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View Full Version : Crazy Talk - dissociated mechanics, XP, and rewarding the LVP



Quertus
2016-10-04, 08:41 AM
Note: although I'm discussing this from a D&D 3e PoV, I believe this concept is applicable across many RPGs.

Background: I always used to track individual XP. Then 3e came along, with its notion of group XP. It was like a breath of fresh air after being trapped in the dungeon for far too long. The change from "you earn XP for what you did" to "y'all earn XP for what y'all did" is something I took to wholeheartedly.

This method came with several added bonuses. For one, it made calculating XP even easier.

It also made giving bonus XP a group project. Since everyone gets XP for someone doing something cool, everyone wants people to do cool things, and everyone wants me to remember all the cool things people did, so that they can get their XP for it. This simple change turned resentment for people getting the limelight into encouraging people to take the limelight. Good times all around.

3e As of 3.5, the game also rewards the DM for keeping the party at the same level. How many XP a challenge is worth depends on the level of the character facing the challenge. Thus, the XP for the challenge only needs to be calculated once if the party is all the same level, but needs to be recalculated individually for each of the X different levels in the party if the characters are not all the same level. Thus, I require the PCs to remain the same level. Item crafting must be done with crafting XP, XP components, or some other method which does not involve spending XP.

Then it became fashionable to use dissociated XP mechanics in 3e, where you just grant levels every X sessions. This is even less work for the DM. Of the implementations I've seen, my favorite involves getting a quarter of a level every session. Under this system, level abilities are divided into 4 distinct categories; each time you quarter-level, pick one you have not yet picked for this level.

This still works with my "don't spend your XP" systems, because you no longer are working in XP. But it doesn't work well for granting small amounts of bonus XP.

It does, however, allow for discrepancies in levels within the party. So you could, for example, reward your MVP with a bonus quarter level without fear of having to calculate XP differently for different players.

However, despite my fond memories of playing a 1st level character in a 7th level party in earlier editions, playgrounders seem adamant that game balance is murdered by allowing disparate levels in 3e.

Which got me thinking... if game balance is such a concern, why not reward the Least Valuable Player? Each session, grant a bonus quarter level to the player whose character contributed the least. Alternately, grant a bonus quarter level to each of the zero or more characters who contributed less than a certain amount to the game, according to whatever metrics you design.

So, playground, what do you think? Should I consider moving to dissociated XP mechanics so that I can reward the LVP and attempt to preserve game balance? Should I continue to give group XP to maximize fun, and minimize resentment for times when players get the spotlight? Or are there other systems I should consider?

Martin Greywolf
2016-10-04, 09:59 AM
Awarding bonus XP to good roleplayers (where good is determined by flavour of your game, cool combat moves are good for action packed campaigns, not so much for diplomacy-heavy one) is done, from DMs perspective, for one reason only: it incentivizes people to do more stuff related to game. That's really the only reason there. It especially helps new players who came from non-TTRPG backgrounds to get a gist of what this roleplaying stuff is all about.

Game balance is another thing entirely. DnD 3.5 is so abysmally balanced that making it worse is... inadvisable at the best of times. In this system, a lvl 1 person in a party of lvl 7 people will rarely contribute in a meaningful way (barring meta knowledge and superior player plotting skills, but there's only so much you can do to handle these). This isn't a problem for some people, but for others, being constantly in the shadow of others can get rather grating.

Level disparity like this works much, much better in systems that don't have such drastic differences between levels - a game system I'm running uses a class system where your max level is 5 (for a 2d6 roll) and you get more powerful by getting more classes. So, even if someone is 20 levels behind a party, there's still at least one area where he's almost at their competence level.

Awarding XP per adventure to everyone equally isn't really a dissociated mechanic. Or rather, it is somewhat dissociated, but so is every mechanic - your standard XP doesn't handle decreased effectiveness of repeating the same action (e.g. killing 300 goblins doesn't really give you as many experience as killing your first goblin ever multiplied by 300). This mechanic doesn't accurately reflect that putting in more effort results in more experience, but provided one of your PCs didn't just sit in a tavern the entire time, he still learned something, if only by observation.

To sum up, keep assigning XP per session/adventure as is and find some other way to incentivize good roleplaying. Things like Fate points (allows you to re-roll, has a cap of how many you can have at a time) are pretty popular these days, and for a good reason. They incentivize roleplay as they should, and yet they don't allow a good roleplayer to frustrate other by having a huge advantage.

Segev
2016-10-04, 10:08 AM
I've been thinking (and occasionally saying) for a while now that some of the problems with quadratic wizards vs. linear fighters would be delayed (if not resolved) by allowing the "weaker" classes to advance in level faster than the "stronger" ones. Let fighters hit level 10 as wizards are hitting level 5 or 7, perhaps. They're well into their PrCs as wizards are just starting them.

