What if–and I’m totally just spit-balling here–when you played a tabletop rpg there was no leveling? What if the progress of your character was based more upon learning how to navigate the dangers around you more efficiently? Sure, gaining gold or credits or what-have-you would be an important part of that; equipping your character better for what they will face is a sort of progression.
All too often the mindset of a player is “Well, we COULD cause a distraction and sneak around this guard, creating a good opportunity for some interesting role play. But then we wouldn’t get the XP. So, nah, let’s just run up head on and kill him, who cares if we’re good guys.”
Players see XP as power-currency for their characters, and thus greedily accumulate it at whatever cost. And why shouldn’t they? Everyone wants to succeed, do amazing things, put the baddies in their place. Usually that means grinding some XP to unlock that new skill.
But what if you gained trainings just by playing a session or two? What if you got paid the same no matter how you completed the job? What if gametime was just about running your character and enjoying it, without worrying about how many XP you are away from the next level? “Level 4 is when I get such-and-such ability, that’s when it gets fun.”
Maybe you start with all those abilities you want to use. Maybe they get more powerful the more you use them. Isn’t that what the XP system is supposed to represent anyhow? What if you gain experience by experiencing?
Maybe you’re trained in bazookas from day one, but you just have to raise the 40,000 credits to buy one. Maybe your character starts with the ability to cast the most devastating fireball in the spellbook, but it consumes a diamond each time, and you only start with one?
I’m not saying that character progression should be eliminated, far from it. I just think there might be a different way to approach it that doesn’t “force” the player to make certain decisions just so XP can keep rolling in. That’s not role playing, that’s following a strategy guide.
I’m curious to hear what others think about this, especially those that have tried something similar, and whether or not it works.