The WotC designers have just presented some polls about how XP progression should work in D&D Next and there’s a lively discussion on ENWorld about it. I have mentioned in passing that none of our group’s Pathfinder campaigns use XP any more, but I thought this was a good time to unpack that a little and discuss why XP are an outmoded solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist.
Some of the drawbacks of XP are obvious. It adds a significant amount of non-fun accounting to the game. Most of that burden is on the GM, who has to look up charts and add numbers like it’s tax time for the last 15 minutes of the session, and then all the players get to do some too. This is Dungeons & Dragons, not Accountants & Ledgers. The justification is usually that it’s a “necessary evil” as the only sound way to conduct character advancement; we’ll examine the falseness of this claim below.
It Makes Adventures Suck More
I was just listening to a Know Direction podcast where Amber Scott was talking about the process of working on an Adventure Path chapter lately, and discussed that some of the challenge was the changing/padding required to generate the ‘right XP budget’ and that the actual theme/story of the adventure had to be compromised somewhat to make that work. That sucks, and it illustrates how any published adventure has to make a lot of Hobson’s choices just to get the ‘correct amount’ of XP generated. I had a discussion with James Jacobs about a number of questionable, from the story and GM standpoint, decisions in the Dragon’s Demand module – it was giving out “story awards” to the tune of 200 XP for climbing a DC10 mount of rubble to enter the dungeon. He justified it by saying “Yes but we need people to get from first to sixth level over the course of this one module to fight our end dragon so we padded the shit out of it” (I’m paraphrasing :-).
RPGA/Organized Play adventures, from my experience there, suffer horribly from this problem. I was a Living Greyhawk Triad and most attempts to innovate in adventures were squashed by the ever-dominant need to have “N encounters that generate X XP for levels Y-Z in H hours.” Of course the other layers of homogeneity required of OP on top of that make the problem even worse, but that’s a big part of it. And in the end, if there is a “correct amount” of XP to give, then why are you spending the effort to micromanage it?
So basically the adventures we play are not as good as they could be from other perspectives because of this unnecessary constraint.
It Makes Players Suck More
Here’s the deal – I like open-ended, in character roleplay, and the ability for PCs to innovate to reach their goals (often referred to as Combat As War in online discussions). XP for monsters (I’m not sure adding “for gp” really helps that) drives a playstyle where you confront everything head-on, grinding like it’s WoW. If the goal is “save the princess from a castle full of bad guys,” you can’t just do that, because the ugly head of metagaming rises up and says “If you just scry and teleport in and grab her you won’t get as many XP as if you do a room-to-room fight with every orc…” Therefore you start making decisions based on metagame concerns instead of in-game factors. Of course as the GM you can try to give compensating story awards for solving it with different approaches – but then why are you tracking XP again, if there’s a “right number” to give?
I was in a team that took Silver in the D&D Open at Gen Con back in… Uh, the 1990s sometime. We didn’t get Gold, we were told, because we bypassed the penultimate encounter (a nuisance encounter of some humanoids) by flying over it to beard the BBEG directly. So even though our judge said we rocked the adventure and did it better/faster/cheaper (no character loss) than everyone else, you know, we didn’t harvest enough souls. Lesson learned, we’ll shout our battle cry of “No Witnesses!” in the future.
Obviously, the theory behind XP is that they are a needed reward system. Pavlov, Gygax, and Ayn Rand have worked together to come up with the ultimate system of motivating PCs to go out there and adventure, and it is both that and a semi-realistic way to reflect people getting better at what they do.
The problem is, these motivations are a thin lie to begin with, and don’t accomplish their desired ends in practice either.
First alleged reason to have XP, motivation. Without XP you don’t incentivize desired behavior in the game. I’m pretty sure we all play D&D to have fun, and adventuring is fun. If there weren’t XP, would our characters not go out and defeat the invading orc hordes? What degree of player and GM sucking must be required for such a low rung on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to kick in?
Second alleged reason to have XP, realism. It models the growth of your character by getting better through experience and shepherds them through their Campbellian arc. OK, so the more goblins I murder, I get better at playing my lute? Ridiculous. You could make this claim for a system like BRP where you “tick” skills you use and those skills advance, but the dull blade of XP as implemented in D&D and its derivatives can make no such virtuous claim to simulation.
