D&D General An alternative to XP

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. People can get better at what they do.
It's in the post I quoted -- @Lanefan literally said he didn't level cross-class in real life.
I got better as a software developer through practice and learning. For a game like D&D you have to vastly simplify that process which means giving PCs classes and those classes have levels which roughly model real world growth. What's bizarre is that you've insisted that "people in real life also earn XP". The only reason to have XP in a game is because of that simplification of class levels and that we measure growth in spurts not the continual improvement of reality.

I'm done. Have a good one.
No, I didn't insist that. I said that if you're making the argument that people in real life level up, then that same kind of logic applies to people in real life earning XP. I, personally, think the entire idea of game terms applying to real life to be bizarre and a bit cringe. I'm pointing out that if you're going to claim that leveling isn't as gamey as XP because people in real life have level, that the foundation of that entire argument is smoke. Real life people don't earn XP and also do not level up.
 

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Scruffy nerf herder

Toaster Loving AdMech Boi
It's in the post I quoted -- @Lanefan literally said he didn't level cross-class in real life.

No, I didn't insist that. I said that if you're making the argument that people in real life level up, then that same kind of logic applies to people in real life earning XP. I, personally, think the entire idea of game terms applying to real life to be bizarre and a bit cringe. I'm pointing out that if you're going to claim that leveling isn't as gamey as XP because people in real life have level, that the foundation of that entire argument is smoke. Real life people don't earn XP and also do not level up.

Don't mind me, just amused this was a topic, lol.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Then C, D, and E wait; or A and B go back with them for the sake of the adventure and don't metagame needing to train to level?
How is it metagaming if the PCs in the setting know intuitively when they become capable of training - they've analagously in effect passed this round of field testing and are good for another bout of classroom instruction.
IME never happens. Unless you play with a merry-go-round of PCs and players, that is...
PCs yes, players usually no.
Why replace characters when they are already there?
Because those characters are not always there - they come and go. That, and I put no limits on how many PCs any one player can have in my game world; though there are often limits - usually two - on how many a player can play in the same party at once.
If the adventure is so important you can't wait then you just go finish the adventure and train when you get back. If you need to train to be powerful enough to continue on, then everyone waits, because otherwise you have lower level PCs going back without the higher level ones anyway.
The issue with carrying on untrained - and on this I'm nowhere near as harsh as original 1e was* - is that you start hitting a point of diminishing returns, where your earned xp suffer a penalty based on how far into the new level you've got.

* - in original 1e after bumping you couldn't gain even a single xp until you trained up, no matter what you did.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
You’re talking about conscious value placement. Indeed, this is a highly subjective thing and depends on all kinds of complex factors like cost vs. benefit, personal relevance, and all number of other things. I don’t disagree with what you’re saying here at all.

What I’m talking about is unconscious, instinctive neurochemical reactions in response to stimuli. Seeing a clear indication of progress towards something as a direct result of your actions triggers a release of dopamine in your brain. It just does. That’s just how our brains work. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will like or ascribe value to the thing that caused the release of dopamine. Again, that’s a much more complex phenomenon, and not what I’m talking about.
Just a suggestion, but if you haven't already you might want to post a few links to the studies that have proven this; else you're not likely to get anywhere in advancing your point. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It's in the post I quoted -- @Lanefan literally said he didn't level cross-class in real life.
Er - I did not say that; I think you've got me mixed up with someone else.

That said...
No, I didn't insist that. I said that if you're making the argument that people in real life level up, then that same kind of logic applies to people in real life earning XP. I, personally, think the entire idea of game terms applying to real life to be bizarre and a bit cringe. I'm pointing out that if you're going to claim that leveling isn't as gamey as XP because people in real life have level, that the foundation of that entire argument is smoke. Real life people don't earn XP and also do not level up.
...there is no doubt whatsoever that in real life people generally tend to get measurably better at what they do by doing more of it*, whether it's a sport or a hobby activity or an occupation or whatever; and that "getting better" can happen through any combination of simple practice, learning from peers, formal or informal training, and-or other methods.

I spent a long time in retail sales, and was a far better seller five years into that career than I was when I started; and was better yet after ten years rather than five. Lots of every-day practice plus both informal and formal training saw to that, and we had the metrics and records to prove it. I'm also an amateur writer, and though perhaps not very good overall I'm hella better at it now than I was 40 years ago.

