View Full Version : Encounter Points [Variant]

Shiny, Bearer of the Pokystick
2008-03-12, 08:20 PM
The Inspirations
A common rule of thumb among the Wizards of the Coast design staff is that a typical group of adventurers will level up after about 13 successful encounters of the party's encounter level (EL).
-Wolfgang Baur, Adventure Builder

...You probably don't want to hand out a lot of experience for these kinds of encounters unless you intentionally want to run a low-combat game...
-DMG P. 40, "CRs for Non-combat Encounters"

Often an adventure has a mission or goal that pulls the PCs into the action. Should the PCs accomplish their goal, they may get a story award...Potentially, you could give out only story awards and no standard awards. In this nonstandard game, the mission award would be the main contributor to the PCs experience point totals.
-DMG, P. 40, "Mission Goals"

The Goals
The goals of Encounter Points, a variant experience and advancement system for 3.5 edition D&D, are as follows:

Provide Players and Characters with flexibility to solve a problem in any way they choose.
Simplify the advancement of characters and the design of encounters from a rewards perspective.
Provide alternative rewards for Players who are interested in character development without power advancement.
Slow Character advancement to extend game balance.
Encourage teamwork within the party/ discourage 'lone-wolf' or self-serving metagame decisions.
Focus encounter design on the accomplishment of story goals and advancement of literary themes.

The meta-goal around which these goals are structured is:
Simplify, present as narrative, protect choice.

The Mechanics
When using the encounter points variant, experience is not awarded for specific encounters, such as monsters or traps.
Instead, assign a CR to the overall Task in which the PCs are engaged.

Useful factors in determining the CR of a Task include, but are not limited to:
-CR of Monster or Trap encounters that may be encountered in the process of the task.
-How closely the task fits the character's abilities.
-The scale of the task; i.e. local, kingdom-wide, world-wide, universe-wide.
-The environment in which the PCs must complete the task, both physical and social; i.e. Plane of Fire, Xenophobic Elven Nation
-The amount of time the PCs have to complete the task.
-The amount of resources the PCs will be forced to expend to complete the task, and how easy those resources are to replenish.

Appropriate Tasks are specific, but not limiting. For instance, "Clear the Dungeon of Monsters" is a moderately inappropriate order- it has, essentially, only two solutions, killing the monsters or somehow driving them out bodily.
"Protect the townsfolk of Ruth from Hobgoblin attacks" is a more reasonable goal; it could be accomplished by hostile action against the hobgoblins, or by positive (or even negative) action with the townsfolk.

Tasks may span several encounters as the term is traditionally understood; Tasks may even have subsidiary 'sub-tasks' as part of their resolution.

When the characters complete a Task, award one Encounter Point for completing the task itself, assuming the CR of the task was equal to the pary EL, or Encounter Level. Award one further Encounter Point for each encounter of their EL the party surmounted in the completion of the task, and one for each sub-task the party completed.
Multiple smaller encounters may add up to an 'encounter chain' worth one Encounter Point. Encounters with CRs higher than the party EL should grant an Encounter Point, and an ancillary benefit.

Sub-tasks may be created by the players themselves while completing an overall task; for instance, in the aforementioned example of Hobgoblin attacks, socially inclined players who decide to negotiate with the fierce tribespeople have created the sub-task "Negotiate With Hobgoblins".
Canny DMs should guard against players creating 'Rube Goldberg' style chains of sub-tasks to gain more Encounter Points.

Generally speaking, a sub-task which presented a significant challenge to the players is considered to be of their EL, while one that they nearly failed is considered slightly above. The same factors used to estimate the EL of an overall task should be applied to sub-tasks.

Encounter points are awarded to the party, not to individual characters. Characters who were dead or not present when a sub-task was completed should, of course, still not receive a point for that task, but may receive the point for overall completion if they contributed significantly.

When a character has gained thirteen Encounter Points, they may choose to advance a Character Level. In addition, characters may choose to gain one or more alternative benefits instead of advancing their character's level.
Alternative benefits are discussed in detail in their own section, below.

Points to consider:

Sub-tasks may be set by the party or the DM, and may be social, environmental, or otherwise non-combat in nature.
Killing monsters or bypassing traps has no inherent benefit when using Encounter Points, except as it progresses the overall task (and thus qualifies as a Sub-task).
Grandstanding or 'kill-stealing' in the manner common in MMORPGs and the poorer class of table-top player has no mechanical benefit when using Encounter Points.
Regardless of how the players accomplish the task, they receive the same amount of advancement potential.
Encounter Points, being a Party rather than a Character benefit, reward collective rather than individual effort.
When using Encounter Points, the DM and players need not spend any time calculating CR vs. Party Level, groups of monsters, etc. for experience totals, beyond an estimation of the challenge involved.

