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Mulitple Encounter Experience Multiplier

Saelorn

Hero
So one of the things about 5E is that it relies upon the attrition model where early encounters are easy (because you have all of your resources) and later encounter start to get difficult, with a suggestion of eight encounters between long rests. (Give or take, but I don't want to look it up right now.)

Since I only assign XP and allow levelling during a long rest anyway, I was thinking I could use an XP multiplier to battle the five-minute work day. As I imagine, it would work something like this:

If the party has between 1 and 5 encounters before taking a long rest, then combat XP is cut by half.
If the party has between 6 and 10 encounters before taking a long rest, they earn full experience.
If the party has more than 11 encounters before taking a long rest, they earn a 25% bonus to combat XP.

In theory, that should put XP awards more in line with the actual amount of danger faced, instead of the default method where the first Balor in the day is worth as much as the eighth one.

Any thoughts?
 

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S

Sunseeker

Guest
I always assign XP/levels at the end of a session (and have done so since long before 5th) and here are my thoughts:

Your players need motivation to keep moving forward instead of setting down for the night. Needing to catch up to someone. Needing to stop the doomsday device. Needing to get the princess to the wedding on time. Etc... Keep the goal in sight or the threat near. If the party starts to slow, they hear the conspicuous birdcalls of the bandits who are chasing them. As they crest the hill, they see the Shining Tower of Peace in the distance. Parties are more inclined to stay on the move when they can track their own progress by in-game methods. The threats don't need to be progressively harder, so fight #1 may be defeating the Balor, while fight #11 may be against the last few cultists who won't surrender.

You'll need to get the players to change their mindset from "achieve the task" to "complete the zone" sort of mentality. If you're familiar with MMOs, think of this as doing the side-quests in an area, or clearing the trash before a raid boss. Yes, your goal may be to achieve the Orb of Power, but the reason you're catching up to Joe is because he has stopped at the various Stones of Destiny and infused them with Infernal magics in order to corrupt the Pristine Forest. So while Joe needs the Orb to complete the ritual, how powerful the Orb's effects will be are based on how many of the Stones are infused.
-To sum that up, players need to get in a "completionist" mindset in order for this carrot to be effective. Extra XP won't be enough incentive if the players feel the "direct approach" is the more effective solution than the "complete approach".

I totally reward my players more (though I don't use a fixed metric) when they complete more things in a given quest, time-period or area than they need to.

I think though, one of the keys is to not tell people how much extra they're going to get, or even mention they'll get extra. Rewarding the players because they choose to go the extra length (even though that's what you want them to do) and think it's their own idea, I've generally find eventually gets people to understand on some fundamental level that extra effort means extra rewards and they continue to do that long after your game is over.

TLDR: I ramble, it happens. Extra rewards for "doing more" is definitely beneficial, but you have to make players feel like it was their choice to go the distance. I wouldn't tie it to a XYZ of encounters. I'd tie it to a level of general accomplishment of the goal. Saving the princess is good...but what about her matched luggage?

To use your example, it's not to say the 8th Balor is worth more, or less than the 1st; but that the 8th Balor represents the last Dark General of the Unholy Armada and defeating him leads to breaking the coordination and morale of the army, even though all you had to do was route their assault on the Crystal Citadel. It's a matter of permanent solutions instead of temporary fixes, that's what really earns them that bonus XP.
 

Xeviat

Adventurer
Supporter
This is one of the things I really liked about 4E; I dislike the attrition model, and avoiding it often requires making time sensitive narratives or attacking the players while they rest. Truthfully, I've only ever had players want to rest early once or twice in my 14 years of DMing, as the spellcasters typically ration their spells out and don't blow them in the first encounter to make it easy.

I prefer each encounter to be a challenge in its own right. Your idea is a good solution if your players are playing the game to win it, though.
 

