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September 21, 2006 / jadettman

The Power Plateau

Usually, when I’m running an Amber game, I have certain expectations of how the universe operates. One of those expectations is the Power Plateau.

My general theory is that as a person (PC and NPC) gets older they increase in knowledge, skill, and power but, at some point, they begin to see a leveling off: the Power Plateau. This is, of course, specifically relevant to PC/’Elder’* relationships.

The Power Plateau theory allows the player-characters the ability to catch-up to the ‘Elders’ in terms of power which also creates a useful social relationship between those characters. A more powerful character is less likely to take a PC for granted (or dismiss that character out of hand) if they will eventually reach their level of power, skill and ability.

So, that has been one of my basic game-foundations for quite some time. Now, I’m beginning to consider shifting that paradigm simply to see what the result would be.

The obvious alternative would be a straightforward progression of power. The older a charater is = more powerful character.  The problem then is: what do the PCs become?  If characters can become infinitely powerful with time how do the PCs catch-up? And, if they can’t catch-up, do they become nothing more than flunkies for the ‘Elders’?

Hmm. More thinking required.

*NOTE: An ‘Elder’ in this context is any entity considered more powerful that the player-characters.

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4 Comments

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  1. Arref / Sep 21 2006 10:16 pm

    Another assumption you might test is one that I’ve seen suggested but not played:

    Elders have the same “build points” as Players.
    But Elders know more shadows, people, and cool things.

    IOW, it’s all about relationships that you build within the game.

  2. JP / Sep 22 2006 1:27 am

    The keyword here being infinite. If PCs become infinitely powerful, and elders are 100 times more powerful….100 * infinity = infinity. If either the elders or the youngers are the jealous sort, you’ve got conflict.

  3. J.A. Dettman / Sep 22 2006 12:57 pm

    Arref,

    I’ve seen that suggestion before but it doesn’t feel right to me.

    If the Elders have the same number of points aren’t they equals? Sure, they know more but is that enough?

    Maybe you’re right that I should try it out and see what happens.

  4. J.A. Dettman / Sep 22 2006 1:02 pm

    JP,

    Conflict is all well and good, but I feel like having an infinitely upward-scaling power ‘curve’ moves the game toward many of the things that I don’t like about the ADRPG rules as written.

    The problem, as I see it, is that the PCs start out at a less than infinite level and the Elders start out higher than that. This leads to either:

    1> The players only deal with issues beneath the notice of the Elders.

    or

    2> The players get to deal with the ‘big boy’ issues but as pawns of powers that they don’t yet fully comprehend and can’t reasonably catch up to.

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