Hold Me Closer, Tiny Levels

Fine, I’m way behind the video game curve. I just started playing Mass Effect, and while I like it (mostly because I made my character HOT!!!), I noticed something interesting in how the game handles character advancement. Your super kewl ninja/soldier/spy/candlestick maker has levels and skills, and when you gain X amount of experience points by killing people and doing good deeds, you increase your level and can add some bonuses to your skills. All good. What I find interesting is how the levels feel small and insignificant. Going from level 3 to level 4 is … well, ho-hum. I’ve leveled and not even realized it. (“I’ve got points to spend? Oh. Okay, I guess.”)

I guess there’s two reasons for that. First, it’s a video game so I cannot see the numbers being crunched. When I level in D&D, I can better see the impact because I have to do the stupid math in my equally stupid head. Second, and here’s where I get all game designer, is the impact is low. You get a few points to spend on a few skills, and moving from +5 for Pistols to +6 doesn’t seem to impact the game much. It’s like the level gained is a tiny thing that doesn’t do much.

Now I realize a rpg has to make leveling significant–or just not use it at all, that’s a viable alternative. But if you have levels like I have in Triune, then they had better be meaningful to the players.

2 comments on “Hold Me Closer, Tiny Levels”

  1. bigznak

    I agree. Levelling should be important. I think that might be a flaw in 4th edition. At certain levels it doesn’t seem that interesting or meaningful. This same truth could be applied to 3.5 edition also. If you achieve an odd level fighter (3,5,7, etc…) you didn’t get another feat, just more hit points and a very few amount of skill points. Boring. One more point, and I have never been able to meet this in any RPG i have ran. Levelling I always felt should be a learning process. When you reach 1,000 XP in D&D it should be time to go and train to learn new skills, techniques, spells, etc… But how do you do that when the fate of the world is resting on your PC’s shoulders? The Demonic Orc horde won’t stop just because you have to learn from the high priest some new spells. Levelling is a flawed segment of each roleplaying game. Good luck with it in Triune.

  2. WJ MacGuffin

    I remember having a D&D 1E GM who required us to visit towns to train before we got the new stuff from a level. That sucked. It interrupted the flow of the game just like you mentioned.

    I always viewed levels as increased skills due to the experience of adventuring, not formal training. Although you could argue that Intelligence would affect such leveling, at least it didn’t require asking the Demonic Orc horde to wait a few months before pillaging.

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