This is part of the “Playing with Youngers” series, but requires no additional context to read and enjoy. Find the rest of the series here.
There is no “number-based advancement” in Adventure Hour.
At least, none that is interesting to the littlest of players.
I’ve written a lot about many ways to enforce a genre and keep the XP numbers small (or non-existent). But the fact is that levels don’t service the game. They build false securities and add extra book-keeping. I was very proud of the fact that the ONLY things I had to write down were A) the players’ names and B) their equipment. I was able to record all seven players on a half-sheet of paper. Why would I give that up so that the players might feel more powerful or rewarded for their play?
It’s taken some time (and playing Electric Bastionland) for me to come around to this idea and accept it.
But now, there are even fewer barriers to play. The information that goes into each choice now has fewer numbers. With no levels, you better be ABSOLUTELY sure that you can defeat the minotaur. He’s dangerous at most stages in the game.
The impact of their choices and “advancement” can now be felt more directly. You didn’t gain a level when you got the treasure, you GOT the treasure!
As a GM it also helps focus me on “the stuff” of the game. What’s really in there once you strip back the ink on the sheet? Where are the interesting choices, the coolest tools, the scariest monsters, the biggest impact, and the greatest adventures?
Are they hiding behind the numbers?
If there is no “number-based advancement” that children find interesting, then when did that become the case for us older players and Game Masters? Did sophistication kill the fun?