Thursday, February 10, 2011

Skoormit's Answer

This is a long post written for the sole benefit of Skoormit, who is busting my ass with questions on the previous post. Good on him.

I am trying to address your questions, Skoormit, but it feels like I am getting nowhere.

Where you say “there’s only so much damage that can be done,” I don’t see how that’s relevant. In any system, there is only so much experience that can be gained, no matter what the encounter.

Your assumption remains that you believe mages will go up slower than fighters; but I have already stated that the mage who runs in my campaign, and my own mage running in another campaign where the system is also used, are both going up levels in tandem with everyone else. This is the straw-man assumption I say you are making, because you haven’t any actual experience that enables you to say it. I have experience with this system, and I say it doesn’t happen. What does happen is that when the mage hits 50,000 xp., the other characters tend to be within 5,000 of it, and that the difference usually occurs because of the division of treasure, for which I give experience, and NOT in the X.P. combat experience. I’ve been making comment after comment about treasure, and hearing nothing.

Regarding ‘neutralizing’ a combat without doing damage: I have never understood why anyone thinks experience should be awarded for this. Experience contributes directly to combat prowess. The game is very obviously built this way. There are some very stubborn souls (not including you here!) who just won’t let go of this idea that they should be able to talk their way past the randomness of the game.

It reminds me of Monopoly players who win the game by preying on the weakest soul and ripping them off in trade after trade. Many players in Monopoly can’t calculate their chances of winning, and get hopelessly duped. The same can be said for DMs, whose good intentions lay at the mercy of people who enjoy getting around having to roll dice to win. I have said once on this blog that I consider this a kind of cheating.

I think there should be a REWARD for neutralizing a combat, and that reward should be not getting dead or damaged. I don’t see it as a justification for increased experience/combat ability.

Yes, as I’ve said, I’m inventing cards – which are really just handy representations of a complicated rule set that can actually be played entirely without any cards at all ... if you can remember what you’ve done and what you haven’t. The cards are a ‘placeholder.’ They are not the system itself.

In the situation that you propose, Skoormit, being the paladin that bravely advances on the Hill Giant not to fight but to talk, there wouldn’t be any cards ‘rewarded’ for doing so. But the system would indicate whether the Hill Giant became afterwards helpful, whether he became violent, whether the hill giant became a friend or even possibly an admirer of the paladin. Thereafter, the paladin and the Hill giant might have adventures together, or the giant might simply become frightened and go away.

There would be no tangible reward because there was no tangible interaction. My interactive system is designed to handle exactly that: to resolve conflicts between individuals.  There is a feature of the system where the player can fail and start a combat with a wrong word; and there is a feature that lets the player 'grab' the conversation again after this, and try again.  But there is NO feature that magically bestows power, experience or anything other than an emotional response for a good player.  And there shouldn't be.

Look, you can enter business and talk the whole long day, blabbering away about this idea or that, talking your way through meeting after meeting, neutralizing person after person ... but if you never actually SELL anything, or actually raise money, or actually improve the hard business itself ... your bullshit will only get you so far.  Those jerks who reinvented the system during the boom were befuddling assholes, yes, but they made tons and tons of money for their companies.  They made the rain happen.

How, exactly, does talking a hill giant into not killing you 'make the rain happen?'  Good.  You talked him into not killing you.  You're not killed.  You succeeded.  How in blazes is any other reward logical?  If you talk the giant into helping you kill someone else, something bigger than both of you, THAT is a plan.  But bafflegabbing your way into a neutral situation?  Well, bully for you, the sum gain for both of you is now zip.  Feel free to go buy a beer.

Please understand Skoormit, this isn't leveled at you.  This is a huge problem in the whole game system, where people who don't want to play the game as written still want the rewards for the game they think they have the right to play.  I don't really care if they do that on someone else's turf, but my problem is that they come to ME and my blog and start demanding to know where and how and in what manner I bend myself and the game to suit their peculiar fucked up needs.  And I just want this made very, very clear:

I don't.  I don't because I don't care about their needs.  I don't because I play D&D.  I don't know what the fuck game they're playing.  I would like it if they would play their game somewhere else.