Mark Hall
2016-10-04, 01:10 PM
I've been thinking (and occasionally saying) for a while now that some of the problems with quadratic wizards vs. linear fighters would be delayed (if not resolved) by allowing the "weaker" classes to advance in level faster than the "stronger" ones. Let fighters hit level 10 as wizards are hitting level 5 or 7, perhaps. They're well into their PrCs as wizards are just starting them.

And this is something like what AD&D did, and part of what XP costs for items were supposed to lead to... the wizard would spend XP on making items, and therefore gain levels slower than the fighter who wouldn't be spending XP. It's also part of what was supposed to be addressed by LA... if I have a Hobgoblin and you have a human, you should advance faster, because hobgoblins have an LA. However, this was a collection of pretty crappy mechanics to achieve this, piled on top of really crappy balance between classes.

To the OP, I think it works best IF you include a way to reward players who do better... Fate, Honor, Force Points, Bennies... some sort of goody that lets better play influence the game. You can say to the party "Ok, everyone gets X XP. Bob, you get the goody this game."

Quertus
2016-10-04, 01:28 PM
Awarding bonus XP to good roleplayers (where good is determined by flavour of your game, cool combat moves are good for action packed campaigns, not so much for diplomacy-heavy one) is done, from DMs perspective, for one reason only: it incentivizes people to do more stuff related to game. That's really the only reason there. It especially helps new players who came from non-TTRPG backgrounds to get a gist of what this roleplaying stuff is all about.

Agreed, Pavlovian encouragement is traditionally the reason to give bonus XP. But balance, resentment, and laziness are reasons not to do it, at least not individually. Which is why I moved to giving it as group XP.

However, once you view XP as a tool, and not just game engine physics, cause and effect, then the question becomes, how else can one utilize this tool. Thus me talking crazy talk, and suggesting utilizing this tool for game balance purposes.


Game balance is another thing entirely. DnD 3.5 is so abysmally balanced that making it worse is... inadvisable at the best of times. In this system, a lvl 1 person in a party of lvl 7 people will rarely contribute in a meaningful way (barring meta knowledge and superior player plotting skills, but there's only so much you can do to handle these). This isn't a problem for some people, but for others, being constantly in the shadow of others can get rather grating.

Level disparity like this works much, much better in systems that don't have such drastic differences between levels - a game system I'm running uses a class system where your max level is 5 (for a 2d6 roll) and you get more powerful by getting more classes. So, even if someone is 20 levels behind a party, there's still at least one area where he's almost at their competence level.

Now, here I don't follow you. I'm talking about trying to solve game balance issues, and you're talking about making balance issues worse. :smallconfused:


Awarding XP per adventure to everyone equally isn't really a dissociated mechanic. Or rather, it is somewhat dissociated, but so is every mechanic - your standard XP doesn't handle decreased effectiveness of repeating the same action (e.g. killing 300 goblins doesn't really give you as many experience as killing your first goblin ever multiplied by 300). This mechanic doesn't accurately reflect that putting in more effort results in more experience, but provided one of your PCs didn't just sit in a tavern the entire time, he still learned something, if only by observation.

To sum up, keep assigning XP per session/adventure as is and find some other way to incentivize good roleplaying. Things like Fate points (allows you to re-roll, has a cap of how many you can have at a time) are pretty popular these days, and for a good reason. They incentivize roleplay as they should, and yet they don't allow a good roleplayer to frustrate other by having a huge advantage.

Hmmm... you're right, all XP mechanics leave something to be desired. However, as I understand the term, tying them to things in the game (killing monsters, completing quests) is associated; tying XP to things outside the game (role-playing, sessions, LVP) is disassociated*.

Thus, once again, the crazy talk of advocating a disassociated* mechanic.

EDIT:


I've been thinking (and occasionally saying) for a while now that some of the problems with quadratic wizards vs. linear fighters would be delayed (if not resolved) by allowing the "weaker" classes to advance in level faster than the "stronger" ones. Let fighters hit level 10 as wizards are hitting level 5 or 7, perhaps. They're well into their PrCs as wizards are just starting them.

Sounds like we're on similar pages :smallwink:

Although... my idea would also benefit the low op blasting wizard in the same party as an übercharger, or even, heaven forbid, a Tippy-level batman wizard.


And this is something like what AD&D did, and part of what XP costs for items were supposed to lead to... the wizard would spend XP on making items, and therefore gain levels slower than the fighter who wouldn't be spending XP. It's also part of what was supposed to be addressed by LA... if I have a Hobgoblin and you have a human, you should advance faster, because hobgoblins have an LA. However, this was a collection of pretty crappy mechanics to achieve this, piled on top of really crappy balance between classes.

Wow, is that how that was supposed to work? Because I didn't get that, at all.


To the OP, I think it works best IF you include a way to reward players who do better... Fate, Honor, Force Points, Bennies... some sort of goody that lets better play influence the game. You can say to the party "Ok, everyone gets X XP. Bob, you get the goody this game."

Hmmm... I may have to experiment with mixing my systems, giving group bonus XP for cool things, while giving the individual responsible for the cool thing some non-XP reward. Although, yes, going strictly by your way prevents dissociated* mechanics.

