D&D 4th Edition Morrus on ... XP - Page 5




Poll: How does your group handle XP? (Check all that apply)

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  1. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by N'raac View Post
    So do we rescue the princess first, or negotiate the cash price with the King beforehand rather than rely on his gratitude afterwards? My point is simply that xp based on loot can motivate behaviour that is just as unreasonable as xp based on combat.

    We just finished a scenario last night. Part of that scenario involved visiting an old pirate cave, which connected with a much older ruin of an ancient civilization, because we needed a McGuiffin. Our explorations of the pirate cave didn't locate the pirate treasure, as we found the ancient ruin entrance first. Our characters didn't waste time searching the rest of the caverns for this rumoured pirate treasure, but returned with the McGuffin ASAP.

    Now, I as a player know that the Baddies who had "just completed" their plan as we reached the climactic encounter would have "just completed" their plan if we had taken another week in the pirate caves. But the characters don't know that their lives are dictated by the module script, and not their own timeliness, so searching the old pirate caves wouldn't really be in character. But, under your model, it imposes a serious xp cost (and we noticed yesterday that our wealth is a bit off from missing that loot, too - treasure buys gear that enhances power, so making it also drive level gains makes it doubly important!).



    Above, I noted varying interpretations of the same rule. I've typically interpreted xp as a reward for "defeating" the opponent. An Owlbear is just as defeated if we kill it, drive it off, befriend it, bribe it or slip past it, so why would the xp differ? In all cases, we have defeated the monster - achieved our objectives to the detriment of its own. Now, not following its tracks means we don't encounter it, so we don't defeat it. But why are the tracks there in the first place? If the author of the tale includes the discovery of those tracks, wouldn't the story have some purpose for those tracks? Shouldn't the bold heroes wish to ensure this magical beast is no longer a threat to innocent travellers? If an encounter with the Owlbear serves no purpose to the story, why throw its tracks in the adventurers' path?

    The balance between the "game" part and the "role playing" part is a very subjective preference, and causes a lot of disagreements over "the best" way to play, including the most appropriate means of handing out xp. Gamists want the ability to get more xp than their teammates (the other oplayers are a form of competition), but narrativists may be quite happy to have everyone advance at the same pace.

    Let's take an example. You placed enough treasure in this scenario to allow the characters to level up twice. However, due to their choices, bad luck or what have you, they missed most of the treasure, or left it behind, and as a result they did not level up at all. What's your next step:

    (a) tell the players they missed all that loot and let them go back and haul it out (with no further encounters - they dealt with all of those)? same thing as sending them back if they missed a bunch of kills - all the same options exist if you didn't get enough combat-based xp, with a bit of fine tuning to provide for extra combat rather than cash.

    (b) carry on with the next planned adventure, which would have been appropriately challenging for characters two levels higher - they made their choices and now they have to live with them!

    (c) insert one or more buffer adventures (whether new encounters at the old scenario location as they retrieve that loot, or some other approach) to get them up to the appropriate level to challenge them appropriately in the planned adventure?

    (d) override the xp count and arbitrarily level them up? Perhaps the beneficiaries of the PC's actions are retroactively much more grateful and/or wealthy than previously planned and reward them up to that next level or two. A Story Award, perhaps?

    I suggest (b) probably means the party gets wiped out, but (a), (c) and (d) all mean their choices ultimately didn't matter much. Is there an approach I am not considering that satisfies both the goal of making their decisions matter and that of keeping the challenge level appropriate and the game enjoyable?

    I do see one major advantage to "treasure as xp", thinking on it. It makes it much easier to ensure the "wealth per level" guidelines will be maintained, since you only level up by retrieving a level of wealth which, after expenses and consumable items, should leave the appropriate wealth by level.
    First point: Clever players who are role playing mercenary-type adventurers should certainly and obviously try to negotiate the best offer before rescuing the princess. Heroic types may not be as concerned with their cash reward--and that's what makes them heroic. The lesser reward their characters receive as a result is exactly what makes that choice meaningful. If the heroic player sacrifices nothing by being heroic, it isn't really that heroic is it? Roleplaying heroism is about willing self-sacrifice; rewarding a PC just as much for going that route makes the choice ultimately less meaningful to the player. It's the same vein of thought as to whether you should flee from a losing battle abandoning your allies or risk death together. If there is no actual threat of death and/or no actual ultimate reward or penalty for this decision, it's meaningless.

    Second point, regarding your game: My players are currently playing a modified version of Jason Alexander's modified keep on the shadowfell (they are all new players so everything is new to them anyways). In Jason Alexander's keep, the BBG is on a specific schedule for how fast he can complete his ritual. Player actions can slow down the process, but ultimately the BBG is going to be finished at no later than this date, at which point the rift opens and hordes of undead flow through. If the players spend their time jacking around in the wilderness doing nothing, the rift WILL open without them and they will face the full brunt of Ocrus's wrath for their foolishness. It is definitely not the case that no matter what they do they will ultimately stumble into the BBG ritual chamber at the exact last possible moment to avert catastrophe. They will either be early and have a good advantage, or they will be too late and get face stomped by hordes of ghasts and spectres and death knights and whatelse. To do it any other way would be to render meaningless their decisions, successes, and failures up to that point.

    Regarding point 3 about the owlbear experience.

    1st off, yes of course you can break the adventure up into segments and award experience for overcoming or avoiding those segments, but ultimately it becomes hugely confusing and subjective to keep track of what counts as avoiding and what counts as overcoming a challenge. If monsters are placed into a dungeon for the sole purpose of hindering the PCs it's a little simpler; at the end of the adventure just give the PCs any experience they would have gotten for killing the monsters they never encountered, either purposefully for accidentally, and just call it 'Quest XP'. But if you are putting monsters into an adventure for verisimilude alone this gets much more complicated. Are my wilderness owlbear tracks a red herring? Is it a critical side mission? Or is it just that the ranger asks if they are any interesting tracks around, you roll a dice, and owlbear comes up from a list of monsters that would logically live in this type of area? Your line of thinking about the owlbear (the DM MUST have an important storyline reason for including owlbear tracks) is also sort of meta game and kills verisimilitude imo.

