So I’ve been thinking about character advancement lately and I realized that there are only two games where I actually like the character advancement model: Amber and Don’t Rest Your Head. Unfortunately, characters in Amber relies on simple character sheets with only a handful of items to track and there are fairly large point gaps between each advancement. In other words, it’s almost the exact opposite from In Nomine. That leaves Don’t Rest Your Head. In many ways the DRYH character is even simpler than the Amber character… at least to begin with. However, characters in Don’t Rest Your Head can literally advance towards anything so long as their progress is story driven.
Scars not Points
Most Role Play Games use some form of “Experience Point.” A numerical abstraction of your character’s growth which is then used to “purchase” in game advancements (like new resources, a better driving skill, or more Perception). This can lead to weird situations where someone’s character exhibits amazing growth in an area on peripherally connected to their in-game behavior while staying roughly static in areas where they are “good enough” – even if those skills are what is more central to what they do. Some games get around this by directly tying the advancement of a skill to the frequency of its use. While I think this approach is better – it fosters a “grind” mentality, where people will find frivolous ways to integrate skills they want to advance regardless of whether or not it benefits the story. So what is it that Don’t Rest Your Head does that’s so different? Well, it kind of tosses out the whole idea of the Experience Point abstraction. Instead, during each gaming session you may record one in-game experience with a single sentence (called “scars”). Going forward, you may call upon the scar once per session to re-attempt one roll that relates to the experience it describes. Brilliant, no? Character growth tied directly to the character’s actual experiences. You can also “burn” one of these scars (crossing it off on your character sheet) to get a major one-time bail out or to affect a permanent change to your character’s underlying personality and corresponding attributes.
Incorporating Scars into In Nomine
Because In Nomine is built on a point buy system, integrating scars will be a bit trickier. Here’s how I would currently handle it.
- At the end of each session you may record one experience as a scar.
- Until it is redeemed, each scar past the first acts like a point of dissonance.
- Until it is redeemed, each scar may be used to retry one roll relevant to the recorded experience.
Scars may be redeemed in the following ways so long as it fits both the scar and the current circumstances.
- 1-2 character points worth of growth.
- +3 bonus to a skill or song that will expire at the end of the current session.
- Miscellaneous 5-6 character point boon that will expire at the end of the current session.
- A complete essence refill.
Alternately, if you are playing a Celestial, you may turn in 3 scars at any time to immediately gain 6xp and one point of discord. Normally speaking, you can only advance a skill or song by 1 point per scar but this limit is waved by people who are turning their scars in for discord.
Why Make Scars Dissonant?
I basically have four reasons:
- Generally speaking, Celestials are described as things that are not things that change. Even if it’s through legitimately gained experiences, change should be inherently traumatic for an angel or demon.
- There are Celestials that have existed for thousands of years without ever advancing beyond their initial forces. This mechanic would help to explain why.
- It gives players a reason to advance as they go rather than stockpiling experience.
- Humans are normally at a huge disadvantage compared to Celestials, this mechanic gives them at least one edge – the potential for explosive growth (basically Humans can stockpile scars because they don’t need to make dissonance rolls to gain essence each day).