'Balance' seems a very odd objective in this context. Is equal-HP- effectiveness an apparent consideration in HQ, or indeed something evident in the design as-is? And how often do characters set about increasing _every_ ability in a keyword, anyway? If one wanted strictly balanced in this sense, one might say cost to raise is the aggregate cost of each listed or existing ability, less some 'bulk discount' (and throw in the possibility of an added benefit by way of adding a new ability at that increased rating 'for free'). I was less concerned with this level of fiddly detail, then trying to articulate the motivating principle, though.
> Long term, I think that it makes total sense to have the character develop
> broadly. Think about Conan, who early in life has few keywords, picks up
> warrior, and then becomes more and more experienced with the Traveler
> Keyword, and eventually picks up enough leadership to become king...These
> changes all happen "off screen" and in broad ways. And followers tend to
> follow their development in parallel to some extent. I'd say retainers, no.
> But Sidekicks should advance as much.
And I don't think this gels at all with having separate mechanics for increasing keywords, as increasing everything else. That's not prioritising or incentivising such increases, it's putting them on a different 'axis' entirely. (And similarly fails the 'balance' test, for the identical reason that not all keywords are equivalent in gross (near-)equivalent cost. Why increase your Homeland keyword if that means passing up the chance to increase your magical one, typically, independently of the internal or external logic of doing so.)
> While I can see the potential attraction, and it would work with my pay or
> you don't have it, method, I think I'm fine with the normal method. It's
> very tempting, but I think that it's getting too fidly with something that
> looks like it'll work well as is.
I agree it does, at least for PCs, but I think that followers are the exception to this. I'm pretty neutral as to whether to 'fix' follower keywords as a special case, or in some notionally symmetrical and general manner.
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