Delve: the ontological crisis of points

Points: where do they come from?

I’m attempting to wrestle with how to get the Pools in Delve just right: they’re semi-closed systems but not entirely, because while they start at a fixed level, they go up. While most of the expenditures are a matter of give-and-take between the adventurers and the gamemaster, there are times that one side (primarily the adventuring party) will perform actions that net the party AP but not from the gamemaster’s Hazard Pool as would normally be the case. But where do the new points come from?

As it stands, I’ve mainly just assumed there’s an infinite cloud of unrealized points that can be added to the game’s economy at any time as necessary. What has been problematic is whether to attempt to codify that in the game rules (e.g., “there’s a third imaginary pool that contains extra points that you take from as necessary; it has an unlimited number of points, so add tokens whenever it needs more”) or perhaps, not only codify it but actually put an overarching cap on the amount of points that can be pumped into the system. If I take that route, I also have to think about what’s going to happen once that cap is reached: the points system is explicitly designed as a system to reward players for a given set of behaviors, but if those rewards dry up, what will they do then?

I also still haven’t attempted to further define the “Danger Level” mechanic yet, but it’s hanging around and I think some version of it is going to go in – and this pool situation has the potential to impact it. If I make the cap equal to the Danger Level, for instance, then as soon as the game-changer happens, the party is motivated to resolve it and then leave. That’s not out of convention for these kinds of games: you beat the dragon, and then all that’s left is to schlep the hoard back to town. Then again, what about a linked series of adventures? What about a mini-boss, who marks the end of an act but not the whole adventure? Some of the early classic D&D modules were a single dungeon complex with many sub-plots all sprinkled throughout – deal with one, and you still have all the others left. Emulating that sort of adventure is a primary goal of Delve.