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Author Topic: Experience  (Read 371 times)

January 23, 2018, 03:18:19 pm
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The subject of experience came up last night, specifically, experience given to those that did not take part in the battle.
We should discuss.
If those that did not participate garner experience, then this boils down to a "participation trophy" and the most minor contribution to the battle would get as much as those nearly killed. This is sadly a remarkably 'socialist' "redistribution" of wealth from those that earned to those that did not.
Personally, Trellan will not accept XP from anything that he does not take part (and likely a major part) in; his honor is at stake on the subject!
Certainly, participation comes in varied forms, and a very minor spell cast from the rear ~may~ have an effect that, rounds later, ~may~ be the knife-edge that effects success or turns the tide of battle. A butterfly's wingflap in China ~may~ cause a tornado in Kansas too... Likewise, we cannot all be stalwart fighters! However, I was chagrined that those that profess conservative approaches opted for the socialist choice when it most behooved them! LOL!
In order to maintain some simplicity for our beleaguered and exceptionally (nay, overly) patient DM, we also cannot get into the minutiae of dividing each encounter down to the %-of-a-monster-killed method of XP distribution. There must be simplicity but also reward for risk; and no reward for over-cautious bystanding or minor spectating. Even the slingstone cast from far-away may distract the beast enough that it sees-not the axe swing that cleaves its head!
Does 'watching' enable a person to learn from the combat? Most would probably agree to a small degree; but not like actually joining the battle. If watching or mere presence conveys experience, then Trellan shall take on a more supervisory role and learn by watching how the others succeed...if his dwarvishly impatient and brusque nature allows...
Thoughts?
January 23, 2018, 06:43:26 pm
Reply #1
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Two thoughts immediately come to mind.

First, I'm happy to award (earned) experience in any way that the party wishes, as long as it's reasonable.  An even split is quick and simple, albeit not very realistic.  Traditionally, the books have argued around the lack of realism by saying that other characters learn by watching or that they contribute in non-obvious ways (such as acting as a tactically sound rear-guard).  I am fine with hand-waving away realism and splitting all experience equally if that suits the players.  However, I'm also willing to consider more realistic schemes.

Second, I wanted to share the experience point system from Rolemaster as an example of how such an attempt at realism can, ultimately, become too complex to use. To view it, check out the attached PDF.
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January 24, 2018, 08:15:28 am
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Rolemaster info is interesting. You're right: realistic but more complex than necessary and certainly not expedient.
This is an interesting topic. If a spellcaster solves a puzzle or applies relevant spells to gain info in an aadventurebut does not engage in any monster slaying, there may be no overt direct experience gained. And that's not right/fair. Also, if a character is a "tactically sound rear guard" for the whole adventure, and gets an equal share, that is also not right/fair.
Fortunately, our party members all contribute and don't slack so we don't have to take a closer look at this. I did like the approach as DM that some individual xp are awarded for solo actiones; this makes sense.
January 24, 2018, 08:31:43 am
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A scenario: a party has 3 members. In the dungeon they come upon a 1000 XP monster. Only 1 can fight it (other 2 members are behind a wall of force, or behind bars, or too weak from injuries to participate). The 1 character defeats the 1000 XP monster.
Should each member receive 333 XP?
Should the 1 character get, say 700 and the other 2 get, say, 150 each?
We all agree the conquering character SHOULD get 1000 XP.
Should he ask the other 2 characters to turn around and NOT watch so his XP is not lessened? Silly, right?
If other spectators arrive does everyone get less XP? Also silly.
If a 1000 XP monster is slain by 1 character solo, that character should get 1000 XP regardless of who else is watching or in a 'party' with him. This makes sense.
Now if the others learn from watching (i.e. that trolls regerate and grow new limbs, for example), then they may use that knowledge later (but no XP) or they may be awarded XP over-and-above the 1000 XP that said monster is 'worth'. This seems to make sense.
It is an open and interesting question; DM decides and "house rules" may apply. Hmmm...worth more thought.
January 24, 2018, 11:52:44 pm
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To sum up:
On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being socialist equal division of all xp among characters, and 10 is every man for himself overcomplicated Rolemaster XP.
Our current paradigm is about a 3.
I would table the idea of moving this to maybe a 5.
We should discuss as a group.
Also, we don't want to add to the DM's workload!
January 26, 2018, 04:30:57 am
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The issue is that in the rules as they are written in prior versions of the game, a monster has a fixed value in experience - a cap on what could be awarded.  That paradigm has shifted in 3.5.

