D&D General XP Awards for -- what????

When do you award XP?


payn

Legend
But that’s what a reward structure does. That’s the point. If a group wants to play a game about delving into dungeons and hauling back treasure, a reward structure like XP for gold will reinforce or encourage that. If we want to play a game that foregrounds the relationships between characters, then getting to mark XP when our history reaches its peak or its lowest should do likewise. These games are about something, and the rewards relate to and reinforce that.

Even the goals structure in my game works like that. The game is supposed to be player-driven, and the rewards are set up to encourage them to drive (after having seen players with good ideas pre-game forget about and neglect them during the game). My application was absolutely psychological hacking, using my experience practicing GTD. There’s a brief discussion of the cognitive science research discussed in chapter 14 of the second edition of the namesake book.

I know that for some, the game aspect of RPGs should be minimized (for immersion, to avoid perceptions of rollplay versus roleplay, etc), which is a perfectly fine way to approach RPGs. And foregrounding the reasoning for certain design choices and how they effect certain types of play may come across as a violation of that spirit, or it could be that one prefers play to seem organic and does not want such considerations to be foregrounded. I don’t know. I’m just trying to understand the nature of the objection.

To use another example from video games, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild uses power ups and treasure as a way to incentivize exploration. Is that problematic? Or is it the decision-making that says, “I am doing this (placing treasure, heart containers, new powers, etc) for the reason of inducing certain behaviors (exploration) in players?”

I mean, to each their own. I’m just trying to explore the topic and understand the objection.
This is all good in theory, but it ends up driving a singular focus in an all too short playloop for my taste. It's not just D&D games the suffer from this either, many PbtA games fall into a caricaturized experience as the same areas of focus are constantly being applied to the game. In a single player video game this isnt a big deal because you are being served that exact experience, but a TTRPG doesnt require those limits. Inserting XP adds them, and thus dampens the possibilities to explore.

I think the development of television programs is a good analogy. Older programs were episodic, repetitive, designed for single non-serial consumption. Now, television programs are delivered in a format that is easily available, and thus, the stories are now serial. They develop and change in a way that you require context, because they evolve beyond the beginning state and likely will never re-center to that beginning. Im a 21st century boy, and I like my gaming like my TV; Serial, not episodic. Of course, many folks still pine for the days of 20th century television experience even in their RPGs. Nothing wrong with that, I see it as purely preference.

As to the training people bit, I think some folks are sensitive to XP because of bad games/GMs. Many a GM have used it as solely a stick to beat their players into a desired play state. Folks will stop by soon, if they have not already, to claim so in this very thread. Though, I dont think this is an inherent property of XP, the possibility of misuse has soured many folks on the mechanic.
 

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niklinna

Legend
I think I will start leveling players instead of PCs. In my Tuesday night group (all fairly new people) I've realized they are still struggling with some basic elements of the game. The PCs are just 3rd level, but I don't really think the players are ready for more.

Now, I get the impression most of these players don't really do much concerning the game outside of our sessions. Because of that, those people are learning the game slowly. If they can't increase their understanding of the game rules, how can they manage more and more features, etc.?

It's just a thought...
This is an interesting twist on my "level when you're ready to"! Such players are probably not aware that they're not ready to level up (their characters), so doing this, and making it clear why, might motivate/condition them to learn the dang rules. :)
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
This is an interesting twist on my "level when you're ready to"! Such players are probably not aware that they're not ready to level up (their characters), so doing this, and making it clear why, might motivate/condition them to learn the dang rules. :)
That was sort of my hope. Two or three of these players are learning well, the other three or four not so much. So, if I level up those who are learning, that is their reward for playing the game and learning the rules/mechanics/etc. The others won't level (or not as fast?) if I have to keep reminding them how to do things.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
There is a difference between an incidental effect of playing a game and actively taking advantage of that to manipulate my friends as the post I originally replied to was suggesting.
I read @Yora’s post as being about game design rather than about anything sinister. However, I don’t think further discussion of this topic will be fruitful, so I’m going to leave it at that. Thank you for your responses.
 