    Fourth point, regarding gamists. I sort of disagree that gamists want to do better than their team. I am a gamist and I DM a group of gamists and basically always have. My goal is not to do better than my team, but for my team to do better than other teams in the same situation. I see the game as a competition with better and worse choices and meaningful consequences for those choices, yes, but I'm not competing against the other players. I'm competing against the dungeon designer (whether that's the DM himself or another module writer) and against other players who have gone through the same dungeon. Even if I may never know how well others have done on a given adventure, I know ultimately whether I and the group as a whole made better or worse decisions for efficiently getting through the adventure.

    Fifth point, regarding players doing poorly and not getting enough loot or exp from one adventure in order to take them into the next. First off, I don't feel constrained to choose adventures several sessions in advance, I will choose an adventure of what I think is appropriate difficulty only after my players have completed the current one. Figuring out from there how to make it fit into the larger plot of the campaign is all part of the fun. Secondly, I don't think it's a very convincing hypothetical counter-argument for this system. My players went through keep on the borderlands first, died about 20 times, and wound up with a third level party in the end with about 5 parties worth of treasure (since they were mostly able to recover the gear of fallen PCs) so they were actually a very powerful group. So in point of fact their poor playing (do to being a completely newbie group) made them more powerful than would be expected. But if they had been better players able to get through the borderlands without dying and thus have much less loot, well, that's ok too because obviously they can play well enough to not NEED that much of a loot advantage. So players, under this system, sort of naturally find their sweet spot where they will eventually have just enough loot to overcome the challenge of the adventure (so long as they keep recovering their dead PC's gear and generating new PCs with a full new gear complement).

    Sixth point, regarding the advantages of this system. Your point about the ease of ensuring they are at the right power level wrt wealth/experience is true, but take into account that player death under this system is expected and thus so long as the dead PC's gear is recovered the players will occasionally accumulate wealth faster than experience. If you fear this becoming a problem (as it did in my game after 20 PC deaths with all gear recovered) you can simply reduce the likelihood of players being able to recover gear from dead PCs by having the monsters grab dead PC bodies and running or rust monsters or something like that.

    The real advantages of this system are the simplification of rewarding and making meaningful player choice. Instead of trying to figure out which challenges are overcome and which are merely avoided, all you have to figure out is how much loot the PCs carry out of the dungeon or how much experience you want to reward for a specific quest completed. Instead of having to figure out how challenging a given encounter is (and then having that calculation possibly ruined by unanticipated player action) all you have to figure out is how much treasure a given monster or tribe of monsters is likely to have. About the most subjective calculation you would ever have to make is awarding quest experience points for players taking actions for the 'good of the people' without reasonable expectation of cash rewards; and then it's a simple matter of comparing it with how much GP they'd be able to get if they had gone another route; IE their opportunity cost. But still, players should be given a meaningful choice between being more or less heroic/altruistic, and the only way that choice is meaningful is if there are real consequences and real self-sacrifice in the offing. So does that mean that it would be stupid for PCs to tackle a den full of powerful dire bears when the dire bears wouldn't logically have valuable treasure and they aren't getting any other experience for it anyways? Yes! Yes it probably does! And giving the players the option of making stupid choices is exactly what makes smart choices exist; and in my opinion, players feel good when they make smart choices. If EVERY choice is a smart choice, there's nothing to feel good about.

    As a final point, probably you are recoiling with horror at the thought of the PCs taking 20 character deaths in a simple 3 level adventure that took a couple of months to run. They've had 2 Keep on the Shadowfell sessions so far and suffered another 3 character deaths already. This sort of ruins a story-line campaign. But! Incompetent play that would be deservedly punished but is not through DM fiat would ALSO ruin a story-line campaign. The bottom line is that this is an inexperienced group of players that is making (and learning from) a lot of rookie mistakes. Failing to punish those mistakes and having the characters muddle through anyways, accomplishing great deeds against the odds, wouldn't really feel any more 'right' than having an endless succession of cousins, brothers, sisters, and children miraculously appearing to take up the arms of their fallen relatives just after they die. And, happily, my players haven't really gone that route anyways but have made new and ever more interesting characters as their old ones have died. They are in the learning stage, they know that, they are happy about it, and they are happy about having real tangible and immediate feedback on their decisions. Just making things always easy enough for them to win without dying would make it a lot more boring and unrealistic. If they want to play badass characters that wipe out hundreds of monsters without dying they have to earn those characters; that is what ultimately gives meaning to being able to play a character like that. Elsewise wouldn't we all just start at Epic Tier?
    Last edited by Hautamaki; Monday, 5th March, 2012 at 10:55 AM.

 

