XP: the means by which most RPGs confer improvements upon the characters, earned through their achievements in play. Experience Points (XP) are given at regular intervals to reward the players for taking part in the game. We're all, I think, familiar with the idea.
The question has always been, "What's the best way to go about awarding XP?"
The answer lies in what you want to achieve. If you want to encourage any given behaviour then that is what you reward. Thus, if you give XP for killing monsters and finding treasure you'll focus the players on those two activities.
There is no right or wrong way to reward players in your game. There are simply more or less effective ways to encourage the behaviours that you want to see. For example, seeking to encourage more "roleplay", i.e. acting in role, instead of the more common descriptive style of play, I've introduced suggestions for XP multipliers. Taken straight from "Gamemastery", these bonuses have had a dramatic effect on the behaviours of the players and the quality of the game.
Experience from Fantasy
My current Fantasy-genre game is being currently played using the default rules of Castles & Crusades
. The guys are enjoying themselves, although there have been rumblings for one or two tweaks, such as with the combat rules.
From my perspective, however, the real challenge has been calibrating the XP system. C&C uses a very slow progression rate and encourages the GM to add in delays between levelling up processes too: one week of training (expensive) per level gained, e.g. going to Level 3... well that's 3 weeks training, dude.
With staggered level-up points for each different class, low-value awards for combat, and low-encouragement to give other awards... well, I found myself unwittingly starving my players of XP. Following the default rules was making them jittery because they wanted to get to Level 2 and 3 quickly. Remembering Wick's Law that you should "run the game the player's want to play", I knew that they needed a boost.
was to add in the following XP multipliers to encourage role-playing over roll-playing:
Step Two has been to adjust the amount of XP per creature overcome. My players want an action-game where monster kills are valuable, in the Old School tradition, so I will give it to them. I've decided to make the monster-kill XP a per-hero total instead of being divided between them. Thus, when my 5 heroes kill 10 Goblins, worth around 100XP they get 100 each, not 20 each.
Step Three has been to add in larger bonuses for completing non-fighting goals. These are largely improvised but a rough scale exists in my head:
- 50-100XP for a small personal goal or small achievement, such as thinking to record something important or prepare something useful. In the last session, one player got 50XP for thinking of making 2 torches from some wood and rotten rags off a looted creature; another got 100XP for recording the details of runes on a doorway.
- 100-250XP for completing a short-term personal goal, such as found on the player's Roleplaying Sheet, or a story goal in the current adventure.
- 250XP+ for longer-term personal goal or a major story goal, such as something that would have taken multiple adventures to achieve.
I also took the expedience of giving everyone a 300XP boost at the end of the first adventure to allow them, after four sessions, to level-up. Oh, and I have dumped the training for this event.
Musings for Beta
is the system I'm developing for my own gaming pleasure. Right now it's very embryonic but it does have the basics in place.
One thing Beta does lack, however, is an XP system. I've not finalised anything yet but I am leaning towards a couple of things based on the experiences of giving XP to my group.
Firstly, they like big numbers. Increments of "1000XP = a reward" sounds nice and feel good. Perhaps each 1000XP total will unlock an upgrade, allowing for some chunky XP awards depending on the genre of play.
That's a good second point too: different genres and styles of play will warrant different XP awards. Fantasy gaming will probably reward creature kills where modern gaming may not... unless it's a monster-hunt game. Thus XP calibration advice to GMs needs to outline how different awards will affect play.
Thirdly, the roleplaying multipliers will probably become a default element of the XP system, encouraging good quality play.
Lastly, the system should draw fair-sized rewards from the Roleplaying (RP) Sheet, which needs to be a part of the character creation process... perhaps similar to the bonuses I mentioned above.
The process of XP awards needs to be flexible. It needs to reward the behaviours you want in your game.
I still want to go back and check out the Rolemaster XP system again. Years ago I used the system outlined in the GM book from RMFRP and found it to be really useful. There are all-manner of useful ideas for XP bonuses in there, despite my memory failing me right now. I need to be able to drop in some new rewards ideas if they prove useful.
Do you want them to investigate? Then give XP for each clue found and a big reward for solving the mystery. Do you want them to stop killing like psychos? Then don't reward monster kills with XP.
That said... remember: "You have to run the game the players want to play".
Labels: Beta, fantasy, GMing, musings, rules, XP