Let’s look at XP in practice. First, let’s assume you are running a story-oriented game, or using an Adventure Path or series of modules (that’s not a new idea, ahem, T1-4, A-14, GDQ1-7). To not have that go badly awry, you need the PCs to be at a certain level at certain times. So unless they successfully tread the primrose path on the adventure you’ve set up for them, you as the GM end up needing to accommodate that. Throw in some random encounters, some story awards, role-playing awards, some side adventures, because you know you can’t send them to the Demonweb unless they’re at least approaching the right level.
But if you are trying to generate a ‘correct amount’ of XP then having XP is of no value, as it loses its lovely alleged Randian properties. It can’t motivate behavior if you’re trying to get them to the right number by any means necessary. You could argue that it provides the illusion of player agency, if your players are dumb, but in the end you have a predetermined outcome and are forcing yourself and your players to jump through more and more hoops to realize it. Boo.
But XP also hurts sandbox gaming. Why? It’s the Gygax Way, right, he wouldn’t have written it if it wasn’t the right thing to do? Don’t tell me about “OSR” like I’m a noob; I’ve been playing D&D since the original Red Box.
D&D is still a game full of murderous cretins, and the XP system is a lot of the reason for that. I find it hard to say that the behaviors XP drive are actually the desired ones. Even the D&D Next article I link discusses XP in terms of “how many goblins you need to kill to level.” As discussed above, actual innovative goal-achievement, one of the pillars of the OSR, is quite specifically countermanded by XP (unless, again, you adopt the “give them anyway” rubric, and get to do extra math to justify a predetermined outcome). A decent GM should be able to reward desired behavior in the game. Do you get nothing for saving the princess or completing a quest besides XP, really? And if you get loot, isn’t that its own reward?
Well, what we do is “level when the GM says.” Pretty simple. Sure, this might be a problem in those first spazzy 12-year-old games we all had, where the GM’s trying to screw the players and all – but how many pages of rules have been written trying to fix that lowest-common-denominator problem, and has it actually succeeded? No, those who are playing “level 30 silver dragons!” or “being killed by cats!” type games continue to do so. This approach requires zero math and is very easy for the GM – pulling out a level 7 adventure you want to run? You don’t have to throw weeks of grind at the PCs, just tell them “you level!” In my Reavers campaign, the PCs are like 7th level after four years of play, because I have plenty of piratey adventures appropriate for those levels to bring them!
Or… Now, this is super hippy-dippy, and I know that before I say it, but you could even just level by consensus, in a more sandbox game. If the GM cares about what level they’re prepping for, then the GM should level. If the GM is just “whatever, I’m a judge OD&D style, hexcrawl yourselves into a coma” then maybe players should spend more time at the levels they enjoy. I personally would usually vote not to level, as I enjoy the low/mid-levels best and over about 12 starts to suck.
Or, you could level by IRL time. This is interesting because it allows you to set a goal as to how long a campaign should take, and since levels will vary it will vary the speed at which the PCs progress to naturally keep them on track. Let’s say our gaming group says “OK, Paul is going to run Wrath of the Righteous next, and we want it to last a year and then go on to something else.” Then you set out a schedule – to finish out, PCs have to be level 16, so they need to get more than a level per month, say one every 3 weeks, to make that happen. So then level on schedule. This is kinda brilliant, because as you level up, earlier parts of the adventure get easier, and you accelerate – more encounters/day, more adventure/IRL week. If you get ahead, it’s harder, and you are slowed down accordingly.
You can somewhat mitigate the cost vs benefit equation here by using a simpler rubric, like “you level after X adventures/sessions/whatever”, where X = character level or a constant. This loses some GM control (especially if it’s “sessions”) but it’s a good compromise for, say, Organized Play setups where you need a way to track character leveling outside the bounds of a traditional campaign.
A very simulation-minded GM could derive their own way of character advancement – in-game time, whatever – easily on top of this framework.
XP As An Option?
Sure, but so, in D&D Next or whatever, can’t we just have XP as an option and “GM levels whenever” as an option?
As described above, XP forces compromise from both the adventure author and GM in terms of adventure design and the players in terms of in-character play. Having “the option” not to XP doesn’t help that all that much – we already have that option, but our adventures and players are still tainted by the XP-oriented mindset. So even those deciding not to use XP will get compromise adventures that had to be designed with that stricture in mind. Kill it with fire.
