Fading Suns Designer Diary — August 2018

The Great Leveling

It’s a short diary this month, slotted between Gen Con and Dragon Con (come see me there!) — which makes it a good time to address the method of character progression (or advancement, or experience, or whatever you want to call it) in the new Fading Suns core rulebook.

One of the basic tenets of tabletop RPGs is the idea that characters get better at doing things — and learn new things to do — as they experience various encounters, combats, and dramatic twists and turns through their careers as protagonists in an ongoing story (campaign, epic, etc.). In previous editions of Fading Suns, the system for this progression was by the GM awarding experience points, which were spent to improve existing traits or gain new ones.

Fading Suns uses what we call the Victory Point System. In the new edition, we really rev up the role that victory points have in the game, increasing their number and their uses. You can collect quite a number of VP during play — and spend just as many. In light of this, I really didn’t want to have a whole separate type of points — experience points, or XP. I wanted VP to be the sole type of points that you need to deal with in the game. (Well, okay, there is another type of VP — wyrd points, but they pretty much work just like VP except that they apply to occult phenomena.)

Hence, the new edition adopts a level system in place of XP to represent characters’ progression through experience. Unlike certain other level systems in certain other RPGs, this one is not used to limit or restrict what traits a character can have — there’s no rule that says you have to wait until you’re 7th level before you can learn, say, psychic powers. Levels are used to award your character with new traits (perks) and new ranks to allocate among existing traits. You decide what perks to choose and where to put those new ranks.

Level is tied to your character’s class: noble, priest, merchant, or yeoman. Whenever your character advances a level in their class, they gain the following:

  • +1 Vitality
  • Increased skill ranks, alternating between +3 ranks at 2nd level, +2 at 3rd level, then +3 again at 4th and so on. You allocate these tanks however you wish. At 2nd level, you might add 1 to your Sneak skill and 2 to your Fight or put all 3 into Academics — your choice.
  • Increased characteristics, alternating between +2 ranks at 2nd level, +1 at 3rd level, then +2 again at 4th and so on. As with skills, you allocate these ranks however you want to.
  • 1 calling perk, chosen from your calling’s list (or the open list).
  • With every odd level (1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, etc.), 1 class perk.
  • With every even level (2nd, 4th, 6th, etc.), +5 victory-point vault capacity.
  • 1 capability, usually associated with your calling. (This is a new type of trait that modifies your use of skills. We’ll discuss them some other time.)

Note that perks aren’t restricted by level. When choosing a class perk, you can gain any perk from your class list (or the open list). Some perks, however, must be gained multiple times to gain increased benefits. Noble rank, for instance, is represented by the Noble Title perk. When you first learn the perk, you gain the rank of knight. If you want to be a baronet, you’ll need to gain the perk twice, and three times to become a baron, and so forth. (Much like the previous editions’ Noble Title Benefice.)

Don’t worry — there are multiple chances to gain repeats of a perk during character creation, so it is possible to begin play with a high-ranking character. All nobles begin with one free instance of the Noble Title perk — you begin as a knight and can choose to rise higher before play begins by devoting your extra perks toward higher-degree Noble Titles.

That’s it for this month. Stay tuned for more diaries as we march ever closer to the release of the core rulebook. Thanks for reading!

— Bill Bridges, Product Line Manager