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Chimera Number Five

The 5th version of my thoughts, which are mine

I’ve been working steadily on the 5th printing of Chimera Basic. In the process, I’ve gained a better appreciation for what belongs in the (free) Basic volume, and what needs to be added to the (pay-for) Core (this is code for I’ve completed the outline for the Core Rules).

Mostly, I’ve taken a look at Chimera’s playability. While it's essentially where I want it, there are a few areas that have been nagging at me.

My plan is for the 5th printing of Chimera Basic to be the last and final update. Ignoring the fact that I’ve just jinxed myself, “last and final update” means that now’s the time to purge the canon of those few nagging bits.

Target Numbers

I discussed Target Numbers last week, but here’s a recap: Target Numbers are now based on action difficulty, not character skill. This means that the Target Number represents how hard an action is to pull off. Any external factor—character skill, environmental conditions, special gear, whatever—is applied as an modifier to the Action Roll itself.

This means that (1) there will be negative Action Roll modifiers, (2) Abilities will be noted with their AR modifier instead of their Target Number (e.g., “Fight +2” instead of “Fight/14”), and (3) it’ll be easier for the GM to assign TNs and for players to apply modifiers.

Not earth-shattering, but probably a measure of consistency that I should have adopted from the start. Prior to this, Chimera didn’t clarify whether to adjust AR or TN to reflect difficulty—now it’s fixed.


Chimera Basic combat divides an attack into two pieces: hitting a target and damaging a target. These are separate and distinct elements, meaning that hitting your foe does not guarantee damaging your foe.

sword parry

Defence in action

This is because Chimera places the responsibility for a successful attack on the attacker, and the work of avoiding damage on the defender. Without getting too deep into apologetics, the idea is that an attacker’s skill in hitting things already assumes that his target is trying not to be hit. When a target is hit, his Defence (DF) reduces the damage inflicted by the attacker. It’s possible for damage to be reduced to zero.

This is a high-level abstraction designed to make things fast—not capture every detail of a target’s effort to avoid being struck. Subsequently, Defence represents anything that blocks, absorbs, deflects, or otherwise reduces the impact of the blow. That could be armour, it could be physical constitution, or it might be mind-over-matter. It could also be a parrying move made with a shield, a weapon, a clever feign to the right, or knocking aside a thrust in Bruce Lee style.

Still, some folks would prefer a way to reduce being hit in the first place. So I offer the (optional) Parry stat, which is added to the attacker’s Target Number.

Parry starts at zero, but you can increase it with a shield (Parry +1), certain weapons (e.g., a quarterstaff gives Parry +2), certain Perks (Nimble), and maybe some new Sperks (like one that lets Veterans increase Parry by their Fight AR). Consider:

Bolaf (axe +2) attacks Griggurd, who wears leather armour (DF +1) and carries a shield (Parry +1). Bolaf's base Fight TN is 12; but his axe +2 combined with Giggurd’s Parry +1 adjust this to TN 11.

You’ll note that the defender doesn’t roll a “Parry die.” That would be a mistake, I think: aside from the fact that an extra die roll makes it more cumbersome during play, I don't like the idea of using parry to negate an attack that's already succeeded (and, despite the fact that Defence could absorb all damage, a hit is still a hit, which could have other, non-damaging effects—like a touch attack or falling from shaky ground, for example).

Being optional, Parry can be added to the target’s Defence if you want to keep things the way they are. Consider:

  • With Parry: Griggurd wears leather armour (DF +1) and shield (Parry +1); the shield makes him harder to hit, but when he's struck, his leather doesn't absorb as much damage.
  • Without Parry: Griggurd wears leather armour (DF +1) and shield (DF +1); the shield grants a total DF +2, so he's hit a little more often, but when he's struck, he absorbs more damage.


Turns out that I can’t stand Experience Points. I didn’t know this, but it’s true.

As a player, I hate keeping track of them. As a GM, I hate trying to figure out how many to dole out. Plus, XP can get infinitely granular—is it rewarded on a per adventure basis, or per session? do you give XP for treasure? magic? monsters killed? what about monsters captured? what if you sell a magic item? Ugh. On and on.

So I came up with another approach, based on Lord Kilgore’s Roll to Advance method. Here’s how it works:

Determine your character’s Advancement Cost normally (i.e., tally the AdCost for race and class(es) as before). After each adventure, roll 1d20 and subtract your character’s current level. If the modified d20 result equals or exceeds your AdCost, you advance and get a number of Improvement Points equal to your current level, as per the Basic rules for advancement.

Benefits? The higher your level, the harder it is to advance. Likewise, the higher your AdCost, the harder it is to advance (this helps curb players who insist on “front-loading “ their characters, so it’s now more important to make smart decisions about race and class combinations). This also creates an effective level cap, which works well in Chimera (wherein you can level-up or improve capabilities on separate tracks): eventually, you’ll achieve maximum level, which for characters already burdened with high AdCost values, makes a sort of “balanced” sense. [1] The final benefit? No Experience Points. Huzzah!

