Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Are You Experienced? Awarding Expo Houserules


Magic items found.

Defeating monsters.

That is pretty much the ways to get expo in 1e by the book, as well as being in order of importance.

I find that expo awarding is one of the most house ruled parts of gaming. Me, I house rule it for pacing purposes.

In my once a month S&W delve into the Castle of the Mad Archmage, I find I need to award more expo than I would in a weekly game. My players want to explore, I went them to explore, and the only way to accomplish that is to award more expo so they can level a bit faster.

What I do with them is I offer a "room bonus" based on the number of rooms explored without taking a break to camp or re-memorize spells. The first room is worth 10xp for the party, the second 30xp, the third 60xp and so on. I cap it ay 1k per room, and dungeon levels that are not much of a challenge either grant reduced xp or none at all for exploring.

This has the potential of pushing my party to take risks. One more room could be an extra 1k xp in the party xp pool - it could also mean a TPK when they are low on HP and spells.

Does it get any better than this? ;)


  1. This has just solved so much for me ... :D

  2. Never heard of xp granted by found magic item, Erik. Where is this rules?

  3. The same room XP is in NGR with three additional quirks you may want:
    1.) A room can only be explored once, no matter how many delves.
    2.) The first room is worth nothing (have to explore at least 2 to get 10 xp, 3 to get 30)
    3.) The XP is multiplied by the level of the dungeon.

  4. @The Scarecrow: it's in the AD&D DMG.

    I might consider this XP by Room schema. There is something that feels right about it.

  5. I like room xp bonus idea. Consider it stolen.

    I generally award bonus XPs for accomplishing goals -- goals set by the party and goals suggested by events in the campaign. So if the party decides to overthrow the mayor of the local city, they will get an xp bonus for doing it. I try to make sure that all-roleplaying sessions are worth as much xp as all-combat or all-exploration sessions, so there is no disincentive to RP.

    The other thing I give bonuses for (usually on the order of 100 x party level) is writing up session summaries or other out-of-session fiction/background stuff and post it to the group by email. It helps keep everyone in the loop and engaged, even if they miss a session, so I think it is worth a little benefit. The current DM in my group has started giving a re-roll for that instead and that seems equally incentivizing.

    @Scarecrow -- AD&D 1e, in the DMG, you get XP for finding and keeping a magic item.

  6. I found a simple way to bump xp for games that happen infrequently is to not to have the players split the treasure/monster-deafeating xp. Everybody gets the total from everything they kill or loot, assuming of course that they survive the adventure.

    1. I've done that, especially for games I run with my kids.

    2. The last campaign I ran, I had so many players missing sessions due to work, etc. that we began to have big disparities between PC levels -- so much so that the low level guys couldn't survive a session (I don't make monsters hold back or always pick the strongest foes). So we had what the party called a "communist revolution" and everyone just got the same XP, and I just recorded "party XP". Level varied only by class. I am not sure I'd do it again, but it was interesting.
      I like the undivided XP idea for infrequent games.

  7. I like this idea. Thanks for sharing, Erik!

  8. Some mistakes I made early on:

    1) Going strictly by the book with "normal" treasure awards -- at the rate of one 3-hour session per week, advancement was way too slow.

    2) Increasing the treasure -- a panic move to cure player impatience. This minor disaster flooded my game with wealth, which ceased to have any meaning except as a means of delivering more XP.

    Over time and with a good deal of experimentation, I finally arrived at the following system:

    1) Standard XP for monsters defeated and treasure collected (with treasure remaining relatively scarce).

    2) Session Bonus: 100 XP per character level -- thanks for showing up!

    3) Story Goal Bonus: 100 XP per character level -- when the party accomplishes something significant.

    4) "Rumor Tags": 100 XP per character level -- each time the party confirms the veracity of a rumor they have heard. I feel this really makes my sandbox sing, giving my players a completely new relationship to campaign information they would have previously ignored or soon forgotten.

    5) Wounds. This idea is borrowed from Rolemaster, and is the most math-intensive of my awards. Basically, for every HP of damage you take, you get XP equal to the amount you need for the next level, divided by your normal maximum HP, divided by 10. This "push your luck" reward ends up being a more reliable source for combat-focused characters, but ultimately more rewarding to those who typically hang back (having fewer HP increases the award), so it seems to work out in the end.

    Note that my non-traditional awards are all scaled to character level (directly or indirectly). I find this allows characters of varying levels to align their goals together, which in turn allows me to run a higher mortality game. My campaign is about a year old now and only one character, now closing in on 5th level, has survived from the beginning. Bringing up the rear is a magic-user who recently advanced for the first time. The "veteran" character is the only one still sitting on a pile of wealth dating from the big money dump, so treasure in modest amounts remains an enticement to everyone else.

    1. I should clarify that a "year" in this case equals 24 sessions -- weekly sessions when possible, but with the usual breaks and lapses.

  9. My one consistent XP hack has been granting encounter XP for *any* potentially perilous meeting with monsters or NPC's. Kill the orcs, parlay with the orcs, or trick the orcs into running down the wrong corridor ... it all counts the same. Helps the players rememebr that combat isn't always the the primary solution when having encounters.

    1. I've always done this and consider it BtB, not a hack. Overcoming monsters happens, as you note, in many different ways. :)

  10. Having the per-room bonus has encouraged us to keep exploring, keep pushing on, and not dawdle in already explored areas. It hasn't really tempted us to crazy excess of risk, but it does weight the coin on the side of "one more room." Which is good. It's been fun.

  11. Erik, you might enjoy this article by The Angry DM: http://www.madadventurers.com/angry-rants-lazy-dms-and-non-experience-systems/

  12. Hi Erik. I sent you a private Facebook msg but I don't think you saw it. Can you get back in touch with me please. Thanks.


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