XP Should Be Buried Now
I know that it’s so “traditional” that it’s hard to accept, but after 30 years of gaming and some careful analysis I really can’t say that the many man-hours spent calculating XP (or worse, gerrymandering it as a GM) have had anywhere near a positive return on investment in terms of game quality or fun.
It’s interesting that the WotC article discusses rewards in terms of mechanics — whether it be experience points, treasure, new abilities — but seems to overlook rewards like going to new locations, meeting new characters, or encountering new monsters.
It’s one of the things that’s attractive about old-school D&D but I’m not sure it’s ever quite stated as such by OSR enthusiasts and as a result I suspect there’s a bit of a misunderstanding about the play style; it may take the equivalent of 134 goblins to get to second level but there should be more going on in that game than just a meat grinder.
When my group plays Pathfinder we more or less add new levels by a combination of GM decision and the timed method; we know that book one of the campaign takes characters from first to third level, for example, so our GM decides on some rough points in the book where it would be appropriate to award a level. I think it helps that we find the official adventures to be unbalanced in the players’ favour so there’s less chance of us being overpowered by the opposition because we haven’t progressed fast enough.
All of which is to say, I agree with your post.
I completely agree – it gets even more annoying when a PC dies or gets replaced and there are houserules about starting a level lower or whatever. I really can’t be bothered with characters having different levels, and I really don’t like individual rewards. If one guy is cut off by being an idiot, and wins a few fights all alone he could end up being better than the rest of the party. If they ended up suffering losses rescuing him then that’s going to cause unrest.
All for one, one for all and the DM says “Good job, level up guys” every so often. I concur!
OH.. Heaven forbid the players have to WORK for their levels. if we do away with XP, why don’t we do away with levels as well, and skill requirements, and classes, and races, and the need to actually roll the dice. The player’s are automatically the best at everything, the monsters always die, and yay. the game now sucks.
congratulation on your perfect example of the “Slippery Slope Logic Fallacy” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope
Hey while your puttering around wikipedia try looking up this thing called sarcasm captain oblivious.
You’re my hero of the day.
I couldn’t disagree more. While I play almost exclusively Pathfinder now, I run everything on the slow experience point track. It allows me, as a GM, wiggle room. If I feel the players have been doing their best to hold up their end of the game, then sometimes they don’t need every little sliver of xp, I just bonus it in. Playing in alignment, playing with our bastardized honor, and not indulging in a lot of table talk helps that. I also have two bookshelves of material eventually I want to squeeze into a gaming session, so a slow XP does help me out.
I like the accounting of it, because while I’m doing that, we’re still shooting the bull, we’re possibly even in character. I’m going over rules issues while I conclude the divy and then I announce it while the players are ready to receive.
If DNDN will be eschewing experience points then I probably will treat it like I did 4th edition D&D. I won’t buy it. I didn’t like what I read in their DMG for that edition, and likely I won’t enjoy what I read in this new edition.
But that is what separates me from other people. I game what I like, and there is a seat for every player. At possibly someone else’s table. Hasbro isn’t coming to my table with AK’s drawn to force me to play their game, neither will Paizo coerce me to not use Kenzer-style explosive die results for some spells.
The entire game is set upon a few parameters and they fit within the pasture of “if this works for your group, then awesome, if not, try something else.” The rules, they’re a guideline. If you want to run with that, awesome. I will run my game a different way.
@ADisgruntledOldSchoolDM and (though a little less so) @BruceLombardo, guess how I know you two didn’t read my actual article?
I like slow advancement too, did you miss my description of my 4 year campaign where the PCs are only level 7? “GM determines when you level” is not player-entitlement, it’s GM-control! You can “make them work for it” all you want, but without the busy-work. If you don’t think it’s time to level, don’t. Even slow advancement could be too fast. So instead of pretending and screwing around with the micro-numbers… “I’ll short them some XP here…” just control it! Rulings not rules, remember…
I really like your real time XP idea.
I’m not sure whether the rubberbanding on an adventure path would work perfectly, since there’s a nontrivial combat setup time in 3x/Pathfinder that keeps even outleveling something from being a proportionate way to reduce the time and speed on down the adventure. You may need to couple it with a method for looking at an encounter, realizing there’s no way it’s going to be more than a speedbump to the PCs, and just not bothering to set it up. “And you slaughter the owlbear… moving on.”
