New proposed advancement system for the SCRPG

Just stumbled on this idea for an advancement system for the game over on youtube. At about ten minutes it’s worth a listen, although I think it needs some more time in the oven before you can do much with it. Some interesting ideas though, and the creator’s own game is at least familiar from some online reviews I’ve seen.

And hey, at least it’s some Sentinels RPG content. Pretty thin over there.

Yeah, the idea of starting with Level 0 heroes and building up towards the standard power level is somewhat intriguing—and is something that I think happens fairly often in modern comics—but the implementation leaves something to be desired. Particularly, having only one ability seems incredibly dull.

Here’s how I’d do it:

  • Power & Quality Dice
    • After finishing character creation, reduce all of your Power and Quality dice down one size.
    • After finishing a session / issue, you increase some of your Power / Quality dice up one size, but not higher then what they were at the end of character creation.
      • I can see two different ways this can work: you either increase only one Power or Quality every time, or you increase one Power and one Quality. Going by the first way, it would take roughly 8-10 sessions to get to full power, depending on how many dice you have; or 4-5 sessions with the second method.
  • Abilities
    • After finishing character creation, shift all your abilities down one zone: your Green abilities—except for your principles—become Yellow abilities, your Yellow abilities become Red abilities, and you lose access to your Red abilities entirely.
    • After finishing a session / issue, you can shift some of your abilities up, but not to zones higher than where they were at character creation.
      • Again, there are two ways you could do this: you either shift only a single ability upwards (or add one of your inaccessible Red abilities to the Red zone); or you shift one ability from Yellow → Green, one from Red → Yellow, and one from inaccessibility → Red.

I could see one using these two rulesets for Powers & Qualities and for Abilities separately or together.

If I may get on a soapbox for a moment, though, I sincerely don’t think that the SCRPG needs advancement. (And I know that the idea discussed in the video is more of a type of “prologue advancement,” not Real Advancement,™ but it’s a related issue.) Advancement (usually) just adds more rules / moves / tricks / abilities to characters,* thus making them more powerful. But for the game to still be fair, and for the heroes to have a reasonable chance of failure, their opposition needs to get stronger too. So nothing really changes, except for more stuff being added on that everyone needs to keep track of—but the power dynamics of the game stay relatively the same.

The main thing that advancement usually does in games such as D&D is unlocking greater-scale enemies and challenges for the players; they can go from protecting a single small village from goblins to battling gods for the fate of the multiverse through the course of a campaign. But if you want to do that sort of thing in the SCRPG, you can definitely do so with the rules largely as is. You can start with the heroes protecting a single city or neighbourhood, facing mundane crooks and low-powered supers, represented by Minor and Major Villains, :d6:-:d10: Minions, and :d8:-:d12: Lieutenants, and then progress to saving the Earth, the galaxy, the universe, or all of Reality, by battling entire alien empires or reality-warping cosmic entities, still represented by Minor and Major Villains, :d6:-:d10: Minions, and :d8:-:d12: Lieutenants. The mechanics are the same, but the stakes are much higher—a Major Twist for the street-level heroes could be the town hall getting blown up, or the mayor getting killed, whilst a Major Twist for the cosmic heroes could be an entire planet being ravaged by space plague, or accidentally creating a black hole.

Further, comics don’t really show heroes “graduating” from one scale to another all that often. It’s not like Daredevil is bound to eventually have to take on Galactus if he spends enough time beating up crooks, or that the Silver Surfer had to start with low-level street thugs before being able to fight Skrulls. Sure, Robin became Nightwing and got his own city to protect, but that’s a retooling of the character and a change of venue, not the result of a constant, steady increase of power.

In general, in the SCRPG, there’s really not much correlation betwixt mechanical power of characters and their narrative power. You could have an unpowered crook be an Overpowered Titan in one game, and a ten-foot-tall robot be a Underpowered Fragile in another. (Or even in the same game, if narrative focus is a bigger determiner of mechanical power than in-universe logic.)

Anyway, those are just my thoughts and opinions, at least. I do recognise that other folks have different playstyles and preferences, and enjoy different things, and that—as I’ve said before—I am largely a “theoretical Sentinels RPG GM,” as I’ve only run a single-digit number of issues, so other folks may very well know the practical aspects of this system better than me.

Thanks for listening to my TED Talk. : )

*Which you could do in the SCRPG, but I really don’t recommend it. I imagine that there comes a point when having all :d10: / :d12: Powers & Qualities and five abilities per GYRO zone would stop being very fun. Especially since the nature of the system means you can’t improve dice past a :d12:, which limits the ceiling of advancement in that direction.


That was the major criticism I had in my comments over on the vid. Gone a little too far toward starting you out weak - but I get the impression he’s thinking about using his changes for non-supers games, where the much more D&D-ish power ramp might make more sense.

Your approach seems a lot less restrictive and more likely to retain player interest. Certainly doesn’t cause the number of Source/Archetype issues his does - he makes too many assumptions about all S/A combos winding up the same numbers of G/Y abilities.

I mean, it has advancement systems already, and I truly fail to see what they lack that more traditional games like D&D offer. If anything, I think collections might still ramp up power a little too quickly for long campaign play - or at least we need more suggestions on how to deal with high-power games where every hero has 10+ collections. There are some possible adjustments to be made, but I expect the publisher to do enough playtesting themselves to give us a clue what does and doesn’t work in that regard and why.

But in general, I agree that typical power ramping doesn’t fit the supers genre well - and you can always adjust campaign expectations if your group decides they do want more/different challenges. It’s not unheard of for mid-tier heroes to get a power boost somehow and wind up playing around in the cosmic end of the pool for a while - or for the process to go the other way.

