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Do any of the newer D&D editions' books (most likely the DM Guide) have guidelines for granting experience for exceptional role-playing?

I once played with a professional DM (there's a job I want) who did that. I wasn't sure if that was common or if there were guidelines for such a thing.

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12 Answers 12

up vote 33 down vote accepted

While I think it's awesome to award experience for in-character behavior, it's also very hard to quantify role playing into experience (how much gets you 100exp?)

On top of that, in DnD, exp translates very observably to combat prowess - so it also makes sense to give other types of benefits.

Good role playing should give good role-playing benefits. If the character keeps in touch with their mother have their mother notice and do something when they've been imprisoned by the Necromancer for a week. If the player helps an old lady cross a river make her turn out to be the Godess Hera, who blesses them. If the character is a bigot and flips off a Dwarf in a tavern, have other bigots in the tavern for them to relate to, and turn them into contacts... etc

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I really like this answer. Less experienced players may be looking for something more tangible (like XP) as an immediate reward. Hopefully after a few times they'll catch on. Just don't over-use it or they'll be disappointed when that old lady is just an old lady. You also have to be an organized GM to remember previous good RP experiences to bring up later, and be able to do a good share of on-the-fly GM-ing. – digitaljoel Aug 19 '10 at 22:29
True, but when we played it was more or less for keeping in character even if it was to the detriment of your character or party. For instance a dwarf in a battle rage chasing someone through a door right into a trap. Sure to me it looked like a bad idea, but to my character he was a little narrow minded at the moment so he charged through. That sort of thing. – Jack C Buel Aug 20 '10 at 3:38
I agree that xp should not be a reward for role playing. It can easily be perceived as a contest, or lead to players asking for constant xp rewards just for playing the game. The rewards for roleplaying should be in-game boons and opportunities. – Michael Makali'i Fernandez Aug 20 '10 at 6:52
A problem occurs however, when the DM doesn't give out anything for roleplaying (boons, etc). I find when it's only combat that increases characters abilities, the game becomes more and more combat focused. And People then stop roleplaying as much, using the logic of "if Player A doesn't roleplay and gets the same amount of XP as me, why should I?" – briddums Nov 4 '10 at 23:34
While this is a very well-worded answer, I can't see that it actually answers the original question - equivocally, do any recent versions of D&D allow xp for RP? Not really mentioned at all, just advice on whether or not it SHOULD. – YogoZuno May 21 '14 at 10:41

I've never seen any "official" guidelines, but in my group we handed out 1-2 poker chips to each player. Throughout the session, they could give those chips to any player that had an instance of exceptional role playing. At the end of the session players could hand in their chips (only those received from other players, not those given to them at the start of play) for rewards. Those rewards could include experience, loot, or even ability score increase or a new power.

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+1 for democracy! :P – LeguRi Aug 19 '10 at 20:50
I like the way this includes the other players into the decision-making. – irreverance Aug 20 '10 at 22:59
I can't take full credit for this idea. I got it from someone on Johnn Four's gmmastery mailing list 5-6 years ago. – digitaljoel Aug 21 '10 at 15:39
We did the exact same thing, but with poker chips awarded by the GM. We used them for roll bonuses, or bending the rules a bit, or retroactively remembering to buy a certain item. GM fiat, of course. So I guess it's not the exact same thing... – EagleV_Attnam May 21 '14 at 9:57

Roleplaying awards are discussed on page 40 of the 3.5e DMG and page 168 of the 3e DMG, in a section about using different kinds of subjective "story awards" as a supplement or wholesale alternative to the standard Challenge Rating/Encounter Level system. This section (identical in both books) suggests roleplaying awards as a way to reward players for doing things that don't contribute to their characters' ability to "overcome challenges" (the yardstick the rest of the system is based on) but which they or the rest of the group find fun/entertaining. It describes these rewards as "purely ad hoc," but suggests that they should be "just large enough for the player to notice them, probably no more than 50 XP per character level per adventure."

Most roleplaying games published in the last ten years or so do have some kind of discussion of roleplaying, story, or similar awards, and for a while it wasn't unusual for a GM's judgement about whether a player "contributed to the game" to be the only or main source of character advancement.

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4e does not. I don't like giving out bonus experience on a per-player basis, since it tends to skew that player's character -- generally speaking someone who does something exceptional once can do it again, and how do you tell them that wasn't worth experience points the second time?

I do like to give bonus experience points for really good group roleplaying, however. But yeah, gotta come up with it on the fly. I usually call it a minor quest reward and leave it at that, since there are guidelines for those.

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See my answer involving quest rewards being essentially role-playing rewards. =) – Adam Dray Nov 4 '10 at 15:36

The Gamemastery Guide for Pathfinder by Paizo is exceptional in talking about rewarding players for roleplaying. Pathfinder is the successor to Dungeons & Dragons 3.5e.

