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Supporting NPC's gaining beats / XP?

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  • Supporting NPC's gaining beats / XP?

    So I am aware when you put more dots into background merits your retainer / mentor / contact / ally / whatever gets more powerful. Can they become more powerful without you spending XP on them?

    Prior to Sanctity of Merits rules, background merits could be lost or gained at the ST discretion which kinda sucked because you could just lose a background without gaining a new one. Sanctity of Merits gives you your dots back and protects you, but without a special ruling of the ST you really don't have external situations improve your merits either. A double-edged sword I guess.


    ​Like if you have a ghoul retainer who is your bodyguard and is in practically every scene with you - do they ever individually gain XP? Is there an official rule on this (short of a special ruling by the ST)?

  • #2
    I'd make it a story out of improving such an NPC, because you have to justify increases in play.

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    • #3
      That's up to the ST. I personally upgrade mentors, retainers, contacts, and allies that are used on a semi regular basis simply because, unless you specifically request it, I'm not going to go out of my way to create a brand new bodyguard for your PC because you upgrade your bodyguard retainer from a 3 dot retainer to a 4 dot retainer. (Yes there was a player in the group who wanted new minions everytime they upgraded them.) Whether or not the PC in question is aware of this and is allowed to take advantage of these new skills is another matter.

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      • #4
        Not sure you're going to find an official rule on this in terms of XP. However, it's pretty common practice that not all merits or merit increases need to be bought with XP. Your first Touchstone is an example of this. If your character finishes their PHD and lands a job in a hospital, an ST might give you Status (Medical) for free. It just means that if you ever lose your job through plot reasons, you don't get that sanctity refund - the Medical Status just gets erased from your sheet.

        If an ST feels like incorporating NPC progression into their game, these guidelines would be an easy way to do it. Example: If a Retainer qualifies for X number of beats, you get a free bump to their rating or some such.

        Personally, I wouldn't run things that granularly as it's a large initial bookkeeping problem - and might encourage an over-saturation of NPC participation in scenes as every PC wants to make sure to get those beat opportunities for the peeps on their payroll. I do balance that out, however, by making generous use of temp merits. If you blood-bond someone, I'll give you an XP-free retainer. If you do a lot of favors for a given company or group, you'll get some Allies or the like. Orchestrate the firing of your ally's boss - and take steps to ensure they move up - see an XP-free merit rating bump.

        That said - I'd not be as sympathetic to the idea that NPC participation should warrant increases just on its own. Presumably most people utilize Retainers and Mentors and such because they are getting a mechanical or story advantage out of that participation. Why give someone a reward for using merits to gain benefits? Gaining those benefits is the reward.

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        • #5
          I don't really think free merits are ever necessary. You don't need a merit to have a thing, just to gain the specific mechanical benefits of the merit. For example, a PC has a home even if they don't have Safe Place or Haven merits. They just don't get the benefits of those merits. Similarly, PCs can have an NPC friend without Retainer or Ally, they just have to roleplay and negotiate and bribe to get them to do things rather than getting the mechanical benefits and short-hand dice rolls that the merits grant.

          To get to the OP's question, the mechanical rolls that merits allow you to make are pretty entirely divorced from the actual stats of the NPC. A Ghoul Pastor that a PC ghouls is never going to match up to the dice pools that a Retainer merit gives you (rating dice pool for everything; double for their area of expertise. This is going to give better results for most activities than an organically built NPC, and it will never accurately represent an organically built NPC). The advantage of the merit is in the mechanics. There's absolutely no need to have a merit represent the NPC unless the PC wants that benefit, in which case they should pay for it. This means that an NPC increasing in skill should not affect the attached merit; they are already entirely unrelated.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Maina View Post
            I don't really think free merits are ever necessary. You don't need a merit to have a thing, just to gain the specific mechanical benefits of the merit. For example, a PC has a home even if they don't have Safe Place or Haven merits. They just don't get the benefits of those merits.
            On the other hand, it's not having a home that those Merits actually represent.

            I agree with Holy. I recommend that Merits gained through organic play (rather than through XP) can be granted by the ST, but with the drawback of not being subject to Sanctity of Merits. It works for my group, and is the only way most of my characters gain the Status Merit (if they get it at all).