Alternative Benefits
The following alternative benefits may be purchased by a Player using Encounter Points, in preference to or addition to advancing a level.
Most of these benefits are intentionally general, and should be adapted to the particulars of the setting and the player/character.

These benefits should generally also be provided when the Party defeats a Task with an EL greater than their own.

Except where otherwise stated, all the following benefits cost one EP (Encounter Point).

Patronage: The character has a powerful patron. At low levels this benefit may provide you the indulgence of a regional governor, member of a mage's council, or other person of similar influence; at high level, a sitting monarch, world archmage, or master thief of the ten nations etc. may be willing to bail the character out.
Generally, this benefit allows the character and his allies to escape some degree of punishment for violations of the law, heresies, or dangerous magical experimentation, as appropriate, as their patron smooths matters over. It cannot erase particularly egregious mistakes, but it is a safety net of sorts. A patron may also be willing to provide entry into particular social circles or sponsor membership in a guild or organization.

Contacts: The character has access to a network of contacts. These may be thieves, mages, government workers, 'seamstresses', or some other group. They may make any knowledge check or gather information check with a DC of the player's ECL +5 or below at the player's behest, or simply act as 'eyes and ears' in a particular section of town.

Teamwork Benefit: The party gains access to a teamwork benefit, as described in Heroes of Battle, or a new one designed by the DM as appropriate. The character who selected this alternative benefit is the task leader; they may, at their option, waive or reduce the qualifying requirements.

Custom Item: The character gains an item, designed by the DM specifically to fit their character's needs, or designed by the player and DM-approved. The item must be within 2,000 gp of the character's WBL limit, or considerably less at levels below eighth, but should not be one they could otherwise obtain.

Item Crafting: The character has the necessary potence to craft a number of magical items. One could simply state one EP is equal to 1/13th the amount of XP to reach the character's next level, or set an upper limit on the number and type of items that can be created by this benefit, depending on preference and the magic level of the campaign.

Upward Mobility: If the campaign world has a caste system or other ranked social hierarchy, the character moves up in it; this may be a remarked-on aberration, or fairly common. How far they move should be a function of the character's level.

Noble Title: The character gains a noble title. This likely entails some sort of land grant, but may not; it almost certainly entitles him or her to address others of her rank as equals, and may provide entry into a royal or otherwise noble court or institution. What precise benefits nobility provides is a function of the campaign.

Vehicle: The party receives a vehicle for their personal use. This may be a magical horseless carriage, a galley or longship, an airship, or a skeleton-pulled sledge, depending on the setting and the PCs prestige or power level.

Stronghold: The party gains a base of operations, whether a roadside inn, a cheap keep, or a full-blown estate or magician's tower. The luxury of this stronghold should be in keeping with their power and prestige, once again.

Bardic Fame: The party or the character is famed by singers and tale-tellers across a given area; likely a province at low levels, and a kingdom or the plane at higher ones. They may be recognized wherever they go by those in the know. Characters can also choose to be deliberately obscure for the same cost.

These are just a few sample alternative benefits; others, specific to the campaign or player-created, may also be granted at the DM's discretion.

Responses, please? I'm particularly interested in if people feel this would simplify matters, and promote a narrative, invested-in-the-world focus in a D&D campaign.

2008-03-13, 04:43 AM
I think its bloody well genius. Definetly puts the emphasis on team work and allows everyone to do what they are good at, since there is no benefit to just killing everything this way. The charming sorcerer who prefers to talk things out can be just as useful as that raging barbarian that turn dungeon monsters into various colored stains.

One question though, how do you deal with exp as a cost, such as for certain spells and making things? Maybe a conversation rate based upon level where you may trade in points for exp to make things.

Shiny, Bearer of the Pokystick
2008-03-13, 08:09 AM
The simplest way would be to assume one point is equal to 1/13th the XP needed for next level, and treat it as a 'pool' from which the caster can power XP-component spells.

If you're feeling adventurous, you could convert XP costs in spells to a point system as well, and declare one Encounter Point equal to such-and-such spell cost points.

There's a bit of a note under the 'Item Crafting' alternative benefit to that effect.

Also, forgot to add this as an alternative benefit:

Action Points: The character regains (or, perhaps, gains) a pool of Action Points up to the maximum for their level.

2008-03-13, 12:11 PM
Wooo, it was already up there.

Well niftyness.

Shiny, Bearer of the Pokystick
2008-03-13, 09:22 PM
A few more uses: Retraining and Mentor rules, from DMGII, would be a good fit for EP.

Criticisms would be...greatly appreciated.