If, however, I move to completely disassociated* XP leveling mechanics, as many have, would you consider using disparate levels as a balancing mechanism to be a good plan?

* my auto correct keeps coming up with both "dissociated" and "disassociated" - which is correct?

Martin Greywolf
2016-10-05, 06:42 AM
1) Assoc vs dissoc mechanics

I never found this division of mechanics all that helpful, to be honest. All mechanics become dissociated if you go down the rabbit hole enough, so it relies a lot on your personal feelings, and, well...

With XP, awarding them per session actually doesn't make them all that disoc - what XP are supposed to represent is how much your characters learned, and assuming that your sessions are usually the same length and that everyone contributes roughly equally, one session is actually about the same in the amount of relevant things that happened. Sure, one session took one in-game day and another one took in-game month, but the first one was really action-packed, while most of the second one was spent travelling.

There will be exceptions and grey areas (crafting stuff should, if you really think about it, give you XP over time with diminishing returns), but it works rather well.

2) How to balance

All I was saying was that you can't really balance XP handouts if you do them on an individual basis, not unless you spend a monstrous amount of time to account for stuff like class tiers. My general point was that it's not worth the effort.

Disparate levels have this exact same problem, with added player perception piled on top of them. The point of class and level system (aside from making it easier to build characters) is that I know that all lvl 10 things are at about the same level of power. I can guarantee you that a lot of players will feel worse about being lvl 5 wizard in lvl 9 party than about just straight up nerfing wizard, even if mechanical effects will be about the same.

In my experience, limiting wizard power was done by not allowing them an access to all high lvl spells - they had to go out and search for scrolls or research them, which took time, so it took a while to get your ideal lvl 5 spells loadout.

3) What to do with LVP

Problem here is that you don't want to make a mechanic that Pavlovs people into actually not roleplaying/doing cool stuff, but need some catch-up mechanic.

If I was using my favourite re-roll points, how about this: if a person with least amount of them earns one, he earns one bonus point. If you cap them somewhere low, like at three or four points in the bank max, your LVP gets both a significant bonus AND a Pavlovian reinforcement to go forth and do stuff. And while the value of continuing to do stuff decreases, it doesn't go away all that much.

Segev
2016-10-05, 08:57 AM
One way to try to catch up an LVP with XP bonuses would be to hand out small XP bonuses every time somebody tries something that would have been helpful, but fails. Give greater rewards for efforts that were wisely made, but just didn't work.

The goal here is to make it so that the PCs who are least able to contribute feel encouraged to do so anyway, but not to reward them for deliberately making things hard and "trying to fail" in ways that are actually counterproductive because of the likelihood of failure. What you DON'T want is the PCs to try things that, if they fail, make things worse than if they didn't try, when they know they have a high chance of failure. What you DO want is to reward them for trying even if they have a high chance of failure, if their trying is contributing to the party on a success, and isn't a stupid gamble if they fail.

flond
2016-10-05, 12:06 PM
Yeah least contributing sounds bad. I get the idea but... maybe most damaged. Or whoever failed the most. Don't encourage not trying, but do give a bonus to whoever looks like they've been put through the wringer.

Mark Hall
2016-10-05, 01:44 PM
Wow, is that how that was supposed to work? Because I didn't get that, at all.

For 3.x? Yeah. If you have an LA +1 Character, it takes longer for them to reach class level 2 than someone who is LA +0. The FRCS laid this out pretty clearly.

For AD&D, it gets kind of interesting, because the differing leveling speeds means that two 10th level characters or different classes aren't going to be equivalent, but two 2 million XP characters might be closer.



Hmmm... I may have to experiment with mixing my systems, giving group bonus XP for cool things, while giving the individual responsible for the cool thing some non-XP reward. Although, yes, going strictly by your way prevents dissociated* mechanics.

If, however, I move to completely disassociated* XP leveling mechanics, as many have, would you consider using disparate levels as a balancing mechanism to be a good plan?

* my auto correct keeps coming up with both "dissociated" and "disassociated" - which is correct?

Not necessarily, though it varies by system. In 3.x, the classes are not designed equally... the linear fighter v. quadratic wizard. You could even have widely disparate levels and have a decent game, so long as it wasn't a high-level wizard with low-level fighters. In Hackmaster, because of several aspects of the system, disparate levels can work ok, but it's less necessary, since the classes are better balanced. BUT, since the system is "swingier", a lower-level character can still meaningfully contribute to a higher level game... and low-level monsters can remain a threat to higher-level characters.

SethoMarkus
2016-10-05, 01:47 PM
The goal is to encourage roleplay and contribution, correct? In such a way that does not handicap an already "lacking" character?

So we need to:

Reward players that do contribute
Have a greater reward for players who contribute but are usually lagging behind
Do not increase disparity between most effective and least effective characters
Do not discourage least contributing player through handicaps or punishment
Do not encourage normally contributing players to contribute less


So, negative reinforcement?

