Friday, November 11, 2011

Rethinking Immortality in my games

I never played the "Basic" D&D game all the way through to the Immortals set.  Mostly because I was more B/X than BECMI.
I had also gone on to AD&D and "looked down" on the "kids game" of Basic D&D.  But some characters in my games did achieve immortality, others had it thrust on them.
Like many gamers of my age I saw Immortality not as a pathway to Godhood, but rather a Kewl Way of Not Dying.  Eventually what was considered immortality became heavily influenced by the Highlander movie.  And that was that for a number of years.  I only have one immortal character and I don't play him very often.

A while back I was watching "Morgane et ses Nymphes" for the October Challenge and I started thinking about immortals and immortality some more.   Over the weekend I re-watched one of my favorite old Doctor Who episodes, The Brain of Morbius and this got me thinking about it again.  In BoM there is the Sisterhood of Karn, protectors of the Sacred Flame.  I have used them as inspiration before for my own Daughters of the Flame coven.  Like the "nymphes" of Morgan Le Fay, this was a sisterhood of immortals.  They also had something else in common, they never changed.  They not only never grew old, they never learned anything new, never experienced anything different.  In one scene in "Morgane" two girls are play chess and one complains she has never won.  Why? Simple she could never learn anything from all her past games their ability was frozen in time at the point they became immortals.

Now think about vampire tales of the last few years.  Where is it you usually find vampires?  Well not crypts anymore and if it is outside of Bon Temps, then it seems to be in High School.  Buffy, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, My Babysitter's a Vampire; the list goes on.  The issue is vamps, like other immortals, are stuck in the mentality of when they were made immortal.  Yes Anne Rice goes in a completely different direction with this.  Ignoring Lestat's "I'm the super vampire and perfect in every way" schtick, there is the horrifying reality of Claudia; a intelligent woman trapped in the body of a child.

Immortals then need to work hard to overcome this lack of inertia. In games with skills I think I will have Immortal characters have to pay twice the listed cost for skills. This would help explain why and how an immortal character/npc is stuck in older modes of thinking and doing things (or just hanging out at high schools all the time).

Now with D&D like games?  Maybe I'd follow the lead of the demi-human races.  Since an immortal can't die, I'd have to give them a huge bump in XP per level.  Maybe a 20% penalty.

Just some random thoughts.


The Jovial Priest said...

Good thoughts indeed.

Anonymous said...

That's essentially exactly what I did with demi-humans. They have a 10% penalty per class up to the level limit, at which point the penalty doubles.

So if they get the PR bonus, they are essentially "even up" to start out with and then slow down quickly. Without the PR bonus, they tend to move slowly...

It is also worth noting that I moved all demi-humans into the same general level as the UA-level of magicalness and special powers to help create a much more consistant flavor in my game.


Dangerous Brian said...

Yes, good thinking. A well reasoned and persuasive argument for immortal and near-immortal characters.

PlanetNiles said...

In one 2e campaign I played in the DM inflicted quiet severe xp penalties on demihumans. Elves for example only got 1 xp in 7, less than 15% of the humans earned.

Matthew said...

Unless the in-character play of your campaign is likely to span hundreds of years, this is just a disincentive to playing a demi-human. You're penalizing a character for a racial ability which will probably never benefit them in any significant way.

Sometimes you should just let flavor be flavor and not attach rules to it.