  • #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    First point: Clever players who are role playing mercenary-type adventurers should certainly and obviously try to negotiate the best offer before rescuing the princess. Heroic types may not be as concerned with their cash reward--and that's what makes them heroic. The lesser reward their characters receive as a result is exactly what makes that choice meaningful. If the heroic player sacrifices nothing by being heroic, it isn't really that heroic is it? Roleplaying heroism is about willing self-sacrifice; rewarding a PC just as much for going that route makes the choice ultimately less meaningful to the player. It's the same vein of thought as to whether you should flee from a losing battle abandoning your allies or risk death together. If there is no actual threat of death and/or no actual ultimate reward or penalty for this decision, it's meaningless.
    To me, at least, xp is not an in-character reward. Wealth is - the character can see, touch, count and spend all that gold. Do you find, in the source material, that heroic characters tend to be less skilled? And what of those Evil villains who are motivated by power, rather than wealth? "Neutral" and "evil" doesn't automatically equate to "money". Perhaps the Evil warlord is prepared to rescue the princess provided he gets her hand in marriage - is there a monetary value for that? Or perhaps he is simply currying favour for the king (if I get in close, I can assassinate him, in which case the Reagent, a secret follower of my evil deity, will take power). Are these heroic, self-sacrificing acts, or do they simply reflect devotion to something other than gold?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    Second point, regarding your game: My players are currently playing a modified version of Jason Alexander's modified keep on the shadowfell (they are all new players so everything is new to them anyways). In Jason Alexander's keep, the BBG is on a specific schedule for how fast he can complete his ritual. Player actions can slow down the process, but ultimately the BBG is going to be finished at no later than this date, at which point the rift opens and hordes of undead flow through. If the players spend their time jacking around in the wilderness doing nothing, the rift WILL open without them and they will face the full brunt of Ocrus's wrath for their foolishness. It is definitely not the case that no matter what they do they will ultimately stumble into the BBG ritual chamber at the exact last possible moment to avert catastrophe. They will either be early and have a good advantage, or they will be too late and get face stomped by hordes of ghasts and spectres and death knights and whatelse. To do it any other way would be to render meaningless their decisions, successes, and failures up to that point.
    So let's say that we place 150% of the treasure needed to reach the expected level of the next scenario, with the expectation Our Heroes will miss about 1/3 of it. They play exceptionally well, so when they're heading into the fourth level scenario, they are 6th level. Do we just keep going with cakewalk encounters because the heroes are ahead of the curve?

    Let's say, instead, that they are heroic, so they don't focus on looting, and they only get about 1/3 of the loot and only go up half as fast as the scenarios were to rise. So, when they enter that 5th level scenario at only 3rd level, they get wiped out. That style of play equates Good to Stupid/suicidal - the GM has chosen a play style that favours the mercenary over the hero, and should expect character choices accordingly.

    To not allow the mercenaries their extra power, or to allow those low powered characters not focused on looting to perish because they didn't gain enough xp to face these challenges. renders their decisions meaningless, right? However, it also means the players must choose between mercenary characters and dismal failure - will most players choose to play characters who will not be competitive, or have their choices been rendered just as meaningless in that only one choice can lead to survival, much less success?

    And we're back to Square 1. When the questing heroes stumble across those tracks in the woods, they probably ignore the owlbear (they have pretty poor treasure), but you can bet they're distracted by a passing Dragon - he's probably got an horde, and we want it! So we're back to choices being dictated by xp considerations (we need that horde to keep pace with increasing challenges).

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    Regarding point 3 about the owlbear experience.

    1st off, yes of course you can break the adventure up into segments and award experience for overcoming or avoiding those segments, but ultimately it becomes hugely confusing and subjective to keep track of what counts as avoiding and what counts as overcoming a challenge. If monsters are placed into a dungeon for the sole purpose of hindering the PCs it's a little simpler; at the end of the adventure just give the PCs any experience they would have gotten for killing the monsters they never encountered, either purposefully for accidentally, and just call it 'Quest XP'. But if you are putting monsters into an adventure for verisimilude alone this gets much more complicated. Are my wilderness owlbear tracks a red herring? Is it a critical side mission? Or is it just that the ranger asks if they are any interesting tracks around, you roll a dice, and owlbear comes up from a list of monsters that would logically live in this type of area? Your line of thinking about the owlbear (the DM MUST have an important storyline reason for including owlbear tracks) is also sort of meta game and kills verisimilitude imo.
    The fact that PC's run into encounters appropriate for their level, and maintain the appropriate wealth for their level based on those guidelines, is also sort of metagame, isn't it? How do the players determine whether those owlbear tracks are a critical side mission or a useless distraction? If their success or failure boils down to whether they make a lucky guess as to your mindset, that would mean, to me, that their decisions are ultimately meaningless. May as well just pull levers that grant xp or death and see who gets lucky.

    Certainly, if they go out of their way to ignore the actual adventure, they won't succeed at that adventure. But maybe they don't care. Why would mercenary characters care that the Keep gets overrun by vicious undead. Tell you what, Dark Priest - pay us some cash (cash is WAY less important than your Dark Lords, right?) and we'll just walk away - you can HAVE the Keep!

    Where's the verisimilitude in the party taking on whatever adventure hook is dangled their way? Money motivated adventurers are easy to GM - they take the cash bait. But they're also pretty dull, having no real intrinsic motivation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    Fourth point, regarding gamists. I sort of disagree that gamists want to do better than their team. I am a gamist and I DM a group of gamists and basically always have. My goal is not to do better than my team, but for my team to do better than other teams in the same situation. I see the game as a competition with better and worse choices and meaningful consequences for those choices, yes, but I'm not competing against the other players. I'm competing against the dungeon designer (whether that's the DM himself or another module writer) and against other players who have gone through the same dungeon. Even if I may never know how well others have done on a given adventure, I know ultimately whether I and the group as a whole made better or worse decisions for efficiently getting through the adventure.
    Certainly another gaming mindset, for which certain xp approaches will work better than others. So what if your character, the mercenary, wants to gather all the gold, but other characters, more heroic, don't? Should your character, whose efforts were aimed at getting the loot, get more xp than their characters, whose efforts went towards achieving the mission? Of course, good role playing will suggest this party splits - why would the mercenaries and the heroes not seek more like-minded teammates, especially in a world where adventurers abound? The PC Aura is one of the worst violators of verisimilitude, IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    Fifth point, regarding players doing poorly and not getting enough loot or exp from one adventure in order to take them into the next. First off, I don't feel constrained to choose adventures several sessions in advance, I will choose an adventure of what I think is appropriate difficulty only after my players have completed the current one.
    So, ultimately, their choice was meaningless, wasn't it? Regardless of whether they managed to locate and retrieve every last copper of value, and get more xp than would reasonably be expected, or failed dismally, leaving virtually all the treasure behind and barely even having enough cash to replenish food and arrows, the next adventure will be an appropriate challenge for characters of their experience and wealth.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    Figuring out from there how to make it fit into the larger plot of the campaign is all part of the fun. Secondly, I don't think it's a very convincing hypothetical counter-argument for this system. My players went through keep on the borderlands first, died about 20 times, and wound up with a third level party in the end with about 5 parties worth of treasure (since they were mostly able to recover the gear of fallen PCs) so they were actually a very powerful group. So in point of fact their poor playing (do to being a completely newbie group) made them more powerful than would be expected. But if they had been better players able to get through the borderlands without dying and thus have much less loot, well, that's ok too because obviously they can play well enough to not NEED that much of a loot advantage. So players, under this system, sort of naturally find their sweet spot where they will eventually have just enough loot to overcome the challenge of the adventure (so long as they keep recovering their dead PC's gear and generating new PCs with a full new gear complement).
    Assuming, when the L5 adventurers die, they get to roll up new 5th level characters with appropriate wealth levels. But then, if failure means characters of equal level and more wealth and gear, what is the reward for success? It seems, once again, the character and player choices are rendered meaningless.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    Sixth point, regarding the advantages of this system. Your point about the ease of ensuring they are at the right power level wrt wealth/experience is true, but take into account that player death under this system is expected and thus so long as the dead PC's gear is recovered the players will occasionally accumulate wealth faster than experience.
    Don't they get xp for the dead adventurers' loot being retrieved?

