Yesterday I replicated Skyrim’s addictive skill-based leveling system in my real life. So far, it’s working: the fact I’m actually writing this blog two days in a row is proof of that. In my last post I wrote about the philosophy behind that decision; today we’ll dig into the nuts and bolts.
Graduated Level Gain
The basis of Skyrim’s–and many other games’–leveling system is the graduated difficulty of attaining each level. When you start playing, you gain levels and skills essentially by breathing. This frontloaded reward gets you hooked. Successive levels get harder and harder to attain, which keeps you playing long-term and makes higher levels feel more rewarding.
I want to retain this aspect in real life, but don’t want to make tracking my skills too complicated–this is supposed to be fun, not work. To that end, I came up with a simple formula for each skill; as I discussed last time, for example, I gain a skill in Writing when I write n x 1000 words, where n is the skill level I’m trying to attain. I can level from 1 to 2 by writing 2000 words in a few hours, but leveling from 99 to 100–writing 100,000 words–could take months.
In addition to the 18 individual skill levels, I’m tracking my real life Character level. This formula proved a little trickier. I wanted to go with n x 1, where n represents the number of skill points I’ve gained that level. Unfortunately, I only have 18 skills, each with 99 achievable ranks (they each start at 1). I suck at math, but I did eventually figure out leveling all skills to max would fail to get me to level 100. To resolve the issue, I went with the formula n divided by 3, rounded up. Getting to level 2 and 3 each require leveling up one skill by one point, then rank 4, 5, and 6 each require two points, and so on. This is fairly unsatisfying, since each block of three levels are equally difficult to attain, and the upper levels are not as much more difficult than the lower levels as I would like. I could solve this with a much more complicated formula in which leveling higher-level skills would earn more progress toward the next character level, but like I said–tracking needs to be simple and fun for the whole system to work. For now, this is good enough.
Building a Skill Tree
When choosing the actual skills I would track, I was faced with a decision: do I build a one-size-fits-all skill tree that anyone can adopt, or custom build one tailored to my needs? I went with option two, and I wasn’t just being selfish. Choosing skills applicable to my own life, and teaching you how to choose your own skills, means we both get a lot more use out of the whole idea.
I’ve always believed in the Mind/Body/Soul model of personal development, where you make efforts to improve your mental, physical, and emotional/spiritual well-being and aptitudes. That means my own skill tree mirrors the Skyrim split of Warrior/Thief/Mage skills. Others will prioritize differently. An intellectually-inclined person might collapse all my physical skills, such as Running, Push Strength, and so on, into one, if her goal is to exercise enough to stay healthy but is not concerned with building strength for its own sake. Then she might split my Learning skill into a number of particular subjects, such as History, Math, Science, and so on, to fill the place of the missing skills.
And now, the skills themselves:
Karate, Pull, Push, Lift, Leg, Run
Yoga, Mindfulness, Self-Care, Upkeep, Art, Journal
Blog, Spanish, Learn, Write, Piano, Cook
A lot of these choices might seem arbitrary, and some definitely are. I’ll get into the rationale behind each one next time. For now, you should be able to start thinking of what your own skill tree would look like.
Meanwhile, let’s catch up with Aemilian’s latest adventure.
Ridiculously Slow Consequences
By “adventure”, I mean mostly a bunch of walking. After taking the eccentric Sam Guevenne on in a drinking contest, I abruptly woke up in an unfamiliar temple (which I had apparently trashed the night before). After tidying things up, the priestess told me I had mentioned something about Rorikstead and that I should look for Sam there.
Rorikstead? That’s a fair distance from Falkreath, although come to think of it, I don’t remember a temple of Dibella in Falkreath. Where am I? Stepping outside, I found myself in Markarth, at the far western extreme of Skyrim. It’s a beautiful, labyrinthine city, and I look forward to exploring it in the future. Right now, I have business to attend to, and Sam can go find himself for all I care.
Had I not been following the rules as laid out in the Official Desdenada Ridiculously Slow Playbook, I could have fast traveled back to Falkreath in a heartbeat and gotten on with my journey. As it is, the walk back took up pretty much my whole play session. It made the consequences of my night of debauchery feel real, and even though I’m impatient to see the jarl, I definitely enjoyed taking in the sights between the two cities.
Check back next time, when we finally find out what the Jarl of Falkreath wants with me….