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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default A case for xp-less games

    This whole thought started when the original vampire game dropped. With the rate at which xp accumulates why wouldn't every immortal just have fives in everything? It broke verisimilitude for me. And then I looked back at the older games, your AD&D's and such, and it was the same thing writ smaller. Why wasn't everyone clustered (at max level) at the new frontier with the small starting areas abandoned ghost towns?

    Depending of the game in question, a 3.5 character can go from one to twenty in a few weeks. That's insane.

    So I started looking at what character progression actual means. Mostly it seems to provide an increase in scale (actions already owned are more effective and the players can threaten folks that were out of reach before). Bigger numbers basically.

    Also an increase in scope. Being able to do things that weren't possible at all before. Represented in D&D by stuff like flight, waterbreathing, teleportation.

    And I started figuring out how to increase scope and scale without letting the players change their sheets.

    It does work. I did run games for years in this way, and they were loved and successful. But they became stale after a while. They had too similar structures.

    So I guess I'm asking if something like this is sustainable, if it can live in a variety of genres, and if anyone else has tried.

    Or any other thoughts.

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    1 - RPGs are not physics simulations. There's no reason to assume that all NPCs work by PC mechanics. For NPCs, practice might help them advance their skills, rather than overcoming challenges.

    2 - XP is a narrative tool which rewards players (who don't exist in the game world). There's no reason to assume that all NPCs get the same (meta-game) reward that PCs get.

    3 - The game is exactly as ridiculous as you (plural) make it. You can have PCs go from level 1 to level 20 in a month, or you can have them go from level 3 to level 10 in six years.

    The game is yours. If you use it to do a stupid thing, then it's your own fault and you don't get to complain about how stupid the game is. But if the stupid thing was fun, then maybe you won't feel as much need to complain.

    My advice would be to enjoy having fun with it rather than using it to feel bad about what are ultimately your own decisions.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by Larrx View Post
    This whole thought started when the original vampire game dropped. With the rate at which xp accumulates why wouldn't every immortal just have fives in everything? It broke verisimilitude for me. And then I looked back at the older games, your AD&D's and such, and it was the same thing writ smaller. Why wasn't everyone clustered (at max level) at the new frontier with the small starting areas abandoned ghost towns?

    Depending of the game in question, a 3.5 character can go from one to twenty in a few weeks. That's insane.

    So I started looking at what character progression actual means. Mostly it seems to provide an increase in scale (actions already owned are more effective and the players can threaten folks that were out of reach before). Bigger numbers basically.

    Also an increase in scope. Being able to do things that weren't possible at all before. Represented in D&D by stuff like flight, waterbreathing, teleportation.

    And I started figuring out how to increase scope and scale without letting the players change their sheets.

    It does work. I did run games for years in this way, and they were loved and successful. But they became stale after a while. They had too similar structures.

    So I guess I'm asking if something like this is sustainable, if it can live in a variety of genres, and if anyone else has tried.

    Or any other thoughts.
    I think the difficulty is that any given story can't remain fresh forever. Stories need to end. Escalation is a way to try to avoid the feeling like the story has become stale, and thereby prolong it, but ultimately escalation itself can become scale unless it crosses real qualitative conceptual boundaries.

    If you wanted to run an eternal game that existed in a state of equilibrium rather than constant escalation, I think you would need to design the protocol of the game in such a way that the ending of old stories and beginning of new stories is organically woven into the system itself. Furthermore, you probably need a way for this to happen asynchronously between players, since different people will feel like they've either finished what they wanted to do or not at different points. And ultimately, because conclusive endings are often unsatisfying too, you want a way for old elements (characters, etc) to be picked up again but perhaps in the context of something new.

    So what I'm imagining is something where the game as a whole is actually designed as if it were multiple campaigns being run in parallel, with the group deciding each week which thread to pursue and with some rule in place to prevent that decision from always defaulting to the same thread forever. You'd also have a way for threads to begin and threads to end. From a player point of view, rather than progression being the advancement of their character, progression would essentially be the accumulation of characters whom they can at any point among the threads of the campaigns choose to bring that character in.

    So rather than characters gaining new powers and abilities as the main way things evolve, players gain a potentially broader and broader set of hooks that they have which can be used to engage with the world. I can almost see something like that making a transition from a game where the DM is the one directing the story to a game in which players are effectively taking turns DM-ing via their ownership of the decisions of a wider and wider array of characters.