    Comparing the xp chart to wealth by level, it looks like they will have too much wealth unless they expend a lot on consumables.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    If you fear this becoming a problem (as it did in my game after 20 PC deaths with all gear recovered) you can simply reduce the likelihood of players being able to recover gear from dead PCs by having the monsters grab dead PC bodies and running or rust monsters or something like that.
    But doesn't adding specific monsters to mitigate PC success or failure also ultimately render their choices less meaningful ("less meaningful" should probably be read wherever "meaningless" is indicated - it's not a binary switch, but a continuum).

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    The real advantages of this system are the simplification of rewarding and making meaningful player choice. Instead of trying to figure out which challenges are overcome and which are merely avoided, all you have to figure out is how much loot the PCs carry out of the dungeon or how much experience you want to reward for a specific quest completed. Instead of having to figure out how challenging a given encounter is (and then having that calculation possibly ruined by unanticipated player action) all you have to figure out is how much treasure a given monster or tribe of monsters is likely to have. About the most subjective calculation you would ever have to make is awarding quest experience points for players taking actions for the 'good of the people' without reasonable expectation of cash rewards; and then it's a simple matter of comparing it with how much GP they'd be able to get if they had gone another route; IE their opportunity cost.
    I thought their heroic self-sacrifice was supposed to mean they got less xp. Now we seem to be coming around to giving them xp for the loot they passed up, making their choice less meaningful. In fact, it seems like we've just decided to apply an arbitrary xp award for mission completion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    But still, players should be given a meaningful choice between being more or less heroic/altruistic, and the only way that choice is meaningful is if there are real consequences and real self-sacrifice in the offing. So does that mean that it would be stupid for PCs to tackle a den full of powerful dire bears when the dire bears wouldn't logically have valuable treasure and they aren't getting any other experience for it anyways? Yes! Yes it probably does! And giving the players the option of making stupid choices is exactly what makes smart choices exist; and in my opinion, players feel good when they make smart choices. If EVERY choice is a smart choice, there's nothing to feel good about.
    OK, so we are getting back to "good = stupid", as they are foolish to deal with a threat to the locals unless they are getting paid for it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    As a final point, probably you are recoiling with horror at the thought of the PCs taking 20 character deaths in a simple 3 level adventure that took a couple of months to run. They've had 2 Keep on the Shadowfell sessions so far and suffered another 3 character deaths already. This sort of ruins a story-line campaign. But! Incompetent play that would be deservedly punished but is not through DM fiat would ALSO ruin a story-line campaign. The bottom line is that this is an inexperienced group of players that is making (and learning from) a lot of rookie mistakes. Failing to punish those mistakes and having the characters muddle through anyways, accomplishing great deeds against the odds, wouldn't really feel any more 'right' than having an endless succession of cousins, brothers, sisters, and children miraculously appearing to take up the arms of their fallen relatives just after they die.
    Again, it comes down to play style. You're not losing players, from your comments, so this approach appears to be consistent with your group's play style. Not every player, or every group, would have a similar style. But I will note your game would appear to penalize any aspect of a character which is sub-optimal, be that placing some skill points and/or feats in a flavourful skill rather than one that better enhances character power, or failing to choose class, spells, etc. to achieve maximum power, or simply designing a character who is not a cipher geared at always selecting the best possible tactical choices. As such, expect a lot of ciphers built for maximum power whose "personalities" are designed to avoid anything which might prevent them taking the most efficient, effective tactical choices possible. "My paladin applies the torch to the prisoner's groin again, BA - I'll ask one more time - where is the Princess? He's LAWFUL good - the princess's safety is more important than the brief suffering of some miscreant."

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    And, happily, my players haven't really gone that route anyways but have made new and ever more interesting characters as their old ones have died. They are in the learning stage, they know that, they are happy about it, and they are happy about having real tangible and immediate feedback on their decisions. Just making things always easy enough for them to win without dying would make it a lot more boring and unrealistic. If they want to play badass characters that wipe out hundreds of monsters without dying they have to earn those characters; that is what ultimately gives meaning to being able to play a character like that. Elsewise wouldn't we all just start at Epic Tier?
    Back to verisimilitude. At 6th level, a character is killed. Does he start back in with a 6th level character? He hasn't EARNED those levels, or that wealth, has he? Or does he start back in with a neophyte wet behind the ears L1 character who, for some reason, all the 6th level hardened mercenaries in the PC group take a shine to, and protect so he can gradually grow to their power level, rather than recruit a teammate with experience and skills more in keeping with their own? Again, different groups with different objectives and values will choose different playstyles.

