Saturday, September 11, 2010

More thoughts about experience

I read these two posts about how different designers have handled the idea of experience point awards. On this blog I have expressed my great enthusiasm for the idea of gaining xp for gold. To be more precise I think the Arnesonian way to award for gold spent is even better, but still it's xp for gold. The posts by the Paladin made me think again of how to award the behaviour you want to promote in your game.

In Rolemaster you get XP for a bunch of things, a little like in The Fantasy Trip. Looking back at the rules now I realize we must have glossed over much of that when me and my friends played MERP/RM. You get XP for miles travelled, Spells cast, Saves, Damage taken, enemies killed and a few more. If someone doubts that rules for experience strongly influence style of play, let me tell you how weird that last one can get. We had more than one fight become quite a farce when at the end the opponent looked haggard enough to get killed in the next good blow. Suddenly everyone charged in, pushing friend and foe aside to get in that killing blow. It might be realistic but it sure wasn't fun. It was the first one to go.

You have probably all read about how old school play is more about exploring the unknown, right? How about that idea of XP per mile travelled? Is it feasible? Jeff Rients wrote about it, and his take was very interesting I think. Jeff's take is a little more sophisticated than just XP/mile. It have been sloshing around in my brain since I first read it, and I want to write something that uses that idea.

Another cool idea is that you probably learn more from your mistakes than from what you already know. In Tunnels & Trolls you get experience when doing Saving Rolls, failed or not. I always liked that, and have more than once seen people try wild things beacuse "The worst thing that could happen is I get some experience, right?". Me like. Imagine a game where you only get experience when you fail!

Now imagine this

* XP targets for points in the adventure which necessitate some curiosity and exploration or are somehow more majestic than usual.
* XP everytime you fail relative to the margin of failure (multiplied by level, maybe)
* A flat bonus for every crit done or received
* xp for gold, spent on hedonistic pursuits

I want to play that game!


  1. For older-edition D&D games I like to give out 1 xp for every point of damage you take during the session. Nothing is a motivator like pain!

  2. You really do that? Wow.

    I guess you wont the majority of your xp from that, considering how few HP you usually have...

  3. Have you looked at the BRP system used to power Call of Cthulhu and a few others? You get a 'level' at the end of each adventure at which point you have a chance to increase each skill you successfully used during that adventures. The chance your skill will go up is inversely proportional to the amount you already have in the skill. I find this rewards player creativity by encouraging them to use as many skills as possible, including ones they don't use that often.

    I've been thinking of a system where objectives have XP rewards as well as opponents. This would be put into a Call of Cthulhu game that is usually investigation focused, so clues towards a cults existence or membership would each have a bounty and such. This would reward players who search more before they start shooting or calling in the state troopers. I want to add the XP system to reward players during longer adventures- my group gets frustrated easily if they don't feel they are making progress and I think this will help.

    I was also thinking of combining this with an idea I heard about in Trail of Cthulhu/Gumshoe. In it you always pass checks to find a clue if you have the right ability. This prevents the plot from stalling on a failed roll when they miss something really obvious. I am thinking of making this true, however you only get experience if you succeed on the roll.

    I should probably write this up as a blog post on my blog at some point.

  4. Thanks for reminding me of something I should have known. BRP is what I grew up with.

    I never thought if that after session skill gain as "gaining a level". Interesting.

    ToC is interesting, but that's another subject.

    Do write a post of your own on the subject!

  5. The other thing I found interesting about it is that you have a constant sense of advancement, and yet the powercurve is shallow enough to easily mix experienced and new characters. I think this is largely due to the fact you can max any skill you want at creation without too much difficulty, so characters tend to grow more diverse in their abilities over time rather then more niche-focused.


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