Why abstract xp?

1 09 2009

I figured my first post had to be on a subject that people wanted to read about.  Over the course of the next month, I’ll write plenty about me and my role-playing background – but to start off with, I wanted to talk about something both of interest to me, as well as a relevant topic for consideration (and I wanted to keep it brief).

Returning to role-playing (as I am) one of the first games I played was D&D 3.5.   Like many role-playing games, its take on awarding XP is quite common.  You gain XP for beating monsters and traps, and collecting the loot.  This was really brought home to me by a player in my first ‘new’ group.  He dived in to every encounter and was first to pounce on the dead bodies for any treasure.  This was despite the fact that his character (at this low level) was least well served to get involved in melee combat, and none of the armour etc. was ever going to fit his 7ft frame.

If you reward that type of behaviour, you get that type of player.  That is neither a criticism of the player or the GM. 

The reason this jars with me is all about what it is we are doing.  It’s about role-playing.  If the activity is all about playing a scenario in character, why do we reward out of character antics?

Of course the opposite is just as ludicrous.  Only rewarding role-playing would encourage players to roll a cowardly, agoraphobic character.  As long as they hid under the bed, they’d pick up maximum XP.

 As much as I’m throwing this out for discussion, I do have a solution in terms of the way I GM.  I tend to reward the party (not individuals) for completing quests etc. and a large chunk of the XP will be from overcoming traps and defeating monsters.  Consciously avoiding said traps and monsters earns the same XP.  Blindly missing them does not.

Where I reward role-playing, is to offer no extra XP – but instead allow the player a little treat.  It may be an item they (and they alone) uncover that their character always wanted.  Or perhaps the next adventure helps them complete a little quest I know the character wants to achieve.

I’m not suggesting it’s perfect, but it’s the way I’d like to be treated as a player.  And I haven’t even started on what to with players who miss sessions.

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One response

17 09 2009
neceros

This is a very good model for rewarding experience.

Combat rewards experience, hopefully as a group. If anyone lags behind anyone else the experience system largely fixes the issue over time.

Role-playing shouldn’t ever be given experience rewards: They aren’t doing anything but playing their character the way it’s meant to be played. However, good role-playing should be rewarded with in-game, character benefits like titles, treasure, deeds, contacts, etc.

Good times.

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