D&D General XP Awards for -- what????

When do you award XP?


payn

Legend
Like ... let's say pokemon. In every Pokemon Game I have full control over how much power my pokemon have by deciding how much I train them. The story is very railroady in Pokemon, but I have freedom of choice over the strength of my team. If you would put Milestones onto pokemon, like you get 10 levels for every arena you beat, Pokemon would suck, because now you have no story agency and no mechanical agency anymore.
If this is how you frame the RPG experience, we see things entirely differently.
With XP your start point is player agency and you have to reign that in.
With Milestones your start point is no player agency and you have to put that back in.
In this instance, I would prefer milestone both as GM and player. It means thought has been put into the game. The activities are not random, vanilla, thin, boring, etc...
Yeah, but Milestone is a more extreme less subtle version of that. With XP you can do x, y and z to get XP and level up. With Milestones you can only do X to level up.
XP is nudging, Milestone is forcing.
I think this is a lack of foresight and/or experience. You can do sandboxes in milestone, and even adventure paths have x,y,z ways to achieve goals and interact with the game.
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Yeah, but that is forcing the players mechanical and story wise to stay on course. As a player, I wouldn't like that, to be forced to not stray away a little, not to have the opportunity to do anything else in the world. Such a game would feel like a dead world, where there is nothing outside the walls of the plot.
For playing D&D you need to create an Illusion, an Illusion of a living, existing world where you have agency in. With milestones and a fixed plot, you are killing this illusion. Your choices don't matter. You follow a preplanned path of encounters and if your dice a lucky, you succeed.
With having XP you are saying that there is the possibility to go off the rails, even if the players never take that opportunity, you say mechanically, the world is open to you. The illusion of an open world is stronger, the illusion that your choices matter is stronger.
With Milestones on the mechanical side, you take away that illusion. Your choices don't matter, the world is not open for you to explore.
The more railroady the story, the better XP help with the Illusion of choice. It will increase the game experience for the players and create a stronger illusion of a living world.
A few things to consider:

1. D&D isn't just one thing. There are different ways to structure and play the game. Creating "an illusion of a living, existing world," which I am hearing as another way to say "sandbox," is just one way.

2. You're not forcing anyone to do anything if you talk to the players about the kind of game you run and ask for their buy-in. If they are told that the DM wants to run a plot-based game and they agree to do their best to stick to the plot, then the DM has their consent and everyone's on the same page. Story-based advancement then helps keep them on that path which might otherwise be unclear.

3. There is often a greater range of meaningful choices to be made in a sandbox, but there are still plenty of choices to be made in a plot-based game. The "significant goal" required to level up may not be the player's choice, but how they achieve it is.

It all comes down to the Illusion of choice. Players usually hate it, when they feel that they have no choice. Even if they agree to a plot based game.
On the mechanical side, milestones don't give an illusion of choice, XP do.

So even if it is a little easier for the DM to use Milestones, XP will improve the feel of the game, improve the illusion of an open world full of adventures that is for the players to discover.
I don't think that standard XP (e.g. killing monsters and maybe sometimes for noncombat challenges) would improve "the feel of the game" in a plot-based game. It's actually at odds with staying on the plot and isn't in my view a good design choice for such a game.
 

Yeah, but Milestone is a more extreme less subtle version of that. With XP you can do x, y and z to get XP and level up. With Milestones you can only do X to level up.
XP is nudging, Milestone is forcing.
I'm not a fan of the XP system, my progression system is varied and detailed upthread.
But I understand what you're saying. Perhaps the better way to use Milestone's effectively is to have a variety of goals on the table that will lead to one earning a Milestone. And it should be ever changing as goals may alter through the course of the story. That way it wouldn't be viewed so much as a straight jacket.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Why should players get to choose how mechanically powerful their characters are, vis-a-vis the obstacle the GM frames them into?
In the fiction, a party might very well decide (rightly or wrongly) something like

Cleric (wise party member!): "Hey, we committed to taking out that dragon for the townsfolk but given what those two wyverns just did to us we're clearly not up to it right now. We either need more people, more skill, or more magic before we try that dragon, unless we all just wanna die to no purpose. What say we take on something a bit less challenging and use whatever loot we find to build up our anti-dragon resources?"
Rest of party, in summary: "Sounds good. Let's go knock off those Ogres we heard were causing trouble in the Althasian Hills."

