Thread: Morrus on ... XP
Monday, 5th March, 2012, 11:43 AM #41
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
- Join Date
- Jul 2006
- Harbin, China
ř Ignore Hautamaki
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 11:55 AM.
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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).
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.
Comparing the xp chart to wealth by level, it looks like they will have too much wealth unless they expend a lot on consumables.
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 03:27 PM.
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
- Join Date
- Jul 2006
- Harbin, China
ř Ignore Hautamaki
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.
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?
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!
Originally Posted by KODT
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.
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
- Join Date
- Jul 2009
- Pusan, Korea
ř Ignore Tallifer
Member of Grognards for 4th Edition.
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.
Guide (Lvl 11)
- Join Date
- Jan 2002
- Downingtown, PA
ř Ignore WizarDru
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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Novice (Lvl 1)
- Join Date
- Mar 2012
ř Ignore Humlind
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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