Minimum Viable Population. That’s what I’m here to talk about today.

Not technically, that’s just what I was reminded of when I did some quick research before beginning this post, and was subsequently distracted by — see, I read about MVP ages ago, but couldn’t remember anything helpful.

Right, so I’ve been going in circles trying to work out how to design the GP investment system for character development, and most (but not all!) of the hard-and-fast rules I’d come up with were less than useful.

Whenever I get stalled too long in one area, I take a break to work on another part of the system and come back after I’ve had a chance to work on something else. I’ve been reading about Godzilla ’cause there was a new movie I guess — I moved on to review my work on Scope — which seemed to be what I needed.

Actually, in rapid succession there were a couple conversations about Godzilla and one about the Fisher King, which reminded me about the Omphalos and the earth shamans I developed for my Praise of Stone campaign…

…Plus all the work I did over the last couple days on building racial relationships for the system — I seriously knocked out three of them in one day, plus most of a fourth, practically wrapping the whole thing up in two days after nearly four months of “No Progress” — I find that much of game design is like that for me.


The article suggests MVP for many species four-thousand-something, which hits the middle of a medium settlement, some 3,000-5,000 humanoids. Obviously this will vary from species to species, but it seems about right.

What does that mean? Well, really what it means — if I use this as the basis for XP investments — is that while villages of 300-500 people might bring in the quests for loot, the PCs will have to travel to a larger settlement to spend that loot if they want to actually advance in level. “What is this nonsense?” you ask.

Settlements are generally found in one of three ranges, and at each of those is a character development in the form of a land grant and/or reputation reward:

pop. 300-500 village <-- stronghold (9th-level PC) pop. 3,000-5,000 large town <-- city-state (19th-level PC) pop. 30,000-50,000 metropolis <-- cult status (29th-level PC) These correspond roughly to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th tiers in Scope (local, regional, and global). An adventuring party would be the 1st tier, or "personal" Scope. Blah, blah blah. In order to effect the kind of change necessary to develop a PC, any investment of GP must have a minimum among of impact on the community, or it's wasted. That means as much as you might want to invest in your Home Village, it'd be a personal endeavor garnering little real level advancement.

This means if you want to move up in the world, you can’t just build up your own “McMansion,” you have to invest it in a town where your currency will actually matter — in other, other words, you can’t just flood a tiny economy with currency and expect it to mean anything. Your money is of little use to them.