Saturday 20 April 2013

Experience Points: Is This My Final Answer?

Okay, after all this discussion, here is the solution I can best live with, done up in One Page format.

The trick is to link XP to monsters, but then associate them not with killing the monster, but with reaching a certain location. This is similar to the technique of placing treasure with value relative to the monsters you might meet on the way, and has a lot of benefits.

Unlike XP-for-treasure-only, it rewards doing other things than finding treasure. Climbing a mighty mountain, clearing a fortress of ghouls, or riding with a caravan to a far-off city now can have their own rewards.

Unlike XP-for-monsters, it:
  • Completely sidesteps the question of whether you should get XP for defeating the monster this way, or driving it off that way, or what you do if you drive it off but it comes back.
  • Avoids the fiddly adjustment of XP relative to party level that sometimes is felt to be necessary. Instead, you make a general assessment of the toughness of the situation and adjust the monster XP accordingly. If you have 100 orcs but they're forced to come at you one at a time, you can drop the difficulty to 50% or even 25%.
  • I'll say it again, the tactical situation comes into play. If you estimate a 50% chance of making the right choices and sneaking the party past a monster, you can reduce the XP award by 50%.
  • Does not reward kill-farming or worse yet (hello 2nd edition D&D) kill-stealing.
  • Calculating and dividing XP is easier - it happens less often and the DM can even fudge the numbers a little so they're evenly divisible for the party.
  • Rewards avoiding random or irrelevant monsters.
  • Has some consideration of traps, tricks and obstacles.
Unlike the straight XP-for-exploring idea, it:
  • Clearly rewards seeking danger.
  • Gives a benchmark for how many XP should be associated with a given goal.
  • Allows for a variety of scenarios; if someone is willing to pay the party to kill a random monster, then the pay counts as XP.
The other ideas I've been using in my games, to generally good effect. Missing, yes, is carousing; but I have some room on my Settlements page I'm going to use to put forth a general money-for-xp+random effects procedure.


  1. I'm not normally a fan of 'bonus for winning' high ability score XP, but the 'good at something that isn't your career specialism' version is a nice touch. Yoinked.

  2. Do the bonus experience for high int and wis stack?

    1. Hm ... not as written, but maybe they should.

    2. I was wondering about that bit also: I think it maybe needs an "or" somewhere between the two modifiers, otherwise it ambiguously reads as requiring BOTH circumstances (which rules out all elves, mages, and prophets).

  3. I don't like XP for selling items for two reasons. First, most of the factors that affect the sales price are out of the control of the PCs (proximity to a city, existence of a buyer) leaving the XP amount earned little more than DM fiat. Second, and more important, is that the item may have some cultural or setting/plot related significance but the PCs are discouraged from keeping it as they will lose the XP. If you give the PCs a set XP for the item then they won't have the incentive to convert all treasure to cash. Finding unusual treasure will be a treat rather than an chore.

    1. OK, but ...
      1. Isn't the amount of treasure they find down to DM fiat anyway? You can see variable sale prices as actually aiding player agency, with a decision whether to stay nearby for a worse price or move on for a better. A lot of the travels of my campaign players to different cities have been motivated by the need to get a good price for a haul of purple worm teeth. Which reminds me I should put something about selling items on my Settlements page.

      2. This is also valid but can be handled by making the McGuffin's value as an exploration goal (when handed over to the proper authorities) greater than its sale value. Also, it's not within the scope of the "basic" 52 Pages (which cover levels 1-3), but when players get their own lair they can establish a trophy room where they can get XP for hanging items therein.

    2. I don't think agency is involved at all. If they are awarded the base value of the item in XP when they retrieve it (exactly like gold), they still have to sell the item and, thus, will still have the desire to get the best price. However, this removes the out-of-character desire for the player to gain XP by virtue of haggling merchants. IOW, they gain XP during the adventure, not during their down-time.

  4. "or worse yet (hello 2nd edition D&D) kill-stealing."

    isn't that a Rolemaster thing? as far as I can remember, there is nothing about kill-stealing in AD&D 2e

    only a particular optional rule for a small amount of XP by HD of ennemy defeated, but nowhere is it said that you need to be the one dealing the last hit.

    Also, in that version, you are not even required to "kill" monsters to get XP

    1. forgot something:
      I'm quite impressed about the formulation of the XP thing for getting to a location. It rewards intelligent play and having goals different than bashing heads.

    2. Well, yes and no ... the rule is optional but it does imply that a fighter gets the xp for personally defeating the monster. In general, the 2nd ed DMG is a hot slop when it comes to xp rules; the only hard and fast stuff is monster and story awards but it offers treasure and individual awards as options and even tells you to use XP to reward player behavior, without saying how.

  5. Hi Roger,

    I talk about something similar in Seekers of Lore: Finding XP.

    Short form is that I completely ignore monsters and treasure for direct XP calculations. You defeat monsters (which might mean killing them, but doesn't need to) because they are in your way, and you collect gold because it's useful... but neither are worth XP.

    Finding a lost fortress and making a map is. Uncovering an ancient temple and restoring worship of a long-forgotten god is. Recovering Thuriendil, the sword of the last Altassian King, and making alliance with it to achieve the purpose for which it was forged is.

    It might be worth determining how much challenge is expected for each discovery, recovery, or exploration to keep things in line, but I think I'd rather determine XP by the scope and impact of the discovery.

  6. I skimmed the "experience" label/category but I couldn't find a specific to reasoning behind awarding bonus XP for higher INT/WIS. Can you link me?

    While I can reason for myself, I am curious to see what you have to say on the matter. Much obliged! :)


    1. Bonus exp. was traditional for having a high prime requisite. I considered that things like Str and Dex, and Int and Wis for the right kind of spellcaster, are already their own reward. The Int and Wis bonuses reward classes for scoring high in what might otherwise be a dump stat, beyond fairly minor bonuses to languages and Mind save,