            Bloodline: The Stygians
            Ordo Dracul Mysteries: Mystery of Smoke, Revised Mystery of Živa
            Mage The Awakening: Spell Quick Reference (single page and landscape for computer screens)

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            • #7
              Giving away Merits not protected by Sanctity of Merits is annoying because now you have to track which Merits are which.

              The game gives us a better option: Conditions.

              Conditions let you give boosts to your allied NPCs (Merit based or not), and resolving them gets you XP so you can buy Merits to make the function more permanent.

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              • #8
                Dunno about that. Just make a little mark under or above the affected dots and you won't have to write up a whole Condition. And that's just if you're using paper sheets. I've colour coded dots on my digital sheets. Takes no place at all compared to Conditions.


                Bloodline: The Stygians
                Ordo Dracul Mysteries: Mystery of Smoke, Revised Mystery of Živa
                Mage The Awakening: Spell Quick Reference (single page and landscape for computer screens)

                Comment


                • #9
                  So, you still have to do extra to track them (even if you've managed to front load it on a digital sheet), but that doesn't actually get to the "earn XP to buy them as Merits/increase their Merit value" side of it.

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                  • #10
                    Yeah, my table's short hand for 'free' merits is a box around the dot. Or [O] if we need to represent it through text. It's pretty intuitive and I've never had someone be, "An XP-free contact merit? But I have to put a box around the merit dot? Ugh. No thanks...." I have them list their free Touchstone and any free Kindred status as a merit dot like this as well.

                    That said, Conditions as favors/merits are a lot of fun too. Extra points if your group hands out cards. There's something about the tactile feeling of a condition card that just adds a little joy, especially when it's a tradeable resource that can literally change hands.

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                    • #11
                      And... I've never had anyone complain about getting an Availability 4 Cash equipment from stealing from a safe over getting a "free" dot of Resources that I'll take away later, or the Informed Condition instead of a freed of Contacts I'll take away later.

                      Because there's more than just the practical notation on the sheet. There's also the mental separation of expendable resources and temporary situations (equipment and Conditions respectively), and relatively reliable assets (Merits).

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                      • #12
                        Cash cards work for one-offs too, my friend. For longer term items I don't think Conditions are always the solution, since sometimes I want to divorce benefits from the beat cycle (XP). And as a table that doesn't make players pay for earned Kindred status, I'd prefer not to reskin those merits into Conditions when the Status mechanics fit my needs as written.

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                        • #13
                          Equipment (like my cash example) is separated from the Beat 'cycle.'

                          And I'm very challenged to come up with a situation where one could earn Status (regardless of what kind, but especially Kindred Status) without having done at least 5 Beat worthy things per dot. All that 'earning' is what generates Beats, and why Conditions are such a good way to handle this.

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                          • #14
                            Well, already you've got two examples of posters using XP-less merit rewards successfully in their games. Understood that that doesn't work for your table, thank you for the discussion and the different perspective - you make interesting points.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                              And... I've never had anyone complain about getting an Availability 4 Cash equipment from stealing from a safe over getting a "free" dot of Resources that I'll take away later, or the Informed Condition instead of a freed of Contacts I'll take away later.

                              Because there's more than just the practical notation on the sheet. There's also the mental separation of expendable resources and temporary situations (equipment and Conditions respectively), and relatively reliable assets (Merits).
                              None of the examples for Merits thst can be gained through play have been transitory resources. I completely agree that situation should grant the cash equipment because what's gained isn't actually represented by Resources.
                              I'm not saying you should be granted free Merits for everything. I'm saying that I think it's okay to grant Merits for stuff that is primarily represented by Merits, and I prefer that over players either lacking Merits they definitely should have just because they don't want to spend the XP on them or being forced to spend XP on those Merits rather than on stuff they want to invest in.
                              The Ordo scientist who's mastered two Coils and developed five Scales might require more than the initial Status 1. Lacking Status in such a meritocratic Covenant would instead require effort to burn bridges, imo. (Somewhst extreme example, yes, but it makes my point.)


                              Bloodline: The Stygians
                              Ordo Dracul Mysteries: Mystery of Smoke, Revised Mystery of Živa
                              Mage The Awakening: Spell Quick Reference (single page and landscape for computer screens)

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