A while back I mentioned that I had come across Eclipse: the Codex Persona. Well, I’ve had a closer look at it, and it looks like my initial fears were baseless. Eclipse, while it tries to reach the same destination as Fluidity, takes a completely different path. That having been said, I found Eclipse pretty interesting. Make no mistake, it’s a really dense piece of reading and I would certainly like to actually see the system at work in a campaign environment before I gave it my full endorsement, but at first glance it seems to work. And, for the most part, it seems to work well. Since it’s shareware you can’t go wrong with a quick look, especially if you’re interested in point-buy d20.

Unfortunately, Eclipse doesn’t do away with levels, which was one of the initial goals with Fluidity Project. I wanted a free form point buy system that allowed for smooth (or fluid) character growth and gave the players something to purchase at least every game session. While I was checking out Eclipse: the Codex Persona, I came across a pair of systems that also do just that.  Buy the Numbers is a class-less, level-less, d20 compatible system that is significantly closer to that I was looking for when I first started designing Fluidity Project. Complete Control is an adapted and updated form of Buy the Numbers that has (from my perspective) better math behind the character advancement system. Complete Control also has a supplement called Complete Gear, which deals with magic items in a new and innovative way. Complete Control is also from the folks at Dreamscarred Press, so it contains a lot of native support for psionics.

Both Buy the Numbers and Complete Control are almost exactly what I envisioned when I started Fluidity Project, but the both have the same major problem: too much math. The CR system in 3.x (for all its faults) allows GMs to created balanced and interesting encounters, but it also walks hand in hand with an unwieldy XP system.

A quick aside, when I migrated my home campaign from core D&D to Iron Heroes, XP was the first thing I did away with. In Iron Heroes, there’s no magic items, so there’s no crafting, so PCs don’t need XP for anything other than leveling. Mastering Iron Heroes introduced the concept of Marks instead of XP. In a nutshell, characters get 1 mark for an encounter with a CR equal to their level and 2 marks for an encounter with a CR 3 or more above their level. Characters in 3.x are supposed to level every 12-14 encounters and Mastering Iron Heroes suggests leveling every 10 marks, but in my campaign I found that leveling every 20 marks was actually better for the game (as always, your mileage may vary). The concept of marks became the basis for Character Points in Fluidity Project.

Which brings me back to my problem with Buy the Numbers and Complete Control. Both systems use raw XP as the currency of character advancement and price all the character components out with three and four digit XP costs. For example, in Complete Control, if I wanted to purchase Power Attack it would cost me 100 XP if it was my first feat purchase or 2,760 XP if it was my seventh. In Buy the Numbers, if I wanted to purchase Power Attack it would cost me 50 XP if it was my first feat purchase or 2,100 XP if it was my seventh. In Fluidity Project Power attack costs 3 CP no matter when you purchase it. In Fluidity Project each CP represents a single equal CR encounter, but when using XP the awards vary depending on the party’s level and the equivalent CR of the encounter.

It’s my opinion that we should look to Occam in this case. Why force the players to play accountant with thousands upon thousands of experience points when they could quickly count out a few character points, buy a few character upgrades and get on with the game? Why offer the players different die sizes for hit dice when they’re playing a point buy game and can buy as many as they want? Of course, both games cap all purchases at 20 so that point is kind of moot. But, the larger question stands — Is staying close to the source material really desirable for any other reason than player familiarity? If there is a less complicated but fully compatible option isn’t that always the better option?