Why advancement? Why XP, or its equivalent? What are we trying to accomplish by handing it out -- what goals of the game does it satisfy? This isn't a rhetorical question; there are plenty of games, including games with systems, that don't have XP. Just because it's a common RPG element doesn't mean it has to be a thing, so if we're going to have it, it's worth really knowing, very clearly, why we want it.
In the case of Battle Fantasia, answering this question shook out as follows:
- Representing Character Development: As characters develop and grow through RP, it can be frustrating to keep the same stats forever. Having a system for advancement avoids that. Note that that isn't the same as 'compensating' players in order to entice activity; if people are here to play, they're here to play, and if they're not, they're not. We're not out to bribe people to participate with XP. But being able to tell stories where a starting character eventually becomes powerful enough to oppose a previously unreachable enemy (in the csys, as well as the narrative) is worth doing. Some concepts call for starting more higher-powered than others, but characters should never be untouchable forever.
- Genre Suitability: Though, admittedly, it may be because of merchandising, the narrative structure of magical girl shows tends to involve very measurable growth, as girls acquire battlefield experience, and eventually, new henshins and attacks. Advancement in power (often a metaphor for coming of age) is a huge part of the theme. It's never going to go away. We chose to embrace the design challenge of building character growth into the csys from day one, so that this fundamental part of the magical girl experience (if you'll pardon the pun) can play out on Battle Fantasia.
- Fun: Always the most important consideration, XP is fun, which isn't worth overlooking. The object of the game is fun, and players enjoy accruing XP and allowing their characters to grow in stats as well as in RP development. However, it tends to be fun in two basic ways: Some players enjoy XP because they like their character to grow in power and ability, and some players enjoy XP because they like to grow in power and ability over everyone else. We have a great deal of support for the former feeling, but our advancement policy tends to cut the latter off at the knees, because one of the classic pitfalls of advancement is 'a year later, you have XP haves and have-nots, leading to a difficulty in getting new players involved, and often a touchy stratification of existing players.'
We also wanted our system to satisfy the following criteria:
- Launch: We wanted our advancement system to be designed and implemented right at the starting line, so that everyone knows what they're getting into and can plan accordingly. We're hoping that knowing that you can and should and will advance will encourage people to be happier to start at Master Rank C and tell their character's story straight from the beginning, rather than apping in media res as a very experienced and powerful Rank B because they feel it's the only way they'll ever be able to play at that level.
- Clarity: An unclear, uncodified advancement system often makes good players feel guilty about asking for nice things, while those players who do consistently push to advance are seen as greedy. By making an advancement system clear and accessible, an advancement system that wants to be used, we're hoping to resolve this issue before it starts.
- Transparency: As opposed to clarity, in the sense that we want a fair system that is very clear in its requirements to advance, and for which the process, during advancement, is also very clear. This avoids the issue of favoritism, which even if it doesn't exist tends to be assumed to exist.
Battle Fantasia MUSH's combat system is a pointbuy system; all Character Points are in one pool, spendable on Stats, Abilities, and extra Attack slots. On top of there being a pointbuy system, there is the concept of Rank. Starting characters are typically Master Rank C, which starts at 180 points and goes as high as 264; or they're Master Rank B, which ranges between 264-369. Ranks have a few minor but existing advantages that mean that the difference between 264 and 265 Character Points is significant. (For more information, please see: Rank Ranges)
This lends itself well to two tracks of advancement.
A completely fresh character who wanted to start at the very beginning of the Battle Fantasia advancement track (not required) would begin in Master Rank C built on 180 Character Points; more points are accrued through votes from other players, slowly (it's not one point per vote); this rate decreases as Master Rank increases, one of several ways used to guarantee a long-term level playing field. These Character Points are spendable, 1:1 on stats and in larger increments on Abilities and additional attack slots. This gradual gain of CP represents equally gradual battlefield experience; the seasoning of a magical girl that only the day-to-day triumphs and tragedies of their lives can bring.
When they get to 264 points, they stop being able to spend any more CP, accrue it at a much reduced rate (and this additional CP is essentially banked), and to change either of those things, a character has to submit an application to rise in Rank. This application requires several things, all of which are essentially impartial:
- Time played. You have to have played for at least six months before you can hit Master Rank B; after that it's a minimum of twenty-four months until A, and 30 months before S, which is the maximum. Once you're S, you go on accruing CP (slowly), but at that point the benefits of CP, really, are starting to see diminishing returns, you're sort of running out of things to buy, really. Because we ask that teammates rise in rank together whenever reasonable (see below), we also allow teams with at least a 50% played cast to then start a Team Rank Clock, such that if someone apps an unplayed teammate a year later, this teammate can use the Team Rank Clock rather than their own time played to satisfy this requirement.
- Activity. This is represented by the 'you have to have gotten enough votes, converted to Character Points, to reach 265 CP before you can advance to Master Rank B' requirement. It is possible and expected to reach the next Rank's CP minimum well before the temporal gate that the 'time played' requirement represents, opens. Spending some time at the top of one's rank, banking additional CP for a larger spend upon Master Rank advancement, while taking the time to play out advancement-related plots at whatever pace they so wish, is normal and intended.
- Plot justification. Advancing in Rank is a tangible plot element (though not always linked to a literal item); it's a significant boost in power, often (though not always) represented by a shiny new Henshin form, and it requires a reason. Vote CP gain, essentially, represents 'gradual seasoning as a magical girl becomes more experienced'; rising in rank takes something more, be it a more serious baptism by fire through a terrible calamity, the discovery of an empowering artifact, convincing your Order through word and deed to let you read the next great world-shaking tome in the library, convincing a spirit to bestow unto you greater power... whatever. This plot cannot be run by its own beneficiary, but we have a system to encourage people to run them for each other, and furthermore run them more widely than their team, so to speak.
