Warning/Disclaimer: the following article is kind of nit-picking and born from the thoughts of a man who likes to bother himself with small details and holds some personal superstitions. . Please, dear reader, take it as such. It is about gaining XP from unspent Velocity and those lucky people I like to call Vikings.
Like other contemporary RPG systems Chthonian Highways uses a point based resource system to grant the players some more influence on the happenings of the game world by altering the chances of success of their PC. In CH these points are called Velocity and there are basically three ways to gain them during the game: “rolling good”, “rolling bad” and “roleplaying”. Another rules mechanic of CH is that unspent Velocity is turned into XP at the end of the session (or whenever a major downtime occurs midgame where the PC stop and rest for a longer period of time).
I like the general idea of turning unspent Velocity into XP, as it keeps the players from developing a “clearance sale” mentality. As a GM in DarkHeresy (which has “fate points” which work a bit like Velocity, but without the XP trade in) I caught myself teaching my players to burn up their unspent points at the end of a game just because they would otherwise be wasted. It is the logical choice to do so, as it is ineffective to do otherwise. But it leads to players that try to guess if they are “close to the end” and act accordingly. I would be one such player, I know myself enough for that. By offering a “bonus” for not burning up points this is countered: it is about “do I -need- to do this now?” again, and that is what it should be. As far as I can see it, those “influence points” are meant to negate bad luck with the dice and to allow the characters to shine where the players feel they should.
What I am at odds with is one of the sources of Velocity. A character can gain Velocity from roleplaying (hurray for incentives to roleplay!), from bad luck/rolling a “1” on a d20 (hurray for rules mechanics that mitigate bad luck!) and from having Lady Luck smiling at you/ rolling a “20” on a d20 …and from my personal experiences as a player, that is the one point I see a potential problem with.
I believe in the existence of Vikings. When I say “Viking”, I mean people who simply seem to be lucky with dice, as from what I have read Viking society too believed that there are people who are simply lucky and thereby more successful than others. I have one of those “Vikings” in my current gaming group, and strangely I have the opposite end of the scale in my current gaming group, too: a player who fails most all rolls spectacularly. Why do I bother you with my personal superstitions as a gamer here? Well, because “a Viking” would climb up the xp ladder much quicker in CH. The player will roll good and thereby generate Velocity he will not need half as often as others…because the lucky bastard rolls good most of the time and rarely ends up with the dice betraying him (and no, they are NOT loaded). So, the lucky Viking will rule the day and get a little more xp each game session. And what about the unlucky counterpart, the jinxed fellow who somehow ended up with a face that Lady Luck either detests or is just jealous of and thereby spits into? Well, that player will burn up Velocity to get along and will, over time, end up with a character having less xp under the belt than the one of the Viking.
If you don´t believe in “Vikings and jinxed people” or simply don´t have those in your gaming group, I just stole your time with my superstitious rant (blame the universe and demand a refund of your time from it! It seems to keep YOUR accounts balanced…), but if you have experiences similar to mine and see a point here, I do have a solution for this: don´t grant Velocity for Torques (“natural 20”). “Velocity out of the flow of the action” (instead of “out of the players roleplaying involvement) is then only based on the old saying that “resistance builds character”. Having troubles will motivate “the hero of the story” to overcome them and to turn tables. Lady Luck (or, the universe as a whole) will be less of a biased bitch as it will lend you a hand after it pushed you down. And if you slap away the hand to do it on your own, you learn from the experience. Torques, on the other hand, still have their value as they still allow a free Push [I will spare all of us the repetition of the exact rules here] and thereby increase the chance of success so that the Viking still benefits from being born a Viking.
=) Thanks for bearing with me, judge on your own if what I wrote above fits you and your gaming group.