Hal Jordan has historically bounced up and down that way a fair bit, but I don’t think his character sheet changes much when he goes from stopping interstellar wars at the behest of the Guardians to going on a cross-country road trip with his preachy friend Ollie. Exactly what his (say) Signature Weapon: Power Ring d10 means in each circumstances adjusts to fit the current setting rather than the actual value changing. One day he’s swatting alien starfighters that are statted as d6 minions, the next he’s dealing with cycle gangers - who are also d6 minions.

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Sure, and I suppose that heroes would still have different Powers and Qualities and Principles to differentiate them . . . but that’s really only narrative differentiation, not mechanical. And I guess that in, e.g. D&D, a first level character can only have one or two special features . . .

Thanks. The only thing that I think could be changed would be maybe making an exception for the Divided archetype, letting them keep their transform ability at Green. Also, I’m unsure whether the RP quality should be demoted along with the rest—on the one hand, it’s consistent that way, but on the other, the villainous Quality Upgrade excludes it, so . . . I dunno.

Also, I’ve been thinking that maybe a way to create balanced(ish) encounters for “Zero Heroes” (either with the video’s method or mine) would be to just make everything an Easy difficulty, with the occasional epic confrontation at Moderate difficulty. I’ve no idea ff that’s actually fair, but it’s a start, at least.

Oh yeah . . . I’ll admit that I kinda omitted / forgot about collections a touch when writing my earlier rant. So, good point.

I’m fairly confidant that what people are looking for is more customisable advancement. Ya’know, like being able to get new powers / qualities / abilities (on a permanent basis, without giving up existing ones), or increase their dice sizes. All collections are—mechanically—identical. Yes, there is a narrative aspect, but that’s not really the same as learning new spells or making more attacks per round.

(As a note, I’m personally fine with SCRPG’s advancement system; I’m just speculating on why other folks might be dissatisfied with it. Then again, this is all just conjecture; I’ve not actually had anyone ever come up to me and say that they felt this way.)

Well, if you’re DC Comics, you can just reboot your universe and start everyone over with Issue #1! : D

Agreed. Just off the top of my head, though, building “Moderate” scenes as actually Difficult ones might work, or maybe giving Villains and Lieutenants collections of their own? But I’ve really no clue about how to go about this.

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A lot of what I’ve experienced with other folks – and this is just what I’ve run into, so others might have different experiences – is that people who complain about the “lack of advancement” are exclusively accustomed to class-based systems (e.g., D&D, Pathfinder), so they expect / want to get more powerful over time. :confused:

Folks I know who play in other types of systems haven’t raised these concerns, that I’ve noticed. :person_shrugging:t2:


Easiest way to answer that argument is to let them play the same character in a scene against the same foes twice, once with no collections, and once with, say, eight of them. That’s about what you’d earn in a year of weekly play allowing for holidays and other life stuff. If they don’t notice a difference they’re being willfully blind about it. I’d be willing to bet the amount of change in overall effectiveness is at least on par with what you’d see in the same amount of time spent with any class/level system.

Admittedly, collections are once/session abilities, but in practical terms that means they’re pretty much “daily powers” or spells in D&D-a-likes, and unlike those games, ours refresh automatically at the start of a session, no long rest, prayers or spellbook required. :slight_smile:

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While I completely agree with you :grin: after actually running sessions with them, it was definitely more that they wanted clear and concrete powers/abilities that they gained over the course of the game. (They wanted leveling-style of advancements.) Collections require situational decisions that they weren’t as interested in or good at. :pensive:

My honest thought is that they need to be exposed to more games that aren’t class-based. :confused: They may never find this kind of game is their thing, and that’s fine! But it’s disappointing when I see someone who doesn’t want to try a really cool system just because it isn’t what they’re used to. :cry:


Not necessarily. Even games like FATE and other more story-based systems have progression. It’s an expectation of the TTRPG genre, really, outside of one-shots or some really, really niche games. Progression doesn’t have to be as extreme as D&D/Pathfinder, either. Something more like Savage World’s “Advance” system would seem to match up to the GYRO system mechanics pretty well.

To the comics portion, I would classify Dick’s change from Robin to Nightwing as more than just a retool. Also, I can’t help but think of other comic characters that have been allowed to “grow up,” as it were. Cassandra Cain or X-23 spending their first volumes learning to be people, not just a weapons come to mind.

I don’t really like the argument that the collections take the place of advancement. They’re two different things, to me. But it’s also because I don’t like the framing of the issues and the like, but that’s not an argument for here.

It’s storytelling style, really. Do you want a campaign that is more episodic where players or characters can drop in or out, or do you want a longer arc where the characters grow to meet the challenges? Both are valid ways to play, and most systems allow both to a greater or lesser extent. GYRO lacking the latter at all feels like a bug to fix, not a feature.

Hmmm… I wonder if I could recreate some Sentinels heroes and villains in Savage Worlds using the Superpowers Companion…


Agreed, although it still doesn’t work anything like most class/level system (or even skill-based like Runequest/CoC) advancement does. If anything, Masks (a heavily story-based narrative PBtA system) has a far more varied and robust advancement system than the SCRPG does - but it is explicitly a coming-of-age game and that’s the period of one’s life where great change is expected.

None the less, they are mechanically SCRPG’s advancement system. Everything else (hero points, minor or major character rewrites, etc.) reflect temporary edges or sidegrades, but collections are lasting power increases. Whether that’s a good approach is certainly up for debate, though.

I’m sure you could. SW is a versatile system. Not quite on par with engines like Hero/Champions or M&M, but also nowhere near as complex during character building.

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