Hero Experience In Dungeon Sagas

As I mentioned yesterday, the experience system is linked to the rest of the Downtime process. I’ll explain how in a moment, but first a handful of points that came up in the comments from yesterday’s post and which I should probably stress first:

1) Downtime as a whole is supposed to be a quick thing, not a gaming session on its own. Depending on the number of players you have and their levels of analysis paralysis this might take up to 10 minutes. If everyone knows what they want to do then it will be substantially quicker.

2) The Necromancer (or equivalent role in your current quest pack) gets a Downtime session too. This is similar in concept, but offers different options to the Heroes’ one. I’ve stuck to Heroes here to follow on from yesterday. The principles are much the same.

3) This isn’t final. Ronnie hasn’t seen all of this yet and may have different ideas. However, I think this is about as slick as we’re going to get while including enough interesting choices. Even if some details change (and they’re likely to mutate a bit during playtesting anyway), this is the general direction you should expect.

So, having cleared that up, how does experience work?

Elf archer


As the Heroes do cool and heroic stuff they earn points of Heroics. In effect, these are experience points. The exact process for getting these is something I’m still fiddling with and islikely to change so I won’t bother with details. That said, my aim is to include three main elements:

  • Killing enemies.
  • Doing your thing.
  • Mini-quests.

Killing enemies is always a good thing. That’s obvious. Doing your thing is a way to reflect the fact that not everyone does killing effectively. Clerics, for instance, should mainly be getting experience for saving their friends, not slaughtering the foe. Mini-quests are exactly what they sound like: small side missions that a Hero can do while still taking part in the main quest.

So, the Heroes do their heroic thing and earn Heroics. What do they do with them then?



I don’t much like the term level, but you probably know what I mean by it so it’ll do for now. Basically, there are different grades of Hero. They start at 1 and move up from there.

A Hero’s level is used for a number of different things. One is to rate the power of the individual (and by extension, the group) so that they can be compared to the difficulty of the dungeon. This helps balance the Advanced game where you have a great deal of options and we can’t balance it by knowing exactly what both sides have and playing it a lot (which is how we balance the Core game).

I also want to use level for limiting access to certain items. This is slightly artificial, though not entirely. You go to the High Priest and he laughs at you when you ask for the fabled  Sword of Doom. “Who are you”, he says? “Only a real hero can wield this…”. In this way the Hero’s level can be seen as his overall amount of notoriety or fame. This can also be used to limit access to unbalancingly good items to keep the level useful as a balancing tool.

Perhaps most importantly, a Hero’s level limits his access to skill and stat improvements.

Green Menace

Improving Stats And Skills

These bonuses are listed in tiers which correspond to the possible levels. They are also split into race, profession and other categories. So, a level 1 Dwarf Fighter would have access to the level 1 Dwarf and the level 1 Fighter improvements. This allows me to ramp up the power of Heroes as they gain levels, and also to add character and uniqueness to particular combinations and professions. This keeps the Heroes interesting and different.


Spending Heroics

These can buy two things: level and improvements.

You can spend Heroics to buy whole levels for the Hero, gaining him fame and glory throughout the land as his stories are told and retold in taverns across Mantica.

You can also spend Heroics to improve your stats and skills, learn new feats and so on. This doesn’t make you more famous, it just makes you more dangerous.

The interesting part of this is that you have to choose what to spend them on. Nothing comes for free, so if you spend your points on level then you don’t get more dangerous, and vice versa.

There will need to be limits on improving level without ability as this would just get you into dungeons so dangerous that you’d never survive them. And that would be boring to play. Apart from that you have a free choice. This means that even if you start with two identical Heroes they can diverge from their very first spending of Heroics, making a vast number of individuals possible with just these simple rules.


Tying It Together

The above ideas link up with the Downtime stuff mentioned yesterday.

Let’s say you’ve just completed a dungeon adventure. Everyone’s a bit battered, but you completed the quest and are ready to spend your loot and Heroics.

You can always spend Heroics at the base cost for whatever level or improvement you fancy. However, depending on which location you chose you could reduce that cost. If you go to the tavern then you can spread the news of your heroic tale, buying everyone a drink or three while they listen. This would help to spread your fame and reduce the cost of a new level.

On the other hand, if you spend you time in the arena your combat skills will be cheaper. Clerics learn new spells more easily at their temple, thieves at the Thieves’ Guild, and so on. You get the idea. This is in addition to anything else those locations might do.

