Character advancement in Jadepunk

My players and I have recently been discussing the speed of advancement in our Jadepunk campaign; we’d reached that level where the players were routinely thrashing all but the most ridiculously potent of opponents and passing most tests without need of recourse to Fate Points.

The issue was originally raised in the feedback form received from Thashif, one of my players and it got me thinking about the issue.

I came to conclusion that, due to a combination of me being a bit too free with the Significant Milestones and that the milestones themselves seem a little too powerful for long campaigns, had resulted in this upsurge of power amongst our player characters.

The default rules for significant milestones in Jadepunk are as follow:

Significant Milestones

A significant milestone usually occurs at the end of a scenario or the conclusion of a big plot event (or, when in doubt, at the end of every two or three sessions).

Unlike minor milestones, which are primarily about change, significant milestones are about learning new things–dealing with problems and challenges has made your character generally more capable at what they do.

In addition to the benefit of a minor milestone, you also gain both of the following:

  • If you have a severe consequence that’s been around for at least two sessions,you can clear it.
  • Raise the rating of one profession by one.

As pointed out by one of my players, an increase of one to a profession every three or so sessions rapidly results in some ridiculously high stats and makes it very difficult to challenge the PCs; especially given that player characters start off as very proficient individuals in a Fate game, this isn’t really a problem for one-offs or short games, but we’re approaching session 20 on our Jadepunk campaign now and the character scores were getting a bit silly.

This issue is exacerbated by the fact that Professions cover such wide areas of abilities in Jadepunk, so a single increase of +1 to a profession is actually a huge increase in a wide range of areas (as opposed to an increase of a single skill in a Fate Core game for example).

Before our last session we actually sat down and the players re-created their characters using the starting rules and then we applied milestones slightly differently; although this reduced the length of the actual session more than I would have liked due to part of the evening been taken up by the character re-creation, everyone seems to have enjoyed the session and it was possible to provide them with challenges without having to resort to silly high difficulties and ridiculously hard opponents.

After some discussion with Thashif and the other players we arrived at the following amended milestone rules:

Minor Milestones

  • Unchanged from the Jadepunk book.

Significant Milestones

  • If you have a severe consequence that’s been around for at least two sessions, you can clear it.
  • Gain an additional point of refresh, which you may immediately use to
    purchase or improve an asset, if you wish.

Major Milestones

  • Rewrite your character’s portrayal (optional).
  • Raise the rating of one profession by one.

In effect we have switched a couple of things around between the significant and major milestones, going on the idea that significant milestones occur more often than major ones and that having more refresh/fate points encourages people to use their aspects and is not a massive boost in raw power (unlike a simple increase to a profession).

One of the other things we did was get people to consider how each of their aspects motivates them currently and to try and include that in the aspect to make them more specific.

For example: Instead of having “The government tortured me so I’m going to bring them down” you might go for “The government tortured me and now I seek to pay back anyone involved with them in kind.”

This seemed to have a noticeable effect in the game with players spending more fate points and their being less ambiguity about when aspects could be invoked and/or compelled. I’m looking forward to the next session to see how our tweaks to the game fair.

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