It may work particularly well for a more sandboxy game with some kind of global timer for events that are difficult to avoid. So you can play it safe, slumming it with lower level dungeons and taking the on-level dungeons extremely cautiously, and you’ll continue to level. But you’ll be undergeared for your level, because you’re not getting treasure that’s as good as you’d be getting if you were taking more risks, and that might be a problem when things happen to you on the global timer.
It seems the balanced encounters/challenge level are partly to blame. My experience pre 3e was that an adventure didn’t expect you to level up mid adventure ( except maybe a 1st level one). So you didn’t start at say 4th but need to be 7th to beat the boss at the end. So adventure design didn’t need to be padded. Slow adventure progression partially helps this.
I also think getting exp is a reward that characters can enjoy as they get closer to a goal of casting fireball or whatever.
My solution is to have 2 sources of “exp points”. Participation & achievement. Participation is given for turning up and getting involved in the adventure ( ie like in savage worlds you get 1-3 exp per 4 hour session). Achievement is for goal achievement ( personal like avenging your family and/or group like rescuing the princess).
Good though provoking article btw
I’m not a fan of calculating XP the official way either, so I haven’t done it in years. I just assign 2 to 4 “XP” per session, depending on my highly biased judgement of how well they did. Then every 10 “XP” they raise a level. This has them raising a level every 3 or 4 sessions on average.
@Werecorpse and @stolph, I definitely think that especially for Organized Play type scenarios a very simple “1 point per full length con scenario you played in” is a good alternative/necessary evil for the nature of the format. Then you level either every N, or when N=next level, or whatever. That definitely removes most of the negative aspects I discuss above.
Also, I’m dubious as to the reward/motivational value of XP, at least relative to the complexity. We tend to use action points/hero points/FATE points and have those be more of the reward economy – and that has the merit of them being usable for something and not just “a big counter of how cool I am.”
Though, there’s a lot of gamification efforts out there to make random things “cool” by adding an XP-like track (see chorewars.com). Our GM for Jade Regent actually did some “achievement badging” during that AP – we made friends with the halfling farmer in the first chapter, we got the “Halfling Friend” badge! This served the “give me a recognition thing” need without being a) complex in math or b) tied up in game advancement.
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@stolph: I use a very similar system. Technically, I assign XP per encounter, but it’s essentially 2-4 XP per session, and when they hit 10, they level. I prefer this to just leveling by GM fiat for two reasons:
1) I can be stingy and forgetful with giving things to the PCs, so having something to actually track helps. It also works an real life timer to some extent; otherwise they’d be stuck at the same level for months, and I do want to finish this campaign sometime.
2) It rewards players for showing up and participating. Often I still give 1XP to players who can’t make it, but if it’s an on-going issue or not a legitimate reason (“I just don’t feel like it, sorry bro”) it’s 0XP for the week.
I am curious why you cite XP as being more worthy of culling than levels. I believe that you could achieve the same result, perhaps more effectively, by dropping the concept of levels. What caused you to shift to the XP side of the problem instead? You mention BRP in reference to skill advancement, but do not really touch on the aspect of there not being levels in such advancement schemes. Is it because, as you state later in the article, levels are such an intrinsic part of the game?
Yeah, taking XP out of the game just requires “quitting it.” Removing levels requires total revamp.
I sympathise a lot with your approach. I was thinking about just this issue the other day, except I was thinking about it from the point of view of having already decided, like you, that XP book-keeping is way too much hassle. I did that a long time ago in games like D&D (I would, however, be open to using it in other systems where XP is clearly tied to buying new abilities, etc – it’s the achievement-XP-level link that’s stupid, because the XP ‘middleman’ term becomes pretty redundant.
HOWEVER, the thing I was thinking about specifically was how you address game balance when you get rid of XP. So yeah, ok we can control when people level and that saves us a lot of time and hassle, but (especially at higher levels) often XP are used for things other than levelling (at least in 3rd edition, I haven’t played 4th edition and I’ve not paid enough attention to whether this is true in pathfinder because I’ve only used it for 1st level games). The obvious examples would be XP penalties/losses from things like resurrection, casting certain high-level spells, or crafting magic items.
If you follow the rules as written, these XP costs are likely to e.g. cause wizards to level slower than fighters if XP is split between the party evenly – while the fighter’s XP is probably only ever going up (except for the odd resurrection here and there), the wizard is probably consuming a lot of XP to craft things, etc.