Final Words

These are the biggest changes. There are other bits, like no more monster classes (monster class abilities are better as Adaptations), powers now have a TN to Wield (instead of a level), unarmed combat is handled via the Athletics Ability, and (of course) there are many clarifications and typo fixes (a pestilence on typos, for all time, even).

Thoughts? Concerns? Suggestions? Let them be known in the Comments section.


1. Essentially, this is an Action Roll whose Target Number is your Adcost, penalised by your current level. Consider a Normal Human Veteran with 2 Sperks (AdCost 11). At 1st-level, he needs a 12 on the d20 to advance. At 2nd-level, he needs a 13; at 3rd-level, a 14; etc. This progression means that your highest level is (20 - AdCost). When the character attains maximum level, the GM has two choices: he might rule that the character cannot advance any further or, (and this is preferred) he may rule that a natural “20” on the Advancement roll lets him advance, but “Level-Up” is no longer an option—this at least lets the character improve his Abilities, Perks, powers, etc.

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  1. February 23rd, 2011 at 12:08 | #1

    From the perspective of experience awards, if you are giving out the same chance to level up upon each session, where is the benefit from taking on risks and challenges? How do you reward tough sessions, smart play, and conquering difficult foes?

    I haven’t been able to think of a way to do this while using these Roll to Advance schemes…

  2. February 23rd, 2011 at 13:19 | #2

    @Anthony : Good point. Two approaches come to mind:

    1. Reward tough sessions/challenges with a modifier to the advancement roll (e.g., +1 for each adventuring goal achieved)

    2. Reward tough sessions/challenges with a straight-up Improvement Point (+1 IP every time you overcome a “level boss” or similar)

    Remember also that the chance of advancement changes as a character Levels-up OR if they change their AdCost by acquiring a new Sperk.

  3. February 23rd, 2011 at 14:47 | #3

    I like the changes.

    Improving your stat by lowering it was no problem for me since I knew the mechanics behind it all. Trying to explain the same thing to people who are new and interested in the hobby however would probably have ended with either me or them breaking something.

    The optional parry rule seems fine. I will probably not be using it too much, though.

    The new new leveling system is great for me. I have similar issues handing out XP to the players and simply having the dice decide for them fits my thinking-pattern perfectly.

    When can we be expecting the release?

  4. February 23rd, 2011 at 16:28 | #4

    @Daniel : The moment I give a specific release date, the Norns will find fault with me and force me to change it. Would you settle for “soon?” ;)

    @Anthony : Just read through your posts about Roll to Advance — logical concerns all round. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on my two stop-gap solutions above.

  5. February 23rd, 2011 at 17:29 | #5

    It will have to do, since I am in no mood to be making threats at the moment.

  6. February 23rd, 2011 at 19:53 | #6

    @Daniel : Don’t blame me–it’s the Norns. Trust me. ;)

  7. February 23rd, 2011 at 21:18 | #7

    Experience points becomes a check? Okay, but I want to address a few things:

    1. This means that luck has an effect on character advancement, and really bad rolls can see a character fail to advance while their comrades march on ahead. One way to get around this, however, is that for every time the character fails an advancement check, their next advancement check gets a bonus, so it becomes easier, until they eventually pass. This, of course, simply replaces recording experience with an advancement bonus, but it does mitigate the effects of luck on not advancing.

    2. Whether points or checks, this doesn’t actually solve the issue of determining when to advance, which is the actual question at hand – it merely changes it from when to hand out experience to when to allow advancement checks. The GM still has to adjudicate when these occur. Note that your advancement check change actually directly answered the when question as part of the rule – the change itself was unnecessary.

    You may have missed this – you say “After each adventure, roll 1d20 and subtract your character’s current level.” Therefore, the answer the question when to hand out experience is also equally – “after each adventure.” It is equally viable for those GMs that dole out experience after each encounter to allow advancement checks after each encounter as well. So in reality, the GM issue of trying to determine when to give out experience is not a valid justification for this change, even though you make it sound like it is. Just something I thought you should be aware of, since it seems like you are not from the way your article reads.

    So for advancement, it basically comes down to either tracking points or a bonus for a level up, or to random checks during play, and I think that may lead to some inter-party balance issues, since luck doesn’t neccessarily balance out AdCost. A character with a low AdCost can still have bad luck and not advance, while a character with a higher AdCost could have good luck, and advance despite their higher AdCost, in which case, all balance for AdCosts are fairly moot.

    That said, an effective level cap is new, and may also have undesirable effects that may need to be tested before becoming shoehorned into Basic/Core and told that this IS the finished product. While it will require some smarter builds, it will render the effects of some Sperks less powerful than others – since not all Sperks use the ‘+ Level’ method, thus a character with a higher AdCost would be more inclined to take those Sperks that are not limited by Level, and thus not going to be affected by the effective cap based on advancement checks.

  8. February 23rd, 2011 at 22:30 | #8

    @Da’ Vane : Experience is an abstraction, and I’ll grant the much of the awarding of it should be up to the GM. “After each adventure” is subject to interpretation–it could be after each session of play, or after a complete scenario, or (if the GM is so inclined) at certain points along a story arc.

