D&D General An alternative to XP

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Out of combat XP is more loosey goosey. No matter how many Orcs I fight, I get the same XP per orc. This is fixed. Sure, the number of orcs present in an encounter can be variable, but there are clear guidelines on how what range of orcs for what effect works -- I'm still fighting discreet orc units with assigned XP.
That’s how it works as described in the DMG, yes. You don’t have to award XP that way. If you have a problem with the way XP is awarded, changing the way you award XP seems to me like a better solution than getting rid of XP.
No, for out of combat, the direction is that the GM can determine, if they want, that something can earn XP. And that you can use one of the encounter bands as a guide for how much to award. This is waaaay more loose.
@Yaarel is advocating for giving using the encounter bands as a guide for how much to award for combat encounters too. They’re just counting fractions of encounters instead of more granular experience points. I’m just saying, you could do that with XP too. The benefits they’re describing are benefits of deciding the award after the encounter, not benefits of tracking fractions of encounters instead of XP.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Yes. This is a very well-documented psychological phenomenon.
I'm sure it is for some. I always found it just overhead because for me the reward was playing the game. This seems like a very "one true way" and "everyone thinks the same as I do" statement. It may be true in general, but individuals vary. I assume you could find some study that "proves" this but those studies look at one aspect of motivation in isolation, they don't consider the entire experience.
Seeing progress bars fill up as a result of your actions is satisfying. It just is. Is it the only satisfying thing? Of course not. Is it the most satisfying thing? Probably not to most people. I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that I’m making any sort of statement about “the entire experience (of D&D).” And I’m very explicitly not saying that using XP is “the one true way.” I have been very clear and direct in saying there are perfectly legitimate reasons one might not want to use XP, and that it isn’t right for every campaign. I just think that most campaigns could benefit from using it. If yours is not among them, great! Have fun!
I never really cared about XP. I cared that we saved the day, defeated the bad guy. XP was just an annoying hassle and led to "Can we just go kill some orcs? I'm really close to levelling!" Blech. I want players doing what they think their PCs would do, not what the game dictates.
“Can we go kill some orcs? I’m really close to leveling!” is literally the effect I’m talking about in action. Humans are motivated to make the progress bar fill up. Now, you may not like the effect that causes on your game, that’s totally fine. But the effect is very real.
Before people chime in "Why would anyone risk their lives without that XP dangled in front of them?" Why do people climb mountains? Volunteer to go to war? Ever leave their parent's basement? Leave home to explore the wilderness? People take risks all the time. The reasons they risk their necks will vary from person to person. When I play D&D I want to motivate the character, not the player.
I wasn’t going to chime in anything of the sort. I’m well aware that XP isn’t the only thing that can motivate players to adventure. Heck, if they didn’t want to go on adventures, they wouldn’t be playing D&D in the first place, and XP wouldn’t change that.
But the fact that it became the sole motivation is what I hate about XP. It's no longer role playing what their characters would do, it's grinding out XP. That does mean that I'm not the right DM for some people. I've come to realize that's not really a problem, it's just reality that I can't be the right DM for everyone.
Right. So like I’ve been saying, it’s an example of how powerful that progress bar effect can be; it’s also a perfectly legitimate reason someone might not want to use XP.
For some people. Not for everyone.
That’s like saying jackhammer isn’t a powerful tool for everyone. A jackhammer is objectively a powerful tool. It might not be the right tool for the job you’re doing, and if so, obviously you shouldn’t use it. But it’s still a powerful tool, independently of your need for it (or lack thereof).
 

Oofta

Legend
Yes. This is a very well-documented psychological phenomenon.
Sure. If you only look at one aspect of motivation.
Seeing progress bars fill up as a result of your actions is satisfying. It just is. Is it the only satisfying thing? Of course not. Is it the most satisfying thing? Probably not to most people. I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that I’m making any sort of statement about “the entire experience (of D&D).” And I’m very explicitly not saying that using XP is “the one true way.” I have been very clear and direct in saying there are perfectly legitimate reasons one might not want to use XP, and that it isn’t right for every campaign. I just think that most campaigns could benefit from using it. If yours is not among them, great! Have fun!
Again with the assumptions. I never found getting XP particularly rewarding, it was just overhead and bookkeeping. That's what I'm objecting to, this insistence that because many people find it rewarding that everyone finds it rewarding. I find leveling rewarding but the process of getting and having to keep track of XP? Nah.
“Can we go kill some orcs? I’m really close to leveling!” is literally the effect I’m talking about in action. Humans are motivated to make the progress bar fill up. Now, you may not like the effect that causes on your game, that’s totally fine. But the effect is very real.
Which I hate. Why is the character going out to kill orcs? What's their motivation to do so? The character the person is role playing has none.
I wasn’t going to chime in anything of the sort. I’m well aware that XP isn’t the only thing that can motivate players to adventure. Heck, if they didn’t want to go on adventures, they wouldn’t be playing D&D in the first place, and XP wouldn’t change that.