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    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by Larrx View Post
    This whole thought started when the original vampire game dropped. With the rate at which xp accumulates why wouldn't every immortal just have fives in everything? It broke verisimilitude for me. And then I looked back at the older games, your AD&D's and such, and it was the same thing writ smaller. Why wasn't everyone clustered (at max level) at the new frontier with the small starting areas abandoned ghost towns?

    Depending of the game in question, a 3.5 character can go from one to twenty in a few weeks. That's insane.

    So I started looking at what character progression actual means. Mostly it seems to provide an increase in scale (actions already owned are more effective and the players can threaten folks that were out of reach before). Bigger numbers basically.

    Also an increase in scope. Being able to do things that weren't possible at all before. Represented in D&D by stuff like flight, waterbreathing, teleportation.

    And I started figuring out how to increase scope and scale without letting the players change their sheets.

    It does work. I did run games for years in this way, and they were loved and successful. But they became stale after a while. They had too similar structures.

    So I guess I'm asking if something like this is sustainable, if it can live in a variety of genres, and if anyone else has tried.

    Or any other thoughts.
    It depends peoples taste. I'm no fan of the Zero to Superhero progression. I like my games with a much slower progression and doesn't need 3-4 different power levels to describe the game I'm going to run.

    With one of my groups I've been running a Mythic Europe setting in Gurps for almost 3 years (in january) and the characters started with 220 character points and now almost 10 years later in game time they are finally hitting 350 character points. This means they are 60% stronger than when they started, in point value at least.

    Not everyone likes this type of game where the focus isn't on progressing mechanically so you can fight bigger statblocks and take their treasure.
    Optimizing vs Roleplay
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    If roleplaying is no fun then stop doing it. Unless of course you are roleplaying at gunpoint then you should roleplay like your life depended on it.

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    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    I'm consistently amazed when people actually use XP. I just level everyone at what feels like an appropriate time, usually just before the final boss of the current plot or just after.

    I don't think anything felt as anticlimactic as a character as leveling after killing a stray firebat.

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    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    I think the difficulty is that any given story can't remain fresh forever. Stories need to end. Escalation is a way to try to avoid the feeling like the story has become stale, and thereby prolong it, but ultimately escalation itself can become scale unless it crosses real qualitative conceptual boundaries.

    If you wanted to run an eternal game that existed in a state of equilibrium rather than constant escalation, I think you would need to design the protocol of the game in such a way that the ending of old stories and beginning of new stories is organically woven into the system itself. Furthermore, you probably need a way for this to happen asynchronously between players, since different people will feel like they've either finished what they wanted to do or not at different points. And ultimately, because conclusive endings are often unsatisfying too, you want a way for old elements (characters, etc) to be picked up again but perhaps in the context of something new.
    A good post

    There is IMO actually no need for escalation, if the narrative is fun and interesting. This of course runs it course, I feel it's better just to wrap things up rather than escalate to keep things fresh.
    Optimizing vs Roleplay
    If the worlds greatest optimizer makes a character and hands it to the worlds greatest roleplayer who roleplays the character. What will happen? Will the Universe implode?

    Roleplaying vs Fun
    If roleplaying is no fun then stop doing it. Unless of course you are roleplaying at gunpoint then you should roleplay like your life depended on it.

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    Kobold

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    There are a crapton of games with either no XP at all (FATE and its variants) or XP that works very differently from how D&D does it (Most PbtA games).

    So yeah, a game without XP is very doable. And I've done arbitrary levelling before and found it about a billion times easier to keep track of for 3.5. XP math was my least favorite part of the whole thing, my players didn't really love it either, and so we just got rid of it and levelled up when it made sense.
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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    1 - RPGs are not physics simulations. There's no reason to assume that all NPCs work by PC mechanics. For NPCs, practice might help them advance their skills, rather than overcoming challenges.
    Oh, absolutely. NPCs working like PCs is preference of mine because it helps me with world building, but it's definitely just a matter of taste. And on the rare occasions I'm on the player side of the screen I don't care about the issue either way.


    2 - XP is a narrative tool which rewards players
    This is one of the biggest flaws in my style, and one I've yet to find a good solution for.

