Friday, May 4, 2012

What if XP came in flavors?

A Possibly Crazy XP Concept

I never liked bonus xp for high prime requisites.  It’s like you’re rewarding potential instead of action, it’s just always bugged me.  Thinking about that led to this...

Normally if you’re trying to reward different classes differently, the onus is on the DM to make sure that some “thiefy” xp goes to the thief for doing “thiefy stuff”.  The concept we’re talking about here doesn’t exactly alleviate that, but you might be able to get away with more generic party awards and push the math off on the players, just as with bonuses from prime requisites.

Under this concept, we break xp up into four or five categories.  It’s really five, but the first four are the major ones, I kinda think “Luck” is a flavorless xp for rare occasions.

GLORY - brave deeds, winning battles, slaying beasts, surviving physical hardships, pious service to a church

GUILE - executing cunning plans, successful trickery, solving a puzzle or problem

FORTUNE - acquisition of wealth, trade goods, land, objets d’art; improving social status

DISCOVERY - exploration of unknown places and things, bringing civilization to the wild, doing the impossible

LUCK - survival despite overwhelming odds, favor of the gods

When dispensing xp to characters at the end of a session or adventure, I don’t have to worry (as much?) about separating awards.  I can say “you guys each earned 200xp for Glory, 100xp for Guile, and based on the stuff you just fenced, 170xp for Fortune”.  Each player then applies their % bonuses appropriately.  The trick is, you can still give special awards for absolute craziness or excellence; and don’t forget special Luck awards for that PC who somehow made it out of the hydra’s mouth alive thanks to that improbable saving throw.

Players don’t have to separate out the xp on the character sheet, it’s still all one big pool to them; it’s just categorized as it’s being handed out so they can tweak the amounts.  Some players may want to keep it separate just for the amusement of watching one pool fill up faster than another, of course.

This is marginally more math than prime requisite bonuses, but it makes more sense to me.  The strong fighter gets prime requisite bonus xp for a session which contained no fighting?  Really?  Yeah, no.  Splitting the xp might set expectations, and PCs will start heading for adventure possibilities (and coping methods) which favor their xp bonuses, as well they should.

At creation, each character gets a 10% bonus to one category, and a 5% bonus to another category; you choose these categories to represent your character’s style.  Big campaign shifts may warrant allowing PCs to redistribute their bonuses moving forward (“But my dude is like a vow-of-poverty monk now!  Can’t I move my Fortune bonus to Glory?”).

For example, Grognoth the Disturbingly-Thewed, a barbarian type who loves to bash heads, drink wine, and bash heads (in that order), might want 10% Glory and 5% Fortune.  The Amazing Weasel, a backstabby thief type with a pencil-thin moustache, might want 10% Fortune and 5% Guile.  This might also help distinguish same-class characters in the same party - the battlemage is Guile/Glory, and the scientist-wizard is Discovery/Guile; one elf is Fortune/Guile, and the other elf prefers Glory/Discovery.  You get the picture.

Here’s the thing - these categories are not all-consuming, they’re just what I think might work for Wampus Country.  In another setting - one full of politics at court, let’s say - you might yank Discovery in favor of Intrigue.  A game with a strong focus on tribal allegiance might have a Family category - or a Totem one or something.  In other words, we can use the list of “xp flavors” as shorthand for what the game is about.

And, like any “meta” mechanic, you could start spinning stuff off from it.  Maybe clerics of the gods of travel hit a PC with a geas to run off find new things (ie, earn a certain amount of Discovery xp); perhaps the knights of the Order of the Crimson Pelican will finally be impressed enough to admit Sir Chuffingham when he earns a certain amount of Glory.  This is more meta than some people like, of course.

I haven’t tried this yet, just punting it out into the ether.

"Onward, to Glory!  For which I gain a ten percent bonus, huzzah!"


  1. I'm mangling up a d&d system at the moment, mainly out of spite and perversity. I'll stick this exp system in it.

  2. This is an extremely clever mechanic that is much better than XP for prime requisites.

  3. Oh man, you've hit on something here. I'm going to hack a Gothic-specific version of this, but that is truly inspiring.

  4. Mazes & Minotaurs works along similar categories, although it's based on class and characters only gain XP related to their class category.

    I think this more generic version is a significant improvement on that idea.

  5. So for this round of Crazy/Stupid/Brilliant, that's four votes for 'Brilliant', then (with an optional side of 'Crazy' always implied). Thanks, gang - if anybody uses something like this, let me know how it works out - as I said, I haven't tested it myself.

  6. So, everyone benefits from (eg: pulling a scam, exploring new lands, etc.) but certain characters (Mr Sneaky, Marco Polo, etc.) benefit more, so they're more likely to instigate such things.

    Clever. Incentivises different characters to pull in different directions according to their area of expertise, but still encourages their team-mates to go along with them out of self-interest. Keeps things from getting boring and encourages player input.

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