I sat down to my notebook to think on the Exploration/Investigation Challenge, and what I got instead was so much better than anything I could have hoped for — well, technically not, but it wasn’t what I was expecting and I was pleasantly surprised. So, it wasn’t better than what I hoped for, but it was better than what I expected. Earlier this month, I wrote about “Applying Experience.”

The idea is a fairly simple one, reflected in a number of editions of a number of game systems. The idea is that gaining levels (whether bonuses apply to a single skill or power, or across the board) requires practice, training, or some unique mission. In Oblivion and other entries in the Elder Scrolls series, you practice the skills you use.

Periodically, you increase your character level.

In some systems, you gain skill points when your character level increases, which you then turn around and invest in whatever skills you want. Dungeons & Dragons, Diablo 2, and the Fallout series work like this. Overcoming a challenge gives you generic “experience” toward a level-up, and you decide how your character improves.

Even if it isn’t openly acknowledged or easily recognizable, training appears in every roleplaying game I can think of, that includes character levels and an advancement system. It can be abstract, or it can be a skill-training system like in Oblivion. If you’re familiar with Arcanum, you get a taste of both with the coveted “Master” rankings.

When I brought up an advancement system in my previous post, I was thinking of a system that required characters to beat a Challenge before they were allowed to advance, but when I reflected on the Exploration Challenge, I realized that wouldn’t fly. The first problem is that they were expected to advance single characters.

The more I thought about the skills associated with Exploration and Investigation, the more I came back to the Intuition skill, and what it represents. I thought back on the Norvendae system (what the Catan Horror serves as a prelude to), and I thought of Divinations. And then I realized what I was doing wrong.

Divination is an integral part of Norvendae, and it plays a huge role in the careers of adventurers, whether they recognize it or not. Divinations are difficult for game masters since they represent abstract knowledge. They haven’t gotten any easier, even through standardizations of recent editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

Incorporating a Divination into the advancement of a character seems like a natural thing to do, and once I was thinking about it in terms of Norvendae, I knew exactly what negative consequences might come about as a result of failed Divinations. In the card game, the Divination power enables you, and every player at the table, to draw cards.

I figured on the following changes: first of all, every player whose character wishes to participate, is allowed to participate, whether they have enough experience or not. Each participating character adds to the difficulty of the Challenge as normal. If they have enough experience by the end, they advance even if the Challenge fails.

The drawback? Every failure during a Divination adds to the Invasion Track.