Friday, December 2, 2016

Mass Experience

Having put up the markets for the online campaign, we can get that content off this blog.  I know you are all interested, but we can go back to other things and the gentle reader can go to the two campaign blogs to see what's going on.

The old campaign: Senex.
The new campaign: Juvenis.

I thought for a long time about what to call them, without the new people feeling downtrodden.  Latin seemed best.  And so did trying to do it on two blogs, as I have tried two campaigns on one blog and it is confusing.  All previous campaigns to now can be found in the back pages of the Senex blog.

Running a campaign is, I think, a huge help in blogging.  It reminds me of things that need to be done, it pushes me to get them done and it pushes me to address issues that players have a tendency to take for granted.

For example, experience.  For those not familiar with my experience rules, for the purpose of this post I suggest reading them.  The key element here is that I award experience for damage caused, not for kills.  This means that two combatants can slam away at one another, then quit fighting, and both get experience for the conflict.

This is critical, I think, to a philosophy of what experience is and how it is gathered.

In the old system, for example, where monsters or opponents have to be killed, experience is a limited resource.  There are only so many monsters and only so many people to kill them, so any experience I gain is necessarily experience you cannot.  Moreover, it presumes that the ONLY experience that can be gained is accomplished by murderers . . . and since we know that the general population do not go out and kill things, it is reasonable to presume that the general population has zero experience.

In my system, however, two boys punching each other out in a schoolyard are gaining experience.  Which is exactly what happens ~ remember that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.  The grit and passion of the British Soldier at Kandahar, in the Sudan and as they marched into the guns at Concord was founded by a school system that supported a degree of physical violence that gave the Brit "mettle."  A combat system for D&D ought to reflect that ruffians and hooligans in a bar, who may not have killed anyone, must still be capable of putting up a hell of a fight.

I challenge anyone to offer evidence that the strength and power of any army was based on how many soldiers it killed; fighting forces are founded in discipline, resolve, a sense of home and family ~ in short, nothing that is measured in actual deaths but everything that is measured in pounding, bruising and kicking a military force into being fit and trim.

Which brings me to the next point.  How much experience is out there?  If experience is awarded according as I've suggested it ought to be, there is no zero sum game.  The amount of experience in the world is a factorial of every person in existence and how much conflict they engender.

To put this into perspective, take the European War that finishes just before the time my world takes place: the 30 Years War.  From Wikipedia:

"The war ranks with the worst famines and plagues as the greatest medical catastrophe in modern European history.  Lacking good census information, historians have extrapolated the experience of well-studied regions.  John Theibault agrees with the conclusions in Günther Franz's Der Dreissigjährige Krieg und das Deutsche Volk (1940), that population losses were great but varied regionally (ranging as high as 50%) and says his estimates are the best available.  The war killed soldiers and civilians directly, caused famines, destroyed livelihoods, disrupted commerce, postponed marriages and childbirth, and forced large numbers of people to relocate.  The reduction of population in the German states was typically 25% to 40%. Some regions were affected much more than others.  For example, Württemberg lost three-quarters of its population during the war.  In the territory of Brandenburg, the losses had amounted to half, while in some areas, an estimated two-thirds of the population died.  The male population of the German states was reduced by almost half.  The population of the Czech lands declined by a third due to war, disease, famine, and the expulsion of Protestant Czechs.  Much of the destruction of civilian lives and property was caused by the cruelty and greed of mercenary soldiers.  Villages were especially easy prey to the marauding armies.  Those that survived, like the small village of Drais near Mainz, would take almost a hundred years to recover.  The Swedish armies alone may have destroyed up to 2,000 castles, 18,000 villages, and 1,500 towns in Germany, one-third of all German towns."

Sobering stuff.  For our purposes, I'll try to hedge on the conservative side.  The beginning of the article quoted suggests eight million died.  We'll say that's 25% of the total population involved ~ German, French, Slavic, Polish, Swedish and so on.