Now obviously you can just ignore all XP costs and forget about whether it unbalances the game a bit, but that might cause a whole world of hurt to your play experience if XP does genuinely perform an important balancing role, as it seems to, at high levels (I’ve never really been able to work out, either mathematically or empirically, whether its effect is significant as a balancing mechanism in practice). If you worry about the balance and the way that impacts on the play experience then you’d presumably want to find some system to fill that gap, but I had a hard time working out what it would be.
Maybe you could just swap in gold in some ratio instead, but that doesn’t really seem to do the job very well (e.g. gold can be easily traded between individuals or pooled by a party; it’s not obvious how you’d penalise someone for being resurrected in monetary terms; vow of poverty, or indeed any strategy based around low wealth, would continue to totally screw up the balance).
I suspect you’d end up having to introduce some kind of ad-hoc application of negative levels, but how do you give someone 0.3 negative levels? How do you work off fractions of negative levels if everyone levels together by GM fiat? And of course how do characters with negative levels catch up with other characters (because of course the XP required for each new level grows exponentially according to the rules as written, so if XP is shared evenly then characters who fall significantly behind in XP terms due to losses should level faster than the rest of the party, allowing some degree of rebounding back to full power over time)?
Any ideas on this question? Of course it’s only a real problem if you’re regularly dealing with significant XP losses, which probably only happens at mid-to-epic levels, so low-level games will probably still be pretty balanced, and if e.g. you have a party with no magic-users then you’d probably not encounter the problem, etc – so it’s not going to be universal.
Yeah, spending XP was an anomaly in 3e. It didn’t exist in earlier eds and got removed in Pathfinder (I pretend 4e doesn’t exist). They really don’t serve much balance purpose there and the fears of removing them from 3e haven’t manifested in Pathfinder. There you can craft without XP spend (which was really just a source of tension between wizards and the others in their party anyway… “Make me a sword!” “Screw you that’s like getting hit by a spectre!”), and rez gives negative levels that require $$ and restorations to get rid of. Still has a death penalty but just not in XP.
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Dave Arneson invented XP, not Gary Gygax. Originally, only fighters earned XP for killing things. Magic-users earned XP by casting spells, etc. Gary simplified this for publication.
Interesting points and options. However, I don’t have the same issues with XP that you express. For one thing, in the past 30 years of GMing I haven’t ever considered used XP as a motivator, although the players take it that way as a secondary effect. I should say, btw, I’m using my homebrew system since 1978, and don’t do XP the standard D&D way. Yet, it’s similar in most respects, though my calculation for gaining XP, and distributing it is somewhat different, and solved early on what I considered to be the flaws in the OD&D version. Anyway, so I don’t use XP as a motivator. Nor do I prep my adventures with XP requirements in mind. I run a free-style (sandbox) game, and the adventures are story oriented, but I maintain a gamist aspect that my players enjoy just as much as the story aspect. I give them roughly 50/50 weighting in most cases. As far as I can tell, the XP system works fine. The players like to have an objective method for assigning experience that is not GM-Fiat biased. Although I as GM do assign the difficulty of certain tasks arbitrarily, it is done pre-play (ie – a specific river has a raging current is is DL 6 (max) to swim across). The harder something is to do or kill the more XP the success awards. XP can be assigned by the successful use of skills or powers (so in that sense it is like Arneson’s original design). So fighters get XP for combat successes, and mystics get XP for successful uses of invocations or spells. I don’t find the book keeping that much of a burden, but then again, I’ve largely automated my system. On the other hand I’ve made the formula for the calculations relatively simple also by using small number math. So it’s not that difficult. I also assign XP for successful achievements of adventure elements, such as “You saved the Princess”, to the group. So the story aspect doesn’t get short sheeted. Leveling therefore is less arbitrary than if I simply said “You guys Level”. The Players know what to expect from the system and can calculate the XP themselves. Do they metagame because they want to earn more XP? Sometimes, maybe. But it’s not a crisis. They tend to consider the risk vs reward ratio. If the risk is not too high (ie – they think they can get away with killing the room full of Orcs), and the reward seems worthy (ie – the quick eye’d thief notices a iron banded chest in the corner), then even if it is not directly on their Goal Path (ie – Save the Princess), they may opt to take the risk and get the reward anyway – just like people do in real life. Is it always the smartest move? Nah, not necessarily. But risk vs reward is what the game is all about at the gamist level, and my players enjoy that aspect. Overall, I’m still a fan of the XP system. But that’s because I didn’t do with it what I guess others have done, and fixed the things about it that I felt were not quite so great to begin with. Anyway, it works for me.
