Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Grand Tour

I'm still writing bard posts.  Here I'd like to address a problem that came up the last time around as I stumbled over bard mechanics for artwork experience gains.  Fundamentally it is this: if art has been created over a very long period of time and exists all over the world, and if seeing, hearing or otherwise experiencing art can contribute experience to your character, why not just wander around, look at stuff and go up levels?

Remember that the idea of experience being transmitted through art came about as a desire to make bard creations meaningful.  Spend a lot of time as a bard creating something, affect others.  Simple.  But given that the transmission of experience would apparently break the system, some kind of limitation is necessary ~ and in the end, I did not like any of the limitations I proposed when I wrote the linked post above in early April.

As such, I'd like to try again.

Now, this "fix" may seem contrived, it may seem impractical for a more localized world than mine, but I'm only concerned that it provides a measurable limitation for the viewing of art outside the party's personal creation.  The idea is more or less based on the idea that the bard you know can be more effective in transferring experience (as a player character bard has relatively the same perspective on life) than a lot of old, disconnected artists producing stuff the characters are perceived to see as less meaningful.  Some will disagree; but like the concept, don't like the concept, I'll go ahead and describe it as best I can.

First and foremost, we want a measure that can be used to determine how much experience a player character can gain by visiting a given city anywhere in the world.  This has to be a universal measure and I can think of only one: the city's population.  Stavanger, for example, where the Juvenis party is adventuring [sorry, friends, I will get on that as soon as I get my commitments under control], has a population of 9,573 in my game.  To compare, Copenhagen, the seat of the monarchy for Denmark and Norway, has a population of 109,756.

Suppose that we say that a tour around either city has the potential for netting a character, player or non-player, 1% of those numbers in experience.  Visiting the artworks of Stavanger could push the character up 95 x.p. (fractions don't count), while Copenhagen could add 1,097.  Characters would want to visit Copenhagen under those conditions, yes?  Much more so than Stavanger.

But that doesn't solve our problem.  There are thousands of cities in my world, so moving from one to the next would be like an experience smorgasbord, to use the Scandinavian term, making ordinary adventuring a thing of the past.  I will have to limit the scheme somewhat.

It might be possible to see all the art that Stavanger has to offer in the space of a few days, but obviously not Copenhagen.  We could set a harsh limit of 100 x.p. gained per week of "sightseeing," which would mean it could take two and a half months to get out of Copenhagen all that it had to offer, while Stavanger could be seen in just seven days.  This at least creates an expense to exchange for x.p. gained, in the form of food, lodging, perhaps taxes and, of course, the cost of actually entering the churches, palaces and salons of the city in order to get the most out of it.   If we also take steps to increase the cost of lodging in larger cities, this can work to discourage long visits (and push the players towards traditional adventuring).  As well, the players would get older from such activities.

But we're still talking about an experience feast that's everywhere, so let's also remove Stavanger from the list of potential tourist spots.  According to wikipedia, this is the only significant building to be found in the city that was built before 1650 (on the right).  And while it is pretty and perhaps unusual for the area, is it worth 95 x.p.?

We can limit the number of cities that can offer meaningful sites to those that meet a certain status: perhaps national capitals, large religious and palatial monuments (of a given size), buildings of sufficiently early origin (a minimum of 800 years old), that sort of thing.  Thus, while the barrow Mimmarudla that the players found near Stavanger is really old, it isn't large enough to provide x.p. just by being viewed.

Well, that helps.  The party now has to make sufficiently meaningful trips between historical/artistic sights, which requires at least some dangerous travelling/opportunities for adventure.  What else can we do?

We could limit the amount of experience gained from an outside bardic source per level of experience.  For example, we could argue that a 2nd level fighter wanting to be 3rd, needing 2,000 x.p., could only gain 500 through visiting Copenhagen.  This would narrow the amount of effect that experience could have ~ and once the player leveled, they might have reason to return to Copenhagen and have another look around.

We can also say clearly that Copenhagen can only offer that 1,097 once per character's entire lifetime. That might not have been clear.

Finally, we could say that a character can only take advantage of this increase for the first quarter of their needed experience.  This is going to sound tricky and may not be fully understood at first.

Let's say that our 2nd level fighter, John, has 2,149 x.p. and needs to reach 4,001.  Now, it would seem that he could spend 5 weeks in Copenhagen, collect 500, then go adventuring for the rest, yes?

I'm suggesting instead that once John hits 2,500, he's too sophisticated as a 2nd level to get more experience from artwork.  Thus, when he tops out at 2,500, he can't gain any more from visiting sites until he reaches 3rd level (whereupon he could gain up to 2,000, provided he gets started early in his level gaining).

Arbitrary?  Of course!  It is all arbitrary.  It is designed to encourage John, once he has accomplished his level, to spend some time resting, improving his mind, expanding his consciousness, visiting some sights on the Grand Tour as he trips from Copenhagen to Aachen to Paris, before deciding he's full of high-mindedness and is ready to get on with destroying some monsters.

It is at least a limitation.  A weird one, but then the bard thing has been threatening to break the system in all kinds of ways.  Obviously, John doesn't have to go touring.  He can just fight orcs in the same old way, if he likes.