Xp and levels are merely the game's way of abstracting this "getting better" process; and though the D&D level advancement curve is far steeper than anything in real life would map to, the abstraction itself is quite solid.

* - provided one's body and-or mind can keep up with what's being asked of it.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Just a suggestion, but if you haven't already you might want to post a few links to the studies that have proven this; else you're not likely to get anywhere in advancing your point. :)
All one needs to do is step into a casino, and its stimuli tactics, to see that what @Charlaquin is saying sounds about right. Popular videogames too.
 

Oofta

Legend
Ok? Recieving a gift doesn’t necessarily cause a release of dopamine. I mean, unless that gift is like, really calorie-dense food, that you then eat. It might release setatonin, if it’s a thing you like. That’s the happy brain chemical. Dopamine is the I did a good job brain chemical. Maybe if you won the Hummel figurine in a test of skill, then you’d get dopamine. Not because you got a Hummel figurine, but because you won a test of skill.
Winning the contest is an intrinsic reward, not an external reward. In many cases getting an external reward for something that you would have done for the intrinsic reward can be detrimental and lower your overall enjoyment. Let's say I enjoy bicycling. I just do it because I enjoy the fresh air and getting to zone out for a bit. Then I get an app on my phone and it tracks how far I bike and how many calories I use. If my motivation becomes do X miles or burn Y calories, the intrinsic value I had for biking can be lessened. Biking, which I used to enjoy just for biking becomes work, something I need to do for the number of calories burned external reward I get from my phone app.

I view D&D and XP the same way. I want the game play to be intrinsically rewarding, XP is externally rewarding. Instead of just having fun playing the game in the moment it can become grinding out XP which lowers the overall intrinsic reward. We still have levels but if people know they're going to level at the first opportunity after X hours of play like I do, they stop thinking about doing things in order to level.
 

Oofta

Legend
It's in the post I quoted -- @Lanefan literally said he didn't level cross-class in real life.

No, I didn't insist that. I said that if you're making the argument that people in real life level up, then that same kind of logic applies to people in real life earning XP. I, personally, think the entire idea of game terms applying to real life to be bizarre and a bit cringe. I'm pointing out that if you're going to claim that leveling isn't as gamey as XP because people in real life have level, that the foundation of that entire argument is smoke. Real life people don't earn XP and also do not level up.
Right. So you were referencing something I didn't write without leaving any clue in your post. People don't have XP even though you were the one who made the statement that "people in real life also earn XP" because they can improve there skill. I never said people leveled up, they gain skills. We use levels in D&D because it has to over-simplify everything including how it models getting better at your chosen class profession. But we're not supposed to talk about any correlation between reality and game because it's "cringe" for some reason. 🤷‍♂️
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Er - I did not say that; I think you've got me mixed up with someone else.
Totes right, man. My bad. @Oofta said that and somehow I misattrubited to you in my memory.
That said...

...there is no doubt whatsoever that in real life people generally tend to get measurably better at what they do by doing more of it*, whether it's a sport or a hobby activity or an occupation or whatever; and that "getting better" can happen through any combination of simple practice, learning from peers, formal or informal training, and-or other methods.

I spent a long time in retail sales, and was a far better seller five years into that career than I was when I started; and was better yet after ten years rather than five. Lots of every-day practice plus both informal and formal training saw to that, and we had the metrics and records to prove it. I'm also an amateur writer, and though perhaps not very good overall I'm hella better at it now than I was 40 years ago.

Xp and levels are merely the game's way of abstracting this "getting better" process; and though the D&D level advancement curve is far steeper than anything in real life would map to, the abstraction itself is quite solid.

* - provided one's body and-or mind can keep up with what's being asked of it.
Yeah, don't disagree with this.
 

Oofta

Legend
Just a suggestion, but if you haven't already you might want to post a few links to the studies that have proven this; else you're not likely to get anywhere in advancing your point. :)
For what it's worth, I'm familiar with the concept of extrinsic motivation, but it can backfire. The reward also has to be seen as valuable to the recipient.
 