End result: the party is probably overpowered by the time they meet the dragon.

However, the same party could also say:

Fighter (unwise party member!): "Phew! Those wyverns smacked us around real good. After that, a single dragon should be easy pickin's. Let's get after it before someone else does!"
Rest of party, in summary: "Yeah! Gear up! Let's go right now!"

End result: the party is probably underpowered when they meet the dragon.

In either case the players IMO have to be left to their own devices and allowed to make these choices, if it's what their characters would do, even if it runs either they or the DM's monsters into a hole.
I mean, there are approaches to RPGing that half-answer the question, but they also give the players significant authority to do their own framing. (I'm thinking mostly of Gygaxian dungeon-crawling, where the players get to choose both (i) which goals to pursue to earn XP, and (ii) which rooms/levels to tackle - ie they get to do a lot of their own framing.)
This principle expands beyond just room-to-room dungeon-crawling into having some choice over which adventures or missions - or dungeons! - to take on in the first place, and when and-or in what sequence.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This looks to me more like an objection to games that feature a prepared plot or path than the method by which XP is handled. It just so happens that story-based advancement is better suited to games with a prepared plot or path, whereas standard XP works better for sandboxes. In the former case, the method incentivizes the players to stay on the plot (which helps reduce and preserve the DM's prepared content). In the latter, the method incentivizes the players to do whatever it is that earns them XP (e.g. killing monsters), but otherwise doesn't push them in any other particular direction.
Doesn't matter whether the game is a scripted plot or a sandbox or anything else, milestone (and fiat) levelling's biggest problem is and remains that is doesn't reward those characters who take risks and get stuff done over those who hang back and do nothing.
 

payn

Legend
Doesn't matter whether the game is a scripted plot or a sandbox or anything else, milestone (and fiat) levelling's biggest problem is and remains that is doesn't reward those characters who take risks and get stuff done over those who hang back and do nothing.
Sure, if you actually care about any of that.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Sure, if you actually care about any of that.
The hanger-back wouldn't, as there'd be no reason to: their rewards come without - or with much reduced - risk.

If everyone played their characters like that, however, nothing would ever get done in the fiction. Someone has to take the lead, take the risk, and drag the party into the (fight/sneakery/whatever); and characters who do this should get commensurately more mechanical reward for it than those who do not.
 

payn

Legend
The hanger-back wouldn't, as there'd be no reason to: their rewards come without - or with much reduced - risk.

If everyone played their characters like that, however, nothing would ever get done in the fiction. Someone has to take the lead, take the risk, and drag the party into the (fight/sneakery/whatever); and characters who do this should get commensurately more mechanical reward for it than those who do not.
Sure, things get done when the characters get them done in milestone. Then again, I play with folks who like to play their characters so 🤷‍♂️
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Doesn't matter whether the game is a scripted plot or a sandbox or anything else, milestone (and fiat) levelling's biggest problem is and remains that is doesn't reward those characters who take risks and get stuff done over those who hang back and do nothing.
Failure to participate is a separate issue altogether.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Failure to participate is a separate issue altogether.
It's not a failure to participate, though. Instead, IME it's fully participating as a player and using that participation to make sure the risks, when they arise, aren't shared equally. And often it's little things that add up in the long run: never going first in the marching order, making sure someone else takes on the dangerous BBEG while you (universal "you" here) deal with the less-risky sidekicks, never volunteering to be the first to field-test an unknown item, and so forth - in cases where you would normally be the best character to do that thing.

And it's nigh impossible to call this stuff out in an out-of-game conversation in a manner that doesn't just turn into an argument. Hell knows, I've tried.

There's a difference between passenger characters and passenger players.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Sure, things get done when the characters get them done in milestone. Then again, I play with folks who like to play their characters so 🤷‍♂️
If I'm in a game where taking risks can get my character killed, and there's no incentive for taking risks to balance that out, the logic is pretty simple: don't take risks.

