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Looking for the system with in-battle character progression

hirou

Explorer
This is not even my final form.
True warriors only evolve in battle.
You must pass through near-death experience to become stronger.
Face your fears and overcome them.


You definitely know this trope - the hero is always an underdog, and have to take some beating from the bad guys until he finds some inner reserve of strength/discovers new technique/"gets up a level" and can dractically turns the tide of battle (at least until the villain does the same). However levelling in ttRPGs is usually delayed until the party is safely back in the tavern and the players are packing their stuff at the end of session. In some ways this makes sense, you need some time to train and discover new spells/learn to attack twice in one round/upgrade your knowledge of the animal psychology or whatever else you obtain at the next level-up. But seriously, common sense should not be the obligatory part of role-playing.

Are there any systems that has the "ding!" moment of levelling up during the heat of battle? Or maybe, more specifically, RPGs which somehow couple the process of gaining EXP not with overcoming the foe, but with facing the opponent above your current level of strength? I tried searching and found none. Even (unofficial) Dragon Ball RPG, which was my first assotiation, have a system for in-battle transformations, but it is separate from XP levelling.

From my own (rather limited, I fear) experience, the closest I can remember to this is, surprisingly, the crusader class from D&D 3.5e. Crusader has a number of combat manoeuvres ("hit really hard", "protect your ally from next attack", "sink the enemy into the ground" etc), which expands upon levelling up, but the moves that are available to you from turn to turn are selected randomly from your "deck of moves". Thus, I had a number of encounters in which I had to endure several rounds of beating, until finally unleashing my vengeance with the card (attack) perfectly suited for the situation. IIRC situations like these are not supposed to happen if you optimize your character build, but for me that lead to a nice feeling suitable for the character image.
 

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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
You definitely know this trope - the hero is always an underdog, and have to take some beating from the bad guys until he finds some inner reserve of strength/discovers new technique/"gets up a level" and can dractically turns the tide of battle (at least until the villain does the same).
Yep. It's called Rocky.
 


GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Are there any systems that has the "ding!" moment of levelling up during the heat of battle? Or maybe, more specifically, RPGs which somehow couple the process of gaining EXP not with overcoming the foe, but with facing the opponent above your current level of strength? I tried searching and found none. Even (unofficial) Dragon Ball RPG, which was my first assotiation, have a system for in-battle transformations, but it is separate from XP levelling.

In Modos RPG, it's up to the GM when the leveling happens:
Modos 2 said:
Your character will increase in level . . . when you pass certain milestones. These can be the end of an adventure or scene, the defeat of a mini-boss, or something else determined by the Guide . . .

If I were going for the effect you describe, I'd use some rules that award skill points when the PC uses those skills. Roll a Pro (success) and the highest number on the progress (or damage) die, get a skill point.

There are a lot of games that use bonus dice/hero points that can represent the underdog's inner reserve.
 

CubicsRube

Adventurer
Supporter
I don't know ow of any rpg that does this, but I think for it to work the players would have to choose the leveled up abilities first and they only activate at the appropriate time in combat.

It could be quite a cool idea, especially for an anime themed campaign.
 

Slow_Travel

Villager
I let my PCs level up the moment they gained XP in our 5e game (at the request of the players). It's a very cool idea - but the actual at-table rigamarole of 'leveling' in a class/level based game at the table in middle of combat completely brought our game to a halt multiple times.

I think it could work as an ability - perhaps regaining a meta-currency or ability (like how you gain abilities in 4e DnD when 'Bloodied'). In simpler mechanical games, it could work :unsure:
 

Lord Shark

Explorer
Tenra Bansho Zero has a "reverse death spiral" damage mechanic where you get stronger as you take more damage in a fight. It's only temporary bonuses rather than actual leveling up, though.
 

Slow_Travel

Villager
Tenra Bansho Zero has a "reverse death spiral" damage mechanic where you get stronger as you take more damage in a fight. It's only temporary bonuses rather than actual leveling up, though.
I like that quite a bit! In wargaming there are some scenarios that as the turns go on, the playable table space shrinks and forces you closer to your foes (and makes every turn bloodier).
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Are there any systems that has the "ding!" moment of levelling up during the heat of battle?

Leveling up, in terms of permanent change in power level, that's not common. I don't know if I can name any currently in print.

But access to greater ability as a fight goes on, yes.

This is seen in the new Sentinels Comics RPG - both a character, and the scene the character is in have a GYRO (Green, Yellow, Red, Out) Condition track. As the PC takes damage, or the scene gets tense, they move from green to yellow and so on - and at each stage, new character abilities become available. So, often the character's top abilities are only available when they are up against the wall, and they have to pull out the stops to succeed.

Some other games (like Fate, and Cortex) allow characters to build up advantages over the course of play, allowing you to cash them in for major bonuses later in play - a conflict often progresses with only slight damage being done, until the as the PCs build these up, and then hand them off to a character for a massive final blow on the enemy.
 


MarkB

Legend
The more vanilla Powered by the Apocalypse games, i.e. Dungeon World, have you gaining XP each time you fail a roll, and I don't think there's anything to stop you from choosing a playbook advancement the moment you earn enough XP for it - so this is potentially a scenario that could happen, where a character is on a losing streak against the opposition and then unlocks a newfound ability that turns the tide.
 

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