Friday, July 27, 2012

House Rule: No Experience Points

I haven't used experience points in at least ten years.  It goes back to my days with 2E, when I began to detest the calculations involved and keeping track of numbers during the game, since it was always impossible to remember who did what at the end of the game (we kept track of individual experience totals for each character back then, instead of divvying everything up equally for the group).  However, my longest running 2E campaign rarely kept track of XP this way.  It was a bit more of a typical campaign, the only oddball being a halfling cleric that spoke every language in my game world (Helenista).  That is when I stopped handing out experience and we ruled that every 2-4 adventures, we would raise levels.  If I wanted the PCs to move quickly through beginning levels, it was every 2 adventures, and then I slowed it down during the mid-level sweet spot to every 4 adventures.  It worked pretty well.  It's something I kept doing throughout 3.0 and 3.5.  I've never once handed out experience points while running a 3.X game.  Nor will I ever do so with 3.PF, which I do intend on running (it's too cool not to, and I love messing with rules like 3.X encourages).  I will be taking this rule into the canon for my S&W/Frankenstein OSR game.  Depending on how quickly I need to move them along, they'll advance 1 level every 2-4 adventures.  Complete adventures, mind you, not just sessions. 

What's the side effect of doing this?  Well, in OSR games it helps negate greed and murder as a primary motivation.  It might be right for a certain character in the game who has that sort of persona, but when that is the main way characters are rewarded it fosters that behavior as proper within the context of the game.  I thought to myself - would I want my children (I have two daughters, 5 years and 6 years) playing a game in which greed or murder are rewarded?  Easy answer.  No.  When you take that away, and reward the PCs with level adjustments based on them actually completing adventures, it has the effect of motivating them toward story goals and thinking about what their characters would do instead.  Some may see this as "against" an OSR game philosophy.  I say that those particular folks have put the game on a pedestal on which it does not belong, and that no game is important enough to argue about or "revere".  The "spirit" of D&D is fun.  Not how you play the game, not what rule set you use, and not "keeping it old school."  It's... a... game.  So, with that in mind, I freely adapt what I see fit - and since I had a problem with the moral issues in play with the older XP reward systems, and to some extent the current (PF/3.5) ones, I made the switch to the system I use now, which is the lack of one.

4 comments:

  1. That's actually a really good thought, and sums a lot of why I've never really clicked with a lot of OSR type games that have a reward system based on killing and looting. Not that I oppose those things if playing the right character, but I'v often found the bigger challenge to role playing is to see how often you can solve problems without killing everyone in your shiny +5 pants.

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    1. Exactly. One of my favorite characters ever was that weird little halfling cleric that talked his way out of every situation since he knew (read "spent all his non-weapon proficiencies on") languages (it helped that his Int was 18). He talked his way out of at least 3 different fights that I can remember. I just wouldn't want my kids, who have no context to understand "killing monsters and taking their stuff," to stumble upon a reward system like that, so I feel I have no business promoting it. It's not like I'm not there to inform their decisions as they get older, but I wouldn't let them even witness us play a game with such a reward structure. I know it is just a game, but it bugs me, and so I decided to do something about it.

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  2. I would hand out a flat amount of XP every so often instead of a flat "level up", since some classes specifically require less xp to level up to reward players for playing the "party bitch" type characters (thieves and clerics specifically) and penalize them for playing the powerhouse classes (wizards, paladins and barbarians)

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    1. That's assuming I actually want things to be balanced. ;)

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