Friday, February 20, 2009

Oh yeah... experience points.

I'm blushing as I write this: I almost forgot to hand out experience points for our last adventure. Now, maybe it's because I'm the DM, so I don't get XP, but more likely it's because it's been a long time since I played a game where killing things and taking their stuff was, well, the point. The thing your character (and thus the player) gets rewarded for.

Reward cycles are critical to rpg design; if they're done well, they make it perfectly clear what characters should be doing. The reward is really the secret engine that drives the game, and you know what? Gygax and Arneson nailed it. How much more clear could they be? And that was one of the problems as time went on: Someone(s) decided that characters should be rewarded for role playing instead of rolling to play, which the game's fundamental structure refutes. I mean, sure, you can change it, houserule it, whatever. But you should at least realize what you're doing. Understanding this earlier would have saved me YEARS of frustration. :0

Back to XP. I'm following the "100xp/hd" rule, evenly divided out amongst all surviving characters, with a small bit of adjustment for Bill's second character of the afternoon, who joined the party after their epic battle with the giant rats.

Here's the breakdown:

  1. Giant Rats: 7 x 50 = 350
  2. Goblins: 7 x 50 = 350
  3. Tunnel Wolves: 2 x 200 = 400
  4. Skeletons: 4 x 50 = 200
  5. Evil Cleric: 1 x 300 = 300

Total: 1600

Divided: 1600 - 350 = 1250 / 8 = 156.25 each. I'll be nice and round it up to 157.

Also: 350 / 7 = an additional 50 each for all characters except Mob.

Plus: Any characters that have high enough Prime Requisites should add the appropriate percentage.

And don't forget: The small bits of treasure picked up here and there. I didn't keep track of that, but they all split it up immediately, so it's already on the character sheets.

Hm. Not much. The first thing that occurred to me was that it's actually a tactical decision to not take a huge party into the dungeon. Had only five characters gone down, assuming they all survived, their XP would've been effectively doubled.


  1. ...assuming they all survived...

    This is getting a bit meta-gamey for me.

    The assumption in the old days was that the game was fun, even with a huge party. You'd level up when you leveled up, and while that was groovy it wasn't the be-all and end-all of play.

    You played to have fun.

    And I for one had fun last time, even if I didn't make enough experience to gain a level. That's why I'm coming back for more.

  2. Back in the day, I started giving exp for role play type stuff a couple years or so into getting into gaming. I think characterization was so important to me, that it just kicked in. This is for "natural" actions though - if I suspect they are going overboard with it just to get points, I don't give 'em anything for it.

    I think doing that also stemmed from PC's in my game not going up in level that fast from monsters and treasure (actually, I only ever gave points here and there for getting exceptional items, especially the kind you have to experiment with). I get seeing other games having character levels in the teens, when a whole year's worth of twice weekly play only got my players up to 6th or 7th level. So I bumped it up a notch.

    I also fudge a little. My standard is for PC's to go up once a game for the first couple of levels, go up every couple of games in 3rd-4th level, and so on. I don't fudge much, but a little goes a long way in the long haul.

    Oh yeah, I also find it handy to give exp out at the next session. Gives me time to mull actions and events over that may put some more points on top of monster kills.

  3. coffee: I was mostly just thinking as I wrote; one of the joys of actually playing was shutting off the overly analytical/meta-gamey part of my brain. It's just been soooo damn long since I've done anything but think and talk and write about gaming, analysis is a default stance I'm trying to shake. I mean, back in the day, we never, ever got a character past, I dunno, 7th level? And we didn't care, because we were having fun.

    And that's what it comes down to: I had fun, too. A lot of fun. And that's why I'm coming back!

    I also fudge a little. My standard is for PC's to go up once a game for the first couple of levels, go up every couple of games in 3rd-4th level, and so on. I don't fudge much, but a little goes a long way in the long haul.

    That's not a bad benchmark. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out in Otherness, seeing as how we're only gaming once a month or so.