    It seems like your players are happy with your playstyle, which is great. If they prefer a different playstyle, I hope they will be able to find one more consistent with their own play goals, rather than assuming that your playstyle is the only playstyle and dropping the hobby entirely.
    Last edited by N'raac; Monday, 5th March, 2012 at 02:27 PM.

  • #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by N'raac View Post
    To me, at least, xp is not an in-character reward. Wealth is - the character can see, touch, count and spend all that gold. Do you find, in the source material, that heroic characters tend to be less skilled? And what of those Evil villains who are motivated by power, rather than wealth? "Neutral" and "evil" doesn't automatically equate to "money". Perhaps the Evil warlord is prepared to rescue the princess provided he gets her hand in marriage - is there a monetary value for that? Or perhaps he is simply currying favour for the king (if I get in close, I can assassinate him, in which case the Reagent, a secret follower of my evil deity, will take power). Are these heroic, self-sacrificing acts, or do they simply reflect devotion to something other than gold?



    So let's say that we place 150% of the treasure needed to reach the expected level of the next scenario, with the expectation Our Heroes will miss about 1/3 of it. They play exceptionally well, so when they're heading into the fourth level scenario, they are 6th level. Do we just keep going with cakewalk encounters because the heroes are ahead of the curve?

    Let's say, instead, that they are heroic, so they don't focus on looting, and they only get about 1/3 of the loot and only go up half as fast as the scenarios were to rise. So, when they enter that 5th level scenario at only 3rd level, they get wiped out. That style of play equates Good to Stupid/suicidal - the GM has chosen a play style that favours the mercenary over the hero, and should expect character choices accordingly.

    To not allow the mercenaries their extra power, or to allow those low powered characters not focused on looting to perish because they didn't gain enough xp to face these challenges. renders their decisions meaningless, right? However, it also means the players must choose between mercenary characters and dismal failure - will most players choose to play characters who will not be competitive, or have their choices been rendered just as meaningless in that only one choice can lead to survival, much less success?

    And we're back to Square 1. When the questing heroes stumble across those tracks in the woods, they probably ignore the owlbear (they have pretty poor treasure), but you can bet they're distracted by a passing Dragon - he's probably got an horde, and we want it! So we're back to choices being dictated by xp considerations (we need that horde to keep pace with increasing challenges).



    The fact that PC's run into encounters appropriate for their level, and maintain the appropriate wealth for their level based on those guidelines, is also sort of metagame, isn't it? How do the players determine whether those owlbear tracks are a critical side mission or a useless distraction? If their success or failure boils down to whether they make a lucky guess as to your mindset, that would mean, to me, that their decisions are ultimately meaningless. May as well just pull levers that grant xp or death and see who gets lucky.

    Certainly, if they go out of their way to ignore the actual adventure, they won't succeed at that adventure. But maybe they don't care. Why would mercenary characters care that the Keep gets overrun by vicious undead. Tell you what, Dark Priest - pay us some cash (cash is WAY less important than your Dark Lords, right?) and we'll just walk away - you can HAVE the Keep!

    Where's the verisimilitude in the party taking on whatever adventure hook is dangled their way? Money motivated adventurers are easy to GM - they take the cash bait. But they're also pretty dull, having no real intrinsic motivation.



    Certainly another gaming mindset, for which certain xp approaches will work better than others. So what if your character, the mercenary, wants to gather all the gold, but other characters, more heroic, don't? Should your character, whose efforts were aimed at getting the loot, get more xp than their characters, whose efforts went towards achieving the mission? Of course, good role playing will suggest this party splits - why would the mercenaries and the heroes not seek more like-minded teammates, especially in a world where adventurers abound? The PC Aura is one of the worst violators of verisimilitude, IMO.



    So, ultimately, their choice was meaningless, wasn't it? Regardless of whether they managed to locate and retrieve every last copper of value, and get more xp than would reasonably be expected, or failed dismally, leaving virtually all the treasure behind and barely even having enough cash to replenish food and arrows, the next adventure will be an appropriate challenge for characters of their experience and wealth.



    Assuming, when the L5 adventurers die, they get to roll up new 5th level characters with appropriate wealth levels. But then, if failure means characters of equal level and more wealth and gear, what is the reward for success? It seems, once again, the character and player choices are rendered meaningless.



    Don't they get xp for the dead adventurers' loot being retrieved?

    Comparing the xp chart to wealth by level, it looks like they will have too much wealth unless they expend a lot on consumables.



    But doesn't adding specific monsters to mitigate PC success or failure also ultimately render their choices less meaningful ("less meaningful" should probably be read wherever "meaningless" is indicated - it's not a binary switch, but a continuum).



    I thought their heroic self-sacrifice was supposed to mean they got less xp. Now we seem to be coming around to giving them xp for the loot they passed up, making their choice less meaningful. In fact, it seems like we've just decided to apply an arbitrary xp award for mission completion.



    OK, so we are getting back to "good = stupid", as they are foolish to deal with a threat to the locals unless they are getting paid for it.



    Again, it comes down to play style. You're not losing players, from your comments, so this approach appears to be consistent with your group's play style. Not every player, or every group, would have a similar style. But I will note your game would appear to penalize any aspect of a character which is sub-optimal, be that placing some skill points and/or feats in a flavourful skill rather than one that better enhances character power, or failing to choose class, spells, etc. to achieve maximum power, or simply designing a character who is not a cipher geared at always selecting the best possible tactical choices. As such, expect a lot of ciphers built for maximum power whose "personalities" are designed to avoid anything which might prevent them taking the most efficient, effective tactical choices possible. "My paladin applies the torch to the prisoner's groin again, BA - I'll ask one more time - where is the Princess? He's LAWFUL good - the princess's safety is more important than the brief suffering of some miscreant."