    As you imply, there is really no direct connection between character level and character ability. This is deliberate, but perhaps not well-communicated because I’m using terms that have long-standing RPG connotations. Think of “level” as how good a character is at adventuring in general–it affects how many improvement points you can earn at a time, effectiveness (but not success rate) of certain Abilities, poison onset time, effect of many Sperks and most Powers, and Resistance to hazards.

    Improvements (bought with Improvement Points) like Ability bonuses, Mana, Perks, and new Powers are separate. Again, deliberate, because I don’t like how “identical” characters tend to become in many level-based systems. This is how you get a corporate VP (high-level) who isn’t very good at his job (low Abilities) or an upstart Business Analyst (low-level) who constantly excels (high Abilities). I suspect most characters will fall somewhere in between.

    It’s also part of the challenge (dare I say fun) of Chimera. Do I level-up or spend points on other Improvements? How is the effect of certain improvements affected by my current level? Do I want a high AdCost for lots of “base” Abilties that take longer to improve, or a low AdCost for fewer Abilities that I can improve quickly? All part of what the player has to decide. I like the additional options and strategic approach more than “XP total –> certain level –> standard capabilities.”

    There is a luck factor to this approach, but that’s also intentional. It’s possible that a character didn’t learn anything during a mission. Not unlike how Chaosium’s skill advancement system worked–you check against each skill used during an adventure; if the check succeeds, you improve the skill. Straight XP rewards imply that characters advance merely by showing up and surviving, and I’m not a great fan of that approach.

    But, playtesting did show that the GM needs to consider some adventure-based bonuses (to Anthony’s point above). Like +1 for every adventure goal completed, to be shared by everyone who contributed to that goal. With enough bonuses (perhaps even awarded to individual PCs for special things), you can also overcome the level-cap.

    But such bonuses are easily balanced by frequency of Advancement Rolls. They’re not as important if you roll after every session, but they’re really important if you only check after each adventure or mission. Again, the GM has to find the right balance for the group. As with any other game, players won’t stand for a stingy GM, but they will appreciate a fair challenge.

  9. Greg MacKenzie
    February 24th, 2011 at 15:12 | #9

    Regarding Advancement, Darn! I had the XP all worked out for the Time Agent sessions and I had the Time Agents gain extra XP in a session if they followed UFGE policy and didn’t violate the Agent Guidelines, collected up EBE technology etc. I see a hole appearing in my page layout where that was. I’m not sure I like leaving all that hard work to a die roll in the end. Players do like collecting, it’s an important game element even if GM’s find it tedious. You may need some sort of mandatory advancement after a player completes X number of sessions because, as you may not know, I am terribly unlucky when it comes to die rolls.

    (When I say unlucky, I mean the die must have the digit 1 on all 20 sides…)

  10. February 24th, 2011 at 15:39 | #10

    @Greg MacKenzie : I don’t think you need to discard the material you wrote for Time Agents–just revise so that the rewards change from XP to Advancement bonuses. I’ll send my suggestions when I (finally) complete the promised edits.

    The luck factor can be a disappointment, but that’s…well, luck. In my experience (and biased as that is), GMs tend to reward experience/advancement opportunity based on merit, not a strict point count of roll of the die. Which is to say, the proposal above is a guideline that I happen to like enough to include in the rulebook, but which I am sure players and GMs will tweak to suit their respective playing styles.

    That said, I think a workable rule of thumb is that if you complete a number of sessions/adventures/plot points equal to your AdCost without a successful Advancement Roll, you get a freebie.

  11. February 24th, 2011 at 21:23 | #11

    @Erin: First off, you misunderstood a big part of my comments on experience and advancement checks. Quoting from your article above:

    “As a player, I hate keeping track of them. As a GM, I hate trying to figure out how many to dole out. Plus, XP can get infinitely granular—is it rewarded on a per adventure basis, or per session? do you give XP for treasure? magic? monsters killed? what about monsters captured? what if you sell a magic item? Ugh. On and on.”

    If particular interest is the “Is it rewarded on a per adventure basis, or per session?”

    Later on in the column, you provide the advancement check rules as follows:

    “Determine your character’s Advancement Cost normally (i.e., tally the AdCost for race and class(es) as before). After each adventure, roll 1d20 and subtract your character’s current level. If the modified d20 result equals or exceeds your AdCost, you advance and get a number of Improvement Points equal to your current level, as per the Basic rules for advancement.”

    Of interest here is the part that says “After each adventure,”

    These parts can be taken out separate from everything else in those sections – you provided a question and then directly answered it. But, this answer is not tied to the rules itself – it doesn’t matter whether you make an advancement check or grant experience points, you do it “after each adventure.”

    This is important, because you’ve set up the idea of advancement checks as a solution to a problem, when it isn’t. The solution isn’t in advancement checks at all – it’s in the direct answer of when advancement checks apply, which is equally applicable to experience points.

    Which brings us to what question advancement checks are actually supposed to be answering, and to be fair, I think it is merely the idea of recording things between adventures. It does this, but then you have the issues with luck, and everything else.

    The idea of providing a bonus for completing objectives is a good one, and helps promote the story, either for the entire campaign, the initial adventure, or the development of the character. These may help mitigate some of the luck, but there will still be that aspect of luck.