    3 - The game is exactly as ridiculous as you (plural) make it. You can have PCs go from level 1 to level 20 in a month, or you can have them go from level 3 to level 10 in six years.
    For any one particular game sure, but the way xp is handled in most systems (per session or event) leads to inconsistencies between games with different paces or varied amounts of downtime. I'm searching for a more holistic solution.

    The game is yours. If you use it to do a stupid thing, then it's your own fault and you don't get to complain about how stupid the game is. But if the stupid thing was fun, then maybe you won't feel as much need to complain.

    My advice would be to enjoy having fun with it rather than using it to feel bad about what are ultimately your own decisions.
    I'm not complaining, I've been making games mine for decades. Kinda hit a wall though, so I thought I'd try to crowd source it. That's all.

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by Larrx View Post
    For any one particular game sure, but the way xp is handled in most systems (per session or event) leads to inconsistencies between games with different paces or varied amounts of downtime. I'm searching for a more holistic solution.
    The balance here is between freedom vs. consistency.

    You can have a game which forces you to proceed at a consistent pace, or you can have a game which gives you the power to pick your own pace.

    The freedom seems preferable in all cases except where you have some external force trying to coerce you to use that freedom in a bad way (e.g. players who bully you?), and you want the game to enforce something inflexible so you can't be coerced. I suspect that's not common.


    Quote Originally Posted by Larrx View Post
    I'm not complaining, I've been making games mine for decades. Kinda hit a wall though, so I thought I'd try to crowd source it. That's all.
    What Gygax and friends did was to retire PCs at 10th level (or so).

    Yeah, any given PC is going to hit a wall. They've each got goals, and they accomplish their story arcs to meet those goals, or they die trying. Both endings can be fun, but the point is that both endings are endings. That character wins or dies, and either way that character leaves the playing field.

    Even if the characters all retire, the world doesn't need to end. The story can go on. It's just a different story about different people.


    The only exception to this rule might be when you're being paid by the word to keep that character flopping around in order to milk a franchise until the fans stop paying. But I wouldn't game like that, not unless I'm being paid well for it.

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    It depends on how much rewards the GM/environment guve the players.
    Some campaigns shower you with gold and XP and the players level up very quickly. Other campaigns are less generous.

    One of my favorite campaigns was a ďdregs of the slumsĒ campaign. Starting characters had zero Gold, zero equipment and zero known spells since no respectable person would teach us slum rats anything useful. Rewards for an adventure were something like 20XP and 10 silver coins. The big scary boss was an orc with mail armor and a real sword. Over the 2 years I was in the campaign I went up to level 3 and was able to afford leather armor, a small shield and a long sword and I felt I was rocking it. Also because XP was low HPs were low and every encounter felt that it carried genuine risk since any critical was just about guaranteed to take you down.
    However some other players didnít enjoy that campaign too much because they didnít get lots of gold to buy cool toys and lots of XPs to use cool abilities.

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    HalflingRangerGuy

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    World of darkness... bloody world of darkness

    Some characters will push themselves hard in a downtime; best get good now to be ahead in the struggle.
    Other characters will chill.
    I think you can reconcile that, but the difference between playtime and downtime is rediculous.

    But... paying spirits for gifts seems terrible; unless your giving pieces of your soul to them for power ..(potentially the case), you are surely learning more on these spirit quests... it shouldnt really detract from your attribute/ability improvements. But in vampire, its much the same thing; sacrificing progress in brawl so you can get potence...

    Having a character teachnyounsomething but keeping it on hold because xp...

    Ive really been wanting to assign xp/dots onto /backgrounds on characters myself, but i think that'd be too controlling

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    BardGuy

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    I'm fairly okay with handwaving PC growth as an abnormality, and ignoring that others don't grow as fast.

    Though, for games like D&D, I do prefer no xp per se, but rather leveling based on plot points or goals being met.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Jack View Post
    World of darkness... bloody world of darkness

    Some characters will push themselves hard in a downtime; best get good now to be ahead in the struggle.
    Other characters will chill.
    I think you can reconcile that, but the difference between playtime and downtime is rediculous.

    But... paying spirits for gifts seems terrible; unless your giving pieces of your soul to them for power ..(potentially the case), you are surely learning more on these spirit quests... it shouldnt really detract from your attribute/ability improvements. But in vampire, its much the same thing; sacrificing progress in brawl so you can get potence...