Imagine a party of characters where one is first level, one is fifth level, and one is tenth level. The all face a monster that is a suitable challenge to a party of fifth level characters and prevail (as a team).

In this example, the current system would reward the first level character with 600 xp (because the experience was newer to him and he had a lot to learn during the fight), the fifth level character with 500 xp (because that's the standard amount) and the tenth level character with only 166 xp (because it wasn't really a challenge to them and they presumably didn't learn much that was new).  Even though the first level character (probably) contributed the least, they get the most xp because they learned the most.  The high level character earned less xp because the experience was more routine for them and less instructional.

While this is good, it's still bounded by a factor of the number of characters and the assumption that each contributes equally... In the above example, the values for a party of first level characters is 1800, for a party of fifth level characters is 1500, and for a party of tenth level characters is 500. In each case, a party of three would see these awards divided by the total number of characters, i.e. three. Thus the first level character earns 1800 / 3 = 600 xp, etc. 

This isn't really realistic - what if there were nine first level characters and one tenth level character?  Would each of the first level characters receive just 1800 / 10 = 180 xp ?  Should the tenth level character only receive 500 / 10 = 50 xp ? The extra first level characters don't really help that much, so the tenth level character would still do most of the fighting... so the first level characters would still experience roughly the same amount of combat and see the same high-level tricks... but earn much less for what is essentially the same experience.

Perhaps the ideal way to handle this is to consider that the rules assume a party of four characters that are the same level. If four characters of fifth level defeat a creature that is a suitable challenge for a party of fifth level characters, they would each earn 1500 / 4 = 375 xp.  Is that a baseline for this creature?  Should ten characters of fifth level receive 375 xp each, because that's the baseline value for that monster, instead of just 150 xp ?  Likewise, should two characters of fifth level also receive just 375 xp for the battle ?  I feel like that's an interesting path  because it would eliminate a sense that characters that don't help out are "leaching" xp away from those that do help... it would tie reward to challenge... but ultimately I think this approach is also flawed.

What if we consider what it means to gain experience.  When a character gains experience, they gain levels and learn new skills. If a party consists of a fighter and a wizard and the wizard watches the fighter slay the beast with a sword... how does that make them a better spell-caster?  In this case, it seems like only contributing with spells would help the caster learn... and more powerful spells would help them learn faster.

Let's look at how some other games handle this.  In particular let's look at RuneQuest (3rd edition).  In this system, all skills are based upon a percentage; e.g. a character might have a skill of 45% in Short Sword - Attack and a 38% in Short Sword - Parry.  Next to each skill is a small box. During an adventure, they can put a check in the box if they use the skill successfully.  At the end of the adventure, they may make a roll for each box that is checked; if that roll fails then they gain 1d6 percentage points in that skill. So, let's say a character with the skills listed above gets into a fight and successfully parries an attack but never successfully hits.. at the end of the adventure he would only roll for his parry skill.  If he rolls over a 38, he gains 1d6 percentage points to his parry skill.   Let's say that many adventures take place and later that same character has gained a parry skill of 92%. They will easily get successes (and thus check boxes) but they will rarely fail the roll at the end of the adventure (and thus they rarely have encountered something truly new which would expand their already very high skill).  This system is extremely fair to all and is realistic. However, it's not possible to use this system in a class-based game like Dungeons and Dragons.

By it's very nature of having abstract "classes", Dungeons and Dragons can't be as realistic as systems without classes (i.e. those that are based upon skill progressions rather than class levels).  So, where does this leave us?

I believe that, as the Dungeons and Dragons game can never really be as realistic as some other games, it is folly to try to force realism on an inherently abstract system. Since the core of Dungeons and Dragons is about a group of specialists coming together to form a team, I think that it makes sense to use a fairly simple system.  Since a team works best when it's composed of characters that are (roughly) equal in competence, I think it's advantageous to divide experience equally.

