Chimera Advancement

Let's try this.

Character advancement in Chimera is a tricky thing. The idea of "level" in Chimera is decoupled from "ability," and while I have my reasons for this disconnect, I don't think it really works in the player expectation department. So here's a bit of a tweak.

My Beef

In most RPGs, class abilities are tied directly to level. There are a few issues I have with this model.

Level Up

You think these weirdos are carbon copies?

First, it creates carbon-copy characters, so if you know a character's class and level, you pretty much know exactly what he can (and can't) do. In a D&D-ish system, all magic-users of a certain level have the same number of spell slots at each spell level. All 4th-level fighters have 4d8 (or 4d10) hit points. All 1st-level thieves have an 85% chance to climb walls. Depending on the system, 1st-level clerics can't cast spells. Et al.

Second, level-based abilities can limit character development. What if you want to play an elementalist pyromaniac wizard? No fireball until he reaches 5th-level. What if you want a crackerjack thief who excels at picking locks, but sucks at finding traps? No dice--thief abilities are level-based. The issue here is that character ability can't deviate from the level-based path.

Third, level can get in the way when building NPCs. You want a street urchin who can pick pockets with a 60% chance of success? Better make him a 9th-level thief. But then you get all the 9th-level baggage, like 9d4 hit dice and 9th-level saving throws, and the ability to read magical scrolls. This is an urchin--some street kid who runs with Fagin, not the Grey Mouser. As a GM, I want to assign abilities without necessarily abiding by level requirements.

Chimera's (Original) Approach

Granted, I could address all of the above with some house rules or new classes, but that's extra work. What I really want is a system that addresses these issues with a built-in mechanic.

Now, Chimera already decouples level from ability--in the rules, ability is a measure of what you can do; "level" is a measure of overall capability. Two 4th-level Chimera fighters could have vastly different fighting ability, and their non-combat skills are based on player choice, not class restrictions.

But it really doesn't solve the problem of "level" being an indicator of class effectiveness. A 4th-level fighter should be better at fighting than a 2nd-level fighter, though this isn't necessarily true in Chimera. By allowing full player agency to character advancement, "level" loses some meaning.

Maybe too much player choice? Problem not solved.

So here's a potential solution.

Alternate Advancement Rules

At the end of every adventure, your character can check to see if he's improved his capabilities. Make an Advancement Roll against a Target Number equal to your Advancement Cost plus your current experience level, with the following results:

Critical Failure (CF): 1 improvement point
Normal Failure (NF): 2 improvement points
Normal Success (NS): 3 improvement points
Critical Success (CS): 4 improvement points

1-point Improvements

  • Remove an existing Flaw; at the GM’s discretion (and depending on the Flaw), this may require constant effort
  • Gain 1d6 mana
  • Gain a non-class Ability at AR +0

2-point Improvements

  • Improve a non-class Ability by AR +1
  • Gain new Perk
  • Gain a new power

3-point Improvements

  • Improve existing Perk
  • Improve a class Ability by AR +1.
  • Gain a new Sperk: Choose from race/class options; increase AdCost accordingly

4-point Improvements

  • Level up: add one level and apply +1 bonus to one of the following: class Ability, MR, WL, DF, or IM
  • New Class: Gain access to the new Abilities and Sperks (Abilities already possessed gain a bonus of AR +1); increase AdCost accordingly

Final Words

So you make an Advancement Roll, determine how many points you get, and spend accordingly. The weights are such that levelling up means being better at your class, and thus level becomes a better indicator of class ability. If you roll badly, you can still improve your character, but those improvements tend to impact non-class abilities.

Also, no matter what result you get on your Advancement Roll, you get something. This is different than the current advancement guidelines, wherein it's possible to fail roll after roll and get nothing for the effort. Talk about demoralising. On that basis alone, I think this approach is a little more encouraging.

And, because of the Improvement Point weights, the advancement arc is such that as the character's level increases, it becomes harder to improve class-based abilities. But characters still have opportunities to round-out their non-class skill set.

Thoughts? Does this make more sense than the current model?

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