This basic idea for advancement would work for any D&D-like game where leveling, treasure or loot, and your reputation in the world matter. My idea is for one session to result in leveling up, another session to result in an improved reputation, and another session to grant you some cool loot. This might emerge from the game organically – if there isn’t a chance for reputation or loot, you level, and so on. Check each of those three boxes, and then start again. You also end up leveling around every 3 sessions, which seems to be average anecdotally for D&D.
If I were to create a tabletop version of Zelda, I would like to use the Tri-Force as the basic ability scores or attributes. So a character would have a basic measure of Courage, Power, and Wisdom. Courage would cover fighting of course; Power would be the use of magic and magical devices, and Wisdom to know lore or to solve a problem socially, or maybe get a hint for a riddle or puzzle.
This could be mapped roughly to the Tri-Stat system used in games like Big Eyes Small Mouth, where Courage = Body, Power = Soul, and Wisdom = Mind. Otherwise, I could see challenges being resolved similarly to how they are in Satanic Panic, where you succeed if you have the proper equipment for the challenge and there is some cost if you don’t. (I’d of course have hearts at the top of your character sheet that you color in as you level up)
Leveling by Time Played
Midway between experience points and milestone leveling, I thought it might make sense to base leveling on how many hours a given player has played. XP is a reward for the player, not the character, after all, and what a CR system and recommended encounters per level amount to is a certain amount of time played. For my home group, which averages around 3 hours per session, I thought of this table.
Heroic Boasts as Stakes-Setting
I like the idea of boasting and swearing oaths as central to Norse stories, and I think that I would gamify this system as stakes-setting for reputation gain or loss (in a setting where reputation is life). The more boasting you do, the more reputation you stand to gain, or lose. Others can add insults or question your capability to increase the risk where maybe you’d rather they wouldn’t.
I would like for this to be a situation where it could make sense to die rather than come back in dishonor – that is, your reputation loss might be so great that if you die while adventuring, you mitigate your loss and don’t destroy the lives of your family or reduce the reputation of your entire clan or town. Then, your family, or maybe your new PC taken from your family or town, inherits your previous reputation and begins the pattern again. The important thing to build toward is that situation, irrational to people not in an honor/shame culture, that death is preferable to dishonor, or that saving face might be worth one’s life. I also would like to create the moment where a hero leaves town, having made extravagant boasts, and thinks, now I’m screwed because there’s no way I can accomplish all this. But I have to try! Hence, adventure.
Ultimately, reputation becomes a kind of currency, and it can be handled through any sort of betting/bluffing mechanic. Maybe an insult is a raise, and you have to either call the raise, re-raise, or fold, and lose the reputation you’ve placed into the ‘pot’ while boasting.
Life With An Asshole
I’d like to create a hack of the Game of Life that is a simplified version of the game itself, but you just add an Asshole, and the game becomes trying to accomplish things in Life despite the Asshole. You could have cards for dealing with the Asshole, including Avoidant, Passive-Aggressive, Assertive, and Aggressive. There could be a second spinner that tells you whether things escalate when you confront the Asshole, but otherwise it’s a game that is slightly more similar to life.