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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What Alternative Methods of Awarding Experience Points Do You Use?

Building upon yesterday's conversation about experience point bonuses, I thought I'd mention some alternative methods I've experimented with to award expo.

For my "B Team" that is going through Castle of the Mad Archmage, I want to encourage exploration of the dungeon and discourage the "rest and repeat" that was so common in the dungeon crawling of my earlier days of gaming. Each room or encounter area explored without resting has an increasing bonus. I've constantly experimented with the numbers.

Room explored squared x 10  -  ex: 5th room without resting would be worth 5x5x10 = 250 expo to be split by the party.

Room explored added to previous  -  ex: 5th room without resting would be worth (1+2+3+4+5) x 10 = 150 expo to be split by the party. This is usually multiplied by the dungeon level.

Yes, I'm still tweaking.

I tend to award less GP than is expected by classic versions of the rules.

I also award a 10% bonus to expo for write ups on blogs or campaign forum or the like. Helps me better remember the previous sessions highlights ;)

So, what alternative methods of awarding experience points do you use?


  1. 100 xp times the character level times a factor plus the xp value of any monsters killed. The factor range from 1 to 4 and depends on the significance of any personal or party goals that was achieved that sessions.

  2. I never was a fan of a math contest

  3. I give XP for several things. First and foremost, combat XP: I give 15 per point of damage caused, 20 per point of damage received, as well as an extra 15 per point received divided among the group.

    Spells earn 20 x spell level for the caster (unless it deals damage and that XP is greater). 0 level spells earn 10 XP.

    Treasure earned by stressful endeavor (typically combat) earns one XP per GP value, split as the group desires.

    Since skills in my game don't increase with levels (because levels are a measure of combat effectiveness) each successful use of a skill earns one Skill XP. Seven Skill XP mean a +1 bonus to that skill. The next bonus requires 8 more Skill XP.

    Crunchy, yes, but not at all arbitrary.

  4. I like the idea, but I'm not sure if I would want such an increased pace of advancement. For a party of four, this means exploring 13 rooms in a row secures hitting level 2 (14 rooms if you're a MU and 12 if a cleric); similarly, 14 rooms for a party of 5 and 15 rooms for a party of 6 have the same effect.

  5. 100 exp per encounter HD/level split up with party, but half again to a fighter that beats a foe in single combat. 100 exp per dungeon level to each character the first time they penetrate a specific level in a dungeon and explore enough rooms (usually 5). Loot spent of sacrifices, training, carousing, and bribes goes towards exp (not just hauling it out).
    I'll award a 5 to 10% bonus for great ideas that move things along and good roleplaying (up t o 3 times a session).

  6. AD&D 1e system I used for about a decade.
    1) Rate all adventures from 1 to 5 in difficulty with 3 being average (values 0.8, 0.9, 1.0, 1.1, 1.2)
    2) After the game rate how the party did from 1 to 5 with 3 being average (values 0.8, 0.9, 1.0, 1.1, 1.2)
    3) Average 1 and 2 to get a total rating, R
    4) Determine the average level of the party, L
    5) Determine which class requires the most experience points to advance from min XP for the party average level to the next level - use that amount of experience as the base award, B
    6) Use this formula to determine the XP award:
    (B/L^2) * R = XP award

    Simple, right?

  7. Exp for gold as primary method, slaying monsters as least good method, variety of random bonuses for exploration and stuff - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1H24aVy2yk_vcJyPSUaEkqUiJZwFQL7iBylt8nylASbY/edit?usp=sharing

    Also for each "interesting thing that happened" in the game which is entirely arbitrary.

  8. 10 XP per level. 1 or 2 xp per session, depending on how much they accomplish. AND - you can spend 1 XP per session for a reroll to save your sorry butt :)

  9. Monsters overcome (not necessarily killed -- talking or sneaking your way past is just as good) + Treasure looted as the base. To this I add small bonuses as they come up for achieving goals (their own or those proposed by NPCs), exploration milestones, finding particularly cool, creative ways of overcoming problems, game-relevant jokes that knock me off my chair, etc.

  10. Body bags filled and treasure chests emptied. That's it.

    I'm not opposed to other systems, as long as they're objective (specific goals met, dungeon levels cleared, anything that's defined and measurable really). Subjective or arbitrary awards don't interest me.

    1. treasure bags emptied and body chests filled. or something

  11. Honestly, I used to calculate every monster and every gold piece and piece of treasure, but nowadays I just hand-wave it. "You each get 500 x.p., but Amy, you stole the ring from the Duke's finger, so you get 300 extra."