Some may feel that this robs them of their well-deserved xp - and in a realistic system this would be true.  But in Dungeons and Dragons, where xp rewards diminish with higher levels at the same time that the requirements to advance also increase, it's a disservice to the team as a whole and actually counter-productive to want a lion's share of the xp.

Consider another example, a party of four characters with one that is eighth level and the rest who are first level.  The party encounters two orcs and the eighth level character rushes in and attacks, using the Cleave feat, and killing both orcs in the first round of combat (before any of the first level characters can act, because the eighth level fighter also has the Improved Initiative feat). As a DM, I could reward only that eighth level character... he would receive 200 xp.  Or, I could split the reward and the eighth level character would receive 50 xp while each of the three first level characters would receive 75 xp.  The net reward to the entire party is 275 xp, more than what the eighth level character would have received on his own.

Let's continue this example... say over the next 15 rooms of the dungeon this trend continues (a very boring dungeon, I admit, but it serves for this example).  If I continue to just reward that fighter, he will have acquired a total of 3200 xp (for 16 total rooms).  He's not even half way to the next level yet, and his friends (the first level characters) are still at 0 xp (and feel useless).  Have they learned nothing from watching this paragon of battle slay room after room of orcs?  But if we divide the xp equally, they would each have earned 1200 xp and reached second level. 

Which begs the question... what makes for a better gaming experience - that three players level up or that one player gets less than half way to leveling up ?  When those first level characters level up, they become more useful and better able to contribute... and thus the party as a team gains.  Yes, it's abstract... and yet it's not "fair" to the character that's killing all the orcs... but it makes for a better game when we are constrained by an abstract system.

I think we should either split the xp equally (allowing for some rare exceptions such as intentional duels or when a character is dead/unconscious) or else consider a less abstract system.  I just don't think that the Dungeons and Dragons system supports an attempt to create a "realistic" division of xp.

I welcome dissenting opinions - what do you think?

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January 30, 2018, 12:18:54 am
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Great "take" on experience point awards. That Runequest experience is neat and interesting, but you're right: impractical for D&D.
I don't believe that this is a dissenting opinion at all, I think it is a good discussion, not even a debate.
The key may be in moderation and staying away from the extremes. If experience is equally divided, the a party of 100 1st level characters need only follow a 10th level character around for a few adventures and Voilà!, they are 5th level and can 'contribute' (with this line of thinking, then the Roman coliseum was filled with high level characters! Ha ha). That extreme isn't good.
On the other hand, a 1st level character in a party of 5th level characters probably learns a LOT even if they do not contribute at all. To award that character 0 xp is also not good.
I would put forth the following as ideas:
1) Goal completion xp for an adventure ("story xp") should be divided equally.
2) xp should probably be awarded to the individual for apt & appropriate usage of skills (well-used spells, picking locks, tracking, knowledge,  persuasion, etc.) that moves the party ahead safely in the adventure. The 2nd lvl wizard casting 'knock' (1st lvl spell) maybe could get (100÷2) 50 xp.  The thief detecting a trap gets 50 xp. The ranger tracking orcs gets 50 xp, etc.
3) Adversaries that are conquered or killed should be divided equally during those times that many/most/all characters took part; BUT, solo kills or 2 people killing it alone should get a higher reward for the risks taken in the combat.
4) Incapacitated characters get zip while out (except for the story completion award, given that they were present for most of it).
5) Characters who purposefully do not contribute/help to aid the adventure or whom do not use their skills might get a penalty on xp or some of their xp split among other party members (i.e. someone just along for the ride who doesn't cast spells, use skills, offer ideas, nor interact effectively with NPCs).

In the end, my personal opinion is that the adventure, jokes,  and camaraderie are what makes the night enjoyable, the "leveling up" is a byproduct, so, whatever the DM rules is fine (as a DM, I might find a slightly different method is conducive to expediency vs. realism). So, let's continue to have fun at it.
Shan has already mentioned the possibility of adding in some more characters for each of us, so we may see firsthand how lower levels are affected to a limited degree.
Keep up the good work!
January 30, 2018, 02:19:15 pm
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That Runequest experience is neat and interesting, but you're right: impractical for D&D.