Remove some harmful or distasteful aspect for players who contribute? This won't make them more effetive (creating a feedback loop like in the other MVP thread), but it still encourages contributing to the group.

I'm thinking of allowing a player to ignore a Flaw (while still reaping the benefits) for one session, or remove a status condition, etc.

Of course, this still has the issue of being the same reward for the high contributor s and low contributors, and may not be appealing enough to encourage change, but...

Quertus
2016-10-05, 02:25 PM
All I was saying was that you can't really balance XP handouts if you do them on an individual basis, not unless you spend a monstrous amount of time to account for stuff like class tiers. My general point was that it's not worth the effort.

Disparate levels have this exact same problem, with added player perception piled on top of them. The point of class and level system (aside from making it easier to build characters) is that I know that all lvl 10 things are at about the same level of power. I can guarantee you that a lot of players will feel worse about being lvl 5 wizard in lvl 9 party than about just straight up nerfing wizard, even if mechanical effects will be about the same.

In my experience, limiting wizard power was done by not allowing them an access to all high lvl spells - they had to go out and search for scrolls or research them, which took time, so it took a while to get your ideal lvl 5 spells loadout.

3) What to do with LVP

Problem here is that you don't want to make a mechanic that Pavlovs people into actually not roleplaying/doing cool stuff, but need some catch-up mechanic.

If I was using my favourite re-roll points, how about this: if a person with least amount of them earns one, he earns one bonus point. If you cap them somewhere low, like at three or four points in the bank max, your LVP gets both a significant bonus AND a Pavlovian reinforcement to go forth and do stuff. And while the value of continuing to do stuff decreases, it doesn't go away all that much.

Ok, I can see where what I wrote could lead to some of these conclusions. Let me try again.

First, the (hopefully) easy part: this isn't rocket science. This is, one character quickened twin save or slew the BBEG and his lieutenant; one character greater flyby attack great cleave mowed down the BBEG's cannon fodder; one character leap attack shock trooper cut the BBEG's dragon mount in half; and one character... attacked the lieutenant's horse for 7.

Now, even if that last character was role-playing his character (hated houses due to bad encounters in early levels), gave an epic description of how he tumbled over, eyes filed with hatred, blah blah blah, gave a witty one-liner "and the horse he rode in on"... heck, even if he was the only character to do these things... there is still a fundamental, mechanical level at which he is incapable of participating equally.

The Pavlovian "treat" is to encourage certain types of behavior; the level bonus is to enable disparate builds to interact on (more) level footing.


One way to try to catch up an LVP with XP bonuses would be to hand out small XP bonuses every time somebody tries something that would have been helpful, but fails. Give greater rewards for efforts that were wisely made, but just didn't work.

The goal here is to make it so that the PCs who are least able to contribute feel encouraged to do so anyway, but not to reward them for deliberately making things hard and "trying to fail" in ways that are actually counterproductive because of the likelihood of failure. What you DON'T want is the PCs to try things that, if they fail, make things worse than if they didn't try, when they know they have a high chance of failure. What you DO want is to reward them for trying even if they have a high chance of failure, if their trying is contributing to the party on a success, and isn't a stupid gamble if they fail.

I want thinking in terms of success rate. Let me give an example:

One of my characters may as well have not been there. He could stab a monster for damage... then his team-mate would AoE an entire cluster to death in a single attack, including the one he had stabbed.

Any amount of "trying to do cool things" (which always failed compared to the rest of the party), while rewarded with bonus XP, simply consumed game time without pushing the story forward.

On paper, my build didn't seem that bad; in practice, in that party, the game would play out exactly the same without my character - except that it would have been faster if he just hadn't come along.

That character was beyond the LVP. He was the NVP (No Value Player). And I commented as much during the game, pointing out how no action my character had ever taken had actually managed to contribute to the story. At all.

I'm talking about (hopefully) less extreme cases than that. Cases where there is an obvious difference in the performance of the characters, and providing bonus (partial) levels to non-performing builds builds that aren't capable of performing at the level of the party.

EDIT:



The goal is to encourage roleplay and contribution, correct? In such a way that does not handicap an already "lacking" character?

So we need to:

Reward players that do contribute
Have a greater reward for players who contribute but are usually lagging behind
Do not increase disparity between most effective and least effective characters
Do not discourage least contributing player through handicaps or punishment
Do not encourage normally contributing players to contribute less


So, negative reinforcement?

Remove some harmful or distasteful aspect for players who contribute? This won't make them more effetive (creating a feedback loop like in the other MVP thread), but it still encourages contributing to the group.

I'm thinking of allowing a player to ignore a Flaw (while still reaping the benefits) for one session, or remove a status condition, etc.

Of course, this still has the issue of being the same reward for the high contributor s and low contributors, and may not be appealing enough to encourage change, but...

Well, my goal has been to encourage fun, however the group defines that. Roleplaying being one of the things I find fun.