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kenada

Legend
Supporter
This is all good in theory, but it ends up driving a singular focus in an all too short playloop for my taste. It's not just D&D games the suffer from this either, many PbtA games fall into a caricaturized experience as the same areas of focus are constantly being applied to the game. In a single player video game this isnt a big deal because you are being served that exact experience, but a TTRPG doesnt require those limits. Inserting XP adds them, and thus dampens the possibilities to explore.
In a sense, I think that’s the point. A game that uses XP for gold is being very specific about the kind of gameplay it wants to be about. Taken as written, that’s not going to be flexible enough to accommodate other styles of play, but that’s arguably not the intention. However, I do think other games with tailored rewards are not as narrow as you suggest. Blades in the Dark features a number of XP prompts about things you or your crew does. One might think that would generate basic, heist-oriented play and little else, but our Blades game has shown tremendous range of “scores” even though we still hit most of our XP prompts.

I think the development of television programs is a good analogy. Older programs were episodic, repetitive, designed for single non-serial consumption. Now, television programs are delivered in a format that is easily available, and thus, the stories are now serial. They develop and change in a way that you require context, because they evolve beyond the beginning state and likely will never re-center to that beginning. Im a 21st century boy, and I like my gaming like my TV; Serial, not episodic. Of course, many folks still pine for the days of 20th century television experience even in their RPGs. Nothing wrong with that, I see it as purely preference.
That’s fair. It’s a good argument for using a reward structure that supports a serialized form of play (e.g., milestone XP/leveling).

As to the training people bit, I think some folks are sensitive to XP because of bad games/GMs. Many a GM have used it as solely a stick to beat their players into a desired play state. Folks will stop by soon, if they have not already, to claim so in this very thread. Though, I dont think this is an inherent property of XP, the possibility of misuse has soured many folks on the mechanic.
I have had my own share of GMs who gatekept XP in a way that felt wrong. I would do something thinking it would satisfy the trigger, and they would deny the XP. That does indeed suck, and it’s why I like the approach Blades in the Dark uses of having the player decide whether they satisfied the XP trigger. If I (as a player) decide something doesn’t trigger, then I am presumably fine with that.
 

payn

Legend
In a sense, I think that’s the point. A game that uses XP for gold is being very specific about the kind of gameplay it wants to be about. Taken as written, that’s not going to be flexible enough to accommodate other styles of play, but that’s arguably not the intention. However, I do think other games with tailored rewards are not as narrow as you suggest. Blades in the Dark features a number of XP prompts about things you or your crew does. One might think that would generate basic, heist-oriented play and little else, but our Blades game has shown tremendous range of “scores” even though we still hit most of our XP prompts.
Sure, absolutely, I believe that folks can get a serial experience with XP systems. However, I find it's more of a distraction or deterrent from the serial style of play than is useful as a tool. Its like other RPG design elements and choices. The DMPC, for example, is something I know some folks use in their games to good effect, however, I find it conceptually problematic to the experience I'm after. So, I wouldn't use it, however, I can still recognize that it works for others.
That’s fair. It’s a good argument for using a reward structure that supports a serialized form of play (e.g., milestone XP/leveling).
I would really like to see something along the lines of an emergent and/or evolving playbook mechanic for character development. I am having trouble imaging what it would look like specifically, but conceptually, I could see that style of XP system working in a serial manner for me.
I have had my own share of GMs who gatekept XP in a way that felt wrong. I would do something thinking it would satisfy the trigger, and they would deny the XP. That does indeed suck, and it’s why I like the approach Blades in the Dark uses of having the player decide whether they satisfied the XP trigger. If I (as a player) decide something doesn’t trigger, then I am presumably fine with that.
That may help stave off tyrant GMs, but it still leaves that caricaturized issue I have. Where everyone just waits for the part of the session where your character yells out, "DNYO-MITE" before enacting their explosives trait or whatever. I view it as enacting the same play over and over like you would expect on a sit-com or episodic television program. These XP systems often lack nuance and depth so the gameplay comes out static. I am, of course, being overcritical of the style of play, but its often the impression I am left with. Some may find that style engaging and the point of playing. YMMV.
 

Andvari

Adventurer
I combine multiple methods. The players may have a quest to rescue a princess from a nearby monster lair, and they don't get XP until they complete it fully, but the XP they gain is based on what obstacles and monsters are in the lair. Getting into a special treasure hoard off the beaten path can be a "hidden quest" that also give XP based on the obstacles in the way.

They usually get the same XP regardless of how they accomplish the goals. If they can sneak or talk their way past a monster they get the same XP. If they move really slow and trigger 5 extra random encounters, they don't get more XP for that.
 

Right now, my players spend gold to level (which more or less means they spend gold for exp), its a west marches, thankfully pf2e has well defined treasure tables, and due to their exponential scaling, I can comfortably multiply WBL without breaking it super badly-- so they hunt for treasure, bring it back to town, and can use it to level.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Are you flexible about approaches? If the group gets jumped by bandits, but they manage to talk their way out of it, do they still get XP?
Yes.