I've always liked the RuneQuest system (at least, the 3rd edition; they changed quite a bit between versions).  Perhaps some day we can try it, and you can explore the world of Glorantha.

I would put forth the following as ideas:
1) Goal completion xp for an adventure ("story xp") should be divided equally.
2) xp should probably be awarded to the individual for apt & appropriate usage of skills (well-used spells, picking locks, tracking, knowledge,  persuasion, etc.) that moves the party ahead safely in the adventure. The 2nd lvl wizard casting 'knock' (1st lvl spell) maybe could get (100÷2) 50 xp.  The thief detecting a trap gets 50 xp. The ranger tracking orcs gets 50 xp, etc.
3) Adversaries that are conquered or killed should be divided equally during those times that many/most/all characters took part; BUT, solo kills or 2 people killing it alone should get a higher reward for the risks taken in the combat.
4) Incapacitated characters get zip while out (except for the story completion award, given that they were present for most of it).
5) Characters who purposefully do not contribute/help to aid the adventure or whom do not use their skills might get a penalty on xp or some of their xp split among other party members (i.e. someone just along for the ride who doesn't cast spells, use skills, offer ideas, nor interact effectively with NPCs).

To give you a bit of a peek "behind the curtain",
  • I always split the story award at the end of an adventure equally between all player characters that participated.
  • There is already a system in place for awarding XP for defeating (and even just surviving) traps. There is an ad hoc system for rewarding good role-playing and other times when the DM feels that they should be awarded but it's not appropriate for individual tasks.  To put it another way, the story award at the end of the adventure rewards success; casting a Knock spell or tracking some orcs makes that success possible so it's the story award at the end that is the reward for those actions.  To add in an additional, separate, reward would be to reward those behaviors twice.
  • I normally split XP evenly whenever all the characters participate in a combat - even if their participation is minor.  In situations such as duels, I award XP just to the player that's in the duel even if the other players watch.  It's not a question of whether or not the other characters were present - it matters if they were also in real danger or had a reason to think that they were in danger.
  • Incapacitated characters don't earn XP for anything that happens while they're incapacitated. This CAN adjust the story award if they're out for a significant portion of the adventure (but generally that doesn't happen as they're necessary and the other players heal them fairly quickly).
  • It's difficult to determine when someone is helping.  Consider a wizard with a Fireball spell and an encounter with an ogre. If that's the only spell that the wizard has left, some might complain if he hangs back and does nothing instead of blasting the ogre...
     but perhaps he's saving it for a better use, since it's an area effect spell?  If he hangs back when fighting the ogre but then has his Fireball to cast when the party encounters a dozen gnolls, he's made a good decision in terms of resource management.  Even if the encounter with the gnolls never happens, the player had no certainty that it wouldn't. To say that a character that hangs back doesn't deserve experience is to say that either we're going to itemize everything (like Rolemaster) or we're going to second-guess how they choose to run their character.  Unless it's a trend that I see develop over time, I'm going to give the player the benefit of the doubt and assume that a poor contribution is part of a strategy of resource management and I won't penalize them for it.
  • Note that only player characters earn XP at the given rates. There is an assumption in the rules that the player characters are exceptional in all ways, including their ability to learn and progress. Non-player characters such as henchmen and hirelings use a slightly different system for gaining XP and generally earn much less XP than they would as a PC.
  • There is also a separate system of XP for monsters that have classes (for example, a hill giant with three levels of the Barbarian class).  It's not necessary to go into too much detail here but there's a concept called "ECL" that modifies the amount of XP that they need to gain levels.

Hope this info is helpful!

Shan has already mentioned the possibility of adding in some more characters for each of us, so we may see firsthand how lower levels are affected to a limited degree.

As I've mentioned before, the campaign is designed and balanced for four characters. I have no intention of allowing multiple characters and already regret that we have the Tharivol character being handled as a floating "extra PC".  I would vastly prefer that we get a fourth player (to take over Tharivol or to make a character of their choice) rather than allow extra characters per player.

If you feel that the adventure is too difficult with just four characters, talk to me and I can perhaps offer some tactical advice. However, throwing more characters at the adventure isn't the right answer.
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