Thursday, January 31, 2013

Incentivized XPs

While I fully expected to have a new orifice torn for me after my last post on Sacred Cows for XPs, I was a bit surprised by the angle from which commenters drilled my new colon.

Though never stated, my intent was to call into question some of the logic behind using GPs for XPs, but the meat of the debate in the comments focused on using XPs as a form of in-game incentive to guide player actions.  The rest of you are all saying "well no shirt Dice-chucker" but I was completely unaware that this practice existed; it was eye-opening for me.

Initially, I was pretty averse to this sort of metagamey gimcrackery infecting my own game table.  But, then, who loves gimcrackers more than me?  Nobody.  So I decided to experiment with an incentivized experience element in my next gaming session, which is scheduled for this Saturday night--assuming none of my A-hole players need to undergo another emergency vasectomy or something. 

But how to implement incentivized gaming?  I haven't counted XPs since 1986 and I'm not about to implement accounting-heavy rules at my game table now either, so XPs for GPs still ain't gonna happen.  And one-size-fits-all XPs = ker-snooozzzzzz...  Instead, characters will benefit only from challenges befitting their class and status as adventurers.  Thaumaturges rifling the pockets of dead orcs to beef up their XP score?  Puh-leeze.

So without further ado, I present to you The Dice-chucker's Guide to Experimental Class-based XP Incentives: 

Thieves: Liberating valuable treasure
Liberating treasure is more than scooping up buckets of coin.  In order for treasure to be truly liberated, a thief must ply some form of stealth, trickery, or skullduggery in its acquisition.  And while treasure may be valuable in the traditional, monetary sense, the value may be non-monetary as well: say your thief pilfers a key that opens the cell that holds that stupid fisherman from my last post. Though neither the key nor the fisherman have much cash value, they are valuable to the thief whose goal it is to free the dude.

Fighters: Slaughtering worthy enemies
Worthy enemies are those that stand a decent chance of taking out the warrior.  Myrmidons stacking up kobold corpses = unworthy.  And the worthy enemy must have some capacity to fight back.  Slaughtering hogtied hill giants also no good.  For cavalier and paladin types, the fight must be conducted in an honourable fashion; surprise attacks, use of missile weapons, low blows and cheap shots would negate the value of the combat for those noble warriors.

Wizards: Ensorceling adversaries
Ensorceling entails overcoming adversaries that would not be possible through mundane means.  "Adversaries" are pretty much any obstacle that needs overcoming.  This basically means effectively casting spells in non-gratuitous situations.

Clerics: Cleansing shrines
In order to raise level, a cleric must clean a shrine.  As they achieve greater glory, clerics must clean ever-larger shrines of greater and greater impotence.

As you can see, these are not quite half-baked.  This experiment is going to require some hammering out on the fly--my players love when I pull this kind of crap.  I don't know how this is going to play out, but I like the idea that the players may very well be at odds with one another as they try to gather incentives.  I'm hoping for lots of bickering between thieves and fighters about the appropriate course of action; as it stands, my players are way to chummy.  We'll see.


John said...

I've never experimented with different XP incentives for different classes, though I've occasionally thought about it. I'll be interested to hear how it turns out.

Since deconsecrated shrines presumably don't grow on trees, maybe you should also let clerics get XP for smiting filthy heretic priests and smashing up their pagan idols, or for banishing demons and undead.

Timrod said...

There are definitely some cool things to do with clerics, but my current campaign is a cleric-less affair so I hadn't put much thought into it. I threw in the shrine cleansing as a joke because someone mentioned it in the comments of the previous post.

But since we're discussing it, I'd open up "cleansing shrines" to include all manner of expanding the presence of one's preferred spiritual force as well as messing with the opposition's shrines and followers, including the vandalism and smiting you mention.

Brendan said...

You might want to check out the 2E guidelines for XP. I don't have my books handy right now, but I remember them being rather similar and operating under the same kind of assumptions.

Timrod said...

Thanks B-money; I'm definitely in the market for an algorithm to determine worthy combat opponents; maybe I'll look to see if Zebbian AD&D has anything to offer in this regard.

Rod Thompson said...

Chivalry & Sorcery used that type of system, where each class received experience for doing 'classy' stuff. I've been looking at XP Evolution and while I can say that in 3e experience points basically became average treasure value.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I am late to the party. Here’s my 2 cents, YMMV:
I am a little surprised at the “xp = incentive” concept, particularly from those few comments that imply that xp is the sole incentive. I thought TSR already covered the incentive thing, i.e. some people play to solve puzzles, some want to role-play (theater-ish), some want to feel powerful by smashing imaginery kobolds two at a time (actually, it is kind of perverse fun to chop two in one blow), some want to hang out with friends and eat cheeseballs, some like the story-writing or character development aspect. There is your incentive. GP for XP does not support any of these directly, and only kobold-squooshing (power gaming) is supported indirectly by GP for XP.
If you want an XP system that incentivizes, then award XP on the spot for, are you ready? - good role playing, cleverness, impressive smashing-style, promoting the story, promoting character development, and contributing to the general atmosphere of fun. I toss my players a poker chip (thank you Shane Lacey and Deadlands) as an immediate reward to be redeemed for a boon during play or XP afterward. Also, I review the session then give a report at the beginning of the next session; that is when I reward (or penalize) other good (dumb or out of character) things the players did and I hand out the rewards for accomplishing objectives. Collecting a treasure may be an objective. If not, the only way to gain XP from wealth is by doing something clever with it, role playing its expenditure, … I have also given XP for out of game research (reading a book, researching a topic) that saves me time or that deepens a player’s character. This hasn’t happened yet, but I am also open to baldfaced bribery (hint hint, players).
Remember, this is opinion, not gospel.
On a previously mentioned topic, I remember only two cases of taking an action specifically for the XP. First was when we killed the sleeping giant(s) at the front desk in G1. Second was when one player paralyzed some monster in T1-4 and insisted that no one else touch it so he could get all the XP. Neither of those cases brought satisfaction; in fact, they were both distasteful and out of character.

Timrod said...

Welcome DAO. There's a bag of chips in the cupboard and there might be a beer or some soda in the fridge; help yourself.

I'm glad that I'm not alone in this non-incentivized gaming business. All the heat I took from my earlier post really made me wonder how much a of a pariah I really am.

And for the record, I never implemented my incentivized game concept. I just couldn't pull anything meaningful-yet-simple together. It was a fun thought experiment though.

Tedankhamen said...

I think it all boils down to risk and reward. Fight a dragon for that hoard? Sneak past the cultists and pry out those idol gem eyes? You deserve the level and the riches. Find a bag of treasure lying around? Sure you can spend it, but you certainly don't deserve XP for it...

Timrod said...

Dudenkhamen, I'm right there with ya'--except I still don't want to have to count all those experience points.