Saelorn

Hero
I think though, one of the keys is to not tell people how much extra they're going to get, or even mention they'll get extra. Rewarding the players because they choose to go the extra length (even though that's what you want them to do) and think it's their own idea, I've generally find eventually gets people to understand on some fundamental level that extra effort means extra rewards and they continue to do that long after your game is over.
A game is defined as a series of meaningful decisions, and it's impossible to make a meaningful decision if you don't know what the rules of the game even are. It would be cheating the players if I just surreptitiously changed their XP totals based on criteria they didn't know about. And besides, for as long as my rules try to reflect how learning and experience work within the game world, their character should totally know that you learn more by pushing yourself to the limit instead of playing it entirely safe.

I can't use the kind of overt DM force that would be required to make sure that the Dark General is the eighth Balor they fight, and if I did, it would be adversarial of me to punish them for (as an example) teleporting straight to the boss or luring it out of the base under false pretenses. But I also don't want to overly reward them for crushing the boss in one round by using all of their daily abilities.

I could definitely do side-quests, though, as an alternative way of encouraging them to explore everywhere.

My initial issue was more along the lines of random encounters in wilderness areas, which have long been a staple of D&D, but which are only meaningful in the context of resources that regenerate slowly. For any trip longer than three days, it's just not feasible to have more than two encounters per day, and any party can punch way higher than their weight when there's only one or two fights.
 

Saelorn

Hero
I prefer each encounter to be a challenge in its own right. Your idea is a good solution if your players are playing the game to win it, though.
Like it or not, 5E is built around the attrition model, so we need to follow that if we're going to play the game. Attempts to run only one or two combats in a game, each of which offering a substantial chance of failure, has proven ineffective (either the players blow through it with no problem, or the characters all die during the second fight because they're out of resources after the first one).

As a DM, it's not my job to keep everyone alive, and the game is over if everyone dies. In order for the players to feel like their choices matter, so that they become invested in the world as more than just spectators, they need to be in charge of their own fates. And unless there's some very good reason to the contrary, using their daily abilities to end fights quickly, and resting whenever possible, is just the smart thing for them to do in-character.

And, like you said, it's a lot of work (and not much fun) to constantly put them into time-critical situations and attack them whenever they sleep.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
A game is defined as a series of meaningful decisions, and it's impossible to make a meaningful decision if you don't know what the rules of the game even are.
We make meaningful decisions on a daily basis about everything from going to work in the morning to raising children based on incomplete information. There is no such thing as perfect knowledge. You will never know all the variables, so you make the best decision you can with the information you have available.

Any further response to your point isn't going to be beneficial. Let me sum up what I would have said: you're trying to game your players while your players are trying to game the system. IMHO: you're both missing the forest for the trees.
 

Saelorn

Hero
We make meaningful decisions on a daily basis about everything from going to work in the morning to raising children based on incomplete information. There is no such thing as perfect knowledge. You will never know all the variables, so you make the best decision you can with the information you have available.
There are known unknowns, and there are unknown unknowns. The players may not know that there's a Balor on the other side of the castle, or even what a Balor is capable of, but they should know that getting plenty of rest is an important part of staying alive. If challenging yourself and not playing it safe is an important part of learning, then they should know that as well.

There's a lot that they don't know, but they know that they don't know it, and they can make decisions based on that fact. For everything that they do know, though, it should reflect the reality of the game world - especially when it involves variables that they can observe and verify experimentally. (If I used my rule, but didn't tell them about it, then they would eventually figure it out anyway.)

Any further response to your point isn't going to be beneficial. Let me sum up what I would have said: you're trying to game your players while your players are trying to game the system. IMHO: you're both missing the forest for the trees.
This is a role-playing game. I don't exist. The players don't exist either. All that exists is the game world, and the characters within that world. Nobody is gaming anything. Meta-gaming is expressly forbidden, unless there is overwhelming justification (such as bringing in a new character, where the player would otherwise be sidelined for hours on end).

My job, as a designer of that game world, is to create in such a way that the characters exploring the world will engage in interesting events and make interesting decisions. I'm designing a physics engine for how objects interact with each other. I think that a physics engine that ties learning to the number of challenges overcome in a day - to represent the increased difficulty of sequential challenges - is a good model that will make for more interesting decisions and create a more interesting story in the end.

Your suggestion of side-quests, where the characters are presented with multiple objectives to complete at once such that resting would require backtracking and would be discouraged, is a good suggestion. I thank you for that.
 

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