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Monday, January 11, 2010

Experience Points

Most game systems use some type of point system to determine how/when a character makes advancements, either in class abilities, skills, or both. There are various explanations of what Experience Points (XPs) represent and how to collect them. Games that provide faster advancement for the PCs usually have multiple ways to provide gaining XP, but not always. There are various examples of what XPs represent, from learning on the adventuring job, to total knowledge, to experiences but none of it really matters. Why bother to metagame what they are? The character doesn't know he has any 'Experience Points", just that after several adventures he is getting better at what he does. In the end, it's all just bookeeping for the player and a number that gets compared to the XP chart for whatever class a player is playing. For my own games over the years, I've settled on the following ways to grant XP:
  • Showing up and playing while having a good time: 1/20 of the XP needed to level.
Now this might seem like an oddity to some old school players, but to me it's the root of the game - gathering to have fun. If you sit at my table and the entire session turns out to be a pure role-playing session, your character still earns some XPs.
  • Defeating Monsters (kills or innovative victory): Monster XP.
This is a no-brainer - even the earliest RPGs use this to award XP. I also count 'overcoming' monsters without killing them. If you can trick an ogre into going the other way and not eating you just for kicks, then you earn the XP for the encounter. Of course, some of those monsters may show back up at an inconvient time...
  • Using other skills to aid the party: 100 xp.
Huh? What's this? I play old school and the World of Onn is based on old school - no thieves or other 'professional' classes are available to players for their characters. All characters can attempt to do things that 'modern' games consider using a class for. Sneaking, trap springing, hiding, swimming...these are all things every character can try. If a the party finds a trap on a locked chest and it is determined to be a poisoned needle, the character that comes up with a good idea to defeat the trap (and risks falling prey to it) gains a small bump in his earned XP due to the fact he's working the problem and risking his hide.
  • Sacrificing Magic Item to aid the party: 100 xp, 1,000 xp, 5,000 xp or 10,000 xp.
Here I'm not talking about using up your magic arrows, but sacrificing a prized possession, like a Fighting-man using his prized +1 Long Sword to wedge a door closed when nothing else large enough is at hand and if the party doesn't escape it will lose members (or more members if there was a bad combat before hand and they are fleeing for their lives). If the Fighting-man doesn't have another magical weapon, or has one that is less important than his sword, then he earns an XP award based on the item's level of power.
  • Gold Earned on an adventure: 1 xp per 10 gold pieces.
This isn't the gold they found on an adventure, but the amount of wealth they returned to a safe home base or civilized place carrying. Sometimes you kill the dragon and claim its hoard, but if its mate returns and you beat a hasty retreat with a handful of gems or coins, well them's the breaks. You still have your lives to continue adventuring with and the ability to gather more wealth.

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