  12. I like the room squared method, I might have to incorporate that into my dungeon crawls.

    I currently give a 'time served' bonus at the end of each session, roughly 50 times the average level of the party times the number of hours we've played that session. So a 5th level party playing for 5 hours gets a 1250 xp bonus. Not insignificant, but it keeps things from stagnating and if it's a slow monster/treasure night makes the players feel like their characters are still progressing. None of my group have the luxury of playing 2-3 times a week and this hits the right spot in terms of progression over real time passed for everyone, arbitrary though it is.

  13. I just give XPs to players who turn up for the session. There are no dicks in my group and we have gamed together for years so just getting together is reward enough regardless of whether the session was a dungeon hack, a political intrigue, or just a sharing laughs session.

    Simple formula, 50 XPs multiplied by 2 to the power of highest character level minus 1.

    e.g. highest character is level 5, everyone who turns up gets 50 x 2 ^ (5-1) XPs = 800 XPs.

    In B/X a Thief needs 10k XPs to get from 5th to 6th level so that equates to ca. 12 sessions (for us, weeks), which seems about right.

    If you write the session up for the campaign blog you get a double award.

  14. That's pretty much the exact same method I settled on for exploration experience after our last session.

    I'm thinking that it will need to scale with level. Maybe instead of just using a flat x10 multiplier, I should multiply rooms-squared by the total experience value of the toughest encounter they defeat divided by the number of party members. Or something else that measures how risky the exploration was.

  15. First, let me say I love how you're going about pushing your players not to rest and repeat. I'm totally stealing that in my next OSR campaign.

    I give 2 EXP rewards each game. The technical reward for the encounters/combats/investigation, etc. And I usually calculate the amount to be enough EXP to level the group, on average, every 8 sessions.

    Secondly, I have poker chips I keep in a pile behind my dungeon screen. I toss them to players during the night, whenever they do something really spectacular. Usually, an awesome in character thing, something hilarious, or selfless, etc. Something that makes the group cheer or laugh or groan. Then at the end of the night, everyone counts up their chips. We roll a set of dice to find a number. The dice pool increases with the groups level. The result of the die roll is then the base number to be multiplied by the number of chips you got in the night. So, early in the campaign, the dice pool might be a 1d4 and d%. This would get a result of between 100-499. Whatever you roll, you multiply that by the number of poker chips you got. If you were not on your game and mostly letting everyone else do the talking, you might only get a chip or two. But if you are juiced up and bring your A game doing all sorts of great stuff at the table that entertains everyone (particularly me the DM) then some folks have gotten as many as 10 chips in a night. It's also allowed to give your chips away if you want to reward someones actions when the DM didn't feel compelled to do so. I've been able to balance it so that roughly 1/2 of the EXP comes from the actual game and roughly half comes from table participation. It keeps everyone engaged and happy and results in a the players leveling up about every 4-5 sessions.

  16. The method that I have found works best is 1 xp per gp spent. While I have seen xp being given for a whole myriad of reasons, xp for gp spent offers players control over how their character earns xp. Sure, they have go and find treasure, but then that treasure is used by the player to determine what kind of character they play. Drunken carousing? XP. Tithing to the Church? XP. Investing in a business? XP. Funding a mercenary company? XP.

    In this way, players get literally invested in both who their characters are and in the world they live in.

    1. See, that's the thing i don't understand. How does spending money tie in to increasing a character's combat effectiveness? Because that is primarily whay leveling up is, more HP, better to hit bonus, better saves. Fighting makes you better at fighting, not drinking yourself into the gutter every night for a week. Also, what happens when the characters are out in the wilderness for a month fighting in the gnoll wars and don't get an opportunity to spend any gold? A month of daily skirmishes isn't enough for a level but dropping 10,000 in the offering plate is? I just don't understand the logic of that.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Although awarding XP for gold earned vs. gold spent is different, that difference is ignored for the sake of my argument.

      XP is the sole reward mechanism D&D has when it comes to incentivising player behaviour regarding the focus of the game. Because the game is about exploring dungeons in the most efficient manner, awarding XP for it essentially reinforces the idea. It follows from this that if your game focuses on something else, you should obviously change what you award XP for.

    4. I suppose so. Then our differences come from what we expect/desire the players to do then. My philosophy is to run a world for my players, not to run the players through my world. I don't need or want to inventivize any particular activity. And since I have no expectations of my players on that front, I have to look at what a level does and gear the XP towards making sense in light of that end. Level up means better combat or spellcasting, so for me XP is tied to combat and spellcasting.