  1. I think this would definitely work neatly in practice. Players who want to travel somewhere new will be incentivized to go somewhere different (another consideration: would radically different art be more or less valuable? i.e. once you've seen one Benedictine monastery, you've seen them all, but an adventurer's first pagoda may leave a lasting impression) without travelling too much. I've seen a similar solution used in some video games where a maximum is set for how much experience can be earned from exploration or training versus actually combat.

    I would be interested in comparing how much experience value there might be in a group performing the Way of St. James pilgrimage versus travelling to Jerusalem, and what some of the different considerations might be (material costs, dangers of the road, quality of relics). Very cool stuff!

  2. Very good, Tim!

    We can double potential gain from religious pilgrimages and you're right to point out that distance is also a universal.

  3. Combine two or more limits. For example, a given city offers 1% of its total population as a maximum individual lifetime potential "touring" x.p. The second limit is that an individual character cannot earn more than a quarter of the amount necessary to make the next level. The third limit may be a physical or artistic achievement: the city in question has to have something worth visiting.

    Consider three cities within a few weeks' travel of each other. One has 20,388 people; one has 2,303 people; and the third has 110,982 people. City A offers a maximum individual lifetime x.p. award of 203; City B offers 23; and City C offers 1,109. A 2nd level fighter, fresh off his first adventure through the wilderness, with 2,990 x.p., travels to City A. He sees the sites, meets with the people and absorbs all that he can; he earns the 203 x.p. His limit for this level is 500 (one-quarter of what he needs to achieve next level), so he has 297 x.p. yet to earn. He also cannot earn any more from City A in his lifetime (unless some condition changes in that city, like a significant population shift, or the arrival of a new building or artwork). The fighter skips over City B - too small to be worth his time - and goes to City C, where a few weeks site-seeing and socializing nets him the remaining 297 x.p. He's at his personal limit for this level; after he gets 3rd level he can return to City C, which still offers him 812 x.p.

    Is this an accurate interpretation?

    I can definitely see how this sort of thing would be fair, especially when you consider the costs involved with travelling and staying in foreign cities all the damn time. Yes, there may, potentially, be enough x.p. in the world to rise to 20th level just by site-seeing, but how are you going to pay for it? And if you have that kind of cash at your disposal, how are you going to travel with it at hand without attracting brigands or dragons? In other words, how can you avoid adventure under those circumstances?

    Almost seems like a non-issue...

  4. I like the arbitrary limit of the first quarter of a level's XP can be gained via artworks. It makes sense that a higher level character would be able to gain a bigger benefit from artworks than lower level characters, but it also accounts for "gallery fatigue" rather nicely.

    Is it your intention that this system supplant the percentage bonus from experiencing firsthand/performance art (listening to the party bard spin tales and/or sing around the campfire)?

  5. Not at all. You'll remember the Wow post had described both Upeksa and Sukha. This post is about the latter. I will still keep the percentage adjustment.

  6. The reason I want it to count only in the first quarter of a character's level gain is to keep players from using the experience acquisition as a first resort for gaining a level once they get 75% of the way there. That should not be the way a character levels. The last three quarters of a character's upgrade should be all adventuring; so only empty space in the first quarter is available for the tour.

  7. Have you thought about having a cap of total amount of experience gained for every tier of each category of art, per lifetime? Something like "You may gain at most 200 experience points from creditable paintings, per character" or similar. And perhaps if you have already reached your maximum bonus exp. from "worthy" paintings, these lesser ones aren't really that rewarding any more. (Perhaps you could give people half the remainder of the lower levels of arts' exp amounts when they max out a higher one if it seems harsh.)

    It's a thought, anyways.

  8. It's a fair thought, Hollow, but it doesn't ring true. I've been studying history all my life, but I still learn when I go and find something I haven't seen before.

    Also, remember that as players climb in levels, the "tour" will have less and less effect anyway, as it is hardly worth it for a 10th level fighter to spend 10 weeks accumulating 1,000 x.p., when 250,000 is needed for the next level. Studying will only net you 5,200 x.p. per year! So there is a sort of self-imposed maximum bonus, when players are bound to just not care anymore.

  9. You bring up the fact that high level players wouldn't care about the available bonus XP for art anymore. That may be true, but consider also that players looking to gain extra XP for their lower level followers and henches could do worse than a sightseeing tour in a large city. Nice dollop of XP for the henches to start off a level without having to take them into the kind of fights that high levels get into (which probably have a high mortality rate for lowbies.)

  10. Well, a quarter of a level, but your point is well taken Maxwell. Check out the post I just added a few minutes ago.

  11. It's true, of course, that you won't stop learning. In my case, I was specifically thinking of the effect of looking at many pieces of very, very similar (mainly religious) paintings in the same place (I'm probably thinking of some corridors in the Louvre now?) It comes to the point when each new painting adds very little, being almost as just another variant of the last one. Though, that could be partially me just getting tired of watching paintings for too long.

    Honestly, it's probably neither fitting for the time periods we're talking about here, nor really good as a solution. (And I feel dumb for forgetting to make a note about the large exp. requirements after thinking about it.)

  12. I don't want you feeling that you shouldn't jump in, Scribe. It's a fair point. I'm just glad no one has suggested yet that the x.p. bonus should increase with level!


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