    Back to verisimilitude. At 6th level, a character is killed. Does he start back in with a 6th level character? He hasn't EARNED those levels, or that wealth, has he? Or does he start back in with a neophyte wet behind the ears L1 character who, for some reason, all the 6th level hardened mercenaries in the PC group take a shine to, and protect so he can gradually grow to their power level, rather than recruit a teammate with experience and skills more in keeping with their own? Again, different groups with different objectives and values will choose different playstyles.

    It seems like your players are happy with your playstyle, which is great. If they prefer a different playstyle, I hope they will be able to find one more consistent with their own play goals, rather than assuming that your playstyle is the only playstyle and dropping the hobby entirely.
    Awarding experience for gold is the default but it's not the only option, as I said in every post. If players want to play characters motivated by something else and want to have different long term goals, certainly you can reward that with experience just as much as you reward gold, or you could even not award gold experience at all. The subtle but important point is not that you get experience = to gold; it's that you get experience for accomplishing a meaningful, tangible long term goal. The ultimate goal here is to reward players for accomplishing something that furthers their long term goals, not just for indiscriminately seeking out dangerous creatures and traps merely for the purpose of destroying or surviving them.

    This also ties into the 15MAD (players who easily kill a few monsters by going nova but then head home to recharge powers without finding their loot/accomplishing the mission get nothing), and it ties into giving players other options beyond fighting everything they see, and then just looking around for more stuff to fight. If they want to do that, great. But if they want to try talking the monsters out of their treasure, playing different monster factions off against each other (as in Keep in the Borderlands), sneaking past the monsters and stealing their treasure without ever actually confronting them, then all those options will result in equal experience points and many may turn out to be a lot easier, depending on your party composition, than just charging in to murder them. If players want to commit murder, great, but they have other choices that will be equally well rewarded.

    It's also an exaggeration to think that this exp system only rewards mercenary type characters. It depends greatly on the overall party make-up. This system is designed to give players MORE options and reward a greater variety of play styles, as opposed to the 3e/4e style of game which most strongly rewarded min-maxing and tactical combat skills. In this system, if you want to focus on combat, then yes, you had better design a powerful combat character/party. But if you want to focus on deception, charisma, stealth, all those options are also on the table. Just make sure that you design a good stealth-based character if that's the style you want to play. Obviously a lot depends on the party cooperating to create the kind of party that can support the play style they most enjoy, but that's not a flaw of the system. The fact that there are better and worse ways to design a specific type of character is a feature, not a bug. And it doesn't mean that there are better or worse character concepts period; it just means that there are better and worse ways to realize a given concept and maximise its potential both in terms of design and in terms of actually playing the character.

    Regarding your example of the noble paladin who doesn't want treasure compared to the greedy mercenary; he will still share the experience equally with the party even if he gives up his share of the physical loot to his church or other players. The way I award the experience is a simple calculation of how much loot the party brings into the dungeon vs how much they take out. The difference is their experience reward. If they bring the gear of a dead PC out of the dungeon it doesn't count because the party as a whole brought that gear into the dungeon. The loot the PCs bring out of the dungeon they are free to dispose of however they like, but the experience points are divided equally between all surviving party members. If there are only 1 or 2 survivors this can be a lot of experience indeed; that's their reward for making it.

    The way I handle new character generation is that there is a baseline character level for each adventure. It was level 1 for Keep on the Borderlands. For my modified Keep on the Shadowfell it is now level 3. By the time the players get through this, characters that don't die will be level 4 or 5; but characters that die will start back again at level 3. That is the penalty for death. But new characters will get a level 3 complement of gear; which they can add onto their previous gear if their fellow party members recovered it. This should help them do better next time. Punishing failure is one thing, making it impossible to progress at all by putting the PCs into a vicious circle of death is another.

    Regarding your point that choosing an easier adventure if the player's are lower level makes their decisions less meaningful: I disagree. Because they are not as powerful as they otherwise might be, they have to take an entirely different adventure path. Their fate is completely changed. That makes their decisions absolutely meaningful. My PCs might have made it out of the Keep of the Borderlands at level 5 and been powerful enough to be known as great heroes, earning an audience with the King and possibly be put in charge of a force to spearhead a counter attack into the very heart of evil. Instead, they are relegated to investigating possible cult activity in another minor, backwoods area of the kingdom. They are aware of these options; they had the choice to attempt the attack on the evil empire, but realistically they knew they were not ready to make that attempt and elected to investigate the cultists instead. The lord of the Keep on the Borderlands said as much to them and they agreed with him.

    A final note, not to be all defensive, but your last paragraph seems sort of judgmental and I hope you can see how one can easily take offense when you may be implying that at least some of my players might be having a lot more fun with another DM or that they might quit playing RPGs if they can't find a better DM. I don't really think that's necessary; we're just discussing the pros and cons of a proven system for awarding experience points that's objective, easy to use, and creates a varied, fun, and demanding game. And for the record, all of my players are in their 30s and had never gotten into D&D or any other role playing game in all their 30+ years, so the fact that I have taken people with 0 prior interest in the hobby and put together a loyal group who never miss a weekly or even twice weekly gaming session over the course of the last 18 months is pretty good imo. Also, at first we played 4th edition and ran a campaign up to 6th level; my players actually prefer this more old-school style of game. Maybe you should give it a try too! I'd also suggest you check out Jason Alexander's articles on running an OD&D, open-table style campaign and his excellent writings on 'Jacquaying' dungeons.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    The ultimate goal here is to reward players for accomplishing something that furthers their long term goals, not just for indiscriminately seeking out dangerous creatures and traps merely for the purpose of destroying or surviving them.
    Here I concur. However, I don't agree that gold is inherently a superior metric to challenges overcome. Characters can just as easily be focused entirely on the cash reward with no higher goals, and be just as dull a group as one chasing the next kill. That doesn't mean "xp for gold" is inherently worse than "xp for combat", but I see no inherent superiority either. It's not better or worse, just different.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    This also ties into the 15MAD (players who easily kill a few monsters by going nova but then head home to recharge powers without finding their loot/accomplishing the mission get nothing), and it ties into giving players other options beyond fighting everything they see, and then just looking around for more stuff to fight. If they want to do that, great. But if they want to try talking the monsters out of their treasure, playing different monster factions off against each other (as in Keep in the Borderlands), sneaking past the monsters and stealing their treasure without ever actually confronting them, then all those options will result in equal experience points and many may turn out to be a lot easier, depending on your party composition, than just charging in to murder them. If players want to commit murder, great, but they have other choices that will be equally well rewarded.
    This depends on one's interpretation of the rules. Some editions and games have been better than others at specifying xp is gained by overcoming challenges, and not by killing the monsters. Parlaying, playing off factions, sneaking past the monsters, etc. all overcome the challenge - if the challenge was "get their loot".