Oofta

Legend
Ok? Recieving a gift doesn’t necessarily cause a release of dopamine. I mean, unless that gift is like, really calorie-dense food, that you then eat. It might release setatonin, if it’s a thing you like. That’s the happy brain chemical. Dopamine is the I did a good job brain chemical. Maybe if you won the Hummel figurine in a test of skill, then you’d get dopamine. Not because you got a Hummel figurine, but because you won a test of skill.
Winning the contest is an intrinsic reward, not an external reward. In many cases getting an external reward for something that you would have done for the intrinsic reward can be detrimental and lower your overall enjoyment. Let's say I enjoy bicycling. I just do it because I enjoy the fresh air and getting to zone out for a bit. Then I get an app on my phone and it tracks how far I bike and how many calories I use. If my motivation becomes do X miles or burn Y calories, the intrinsic value I had for biking can be lessened. Biking, which I used to enjoy just for biking becomes work, something I need to do for the number of calories burned external reward I get from my phone app.

I view D&D and XP the same way. I want the game play to be intrinsically rewarding, XP is externally rewarding. Instead of just having fun playing the game in the moment, it becomes grinding out XP.
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Right. So you were referencing something I didn't write without leaving any clue in your post. People don't have XP even though you were the one who made the statement that "people in real life also earn XP" because they can improve there skill. I never said people leveled up, they gain skills. We use levels in D&D because it has to over-simplify everything including how it models getting better at your chosen class profession. But we're not supposed to talk about any correlation between reality and game because it's "cringe" for some reason. 🤷‍♂️
No, I was incorrect to bring @Lanefan I into it. He didn't say that, it was you that did. My apologies for the confusion. You said you didn't level up in a class you didn't have in real life.

Yeah, man, your argument that you have a class and levels in real life is a tad cringe because it's treating arbitrary fictional game elements as having meaning in how real life works. That you make the argument that some arbitrary fictional game elements have real life meaning but others obviously don't is the logical failure I'm pointing out.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
How is it metagaming if the PCs in the setting know intuitively when they become capable of training - they've analagously in effect passed this round of field testing and are good for another bout of classroom instruction.
Great, they are ready for the classroom...

So what?

If the adventure is time-sensitive then they go back and finish before going to the classroom. At which point other PCs can likely join them.
If the adventure is not time-sensitive then they go to the classroom and the others can relax or whatever while they wait. In which case they return to the adventure with some stronger PCs.

As an example, look at what is happening:

A-B can train to gain level 2
C-E are all still level 1
F-G are possible new PCs at level 1

You go back with 5 PCs at level 1, even though 2 can't earn more XP OR
You go back while they train with 5 PCs (adding F-G) that are all still level 1

Either way, if you continue the adventure immediately, you have 5 PCs at level 1, but in the first case you are playing the same PCs because those are the ones you are playing for the game. In the second case, you are forced to bring in two new PCs to fill in the gap just so A-B can train. Now, you are starting your merry-go-round of PCs and juggling act of who can go on which adventure when because so-and-so needs to train but others want adventure and XP.

OR if the adventure can wait, A-B train and you return with 5 PCs but now 2 of them are level 2 and can earn XP as well.

There is no need to bring in more PCs just because some need to train. Bringing in a new PC because it is something the player wants to play is a different matter, of course. Adding PCs because you are adding new players (what happens in the scenario in the DMG) is also a different issue.

Because those characters are not always there - they come and go.
Sure, it can happen for story reasons or player interest, but it isn't because you need them while others train...

The issue with carrying on untrained - and on this I'm nowhere near as harsh as original 1e was* - is that you start hitting a point of diminishing returns, where your earned xp suffer a penalty based on how far into the new level you've got.

* - in original 1e after bumping you couldn't gain even a single xp until you trained up, no matter what you did.
It's only an issue if your goal in the game is to gain XP. If your goal is to play the adventure, it isn't an issue.

Also, XP is awarded when you return from the adventure. The DM is not meant to calculate XP and award it on-the-fly, but at the end, when they can look at all the creatures defeated, tally the treasure recovered, etc. and adjust it against the difficulty of the adventure. PCs can adventure as long as they want, but as soon as they return and are awarded XP, they can't earn any more.

