Posted by : David Guyll July 22, 2013
I do not remember if XP penalties were really a thing in older editions, and 3rd Edition had a vague system of awarding 10-50 XP per character level depending on how well the Dungeon Master felt you did. Given how much XP you needed to level up it could be quite awhile before you saw any payoff, which basically amounted to "you might level up one session before the rest of the party".
Other games provide ways to reward you for taking the time to develop your character, or just as part of creating your character: for example Dungeon World has bonds that you can cash in for XP throughout the
course of the campaign, FATE (which is basically free) has aspects that you can invoke for a reroll or flat bonus to a check (which cost points that you can regain when the Storyteller screws you over by invoking one of your aspects), and Exalted has its motivations and intimacies.
A common complaint I hear is that Dungeons & Dragons is not a "real" role-playing game, that basically all you do is kill things for XP and treasure. I disagree with this sentiment, but can see where they are coming from, and given the praise I often hear about bonds and aspects it is surprising that it took almost 40 years for Dungeons & Dragons to (probably) pick up on this trend.
The proposed system consists of bonds, flaws, and ideals:
- Bonds are your characters ties to the world.
- Flaws are your weaknesses.
- Ideals are the things that keep you going when everything sucks.
This sounds...promising. It is not anything new or particularly awe-inspiring, but it is still good to see the game "officially" offer something more rewarding and interesting than XP for your time and efforts. Really the only thing that I dislike is that so much of it seems to springboard off of alignment. Given that alignment is supposed to be optional, I hope that this system will also be completely usable without having to reference alignment at all.
Flaws are a concern. I have never had a good experience with flaws: generally players would try to take flaws that would likely never come into play in order to scrape together enough points to buy an extra perk or what-have-you, or just ignore them entirely. I am hoping that they are more like the bad side of a well-developed aspect in FATE, something that you have to take (ideally derived from a bond or ideal) and the DM can potentially use against you, or at least as an adventure hook.
On the plus side there will apparently be several random tables for you to roll on and/or use as inspiration for writing your own stuff. Speaking of inspiration...
You can gain inspiration by doing things that reflects your personality, goals, or beliefs, and burn it to gain advantage on things linked to the action. It kind of makes me think of stunting from Exalted, and based on his description I like more because the bonus is normally small and immediate; you can only one one "inspiration" at a time, so it will be interesting to see if players will bank one as soon as possible and just save it for a key moment in the encounter. If the bonus is used up immediately, I think it will encourage more consistent attempts.
Of course this is just the basic mechanic for rewarding specific kinds of role-playing. According to Mearls there will be variations and more complex modules. It is encouraging nonetheless to see at least something built into the core of the game, and hopefully other modules will provide more gratifying mechanics. Really I would be fine with what would essentially amount to d20-fied aspects.