Tuesday, February 6, 2024

New Salem: Renaissance Mechanics - Experience

One of the great innovations in D&D was the Experience Point, the idea that characters could improve from session to session. There has been a lot of ink spilled over the years concerning D&D's Treasure Recovered = Experience Gained system, but I'm all for it. Since getting gold out of the dungeon requires exploration, diplomacy, shenanigans, and strategic use of violence, GP makes an excellent synecdoche for the dungeon experience. Plus you then used that money to outfit yourself for the next delve to get MORE money.... It's a great feedback loop. 

I bring this up because V&V... does not have that well defined a system. Part of it is that by being such pure genre emulation (as opposed to D&D, which started as a game that absorbed genre elements), V&V is inherently story based:

Unlike Champions, which came out between 1st and 2nd editions of V&V, with it's point based design and experience, Villains & Vigilantes is an experience and level game. It's not class based - there's only the one experience chart - but it follows the model of "do these things to earn experience, and experience translates to increases in level, which provides incremental character improvement. I'll get to the improvement part tomorrow, but lets look at what gets you experience. 

  1. Capturing villains and turning them in to the authorities. This earns the villains (Hit points + Power Score) * Level *2. 
    1. So if the PCs manage to defeat the first villain I created for New Salem, the Hustler, he's worth (19+58)*5*2 = 770 experience. The Solids, his gang, are all big beefy guys with combat experience. Each is 2nd level, with 15 S, 13 E, 12 A and 10 I, for 13 HP and 50 Power, so each is worth (13+50)*2*2 = 260. Taking in the whole gang is 3,110 experience split between the heroes. 
  2. Donating reward money to charitable causes. Whenever you hand someone in the possible reward is 100*Charisma*level for super-villains and 10*Charisma*level for normal villains - half that if the villain is not already wanted for a crime. The chance of there being a reward at all is a d% vs. 1/10th the reward amount. 
    1. The Hustler with is 15 C and super-powers is worth a cool $7,500 in reward money - assuming he's wanted for something. (Given the corrupt nature of the New Salem police, maybe he's not!). The Solids all have 10 C, and thus have a 20% chance each of having $200 rewards placed on them (again, assuming they are wanted). On average that's $360, but we'll call it $500 for ease of example. (If you're curious with inflation that $8000 reward would be about $25,000 today.) 
  3. Bonus Experience, where as an optional rule outstanding ingenuity or survival through incredible events can earn between 1 and 500 experience. 
    1. This is GM controlled but I say they get, ummmm 90 bonus XP.
You don't have to donate reward money - more on that later - but lets assume the PCs do. That's 3,110 + (8000/10) + 90 bonus experience = 4000. If there are 4 PCs, that's 1000 each for taking down a level 2 Node. That's enough to take the characters halfway from 1st to 2nd level, or more likely 1/3 of the way between 2nd and 3rd. 

Note some weirdness in this: Hustler isn't worth more experience because of his probability control or combat skill; his heightened strength adds some to his HP and Power score, but otherwise it's all in his level. So the Living Ghost with permanent Non-Corporality, Disintegration Ray, and Reduced Endurance (HP 3, Power Score 37) is almost impossible to hit, does devastating damage, and is worth minimal experience. Someone in an early issue of White Wolf magazine produced a chart of experience point value increases by powers possessed, but I don't think we ever used it. 

Also the assumption of reward collection: the game assumes that you are collecting reward money for villains defeated and then, most likely, turning around and donating it for experience points or charisma awards. Unlikely everything else in the game collecting rewards is WILDLY out of character for Silver and Bronze age supers. Heroes that do this in comics have this as their shtick - Heroes for Hire and the the super-mercenary Paladin in Marvel - and in that latter case he gets grief over it. 

Maybe the game posits this is happening in the background where the rewards set aside for villains Superman captures just immediately go to the Global Kittens In Trees fund or something. It does make Prejudice a worse weakness since you're not likely able to collect rewards to translate to experience bonuses, which in this example are 20% of the experience point take. This makes some sense: 20% of the reward can be taken as cash, more XP or a chance at more Charisma as the players decide, to facilitate mercenary play but the assumption is everything is going to experience/charisma, but it would be nice if the rulebook laid this out a little more.

Especially since there's NOTHING in the game rules about the use of money in play (resources are alluded to in Inventing, but that's it).

Back to experience 

  • Not having a GP per XP equivalent means there isn't a broad based reward for performing basic genre duties. As I said, GP recovery is a synecdoche for everything else in D&D, and V&V doesn't have that abstraction for being a hero (outside of possible Charisma changes). 
  • The award for for capturing villains is closely related to the XP for killing monsters, because it's so highly specific. The donation of money for XP falls directly into this because only money you get from rewards can be donated. It's different reward tracks on the same action. 
  • There's some space for GMs to award bonus experience, but no guidelines as to what other than "very clever play" and "surviving incredible events". I'm likely going to draw elements from Palladium (at least the version in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other Strangeness which I have on hand), which has helpful awards for rescuing people (and kittens from trees!) and stopping disasters. 
  • For a game that explains itself to the GM as being story based, there are no experience awards for story beats because that technology hadn't been invented in 1982. 
  • the D&D Experience points per level curve works because in an OSR game the threats are self selected: the PCs pick how how deep to go in the dungeon and when to pull back, but just hanging around the 1st and 2nd levels of the dungeon quickly stops brining in meaningful amounts of XP, so you have to go deeper if you want to advance. New Salem kind of works for that because in 90% of the cases the villains in each higher node are higher level and worth more experience than the villains in lower nodes - the PCs can make consequential choices about pushing their luck, which also nets them more XP.

But what do you get per Level? is it enough to really say that higher level villains are worth that much more than lower level? I'll have to think a lot of that before tomorrow....

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