For example, if your 1st level PCs return from an adventure, and the DM tallies it so each PC earns 3250 XP, they can train. But the cleric and thief will each train for 2 levels (needing 3001 and 2501 XP, respectively to each 3rd level), while the others train for 1 level to become 2nd level, before moving on to the next adventure.
 

Oofta

Legend
No, I was incorrect to bring @Lanefan I into it. He didn't say that, it was you that did. My apologies for the confusion. You said you didn't level up in a class you didn't have in real life.

Yeah, man, your argument that you have a class and levels in real life is a tad cringe because it's treating arbitrary fictional game elements as having meaning in how real life works. That you make the argument that some arbitrary fictional game elements have real life meaning but others obviously don't is the logical failure I'm pointing out.
I'm not saying we have class and level in real life. Class is the label the game implements for one area of expertise. Level is the way it represents growth in skills in your area of expertise. The game loosely models real life for some things, not the other way around.

The way you twisted that around is amazing.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I'm not saying we have class and level in real life. Class is the label the game implements for one area of expertise. Level is the way it represents growth in skills in your area of expertise. The game loosely models real life for some things, not the other way around.

The way you twisted that around is amazing.
... here's a few things you said, emphasis mine:
In real life people can become more proficient at what they do. They go from playing chopsticks to Chopin, from playing in the living room to a concert hall. As a game, D&D has to simplify that process and gaining a level is "chunky", but it's still based on real world experiences that people have of growth in expertise over time.

People level up in real life. On the other hand I want PCs to do what the PCs would do because it's a role playing game, it's about immersing yourself in a person living in a different world. I want motivation to be based on what the character in the game perceives, not what the player cares about.

Huh? As a software developer my skills grew and expanded during the course of my career. So, yes, I did level up. Why would I level up in a class unrelated to what I did? 🤷‍♂️

Taking you at your word is now twisting what you said? I mean, you started this whole line by responding to me saying that levels are as gamey as XP. You defended levels as related to real life. I mean, are you withdrawing that?
 

Oofta

Legend
... here's a few things you said, emphasis mine:




Taking you at your word is now twisting what you said? I mean, you started this whole line by responding to me saying that levels are as gamey as XP. You defended levels as related to real life. I mean, are you withdrawing that?
I said people level up, not that they have levels. Leveling up in real life is generally a smooth curve, not the granular leaps we have in game that are reflected by levels.

You're reading things into what I'm saying that I have not said ... although you are correct that I used a game term "class" in reference to one area of real life expertise but I was just relating back to your statement: "About as much as you have a level stamped on yours and get better at fighting because you've worked at your desk job for the last year." You made such a confusing statement ... I don't even know where to begin.

In a nutshell:
  • People gain skills and get better at things in real life.
  • I refer to gaining gaining skills as leveling up skills or areas of expertise. It's hardly a unique use of the terminology.
  • The game models growth with distinct levels for simplicity.
  • The game models areas of expertise with the class structure for simplicity.
  • You don't need XP to grant levels it's just one mechanism used to decide when to level.
  • I personally don't care for XP and haven't used it for many years. Once people get used to it, I've never had anyone complain and they seem to prefer it.
That's it.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I view D&D and XP the same way. I want the game play to be intrinsically rewarding, XP is externally rewarding.

Rewards are not universal. What is intrinsically and extrinsically rewarding depends on the person and their individual drives and needs. Also, one needs to be careful to separate the thing that is itself rewarding, and the trigger for the reward, which can be separate.

For example - for many software engineers, a salary is an extrinsic reward. Yes, they need it to pay the bills, but it isn't why they do the job. For many of them, actually completing a project, finishing building something that works, is intrinsically rewarding. However, simply submitting the last bit of code may not give them the feeling of reward. If the job is done, but sitting in a code repository, they don't see that as rewarding. Officially releasing the software, even if it is a business process rather than a technical one, signals to them the job is complete, and allows them to get that warm fuzzy feeling of having crafted a thing. The release ritual is not itself intrinsically rewarding, but the intrinsic reward can't be achieved without it.


So, perhaps for you, XP is not an intrinsic reward. But for others at the same table, it may either be intrinsic, or a gate or requirement they need to get the intrinsic reward, so it cannot be discounted until review the needs of the people at the table.