But, in this thread, I'm talking about moving to dissociated mechanics, and... empowering "less efficient" builds in the name of game balance. Which, in turn could theoretically allow the potential for equal distribution of contribution.


For 3.x? Yeah. If you have an LA +1 Character, it takes longer for them to reach class level 2 than someone who is LA +0. The FRCS laid this out pretty clearly.

For AD&D, it gets kind of interesting, because the differing leveling speeds means that two 10th level characters or different classes aren't going to be equivalent, but two 2 million XP characters might be closer.



Not necessarily, though it varies by system. In 3.x, the classes are not designed equally... the linear fighter v. quadratic wizard. You could even have widely disparate levels and have a decent game, so long as it wasn't a high-level wizard with low-level fighters. In Hackmaster, because of several aspects of the system, disparate levels can work ok, but it's less necessary, since the classes are better balanced. BUT, since the system is "swingier", a lower-level character can still meaningfully contribute to a higher level game... and low-level monsters can remain a threat to higher-level characters.

I think I mostly missed that, when creating items went from giving XP in older editions to costing XP in 3e, that that was intended as a balance point, to help offset that they made wizards level as quickly as everyone else.

Back in the old days, "make a 10th level character" was unfair. You're right, it should have been, "a character with X XP".

But 3e makes "create a 10th level character" a lot more... complex... to define. It's "XP for a 10th level character, minus X% of the value of the gear that the party carries". :smallconfused:

Slipperychicken
2016-10-05, 02:49 PM
Instead of using rewards like bonus XP that can throw off balance between players in the long-term, you should grant one-off bennies such as fate points, edge, or inspiration. Quite a few games do this, and it works quite well. Even 5th edition D&D has taken it up.

Typically, these "bennies", or GM-cookies or whatever you prefer to call them, have a one-time effect that is not terribly powerful. Perhaps spending one might allow a player to reroll a die or stave off a bad outcome. It should not be possible to stockpile them; games like shadowrun and 5th edition D&D impose a strict limit on the number a player can hold at a given time (which can be as low as one), and some games have them expire at the end of the session. You should award them as a small encouragement for certain things like paying for snacks, making the GM laugh uproariously, or when you think a player is doing an exceptionally good job at roleplaying.

Tanarii
2016-10-05, 03:41 PM
Background: I always used to track individual XP. Then 3e came along, with its notion of group XP. It was like a breath of fresh air after being trapped in the dungeon for far too long. The change from "you earn XP for what you did" to "y'all earn XP for what y'all did" is something I took to wholeheartedly.I'm curious why you think this is a 3e thing? It's been part of D&D since the beginning. Divide XP for foes defeated evenly among all surviving participants in the group. It was possible for players to turn the GP = XP rule into unequal XP gain by dividing the GP unequally, but at the average table that wasn't common unless they were intentionally power-leveling a new character. Is that what you were thinking of?

What really changed is 3e having a single XP table for all classes. But even before that there was already a common but unwritten assumption at many tables that you'd have the same group of PCs, let alone players, at every game session. As opposed to different character (and even players) coming together in every session, similar to modern official play. Combine those two things and you ended up with the assumption that all PCs will advance levels in lockstep.

Personally if I'm running a game like that, which is rare, I tell the players I'm happy to eliminate XP and just tell them when they level up. Some prefer that, others don't.

SethoMarkus
2016-10-05, 04:27 PM
Well, my goal has been to encourage fun, however the group defines that. Roleplaying being one of the things I find fun.

But, in this thread, I'm talking about moving to dissociated mechanics, and... empowering "less efficient" builds in the name of game balance. Which, in turn could theoretically allow the potential for equal distribution of contribution.



I admit I am a bit confused then; if it is solely mechanical disadvantage creating the disparity, why not simply allow the player reroll the non-contributing character, or work together to optimize the character, or figure out a strategy that allows the character to contribute? If the issue is the character is lower level than the rest of the party, why not arbitrarily increase their level to something more appropriate? If it is a small level gap to begin with with, in 3.5 at least, the distribution if XP to help the character catch up is built-in, isn't it?

I guess, if this is about encouraging player behavior, reward/reinforcement is the way to go. If this is about a character mechanically unable to contribute, I don't think a little extra bonus XP will help much. If this is about 3.5 being inherently unbalanced between classes, then I really don't think this works as a long term solution, at least not any better than, say, following the tier guidelines.

That said, I thi k giving the "weakest" character a mechanical boost, whether extra levels, extra XP, or some other enhancement is a great idea for a short term fix.

Koo Rehtorb
2016-10-05, 04:57 PM
You give XP to incentivize behaviour in the game.

The point of D&D in general and 3.5 in specific is to make optimized characters and use them to kill monsters. If people are making weak builds or making sub-optimal choices in combat then they're playing the game wrong and shouldn't be rewarded for it. If that is unappealing to you then you're playing the wrong game and should consider a system that does more of what you want.

Trampaige
2016-10-05, 05:17 PM
You give XP to incentivize behaviour in the game.

