Musings on Character Levels

You all know RPG systems with levels. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and often it doesn’t make sense. At all. Especially when you can’t get better at painting without slaying large amounts of enemies and/or stealing their gold. However, in some situations levels are very easy to understand measurements of character power. But I still think they need to be done right. Ah well, let’s give it a try.

The Concept of Levels

First off, what should levels represent? In this instance, I think they should be a representation of accomplishment, or rank maybe, in an organization or way of life. So each level you master more of the abilities from your profession. It does not improve upon unrelated skills but only the core areas of your “character class”.

Experience CurveLevel_graph

There’s a learning curve that might show pretty well how I envision the levels. It looks something like this (to the right). Basically it’s an S, beginning in slow advancement, then going into fast advancement, and after that slowing out into slow advancement once again. It’s a neat model. I’m not sure who originally made it or what it’s actually for, but it fits pretty well with this idea. Hopefully it’s not confusing for anyone.

The first part is the time before the character is actually played (unless one wants “level 0” characters). This time is spent practicing basic moves with a teacher (probably), to prepare the character for whatever career they’re in.

The second part is the regular levels, and I think I’ll have around 5 of those if I use a leveling system. This is the character getting the hang of all those things they were taught, and growing in basic expertise.

The third part is when the character truly comes into their own. Their rate of improvement slows down because all the basic stuff is already done. They can now research new skills, learn ancient abilities, or what have you. This is like the “name level” of old.

To use a martial arts analogy… Well, a japanese one. The first part are your 10th to 6th Kyu maybe (lower rank color belts in karate for example). The second bit are 5th to 1st kyu (higher rank color belts), when you begin to master the basic moves. The last bit is 1st Dan and onwards (black belt rankings) where you are technically at teaching-level yourself. (The actual order of belt colors seems to vary wildly between schools however, so I won’t do a side-by-side list or anything.)

Now What

Well, this was just some ideas about levels in games. Oh, and I think I read something similar to this on another blog once, but I can’t remember which. If anyone knows please tell me so I can link there. It might have been very similar actually. Oh well. It’s still interesting. That’s it for now. Until next time!


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