the world at large.
I see what you're saying, but I think this is open to alternative interpretations. From a certain perspective, I can agree. It's like if you help Farmer Brown harvest his crops and are rewarded with XP, suddenly gaining the ability to swing your sword harder. Similarly, doing quests that "increase the harmony of the world" would reward you with Harmony XP, even if it doesn't necessarily make sense for that to correlate to group harmony, just like harvesting crops shouldn't correlate to your skill with a sword. We do it this way because we want to advance the story, and we do so by offering rewards such as XP, even if it doesn't make complete sense for the quest to improve your skills. The world being more harmonious won't make you stronger, but we set that aside for the sake of the game because we want to advance the story.

NPCs don't level up because they didn't do anything to increase the harmony (unless they did, and subject to GM whims, of course). And villains don't get stronger because they generally embark on courses that tend towards decreasing the harmony of the world anyway.
The simulationist in me wants to disagree with you on that one. My more reasonable side is forced to agree with you. NPCs, including villains, are exactly as strong as they need to be. It would be a little ridiculous to keep track of the exploits of every NPC and measure how much XP they had earned from them, so it's much easier to just assign a level to them without worrying about how they got there.

What about villain PCs, though? What about characters, villainous or not, with some kind of hidden agenda? A personal goal they're striving for and the world can burn for all they care? This sort of intrigue within the party can make for some interesting twists, and I think that players should be rewarded for investing so much in their characters rather than just tagging along with the group.

True. Like I said, all the scaling is done by the GM behind the scenes. But yeah, I agree that most skills stay pretty much the same as you level up.
The end result being, that at level 10, it doesn't matter quite so much if you're level 10 in both Harmony and Anarchy, or only one of them. All the under-the-hood scaling still gets applied as you level up along one track, leveling up along both just gives you a few extra perks. Boons and Destinies are a pretty big deal, I suppose, but all the more incentive to work on both tracks, and there's a good chance you'll have at least a few levels in one by the time you reach level 10 in the other.

I still haven't gotten any comments on the heart of the system, which is a level up mechanic that allows either group synergy OR self fulfillment as a means of advancement, but rewards doing both at the same time. It allows for more diverse character types, in my opinion. I mean, hay, you can even have the PCs form multiple parties, with the syngetic group with lots of Harmony but not so much Anarchy occasionally teaming up with the loner with little Harmony but lots of Anarchy. That way, the more Harmonic characters won't get held back by the loners, and it makes it interesting if the loner ever does formally join the party, as the whole party would take a hit to Harmony until the loner was comfortably integrated.

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Re: Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

Post  Hayatecooper on Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:14 pm

As I mentioned. I really like this, being able to level up while looking after number one above the party? I can certainly appreciate that. My only issue is that, if I wanted to play a purely anarchy character, I'm going to be WAY better then a character who players a purely harmony character. Just looking at the elevel up table.

Spoiler:

Level 2: Utility Talent, Combat Trait

Level 3: [H] Tier 1 Boon, [A] Tier 1 Destiny

Level 4: Combat Trait, [A] 1 Attribute point

Level 5: Utility Talent, Combat Trait

Level 6: [H] Tier 2 Boon, [A] Tier 2 Destiny

Level 7: Combat Trait, [H] Utility Talent

Level 8: Utility Talent, Combat Trait, Element Upgrade*

Level 9: Combat Talent, [A] 1 Attribute point

Level 10: [H] Tier 3 Boon, [A] Tier 3 Destiny

As an Anarchy player I gain access to
additional attribute points, A destiny(which is far powerful then a boon(Which I can probably convince a harmonious player to let me use anyhow)), and I think I gain probably one less utility though one more combat trait, though I might be reading it wrong so don't quote me on the last part.

My suggestion would be to allow both access to boons/destinies. However maybe give the Anarchy player only access to Attribute points or combat options and the Harmony player only access to Utilities. This way, players are going to feel the need to play more diversely in both fields rather then stick to one or the other.

I do seriously like this though! And I feel it would make a great addition to the game.

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Re: Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

Post  Greywander on Tue Feb 26, 2013 9:27 pm

After getting some feedback over Skype, I've come to the conclusion that this simply won't work as it is. The major problem is that the afore mentioned scaling happens behind the scenes, rather than being mechanical. The DC for skill challenges, as well as the difficulty of enemies both scale according to level. An enemy that posed a challenge at level 1 will be a simple minion at level 6, for example. The main reason why this is incompatible with my proposed system is that the default system assumes all PCs are the same level. Skill challenges would be easier to scale, since they're more of a one person thing, but combat would be more difficult. The way I see it, there are three ways of resolving this:

1. Alter the proposed system such that PCs will all have the same level. This would probably mean that only Harmony would grant levels, while Anarchy would grant other bonuses independent of level.

2. Alter the default system to allow for characters of different levels. This might mean imposing HP and damage bonuses or penalties on characters of different levels.

3. Ignore the issue. GMs will tailor a combat encounter to suit a party as it is, so they can just pretend all PCs are the same level as each other for combat purposes.

(1) Kind of defeats the purpose of this system, although it might be the best route. I don't like (2), as one of the major selling points of the game is the distinction between combat and noncombat, and this would make RPing rather directly affect combat. The problem with (3) is that it can get ridiculous if one character is level 10 and another is level 1. If (2) and (3) were combined, it would allow for difference in level to make a difference in combat without being too extreme. Something as simple as giving overleveled characters bonus resist and underleveled characters extra vulnerability. You CAN use Harmony as a baseline, since all characters will be at least the Harmony level, and then hand out small boosts to those over that baseline, for example.

Of course, the other route to take would be (1), in which accumulated Anarchy could be spent on various bonuses instead of gaining you levels. It might still affect combat, if we allow players to purchase combat traits with Anarchy. We may or may not want to move Destinies back to Harmony if we go this route. This would need some more thought, as this wasn't how I originally planned for Anarchy to be implemented, but I think it could work.

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Re: Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

Post  Fury of the Tempest on Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:29 pm

To be honest, I dislike the entire idea from the start.

Don't get me wrong, it is a well thought out idea, and I have to give you kudos for that.

But having two ways to level up just feels... so utterly, utterly wrong. It goes against all my RPing experience.

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Re: Alternate Leveling System - Because Friendship isn't always Magic

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Thu Feb 28, 2013 8:14 pm

Philadelphus wrote:
I think the idea is that the party gains strength through doing harmonious actions, whether those actions are between individuals in the party or the world at large. NPCs don't level up because they didn't do anything to increase the harmony (unless they did, and subject to GM whims, of course). And villains don't get stronger because they generally embark on courses that tend towards decreasing the harmony of the world anyway.

This is correct. Of course, you can provide XP rewards for anything you like. The core concept is to tie it to "Completing Objectives" rather than "Killing Monsters". This helps tremendously in encouraging players to solve things in interesting ways, encourages roleplaying over roll-playing, makes it more useful to learn about the world and its characters and makes the players less trigger/murder happy.

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