So while you can always advance a Hero, you need to think about whether your choice of location will impact this enough to make it worth picking to go to one place rather than another. Do you really need to buy a new sword?

Again, what I’m after here is a simple and quick system that includes a load of character without being onerous to resolve. In my early tests this has shown to be very quick rules wise – people don’t get confused about their options. Where the time goes is in deciding which one of the many cool options they will do…

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29 Responses to Hero Experience In Dungeon Sagas

  1. LCK says:

    Sounds better and better! Works for me.

  2. Paul says:

    I really like the idea of splitting the enhancements into race and career levels. One question though, when you raise your level, are you raising both the race and career levels at the same time, or can you raise each one independently? If you can raise them separately, could you, in theory, unlock secondary careers so you end up with things like Cleric/Thief?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I don’t think we need to level separate bits individually. At least, I can see it being appropriate in an RPG, but it seems an unnecessary level of detail for this. I think one level for each Hero will be enough to think about.

      Secondary classes have always seemed a bit of a cop out to me, and one that always tends to wards a diminishment of character and a tendency to making Heroes too similar to each other. It also detracts from the co-operative element of the game as you no longer need the others because you can do a bit of everything yourself. Can’t see it being added here.

      • Paul says:

        Makes sense. I was just curious to see if the overall character level was the same for the race and career or if it was a total of both. If both are the same you rely upon the players to stick to character choices in their heads, rather than providing some rule based restrictions.

        You’ve mentioned limiting access to certain things based upon the overall character level, but if the race and career were separate levels you have more chance to evolve the character in certain ways that offer unique limitations.

        For example, Dwarf Warrior A chooses to level up the Dwarf section to level 2, but stays on level 1 warrior; Dwarf Warrior B chooses to upgrade Warrior to level 2, but not Dwarf.

        From a story perspective, A is paying attention to his heritage and may be seen as more reliable/steadfast by other dwarves and given access to the mystical hammer of Whatever. Dwarf B may be seen as having abandoned his heritage, so is unable to use the hammer, but can get enhancements or support from a general Warrior guild that A can’t get.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          You’re quite right that breaking things down into more categories would allow you to be more precise, but you could carry this on indefinitely. At some pout you have to decide that you’ve got enough definition for the purposes of the project, and I think that it’s OK with a single level for each individual. There’s still plenty of playtesting left to do, so that may be revised. Time will tell.

          In understand your argument and your example, it’s just a matter of what amount of detail I think is necessary for DS as a board game rather than an RPG. In either case, the choices of improvements are the main thing that will define the character regardless of whether their levels are measured in one place or two.

  3. Nakano says:

    I like the combination of race (dwarf) and type/profession (fighter). I would say the this especially shines with custom heroes. And spending heroic points at specifi place with an advantage sounds very good too!

    • Nakano says:

      To extend this a little. Even if a place gives a certain bonus, it shouldn’t be “I always want to go here because my profession gets bonus”. But this probably won’t be the case if tavern helps getting levels and temple/shrine learning new spells easier. There is more options than 1.
      It’s good that on top of choosing a location and getting the bonus, there is a chance for random short good/neutral or none/bad encounter. For example, an encounter might be: “You went to a tavern. Met a bard whose songs no one could stand for. After listening for a while, you decided to throw the bard out of the tavern. Everyone thanked you. +1 heroic.”.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        That’s the sort of thing I was thinking of. Perhaps with fewer bards 😉

        • mastertugunegb says:

          Hmmm, Will certain character classes get a higher chance at successfully increasing a relevant ability? e.g. Fighters training combat skills at an Arena, Bards performing themselves at a Tavern to Level up… or will it be more like with Wizards need to go visit the Library/Tower/Mage Guild to learn new Spells and so forth?

          Would a Bard PC be able to sing tales of the party’s exploits at a Tavern (with any kind of benefit)?

  4. eriochrome says:

    Sounds good. So to summarize it seems that characters gain heriocs and spend those on new abilties/stat modifiers. Once they have gained a certain level of herioics overall the increase a “level” which opens up new options for them to spend their heroics on. So will one of the campaigns move a character up about a level as 10 and 8 missions are not that different if you want to bring custom characters through the campaigns instead of the stock ones.

