D&D General An alternative to XP

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I do, I incentivize everything by removing XP entirely.
I hope you don't, because that's nonsensical. Pretty sure you don't, for instance, incentivize not roleplaying at all and just directing characters as if they're plastic playing pieces, being as rote as possible in play. Or, at least, given what you've said I hardly think that this is the kind of play you'd want to encourage!

You are, instead, incentivizing playing the game in a way you find entertaining. Luckily, it seems your table also finds that entertaining. This is usually a good thing.
It reduces the paths forward for the players. They focus on what gives XP and minimize what doesn't. It just so happens that what doesn't can squeeze into the grand canyon in D&D XP through the editions.
It doesn't reduce any paths forwards. It provides information on what paths will gain what rewards. If a player feels that they're getting a larger reward from not doing the XP triggers, then they're absolutely free to do this. And this happens often enough, as players create their own goals for play.

And I'm not at all arguing that D&D has a well balanced or aligned XP system. I'm talking about what is, not what should be. I think a large reason many ditch XP in D&D and go with story awards is because that incentivizes the play that that group wants to see. That and the XP system is such a drag of boring accounting work that it disincentivizes itself.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
I find counting encounters more helpful for the tone of my campaign and its adaptability to players preferences. What counts as an encounter is normally obvious. And neutral, as it might be a noncombat encounter or a combat encounter. Whether the challenge turned out to be easy or hard is also fairly obvious. Indeed the players themselves know how difficult it was. Difficulty is a neutral metric, whether noncombat or combat.

Even for a combat encounter, counting encounters is more helpful than xp. For example, hostiles might flee, thus ending the encounter. The encounter evaluates according to how much effort it took to get them to run. Then a decision to chase after them counts as a separate encounter. Similarly, if the party captures the hostiles alive, there might be several encounters before handing the hostiles over to authorities.

Counting encounters is more open to diverse scenarios and players choices.

My difficulty with xp is it incentivizes lethal combat.

DMs can and do give xp for noncombat challenges. However the xp for combat is carefully micromanaged according to killing hostiles. In contrast, xp for noncombat feels more arbitrary and loosey-goosey to quantify. Combat is more reliable. Noncombat feels less "real" in relation to combat xp. All of this situation incentivizes combat, in the eyes of the players, and in the eyes of the DM. For example, I have never seen a DM award more xp for noncombat than for combat. Even if the noncombat challenge is far more difficult than the combat challenge, the DM routinely undervalues noncombat, because combat so tightly defines xp, and noncombat is so different.
 
Last edited:

Jack Daniel

dice-universe.blogspot.com
AD&D required training before you could level, the XP just meant you were eligible to level, it wasn't automatic.

And 1 XP was awarded for keeping 1 GP worth of treasure found during the adventure. It's difficult to overstate just how important that is in driving play — with that rule in place, you quite literally never have to "dangle hooks" in front of the players. They'll seek out dungeons on their own, because they want treasure, because they want to level up.

As for training to level up, it too served a very important purpose in 1st edition. Lots of people think that it was simply to "drain the coffers" and siphon extra wealth off the PCs, but that's a secondary feature of training — in the same way that each class having its own XP table had the secondary effect of maybe (but not really) balancing out the classes by keeping the powerful classes advancing more slowly than the weaker classes.

See, the different XP tables created different leveling up "schedules" for each class, so that at the end of a session, it would eventually be pretty unlikely for the whole party to level up all at once. That meant that the one or two PCs who did level would then have to go off to train — effectively sidelining those characters for one to four game-weeks — and since game weeks were expected to pass 1:1 with real weeks between sessions, that meant that those PCs were sidelined for some number of active play sessions. There was no chance of getting every other player to agree to a mass "time-skip" for the sake of the PCs who needed to train — unless you had a very small home-based group, that simply wasn't on the table, because every PC was in some sense out for themselves.

So the players whose characters were unavailable had to roll up additional characters. Which fostered an entirely different play style than the "trad" campaign that most people are used to today. A truly old-school game was one where each player eventually had a whole "troupe" of PCs to choose from each session, generally spread out over many experience levels, which in turn game the DM considerable freedom to run a variety of adventures — a low-level dungeon-crawl this week, a high-level dimension-hop that week, etc. (Player characters could suffer harsh consequences, too — cheap death, loss of experience levels, the non-human PCs hitting level caps — and it wouldn't be regarded as some devastating, horrible flaw in the game-rules that needed "fixing," because you have plenty of other characters to play.) The "story" of such a campaign is the story of all the many disparate, self-interested adventurers running around the setting, crossing paths, gaining or losing wealth and power — a tangle of interwoven threads rather than a single throughline.

And you'd have a hard time doing that without both XP and training rules!
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
I'm sorta amused by all the responses (and the OP) that call XP gamey but then turn around and totally dig on levels. I mean, I get not wanting to deal with XP, it's just the argument that XP is gamey but levels.. aren't?
Any game that offers character improvement has "levels" -- some are just much, much more granular than D&D. Add a point to skill in GURPS? You've leveled up! D&D just has fewer choices of lumped together improvements.
 


DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
And 1 XP was awarded for keeping 1 GP worth of treasure found during the adventure. It's difficult to overstate just how important that is in driving play — with that rule in place, you quite literally never have to "dangle hooks" in front of the players. They'll seek out dungeons on their own, because they want treasure, because they want to level up.

As for training to level up, it too served a very important purpose in 1st edition. Lots of people think that it was simply to "drain the coffers" and siphon extra wealth off the PCs, but that's a secondary feature of training — in the same way that each class having its own XP table had the secondary effect of maybe (but not really) balancing out the classes by keeping the powerful classes advancing more slowly than the weaker classes.

See, the different XP tables created different leveling up "schedules" for each class, so that at the end of a session, it would eventually be pretty unlikely for the whole party to level up all at once. That meant that the one or two PCs who did level would then have to go off to train — effectively sidelining those characters for one to four game-weeks — and since game weeks were expected to pass 1:1 with real weeks between sessions, that meant that those PCs were sidelined for some number of active play sessions. There was no chance of getting every other player to agree to a mass "time-skip" for the sake of the PCs who needed to train — unless you had a very small home-based group, that simply wasn't on the table, because every PC was in some sense out for themselves.

So the players whose characters were unavailable had to roll up additional characters. Which fostered an entirely different play style than the "trad" campaign that most people are used to today. A truly old-school game was one where each player eventually had a whole "troupe" of PCs to choose from each session, generally spread out over many experience levels, which in turn game the DM considerable freedom to run a variety of adventures — a low-level dungeon-crawl this week, a high-level dimension-hop that week, etc. (Player characters could suffer harsh consequences, too — cheap death, loss of experience levels, the non-human PCs hitting level caps — and it wouldn't be regarded as some devastating, horrible flaw in the game-rules that needed "fixing," because you have plenty of other characters to play.) The "story" of such a campaign is the story of all the many disparate, self-interested adventurers running around the setting, crossing paths, gaining or losing wealth and power — a tangle of interwoven threads rather than a single throughline.

And you'd have a hard time doing that without both XP and training rules!
Except things never worked like that, at least not IME:
  • XP was awarded 1 XP per 1-5 gp, depending on the difficulty in getting the gp.
  • PCs earned XP at different rates commonly depending on what part they played.
  • PCs also earned XP awards for the magic items they gained.
  • Variable XP tables WERE meant to balance out the advancement rates vs. relative power.
  • No one had a stable of PCs to choose from because of some strange training downtime issue. Yes, multiple PCs were common, but came and went due to story reasons and player interest.
  • Even if they didn't sync up like that, other PCs would do other things while the ones who needed training spent the time to train.
  • Finally, many groups didn't even bother with the training requirement.

Also, I don't know where some of the assumptions you have came from... "such as and since game weeks were expected to pass 1:1 with real weeks between sessions..."
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
... Adventurers running around the setting, crossing paths, gaining or losing wealth and power — a tangle of interwoven threads rather than a single throughline.

And you'd have a hard time doing that without both XP and training rules!
I have played 1e, using 1e core books and 1e adventures, plus many houserules that accumulate while arbitrating gameplay, since the rules are so ad hoc, random and incomplete, compared to new school systemizations.

In my experience of 1e, a player tends to have several high level characters (13+), several level 1 characters waiting in the wings, and only one character in progress.

5e can emulate a verisimilitudinous setting, where the high level characters are the parents of the lower level characters in progress. And the various player characters coexist.



As an aside. Come to think of it, my 1e style campaign didnt have too many low level deaths. My first character death was an elf Fighter/Magicuser 5/5, which is relatively high in that system. He didnt actually die, but became a werewolf nonplayer character. I plan to translate him into a 5e player character (maybe Bladesinger 6 or 7) with the lycanthrope as part of his background, feat, or race. The alternate form and resistances, and lunar schedule for special healing, can make a solid feat.
 

Staffan

Legend
Wait, didn't AD&D tie level advancement to something class related? I remember seeing stuff like "if you want to level up as a druid you have to go to your grove and challenge someone for their position", and that looked pretty awesome.
That was specifically a feature of high-level druids, monks, and assassins.

But there was one other thing tied to class performance that was put in the DMG. Basically, every time you got issued XP, the DM was also supposed to secretly grade your class performance on a scale of Excellent, Superior, Fair, or Poor, corresponding to a number of 1 through 4. When you're eligible to train to level up, average your grades for the previous level, and that's how many weeks of training you need (and make sure to keep track of fractions, as every .145 is one day). And training cost current level x 1,500 gp per week, and required finding a higher-level tutor. There were some more quirks of the system, but basically playing against type would penalize you in time and money, if not actual XP.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
FWIW, here it is:

1645930387218.png
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Any game that offers character improvement has "levels" -- some are just much, much more granular than D&D. Add a point to skill in GURPS? You've leveled up! D&D just has fewer choices of lumped together improvements.
That's... an odd way to claim that D&D levels are just like other games because levels increase things and you also increase things in other games. This feels a lot like telephones poles are tall, men are also tall, so men are telephone poles style logic.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top