Friday, August 14, 2015

An X.P. Proposal

Allow me to say, first of all, that this post is not intended to be sarcastic or mocking.  I mean what I say.  I would not take the position suggested alone for my own campaign, but I offer this as an idea to deal with a social issue that some apparently seem to have.

Something said by Carl Nash on the last post caught my attention:

"I don't care too much one way or the other about rate of PC level advancement, but my players do... and it is not uncommon at all for several sessions to go by without a combat as the PCs are busy doing all kinds of other things in my world. With our schedules leading to infrequent sessions, if I leveled up by the book there would be basically no advancement at all for years of real life at a time."

Personally, I have never experienced this 'busy-ness.'  The most time-intensive period of my life was when I was going to university, holding down a job, raising my 5-year-old daughter and taking care of my physically-impaired spouse.  This included attending classes, studying, taking my daughter to school, bringing her home, cooking and cleaning the house, putting my wife to bed at night and working day shifts in a restaurant when I was not at school.  I had help, of course; two sets of grandparents to help look after my daughter and a part-time nurse to give my wife her meals twice during the day and keeping her clean and healthy.

And I still ran D&D.  Hell, I would have gone mad without that release.

But I do understand that people can't or more precisely won't adjust their schedules if it challenges the possibility of promotion, acquisition or perceived responsibility to a child's sports or academic advancement.  I grew up in a time when my participation in sports happened in the immediate community, which could be enabled by walking to the rink, pitch or diamond, where we would gather to be driven to visitor games in three or four cars.  I know that today every parent takes every child individually in a separate car to a game and that many such activities that used to exist in every neighborhood now demand journeys of up to fifty miles or more by car.  Moreover, the helicopter-mentality in the raising of children has meant that parenthood is by far a more time-intensive activity than it was for my parents or for me.

So I won't judge or condemn.  You and your players, for whatever reason, are condemned by circumstance.

I propose, however, that rather than attempting to link experience-for-play to some artificial standard of game play, that the experience should be directly linked to the actual time that the player spends attending the campaign.

Theoretically, any DM could establish that the experience gained by the players for their characters should be equal to 10 points per level per minute of playing the game.  This would mean that a first level fighter needing 2,000 xp (sorry, I'm perpetually stuck in e1) would need to play for 3 hours and 20 minutes in order to advance to second level; it would then take 1 hour and 40 minutes to advance to 3rd, 2 hours and 13 minutes of play to advance to 4th, 4 hours and 10 minutes to advance to 5th and so on.

Thus, the players, regardless of what activity they participated in, combat, gaining treasure, talking the green swamp monster into helping the town build its walls, whatever, would be rewarded for just showing up.  No other specific behaviour would be required.  This would enable the participants in the campaign to consciously be aware that their failure to attend would mean definitively falling behind others in the group - and yet they would know that by adjusting their schedules somewhat, two or three runnings would advance their characters at least one level.

Of course, once passing 5th level the time necessary to advance each level according to the arithmetic I've proposed would get quite lengthy - but undoubtedly an exponential increase of some kind, which the individual could work out for their own campaign, would solve that problem.

As I say, not meant sarcastically.  If advancement is this important and circumstances for play all that unfriendly, then why not just tie the experience level to the level of participation?


  1. I was momentarily excited to see a new post, then I realized you had changed the title and a small part of me died inside.

    When I was a younger DM, I adopted a system of XP that awarded players a set amount just for showing up. We did a lot of online chatter throughout the week, so I allowed an absent player to recoup 50% of the lost XP if he or she wrote a post midweek about what their character was doing.

    After a while, I realized the fundamental flaw with that sort of advancement (though I'm sure it's obvious to some). Ultimately, XP isn't there just to provide incremental character improvement. That could easily be accomplished without using XP at all. Nor is it there to reward players for their achievements--that's the most common misconception. The greatest value of XP is enticing players into taking risks. And, as such, the method of awarding XP needs to be impartial. Otherwise, the players will be pressured to take the risks they know the DM will value most. At that point it is just railroading, even if we pretend it isn't.

  2. The reason is that people will balk at those who can attend less frequently being "behind" the group. Encounter design in a lot of modern RPGs pretty much assumes the party is entirely composed of a cadre of equally leveled "kits", nevermind characters. The idea of a gaggle of 0-levels being hired on is pretty much absent in most games that are released nowadays. It's more like the party is expected to be the A-Team, rather than a Campaign in the military sense.

    To put it another way, if Albrecht can only play twice a month compared to Bertram and Clayton's five times a month, most groups will just advance Albrecht so they don't feel left out or useless when they CAN make it. It's a social concern.

    From what I understand you've had players who also had cravings to play when the runnings weren't on, and from what I gathered they simply joined more games elsewhere. I'd imagine that's not necessarily an option for every group with a disparity in availability, but I'd also like to hear more of your thoughts on the matter in general.

  3. Anima: Beyond Fantasy does something similar. One of the things listed in the experience chart is "One Hour Session- 1-3 XP." The description of the item states that no matter what happens, each hour of playing the game should be worth an average of 2 XP, adjusted down to 1 XP for a poor session involving poor cooperation and arguing, or 3 XP for a great session that was intense and involved. Keep in mind that this is a game where it takes only 100 XP to advance from 1rst to 2nd level.

    Thus I agree with this article and its proposition, and clearly some published game designers in Spain agree as well.

  4. I have had that explained to me before, Arduin, by folks who were in one of the WOTC sponsored campaigns in the city. Makes me gag, actually - and as it happens, quite often the party doesn't fulfill the quest in exactly the way desired and they're all bumped up three levels just so they can play the next part.

    Sure isn't my game.


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