    Yet, as soon as you get into the realms of recording how long it’s been since the character advanced, you are getting to the point that you are still recording something, so it’s really little different than recording experience. This means that this is no longer an accurate justification for this change – if it was, then it’s back to the drawing board, or acceptance of the luck.

    All this ultimately brings us to the inclusion of luck in advancement, which as far as I am aware, has never really been a problem in the system.

    It should be noted that luck generally works against the players than for them overall, since the players are the ones that make the most dice rolls and are the people most affected by them. Therefore, something that is reliant on luck needs to always be considered in the terms of extremes and how it will work on behalf of the players.

    As for your workable rule of thumb that ” if you complete a number of sessions/adventures/plot points equal to your AdCost without a successful Advancement Roll, you get a freebie” – this is how experience generally works, and thus this is the very system you are seeking to replace. This is pretty much a clear indication that the advancement check system is, at best, an optional method – and serves only to give characters a chance to level up before they reach their full AdCost in plot points.

    I would strongly urge you to leave XP in the book as it is, and work on Advancement checks some more to get the kinks out of the system, otherwise you can be guaranteed that the 5th Printing will NOT be the final printing of Chimera Basic.

    There are other factors too – like some characters are more likely to survive to make advancement checks than others, and this is normally inversely proportional to the AdCost of the character, and thus their chance of actually advancing.

    Say that a standard character has a 50% chance of surviving an adventure, and then has a 50% chance of advancing following that adventure – this gives him a 25% chance of successfully advancing. We can use this as a control, because I really can’t be bothered to tweak the exact numbers – although it should be noted that he has a 50% chance of dying, a 25% of staying the same level, and a 25% chance of advancement.

    Take a stronger character, that has 75% chance of survive, but because they are initially stronger, they only have a 25% of advancing. They actually have a 19% chance of advancing, although they have a 25% chance of dying, a 56% chance of staying the same, and a 19% chance of advancement.

    A weaker character, on the other hand, has a 25% chance to survive, but should they do so they will have a 75% chance of advancing. They also have a 19% chance of advancement, but they have a 75% chance of dying, a 6% chance of staying the same, and a 19% chance of advancing.

    The chances of advancement stay the same for both the weaker and stronger characters, but the chances of failure are drastically different, and thus the stronger character actually has the highest chance of being able to make more than one advancement check.

    This means that advancement checks, while they may appear to promote balanced characters for the balance of the chance to advance versus the chance to survive, it actually promotes stronger characters because they will survive the longest and thus have the most opportunities to advance.

    This means they are naturally “fitter” – once you start adding in luck, you’ve just put in another factor against the PCs that makes survival that little bit harder, that makes the game a little bit harder, in an area where it shouldn’t be. In fact, this is pretty much the sort of area where, if it was a computer game, people would “Save and Reload” until they advanced, because failure is pretty much a death sentence.

    Unless you are aiming to turn Chimera RPG into a simple “Beer and Pretzels” game, this will pretty much be house-ruled out pretty sharpish.

  12. February 24th, 2011 at 21:32 | #12

    Hang on, did you just say that Improvement Points are SEPARATE from levels? Okay, now we’re just getting into realms of brokenness. In fact, it makes me wonder if the issue is not to do with experience and advancement at all, but to do with the use of levels in a game that doesn’t really need them.

    If levels improve randomly, then there’s a big clue that levels themselves are not all that important. Given the focus on improvement points, there may be cause to remove levels all together, given the limited effects that levels actually have. Instead, the improvements that levels would provide can very easily become improvements in their own right, and give the type of flexibility that you seem to be desiring for Chimera RPG.

    The design of Chimera RPG seems to be getting very broken and fragmented right now – almost schizophrenic in nature. Maybe Chimera Basic isn’t as finished as you thought it was?

  13. February 24th, 2011 at 22:00 | #13

    @Da’ Vane : Improvement Points have always been separate from level, by design, since, well, Chimera’s inception. I see that this approach is different and perhaps hard to appreciate from the standpoint of Experience/Advancement conventions, but it adds an element to the game that I want, which is a non-deterministic mode of character improvement.

    Levels and improvement points are ways to make your character better at what he does, but they’re not automatic. Even with ‘standard’ XP systems, many folks I’ve played with default to GM fiat. This is merely another approach that deliberately injects luck and choice into the mix.

    For me, it’s more fun to check if I advance (rather than know it based on an XP total), and I like the way this approach prompts the player to craft a character through levels and abilities instead of taking a cookie-cutter approach based on what “level” he is.

    Admittedly, not for everyone–I’ll concede that. This has been something I’ve worked with in a number of campaigns, with good results. YMMV.


    This means that advancement checks, while they may appear to promote balanced characters for the balance of the chance to advance versus the chance to survive, it actually promotes stronger characters because they will survive the longest and thus have the most opportunities to advance.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head: the advancement check system isn’t meant to balance characters. It’s meant to promote Darwinian characters. While there’s an element of luck inherent to the system, there is also the player’s strategy in how he advances his character, when the opportunity to advance comes along. A character who improves abilities, perks, mana, etc. over level gain will be better at his chosen class, but if he neglects level-ups, he’ll be more vulnerable to Hazards, have less effective abilities/powers, and gain fewer improvement points when he does advance. It’s all part of the mix–quality vs. quantity. My goal is to promote strategic thinking in advancement instead of merely applying XP to gain a level and the skills that automatically go with it.