    Having a character teachnyounsomething but keeping it on hold because xp...

    Ive really been wanting to assign xp/dots onto /backgrounds on characters myself, but i think that'd be too controlling
    This led, for the sake of internal consistency, to our Mage game stating that, in-universe, mages knew that for some reason having artifacts tended to lower your progression in magical or mundane skills. Nobody really knew why in-character, but we wanted to have some reason in-character to justify not trying to get/make small artifacts when out-of-character we wanted to save xp for stuff other than Backgrounds.

    EDIT: that said, I think I like games like oWoD, Exalted, or In Nomine's xp system best. You get a few points, and can usually spend them for some instant power-up or save them for a stronger power-up.
    Last edited by JeenLeen; 2018-11-08 at 04:43 PM.

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    1. Who REALLY uses XP anyways and doesn't just level-up when the GM says so?

    2. Why aren't you a master of science, discovering ways to become immortal and posthuman? Turns out humans care more about the non-xp generating events in life like posting on internet forums.

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhedyn View Post
    1. Who REALLY uses XP anyways and doesn't just level-up when the GM says so?
    Anyone in a system where XP is directly spent instead of used to track leveling, for one.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhedyn View Post
    2. Why aren't you a master of science, discovering ways to become immortal and posthuman? Turns out humans care more about the non-xp generating events in life like posting on internet forums.
    We've figured out how to turn computers into XP generating engines, so we need something else to do while we wait for the automated levelups to come in...

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    Anyone in a system where XP is directly spent instead of used to track leveling, for one.
    Nah - in those games, you just award a lump sum roughly equivalent with a level increase. Or ... I do. Don't you? =)

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    My personal favorite, TSR's Marvel Superheroes, used Karma. You can earn it without participating in conflicts at all; you can lose it easily by doing something wrong; you can spend it on stuff other than increasing your abilities, like succeeding against improbable odds, gaining minions, building complex machinery, et cetera, et cetera.
    The last crazy minstrel.

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    Nah - in those games, you just award a lump sum roughly equivalent with a level increase. Or ... I do. Don't you? =)
    You're still technically using XP there, you're just not assigning it at a particularly detailed level.

    Also that's definitely not how I do it. I generally just establish a per-session XP gain as a pacing mechanism at the beginning of the campaign, and then proceed to basically ignore it the entire rest of the game. It's different, in that it's basically the same but somehow more lazy.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    I'm particularly interested in the systems the OP used to be xp-less in their games - could you elaborate? Or spin off a Homebrew thread, maybe?

    In our round-robin rotating GM campaign, we're awarding level increases each time we go round the set of 4 regular GMs, including a wealth-by-level increase (off-set against any treasure awards you pick up in-game). That means that there's no need for any given session to be combat - we advance just as much from talking to the Chancellor of the Arcane Academy as we do from killing ogres. And it means that the PCs' gear is all about equally powerful, because there's no need to carefully manage what's given out - PCs are assumed to be shopping between sessions.
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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    You need 253.33 "normal difficulty" encounters from level one to twenty at the default speed of D&D 3E. Do you really think it is somehow still too quick?
    Last edited by ahyangyi; 2018-11-11 at 04:22 AM.

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    It's different, in that it's basically the same but somehow more lazy.
    Ha! I love it =)

    I remember, as a much younger man, playing with individual xp. Me as a player, mind, I never did any such thing. But it was horribly broken, and players would level out of sequence, and it's a time consuming process after all. And there would be (mild mannered) discussion of 'hey! Don't I get xp for this thing' and 'If he get's for that, I need to get for some other stuff'.

    It was just silly. I remember my barbarian levelled for breaking a bunch of +1 arrows. Yea, all you scrubs are still level 1, but because I ruined a ressource for the ranger, I'm now level 2. Yay! =)

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Pendragon also doesn't have XP. You do get better, but it's a more random process. Each time you roll a crit on an skill, passion or trait, you check that trait and at the end of the year, you can roll each check. If you roll higher than the current value, you can add 1 to it (the higher you get, the more difficult it is to learn more). You also get some points (or point, depending on what you choose) during winter phase to push up skills, traits or passions, but that's it.

