Tuesday, July 26, 2022

My Alternative XP system

 I was talking with Russ over at Yum/DM about using the traditional OD&D / AD&D treasure for XP system, and how it tends to strongly constrain play to one style.

This is fair. I have been playing in the Weirth campaign for two years with the treasure for XP rules, training, and expensive hirelings... Not to mention very profitable carousing. I enjoy this style of game. But it has had it's downside. Some players feel a pressing desire to follow certain emergent plots... Like a prophecy we believe we can follow to put a stop the walking dead from rising... While others just want to level up, even if it means putting big heroic deeds off to tomorrow.

My System 

I personally prefer a slightly looser system of rewards  that keep the players seeking adventure, but don't require them to chase the almighty gold piece if they don't feel like it.

I have used a hybrid system based on a mix of Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG from Goodman Games and the system presented in The Dozen Dooms by Baldrage. Here is my basics:

PCs are rewarded XP for overcoming challenges.

"Overcoming Challenges"

What counts of overcoming is contextual. The encounter must carry risk of mission failure, injury loss of resources, or humiliation to count as a challenge. And players must require more than a single roll to solve the problem: it must be role-played in some way other than "making a check."

The challenge is overcome when the PCs neutralize the problem in a way that lets them move towards their current goals. But the how is not important. In fact, creativity is encouraged.

Thus if a monster is guarding a substantial treasure that the PCs decide they want, they can overcome the challenge by:

  • Killing the monster.
  • Distracting it and string the treasure.
  • Taking it by stealth.
  • Mind controlling it.
  • Conning it into giving away it's treasure.
  • Fooling a bigger monster into attacking it, then pillaging the hoard while it flees.
  • Using magic to transport the treasure away from the monster.
  • Converting it to the Cleric's religion and claiming it as a tithe.

All are legitimate solutions to the stated problem of "how do we get the gold away from that monster?"

"Rewarded XP" 

I keep my XP requirements very mathematically simple. Small, easily tracked numbers are your friend.

My goal is to gauge how much of a real challenge the encounter proved to the PCs. An challenge that the PCs solved easily and at little cost, even if the numbers were against them wasn't much of a challenge. On the other hand a simple encounter that nearly killed them because they were I'll prepared and unlucky was a real learning experience for the characters.

  • I reward 1 XP for most challenges
  • If the challenge caused serious injury, loss of face, or use of rare and precious resources I add +1 XP.
  • If the players were exceptionally creative, skillful, clever, or simply played their characters to the hilt, I reward+1 XP 

That's it.

1 for most challenges, 2 for the rare exceptional play or getting their butts kicked. 3 when awesome player skill saved the day when things were looking bleak.

The XP Table

A level is gained when the PCs accrue XP equal to their one half their next level times 10. So level 2 is reached at 10. Level 3 after another 15. Level 4 after another 20.

A character resets to 0 each time they level up to keep tracking simple. A character must have downtime of at least a week in civilization to level up.

This means that at high levels PCs need to take big risks or use serious smarts to level as  quickly as they did in the mid levels.

Training (Optional)

If I want to get the PCs to spend their ill-gotten gains, I ask them to spend 25 times their needed experience to level up. So level 2 costs 250 gp. Level 6 would cost a 5th level character 30 XP and 750 gp.

And a week of downtime per level.

A Favorite Old System

In AD&D2e, players were awarded a little for bringing treasure back to civilization at the Dam's option. And they were awarded XP for monsters "defeated.' Which even then I took in its literal meaning: PCs got XP when they come into conflict with a creature and they come out on top, whether the creature was killed, tricked, or otherwise.

But on top of those PCs were awarded XP for using their abilities to overcome challenges:

  • Thieves were awarded XP for successfully using their skills. And extra XP for gp of treasure recovered.
  • Magic Users were rewarded for overcoming obstacles by casting spells (bigger rewards for using higher level spells.)
  • Fighters were rewarded XP for ever hit die worth of monsters they slew in single combat.
  • Cleric's were rewarded for turning undead, healing their allies, casting boosting spells, and conducting religious ceremony.

This system was awesome to my mind because it was a way for thieves and wizards to gain XP for doing more than blasting .

Thieves got XP for handling traps (which otherwise had no reward) and had a motivation to steal, seek out hidden treasures, help the party, and play a greedy character in general.

Fighters not out get rewarded for the death of monsters, but for facing down and destroying enemies without waiting for the fireball to soften them up. 

Cleric's had some incentive to play out the rites of their faith and support the party.

With the exception of fighters, the rest of the party can level up without combat by instead using their abilities to get around trouble.

And with the exception of the thief, it doesn't really force a playstyle. A PC is free to tackle whatever goal is at hand and still reap the rewards, whether they killed monsters and took their stuff or not.

My Next Experiment

I. thinking of adding an XP bonus of +2 each adventure if the PCs used their class abilities to solve problems along the lines presented in AD&D2e and see how it impacts the player's style and behavior.

I will post results once I see if it changes the party dynamics in a helpful way.

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