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.

Monday, January 7, 2013

XPs for GPs: Deeply Flawed?

Let us consider:
GPs are their own reward:  Players don't need another reason to collect them.  Giving them character advancement on top of material wealth is double-dipping. 

Logical Disconnect:  Why would gathering and hauling large sacks of coins make you better at casting dancing lights or improve your standing with Thor?  Why would having a huge stash of priceless tapestries and gawdy jewelry increase your combat endurance?  By this standard, porters and antique dealers should be pretty badass.

GPs are not inherently commensurate with the difficulty of acquiring them:  A million GPs guarded by a hoard of syphilitic stirges, 16 flatulent purple worms, a commune of aggro-liches, and a venerable arch-demodragon are worth just as many XPs as a million GPs guarded by a single leprechaun sleeping off a 3-day bender.  You can make up some sort of bylaws to assure that the value of treasure retrieved is correlated to the difficulty of acquiring said treasure, but any work-around you come up with is as good as a sworn admission that XPs for GPs is deeply flawed

How much for the sack?
The opposite is even more true:  Difficult and even heroic actions are not necessarily rewarded with equivalent tubs of treasure.  Indeed, true heroism is often its own reward.   Let's say two thieves break into the Duke of Kroten's castle.  Thief 1 rescues a wrongly-accused fisherman from the dungeons; the other raids the duke's treasury making off with an armload of bearer bonds.  Both of them succeed without engaging in combat.  Thief 1, gets the satisfaction of averting a miscarriage of justice but no cash and zero XPs.  Thief 2, for the same effort, gets fifty large plus an equivalent haul in XPs.  So why should the character who takes home a paycheck for his efforts advance further than the one who works pro bono?