This underlies choice of playstyle in a game - various styles of play tick off different reward possibilities. Folks like different playstyles because they have different reward needs. Given thet XP driven play is pretty common, we should allow that the XP are really important for some people's rewards, if not for your own.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I said people level up, not that they have levels. Leveling up in real life is generally a smooth curve, not the granular leaps we have in game that are reflected by levels.

You're reading things into what I'm saying that I have not said ... although you are correct that I used a game term "class" in reference to one area of real life expertise but I was just relating back to your statement: "About as much as you have a level stamped on yours and get better at fighting because you've worked at your desk job for the last year." You made such a confusing statement ... I don't even know where to begin.
It was in response to you saying this:
You have a number stamped on your forehead that grows over time? People get better at things, there's no artificial number that tracks it. People grow and improve. XP is just a game mechanic to track that process because the granularity of the game's leveling system is not a smooth curve like real life.
Which was a response to this:
You do know that by this logic, people in real life also earn XP.
Which was a response to this:
In real life people can become more proficient at what they do. They go from playing chopsticks to Chopin, from playing in the living room to a concert hall. As a game, D&D has to simplify that process and gaining a level is "chunky", but it's still based on real world experiences that people have of growth in expertise over time.

People level up in real life. On the other hand I want PCs to do what the PCs would do because it's a role playing game, it's about immersing yourself in a person living in a different world. I want motivation to be based on what the character in the game perceives, not what the player cares about.
Which was a response to this:
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?

Do you now follow why I made that statement? I say it's weird to argue XP is gamey but levels aren't, and you appear to challenge me by saying people level up in real life. I note that this argument -- that if people level up through experience -- also supports XP just as well. You return with asking if people have XP stamped on their forehead (a rather bizarre introduction) and I say as much as they have their level stamped there. You respond by saying you do level up, but not in classes you don't have.

In all of this, I haven't introduced new and exciting things. You have (people level up in real life, XP stamped on foreheads, classes that you belong to). Trying to pin how weird this has gotten on me is itself fairly weird. Also it seems like an attempt to get me to believe in a chain of events that didn't actually happen that way.

In a nutshell:
  • People gain skills and get better at things in real life.
  • I refer to gaining gaining skills as leveling up skills or areas of expertise. It's hardly a unique use of the terminology.
  • The game models growth with distinct levels for simplicity.
  • The game models areas of expertise with the class structure for simplicity.
  • You don't need XP to grant levels it's just one mechanism used to decide when to level.
  • I personally don't care for XP and haven't used it for many years. Once people get used to it, I've never had anyone complain and they seem to prefer it.
That's it.
Context matter, man. You can't claim your statements are entirely anodyne when they're entirely in the context of me pointing out that claiming XP is gamey while levels aren't. Unless you're not challenging that at all and this is a strange and colossal misunderstanding where you insist one something because you think I'm saying something in challenge to it?
 

Oofta

Legend
Rewards are not universal. What is intrinsically and extrinsically rewarding depends on the person and their individual drives and needs. Also, one needs to be careful to separate the thing that is itself rewarding, and the trigger for the reward, which can be separate.

For example - for many software engineers, a salary is an extrinsic reward. Yes, they need it to pay the bills, but it isn't why they do the job. For many of them, actually completing a project, finishing building something that works, is intrinsically rewarding. However, simply submitting the last bit of code may not give them the feeling of reward. If the job is done, but sitting in a code repository, they don't see that as rewarding. Officially releasing the software, even if it is a business process rather than a technical one, signals to them the job is complete, and allows them to get that warm fuzzy feeling of having crafted a thing. The release ritual is not itself intrinsically rewarding, but the intrinsic reward can't be achieved without it.


So, perhaps for you, XP is not an intrinsic reward. But for others at the same table, it may either be intrinsic, or a gate or requirement they need to get the intrinsic reward, so it cannot be discounted until review the needs of the people at the table.

This underlies choice of playstyle in a game - various styles of play tick off different reward possibilities. Folks like different playstyles because they have different reward needs. Given thet XP driven play is pretty common, we should allow that the XP are really important for some people's rewards, if not for your own.

I agree and didn't mean to imply otherwise.. This all started with the statement that extrinsic rewards always work. I disagree with that, different people respond differently to different types of rewards. Not using XP works for me, but I'm not the right DM for everyone. People should do what works for them.
 

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