I’ve been thinking about an alternative experience mechanic for Dungeon World (and other D&D-like games with…

I’ve been thinking about an alternative experience mechanic for Dungeon World (and other D&D-like games with…

I’ve been thinking about an alternative experience mechanic for Dungeon World (and other D&D-like games with levelling up). Rather than track experience points I propose each player have a series of goals for their PC. Each level the player chooses goals, a number equal to the PC’s current level. These goals are in-world achievements for the most part. Some are generic to all character classes. Some are specific to a particular class or background. The player crosses off each goal as it is achieved in play. When all goals are crossed off you level up the PC and choose new goals for the next level.

It may prove useful to separate goals into tiers, say levels 1-3, 4-7, and 8+, to reserve certain goals for characters of specific levels. A goal that may be appropriate for a low level character may not be sufficiently challenging for a higher level character, and conversely some goals may be too risky or unlikely to take as realistic goals at low level. 

Campaign and PC specific goals would also be possible, incorporating events from actual play into the levelling up scheme as desired.

Experience Goals (General)

– survive an encounter with a monstrous foe

– loot a famous treasure

– map a lost ruin

– wake an evil best left sleeping

– traverse a monster infested wilderness

– map a region of unexplored terrain

– uncover an evil plot

– foil an evil plot

– destroy a monster 

– survive a mortal wound 

Fighter Goals

– defeat a worthy opponent (x1, x10, x50)

– defend an ally when outnumbered

– drive off opponents when outnumbered

– slay an opponent with your bare hands

– lead a unit of troops to victory

– be left for dead on a battlefield

– defeat a bitter rival

– succeed in a feat of amazing strength

Thief Goals

– steal something valuable

– outwit an enemy by stealth or guile

– escape from a prison 

– con an important person

– slay someone from hiding (x1, x10, x50)

– recover a treasure lost to the ages

– steal something believed untouchable

– beat a rival to the prize

Wizard Goals

– discover a lost magic spell

– locate a place of power

– enact a ritual not performed in living memory

– use sorcery to control a mortal’s mind

– parley with the Damned

– lose part of your humanity

– build a sanctum

Priest Goals

– lay a troubled spirit

– sanctify a desecrated holy place

– convert a heathen

– protect followers from the ungodly

– emulate your god or prophets

– raise the dead 

– cure a terminal disease

– destroy a nest of undead (x1, x10, x50)

– bless a monarch at their coronation

– meet your deity face to face

– sacrifice something of great personal value

Scout/Ranger Goals

– rescue lost travellers from the wilds

– save a wild animal from hunters

– perform a great feat of archery

– carry a message through the wilds against great odds

– defeat your favoured enemy (x1, x10, x50)

– overcome your favoured enemy when greatly outnumbered 

– lead a group safely through the wilderness

The goals that list multiples (x1, x10, x50) indicate that the first time the goal is chosen one example of the relevant type is sufficient, then 10 and so on as the goal is chosen a second or third time.

Does anyone have additional ideas for goals? Anyone spot any obvious (or not so obvious) problems with this approach?

12 thoughts on “I’ve been thinking about an alternative experience mechanic for Dungeon World (and other D&D-like games with…”

  1. Interesting. So it uses an expanded version of the “drives” or “alignments” motivations? I don’t think I would use something like this, since it would require the players to either make their own, or cater to the playstyle specified by the rules I create.

    I like the DW principle of “learning from your mistakes”, since it takes a bit of the sting away from rolling a miss.

    But I like the idea of expanding the drives and motivations of the players to have mechanical benefits. Your solution is too extreme for me, but I’ll definitely steal some of these. Thanks for the ideas!

  2. David Schirduan Yes, it’s something like drives and bonds mixed together. In our DW games we’ve found bonds are rarely remembered or relied upon, so I was thinking of different ways of levelling up. 

    Paul Arezina I like your suggestions. For the DW approach, more goals per level would allow me (and the players) a bit more control over the rate of advancement. We’ve found that gaining XP is pretty rapid in DW, but opportunities for levelling up often don’t come up in play as frequently.

  3. This is basically the primary experience mechanic of my AW hack in progress, and I have to say it works really well. Letting the players set their own goals gives them a very powerful sense of agency, and the ability/tools to drive their own stories.

  4. I’m intrigued. So they would have to define their goals in advance? That might force them down certain paths in a strange way.

    Thief: “I’ve killed off 10 goblins from my hiding spot, disabled 2 killer traps, mastered a new poison, and conned the prison guards, but this adventure has no gain unless I steal the Soul Gem, because that fits the goal I picked. So I have to go out of my way and divide the party to do it.”

  5. I think the key point here for your group MIles is that you said that Bonds are rarely remembered or relied upon, whereas in our group for instance, Bonds and Alignment steer the game quite heavily. That said, we have bonds with NPCs, locations and events too: sort of an open ended means to your goal ideas.

    Have you read the beliefs section in Burning Wheel? There are some great ‘structures’ of phrasing goals to make them actionable and drive scenes in play.

    Cool ideas mate.

  6. Tim Franzke Yes, I’ve tried reading The Burning Wheel but I never finished. I just bounced off the writing and jargon I suspect. 

    I’d tend to allow players to define goals as often as they like and let them swap out goals at the end of each session if desired. I like the idea that some goals are repeatable, though escalating, and others are once per character or lifetime. 

    In broad terms it’s just a step away from fiat levelling, with the players getting to throw in neat things they’d like to see come up for their characters. With a minor addition you could have other players provide a goal or goals and get something of the AW feel of highlighted stats chosen by other players.

Comments are closed.