Building a Better D&D
Advancement and Training
AD&D had rules which required that PC's expend both time from the in-game calendar and money in order to train before they could advance to the next experience level. I have at times questioned the sense of this. Often I have reduced it to a nominal cost and time which could in turn be reduced, waived, or otherwise overlooked. This is because while I understand what was hoped to be accomplished I don't think it was a very good method since the system hinges time and expense on “Excellent” roleplaying performance.
I have long insisted that roleplaying is always its own reward. You can't really even "bribe" players to roleplay with in-game bonuses. The thing that gets players to roleplay is the enjoyment, the satisfaction that comes from doing it well. There may well be long periods in the game where there just isn't a lot of roleplay to be done - the PC's are busy simply moving from encounters to dungeons without needing to interact a great deal with each other or NPC's, plot is revealed, story is played out, they return to town and the next adventure or phase of adventure is commenced after standard rest and recuperation. In that time a PC earns enough xp to gain a level. Was his roleplaying "Excellent" (as opposed to Superior, Fair, or Poor)? Well, what does the DMG consider to be "Excellent" roleplaying? Apparently it considers it to be performing the expected class functions of the character, and keeping his/her actions in step with their professed alignment. Thus a "Poor" rating is to be assigned to clerics who "refuse to help and heal, or who are unfaithful to their deity"; fighters who "hang back from combat, try to steal or fail to boldly lead"; magic-users who "seek to engage in melee or ignore the use of magic items in crucial situations"; thieves who "boldly engage in frontal attacks or avoid stealing treasure for themselves whenever they can"; and characters in general who do not pull their weight and/or are "cautious".
So here's the problem with that: NONE of it should have a bearing on the cost in money and time in advancing to the next level. The unwritten, underlying indication is that when it comes to advancement the DM will look at all the roleplaying and rather than grading it based on its own merits (whether it was interesting, enjoyable, contributed meaningfully to the development of the character and/or the game, was well-done even if it took the character in new and non-standard directions) he should grade it against a brief, anal system that actually PUNISHES roleplaying outside of any but the most restrictive, uninteresting, unimaginative mandates that are possible. When it comes time to level up any creativity or defiance of stupidly narrow expectations will cost you quite dearly.
Okay, it's not as costly as all that but that whole paragraph (on p.86 for those trying to follow along) about what's to be considered "poor" roleplaying is myopic in the extreme if not outright contradictory. Top that with this - some players simply will never be as good at "roleplaying" as others. Others could be great roleplayers but are perfectly content to enjoy non-roleplaying benefits in the game. There is simply no justification for why the game should beat a player upside the head with in-game penalties because the DM's biased personal assessment is that the player has failed to be the kind of roleplayer the game is suddenly demanding he be. Let roleplaying be its own reward.
What then is the reason for training to gain levels? It's really just a matter of verisimilitude. If PC’s just “ding!” and get new abilities and spells it doesn’t just break suspension of disbelief – it mocks it. As much as anything could, THAT says that D&D is nothing more than a video game (you might be able to tell that I was NOT a fan of that approach in 3E). It jars you harshly out of any semblance of the game worlds reality back into actual reality with a rude and unnecessary reminder that your character is just part of a game. While training time may itself still be annoying and hopelessly unrealistic it at least acknowledges that concentrated, specific effort is necessary to gain new abilities in a short time just as it is in the real world. They don't arrive instantly as if by magic even for characters beyond the pale in a fantasy world.
Monetary costs as given for training in the DMG, even for exemplary roleplaying performance, are wildly prohibitive. A 1st level character is expected to have accumulated 1500 gp to make 2nd level (if not 3000-6000 gp needed due to less than stellar roleplay) on top of all the other cheezy, pathetic excuses to take away what you shouldn't have given out in the first place. Just makes me wonder why starting PC’s should then face pinching coppers to buy initial gear. A title level fighter in the DMG is only paying 10,000 gp in training costs. Clearly the DMG system is poorly scaled, focused on being an annoyance – a money drain for having excessively rewarded the player characters with cash and prizes. It is yet another hoop given to the DM to force the PC's to jump through, and it is a criminally subjective one.
So, to stop beating the dead horse the roleplaying "grade" should be dropped. The remaining system can be a fraction of what it was: 1 week per level (based on characters current level) and 100gp per level per week. So, as it scales up a 10th level PC requires 10 weeks of training at 1000gp per week for a total of 10,000gp total to become 11th level. This, to my mind, puts the cost in the range of easily affordable but not insignificant - something that requires attention but is not an obstacle just for the sake of being an obstacle. If a tutor of higher level than the PC is EVER available (not just at title level) then time is halved thus effectively halving total costs to the PC. All but 1 day of training per level should be possible to undertake at any time between the previous level and the next level, subject to DM discretion. That is, if the PC's are on an extended adventure through the wilderness, gaining experience but never reaching a decent place to take time to level up they should be able to "bank" some time and money towards the requirement. And xp accumulation similarly does not CEASE once the characters total reaches a certain number. Again some DM discretion is required but definitely some DM accommodation is to be expected. The point is a nominal acknowledgement of the desires of verisimilitude, not watching players eat crap because their PC is stuck in the desert when he hits the xp total he needs, nor is it for bleeding more excess treasure from the PC with the pathetic excuse that the DMG (not even the DM himself) knows better what's good for the ongoing game.
Still, appropriate facilities should be available at SOME point for training. Training should be continuous whenever possible. The time and money needs to be spent dedicated to training, becoming better at what the class does or learning new skills entirely and not simultaneously engaging in various other pursuits. This also serves as a restriction of sorts on the DM - as a rule there needs to be some downtime in the game. PC's need time to spend money, look for new adventures, recover from previous adventures, interact casually with the game world, and of course to train to a new level.
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