X Advancement System

What is it?
The X System is a level-less advancement procedure that allows characters to develop organically through play, rather than in artificial bursts once an XP threshold is reached. The basics are:

Earn Xs by playing well, as a reward from the DM, and whenever the rules say you should. Place Xs next to parts of the character sheet that interest you or need support. Once something has three Xs, improve that part of the sheet in a unique and relevant manner (rather than a direct power boost).

The specifics vary wildly depending on the system, the DM and the players. The hugely open-ended nature of the X System isn't as daunting as the table as one might expect, players are exceptionally good at coming up with interesting yet fair improvements to their items and abilities. However, there can be some tricky situations. As such, this primer could also be called:

"Help! They put three Xs next to... !"

"Their name!"
Remarkably common. Tell them to put a line under the blank space next to their first name. The next time they do something really brave, give them a moniker representing it.

"Magic Dice!"
Remember - Unique and relevant manner, rather than a direct power boost. +1 max MD is a big jump for any wizard, and they'll constantly be hunting for the next hit. Give it to them at a signficant cost, like having to follower particular wizardly rituals, taking on a new thematic weakness, or investing it in a magic item (that can be stolen).

"A crowbar!"
Make it indestructible. Tools have their limitations, making a tool more of itself opens up more ideas than it closes.

"A bag of charcoal!"
Soot-sprites! If in doubt, make it whimsical, weird, and orthogonal. If they give you something that doesn’t have an obvious answer, choose something fun (or otherwise pushes the tone of game you are aiming for).

Consumable are tricky. Xs are designed to make things more interesting, not less, and removing an ongoing cost like food, light, or water is not to be treated lightly. Make these specific consumables twice as good, and then prod them towards the Dungeon Cooking rules (see page XX).

"Something just to see what I’d do!"
A few ideas:
  • It starts talking.
  • It was actually a magic item.
  • It is something completely different to what you originally thought.
However, your best bet is to ask the player(s) what they think it should do. If a player hasn't used an item in-game and is trying to improve, it can make it really hard to develop it in a way that makes sense. Suggest that they move the Xs to somewhere more relevant to the character, or save them for a rainy day.

"A spell!"
Likewise challenging. If you want to give it a permanent +1 MD boost, I’d couple that with a condition required to access it. Otherwise:
  • It is now your familiar, and can manifest in the real world.
  • It can now be cast in the inverted form (fire to ice, push to pull).
  • If a utility spell, it can now be cast offensively, dealing [sum] damage.
  • If a damage dealing spell, give it alternative/subtler uses rather than direct boosts.
  • If they really want a damage boost, make it more dangerous to use. Nuclear Fireball, anyone?.
  • Adding additional words to the name of a spell is a good way to record the changes that have been made to the spell.
"Something not listed here!"
Be sure to tell me how it goes! Remember though, the DM is also a player, and their enjoyment is still important. If you feel like players aren’t engaging in the spirit of the game, you have permission from me to call them out on it.

Games that use X Advancement:
Die Trying (me)
Sci-Fi Die-Try (Saker Tarsos)
Pariah (Sofinho)
Organically Grown PCs (B44L)

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