What I used for my AD&D 1st edition campaigns was a system where I ditched the treasure and money xp and awarded a Roleplaying XP.

I calculated it as a x x The factor can be from 50 xp (slow progression) to 200 xp (very fast progression). The award ranged from 3 to 5 with a 4 being typical. It worked well and allowed players the freedom to explore different aspects of their character other than going after treasure all the time.

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Old school games don't have rules for it generally. If a player's character does something cool, I usually give a flat 100 pts x Lvl for it. Seems to work fine.

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Lots of the late "old school" period did - the 1979-1985 era stuff. Palladium, for example, gave 50 XP per session for playing in character and 25-100 XP for good ideas (even if not implemented), even in their first game, Mechanoid Invasion, in 1981; KS has added new stuff to the table since, but not removed anything. FGU's 1978 Starships and Spacemen beats around the bush, but awards "for good ideas, and for the imaginative use of their powers and equipment." – aramis May 22 '14 at 22:54

The D20 sourcebook Dynasties & Demagogues by Atlas Games (released in March 2003, now out of print) contained rules for Personality Feats:

Most dungeon-crawling adventures feature several challenges in quick succession. Political adventures take a more leisurely approach, focusing on a few long challenges instead of a lot of short ones. As a result, character advancement can be slower than many players like.
Action points earned with personality feats can be used in two ways:

  • Alter a single d20 roll used to make an attack, a skill check, an ability check, a level check, or a saving throw.
  • Gain extra experience at the end of the session.
At the end of each session, any character may spend one action point to gain experience. This rewards the entire party as if it had faced an encounter with the encounter level equal to the average level of the party.

If you defeated someone in a debate (for which there was also rules in the book), then the party earned XP equivalent to the challenge rating of that NPC.

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D&D 4E's quest system gives players the ability to suggest their own quests. These are essentially role-playing-focused, player-driven awards and they can be as strong as Keys in The Shadow of Yesterday or Beliefs in Burning Wheel for advancing characters and encouraging non-combat, group role-playing.

The quest system is described in the DMG and DMG2, in the Rewards section. It makes for the second way to earn XP, beside overcoming risky encounters with monsters, traps, skill challenges, etc.

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In the D&D Cyclopedia, the guide line is, if they roleplayed to the GM's satisfaction that session, give them 1/20th of a level.

In AD&D2, and in 3E, overcoming a challenge by any means, be it RPing, combat, or puzzle-solving your way out of it, gets the XP value of the opponent.

In Holmes Basic, the following is found on page 11:

Monsters killed or overcome by magic or wits are worth experience points to be divided among the entire party.

Noting the use of "wits" - that can be extended to include Roleplaying an interaction with them that results in their ceasing to be a threat.

In AD&D 1E, the following is noted on page PH 106:

Finally, clerics' major aims are to use their spell abilities to aid during ony given encounter, fighters aim to engage in combat, magic-users aim to cast spells, thieves aim to make gain by stealth, and monks aim to use their unusual talents to come to successful ends. If characters gain treasure by pursuit of their major aims, then they are generally entitled to a full share of earned experience points awarded by the DM.

AD&D 1E DMG (Dec 1979 revision), on page 86, gives an extensive bit on how roleplaying is to be tracked, based upon class and alignment. It doesn't affect XP earned, but the effects of having earned them - it's the determinant of the number of weeks training required to advance (generating a number between 1 and 4), and those have a set cost in GP (Level x 1500gp). No training, no advancement, and you cap 1 point shy of the level after. So, not an XP award, but clearly an incentivization of role-play.

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Its fairly common, I'm pretty sure its advice in the 3.x DMG

I think it works very well when you have a party xp (unified xp , one xp total that everyone is at) because that way rather than show boating for personal gain your show boating for group gain which helps take some of the edges off.

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I don't think there's a been an RPG design in the last couple decades that didn't include a small section in GM's guide which talks about giving experience/XP for entertaining the other players. Not a single one. To suggest that it is "common" seriously understate the case.

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-1 You obviously haven't looked at anything by MWP from their CortexPlus line. No bonuses for exceptional roleplaying, nor poor roleplaying penalties, to experience. Likewise, The One Ring doesn't, either. Many of the retroclones don't have bonuses/penalties for RP quality, either. – aramis May 22 '14 at 22:42

I've never heard of any official guidelines for it; but as the DM you can do whatever you want, and if you (and the group) want to encourage good role-playing, then awarding XP is certainly a good way to do that.

In the D&D Encounters system there exists renown points. These are points which result in reward within the Encounters system. However, an analogue for this would be extra rewards voted to players by the group.

Kind of like achievements for gaming actions you want to encourage awarded to players by the players.

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