- Teamwork. To the extent that it's possible, we attempt to facilitate teammates rising in rank together, or at least within a month or so of each other. There are a number of reasons for this: it's genre convention for teams to either rank up simultaneously or within a relatively compact timeframe (the Inner Senshi all getting new transformation sticks within a week or two of each other, for example). And it encourages teams to play with all of their members, to not neglect anyone. There isn't a team application so much as a requirement that every played character on the team have reached the ability to apply for their next rank; unplayed characters don't count, of course, and inactively played characters may require some exception-making which is why the staff is run by humans instead of unfeeling robots. Characters without teams (or without casts with whom their advancement tracks together fairly steadily, even if they aren't formally on a team) don't have to worry about this, but we will also frown on such characters getting many TEAM-flagged attacks (which can be very dangerous -- teamwork is rewarded!).
At all Master Ranks, to achieve the maximum rate of Character Point acquisition per week, a character must get two +votes. A single vote lets a character receive half CP for the week. Any extra +votes are not counted for the purposes of CP accrual. Character Points can be spent on upgrades at will, but no Henshin Mode may be built on more Character Points than the maximum allowed for its Henshin Rank.
At Master Rank C (and below), characters may accrue Character Points at a maximum rate of 1.5 CP per week. Once they reach 264 Character Points, they may accrue Character Points at a maximum rate of 1.1 CP per week until they advance to Master Rank B. They still may not spend more than 264 Character Points on their Rank C Henshin forms; any extra CP is banked.
At Master Rank B, characters may accrue Character Points at a maximum rate of 1.1 CP per week. Once they reach 369 Character Points, they may accrue Character Points at a maximum rate of 0.35 CP per week until they advance to Master Rank A. They still may not spend more than 369 Character Points on their Rank B Henshin forms; any extra CP is banked.
At Master Rank A, characters may accrue Character Points at a maximum rate of 0.75 CP per week. Once they reach 459 Character Points, they may accrue Character Points at a maximum rate of of 0.1 CP per week until they advance to Master Rank S. They still may not spend more than 459 Character Points on their Rank A Henshin forms; any extra CP is banked.
At Master Rank S, characters may accrue Character Points at a maximum rate of 0.25 CP per week. The current maximum number of allowed CP on any form is 550.
|Master Rank||Max CP/week (standard)||Max CP/week at||upper limit||Required Time To Advance*|
- When they advance to Master Rank A, characters who began at Master Rank C or below receive a one-time Character Point bonus, such that they begin Master Rank A at the same number of Character Points as those who started at B (and then banked CP for years before finally advancing to Master Rank A).
Canon Master Rank Advancement Example
Day One Sailor Moon is Master Rank C -- that's the very definition of Rank C. As she gains experience, over time she gains points within Rank C, which she can spend to improve her Sailor Moon form, her Usagi Tsukino base mode (at a 4:1 conversion! for more information, please see: Base Modes), and her Princess Serenity Rank A supercharged henshin form. Eventually, after time and experience and at least one major season-level plot resolution, she might hit B. It could be after she defeats Beryl, or maybe after Ail and Ann, if things played out chronologically. It might even be as late as the main arc of R, her first big power-up coming at a dramatic moment, such as when she transforms into Neo-Queen Serenity for the first time. It's a little bit tricky, because straight through most of season three, even, Sailor Moon is still mostly Sailor Moon, albeit with a series of henshin phrases, Moon Prism->Crystal->Cosmic Power, that indicate growth.
Things clarify in the third season, Sailor Moon S. By now she's definitely rank B, and over the course of events she gains access to the Super Sailor Moon form for the first time. But it exhausts her, and knocks her right out after a couple of rounds; it's rank A.
Either right during the Sailor Moon S finale, or at the beginning of SuperS, it can be argued that Usagi has mastered the Super Sailor Moon form, which becomes her standard henshin; at that point, she's rank A. A similar phenomenon occurs with the Eternal Sailor Moon form, which is arguably rank S; at first it wears her out, but by partway through the final season, Sailor Moon Stars, Usagi's using the form casually.
The Long Term
Every year, minimum starting CP on the game becomes the average CP of characters who started at Master Rank C. (This has happened eleven times (it used to be every six months), as of 09/26/20: the minimum starting CP is now 393 rather than 180, and new characters retain the option of simply starting at Master Rank B.) This applies to existing played characters who are 'behind' as well.
Why? Because CP is something that should be earned, but its effect on the game can't be ignored; as the playerbase becomes more powerful, the stories change, some. The grid changes, some, as the playerbase alters the world around it. New players deserve a fighting chance to exist in this world, and existing slower-paced players, well, they get a pass up to average, which is still quite a bit less than the ones who've really 'earned' it, so to speak. Our goal, as a game, is to all have fun together.
What about a decade from now, when everyone is Rank S and the average 'starting' point is Rank A?
Eventually, when we finally have people at the top rank, yes, we may have to stop letting them accrue CP ad infinitum because things are getting too crazy. They'll have to content themselves with merely being Eternal Sailor Moon, the light of hope of the galaxy.
But the advantages one's character can only achieve through RP, rather than in the csys, are one reason why we're not too fussed about letting people start with more CP down the line. They might get to start at Rank B instead of C, but the real currency of being able to get things done is connections, to say nothing of the currency of fun being having experienced growth through RP.
Hopefully, this two-track system, which allows for steady and meaningful CP gain to represent gradual growth, with occasional gates that require time, activity, and narrative justification for more dramatic and awesome power-ups, will satisfy our needs as a game, and our community's needs as players.
- The Character Point Expenditure Request application (which is simple and easy) is here.
- The Master Rank Advancement Request application (which is much more rigorous in its requirements, as detailed above) is here.