Note to self: don’t forget to click the “Notify me of follow-up comments via email”. And gosh, double check the grammar in Word Press because it doesn’t let you edit your comments. Sorry for the poor grammar above. :p
I played AD&D 1.0 for many years, giving out XP for monsters, treasures and RP/Clever thinking bonuses. Thought it was awesome. Then I retired from GMing for more than a decade and returned to learn 4e. Struggled with my old conception of XP and the new “everyone in the party is at the same level,” But I saw the merit in it’s approach – but XP seemed like an odd fit now and there was little wiggle room for the DM to add encounters, reward other individualistic behavior, etc. I solved this two ways:
1) Giving out benny-like points (+1 roll tokens) for role playing and
2) Eliminating XP altogether – my parties advance upon Major Quest completion. Makes narrative sense, gives a good down-time place to do the leveling math/power selection, and still builds some tension in the party as they look forward to the benefits of their next level.
Honestly, this approach gives me, as GM, more freedom than I ever had before and my players don’t miss the math (and 20 minute accounting-at-the-end-of-the-session, which damages the narrative flow…)
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There’s certainly an argument for getting rid of levels, and if you’re playing a certain way, for getting rid of XP. In the Pathfinder and 13th Age games I’ve been running, focused on “adventure paths” or character stories, the PCs level when I say they do (subject to player revolt, of course).
But XP (for gold at least) is a very good metric for advancing leveled characters. For one, it’s arbitrary. 1XP = 1GP if you can find it and carry it out of the dungeon, always. How much XP is a princess worth? It’s also a goal that’s suitable for the sort of scrubby, unclean, rogue-ish “adventurers” that the game was designed for. It also highlights heroism. If saving princesses is the only way to level, then of course you’d do it. But if you’ve got to choose between saving the princess and looting the tower, now there’s a sacrifice to be made. Now it’s actually a choice.
That article about goblin XP bothered me. How many goblins does it take to level in old D&D? Answer: As few as possible. Go for the GP instead of getting yourself killed.
Basically, what I’m saying is that while XP is certainly not the best solution for every style of play, particularly the style that is currently popular, in context, XP is a great tool and a fun way to score your “D&D skillz”.
Somebody listens to good sense! http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4ll/20140217
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And guess who else agrees with this approach? The DUNGEON BASTARD!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TFKtyb9JX4#t=138
Thanks for sharing your link to RPG Locker: you were right! Those are some of the danged best prices on the planet! They’re competitive, and have great service. They do deals. They’ve got excellent communication skills, so once again, thankyou!
(also, thanks for the minis: I had no idea there were Nagas that I could cut up to make a custom Oppo Rancisis/other snakeish jedees).
Also, I completely agree with your sentiments on XP points;
if the group is serious, the game doesn’t really need them (they were a guide anyway)
RPGing is about the fun, its a fun game.
and about recreating an adventure in the minds, before XBOXes and videogames took that effort away, people had to come together for that. Removing XP, in a balanced system with a Rotor GM or a really good GM (ours, Danny boy, does voices… sometimes Adam does them instead) leads to a lot more fun, especially I’ve noticed where female players are concerned; females jump right in and make fun (some of them are pretty danged violent i must say, the ‘what the factor’ is a lot of fun though!) The inclusiveness of lowering the XP is not to be overstated!
Anything that encourages women GMs and in turn, better constructs/percepts of women characters is a good thing in my book; no need for it to ALWAYS be damsel in distress or T&A characters…
Dungeons and Dragons has an XP system that rewards a dungeoncrawl mentality. You can modify the mechanics that reward your players for treating a role playing game like a game of Munchkin but this gives you limited returns. You’re still going to get better playing a lute for doing something not lute-related. You can play one of dozens of excellently written games that promote advancement by the portrayal of a character but then you’re not fixing D&D so much as avoiding it… and that’s really it.
You can’t expect players, especially players raised on leveling and character building, to hold their interest with a character that doesn’t change. You also can’t arbitrarily hand out the primary carrot in role-playing arbitrarily. Because even if you have no XP System on paper you have one in your mind. You know when and why characters are advancing, you’re just making the players have to play guessing games of how that system works and your carrot is not a distraction from the game rather than a driver that inspires better play.
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