  14. Greg MacKenzie
    February 25th, 2011 at 06:28 | #14

    Erin D. Smale :@Greg MacKenzie : I don’t think you need to discard the material you wrote for Time Agents–just revise so that the rewards change from XP to Advancement bonuses. I’ll send my suggestions when I (finally) complete the promised edits.
    The luck factor can be a disappointment, but that’s…well, luck. In my experience (and biased as that is), GMs tend to reward experience/advancement opportunity based on merit, not a strict point count of roll of the die. Which is to say, the proposal above is a guideline that I happen to like enough to include in the rulebook, but which I am sure players and GMs will tweak to suit their respective playing styles.
    That said, I think a workable rule of thumb is that if you complete a number of sessions/adventures/plot points equal to your AdCost without a successful Advancement Roll, you get a freebie.

    I was thinking along the same lines about the Session Advancement/Advancement Bonuses last night. :) I had a thought too that the cover could even have the potential number of Advancement Bonus points on it which could be accumulated in the course of the adventure. That might be attractive to GMs and Players as a partial evaluation of the potential for advancement contained in the adventure. If you see a high number you know your going to work for it.

  15. February 25th, 2011 at 08:55 | #15

    @Erin: In the last few printings, Level and Improvement Points were integrated into the same system of advancement. Now you are breaking this up again? It’s not hard to understand or appreciate – what is hard to appreciate is the sudden reversal in your design philosophy on this.

    So, in short, it IS all about luck because you dislike experience – it’s not actually solving any problems like you make it out to do so, it’s just a personal preference thing. Okay, I’ll buy that, even though it does pretty render much of your arguments pointless, since it comes down to “I like it this way, and that’s that.”

    I am going to go out on a limb here, but I don’t think you understand your own system properly, Erin. You seem to be basing issues you perceive within Chimera RPG on issues you’ve experienced from other game systems, and designing accordingly.

    For a start, not all systems use the XP => Level => Skills format that you seem to have issue with. In fact, Chimera RPG 3.0 doesn’t have that. Chimera RPG 3.0 is XP => Improvement Points => Improvement Options, which can then be spent on improving your characters in many areas, of which a level increase is just one option. This already solves the issue of promoting strategic thinking on whether to increase level or gain new skills, sperks, or other improvements.

    From my understanding, you are changing the initial point of XP to Advancement checks, so that it becomes AdCheck => Improvement Points = Improvement Options in Chimera RPG. This same assumption, because you are simply replacing XP with an Advancement Check, means that the issue with other systems still remains – except that it’s now AdCheck => Level => Skills.

    Whenever you talk about these you seem to see this as one unbreakable step, yet it is actually a range of different steps, and this is where you seem to be getting confused, because your comments and arguments don’t make sense.

    You keep trying to justify changes to the XP part of the process with the way the other, later steps in the process works, which I can only assume are the same as Chimera RPG 3.0. Therefore, a lot of your arguments are irrelevant, if only by the virtue that the later steps in the process replace later steps in the same process for other systems.

    Unless I’ve gone wrong in my assumptions somewhere – but the only way I can perceive this to be true is if you are pulling level advancement out so that it no longer uses Improvement Points like it did in Chimera RPG 3.0 up till this point, but rather becomes a separate rate of advancement on it’s own. But then, this essentially means you have TWO different ways of advancement – one which is AdCheck => Level, and a second which is XP => Improvement Points => Improvement Options. This means that you aren’t actually getting rid of XP at all, but just rather implies that you’ve got something against levels.

    The thing, at the crux of the discussion, is that you consistently think of Levels => Skills, and basically, in Chimera RPG 3.0, they don’t do that. A Level increase increases level specific effects (including Resistance Rolls and Clutch Situations), and provides a permanent advancement to a statistic of your choice. This makes characters better, sure, but Levels are not as important in Chimera RPG 3.0 as they are in other systems. In fact, Levels can very easily be replaced completely, by moving all the improvements that Level advancement provides and putting them under Improvement Options to be acquired with Improvement Points.

    If you really want to put in luck in character advancement, then maybe it’s better off to have a static Advancement Check with cumulative bonuses for each completed plot point, and forget all about AdCosts. Instead, let characters start with a set number of Improvement Points to begin with from character creation, to ensure balanced characters, and have done with it.

    Even if you keep everything else the same, 10 Improvement Points to start with will build survivable characters, and they will need them. Levels and Sperks are easily converted into pure Improvement Points – their cost is equal to the character’s current level. Those characters taking weaker classes are going to need the extra Improvement Points just to be able survive, especially given that in most cases, the only way to survive combat (the last resort) is to create combat-capable characters, so non-combat classes will need to be able to take combat-orientated options just to make it through to their next Advancement Check.

    You can be sure that Darwinian characters are combat characters, simply because adventures involve conflict, and the ultimate in conflict is combat. A GM may allow success to include running away, but this gets tedious and is, in fact, extremely counter-intuitive – and probably just as bad as simply turning up and surviving.