Right. So like I’ve been saying, it’s an example of how powerful that progress bar effect can be; it’s also a perfectly legitimate reason someone might not want to use XP.

That’s like saying jackhammer isn’t a powerful tool for everyone. A jackhammer is objectively a powerful tool. It might not be the right tool for the job you’re doing, and if so, obviously you shouldn’t use it. But it’s still a powerful tool, independently of your need for it (or lack thereof).


I'm just expressing a preference. I want to run a game that as much as possible makes playing the game, role playing a character, it's own reward as much as possible. Different strokes for different folks and all, I just find this insistence that handing out XP is inherently rewarding in and of itself odd.

EDIT: It's also a question of how long something is rewarding. The first time you get XP and watch the numbers grow? More rewarding than the 100th time for many people, if not most. Which is something the studies generally don't look at, the decreasing value, the decreasing return on investment.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
That’s how it works as described in the DMG, yes. You don’t have to award XP that way. If you have a problem with the way XP is awarded, changing the way you award XP seems to me like a better solution than getting rid of XP.
Again, I find it a challenge to discuss the game when things that people insert or ignore are treated as the game in question. I'm sure that the way you've decided to implement out-of-combat XP is peachy, but I don't know what that is and I wouldn't expect you to know what I might do. I can talk about what the books say, though.
@Yaarel is advocating for giving using the encounter bands as a guide for how much to award for combat encounters too. They’re just counting fractions of encounters instead of more granular experience points. I’m just saying, you could do that with XP too. The benefits they’re describing are benefits of deciding the award after the encounter, not benefits of tracking fractions of encounters instead of XP.
Sure, but this doesn't make out-of-combat XP suddenly less loosey-goosy because you've decided to ignore the system and make combat XP more loosey-goosey (we still have combat encounter guidelines, whereas we have no such thing for out-of-combat).
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
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.
You do know that by this logic, people in real life also earn XP.
 

Oofta

Legend
You do know that by this logic, people in real life also earn XP.
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.
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
Citation please. I looked for it, didn't find it. 🤷‍♂️
AD&D 1E Dungeon Masters Guide p37 said:
You pack it in for the night. Four actual days later (and it is best to use 1 actual day = 1 game day when no play is happening), on Day 55, player characters B, C, and D enter the dungeon...
I agree it is a silly suggestion, and we never followed it, especially as we would often have to end play mid-dungeon, or even mid-combat! :)
 
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Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
Calculus still can't make telephone poles men, though. Your claim is saying that a big rectangle system is modelling the same thing as a small rectangle system just with less accuracy -- but that isn't borne out by actual play in these different systems -- you aren't replicating the big D&D level jumps with more numerous smaller ones. You get rather different things and different models of characters. Leveled systems are fixed -- you will go through this trajectory with these outcomes and with these jumps in power.
I was not comparing the power of levels in D&D to other games directly (your "men are telephone poles" argument). I was making a broad observation that some form of "leveling" is present in any game that has character improvement. A level in one game is not necessarily equal to a level in any other game, but from the 45000-ft view they are conceptually similar. It was intended to be a humorous dig at RPG players who turn their nose up at the idea of levels as a concept. People can draw lines about particular levels in particular games as "too powerful," "too weak," "not granular enough," "not flexible enough," etc., but they still have the broad game element of levels.
Systems that do this with more resolution don't create the same effects at all. So, no, even with calculus men are not telephone poles or vice versa.
Some games may have a finer resolution than D&D and can create a wider variety of characters, but it is not an infinite range. Some D&D levels offer players a choice from two or three features. A hypothetical game with 200 ways to spend a character point could be looked at (in the abstract) as having many more levels than D&D, and at each level you have 200 things to choose from. Two characters who spent their character points the same way would (mechanically) look alike.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
@Rabulias

That is talking about time in the campaign and keeping your game world equal to real life for the sake of simplicity when , not about saying "if you go a week without playing the game, a week should pass in game time". That would be ridiculous if that was the case.
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
That is talking about time in the campaign and keeping your game world equal to real life for the sake of simplicity when , not about saying "if you go a week without playing the game, a week should pass in game time". That would be ridiculous if that was the case.
Even if we don't apply the suggestion "in the middle of the action," player characters have lives, goals, activities, enemies, rivals, etc., that they would not let slide just because the player is not playing. I agree that time-keeping is very important in a campaign, but I like the idea that the players decide if their characters will take a week off doing nothing. Certainly there are some downtime activities that can be handled very quickly away from the table if all agree to let the time pass while doing these things, but some events and interactions involve NPCs or decisions that need to be handled in game.
 

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