Amplifying and Atrophying – A different take on progression

I was tossing around the idea of getting a character to progress not just mechanically but having the story they tell, change over time. I want mechanics involved though, because mechanics are one of the tools the players use to assert their agency on the story.

In some games, the player builds a character out of predefined elements by spending points. Xp are points, so what if the player progressed by spending xp on things that change their character? Cheaper buys would be more of a give and take. More costly buys would be better for the character as a whole. I don’t know if it’s necessary to have dozens of options. The more attributes and abilities you have in a game, the more options you’d need though.

What are we talking about then? My first thought was a buy like “Battle Hardened” where the character gets tougher, mentally and physically but becomes scarred as a human being. Maybe “Pumping Iron” makes the character stronger but their mental abilities of skills drop a bit from lack of practice. A buy where the character becomes more charismatic might mean becoming more mentally flexible and so loose some of their mental toughness.

Implementing this in The Artifact is a little tricky because of the progressive nature of xp buys. If my Constitution is 90 and my Charisma is 10 and I take a buy that boosts Constitution 5 points but drops Charisma 5 points, it sounds like an even trade. I’ve actually made out by a lot because those Constitution points are really worth 3 Charisma points apiece.

I like the idea but I’m not sure how to implement it. It could be as simple as saying one attribute is raised and another lowered the same amount. Instead of the regular 3 xp it costs to raise an attribute, the cost could be brought down to 1 xp.

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