That said, they normally wouldn't get xp - or nowhere near as much, anyway - if they later came back and killed those same bandits; this to prevent "double-dipping" i.e. getting xp twice for the same opponent(s).
Is it limited to just those who did the talking?
Depends how it goes. In this case I might give full xp to the talkers and half to those who (perhaps wisely) stayed quiet; or full for everyone if they all got involved, it's always case-by-case.
For me, I’m fine if PCs don’t advance in lockstep with each other because the game I run isn’t about fighting against balanced encounters. I do have a “catch up” mechanic, but that’s because I’m trying to emulate how advancement in B/X works. B/X uses exponential tables. In B/X, if I die and come in at 1st level while the party is 6th, by the time they get to 7th, I’ll have caught back up to 6th.
I'm not that harsh on new characters - they generally come in about a level below the party's current average; or - if the party hits a lot of churn in a short time - at a "floor" that slowly rises as the party rises. I use a tweaked verion of the 1e exponential tables, thus catching up is possible.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The corollary aspect to all this, not yet mentioned, is that xp and-or levelling up their characters are the primary (and occasionally, only!) goals for some players, while others aren't as fussed about levelling and see it as no more than a pleasant side effect of the game-play they'd be doing anyway. Some players even see levelling as an annoyance if it happens too often and-or before they've established comfort with the powers etc. the character already has.

3e-4e-5e, with their very fast advancement rates in comparison to 2e and (if xp for gp is dropped) 1e, really lean hard into the levelling-as-focus side of it; along with promoting the character-build aspect of the game that such a focus on levelling brings with it.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
That may help stave off tyrant GMs, but it still leaves that caricaturized issue I have. Where everyone just waits for the part of the session where your character yells out, "DNYO-MITE" before enacting their explosives trait or whatever. I view it as enacting the same play over and over like you would expect on a sit-com or episodic television program. These XP systems often lack nuance and depth so the gameplay comes out static. I am, of course, being overcritical of the style of play, but its often the impression I am left with. Some may find that style engaging and the point of playing. YMMV.
That hasn’t been my experience with Blades in the Dark. People don’t always get every XP trigger, and sometimes it’s just not appropriate to take certain approaches (such as my leech’s trigger for technical skill or mayhem during a social score), or the situation doesn’t allow it (such as a recent score that was intended to be stealthy but resulted in everything’s being on fire — including an important family relationship). If this were a situation where the GM decided whether we got XP or what the adventure would be, then that would feel (and be) bad. However, we those were things we chose to do. When I choose not to solve a problem with technical skill or mayhem, or when other PCs make their own choices, we’re finding out things about these characters we wouldn’t find out otherwise. In fact, I think when XP triggers conflict that we tend to find out the most interesting things about our characters. Describing kid of play as just “like you would expect on a sit-com or episodic television program” does it a disservice.
 

payn

Legend
That hasn’t been my experience with Blades in the Dark. People don’t always get every XP trigger, and sometimes it’s just not appropriate to take certain approaches (such as my leech’s trigger for technical skill or mayhem during a social score), or the situation doesn’t allow it (such as a recent score that was intended to be stealthy but resulted in everything’s being on fire — including an important family relationship). If this were a situation where the GM decided whether we got XP or what the adventure would be, then that would feel (and be) bad. However, we those were things we chose to do. When I choose not to solve a problem with technical skill or mayhem, or when other PCs make their own choices, we’re finding out things about these characters we wouldn’t find out otherwise. In fact, I think when XP triggers conflict that we tend to find out the most interesting things about our characters.
Can you expand on that?
Describing kid of play as just “like you would expect on a sit-com or episodic television program” does it a disservice.
Perhaps it does, I cant help my experiences. I don't completely fault the mechanics, part of it is on the players, and likely, the combination of mechanics and playstyle together.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Can you expand on that?
I can try. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to follow a certain approach. You’re constrained by the fiction and the situation that has been framed. My character is a leech, so he gets to mark XP when he addresses a challenge with technical skill or mayhem. However, on a social score, is mayhem really appropriate? My character is good at social stuff, and I like doing that, so when that happens, we get to see what other things are important. Sometimes it’s the crew. Sometimes it’s his heritage. I still get XP for those things (due to drives, beliefs, heritage, and background being a trigger as well), but that usually comes at the cost of my mayhem triggers. At best, I may be able to trade on past mayhem (if I feel that should count, which I’m honestly not sure about).
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Perhaps it does, I cant help my experiences. I don't completely fault the mechanics, part of it is on the players, and likely, the combination of mechanics and playstyle together.
I should add that I have played in a FitD game (a past Scum and Villainy game) that was far lest dynamic than our Blades in the Dark game is. I can understand how things can turn out kind of episodic and how that would be unsatisfying. In our case, the GM was downplaying the faction stuff, which created little pressure to do things other than grind scores for creds. Even when we terraformed a planet, there was little actual consequences to it (when really it should have resulted in unwanted attention from and clocks for high-tier factions like the Guild of Engineers).
 

