Sunday, January 4, 2009

XP for Treasure?

I just popped this response into this Dragonsfoot thread, and I think it's something I should have here as well.

I figure the game has a goal (for the characters, I'm not talking about the goal for the players), and the awarding of XP should support that goal. I'd also define what gaining a level means thematically for your campaign.

XP for defeating monsters? I don't think the game is about combat. I think the monsters are there to be obstacles to whatever goal is to be accomplished. So in my next campaign, monsters will be worth 0 XP.

XP for role-playing? By whose standard? I don't want to dictate to players how they should role-play. What does that even mean? In-character talking? Sticking to the archetype of their class (for the record, I think the criteria given in the DMG p86 is awful...) when the player might have a different idea of what that class means than you? The way I see it, role-playing should support the goal of the game. If the role-playing helps achieve that goal, then it is good and will be rewarded. If it doesn't help achieve the goal, then it won't be rewarded.

XP for performing class activities (casting spells, opening locks, etc)? Again, it works towards a goal; they are not done for their own sake.

Quest XP? This is definitely along the "what is the goal?" thinking, but I find the execution worrisome. The game certainly is a big plot railroad ("Do this to get your XP!") so players have to be on board. This is also perilously close to fiat leveling, with the DM just deciding when characters get to advance. Still, for certain groups and styles this works, but if it is handled this way, I wouldn't give XP out for anything else as it muddles the issue.

Giving out XP for "learning experiences" that are detrimental to the character (the fireball back-blast scenario)? I would think that is its own "reward" and I think it's fairly silly to make the character more objectively powerful (+ XP = greater levels, after all) because of that.

However, if the goal of the game is to explore and get the loot, then XP for treasure makes perfect sense (and in my upcoming campaign, that will be the only way to get XP).

It has the advantage of being an objective standard (No "You didn't role-play your fighter the right way this week, Bob," issues), and it's not a fiat method: You have your less dangerous situations guarding smaller treasures, and more dangerous situations guarding larger treasures. The players can decide whether they want to play it slower and safer or really risk everything for a truly great reward. With that setup, the treasure-for-XP situation can be easily explained in-game: It's not the actual accumulation of treasure that is making the characters more powerful, it's just the measurement which represents the experience the adventurers went through in order to gain that treasure.


  1. I like monster XP as a sort of consolation prize. "Yeah we got jumped by three broke-ass orcs, but at least we scored a few points for our troubles."

  2. The 1978 Gamma World rules are similar. XP are given on a one-to-one basis for gold pieces...

    but you get only 1 XP per hp of mutant slain! That's right: An unimaginably nasty mutant with scads of powers and 50 hp will net your party 50 XP. So if you have 6 people in your party, that's about 8 XP each.

  3. I think you hit it on the head xp for accomplishing character/party goal. Whatever that is in your game.

  4. It's still "DM versus players." DM vs players != Killer DM.

    Like Gygax says in the bit you quoted The DM creates challenges for the players. If they figure out the puzzle, avoid the trap, utilize better tactics they have defeated the challenge put forth by the DM. Players vs DM.

    I think campaign before players only works when you have the sort of ongoing campaign world with dozen's of players. Today, most DM's are lucky to find four players, they better put them first or else they'll soon have zero players. And putting them first doesn't mean caving into their whines for mad lootz and what not.

    Without player vs DM you have a "story game" where there is no challenge, no risk, no success.

    This is a very interesting series. Thanks a lot for posting it.