      I guess I just have to remember that a lot of people play a different game than I do.

    5. HD and to hit bonuses are mechanical ways of expressing character growth primarily because D&D comes out of wargaming not because the game necessarily represents combat = experience.

      There are all kinds of ways to explain away why a character stuck in the wilderness doesn't level up. It took me years to "get" reading. Didn't matter how many times I repeated the fundamentals. Sure you hacked through dozens of gnolls, but that doesn't mean you learned anything.

      On the other hand, making mistakes (like ending up in a gutter) can often be better lessons than success.

      @Shelby, if your interest is letting your players go through your world, then 1 xp = 1 gp spent is a great way to let them take control of what incentivizes them within that world. Yes, they will need treasure, but after that it really is entirely in their hands as to what is important to them and their character.

    6. "HD and to hit bonuses are mechanical ways of expressing character growth primarily because D&D comes out of wargaming not because the game necessarily represents combat = experience."

      HD and to hit bonuses are mechanical ways of expressing character growth in combat ability. More HD means you are better at not being killed. Better to hit bonuses means you are better at killing other things. That is the effect of a level up, is it not? In the same way, I assign XP for loot won by combat. This gives the players an opportunity to divide up supplementary combat XP as they see fit, to reward individual effort with a bonus share, or the whole kaboodle if they want, or to just split it evenly. But it's still tied to combat.

      If spending gold on different things in town affected how you leveled up, I could get behind that idea - spend it at the temple, get XP towards Cleric; spend it at the bar, get XP towards Bard or Barbarian, spend it at the weaponsmith, XP towards Fighter; that sort of thing. But in my world, if anyone came along and dropped a thousand GP in the offering plate, you can bet they have made some powerful friends in the church. Drop it at the bar, you've got a free room for life (so long as you don't break anything). Invest in a shop, you'll reap a return on your investment, get in good with the local authorities, start making connections to the nobility. Lots of rewards, but they are related to what the characters do.

      Yes absolutely good roleplaying should reap rewards, but those rewards should be directly related to the actions undertaken. If a Fighter spends an evening in a tavern telling tales of his exploits, he'll make some friends, impress some people. But it won't make him any better at fighting. If he wants to get better at fighting, he better go practice.

  17. I run only Play by Post games except for the random Face to Face game for local troubled youth, but those are one-shots with pre-gens, so I don't worry about XP for those.

    In PbP games, I tie the XP advance to the Chapter. So at the end of a chapter, which would equate to 6 months or so of real-time, the characters all level up. For rewards for good RP or whatever, I give virtual "re-roll tokens" or Advantage or Disadvantage situations (I stole that and a few other nifty more modern, things for my old school games). This takes the calculation of XP and the consideration of more +/- modifiers to rolls out of the picture, and it really streamlines the PbP experience for the players while cutting down my workload a bit and speeding up the game.

    My alternative system that I was using before I got lazy is the following:

    I'd have the base XP for next level be 10 for each character. Those that had a 10% Ability bonus would only need 9, Those with a 5% bonus would need 9 every other level up. I would then frame my "Chapters" around 10 XP worth of "events". Victory in a fight might gain 1XP, or maybe 2-3 for a boss, finding an important bit of game info or doing something in-character that advanced the plot would get 1XP, etc. I wouldn't railroad my players, but I'd have a rough idea of how the chapter should advance and reward XP accordingly. Certain classes would level up a bit faster, but over a three-year game, there wouldn't be a huge gap in levels and the characters grew reasonably well.

    I coupled this with my Ability score advancements I explained in the other thread, and it has worked out really well. The players that liked the "crunch" got what they wanted, and those that didn't, weren't affected as it was an easy system for everyone. I grant that this system might not work well at all for a FtF group playing every week. Back in the day when I ran GURPS for weekly FtF games in college, the experience point expectation was certainly a part of the game, as was the "crunch". Now, it seems like XP has become something of an after-thought as the players look for story-related reasons for their progression.

    In PbP, for a lazy father of d6+1 children, like me, with little time for planning, the more simple the system and more quirky fun I can add in, the better for me and my players. I've had a great group going in one game for almost 3 years now, and another game that's been going for nearly 7. In that time, we've found that level-ups are almost coming as a pleasant surprise instead of the yearning grind for more power. It's helped our stories come to the front and the rules fade to the back. Which is cool.