    Where you may think this promotes strategy, you clearly do not understand evolution enough – it promotes the development of a single, winning strategy. However, this is easier said than done in an ever changing environment, like a living ecosystem, but within a more or less static one such as a roleplaying game system, this will be fairly easy to do in a short manner of time – particularly if you already have experience with similar systems and know their “winning strategies” for Darwinian characters.

    For those that don’t know – Veterans with the Buttress sperk will simply own the game. Add in Parry, and you have a game breaker. Is this the type of strategic thinking you wanted to promote? Because that didn’t take much thinking, and doesn’t have much strategy. It consists of giving your character the maximum chance of survival to make advancement checks. No matter how long it takes, they will get lucky sooner or later, while other characters die repeatedly and might never get those chances. Everything else the player wants to do can then go on top of that build – spellcasting, stealth, ranged combat, diplomacy, you name it.

    Of course, you have the fact that if the Veteran survives, he’s probably also helping his team mates survive, so even the weaker characters then get the option to advance. How do you think he’s going to feel when they are all advancing and he’s not, just because of luck, even though he’s necessary to their very survival? Maybe they’ll advance to the point they will turn around and help him survive, but he’ll still be saddled with the low chance to advance because he’s favoured survivability over advancement and helped the others survived.

    Or he could simply let them die, repeatedly. Did I mention that? Nothing builds a team faster than letting the weaker members die. That’s also Darwinism – it favours some very selfish game playing, which simply doesn’t work all that well in the context of a Roleplaying Game.

  16. Greg MacKenzie
    February 25th, 2011 at 13:54 | #16

    The answers Erin has provided to the direction he plans to take the rules are clear and practical. I don’t have my copy of the current rules in front of me but if I look at the Adcost of the player characters that I have designed as of now:

    Anatoly Borodin (Vet 1; Adcost 11; MR 8″; WL 6 (2/+4); DF 4 (0/+4); RS 16; AT (see below); AB Athletics/16, Fight/16, Shoot/16, Academics*/18, Street Smarts*/16; SP Buttress: Double the DF of a single piece of armour Ballistic Clothing DF+2, SP Enemy Mine: Dmg +1 v.s. Type I EBEs, SP Dead Eye: Missile Dmg +1, SP Mighty Blow: Melee Dmg +1)


    Kristen Willow (Men 1; Adcost 6; MR 8″; WL 3 (2/+1); DF 2 (0/+2) Ballistic Clothing DF+2; RS 19; AT (see below); AB Observe/16, Wield/14, Academics*/17, Shoot*/18; SP Mind Blank, SP Divination: Esp/17)

    Clearly, the Mentalist with an Adcost of 6 would progress a little more easily than the Vet with an Adcost of 11 but that need not mean levelling up. There’s only a difference of 4 points between the characters as they are designed now. I don’t see that as a game breaker. If you factor in a bonus to the die roll as Erin proposes for completing specific goals in the sessions, the chance to improve the character improves. I really don’t have a problem with it. As a GM there is a lot less to calculate and keep track of. The point is to be creative not a bean counter. The player character’s actions then influence if they improve. I don’t mind the idea of a check.

    If there is an advancement concern over points the GM can mandate players have similar adcosts within 2 points or something of each other if you had to keep the “team balanced”. Obviously the other characters would have to be multi classed to put them in that range, but the real point here is that the rules are not inflexible.

    I think the game would be worse off without a strong fighting character class.

  17. February 25th, 2011 at 15:27 | #17

    @Greg MacKenzie : I think you could convert the XP awards in your draft directly to advancement check bonuses, though I would divide the total evenly amongst the (surviving) PCs.

    I also like your idea of posting total advancement bonus on an adventure or scenario. It’s probably the best guideline for an adventure’s difficulty, and potential for improvement upon successful conclusion.

  18. February 26th, 2011 at 04:21 | #18

    @Greg: Um, 11 – 6 = 5, not 4.

    I went back to confirm, and realised I totally misread the part of Advancement Checks, as it does indeed say you get Improvement Points rather than level. This was my mistake, and cleared a few things up. I thought it was a bit strange you were breaking levelling up away from advancement again, since I thought this was a good idea.

    However, it’s understandable to see why one would think this, since it is level, and level only, which affects the Advancement Check. This means that increasing level actually makes it harder to advance, yet taking any other sort of improvement besides Classes or Sperks (which increase AdCost) do not. Unless you have a game with a lot of Resistance checks and/or Combat, levels simply aren’t that important until you’ve built your character, and thus aren’t that good unless you’ve taken a lot of Sperks that rely on level.

    This is particularly important now that you’ve got Parry as an ability, since skill improvements would NOT affect the character’s chances of advancement, yet are possibly just as good as helping a character to survive combat as armour and Defence. The other concern, as always, is powers. The advancement system itself provides some balance for this with Improvement Points equal to level, and therefore to get the better stuff, they may need to take a level or two first, but it still doesn’t resolve the issue that upon reaching the sweet spot to access things, characters can avoid taking levels completely, and thus remain constant in their Advancement checks.

