Sunday, October 23, 2016

Musings on Character Progression

So ....

Again, I've been very busy.  Work is crunching me but I'm still standing.

Here's what I can reveal of my latest efforts for MEST as far as the Campaign rules. These two items I've been developing in some variation for nearly 5 years now, and I think with the materials that I've been adding (which are still works-in-progress) to the Advanced Rules, I'm finally able to show something relatively solid.


I'll be covering Character Progression here, and Network Campaigns in the next blog entry. Include here is a link to my Google Drive with what I've got thus far for the campaign book.

Character Progression

There are very few modern game kits with decent character progression. I've been reading a bunch and taking notes. The Internet really helps.

Within MEST, all characters used in play are normally nameless cannon fodder based on several templates known as Archetypes. Actually, Common Archetypes because there's a list of them; Average, Acrobatic, Brawler, Leader, Veteran, etc. Except for how they are assigned weapons, armor, and equipment they are identical their assignment of traits and attribute values. With the 2.x version of the rules, we've introduced Variant Common Archetypes which add one or two additional traits to each of the baselines. Trust me; each one plays quite differently, but I get ahead of myself. I just want to squeeze in that the Advanced Rules also allow for Custom Archetypes, but that will be discussed at some other point in type.

Experience Points

Characters are awarded Experience Points [ XP ] during and at the end of each Mission they survive. These XP can come from a variety of sources. There are direct awards to a character by having it complete an Agenda card, resolve a Resource card, or defeat an opponent in combat. There are also soft awards; Victory Points [ VP ] and Resource Points [ RP ] will translate into XP that is distributed among all characters as a player sees fit. There's also one more source; time. For every week of time which has passed within a Campaign (A MEST campaign) since a character last participated in a Mission, it also is awarded 1 XP. This feature of time presumes that during a Campaign when a character is not present, it might be out and about doing less-interesting battles or investigations or whatever.

The average time between most Missions within a Campaign is usually 1-6 Weeks by default, and 1-6 Months (6-24 Weeks) betwen Campaigns. 2-player Campaigns themselves last about 6 Missions, plus or minus.

Champion Characters

Characters which a player hopes to progress with XP are given names and assigned a Reputation of level 0. These are Champions. Reputation behaves like a light-weight version of the Fear trait and causes characters without Reputation to have second-thoughts and make them likely to acquire Fear tokens. As a Champion progresses, its Reputation will increase thereby instilling more fear in their opponents.

Improving Characters

When a Character has acquired enough XP, a player may roll on an Archetype-specific Progression chart. The basic concept looks something like this:

  1. Allow each character a single roll on its Progression chart.
  2. Roll a red and white six-sided die and find the row scored.
  3. Examine the cost shown as REP. It is also a threshold (see below).
  4. See the options available. These can be "List of Choice", a trait specialization such as Fight or Tactics, or an Attribute bonus such as CCA or FOR.
  5. Pay the cost by reducing available XP.  Unspent XP is kept with the character for use next time.
  6. Recalculate BP value of the character.
  7. Done.


REP is the Reputation required and also the basic cost in XP to acquire. Not having enough REP increases the cost by double for every level less. For example, a REP 2 character improving Tactics will cost 2 XP, but a REP 1 character doubles that cost to 4 XP and a REP 0 character doubles that again to 8 XP.

Here are some cool effects of this gaming feature.
  • First, players are always allowed to check every character at the end of each Mission as long as there are XP for it to be spent. This encourages a player to be mindful of his roster of characters (Champion Roster).
  • Next, it enforces that concept that certain improvements should become easier to purchase as the character becomes more and more experienced.
List of Choice
There are multiple Progression charts, one for each Archetype. If this entry is scored, a player may roll again on any other chart. Once. If "List of Choice" is scored again, that's it. No more rolls are allowed for this character at this time.

Specialization Trait
If any trait is shown, a player may pick one and make it level 1. If that trait had already been assigned to the character, then improve it by +1 level. The rules as they are currently written recognize that some traits can't be taken beyond level one such as Nimble or Boxer.
  • On the Progression chart these are marked with the red checkbox icon. 
  • If a key icon appears, such as for Slippery or Acrobatic; these traits can't be improved unless the character already has it assigned.
  • Bold text traits such as Diplomacy are Campaign Skills, and these will be covered later in a future blog entry.
  • A crossed-circle icon if shown such as for Scholar indicates the entry is expensive and at minimum will double the normal cost.

Attribute Enhancement
If an Attribute is selected then players will add a plus-sign (+) to the trait for the character. If the attribute is already with a +, then make it ++. If already ++, then increase the value of the trait by 1. Having a + adds +1 Modifier die for all Tests involving that Attribute. Having ++ provides +2 Modifier dice instead. Therefore if my character were to have REF 2+ and your character had RCA 2, I'd receive +1 Modifier die when targeted for Range Combat.

Other Things
  1. Reputation itself can be improved, and there are rules for that online here.
  2. In the images shown, there are some red icons. These are restrictions


This system of improving a character will allow players to manager their Champions in a wise manner. When it comes to a Mission, do they want to have their prized character to participate and risk injury or death? Or do they leave the character at the side board to progress at a much slower rate?

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