The experience system I've developed is designed to award experience for combat.  I give expereince for treasure because it is a means for the players to bestow their own recognition to each other, and because it works to help everyone feel pleasure and happiness in playing.  The interactive system is only being created for issues that arise in the game - such as making friends out of enemies - that the original creators never solved.

Feel free to ask more questions, Skoormit.  I'll do my best to be straight with you.  Obviously, if every other gentle reader out there wants to have a go, please do.  You'll note that I will take a lot of abuse, that I will get prickly but that I will spend a great deal of my personal time in trying to resolve the conflict between us.

Shame life doesn't have cards for it.


Zzarchov said...

Assumptions I make about your game)

1.) Leveling is the reward for combat and exists to improve combat prowess


So, in regards to talking past a problem (and without knowing the mechanics of your mystery card system). Should not talking past the giant, improve your odds against talking past another giant?

In essence, a parallel improvement system.

One character may be level 5 with little to no (for lack of a better term) Card Benefit? while another may be a lower level 2 with dozens of cards from talking past guards, wooing princess and convincing a hill giant to do his fighting for him.

For much as the guy who is pure bullshit will eventually get found out when he adds no value. The drone who can't bullshit but generates tonnes of value (Assume not in sales since sales CAN bullshit, maybe a developer?) will never advance beyond that station (even if they tack 'senior' or 'advanced' on the title).

Alexis said...

Hi Zzarchov,

The flaw in your reasoning is this: no personality is made alike. Does talking my way past you give me the experience I need to talk my way past your sister? Your wife? Fact is, you might have gotten past the giant because you got lucky (it was naturally inclined to acquiesce, as indicated by the die).

The reason the drone who generates tons of value doesn't advance is because they are too necessary to the function of the company. Being one of those drones, I can say that most of the time the drones can rise in responsibility until they are comfortably paid and content to be drones.

It is a parallel improvement system I have in mind, but it is the sort of thing that the additional card is gained when talking your way past the giant (or anyone else) contributes to the acquisition of status, wealth and character. The point where the rubber meets the road, as it were.

The success of the interactive system is dependent on cleverness of choosing tactic/applying resources, with a die roll. How you apply it is where the benefit occurs.

skoormit said...

Absolutely awesome answer, Alexis, thanks.

I'm thinking hard about integrating a risk-based XP system. Busting your ass and sounding out your experience has saved me from trying to fix things that aren't actually broken.

An attempt at defining a first principle: "Circumventing combat risk is its own reward; imposing and incurring combat risk is what improves your combat skills."

Quick clarification request: are you saying you give XP directly for treasure acquired, or that the distribution of treasure impacts PC power, which influences subsequent XP gain?

Alexis said...

I give X.P. directly for treasure acquired.

Jimmy Simpson said...

A couple of points from your post.
1 - Your assumption remains that you believe mages will go up slower than fighters; but I have already stated that the mage who runs in my campaign, and my own mage running in another campaign where the system is also used, are both going up levels in tandem with everyone else...What does happen is that when the mage hits 50,000 xp., the other characters tend to be within 5,000 of it, and that the difference usually occurs because of the division of treasure, for which I give experience, and NOT in the X.P. combat experience.

2 - Regarding ‘neutralizing’ a combat without doing damage: I have never understood why anyone thinks experience should be awarded for this. Experience contributes directly to combat prowess.

I know the game is written to reward combat and treasure, but I have never understood how you can support both points 1 & 2.

Let's rewrite point 2 a little bit

Regarding treasure: I have never understood why anyone thinks experience should be awarded for this. Experience contributes directly to combat prowess.

How exactly does a pile of treasure make me a better fighter, or able to cast more powerful spells? The only "treasure" related experience point system I have seen that I somewhat agree with is the SPENDING of gold, gaining experience.

Alexis said...

I made an effort to play on the 'spending gold' rule as suggested by James from LotFP a couple of years ago. Didn't seem to add much to the game.

I think the distinction here must be made between "treasure," something obtained through taking physical risk, and "wealth," something obtained through labor or risk of using wealth to make wealth.