Thing is, if nobody takes risks then adventuring quickly comes to a screeching - and very boring - halt.
 

payn

Legend
If I'm in a game where taking risks can get my character killed, and there's no incentive for taking risks to balance that out, the logic is pretty simple: don't take risks.

Thing is, if nobody takes risks then adventuring quickly comes to a screeching - and very boring - halt.
Well, that is, very specific to your table. 🤷‍♂️
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
It's not a failure to participate, though. Instead, IME it's fully participating as a player and using that participation to make sure the risks, when they arise, aren't shared equally. And often it's little things that add up in the long run: never going first in the marching order, making sure someone else takes on the dangerous BBEG while you (universal "you" here) deal with the less-risky sidekicks, never volunteering to be the first to field-test an unknown item, and so forth - in cases where you would normally be the best character to do that thing.

And it's nigh impossible to call this stuff out in an out-of-game conversation in a manner that doesn't just turn into an argument. Hell knows, I've tried.

There's a difference between passenger characters and passenger players.
I've encountered similar, it's incredibly difficult for the gm to call out that sort of behavior. A section about the importance of risk sharing & coordinating as a group somewhere in the new PHb would be extremely welcome.

Sure sometimes bob is a wallflower, but that only goes so far before bob is a burden on the group that the GM needs to compensate for with tougher encounters.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
If I'm in a game where taking risks can get my character killed, and there's no incentive for taking risks to balance that out, the logic is pretty simple: don't take risks.

Thing is, if nobody takes risks then adventuring quickly comes to a screeching - and very boring - halt.
I just don't do the bolded part. Works fine.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It's not a failure to participate, though. Instead, IME it's fully participating as a player and using that participation to make sure the risks, when they arise, aren't shared equally. And often it's little things that add up in the long run: never going first in the marching order, making sure someone else takes on the dangerous BBEG while you (universal "you" here) deal with the less-risky sidekicks, never volunteering to be the first to field-test an unknown item, and so forth - in cases where you would normally be the best character to do that thing.

And it's nigh impossible to call this stuff out in an out-of-game conversation in a manner that doesn't just turn into an argument. Hell knows, I've tried.

There's a difference between passenger characters and passenger players.
That's for the players to work out among themselves.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
That's for the players to work out among themselves.
That's easy to say but the GM is the one who gets blamed if the players are bored & frustrated because most or even all of them are treating everything like tomb of horrors & failing to move forward without the GM directly doing something to force them into breaking out of scry & fry/10 foot pole poking. The GM also shoulders blame for railroading if they take action to force players into moving forwsard. It's a no-win scenario for a GM.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
That's easy to say but the GM is the one who gets blamed if the players are bored & frustrated because most or even all of them are treating everything like tomb of horrors & failing to move forward without the GM directly doing something to force them into breaking out of scry & fry/10 foot pole poking. The GM also shoulders blame for railroading if they take action to force players into moving forwsard. It's a no-win scenario for a GM.
Sorry, no - the players are the ones at fault here. They have all the power to move forward in this situation and make the game not boring or frustrating (provided it's not boring or frustrating even when the players are moving forward). They need to figure that out among themselves.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Sorry, no - the players are the ones at fault here. They have all the power to move forward in this situation and make the game not boring or frustrating (provided it's not boring or frustrating even when the players are moving forward). They need to figure that out among themselves.
The players are absolutely at fault but the GM gets blamed if the game is boring because of excess caution or railroaded.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The players are absolutely at fault but the GM gets blamed if the game is boring because of excess caution or railroaded.
Then it's up to the DM to explain to them how they are wrong in that conclusion. They can choose to move forward. If they don't, that's on them.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Then it's up to the DM to explain to them how they are wrong in that conclusion. They can choose to move forward. If they don't, that's on them.
The problem there is the one @Lanefan pointed out in #190. That discussion is almost guaranteed to result in an argument & a GM that looks like they are trying to force a player to do something they don't want to. Just explaining why it's a problem is easy for the problem player to ignore & for everyone else to just shrug it off because "Bob sez he's trying" when Bob is really just blowing off the whole thing.
 

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