O'er Windswept Golden Fields: Character Advancement Musings

In many ways, I find it strange to even consider advancement for such a system. We are traveling back to a time of childhood. We are taking a snapshot of a blissful time in all our pasts and returning to it so why consider such a thing as leveling up? Isn't the point that we are going to spend some time not growing up?

To be honest, I find that to be a perfectly reasonable approach to this game but I figured I would consider some methods of advancement.

From Over the Garden Wall

1- Advancement by Aging

This would probably be a method of advancement based straight off how many sessions you have played. Levels would be eschewed in favor of your characters actual age. I don't know what age I would start the player characters at. Maybe ten? Earlier? Readers with kids let me know what age you think would be appropriate.

Aging is a perfectly good metaphor for leveling in a lot of ways. As a child ages, they lose a little of that wonder. The imagination turns darker. The awareness of the harshness of the world increases. Adventures would become more difficult and more grown up, meaning they would probably be darker. This often happens with higher level play in other games, but is it appropriate here?

I had already thought that grown-ups in this game would start to forget the supernatural experiences of youth, remembering them as nothing but imaginary. For a kid to start growing up would be a conceit to the inevitable loss of childhood: of a time where all this adventuring will become nothing but a faded dream and "real" life will begin.

There is a real tragedy in that. As the child grows that unfiltered perception, that all-consuming sight that can take in the world as it is starts to fade, obscured by the filtration systems of adulthood. We build up our minds, necessarily in labor-saving certainties and assumptions, focusing our efforts on the demands of survival and fulfillment. It is a necessary thing. We would be utterly overwhelmed if we had to look at the world with completely open eyes all the time, but there are times when that unfettered sight is needed and it takes a tremendous moral effort to keep your eyes open. Not only is this return to childhood the grand task of the poet, according to Wordsworth, but it is the very key to the Kingdom of Heaven, according to Jesus Christ. I hope that once this game is done, it might help facilitate such a return, at least for a while.

So it is a cool idea to just have your age be your level but the implications might harsh everyone's mellow, so while it is poetically appropriate it might not be very fun.

2- Patches

The Grant's Summit Adventuring Club took some clues from the Boyscouts to reward members of achievement. You get a Patch for achieving specific goals of note that are written down in the Big Red Book. Each generation of the Club adds their own quests and achievements to the book and some Patches are traditional and universal. You can only get each Patch once.

The book itself would likely come with a bunch and it ought to be possible for players to set goals and get Patches for completing them by negotiating with the GM.

For instance, a universal Patch might be "Heroically Dispatched a Creature of Darkness" or "Found Great Treasure" or "Uncovered a Mystery."

More specific Patches might be: "Discovered Old Man Jenkin's Wizard Lair" or "Stole the Witch Matilda's Hat" or "Brutally Pranked the Rowdy Rough Boys."

Mechanically, a Patch would offer some kind of limited bonus, either a passive benefit or a once per session ability. Patches would be a pretty cool, stylized method of advancement very much keeping in theme with a bunch of kids working together to have adventures and solve mysteries.

Maybe "Heroically Dispatched a Creature of Darkness" would give you +1 Tough and give you 1 in 4 chance of kids and monsters knowing you for your reputation of dispatching that monster, giving you leverage in a social situation.

Or "Discovered Old Man Jenkin's Wizard Lair" could give you +1 Wits and let you sniff out magic once per session.

I think of these two options I quite like Patches. It's a pretty straight forward flavorful system with few issues as far as I can see. I have some exciting things happening right not regarding Into the Weird Blue Yonder but don't get your hopes up. As soon as possible I would like to start playtesting some stuff but I still have a ways to go on this project and IWBY.

(On a side note the acronyms for these games are set to be awful. IWBY? OWGF? Ugh. But I like the way the titles sound so I am loath to change them because their acronyms sound like someone about to puke.)


  1. I like the patches idea too. Hopefully you can get a character sheet that lets you fill them in as you earn them!

    I don't think these are games that you refer to by their acronyms. I think you just call them "Golden Fields" and "Blue Yonder".

    1. That does sound like a great idea for the character sheet! You could have some of the universal ones drawn on to just check off but then leave spaces to draw and write specific ones in. That'd probably look really cool with the right artist.

      Also I am glad you think so about the acronyms. I hope others do the same because that sounds so much better.

    2. The campaign names are great. Go with abbreviations “golden fields” etc rather than acronyms. Most games I’ve heard of I remember mostly because of the evocative titles, not acronyms.

    3. Thank you! I quite like naming things and I am thrilled that others like them.

  2. Perhaps the patch and reward are not necessarily related. Say you have 6 patches. Perhaps you have 10 rewards. When you get a patch you choose one of the 10 - but some rewards are only available once, some twice, some thrice. Nor can you take the same reward twice in a row.

    1. I like that idea for the increased player choice and variability among player characters. It would get a little boring if all player characters got the same ability for each adventure they went on together.

  3. I really like both ideas, although I can see how the age idea might not be as good a fit for what you're going for. Depending on how the stat system shakes out, you could imagine the age-as-level being more of a tradeoff, where overall you become more "capable", but in losing that childhood whimsy/imagination there are just certain things you can't do or see or interact with, and eventually your character ages out- you could call that "graduation" or something, if you want to really punctuate the bittersweetness. It has almost a Winnie the Pooh kind of vibe at that point. It could work somewhat like the karma system from Tenra Bansho Zero.

    The patches is also a really cool idea, but I could see it being difficult to keep track of for active or circumstantial bonuses.

    Another thing this made me think of, is if you wanted something like cyphers from Cypher system, would be stickers. It's also somewhat inspired by Paper Mario Sticker Star.

    In terms of equipment, another thought I had was something like the costumes in Costume Quest.

    Anyway, I'm really intrigued by how this is all shaking out, keep up the good work!

  4. To reiterate all the good things other people have said already: patches patches patches!


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