    Of course, you mostly play the family, not the single knight. In the great pendragon campaign, you end up playing with your Original character's grandson (or grand-nephew if you die along the way without having children), so at one point you have to stop playing one and switch to the next person. So it's less an issue that you don't have XP as you know that at one point you will have to start from scratch again.
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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    I'm consistently amazed when people actually use XP. I just level everyone at what feels like an appropriate time, usually just before the final boss of the current plot or just after.

    I don't think anything felt as anticlimactic as a character as leveling after killing a stray firebat.
    Many people like using xp because you can use it as a tool to reward and encourage certain behaviours or approaches, and doing so helps define and reinforce what your game is about. By default D&D rewards players for killing monsters, but you can tinker with that to reward exploration, treasure-hunting, playing to certain character traits or motivations, and so on. Personally I find this approach more helpful as a GM and more exciting as a player than just telling/being told when the PCs level up.

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    MonkGuy

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhedyn View Post
    1. Who REALLY uses XP anyways and doesn't just level-up when the GM says
    Seriously, xp is a way to define and reinforce what your game is about, and to encourage player to roleplay their characters in interesting, meaningful ways. D&D isnít exactly built for this, other systems do it more consciously, but it works in D&D too.

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    Seriously, xp is a way to define and reinforce what your game is about, and to encourage player to roleplay their characters in interesting, meaningful ways. D&D isnít exactly built for this, other systems do it more consciously, but it works in D&D too.
    XP as incentive is one of the main ways it can be used as a tool. The other major way is XP as pacing, whether this is a slow mechanical dribble calibrated to follow the discovery of character weaknesses as their actions in setting get more intricate, a simulation of growth through the years in a long time frame game, or just as a component of escalation of stakes.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    XP as incentive is one of the main ways it can be used as a tool. The other major way is XP as pacing, whether this is a slow mechanical dribble calibrated to follow the discovery of character weaknesses as their actions in setting get more intricate, a simulation of growth through the years in a long time frame game, or just as a component of escalation of stakes.
    That makes sense. I do think milestone levelling in particular assumed a linear, pre-determined adventure path. Itís not wrong, but itís not my preference, hence why a proper xp system is important to me.

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    That makes sense. I do think milestone levelling in particular assumed a linear, pre-determined adventure path. Itís not wrong, but itís not my preference, hence why a proper xp system is important to me.
    A DM can look at the results of player action and say: "Yeah. This is totally unexpected but it's surely on par with what a Milestone means. You guys get Milestone XP and downtime actions."

    Allowing players to decide what Milestones are can also work, but only if you've got honest players.

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    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Quote Originally Posted by Larrx View Post
    This whole thought started when the original vampire game dropped. With the rate at which xp accumulates why wouldn't every immortal just have fives in everything? It broke verisimilitude for me. And then I looked back at the older games, your AD&D's and such, and it was the same thing writ smaller. Why wasn't everyone clustered (at max level) at the new frontier with the small starting areas abandoned ghost towns?

    Depending of the game in question, a 3.5 character can go from one to twenty in a few weeks. That's insane.
    I've had similar thoughts when I took a long hard look at the D&D worlds, and the best answer I could come up was that XP was actually very difficult to get. Adventuring should be crazy dangerous, pitting players against insane odds and only through tactical brilliance and some luck, these characters end up making it to the next level. The rate of XP received should be comparatively less to the amount of danger the character must overcome, or you will end up in the scenario you described. (bunch of high level characters at border towns, etc)

    You can also just say that NPCs are governed under different rules. There ARE exceptionally lucky people in the world, and PCs can be in that group, capable of reaching the highest levels most NPCs can't even dream of.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ElfRangerGuy

    Join Date
    Jul 2014

    Default Re: A case for xp-less games

    Do you mean XP-less, or progression-less?

    Cuz you say one thing and it sounds like you're talking about the other.

    XP is generally superfluous. It is the mechanic by which progression is measured.
    But you can tie that to so much else. Early D&D tied it to treasure. You can use something else - quests completed, age, allies acquired, enemies vanquished, people's souls(saved or reaped), the number of stripes a character has painted on their left toe...

    And of course the classic - DM fiat.

    That is what I use. For reasons that are mostly practical - I don't wanna bother calculating XP, and a little bit philosophical - XP is a meta-narrative tool, meaning it tends to detract from the story and incentivize behaviour outside of the main narrative.
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    Expanding the Pathfinder Called Shots system
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