    Let's pick a different challenge. The problem is that these monsters are raiding nearby towns and villages, and the players' job is to make that stop. Certainly, "charging in to murder them" is one approach. Parlay is another - can we negotiate a peaceful end to these raids? Can we intimidate them - we can win a combat without slaughter of the opponents - will that persuade them to back off? Setting them against one another is also a potentially workable approach. But it does risk a unified group of raiders in the future. Sneaking past them and stealing their treasure does nothing at all to accomplish the goal. In fact, bribing them and leaving with LESS treasure than you arrived with is a viable and effective means of achieving the desired goal - but if gold is the xp measure, that's not really a viable option for character success, is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    It's also an exaggeration to think that this exp system only rewards mercenary type characters.
    I don't believe it's any more an exaggeration than claiming the combat-driven xp system only rewards characters for hunting down and killing every random monster. Both are shortcut metrics. Under a gold model, the characters aren't motivated to deal with the packs of wolves harrying the villagers unless the villagers are wealthy and pony up the cash. A combat xp system gives them more motivation.

    In my preferred game style, however, the PC's are motivated intrinsically - they are of a heroic mindset, and they are prepared to deal with the wolves, or the goblins, or the dragon, in the best interests of the villagers. They get some xp along the way? Great. But if they can solve the problem without killing anything, also great. They get loot? Nice side reward, and everyone needs to eat, but not the be-all end-all purpose of the characters. They get xp? That's nice - maybe I'll level up. At the extreme edge, even if no one ever earns any xp, the PC's have the satisfaction of a job well done.

    I'd much rather be having a good, fun game with a 1st level character than a dull monotony with a highly effective 20th level cipher. From that perspective, xp are merely a means to an end. The characters become more powerful, so they have new and different abilities to face new and different challenges.

    If I'm using combat as my xp measure, and the PC's cleverly resolve the challenge without combat, my approach is to award xp at the same level as if they had engaged the challenge in combat. And if they run off killing everything in their path (the classic over the top example being killing the townsfolk), then any combat xp is offset by a "crappy role playing" penalty.

    Persuading the Duke to commit more forces to the upcoming battle is worth xp. Murdering him in his sleep and letting the Dukedom descend into chaos is not. Assuming, of course, that the characters' goal was to muster more forces for the upcoming battle, and not to foment chaos and make it easier for the other side to win a victory!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    But if you want to focus on deception, charisma, stealth, all those options are also on the table. Just make sure that you design a good stealth-based character if that's the style you want to play. Obviously a lot depends on the party cooperating to create the kind of party that can support the play style they most enjoy, but that's not a flaw of the system. The fact that there are better and worse ways to design a specific type of character is a feature, not a bug. And it doesn't mean that there are better or worse character concepts period; it just means that there are better and worse ways to realize a given concept and maximise its potential both in terms of design and in terms of actually playing the character.
    All of which I agree with, and none of which works intrinsically better whether gold or combat power is used as the xp measure. In my example of the Duke, he could have 5 hp and no weapons, armor or spells. Let's assume the Dukedom teeters on the edge of bankruptcy as well. Persuading him may still be extremely challenging, and the xp for success should not be measured by his combat abilities or his gold, but by the difficulty of overcoming the challenge he presents.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    Regarding your example of the noble paladin who doesn't want treasure compared to the greedy mercenary; he will still share the experience equally with the party even if he gives up his share of the physical loot to his church or other players.
    But not if he uses his carrying capacity to haul a fallen comrade out of the dungeon for a decent burial, leaving behind treasure he could otherwise have carried.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    The way I award the experience is a simple calculation of how much loot the party brings into the dungeon vs how much they take out. The difference is their experience reward.
    Pretty much any simple calculation can be manipulated. To the extent your players would focus on slaughter if xp is awarded for kills, they are equally motivated to focus on loot, even when that focus may not be compatible with the goals of their characters (or simply encourages homicidal maniac characters in the combat xp mode, and greedy mercenaries in the gold xp mode).

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    The loot the PCs bring out of the dungeon they are free to dispose of however they like, but the experience points are divided equally between all surviving party members. If there are only 1 or 2 survivors this can be a lot of experience indeed; that's their reward for making it.
    The cold blooded machiavellian in me now sees the path to success - I will kill my weakened teammates near the exit from the dungeon - I get all the xp and all the loot! That's my reward for being the sole survivor, right? Self-sacrificing Paladins who will risk their own safety for the protection of their teammates are just a bunch of losers, but they do make for great meat shields! [Mind you, I'll be needing a lead shield at a minimum if any Paladin is ever going to associate with me!]

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    The way I handle new character generation is that there is a baseline character level for each adventure. It was level 1 for Keep on the Borderlands. For my modified Keep on the Shadowfell it is now level 3. By the time the players get through this, characters that don't die will be level 4 or 5; but characters that die will start back again at level 3. That is the penalty for death. But new characters will get a level 3 complement of gear; which they can add onto their previous gear if their fellow party members recovered it. This should help them do better next time. Punishing failure is one thing, making it impossible to progress at all by putting the PCs into a vicious circle of death is another.
    Again, while I don't disagree, it is not consistent with "you must earn your levels". And a cowardly retreat leaving your teammates to die earns a superior reward to a heroic death. That, too, motivates certain behaviours.

