Sunday, 11 March 2012

Level Titles as Money Sink

Level titles are cool. They give the same sense of achievement and specialness as the level titles of real-world secret societies: the Mithraic cult, the Freemasons, the Golden Dawn.

Advancement training costs suck. Why do you gain experience points from adventuring but then need some poncey sword instructor to validate your hit points? And wouldn't you rather come by 50 gold pieces while keep them, than 5000 gold pieces while knowing that in your GM's warped economy, most of that is going towards training costs?

But what if you paid money, not to level up your character, but to give him or her the cool level title?

Granted by a secret or not so secret hierarchical organization, level titles represent your social advancement by dint of your donation of loot to their worthy cause. As an adventuring member, not tied to any place but useful to the society, you can only have a level title equal to or less than your actual level.

Benefits from societies vary. One way to model this simply: having henchmen requires membership of one society or another. Other ideas: they can be approached for interest-free loans proportionate to the title, are a source of equipment and adventure opportunities, provide "death insurance" in the form of raise dead spells, are necessary to the ultimate endgame by giving land or political capital for the characters' stronghold.

At this point there are two ways to go:

1. Separate society choices for different character types and classes. One character rises in the Thieves' Guild, another in the Wizards' Academy, yet another in an order of knighthood.

2. The same society for all, an adventurers' freemasonry - perhaps with different titles for different professions, but without the party-dividing drawback.

I think the first option is more "realistic" but the second option has more game advantages. It binds the party together, removes the worry that one guild or cabal might be more advantageous than the other.

If I get enough response I'll whip up a sample adventurers' society that gives out level titles - the Order of St. Hermas.


  1. Definitely a cool idea. I've liked the idea of a general "adventurers' guild" that could be used as a spur to play, especially for a megadungeon or sandbox where things are more or less up to the players to decide what to do. This sounds like a good way to implement one in the game.

  2. cool twist on an old idea.

    The level title/rank could also be used by an adventuring society to determine treasure splits and item picks. Don't go along and a few random encounters will be with a adventuring society correction squad.

  3. Does it really have to be either or? I could understand having to pick on, but I would think they could all be an option. Heck, I could even see Wizards and heart-of-gold thieves being brought into a knightly order.

  4. There's so much delicious crunch-free flavor in this idea. I can see it changing the tone of the game from a dungeon crawl into a more nuanced secret war between the societies, since everyone knows the Knights of the Panther Rampant despise the Order of St. Herman and would do anything to screw with them.

  5. i like this idea alot. it actually reminds me of RuneQuest, where you gain access to new spells by gaining ranks in various cults - each with its own requirements and cost. i think i might steal it ;)

  6. Cool idea.

    Added to Links to Wisdom - DM section on upkeep.

  7. Cool idea. I'd say that it should probably have some clear and mechanical advantage as well. If it's not giving you any clear benefit in the dungeon, many players wont bother.