Sunday, July 14, 2019

Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)

art by Morten Skaalvik
XP has always been a fraught issue in my games. I don't like tracking any sort of granular XP system, whether that's killing enemies or GP=XP or any number of more complicated systems, because math is hard. I don't enjoy systems where you check off a bunch of small boxes at the end of the session, either, because too often the list of ways you get XP there are arbitrary and don't give a sense of accomplishment. This has left me with milestones, handing out levels even more arbitrarily when I feel like the party needs to level - or more often, when the party reminds me that they haven't leveled up and they really want their next class abilities. Here's a better way, heavily inspired by diregrizzlybear's Titles, where players have concrete goals that work narratively and require much less bookkeeping - I'm going to try this in whichever campaign I end up running next.

To level up, you must accomplish (total level+1) unique deeds. Any deeds from the Heroic list or deeds from the class you want to level in count.

Any particular situation can only count for one deed, so if you steal something valuable as part of a major con, you can count it for either one of those thief deeds but not both. Your GM has ultimate veto power, and deeds are left purposely vague so that they can adjust their scale to meet the desired power level and setting of their game.

If you're leveling with a deed that you used in a previous level, it must be bigger and more impressive. To obtain all 4 class templates, you'll need to perform 9 feats.

If you want a game that levels to 10 instead of 4 (like GLOG), you can instead set the number of deeds needed to level up to (current level)/2 rounded up (so 1 and 2 need 1 deed to level up, 3 and 4 need 2, 5 and 6 need 3, etc). To hit level 10, you'll need to perform 25 feats.

As an example: Ir, a 2nd-level kobold artificer, has completed a BIG PROJECT (artificer deed), and explored somewhere new (a Heroic deed). In the process, she also stole something valuable (a Thief deed). Even though she has 3 deeds, she can't level up, because she doesn't have 3 deeds for artificer (only the BIG PROJECT and the exploration), or 3 deeds for Thief (the stolen valuables and the exploration). She's going to have to accomplish another Heroic deed if she wants to be able to choose which class she wants to level in when she levels up, or go for a class-specific deed if she already knows which she wants to level.

These are intended for Mimics & Miscreants, but can be easily adapted for any system - just have 3 Deeds for each class, and a set of Heroic deeds that fit the tone and setting of your game.

Heroic (anyone can do these)
Save people
Recover a hoard
Gain allies
Explore somewhere new
Have your story told
Change the world

Slay something big and dangerous in a stand-up fight
Lead a fighting force to victory
Find and wield a legendary weapon

Steal something valuable
Pull off a major con
Cheat death

Spread or preserve your religion
Recover an artifact sacred to your faith
Create and popularize a religious work

Discover a secret of the universe
Gain control of powerful magic
Do something risky and novel with magic

Perform an impossible feat
Find harmony with the world around you
Win a fair fight against someone of equal or greater skill

Artificer (coming soon!)
Build something with a rare material
Complete a BIG PROJECT
Popularize a novel invention

Slay something big and dangerous in a stand-up fight
Lead a horde to glory
Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women

Prepare and eat a rare creature
Serve a feast to the masses
Serve a feast to someone of importance

Defeat a dangerous enemy without fighting
Make one of your lies believed by many
Gain a powerful ally

Slay a dangerous enemy of your faith
Recover a sacred artifact
Spread or preserve your religion

Preserve the wilds
Survive against all odds
Tame a rare and dangerous creature

Do something risky and novel with magic
Achieve a life goal of yours through magic instead of hard work
Experience rare and powerful magics


  1. Yeah I can definitely get behind this.

  2. inb4 a barbarian starts a psychiatry side gig in order to "hear the lamentations of the enemy's women" on unprecedented scales


  3. I really like this. If the players are keen to mark their deeds, then I can see them pushing the game in all sorts of directions without the GM needing to do much work. On the other hand, if the players are more passive and follow the GM's story hooks, then a lot of these deeds would get marked in the course of play anyway.

  4. Interesting. Can you share deeds? I mean, if the whole group gets a powerful ally, can they all mark a Jack deed, or do they need to pick the one that "did the deed"?

    1. Hmm, that's something I hadn't considered! I'd probably let the party all mark it off if they genuinely all contributed, or if I'm feeling petty I'll let them squabble over who's most deserving of it.


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