Treasure allows the measurement of personal risk thusly: if the risk is "purposeful," there will be treasure (things of material value) gained; if the risk is "purposeless," no treasure will be gained.

Thus, the thrillseeker that straps cords to his feet and bounces off a bridge risks his life for sport or emotional high, but does not accumulate wealth through it. Therefore, he has taken a risk that only satisfies a hedonistic need: empirically speaking, no net gain. But the X.P. combat experience rewards that if he gets damaged, so that's covered.

On the other hand, the adventurer who straps on a sword and plunges into the wilderness to "rescue" lost wealth from the nasties who dwell within provides increased value not only to his or her self, but to the community as a whole - less nasties, more distributable goods for others to make use of.

Obviously, I don't expect you to be convinced, Jimmy ... but this satisfies the question for me.

But still, I must say that of all the players I have ever had - and that's quite a number in 30 years - I've never found one who refused the experience they gained from treasure ... and in all that time I haven't found the practice to have hampered the game the least little bit.

If something doesn't break the game, and makes the players happy, why shouldn't it continue as a practice?

I mean seriously Jimmy, in exactly what way does the giving of experience for treasure ruin the game for you?

Jimmy Simpson said...

Awarding experience for treasure doesn't ruin the game for me at all. I just like the idea of making the players spend their money, rather than hording it.

My main point on my post was that you were using the same argument to say that getting treasure makes you a better [fill in the blank], but avoiding combat does not.

Alexis said...

Sorry, Jimmy,

I don't see where those two things conflict. I don't give experience for "treasure" that is not gained from combat, which I call "wealth." Therefore, material value which IS gained from combat does allow experience.

Combat/treasure from combat = experience.
Non-combat/wealth gained by non-combat means = no experience.

Where's the conflict?

Jimmy Simpson said...

Using the chart you posted with Adam, Benjamin, Caleb & Daniel from your last post, let's look at what they would get for avoiding combat.

They get nothing for damage taken, and thus no bonus XP. This leaves the 300 XP for the creature divided among the 4 players.

For avoiding combat, they get 75 XP each instead of the 105 to 405 XP they got for fighting it. Yes, you get more XP from fighting it, but by avoiding this encounter and saving your healing potions and spells, you are able to take on bigger targets later.

It also doesn't have to necessarily be talking your way past the creature, you may trick it or bribe it or whatever. But you have to have encountered the creature(s) and done something to get past them without combat.

Oddbit said...

Players who don't spend their treasure are intentionally gimping themselves and the party by limiting the combat/social/whatever resources that the money grants in the first place. Unless there is a reasonable chance that they may need to spend that wealth on spontaneously buying a castle, it sounds like a bad idea to horde it.

Oddbit said...

Another question that arises for me is, what degree of avoiding combat is really going to allow the players to get xp? Direct interaction? Sneaking around? Never knowing it was there in the first place? Luring it into a trap someone else set? Accidentally causing a cave in and killing it? Seeing it in a room and finding a way around it?

Alexis said...

Well, let's see Jimmy ...

The bartender served me and my friends a beer, and I talked him into doing it with a bribe, so that's 20 X.P. for the bartender. And there's about twenty people in the bar that I manage to keep subdued by not screaming like a raving lunatic, so there's at least another 40 X.P. (average) for each of them. Then, as I go out into the street, I tell a grandmother to get the fuck out of my way or I'll kill her, and she does, so that's good for 10 X.P. When the guard asks me where I'm from and I tell him, and he tells me to stop offending grandmothers - and I apologize to him AND the grandmother - that's another 140 X.P. for the guard. I'm not sure ... do I get another 10 X.P. for the grandmother when I apologize?

Let's see. I think I'll take a walk through the market and not kill a lot of people there ... that ought to make me at least second level. Plus there's that argument I have with the merchant where I haggle with him over the price of a suit of chain mail, getting it 50 g.p. cheaper - so that's 50 X.P. for the merchant and another 50 X.P. for the gold I didn't pay. Where else can I go now?

Hey, I know. I'll go to sleep, and then get up tomorrow morning and not kill all the people around me again. Excellent. A couple weeks of this and I'll be 5th level! Yay me.

