I was reading the Laws of Online World Design on Raph Koster’s website, when I had this weird thought about character levels after reading the following line under “Design Rules” near the top of the page:

[H]ave multiple paths of advancement (individual features are nice, but making them ladders is better).

I’ve been bouncing back and forth between concepts I’ve taken from Guild Wars, Magic: the Gathering, Settlers of Catan, Arkham Horror, Star Wars CCG, Risk: Godstorm, and Dungeons & Dragons over the last several months, trying to create a comprehensible scale of power and influence.

Fourth Edition D&D breaks gameplay into three tiers: Heroic, Paragon, and Epic. In the Heroic tier, your character overcomes both local and personal problems and starts to become aware of a larger world just over the horizon. In the Paragon tier, your character tackles regional threats and starts to look beyond their own world.

In the Epic tier, your character begins to see the worlds beyond their world, and has the opportunity to save the world before concluding their adventures by stopping a threat to the multiverse at large. At that point, it’s assumed that your character steps aside to allow new heroes a day in the spotlight.

Now, given the context of Fourth Edition’s tier system, I would view the events of a game of Arkham Horror as being a higher-end Heroic tier adventure, with potential repercussions affecting the neighboring towns and villages. When I look at a typical game of Settlers of Catan, I see its events affecting an entire region.

Then, looking at Risk: Godstorm, with its world-spanning events, I see what looks like a higher-end Paragon tier adventure or a lower-end Epic tier adventure. The gods walk the earth and are summoned or banished by the beliefs of the people. Precious artifacts can be uncovered and seized, and Atlantis can be destroyed on a whim.

How do you balance player actions on a local scale and a regional scale, though? I’m thinking I’m going to need to player Eve Online at some point to get a feel for how the game operates — or else just spend a lot of time researching it. *shrug* My thought, though, was to have players use clans and guilds to create ladders.

Ladders or leaderboards can be used to show how players rank next to each other, and I think guilds, as player organizations, can be used to promote individuals to decision-making status in individual towns and cities, before moving on and up to a regional level, where decisions can be made that affect dozens of players. Once you reach that point, you’re operating on the Catan level, I think.

Hm. Thought needs more cowbell.

edit: I just wanted to point out that I realize the difference between the kind of ladder he’s talking about and the kind of ladder I’m talking about. He’s talking about changing a forward-moving, walking-type thing into a nigh-vertical, climbing-type thing. The ladder I’m talking about is a “mine’s bigger than yours” system.