Thursday, April 25, 2013

Libertarianism's Gold Standard

Found my name referenced on this page and so I read through it.  It proports to be a frank, querying discussion of experience points, but as usual, it winds up being a sort of hen session where DM's quibble about how much to give and in particular what player behavior should be rewarded.

I don't suppose most people see what the problem is there.

Apparently, one of the responsibilities a DM has is to make sure that the player ain't gettin' too much experience for doing whatever the player wants with his or her money.  I think most gentle readers are familiar with this idea - that experience points should be rewarded according to what the player spends their money on, and NOT upon the actual total of money gained.

When I first heard this - from James Raggi, I think - my first reaction was, "Gee, that sounds like a good idea."  If you look really, really hard through the first year of this blog, you'll find an example of me saying that.  (Tell me when you find it - I couldn't myself, but I know the sucker's there).

Then I had a fridge logic moment and never actually implemented the idea.  Why?  Because who gives a fuck how much experience the players get?

Here's a very simple matter, that won't take a lot of words ... but what's wrong with the players going up levels, exactly?  I mean, at whatever freaking rate you choose to give them coin for.  If you don't want them going up levels quickly, DON'T make up bullshit rules about what they can do with their money which gets your experience point sign off ... just give them less fucking coin.  How hard is that?  Or is it that you want them to be rich, you just don't want them to be powerful.  Or some other ad hoc ideal you have for what a player should or shouldn't be, according to the great Economic Policy Rules you've invented to stop what you think is your player's moral turpitude?

In case you're not clear on the concept, moral turpitude is "conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals."  And that seems to be all this "experience points for the RIGHT manner of spending" seems to be about.  FORCING behavioral standards upon players in order that they excel according to bullshit reasons pulled straight from the DM's ass.

Give them their goddamn gold when they kill the monster.  Then get out of their face, Mrs. Grundy.  Let them excel according to their standards, as far as they like.

You may be the DM, but their money is none of your fucking business.

(and this is as libertarian as you're ever likely to hear me get)


Kaspar said...

Personally I've never understood the whole gold=xp thing. So you find a bag of gold on the road and suddenly gain a level?

I give out xp for overcoming challenges and accomplishing things. Gold is already useful enough on its own right without the need to tie it to xp.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I think that every day I earn money, I earn experience right along with it.

Steve said...

Sure, but are you earning XP because you got a paycheck, or are you earning the paycheck as a parallel reward for the actions that also earned you XP? OD&D/AD&D implied through their rules that XP arose from simply possessing gold, irrespective of how it came into your possession. A simple abstraction like that works fine for a game, as long as no one thinks about it too critically. When people start deconstructing it, extending it to its logical extremes, and asking what this abstraction then says about the larger world, they start getting odd answers that don't jibe with their real experience of how life works.

Me, I'm not bothered. I like abstraction, and I have no problem saying, "because it's a game, that's why." But I do get why some people are bothered by it and hope for something "better." In a game filled with gross simplifications, gold=xp is one of the grosser ones.

Maximillian said...

But you earn money in DnD mostly by gaining experience, i.e. combat.
I didn't even think you gave experience for treasure unless the treasure was earned by combat?

Why not simply give the appropriate experience for the combat? More directly, why have two rules for one thing?

If I'm wrong, it still is worth asking if it is the mustard farming or the profit that gives the experience. If you were set to sell a lot of mustard, and a bad roll causes it to be dumped in the river, did you really earn less exp? What about a pirate battle where you manage to wipe out the target crew, but the booty goes down with the ship?

Alexis Smolensk said...

I tend to agree with Steve.

The issue - from an examination point of view - seems divided between two camps: DMs who don't like it, and Players who do. I keep the rule not because I'm especially pleased with it, but because the players ARE. The players enjoy having that extra bonus to moments in the game where they've enabled themselves to get richer.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I give experience for treasure that is earned by EFFORT, Maximillian.

Someone can now jump on me, saying that I'm doing the same thing Roger's doing, but I'm not measuring the difference by the player's behavior. The only way NOT to earn gold (wealth) from effort is to find it sitting in the open, irrationally. So ... there are very few circumstances where that happens in my world, and when it has, I haven't noticed it bothers players not to get experience for it.

The mustard farming, then, WILL earn you experience. No, you won't get experience for destroying the wealth before actually getting a hold of it (sunken ship) ... but if you raise that ship again from the bottom, and obtain value from that, without fighting anything, I'll give you X.P. for that.

I'll even give you X.P. for the difference in trade profit ... if you're smart enough to keep track of that. If you don't do the accounting, then I assume you haven't any memory and then no, no experience.

The reason parties don't generally get any XP for anything except combat is because they don't bother to try to gain it through anything else. I wrote that mustard farming example eons ago, but none of my online players have actually tried it. My trade tables have been there for years, but when the online party went through Northern Italy on its way to Constantinople, no one even thought of buying wine or any other commodity to make a profit on it.

Players let opportunities go by all the time ... but I don't care, because its not my problem. If players are happy to earn experience only for gold they fight for, so be it.