Lately Ive been riding the bandwagon of interest in FKR-inspired design. Im especially intrigued by diegetic advancement. This is a concept that holds a lot of promise in terms of replacing my least favourite legacy system: XP. However, Im not convinced diegetic advancement has quite arrived in terms of implementation.
A quick and probably incomplete inventory of approaches to this design of which I am aware:
- Advancement as gear The growth you seek is out in the world: Go fetch it! This implements diegetic advancement as a reward for acquiring things, like a less abstracted gold for XP.
- Advancement as training Cairn suggests GMs populate the world with fighting trainers. In so doing, it ties advancement to diegetic investments in character time and relationships.
- Advancement as survival We see this in the scars system used in Electric Bastionland and some of its offspring. In those games, scars resemble a traditional level-up, increasing HP and perhaps providing some other random benefit. This implements diegetic1 advancement as a reward for risk-taking, but given that that it only occurs when you hit exactly 0 HP2, involves a significant element of luck.
What I have not seen is represented is this:
To me, this is the most interesting kind of advancement: The breakthrough in which the necessary forges the impossible into the actual. Im not saying one needs to force the matter; one advantage of the diegetic approaches outlined above is they are not mutually exclusive. In fact I suspect they are better in combination. However, it seems like a blind spot, or at least a missed opportunity, not to include some means of simulating the ways we learn and improve through doing, and the amazing things we can accomplish when we are pushed to our extremes.3 How can diegetic advancement work in the ways we grow through our own efforts?
Sadly, this is all I have to contribute for now. Am I missing something? Did we already figure this one out? If not, how can we incorporate this kind of character growth into less mechanized, more diegetic designs?