Saturday, March 5, 2011

How to get XP

Today I read a short note about a groovy house rule, where you got XP for inflicting and receiving hits. Only. (I wonder where that link is gone?) This got me thinking about way back when I was playing MERP/Rolemaster. In MERP/RM you get XP for each mile travelled, for spells cast and for maneuvers rolled for. It also had that pet hate of mine, XP for delivering the killing blow. In group that meant an insane rush when the monster stared to stumble and become stunned. Realistic maybe, but cowardly. It felt like you got XP for just about everything and it was quite a book keeping effort.

What can you give out XP for that makes sense? It will affect play, like XP for gold does. These are mine ideas for your classic S&S game:
  1. XP for gold spent
  2. XP for hits taken
  3. XP for sites and wonders visited and explored
  4. XP for new facts learned from NPCs
How about that? I'm still undecided about XP for spells invented or magic items enchanted. The latter I'd prefer to be the domain of NPCs and the former makes me think more of Ars Magica than S&S.


  1. That house rule about XP for hits given and received only is courtesy of Alexis over at Tao of D&D. It's actually quite well reasoned out in terms of the kind of game Alexis apparently runs. There has been a nice spirited debate about it if you head over there and read through it.

  2. This really reminds me of how xp is handled in The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind and Oblivion, except that the game classifies all of your xp so that hitting something with a sword makes your sword skill better but nothing else. It's quite realistic in that the more you do something the better you get at doing it, but just thinking about keeping up with that in a P&P rpg makes my head spin.

  3. The "Tao of D&D" blog it was! Thanks for helping me finding it, Zandari!

  4. Josh,

    I remember that from Daggerfall, even earlier in the series. That is a way computers might help. A bit excessive otherwise, indeed.

  5. For a class-based game, where you just choose a skill bundle, class-based XP awards may be appropriate. They did this in the 2E "Complete X Handbook" series. I found that without strict referee oversight it quickly turned into:

    Fighter: (To other Fighter) "No, don't attack this one, it's almost dead and if I'm the one who kill it myself I get bonus XP."

    Cleric: "Oh, you took 1 HP in that pit trap? Time for a Heal!"

    M-U: "Six giant rats? Okay guys, these things are dangerous, so just parry for the next five rounds while I cast all my Blur, Mirror Image, Strength, etc. spells. Ooops, that fight really took it out of me, time for us to hit the sack!"

    Thief: "I hide in shadows / move silently through the room up to the door. I hear noise at the door. I check for traps on the floor, then on the ceiling, then on each wall, then on the door, then on the door-frame. No traps? I pick the lock."

    My game uses XP for monsters (more important at low level), squandering treasure, hexes explored, and dungeon levels plumbed. I think I'll change the overland exploration award to "special sites discovered" instead. If you make it "special sites visited" there's an opportunity for pilgrimages, which may be desirable for the game setting, but seem weird when it's the PC M-U Teleporting new characters around to see the sights to get a bunch of each XP.

  6. My game uses XP for monsters (more important at low level), squandering treasure, hexes explored, and dungeon levels plumbed.

    Sounds like a very nice round selection of items to get some extra juice from.

    I can see the problem you outline with class based XP. It reminds me way to much of the Kill XP in Rolemaster. Not good.


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