    Taking the characters you have designed now, the Veteran with the AdCost of 11, means the character needs to roll 10+ to advance: That’s a 50% chance. Comparably, the Mentalist with an Adcost of 6, means the character needs to roll 5+ to advance, meaning they have a 75% chance to advance. That means respectively, they have a 50% and a 25% chance not to advance, giving the Veteran twice as much chance not to advance as the Mentalist.

    More importantly, the Veteran has a 25% to fail to advance after two adventures, where as the mentalist only has a 6% chance to not advance after two adventures. After three adventures, the Veteran has a 13% chance not to advance, where as the Mentalist would have a 2% chance not to advance.

    Creativity aside, a rule that needs to be house ruled into effectiveness isn’t all that good as a rule. it still doesn’t overcome the basic fact that much of this is change for changes sake, since it doesn’t actually handle any of the issues that Erin claims that it addresses. It merely adds luck into advancement, which is definitely a personal preference thing.

    As for putting Advancement Bonus on the cover of the adventure – this is only of use if there is a standardised method of allocating Advancement bonuses. Plus, the Advancement bonus itself is only useful as a measure if you put the difficulty of the adventure into the Advancement bonuses. Your method of converting XP to Advancement bonuses would cover this, but this would still require XP to be calculated (or the XP generation rules to be converted to Advancement bonuses) otherwise everything begins to break down.

    After all, an adventure could have the characters wade through hordes of the risen members of the Third Reich to reach and defeat an undead Hitler, only to reward an Advancement bonus of +1. This means that on the cover, the adventure would have +1. On the other hand, the adventure could have the PCs read a book, and then gains a +6 bonus to Advancement checks after reading. This adventure would have +6 on the cover.

    In general, advancement checks do nothing to mitigate XP allocation or advancement, unless one is throwing out the encounter system for balance completely. It’s merely replacing an arbitrary amount with a random check. More importantly, since bonuses equal to your AdCost equal a free advancement anyway, it’s merely a means to advance faster and earlier than normal through sheer luck (assuming you are using this).

    It can work, but I don’t think this is something that you can stick in your final printing, Erin. From what I’ve seen, there’s a lot that either hasn’t been considered, has been considered and purposely ignored, or simply seems to miss whatever point you were going for – or maybe you didn’t have a point, and it’s your justifications that are off-base. Maybe you’ve got a lot more that has not been seen, and this is yet another “wait and see” moment.

    Whichever is the case, I think you’ve just committed yourself to a 6th Printing, at least.

  19. deimos3428
    February 27th, 2011 at 02:38 | #19


    1. Well done with TNs and Parry.

    2. Rather than modify the advancement check, I’d suggest you make the number of checks for advancement a variable determined by the GM fiat. (At least partially GM fiat. You should probably allow at least a single check for showing up and surviving.) Good players earn more chances (yet no guarantees), disruptive/poor players earn less. Luck still plays a part, but it’s tempered by skill.

    3. I can envision artifacteqsue magic items such as a “Book of Wisdom” which grants a bonus to advancement rolls; thus enabling some post-maximum-level potential.

  20. February 27th, 2011 at 11:11 | #20

    @deimos3428 : Good to hear from you.

    2. Interesting twist. If I read you correctly, you’re saying instead of (for example) a +2 to the advancement check, let the player make 2 advancement rolls? If he has (let’s say) 5 checks and he succeeds on the first, does he stop, and is there any benefit he can retain from the 4 remaining checks?

    3. Definitely. The old “Manual of…” from AD&D 1E came to mind immediately when we started using this.

    Somewhat related – if the GM decides training is required to advance, advancement rolls may be possible only in certain places within the setting or after contacting an instructor. Maybe training with Nimby’s Burglar Circus grants a +1 if you’re a thief, or Master Telemon the Most Learned grants a +1 to nerd-types.

    Also thinking that every time you accept a Flaw, you get a (one-time) +1 bonus to your Advancement roll. Another suggestion I got (but won’t make official) is getting a +1 for every natural 1 or 20 rolled.

  21. February 27th, 2011 at 11:44 | #21

    Well, I skipped past the posts from Da’vane, so excuse me if this was addressed in the course of his posts and their counter points.

    Regarding giving out extra XP for “bosses” or “tough encounters.” I’m not a fan of this method because it presupposes a certain playing style and breaks down outside of those confines. If I don’t run games with well defined story arcs and bosses and set piece encounters, how do I award extra XP? I can always use an ad hoc ruling as a DM, but that is not just acceptable in my mind. XP should follow a more or less strict system so players can accurately gauge risks and rewards rather than trying to play mental guessing games with the DM.

    That’s one of my mental blocks that I would love to get around regarding these types of XP systems. I wanted to use such a system to compliment a sandbox style game where not every game session will have monsters to kill and loot to be gained but still have tangible XP awards for those sessions anyway. In the process of considering roll to advance mechanisms, I have been unable to incorporate risk and reward, among other (lesser) issues.