My experience system awards 20 experience for every point of received damage; it also awards a 20 experience bonus that is divided among the witnesses of received damage, as well as the casualty or victim. Thus, you get experience just from watching another person die, or suffer a great injury, or otherwise come to harm.  Consider the ramifications.  You also get 10 experience from causing a hit point of damage to another person.

The next step would be to estimate the number of hit points involved in the conflict described above. Remember, we're not just talking about the total number of hit points of people actually killed, but also the number of hit points that were caused in damage, healed, then were damaged again.  Over and over.

We can deliberate upon such numbers all day, but I'm going to offer a conservative estimate.  Let's say that among the 32 million people involved, over the space of 30 years, from 1618 to 1648, each person took an average of 2 hit points of damage per year.  Some of that average is in the form of people who died from the damage and some from people who were only wounded . . . and leaves plenty of room for both high level types who have up to 100 hit points to lose and people who lost no hit points at all throughout the entire conflict.  And here we are only counting damage actually done to people deliberately.  We're not talking about people who fell off horses or who died in fires set by soldiers, or those who perished by disease (though arguably, witnessing someone dying from disease is experience, since most of us who have had something like that with close relatives come away from it being changed deeply)

This gives us a total of 64 million hit points times 30 years, or 1.92 billion hit points.  That is 1.92 billion hit points caused, 1.92 billion hit points received and potentially 1.92 billion hit points witnessed.

We will, however, have to remove a quarter of the hit points received ~ those people who received them are dead, so they are not part of the pool of living experience that we're calculating.  So we are speaking only of 1.44 billion hit points received by people who are still alive.

We could quibble about people who died of other causes over the years, age for instance ~ but this is why I am proposing the very conservative 2 hit points per year estimate.  That is pretty conservative.  The town of Manchester accumulates more hit points damage than that when United wins.

Adding it all together, this gives us a total of 72 billion experience . . . shared, of course, among the remaining 24 million population (not 32 ~ 8 million of those died.).  That is an average of 3,000 experience per person.  Per every person who was involved in that struggle.  Peasants too!

This makes 2nd to 3rd level the average level among people who participated.  That includes every mercenary soldier who came home to Sweden, Norway, Spain and Greece, every bartender in the Holy Roman Empire, every wench, every peddler, every child, every grandmother.

When you walk past a person on a road in Hannover, you have no idea what the person has been through!  What they've seen, what they've had to do, what kind of measures they've taken to keep their family alive, what skills they've accumulated and how dark might be the deepest corners of their soul.  When you walk past anyone on the road, worry.  You don't know them.

I wish I could make this clear to players.  They have a tendency to think they're the only people in the world who ever experienced violence.


  1. How do you determine a NPC's level? Do you factor in the idea that war-torn regions would have higher-level NPCs on average?

  2. Experience for whitnessed might be somewhat exponential unless you assume that the damage was ONLY obtained while a single other person was nearby.

    Depending on the rate of injury incurred alone or around others/in public this might go up.

    Furthermore if witnessing a pet or other animal take damage is important, that might make things even more complicated.

  3. Ah yes, Oddbit, but the damaged person is always one of the witnesses, so the experience is not lost if no one else sees.

    Don't forget that the rules are written so that the number of witnesses divide the bonus experience; the bonus doesn't increase with the number of witnesses.


    I play it by ear, mostly by how much stuff the NPC owns. You can count on anyone owning a 25,000 g.p. ship not being merely 5th level.

  4. I wont lie.
    There's a lot of time where I'm letting you do the math and not checking it.

    But I will be doing a LOT of paranoid relearning over the next week or three.

  5. Question on the experience system and damage inflicted by a character. If I am attacking a goblin that only has 2 hp left, but I deal 10 damage to it, do I receive XP for all 10 of that damage?

  6. Discord,

    You can't get experience for damage not done. If the goblin only has two hit points, then your experience is only for those that the goblin has.

