Level 1 Gameplay or Progress through Mastery

CreamCloud0

Adventurer
I feel like a solution to this premise would be progression through players gaining and applying knowledge and secondary skills and items(ie:tool proficiencies and such)

Those giant boulders made of the weird stone blocking the forest path, the mountain spring and the iron mines can be broken using specifically ice magic and a war-hammer and if the players think of that they can break em before they ‘learn’ the solution, but that solution is only common knowledge to the dwarves of the mountain.

It’s like having to learn to use fire or acid against the troll/giant? to counter it’s regeneration, Preferably from the town guard rather than in the middle of the fight, but once you know the key that nigh insurmountable obstacle becomes much more manageable for the players, they haven’t grown stronger but they’re now much wiser.
 

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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Balance and difficulty are separate constructs. A game can be balanced and easy, or unbalanced and easy, etc. Balance and difficulty can evolve over time, and that is what we call "progression". The OP essentially asks whether balance and difficulty are best at level 1 (and therefore should perhaps stay that way without variation), or possibly improves or disimproves with progression?

Progression allows us to design a game to be pick-up-and-play: not all strategies need to be available at level 1 (so the early game system is easier to understand), and level 1 difficulty can respect the learning curve. Then, with increased mastery, strategies can be broadened creating new things to try and learn.
The balance idea is useful, although adding more tools to the character's repertoire is still a form of character advancement. Preferable, in this thread anyway, to giving the PC bigger numbers to use.

It might be a better reflection of growing player skill if all of the options are on the table at the start of the game, but the player must first discover what they are.

I feel like a solution to this premise would be progression through players gaining and applying knowledge and secondary skills and items(ie:tool proficiencies and such)
Gathering in-game knowledge is a good way to go. I worry that it might feel like (or require) carrying a notebook around. As in, "here's a new problem! Give me a minute while I look it up." But it's better than asking the player to, for example, balance a pencil upright to safely cross the rickety bridge.

I think adding in-game tools works too, as long as they are qualitatively different, versus a quantitative difference. I'll call it the Mega Man effect - you get different tools, and have to choose (or remember) the right one for the job.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
The balance idea is useful, although adding more tools to the character's repertoire is still a form of character advancement. Preferable, in this thread anyway, to giving the PC bigger numbers to use.
Definitely agree.

It might be a better reflection of growing player skill if all of the options are on the table at the start of the game, but the player must first discover what they are.
Some of the reasons for eking out options with progression
  1. Relieves players of any feeling they need to master everything up front (which some players will feel, otherwise.)
  2. Makes it much easier to ensure the difficulty and balance of the the early game are in a good place (fewer permutations to test.)
  3. Ensures that the gameplay feels varied over time (as new options unlock.)
And against
  1. Experienced players are sometimes disappointed to have to go back to the basic set of options.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
How do you feel about fixed-Level 1 gameplay?
I'd love it.
Would you enjoy a game that requires more skill than luck (with die rolls) for progress?
Absolutely.
Does a game offer more intensity and/or reward when the player accomplishes things without having an ever-growing mattress of hit points underneath to cushion his falls?
I think so. It's more personal. It's more earned. The individual player actually accomplished something, not the math of the game itself. I'm way more a fan of player skill and creativity than button smashing.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I think so. It's more personal. It's more earned. The individual player actually accomplished something, not the math of the game itself. I'm way more a fan of player skill and creativity than button smashing.
So, my Actraiser 2 example comes full-circle. Here's the individual player actually accomplishing something: demolishing the game. (Adding the video to the Original Post).

For some reason, I'm reminded of what min-maxers do: eke out the highest damage/effect possible with rules manipulation. Nevermind that it results in little birdie legs; min-maxers use player skill to create the most effective character possible. Then they (the good ones, anyway) use in-play rules to further accomplish their goals, e.g. "I take my boots off and stand on the exposed rock, so that both my Sturdy Foundation perk and my This Rocks heritage feature add to my AC."
 

aramis erak

Legend
There are plenty of genres that don’t assume that characters advance in terms of powers, skill levels, etc. over time. Superheroes, for example, don’t typically “level up” between issues.
But they often have done so between stories. Which is why retcons at writer changes are extremely common. Usually the growth isn't in power of any given power, but in adding hitherto unknown variations on use and on new powers.
In RPGs, I’ve seen this in play. In GURPS, for example, earning character points after an adventure is ultimately optional and not recommended for all genres. In games like these, any increase in challenge is based on story elements. Once you get the hang of being Superman, the GM might introduce kryptonite or put you in a situation where you must choose between protecting Lois or saving the city/nation/world. (The challenge there might be figuring out how to do both.). I don’t think I’ve seen this reflected in game mechanics, but I’m intrigued by the idea.
Some supers games have done that. Most notably TSR's Marvel Super Heroes... 1983... which cost more karma (a metacurrency, which includes modifying rolls and buying improvements) to skip out on a date than to stop a bank robbery.
 

I have played a lot of the World of Darkness games and there is no level progression in them. Though you do earn points that you can spend to increase stats, powers, and skills, there is no automatic progression/upgrade tied to leveling up. If you don't spend points, generally nothing on your character sheet changes. I am sure there are lots of other systems out there that do not use leveling.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I have played a lot of the World of Darkness games and there is no level progression in them. . . I am sure there are lots of other systems out there that do not use leveling.
Do the players of these games develop greater skill? Do the characters grow and accomplish more, despite not gaining levels?
 

Do the players of these games develop greater skill? Do the characters grow and accomplish more, despite not gaining levels?

In the World of Darkness games? No, not unless the player spends the earned points on character stuff. Now, this may have changed in the current edition, as I have not read that yet, but in the old stuff it was all points-based, not level. Now, when you look at something like Mage, a character could always be coming up with new ways to use their magic, even without spending points to improve the character. And in Vampire, I think one Vampire draining another Vampire could gain some of their abilities, and, of course, a human could always be made a ghoul by drinking from a Vampire and gain all sorts of extra stuff without having to spend points on it, but that is all roleplaying stuff. not character advancement.
 

bloodtide

Adventurer
I'm very much into players learning real skills for use in an RPG.

The common mindset is players need no real game skills as the game will never need them. That is the DM won't do any sort of set up, so any real life skills are useless. And that does not even mention the vast majority of games that have the Rules Only mindset: they play the game by the written rules and nothing else.

Players in my game learn tons of real game skills or role playing skills. Though it's not a replacement for levels and gaining power......BUT it does make the game more enjoyable, dramatic, exciting, and most of all has characters that live much, much, much longer.
 

aramis erak

Legend
I have played a lot of the World of Darkness games and there is no level progression in them. Though you do earn points that you can spend to increase stats, powers, and skills, there is no automatic progression/upgrade tied to leveling up. If you don't spend points, generally nothing on your character sheet changes. I am sure there are lots of other systems out there that do not use leveling.
Literally thousands...
but many thousands which do.

And many people who call spending XP on new skill levels, new attribute levels, and new special ability levels levelling up.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Zero progression, no. Climbing the rungs is a big part of what motivates me.

But I do like a fairly flat progression. Although I play a lot of D&D, I don’t like that within a few sessions your character is vastly more powerful. A quality I do appreciate in a game is when it works fine for brand new characters to adventure with veteran characters.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
A quality I do appreciate in a game is when it works fine for brand new characters to adventure with veteran characters.
This is an interesting point. If progress is solely based on player skill, then will the fun of experienced players diminish the fun of the n00bs? Can the two coexist? I 'm not sure that I would enjoy playing Actraiser 2 with the speedrunner.
 

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