    Quote Originally Posted by KODT
    I thought this was a game about heroes.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    Regarding your point that choosing an easier adventure if the player's are lower level makes their decisions less meaningful: I disagree. Because they are not as powerful as they otherwise might be, they have to take an entirely different adventure path. Their fate is completely changed. That makes their decisions absolutely meaningful. My PCs might have made it out of the Keep of the Borderlands at level 5 and been powerful enough to be known as great heroes, earning an audience with the King and possibly be put in charge of a force to spearhead a counter attack into the very heart of evil. Instead, they are relegated to investigating possible cult activity in another minor, backwoods area of the kingdom. They are aware of these options; they had the choice to attempt the attack on the evil empire, but realistically they knew they were not ready to make that attempt and elected to investigate the cultists instead. The lord of the Keep on the Borderlands said as much to them and they agreed with him.
    So does the attack on the evil kingdom proceed, spearheaded by more powerful NPC's (who, I note, were handed their levels and gear - they didn't "earn" it), or does the mission simply get deferred until the PC's are powerful enough to deal with it?

    And if gold earned = xp = power, why doesn't His Majesty simply arrange to leave a pile of loot in some odd environment for his loyal servants to retrieve, return to him as a gesture of their fealty, and gain all that xp, becoming much more powerful servants of the realm? The simple answer, at least to me, is that PC's don't know what gains them experience points. They are an out of character measure of in game progress.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    A final note, not to be all defensive, but your last paragraph seems sort of judgmental and I hope you can see how one can easily take offense when you may be implying that at least some of my players might be having a lot more fun with another DM or that they might quit playing RPGs if they can't find a better DM. I don't really think that's necessary; we're just discussing the pros and cons of a proven system for awarding experience points that's objective, easy to use, and creates a varied, fun, and demanding game. And for the record, all of my players are in their 30s and had never gotten into D&D or any other role playing game in all their 30+ years, so the fact that I have taken people with 0 prior interest in the hobby and put together a loyal group who never miss a weekly or even twice weekly gaming session over the course of the last 18 months is pretty good imo.
    My intent is not to be judgmental, and certainly no offense was intended. As I said, your players are clearly enjoying your play style, so why would you change it? But there are also other play styles that other groups enjoy. I would hope that a player who doesn't enjoy your playing style might find a group with a DM with a different playstyle. And different means just that - neither better or worse, but a better fit for a player who enjoys a different playstyle.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hautamaki View Post
    we're just discussing the pros and cons of a proven system for awarding experience points that's objective, easy to use, and creates a varied, fun, and demanding game.
    Repeated for emphasis. I think you are giving far too much credit to the xp system. It is the GM who creates a varied, fun, and demanding game, regardless of the xp system, or even if no xp system is used at all. The players contribute - if their answer to every problem is "kill it and take its loot", a varied game is pretty tough to pull off. But it's the GM who designs varied, fun and demanding encounters, and who makes accommodation for players approaching the problem from a different angle than he may have expected. And it's the GM who adjusts the game to fit the players' favoured play style, by making scenarios where stealth or diplomacy are equally, or more, important than brute force because that's how the players wish to operate. And it's the GM who decides that combat encounters, or gold, or whatever other measure you wish to use as a default isn't giving an appropriate reward in Specific Situation X, and varies from the default to achieve an appropriate result.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OnlineDM View Post
    No XP. PCs level up as appropriate, as determined by me. We'll level up between sessions only.

    Getting rid of XP tracking has made my game much, much better.
    This has proved to be the best and most enjoyable method for people with whom I play. Individual experience and increasing in level at odd times only slows the game and creates friction when the dungeon master awards more to some players than others. (Likewise with random or arbitrary treasure which does not fairly reward everyone.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tallifer View Post
    (Likewise with random or arbitrary treasure which does not fairly reward everyone.)
    My policy as a GM is that treasure division is up to the players/characters. The PC's cannot see and touch experience points. If the party of four adventurers has found a Scroll of Magic Missiles, a Want of CLW, a +1 Dagger and a +1 Breastplate, along with various trade items and coinage totaling 4,000 gp in value, it is up to them how they choose to divide it up.

    If they decide that the gold gets divided equally and then split the magic up in whatever way they see fit, or if they decide to liquidate everything and buy a very costly item of gear for one PC, or make any other division, the clouds don't part to a booming voice telling them they can't divide treasure like that. The characters can make their own decisions.

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    For years I did group XP. With 3E we returned to mostly individual XP with the occassional bonus. I eventually switched to purely group-based XP. By the time we reached 4E, I was beginning to tire of the traditional 'DM does math at the end of the session to figure out XP'.

    We then sat down and realized that the group seemed to level up, on average, after a certain number of sessions. Then Piratecat posted about how he'd essentially just dropped XP for similar reasons and so we adopted the same system. I haven't regretted the decision. Under 3E, players would spend XP for items, but we ended up altering the system so as not to solely penalize the item creator. 4E has no such mechanics, so experience became a more basic metric...and since I control the situations that award XP in the first place, removing the numeric component just seemed to be cutting out the middle-man.
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    my way.

    I give xp devided into 4 different categories.
    1: standar xp tru the core book.(25%)
    something all in the group gets.
    2: I give xp for the indevidual players way of sorting out the task. depending on his/here personalety and past wy of behavior.(25%)
    3: I give xp for the group or indevidual players, for good idees or ways of sorting out new problems(25%)
    4: Finaly i give xp on the way there carracter works develoup, how he/she build on the personalety. act-gader intel-make relations and build up the cameradery in the group.(take leadership-use his skills and so on)

    I allways try giving every player feedback on why i give the ex i do. and try showing them how to become more the carracter they try to be.
    I can in some situations take away xp. if it is ageinst all what they have done before(alignement/behavior) or if they but the group in danger with out a reason.

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