The point of D&D in general and 3.5 in specific is to make optimized characters and use them to kill monsters. If people are making weak builds or making sub-optimal choices in combat then they're playing the game wrong and shouldn't be rewarded for it. If that is unappealing to you then you're playing the wrong game and should consider a system that does more of what you want.

I bet you're a blast at parties.

flond
2016-10-05, 05:23 PM
You give XP to incentivize behaviour in the game.

The point of D&D in general and 3.5 in specific is to make optimized characters and use them to kill monsters. If people are making weak builds or making sub-optimal choices in combat then they're playing the game wrong and shouldn't be rewarded for it. If that is unappealing to you then you're playing the wrong game and should consider a system that does more of what you want.

Technically, you give XP to allow characters to develop and become more potent. This CAN and is OFTEN used as an incentive mechanism, but does not NEED to be.

Contrast
2016-10-05, 07:43 PM
Which got me thinking... if game balance is such a concern, why not reward the Least Valuable Player? Each session, grant a bonus quarter level to the player whose character contributed the least. Alternately, grant a bonus quarter level to each of the zero or more characters who contributed less than a certain amount to the game, according to whatever metrics you design.

As the one arguing in the previous thread that the MVP mechanic wasn't intrinsically bad, even I think getting people to vote for who they thought was the most useless is a pretty dangerous and destabilising thing to be doing in a social group :smalltongue:


To be honest it mostly sounds like you just want more granulaity than the 3.0/3.5 level system provides. There are lots of other systems which give you much more flexibility in how XP is distirbuted and spent. Unfortunately the more detailed and flexible you make spending XP, the harder its going to become to keep everyone on a level playing field (in a very simple example, in D&D everyone gets more HP as you level - how do you balance encounters in a system where someone has pumped all their XP into damage and but still has the HP of a level 1 character while someone else in the party has allocated them all evenly or not put points in any combat abilities at all - I briefly played the Warhammer Fantasy RPG and recall that being an offender in this regard where it was possible for one persons character to be a murder machine while the other had very few useful abilities at all at the 'same' level).

So you need a system which either provides reasonably solid power levels between classes by level (4E and 5E do a reasonable job in my opinion) or something where theres a lower ceiling on character capability so that 'lower' level characters do not get left behind.

Quertus
2016-10-05, 10:18 PM
You give XP to incentivize behaviour in the game.

The point of D&D in general and 3.5 in specific is to make optimized characters and use them to kill monsters. If people are making weak builds or making sub-optimal choices in combat then they're playing the game wrong and shouldn't be rewarded for it. If that is unappealing to you then you're playing the wrong game and should consider a system that does more of what you want.

This very directly responds to my idea. And is a philosophy clearly very opposed to my idea.

To expand on this notion slightly: earlier editions of D&D were, IMO, a meat grinder. Playing through these games, one learned, through the bloodiest of Pavlovian training, that the weak, the foolish, and the unlucky die, leaving only the cream of the crop. One learned how to build and play a character who survived.

But come into a 3e game with that mindset, and you're called a munchkin, and are told to get your cheesy TO BS off their table.

My proposal is to take that mindset one step further. Rather than baptize the noobs in their own blood, or childproof the adventure for them, why not implement a sliding scale difficulty, where your performance determines your difficulty setting?

Don't get me wrong - my preference is to just keep killing them, sometimes multiple times a session, like they were a Dorkness Rising Bard, until they learn. But not everybody enjoys that old-school style of play.


I admit I am a bit confused then; if it is solely mechanical disadvantage creating the disparity, why not simply allow the player reroll the non-contributing character, or work together to optimize the character, or figure out a strategy that allows the character to contribute? If the issue is the character is lower level than the rest of the party, why not arbitrarily increase their level to something more appropriate? If it is a small level gap to begin with with, in 3.5 at least, the distribution if XP to help the character catch up is built-in, isn't it?

I guess, if this is about encouraging player behavior, reward/reinforcement is the way to go. If this is about a character mechanically unable to contribute, I don't think a little extra bonus XP will help much. If this is about 3.5 being inherently unbalanced between classes, then I really don't think this works as a long term solution, at least not any better than, say, following the tier guidelines.

That said, I thi k giving the "weakest" character a mechanical boost, whether extra levels, extra XP, or some other enhancement is a great idea for a short term fix.

Those other techniques can absolutely work to help non contributing characters. I'm simply proposing an alternative. One that, unlike, say, tier-based solutions, will help even when, say, a poorly-built blaster wizard is being outshone by an übercharger.

I'm accustomed to small group XP awards to encourage role-playing (and whatever other things the group finds fun). I have never given dissociated (per session) XP in D&D before. But I have seen someone take the +8 LA to be a vampire before, and I know that there are other builds I'd like to play, that are hindered by the fact that, mechanically, they're ****.

So... you think that my proposal will work, but only in the short term? is that because it is a crutch, that didn't address the underlying problem, or is there some larger issue I've missed?