    I’m hoping one of us bloggers can figure it out :D I lurk in comments hoping…

  22. February 27th, 2011 at 13:22 | #22

    @Anthony : not every game session will have monsters to kill and loot to be gained but still have tangible XP awards for those sessions anyway

    Could you give some examples of what you’d award XP for in such sessions? Is it for roleplaying, teamwork, miles travelled (seriously–like in MERP), NPC interactions, etc?

  23. Greg MacKenzie
    February 27th, 2011 at 14:09 | #23

    We haven’t got the next generation of rules from Erin yet so we’ll have to wait on that.

    From my point of view I think the key here is to perhaps stop thinking in terms of the traditional reward for the defeat of specific fodder yields reward xp number although that is certainly a quantifiable goal.

    I consider what is the real goal of the adventure, what waypoints need to be achieved to reach the goal, and is there any particular individual goal the player character needs to achieve which should be recognized. Those sorts of things could be worked into bonus points. The number of encounters, could also be factored into bonus points.

    I think what you are asking for is a predictable and systematic method of composing those numbers from the adventure. How many characters = how many encounters each session, etc, and building from there.

    Those are the sorts of things I’ve been looking at in addition to what is in the rules up to this point. At this point I’ve got an end goal, waypoints, and some individual goals in the adventure I’ve been working on which are easily transferable into Erin’s proposed changes to Chimera. Of course we’ll have to wait a little bit for the official rules.

    This is the sort of thing I have under the current 4th printing:

    The GM should note if players have earned extra XP.

    Session 1 – Base 2 XP

    Session 2 – Base 2 XP

    Session 3 – Base 2 XP

    Bonus XP PCs Hack into Network

    Bonus XP PCs Defeat Guardian in Combat

    Bonus XP PCs Recover EBE Technology (or lose bonus points for failing to destroy or recover it)

    Bonus XP PCs Prevent the ECE

    Bonus XP PCs follow UFGE policy (or lose bonus points for violating UFGE-SOM1-003)

  24. February 27th, 2011 at 15:37 | #24

    @Erin D. Smale

    Essentially, I want a system to reward everything that a player does that ‘advances’ his character. This could include any goal players could set for themselves from furthering their particular religious denomination, to acquiring political power, or helping to win freedom and concessions for serfs and peasants. You know, whatever goofy shit players want to do, especially if it doesn’t directly require killing and looting.

    A night of hacking monsters should be as valuable as proselytizing heathens or securing one’s political position. Of course, these ‘soft’ goals are very difficult to assign a difficulty to or even award experience for. Hence why I have been trying to figure out a scheme where you give 1 XP per session, roll to advance, etc. Of course, that system brings up the problems as mentioned…

    I don’t want an XP system that only handles these ‘soft’ situations but also handles typical D&D fun stuff like killing and looting. XP systems as written handle the killing and looting just fine, but I don’t just want to graft on an ad hoc +100 XP for each heathen converted or some other award via fiat on top of that.

    For reference, I am coming from the perspective of a historical D&D game set in the 17th century, if that helps.

  25. deimos3428
    February 27th, 2011 at 16:37 | #25

    @Erin: If the gain per successful check is small (ie. a single Improvement Point), I’d allow each check to be successful. If the gain per successful check is less granular (ie. “a level’s worth” of IP, then I’d allow only one to succeed.

    If your’e going for the former approach, I’d recommend a cap of no more than a “level’s worth” or so of checks per session, and let it be up to the GM whether or not to heed that advice.

  26. February 27th, 2011 at 19:16 | #26

    @Anthony : I read through your blog posts again, just to capture all the points you make. Sensible concerns across the board, if you’ll permit me to say so.

    I thought to reply to your comment here, but it got rather longish. Instead of including them here, I think you just inspired this Wednesday’s post, and maybe we can all hash it out there (plus, it’ll give me more time to provide an intelligent response).

  27. deimos3428
    February 27th, 2011 at 21:47 | #27

    @Anthony: I’d suggest the simplest “system” for accomplishing what you’re looking for is no system at all. I’m making up the numbers here so take them with much salt, but suppose the rules were simply something like:

    1. The GM awards 1-3 XP per session depending on character success (three being the guy that rolled a critical hit and took out the Big Bad Guy; one being the guy where nothing went right but he still managed to survive.)

    2. The GM also awards 1-3 XP per session depending on player success (three being the enthusiastic thoughtful player who took on a leadership role for the group; 1 being for the guy sitting in the corner drooling into his 7-up.)

    3. The total number of points earned shall not exceed that required for a level; points are never carried over (to retain motivation for good play every session).

    Note the GM simply awards the points by fiat (though I often seek input from the playing group for “bonus XP”, for objectivity). No table describing how many dead goblins, hacked computers, negotiated contracts or saved princesses equal a point is required if one assumes the GM has a sense of his own game.

    Whether the GM rewards the behavior via improvement points, chances at improvement points, or game mechanic manipulation rights (ie. Clutch Situations) doesn’t really matter.

  28. March 1st, 2011 at 21:19 | #28


    Ah, but I want to avoid fiat at all costs. In reality, the DM’s discretion turns into favoritism, either real or perceived.

  29. March 1st, 2011 at 23:37 | #29

    @Anthony : A plague on your requirements! ;)

  1. March 12th, 2011 at 05:19 | #1