He had been, as the Old Law recommends, twenty years a youth, twenty years a fighter — though he had never carried a weapon in his life — and twenty years head of a household. He had used his wealth and his power for what he knew both to be worth; he had taken honour when it came his way; he had seen men and cities far and near, and men and cities had stood up and honoured him. Now he would let those things go, as a man drops the cloak he no longer needs.
— “The Miracle of Purun Bhagat”, The Second Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling
I have run campaigns (many of them) in a setting in which there was a social feature inspired by the above quote from Kipling’s “The Miracle of Purun Bhagat”: in my old fantasy setting Gehennum it was a norm that a man should be twenty years a child, then twenty years a warrior, then twenty years a magistrate and twenty years a priest, before finally retiring at eighty. Non-citizens, and citizens in despotic states, resented not being allowed to live “the Four Lives”. But it did not occur to me when I was running any of those campaigns to award a different sort of experience points according to which life a PC was in, nor to award experience points for different goals to characters in different lives¹.
It struck me while we were discussing the old D&D expectation that characters would start to do a different sort of thing once they reached “named level”, that perhaps the thing would have been to stop giving characters experience for killings and loot once they reached tenth level, and to start giving it instead for accomplishments in the expected and desired kinds of play at the higher level. That might result in players retiring characters who could no longer get experience points, or perhaps a levelling moment while the named-level characters could still cut a dashing figure in the dungeon, but were essentially marking time until the whole party should be ready to move on.
I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a game that worked that way. Has anyone?
In James Bond 007 characters had a “rank” that was determined by a weighted total of their attributes and skill levels, and each character’s rank determined his or her base experience award: characters of higher rank got more experience. The purpose of that rule was to provide an incentive for rookies and “agent” rank characters to specialise, while freeing “00”-ranked characters to generalise. The understanding was that low-ranked characters were suitable for team play and 00s for solo games. Anyway, I don’t think that that’s quite the same thing, because it’s not aimed at producing a changing incentive for the character’s actions during adventures.
So: does this seem to be an interesting idea? Have any games tried it?
¹ I did award merit points for different deeds to characters in different lives, the totals and resulting ranks determining perceived eligibility for promotions and offices.