As the one arguing in the previous thread that the MVP mechanic wasn't intrinsically bad, even I think getting people to vote for who they thought was the most useless is a pretty dangerous and destabilising thing to be doing in a social group :smalltongue:


To be honest it mostly sounds like you just want more granulaity than the 3.0/3.5 level system provides. There are lots of other systems which give you much more flexibility in how XP is distirbuted and spent. Unfortunately the more detailed and flexible you make spending XP, the harder its going to become to keep everyone on a level playing field (in a very simple example, in D&D everyone gets more HP as you level - how do you balance encounters in a system where someone has pumped all their XP into damage and but still has the HP of a level 1 character while someone else in the party has allocated them all evenly or not put points in any combat abilities at all - I briefly played the Warhammer Fantasy RPG and recall that being an offender in this regard where it was possible for one persons character to be a murder machine while the other had very few useful abilities at all at the 'same' level).

So you need a system which either provides reasonably solid power levels between classes by level (4E and 5E do a reasonable job in my opinion) or something where theres a lower ceiling on character capability so that 'lower' level characters do not get left behind.

Voting bad. Fair enough.

I think what you're describing and what I'm describing probably shouldn't be mixed. Hmmm... Actually... I guess if a point-based character (gurps, heroes, etc) were consistently underperforming, you could attempt to solve the problem by handing them more points and/or raising the ceiling on their point expenditures. But advancement method is... um... fairly orthogonal to my idea, I think.

But, perhaps most importantly, you've reminded me of some very good words to describe what I'm trying to do: I don't care about ceilings, I'm trying to raise the floor. I'm focusing on the LVP, and trying to raise their ability to contribute. Let the batman wizard level at the rate he expects to, I'm just trying to find a way to help the other guys keep up.

Perhaps you'll correct me, and say that I'm really looking at the distance between the floor and the ceiling, and attempting to raise the floor to meet the ceiling. That'd work, too.


EDIT:


Instead of using rewards like bonus XP that can throw off balance between players in the long-term, you should grant one-off bennies such as fate points, edge, or inspiration. Quite a few games do this, and it works quite well. Even 5th edition D&D has taken it up.

Another vote for temporary non-XP rewards. Clearly, I need to look into this. Bonus points for it removing the dissociated nature of XP for RP.

I'm a little confused, however, by the notion that, by fixing imbalance between the characters, I'll create imbalance between the characters.

Let's suppose that, for a particular pair of characters, they were of equal power / potential / contribution / whatever when the wizard was level 5, and the fighter was level 9. Are you suggesting that those 4 extra levels will likely cause a worse problem when the wizard is level 10, and the fighter is level 14?


I'm curious why you think this is a 3e thing? It's been part of D&D since the beginning. Divide XP for foes defeated evenly among all surviving participants in the group. It was possible for players to turn the GP = XP rule into unequal XP gain by dividing the GP unequally, but at the average table that wasn't common unless they were intentionally power-leveling a new character. Is that what you were thinking of?

What really changed is 3e having a single XP table for all classes. But even before that there was already a common but unwritten assumption at many tables that you'd have the same group of PCs, let alone players, at every game session. As opposed to different character (and even players) coming together in every session, similar to modern official play. Combine those two things and you ended up with the assumption that all PCs will advance levels in lockstep.

Personally if I'm running a game like that, which is rare, I tell the players I'm happy to eliminate XP and just tell them when they level up. Some prefer that, others don't.

I don't have much left from before 2e, but I was startled to read that you are correct - 2e gave group XP. I don't think I ever played in a group that played that way.

Wow. My gaming experience could have been so much... better... brighter... if only I'd read that section, instead of just doing what I was taught.

But it's the proliferation of this notion of "just level up when I tell you" / every X sessions - this dissociation of XP earned from actions taken - that has gotten me thinking about the potential to use XP as a tool for game balance.

Koo Rehtorb
2016-10-05, 10:33 PM
This very directly responds to my idea. And is a philosophy clearly very opposed to my idea.

To expand on this notion slightly: earlier editions of D&D were, IMO, a meat grinder. Playing through these games, one learned, through the bloodiest of Pavlovian training, that the weak, the foolish, and the unlucky die, leaving only the cream of the crop. One learned how to build and play a character who survived.

But come into a 3e game with that mindset, and you're called a munchkin, and are told to get your cheesy TO BS off their table.

My proposal is to take that mindset one step further. Rather than baptize the noobs in their own blood, or childproof the adventure for them, why not implement a sliding scale difficulty, where your performance determines your difficulty setting?

Don't get me wrong - my preference is to just keep killing them, sometimes multiple times a session, like they were a Dorkness Rising Bard, until they learn. But not everybody enjoys that old-school style of play.

Well to be clear, my own preference leans towards "Play a different game". I don't particularly like D&D in general, and I really don't like 3.5e. But if you are going to play 3.5 then I think you should play to its strengths. And its strengths are "A wide variety of options that people can employ to make mechanically interesting characters and use them to fight monsters with".