    • Paul says:

      From the sound of it, the Level is different to the abilities/stats. You could choose to level up three times without any new skills, which would get you access to higher level equipment, but leave you in trouble… or you could spend it all on new skills/stats increases but not be able to use better equipment

      • eriochrome says:

        But if you are using the levels of the party to gauge what you put in the dungeon, you would want them to go up pretty automatically after picking up a certain number of improvements to keep the challenge up and avoid “gaming” of the system.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Paul is correct. While there is a minimum requirement of improvements to advance a level, you can choose to do either. I’m hoping that this will reduce the ease with which people game the system by mudding the waters and making the process less linear. It also adds greatly to the variation between different Heroes, which is good. I don’t think anything I do will stop people trying to game the system entirely because they are, after all, gamers 🙂

  5. Brandon Johns says:

    I was worried that this game was going to be too basic, but I really like the direction this is headed now. At long last, I’ll have the dungeon crawl I’ve always wanted. Keep it up!

  6. Openmind says:

    the improving system of advanced HeroQuest, I always liked, was an improvement system without levels. If you create a similar system with a mix of purchase skills&feats system for race and profession, would be perfect for dungeon saga.

    sorry for my poor english

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I started out with a system that did not have levels. I added levels as they are a simple and easy to use way of limiting items and, more importantly, calculating the overall power of a Hero compared to a dungeon. Without them you start having to make a more complex calculation that in effect is the same thing anyway.

  7. Torkel says:

    I like the concept of “talent trees”. I don’t know if you think about implementing feats/skills that way. It tends to steer differently built characters (of the same class) onto one of a select number of paths, for better or for worse. Like “path of fire” for a wizard, etc. What I do like about it is that it creates themed characters pretty well. It also lets characters unlock exclusive and powerful feats for a path if they choose the properly themed precondition-feats. It creates, for me, a feeling of “I’ve trained in this particular aspect throughout my career, and because of that, I’m now able to unlock its full potential.”

    An argument against it is that it tends to create similar characters for heroes of the same path. But hero race can still offset that. And even if talent trees aren’t used (such that new feats don’t depend on previous feat choices), characters will still end up similar to each other if they wanna do the same thing =/

    • Quirkworthy says:

      They will, and that makes sense. If two characters of the same race/profession combination both try to be the best archer, say, then they are likely to end up in a similar place. It’s hard to see how it would be otherwise. A variation in Downtime options would be one of a few ways to alter that.

      • crimsonsun says:

        Something you could include amongst these ‘talent trees’ would be racially specific Class options, entirely apart from the Heritage/race talents open to all of that species. This would only need to be a couple of additional class options in 2-3 professions per race that would provide access to highly unique racial profession abilities to further increase the variation characters can obtain. For example Elves may make wonderful Ranger/Archers and have a couple of addition options in that profession, as well as in Elemental Magic, while Humans may have some additional choices in the Clerical or Paladin Profession.

        This would in no way penalise a player for choosing any race/profession they wished for their character but would provide some interesting additional options. While I think about it these could be added to the Racial Tree quite easily with listed pre-requirements, which would be another way of achieving the same effect.


  8. Danny says:


    Sounds pretty straight forward and pretty much what people would be hoping for and enjoy, great stuff!

    I guess if you implement a system of monster levels, so monsters getting tougher as the heroes progress in power, then the heroic points would also increase for each monster type as it increases in its difficulty to defeat.

    I particularly like the fact that you’ve decided on implementing the “Doing your thing” concept. If heroics points were only gained through the killing of monsters, before long, all the fighters would be miles ahead of the other hero types, and would be increasing exponentially as those heroes would be earning more and more heroic points due to defeating more powerful enemies and the growing gap between them and other heroes…and of course, the players of the heroes left in the dust would not be having any fun, just tagging along and watching other people have all the fun, not a good way to encourage the use of variant hero classes…so a very solid choice Jake, to include “Doing your thing” as a way to gain heroic points. The very ugly alternative of course is to equally divide the heroic points between all heroes that took part in the adventure…so a wizard gets a fair share of the heroic points, even though the fighters did all the hard yards of monster killing. For other heroic deeds, this may work fine, but I find it really unfair when accumulating experience points for killing monsters. Heroes should be rewarded according to their area of expertise and exercising that to the benefit of the party during the adventure. So even though a cleric may only kill one or two goblins in a desperate and sprawling hack and slash fest in the final dungeon room, if the cleric has consistently kept the other heroes in operational order due to continual healing and buffs throughout the dungeon, then the cleric should be rewarded very well for that with Heroic points. Likewise, a Wizard can burn and zap a few goblins, but he should also be rewarded for breaking warded doors, deciphering ancient text or magical runes, buffing heroes and de-buffing enemies etc…great stuff, I love this direction.

