‘Godlike’ Revised Edition: Character Advancement

In the revised paperback edition of GODLIKE: Superhero Roleplaying in a World on Fire, 1936–1946, we made a lot of minor changes and a few substantial ones. One of the substantial changes was in the rules for improving characters. Here’s the new section so you can use it with your old Godlike books.

Character Advancement

Developing your character is half the fun of a role-playing game. Characters improve over time, getting better at skills, statistics or even Talent powers. A green recruit could develop over several game sessions into a hardened warrior.

Two things let you advance your character: experience points and Will points.

Experience Points

Experience points are rewards given at the end of a game session. They represent how well your character did at the trials and tribulations of the game.

Will Points

As detailed in Part 4—Talents, Will points are the fuel of Talent abilities. In addition to powering the use of Talents, they can be cashed in to improve mundane and Talent abilities.

There are sharp limits on spending Will points to improve your abilities. It represents tremendous mental effort and is possible only in the most catastrophic moments of stress. The GM may decide to make exceptions, but in general it is allowed only when a character is in a moment of true desperation or motivation.

As a rule of thumb, if a character is forced to make a Mental Stability check due to circumstances beyond his control (because he’s about to be killed or is being tortured, for instance, not because he’s choosing to murder someone in cold blood), that’s a time when the character could spend Will to improve an ability or gain a new one. Succeeding at the Mental Stability roll isn’t necessary; but of course failing it might leave too few Will points to make the improvement.

When You Can Improve

A character can improve either during a mission or in down time between missions.

You can improve during a mission only if you’re in the middle of combat or some other crisis. However, during any given combat or crisis you can improve only a single score— a stat, a skill, a Talent power, or Base Will—and by only one level. (If you run into multiple crises or combats in a single mission, you could improve abilities each time if you have the experience points or Will points to spare.)

Example: Armand has 6 experience points and he’s in the middle of a firefight. His skill in Rifle is 3, and he decides it would be nice to have a Rifle skill of 4. So he spends 3 experience points and raises his Rifle to 4. He can’t improve anything else in this firefight.

If your character has a few days of down time between missions, you can spend any amount of experience points on any number of stats and skills. However, you can never spend Will points to improve an ability in down time between missions.

Gaining Experience Points

Every time a player shows up and plays in the game, his or her character earns a single experience point.

At the end of each session, the GM can distribute one bonus experience point as he or she sees fit. Usually it’s given to the player who stayed in character, had the best ideas or who otherwise supported everyone else’s good time. It is, of course, also possible for the GM to give out this bonus experience to the character that seems weakest so that he can catch up with the others. Or it might go to the character who withstood the worst trials and tribulations of the game as a way of showing the value of perseverence.

Finally, after every session the players talk it over and award a third experience point to a single character by vote. Please don’t “politic” for votes. (“You vote for me this session, I’ll vote for you next one!”) In a tie, the point is not awarded.

Gaining Will Points

Lost Will points recover with rest, one point per night up to your Base Will level. Will points are also gained in game play when Talents clash in a battle of power (see Part Four: Talents—When Wills Collide, p. 95) or when a character acts heroically or with ingenuity. You can never have more than 50 Will points in the default Godlike setting.

Improving a Skill or Stat

You can raise a skill or a stat one level by spending experience points or Will points.

The experience point cost to raise a skill one level is 3 points. To raise a stat costs 3 experience points times the new level; so raising a stat from 2 to 3 costs 9 experience points.

The Will point cost to raise a skill is 10. To raise a stat costs 10 Will times the new level; so going from 2 to 3 costs 30 Will points.

A skill or stat can be improved beyond 4 only if you also spend a point of Base Will—and that has all the same conditions as spending Will points to improve. For that kind of mastery, experience and practice are not enough.

Learning a New Skill

In some circumstances you can even learn an entirely new skill at level 1. Simply buy that first rank of the skill, pay the appropriate cost and you’re good to go.

There is one catch: Your GM has to approve it, based on his or her judgment that your character has had an opportunity to learn that skill. If you haven’t been studying Swahili and no one’s been teaching you Swahili, there’s no reason you should be able to suddenly know Swahili. Some skills can be learned without teachers (fist fighting and rock climbing spring immediately to mind), so if your GM thinks you’ve learned enough in the school of hard knocks, he might let you buy skills like that without formal study or training.

Typically you can learn a new skill only by spending experience points in down time. But if you’ve been spending time practicing the new skill and you desperately need it to kick in during a crisis, you could spend Will points points to gain that first die. But the usual requirements apply for spending Will points to improve yourself—it has to be a serious crisis, usually the sort that triggers a Mental Stability check.

Improving Base Will

Unlike Will points, Base Will does not come back on its own. You can raise Base Will by one point by spending 20 Will points. It cannot be raised with experience points.

Improving a Talent Power

You can improve a Hyperskill, Hyperstat or Miracle by one level (whether that’s a normal die, a Hard Die or a Wiggle Die) by spending Will points equal to the ordinary cost of the new die. So if the power costs 3/6/12 points per die and you want to add a hard die, it costs 6 Will points.

Experience points cannot improve Talent powers.

To transform regular dice in a power into Hard Dice or Wiggle Dice, see Part Four: Talents—Buying (and Promoting) Dice on p. 41.

Gaining completely new Talent powers is more difficult; see Gaining New Powers on p. 42.

What to Raise Experience Point Cost Will Point Cost
Skill 3 10
Stat 3 x the new level 10 x the new level
Base Will n/a 20
Talent power n/a Points per die

Order and download GODLIKE: Superhero Roleplaying in a World on Fire, 1936–1946 today.