I guess I'm just not clear on this. How exactly do I "not kill" the giant so that I get experience?

Blaine H. said...

Actually... I do have a question about the xp in combat thing. Reviewing the three posts relating to it... it almost completely revolves around the concept of dealing and receiving damage... its purely offensive.

While the topic of the mage hanging back and being defensive in his spells with support magic or casting spells that increase the effectiveness of other characters... something got forgotten.

The cleric. What if the cleric is actually functioning in a full healing support role? The fight is actually sufficiently mean enough to warrant the casting of healing spells every round.

Sure, the cleric might get a round of offensive attacks in early... but often clerics get shoe horned into having to devote a large quantity... if not all... of their spells into healing and restoration type magics in order to keep a party alive through a series of encounters.

A healing cleric needs to avoid damage a good deal of the time to keep casting the spells needed to keep the party alive.

This system is actually counter intuitive to healer/support casters as it says to put them in the front line where they put the party front line fighters at risk by being targets in the hopes of getting xp from the fight... a fight which actually benefits from the cleric hanging back and keeping the party propped up.

While it looks so very good from the surface, as someone who has spent a long time playing the healer role (because every party NEEDS one or more in dungeon situations if combat is expected)... I would feel a bit left out in this situation.

I know clerics usually get put in the heaviest armor and shields and this is often an excuse to have them wade into combat but this is more a preservation of a vital support role... since they must give healing often within rage of the worst threats going after the front line... the armor is there to keep them from getting smashed into pulp and thus able to keep the party alive.

Again, forgive me for rambling and saying it, this system of xp is one that is counter productive to healers.

Or did I misread something or miss a detail or was there a solution to this?

Alexis said...

Sounds to me, Blaine, that you play a version of the game where the cleric has a lot more healing than he or she would in my game. Most times, in my game, the healing comes after the battle, since there's little opportunity during - plus an AD&D cleric in my world typically cannot have duplicate spells. That means only one cure light wounds, one aid spell and one cure serious wounds spell up to 7th level. All of which takes 4 rounds to throw.

The cleric's low experience requirement helps like the thief's, and the cleric gets easy damage via magic stone, heat metal, spiritual hammer and so on - not to the level of the mage, but certainly easier than the fighter.

Seems to me the counterproductive part that you refer to is in some later versions of the game deciding that clerics should be used for support and not for combat. My games don't play that way. Never have.

Blaine H. said...

Aaaah... that makes sense.

In that regard and in situations like that, I can see the logic behind it.

You are right... it is in later editions that my healers were pushed out of the combat position into the support caste. In fact, I have had many a group actually berate me (and other cleric players to the point where only I would actually still roll up one for a game) for wasting spell slots on offensive abilities.

Perhaps I should dust off and review the older editions at this time...

Thank you.

shlominus said...

I don't give experience for "treasure" that is not gained from combat,

"treasure," something obtained through taking physical risk,

any xp for a character that sneaks into a stronghold and grabs some loot, evading any guards/traps on the way?

physical risk... check
combat... failed

if not, care to explain? :)

Alexis said...


I'm working up in my mind a post about risk which I'll try to write today or tomorrow. I don't think you'll like the answer ... but then, I don't believe you're likely to change anything you do about experience based on my answer anyway.

chris bang said...

Good afternoon,

Reading through your archives and enjoying the content. Thank you for putting up much work.

You mentioned in your posts treasure giving xp. Where can I go to read up on the topic for treasure giving (percent) amount of experience?


Chris Bang

Alexis Smolensk said...

Hi Chris,

I see treasure and experience as two completely different goals, though you do get experience FOR treasure.

If your character pursues goals that lead to general combats, that aren't sustained by the idea that we will fight and fight against the same enemy until we seize their goods, then their success will be to gain experience but not treasure. That experience will come from fights that will yield little hard cash.

Money, or wealth, is buried deep in a lair and requires sustained effort to get at. I'll reward some surface forays into a lair with light treasure, but the heavy stuff comes when the lair is defeated completely.

Then the wealth will give much more experience in a lump than will a long series of superficial combats.

This would make a really, really good post. I'll make plans to write it this week.