pemerton

Legend
I would really like to see something along the lines of an emergent and/or evolving playbook mechanic for character development. I am having trouble imaging what it would look like specifically
In slightly different ways, I would say that Torchbearer and Burning Wheel fit this description.

I think HeroWars/Quest does too, though that's based on reading rather than actual play.

MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic can also be like this.
 

payn

Legend
In slightly different ways, I would say that Torchbearer and Burning Wheel fit this description.

I think HeroWars/Quest does too, though that's based on reading rather than actual play.

MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic can also be like this.
I did one round of Burning Wheel and the GM was not the best. I'd give it another look but dont know anyone who runs it.
 

niklinna

Legend
I can try. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to follow a certain approach. You’re constrained by the fiction and the situation that has been framed. My character is a leech, so he gets to mark XP when he addresses a challenge with technical skill or mayhem. However, on a social score, is mayhem really appropriate? My character is good at social stuff, and I like doing that, so when that happens, we get to see what other things are important. Sometimes it’s the crew. Sometimes it’s his heritage. I still get XP for those things (due to drives, beliefs, heritage, and background being a trigger as well), but that usually comes at the cost of my mayhem triggers. At best, I may be able to trade on past mayhem (if I feel that should count, which I’m honestly not sure about).
Being in the same game with @kenada, I can say that it's much more interesting when XP triggers conflict—as in, you can't reasonably max out your XP in a session. To pursue your playbook triggers might ruin the score (which is a crew rather than character XP trigger, but still an XP trigger). Expressing your character's beliefs might conflict with struggling with vices (a stretch to be sure, but I've seen it happen). And conflict as such isn't even necessary; sometimes a given XP trigger just doesn't come up, or it would feel very forced to try to bring it up. In the very session @kenada mentions, things just kind of barreled along and I didn't get to bring up my character's vice or traumas, even though I'd had an idea for how that would likely happen before we started. But we had a surprise twist that changed the whole dynamic of the situation.

One more thing: While it does feel great to max out your possible XP—when you manage it too often, it starts to feel like a cakewalk. I've had a couple stretches like that and might even up my standards for what counts as meeting a given trigger condition!
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Milestone. We use inspiration as an RP reword (or rarely a combat award, if someone does something really cool in combat) and let people have up to three inspo at a time.
 

payn

Legend
Being in the same game with @kenada, I can say that it's much more interesting when XP triggers conflict—as in, you can't reasonably max out your XP in a session. To pursue your playbook triggers might ruin the score (which is a crew rather than character XP trigger, but still an XP trigger). Expressing your character's beliefs might conflict with struggling with vices (a stretch to be sure, but I've seen it happen). And conflict as such isn't even necessary; sometimes a given XP trigger just doesn't come up, or it would feel very forced to try to bring it up. In the very session @kenada mentions, things just kind of barreled along and I didn't get to bring up my character's vice or traumas, even though I'd had an idea for how that would likely happen before we started. But we had a surprise twist that changed the whole dynamic of the situation.

One more thing: While it does feel great to max out your possible XP—when you manage it too often, it starts to feel like a cakewalk. I've had a couple stretches like that and might even up my standards for what counts as meeting a given trigger condition!
I appreciate the input. I think thats my concern, I know plenty a gamer that would force their XP triggers in every session in some rather inorganic ways.
 

BTW, while "milestone" is often used as a shorthand for "milestone leveling", "milestone XP" works perfectly well and isn't talked about enough. Overcoming challenge X is worth Y XP. Doesn't matter if it's combat, stealth, social, bribe, knowledge-based-solution or whatever.
"Milestone XP" is way better than "milestone leveling", IME. An actual number in the sheet lets the players know how far they've advanced and helps them evaluate the risk/reward of challenges. Also, it mitigates "when do we level up" kind of questions. Do your math, kiddo, you level up when you get things done X times. Now go adventure.
 

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