    I have to admit, from when you first started talking about introducing mini quests or personal hero goals a few weeks ago, I wasn’t really too taken with the idea, and I guess I am still not. I guess it all depends on exactly what these mini quests and goals will encompass. Certainly though, many others have expressed excitement at the thought of them, so you are definitely on the right track with those.

    **Levels+Improving Stats and Skills+Spending Heroics**

    Excellent!!! I really like this a lot. So much choice, so much flavour, yet at the same time, it has the built in self limiting mechanic to prevent over powered crazy run-away hero combinations. I definitely like how these three things are inextricably joined!!!

    **Tying it Together*

    I’m not sure I understand this entirely. So is going to a Tavern the way that you are supposed to level up, or does it happen automatically once you’ve reached a certain amount of heroic points? If you can only visit one place per downtime settlement visit, how can you level up at the level up place (where ever that may be) if you first visit the tavern to reduce the cost of leveling up by spreading your fame?

    It seems to suggest that you would spend heroics on purchasing a sword. Will heroics serve as both points to purchase levels and skills etc as well as an in game currency to purchase equipment etc?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Heroics won’t buy items. Gold will.

      Heroics buy either levels or intangible improvements (stat/skill/feat/etc).

      You can always spend heroics after a dungeon. The locations simply reduce the cost of a particular type of bonus. So, for example, if it cost X to buy a new level, buying one at a tavern might cost X-1. You can therefore choose to take the cheaper advancement or go and buy a new axe at a different location. You could buy the level at full prices and buy the axe with your gold at the market. This is a faster advancement, but you pay more (heroics) for it.

      If you had enough Heroics saved up to buy a better fighting stat and a new level at the same time then you may well be able to choose between having one or other of them at a reduced rate (depending on your Downtime options). Or you could save your heroics to spend later and get them both cheap (buying one at a discount each Downtime), but not having one of them improved for the next dungeon.

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  10. Jason MacDougall (Bookkeeper) says:

    I have been trying to work out how the progression of charactors will work particularly regarding stats.
    Obviously progressing beyond 5 armour should be impossible, probably additional armour bonuses beyond this point give +1 die to defence (reversing the min of 2 die for penalties)
    I also wonder if the number of base die will be limited in some way, (before magic items) to 2-3 above the starting point of a hero or if they will be limited to Melee or Ranged Attack bonuses only, once you are wielding 8 dice, it is going to start being unwieldy.
    Health however could increase a bit, particularly if some higher level monster types gain the ability to deal multiple damage.
    Feats definitely can be stacked by up, multiple different 1 off abilitities make of a cinematic feel and mean their use and timing is important I hope the majority of the increases are of this nature.
    Additional spells are a no brainier for magic classes
    There are some multi use skills make sense (many of which could be improved with multiple purchases), such as trap disarm, lock picking, shield (friendly models in this models rear arc cannot be targeted by non spell ranged attacks, this model is targeted instead), dodge (ignore one enemy front arc when moving) underhanded (enemy models being attacked from any of the rear 5 squares suffer the penalty).
    At higher levels some limited additional actions per hero activation or the ability to be able to ignore the first hit in combat could work, but having too many repeatable use skills ( particularly those messing with combat dice ) could bog down the flow given the mechanics.

    Anyway that’s my two cents and look forward to seein alpha rules mk2, and beta rules over the coming months while I wait with anticipation.

    • eriochrome says:

      Green Menace had weapons (great axes) which reduced target armor values so their is no reason to directly limit the armor at 5 since higher can be defeated with opponents properly equipped.

      • Jason MacDougall (Bookkeeper) says:

        In such cases without the special weapon does a 6 still beat the armour? Or is a weapon with -2 armour essential to beat a model with armour 7

        • eriochrome says:

          You would need the special weapon, but given that most of the heroes have armor that start at 2 getting above 5 is a lot of advancement. Probably the magic items which raise armor are not going to be like +1 to armor but instead listing a value. The dwarf starts pretty high at 4 but is also already armored up.

          I think that 6+ armor will probably be limited to the more “legendary” of the scenarios where you are dealing with a selection of the nastier monsters. For the build your own or random stuff, I think he will use the level system to match the monsters to the heroes equipment where only the high level heroes can use Ar 6+ stuff.

