Diegetic Advancement Triggers

Last time we talked about diegetic advancement in games. That is, when you do something, your character Advances. It works well for asynchronous play in play-by-posts because triggers are dependent on the PCs actions, not when the end of a session occurs.

We talked about what the Advance system would look like for Into the Odd and it’s relatives in that same article. The way a character Advances mechanically depends on the system. That’s for you to figure out. However, these triggers can be pulled in any game which makes them so powerful.

In that last post I also gave three examples of advancement triggers for Mausritter. Here are some more. I tried to make them semi-setting agnostic, but each trigger does suggest something about the game and the world. For example, if the GM rewards looting dungeons, it implies that there are indeed dungeons in the world to be looted.

Remember the goal of advancement triggers:

  • Gives the players an aim to shoot for.
  • Reduces the arbitrary nature of the game and takes little math.
  • Happens in the game, in the fiction, is diegetic, however you want to say it.

So here are 36 examples. I invite you to see this as a list to be read and picked through to see which could service a game you’ve had in mind. I also invite you to use this as a table, rolling d66 three times to see what kind of campaign it implies (roll two six-sided dice, the first is the tens place, the second is the ones place). What kind of gonzo game comes about? How would you run that?

I also listed the trigger’s influence next to it. This is to show that any form of media can be mined of its tactile/emotional elements and used for other purposes. Cross-pollenate recklessly.

d66Advance Trigger
11When you emerge from an adventure site with treasure, Advance (coin-as-XP, but not quite).
12When you share a meal with new friends, Advance (Ghibli movies).
13When you restore lasting peace to an area, Advance (Avatar the Last Airbender, Mushishi).
14When you carry out a mission for the guild, Advance (Mouse Guard).
15When you complete a journey to a sanctuary, Advance (Lord of the Rings, Pokemon).
16When you remove the influence of the shadow, Advance (Lord of the Rings).
21When you solve one of the town’s/school’s many mysteries, Advance (Scooby-Doo/Harry Potter).
22When you capture a new monster, Advance (Pokemon).
23When you defeat a local leader in single combat, Advance (Pokemon).
24When you overcome a boss monster, Advance (Zelda, Any adventure video game ever).
25When you destroy a keystone shard, Advance (World of Dungeons: Turbo Breakers).
26When you construct a new section of your stronghold, Advance (Strongholds and Followers).
31When you add a new member to your team, Advance (Pokemon Mystery Dungeon).
32When you finish a grand race in the top three, Advance (Mario Kart?).
33When you hand over a detained villain to the authorities, Advance (Batman).
34When you complete a contract, Advance (cyberpunk).
35When you step foot on a new island, Advance (Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag).
36When you acquire a new ship, Advance (Pirate’s Gold).
41When you hire a new detachment for your army, Advance (Mount and Blade).
42When you save someone from a perilous situation, Advance (superheroes).
43When you banish a ghost from its haunting grounds, Advance (Ghostbusters).
44When you earn an invitation to a party or social gathering, Advance (Count of Monte Cristo, I guess).
45When you capture the culprits in a trap, Advance (Scooby-Doo).
46When you overthrow an established organization, Advance (Anarchy, I guess?).
51When you overcome a titan, Advance (Attack on Titan).
52When you collect on a bounty, Advance (Cowboy Bebop).
53When you finish a fight in the arena, Advance (Gladiator, any colosseum arc).
54When you fulfill an oath, Advance (World of Elements).
55When you survive a wave of enemies, Advance (Call of Duty zombie modes).
56When you outdo your rival, Advance (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure? Is this Jojo?).
61When you elevate your position in society, Advance (civil service exams).
62When you defeat a member of higher rank in a challenge, Advance (Kung Fu movies).
63When you do what is right over what is profitable, Advance (Firefly).
64When you do what is caring over what is mean, Advance (Pokemon).
65When you complete a heist, Advance (Any thief-y media).
66When you obtain a new spellbook, Advance (Any mage-centric game).

Here are some more that I found to be just a bit too genre-specific (d6).

  1. When you harvest essence from a magic plant, Advance (Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles).
  2. When you sing an exhilarating or emotional song, Advance (musicals).
  3. When you plunder a ship of its booty, Advance (Pirate’s Gold).
  4. When you lock the heart of a world, Advance (Kingdom Hearts).
  5. When you reincarnate, Advance (Infinity Blade).
  6. When you defeat a great sea monster, Advance (Ocean Hunters).

Some of these imply things about the world, (the existence of titans, keystone shards, etc,.) some imply values (what is caring over what is mean, what is right over what is profitable).

Making your own advancement triggers

Here are the guidelines I used:

  • The trigger is within the players’ control and gives options for how to activate it.
  • The trigger promotes interaction with the world and its challenges.
  • The trigger strikes the middle-ground in both difficulty and frequency.
  • The VERB is the most important piece to get right.
  • Be as clear as possible. Watch for ways that a trigger could be mishandled.

Gone are the levels and XP from your character sheet! The game’s the thing, after all! Play the world, not the spreadsheet!

When you post a trigger of your own in the comments, Advance.


10 thoughts on “Diegetic Advancement Triggers

  1. This is fantastic.
    One thing I’m wondering though, is how to incorporate this kind of advancement with more character specific in-fiction advancements of the form: you learn how to sail when someone teaches you how to sail. ?

    I otherwise love the idea of specific advancement triggers keyed to the structure and nature of a campaign. It’s like milestones kinda, but more intentional, player facing, and less hand wavey.

  2. 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.)

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