You quietly follow the trail back to the camp. Peaking through the foliage you count ten, maybe twelve Goblins, and half are sleeping or otherwise indisposed. Whispering to the party you come up with a plan to surround the camp and quickly dispatch the menace before you finally “liberate” the Holy MacGuffin. At this point the warrior yells “Screw it!” and runs in swinging his sword at anything that moves. With a sigh the rest of the party joins the fray and slaughters the creatures to the last drunken Goblin. You hear the fanfare coming from all around you, and you know it was all worth it now that you gained another level.
Growing up I loved playing role-playing video games such as Final Fantasy and Ultima. I would spend hours wandering the countryside killing monsters so I could be so much more badass when I met the next boss. While I still enjoyed the story, grinding out the levels was the part of the game I enjoyed. Once I started playing Pen & Paper RPGs I continued with my love of leveling. In a game when there really is no winning leveling felt like a great substitute. Whenever I reached that next boost I would pour over the massive library of 2nd Edition D&D books we had trying to find the perfect set of skills.
I tell you all this information to give you a basic understanding of the mindscrew non-D&D systems are giving me. Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time reading up of different gaming systems. Some of them of mechanics I enjoy a great deal better than what I am used to, but one thing has always bothered me about them. Each one gives me this strange feeling that I really can’t see myself GMing for more than just a standard one-shot. It has taken me entirely too long to realize that it was the lack of leveling in most point-buy systems. By leveling I mean the huge boost you get in a D&D style game versus the couple extra points in a point-buy.
The strange thing about my confusion with running a game with no real leveling is that I have been playing in a World of Darkness game and have not thought once about how I want to improve the character sheet. My only thoughts have been about how the story is affecting the character and how they are dealing with it.
Leveling has always been synonymous with RPGs for me, whether they be video or table top, so it is hard to check that visceral reaction when I even think about it not being required. This feeling is certainly a remnant of munchkiny days, and something that I need to get over if I really wish to expand my gaming repertoire. There are a wide world of games out there and I can’t let a little thing like adding more marks to my character sheet prevent me from experiencing them.
While I don’t think I will ever stop loving a good level up, I can certainly start finding a new joy in playing a game just to experience the game.