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Improvement Other Games

Getting Better

In the classic d100 systems, the core mechanism by which characters improve is the “experience check”. When a character uses a skill successfully in a demanding situation, they earn an experience check against that skill. Then, at a point of the referee’s choosing, a test is made to determine whether the character learned anything through the successful use of the skill. This is done by attempting to roll more than the current skill percentage on 1d100. Success means that the character gains some percentage points in that skill. It’s an elegant system that reflects that inexperienced characters are more likely to learn something new from the successful application of a skill than grizzled veterans who have seen it all before.

Hack100 will retain this general approach. However, there remains some scope for tinkering with both the frequency of the experience checks and how many additional percentage points a successful check yields.

Generally, the Chaosium games (e.g. RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu) call for checks at the end of each scenario when the character has had time to reflect on their experiences. However, the number of percentage points awarded for a successful check varies between games and their editions. Second edition RuneQuest awards 5%, whilst the third and most recent editions award 1d6% or 3% (the player chooses). The current version of Call of Cthulhu awards 1d10% (the most generous, but then CoC characters don’t tend to last very long!).

Maelstrom (which we covered in an earlier blog) favours the little-and-often approach. Rather than waiting for the end of each adventure, it allows players to make an experience check at the next convenient moment in the game, e.g. once the current combat is complete, or immediately following the completion of an activity. A successful roll increases the relevant skill by just 1%.

In my experience, end-of-scenario experience checks feel too infrequent. When you factor in that, as a character gains experience, the likelihood of making a successful check diminishes, it can lead to slow character progression. On the other hand, making experience checks after every successful application of a skill feels like it might be overly intrusive in the flow of the game. Overall, I feel making experience checks at the end of each game session strikes a good balance. And an increment of 1d5% for a successful check falls somewhere between the Chaosium and Maelstrom approaches whilst retaining Hack100’s preference for using ten-sided dice.

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