Diegetic Advancement Triggers to Emulate a Genre

If finding treasure is the game, reward that. If brewing potions is the game, reward that. If summoning spooky pillars of purple smoke is the game, be careful. A. Shipwright.

On the post about diegetic advancement triggers, I got a comment:

Amazing stuff. What do you think would be cool advancement triggers for campaigns inspired by Sword-and-Sorcery (Conan, John Carter, et al) stories? (I’m still getting to know the genre better by myself.)

Well for Conan, that’s easy.

When you crush your enemies, Advance.

When you see them driven before you, Advance.

When you hear the lamentations of their women, Advance.

Obviously this is a joke and doesn’t really work for a game. The lack of specificity leaves a lot to be desired, although notice how each trigger still has a player choice embedded in it (How do you crush your enemies? How do you make them flee? What causes the lamentations of their women? The crushing? Or something more?).

One other cool thing with this particular collection of triggers: notice the tension between them. The first and second triggers are somewhat at odds; you WANT to crush them thoroughly, but KILLING them means they can’t flee. If you destroy them without allowing them to flee, you only Advance once. As the GM, I’m rubbing my hands together with glee. Imagine the moment: villain is defeated, heroes are triumphant. And then they say “leave, scum, and never return.” The villain does so, plotting revenge and coming back in greater strength. That’s excellent stuff. (However, if you don’t like the idea of characters Advancing twice in a single scene, maybe that’s not your style.)

My point is a genre can be emulated by seeing what the characters do in the story and then boil that down into something actionable with many for options for how to activate that.

Here are some clues as to how to find these:

  • It’s a goal of the main character(s), being achieved at the end of the movie or each episode.
  • It’s a persistent problem in the world, requiring one or more unique solutions.
  • It’s an event or emotional moment that has weight in the story, producing a meaningful outcome.

An example of each (respectively):

  • When you emerge from an adventure site with treasure, Advance.
  • When you drive out the evildoers, Advance.
  • When you do what is right over what is profitable, Advance.

Coincidently, (or maybe not, I’ll never tell) these are the advance triggers I would use for a heart-of-gold sword-and-sorcery story. And just like the Conan examples, there’s some tension between these triggers. See if you can spot it.

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Comments and questions fuel articles like this one. Thanks to those who keep the wheels in my head spinning.

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