    I have a rule that all non-leveled humanoids can live down to -3 hit points; leveled humanoids, down to -9. By that rule, the goblin would have four more damage that could be done, to bring it down to -4 and death. So you would get experience for 6 damage being done.

  7. Thanks Alexis! I'm going to implement this rule in my current campaign, and I that my players would ask that question.

  8. An elegant solution to avoiding experience for murder. It's also a way for environmental experience which you've mentioned wanting a bigger role in previous posts. However, erm, does this mean that one would get experience from things like familial abuse?

  9. Potentially, I suppose.

    For awhile now, I've foreseen that "experience" can't actually produce "levels" unless a person receives actual training of some kind. This would mean that many persons, though they had lots of experience, like the post above describes, would not have the training to be fighters, mages, clerics and so on.

    We might postulate a sort of beggar class, one that does not actually have any skills ~ sage abilities or proficiencies, etcetera. Members of such a class could achieve a "first level" at 1000 experience, gaining a d4 for level dice. Still, because they didn't have a single weapon proficiency, at first level their THAC0 would be something like 23.

    A common person without this level would be even worse, with a THAC0 of, say, 24 or 25. They might be able to hit someone without armor, or with leather armor with difficulty, but an actual soldier would have little to fear from such persons, whatever their experience.

  10. Hello Alexis,

    Always nice reading data concerning your XP system, it'll definitely be in my next D&D game.

    I'm curious, however : what is necessary to attain "actual training" into a class ?

    And also, how do "formal education" translate into actual XP ?
    I remember that the more civilized and educated a culture is, the higher level its inhabitants tend to be, and probably the more advanced military training (higher tech level) produce more experienced soldiers.
    However, outside of military, do the formal / classical education impart some XP, and why and how ?

    Anyway, it's great seeing your new campaigns start !

  11. Scenario: how does your system handle the NPC that wants to be killed? For example, suppose a lone, insane mage want to complete a ritual, but reasons that he is the one that needs to die to complete it, is okay with this, and tricks your players into engaging and killing him. First, would they still get experience. Second, if so, would it be reduced or the same as if they realized the trick and did not kill?

  12. Vlad,

    Regarding actual training and formal education. I'm still trying to figure that out. How should the rules work, exactly? How much time should it take? How does it translate to "in game" procedure? Can the players simply say, "I train this hireling and we wait three months for him to be done"? What rolls need to be made for success? What qualifies success? All these questions and others need answers and I've been pondering this for a while now. It's part of the sage abilities ~ but as yet I still need to design a metric.


    Why, gawd why, would I ever invent such a scenario as a DM? Certainly it isn't the sort of thing that's going to come up regularly. Do you know this lawyer phrase?: "Complicated cases make bad law." It's meant to describe situations like you've just invented (and that's the point, you've invented it, the situation did not come up organically) as so wildly obscure or non-representational that the law SHOULDN'T invent a precedent for it.

    Therefore, I won't.

  13. The scenarios is an extreme example to focus on defining victory and defeat. For example, I define defeat as denial of of opposing victory conditions. How about a more organic example. Five orc guard a bridge, and will not let anyone pass. Possible ways to defeat them may include the following:
    * Fighting them until they are incapable of denying passing.
    * Bribing or purchasing passage.
    * Persuading the orcs that the party be allowed to pass.
    * Avoiding detection, thus denying any possible alarm to prevent bypass.
    * Luring the orcs away from their post.
    Inventive player are sure to expand upon this list, but it is still a good starting point for the GM. Of the items above, which would award the least to most experience points, and why?

  14. Based on the 'Experience' link near the top of the post, Spazalicious (which anticipates your questions here) I am guessing the answers are going to be:

    - Fighting them: XP dependent on damage inflicted (by each character) and taken (by each character and the party as a whole.)

    - All other solutions: 0 xp. Getting past them unharmed is the reward here, and it doesn't make you any better as a combatant.

  15. Exactly, Jonathon.

    If you don't buy Boardwalk, you don't get to collect the rent on it.


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