          As you note there are other ways to influence the defense. You can give bonus dice for defense with a special rule. You can also have a damage resistance (X) rule which reduces the successes from the attacker after the dice contest has been compared. This is essentially what the zombies have since the just ignore the first 2 success of each attack. Now that there are like 25 monsters or so, the table system might not be the best.way to represent damage. Especially if you want to make it easy for people to design new stuff, I would set up a parrallel special rule system that builds the charts for people who need them.

          For example a skeleton would have Damage Resistance(1), Pile of Bones (1) which would means that the first success does nothing, and second converts the model to a pile of bones, while 3 and beyond does 1 health damage which destroys the stock monster. Exactly the same as the table but full customizable. Zombies would be damage resistance (2). A Troll skeleton might have Damage Resistance (2), Pile of Bones (2) which makes it take 3 or 4 success to convert to the pile of bones and 5+ to take it down.
          It is reasonably scalable and gets the special rules built in that the heroes will probably be picking up as they advance.

          To account for the fact that heroes only take one damage regardless of successes against them so you might list them as Herioc Health (5) while a normal orc or elf might from green menace be list as Green Rage (-),,Herioc Health 2 and Nimble (1) , Health (2)
          respectively to cover how they worked in that book. The first time any hits are generated on an orc they get green rage and the second time you hit them they die but you cannot kill them with one hit in those rules. The elves on the other hand dodged out of the way of your first success all the time but the second success would essentially put 1 injury counter on them while 3 success would kill them in one attack. An elf with an injury counter attack another time would again dodge the first success but the second or more would kill him.

          It is the same as the tables which you can switch back and forth from but makes all the steps and choices in the damage tables explicitly linked to something.

    • Danny says:

      Jason, I think what you’ve said is along the lines we may see. Increasing the combat effectiveness of models, in both attack and defence, can certainly mean giving extra dice or adding +1 to their dice rolls or armour values and I’ve no doubt we will see this feature in Dungeon Sagas to some extent…rolling more dice is always fun 🙂 However, there are also many, many more ways to tackle this and I think we will see more of this than simple stat boosts.

      Special rules that effect hero, weapon or armour properties. The list of ways you can give bonus’ or apply penalties with a method like this exceeds that which you could do by simply +1 this or -1 that and is really only limited by the imagination. I also think that ultimately, it is a more interesting way than just saying Sword +5.

      I’m also looking forward to seeing how Jake tackles all this 🙂

      • Danny says:

        In regards to fighting creatures with high armour. Certainly Jake will have weapons that have armour penetration values due to the power they can physically exert (like he did with the Greatax in DKH);

        Greatax Warriors wield fearsome axes that are sharp enough to slice through armour
        with ease. When working out a combat involving a Greatax Warrior, count its opponent’s Armour as 2 lower than it would otherwise be. Remember that the minimum value for Armour is 1.”

        There could be magical weapon that ignore all or a certain amount of armour. Melee focused heroes may gain abilities that allow them to pick weak spots in armour, allowing them to hit high armour value creatures.

        I think another interesting way, which ties in nicely with Jake’s talk about gaining Heroics for “Doing Your Thing”, would be to have Divine Powers for Clerics that reduced the armour values of Undead and Demonic creatures, or Paladins having a 1 space radius around them (an Aura) that reduced the armour values of like creatures, or the Wizard casting Combat spells reducing armour values of enemies…or Thieves reducing armour values of enemies by backstabbing and finding weak spots in armour.

        There are so many ways it can be done, very imaginative and flavourful ways which can have all heroes feeling useful in combat situations. So much potential…

  11. Tazar Yoot says:

    I’m loving everything I’m reading so far about leveling up and progressing but my only fear is the heroes surpassing the monsters too quickly. Has there been any consideration to giving the monsters multiple hit points at higher levels in the advanced rules? My concern would be if all the monsters are single hit point baddies the only real way to up the difficulty will be to throw more numbers at them (especially when the heroes start getting stronger gear and more powerful abilities, their ability to dish out successfully hits will increase as well, therefore one shotting monsters left and right), and while that’s a valid tactic to overwhelm the heroes in some cases it can grow repetitive and bland. Where as, if some monsters had a significant number of hit points that could pose a different kind of challenge and threat for heroes without relying only on overwhelming them with numbers. If the idea of hit points is something you want to steer away from for monsters for simplicity’s sake I can appreciate that to some extent but perhaps you could make some monsters require two successive and separate hits in order to kill them. That way it increases the difficulty of killing some tougher monsters and adds a concept of hit point without actually requiring people keep track of hit point totals.

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