If you're trying to slap on band-aids to fix the fundamental premise of 3.5 then you'd almost certainly going to be better off just playing a game that better suits what you're trying to do.

Slipperychicken
2016-10-05, 11:57 PM
Another vote for temporary non-XP rewards. Clearly, I need to look into this. Bonus points for it removing the dissociated nature of XP for RP.

I'm a little confused, however, by the notion that, by fixing imbalance between the characters, I'll create imbalance between the characters.

Let's suppose that, for a particular pair of characters, they were of equal power / potential / contribution / whatever when the wizard was level 5, and the fighter was level 9. Are you suggesting that those 4 extra levels will likely cause a worse problem when the wizard is level 10, and the fighter is level 14?


My suggestion assumed a game whose party balance isn't a complete joke.


Within 3rd edition, there's really not much you can do aside from either playing a different game (I recommend 5th edition D&D), or hacking the rules to the point that it's unrecognizable as 3rd edition D&D. This is coming from someone who has played that game for many years, defended it all that time, and seen many failed attempts at houserule fixes before moving on to discover better games.

SethoMarkus
2016-10-06, 02:08 AM
So... you think that my proposal will work, but only in the short term? is that because it is a crutch, that didn't address the underlying problem, or is there some larger issue I've missed?


Yes, this. Propping up a weaker character is a crutch that can work for a while, but doesn't really address the underlying problem of balance (with 3.5 at least), and balance is the primary obstacle for contributing equally. Now, you can probably extend that mileage with other crutches thrown in at the same time - things like setting up encounters or scenarios to play to the weaker character's strengths, but that still sidesteps the main issue.

Some other systems are more flexible, as others have pointed out, and adhering to the tier list (keeping all characters close) certainly helps, but a wizard with a poor spell selection cannot be helped simply by giving them a higher level. Some concepts are just not competitive in 3.5, and if everyone isn't on the same page with optimization you can easily fall into the sort of scenario you want to avoid.

Quertus
2016-10-06, 04:09 AM
My suggestion assumed a game whose party balance isn't a complete joke.

Within 3rd edition, there's really not much you can do aside from either playing a different game (I recommend 5th edition D&D), or hacking the rules to the point that it's unrecognizable as 3rd edition D&D. This is coming from someone who has played that game for many years, defended it all that time, and seen many failed attempts at houserule fixes before moving on to discover better games.

Having 5e described as "D&D, from levels 1-6, stretched out over 20 levels", I'll probably wait for an edition that does a good job stretching levels 14-20 out over 20 levels. :smalltongue:

Personally, I don't care about balance, I care about having a role to play, and, to a lesser extent, contribution. Heck, my signature character is a god wizard played so incompetently (for RP reasons) that the party MVP is a monk! (I'm sure that broke a lot of playgrounder brains).

But some people do care about balance. As this is something I don't care about, it's harder for me to groc. It feels like throwing extra XP at whoever is contributing least is a fairly simple, fairly automatic, fairly idiot-proof way of solving this "balance" problem, even for someone who, like me, doesn't personally care.


Yes, this. Propping up a weaker character is a crutch that can work for a while, but doesn't really address the underlying problem of balance (with 3.5 at least), and balance is the primary obstacle for contributing equally. Now, you can probably extend that mileage with other crutches thrown in at the same time - things like setting up encounters or scenarios to play to the weaker character's strengths, but that still sidesteps the main issue.

Some other systems are more flexible, as others have pointed out, and adhering to the tier list (keeping all characters close) certainly helps, but a wizard with a poor spell selection cannot be helped simply by giving them a higher level. Some concepts are just not competitive in 3.5, and if everyone isn't on the same page with optimization you can easily fall into the sort of scenario you want to avoid.

For background, I'm accustomed to an old-school unforgiving meat-grinder mindset. The world doesn't unrealistically change to match your characters - your characters need to evolve to cope with the world.

So, to this old dog, measuring mechanical contribution against a set metric (see "same game test"), and giving bonus XP to those who fail the test, sounds like the simplest new trick to learn.

But, since it's so simple, I'm trying to figure out why I've never heard of it before.

Giving a wizard with poor spell selection more levels will give more spells. Assuming the suboptimal selection continues, it will also give more HD/HP, higher BAB, more skill points, more feats, better saves, higher caster level / better spell penetration, more spell slots, and quicker access to prestige classes.

Giving a point-buy character more points to spend and/or raising their point cap will give the LVP more opportunity to make their trick work, allow them to purchase more tricks, or enable them to shore up some of their character's weaknesses.

Now, admittedly, giving the raging barbarian more combat abilities hardly helps him at a tea party, so there are some fundamental issues that this technique cannot address.

But, assuming that we're trying to play the same game, and we're not talking about inaccessible sub systems (like, say, netrunning), are there any RPGs out there where, even gaining XP / levels twice as fast (as I suggested above), the LVP will never catch up?