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I recently bought the core rulebook for Numenera. As well as reading through it to learn the system, I've been reading online reviews. It seems from reading what other experienced Role-Players think, that there is one point people always seem to mention:

XP can be spent for short-term or long-term gain.

Examples:

  1. Permanent advancement (4 XP)
  2. Story benefit (3 XP)
  3. Temporarily have a skill (2 XP)
  4. Re-roll a die (1 XP)
  5. Decline a GM "intrusion" (1 XP)

This video provides an introduction to gaining and spending XP in Numenera.

Problem

The main issue with this is that it encourages people to hoard XP, even though that clearly wasn't the intent of the system. I'm concerned that some players will solely buy advancements, where-as others might try enhance the story or gain short-term benefits.

This could lead to a party imbalance, sure, but there's also the issue that it means that people aren't really getting the full spectrum the XP system has to offer.

Potential Solutions

I'm looking for interesting ways I can encourage all players to use XP in different ways. Here are some initial house-rules I have heard of:

  1. Give half XP as short-term and half as long-term
  2. XP is used for short-term benefits only. Once it has been spent, it is then put in a separate pool to be used for long-term benefits.

Question

  1. What are the advantage/disadvantages to the house-rules mentioned above?
  2. Is there a more elegant or more balance way to encourage an XP spend spread without increasing advancement rate too much.

N.B. It is worth mentioning that I am interested in solutions suitable to medium/long campaigns.

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3  
"[E]ven though that clearly wasn't the intent of the system." I think it's pretty clearly an intent of the system, considering there are explicit rules about spending XP. One could argue about whether it's a good design decision, but why not assess that during play? It's the player's choice. –  okeefe Jan 24 at 14:06
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Have you actually encountered this problem during play? (How a system reads and how it runs can be quite different.) –  SevenSidedDie Jan 24 at 15:56
    
@SevenSidedDie No, I haven't started play yet. As mentioned in the the first paragraph of my question, it was a concern I have because it is frequently mentioned in System reviews for this game. –  Conor Pender Jan 24 at 16:13

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Numenera is a game that is fairly resistant to the effects of party imbalance, so it isn't too much of a problem once your players realize that experience spent on short-term benefits can mean the difference between life and death (or at least unconsciousness), and you realize that setting difficult encounters can sometimes be a good thing.

You will learn how best to balance combat for your party as you go, and while some combats should be a breeze and others are challenging but not overly difficult, others should be difficult to the point where they do have the potential to lose, and short-term experience spending may be (part of) the key to winning. (On a similar note, this is also important for promoting the use of cyphers and artifacts because your players will more than likely begin the game hoarding them like treasure).

If you still feel the need to house-rule experience expenditure after playing for a while, solution 1 is the better of your two ideas, and has been put forward by Monte Cook himself as an optional way of handling experience in the Numenera Design Diaries (under the section Using XP - fourth paragraph). The only real disadvantage to this system is that it does limit the way your players can spend their experience, but it also makes the decision of whether to spend that last point of short-term experience that much more critical.

Your second idea would require you to halve the experience you give out since each point would be used twice. Your players may also spends their experience on short-term benefits they don't need just so they can push the experience to the long-term pool to be used on character advancement all the sooner.

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You do not have a problem, you just think you do... In my not so humble opinion, party balance is a myth, and power gamers will game any system no matter what house rules you use. So, my advise is do not even try.

In Numeneria, the recommended way is to split the XP pool but that is just that: a guideline. Any player should be free to use the XP in whatever way they want to enhance and grow their character as they see fit. XP can be used now or reserved for later. This is a strategic choice. It should matter. Also, as far as I understand it when an XP is spend on short term, it is gone. You cannot then use it to get some long term advantage. Your house rules take that strategic choice away from the players.

Besides, gaining XP is trivially easy: just accept any/all GM intrusion. This should really make the game more interesting and tense. Which is the whole point of game mechanic: you pay a cost now but you gain something to use later.

Just checked with my copy, the note in the margin of page 349 and the second dealing with characters abilities on pages 334 and 335 are two sources that you might want to check.

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"Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt"? Really? There's an organized campaign agonizing about party balance? –  okeefe Jan 24 at 14:02
    
@okeefe: I have edited my post. Is it better? –  Sardathrion Jan 27 at 14:54
    
It no longer seems conspiratorial! –  okeefe Jan 28 at 0:05
    
@okeefe: But but but, that was the best part of my paranoia!!! ^_~ –  Sardathrion Jan 28 at 7:25

I came up with an idea for a house rule regarding XP. I remember reading a bit in the core book about how it would be acceptable for a GM to limited the amount of XP that could be spent on Advancement at higher Tiers. Also, I like the idea that when you get higher in ability, advancement becomes slower.

So here's my idea: At low Tiers, you can spend your XP however you like. Feel free to shoot up the ranks.

When you hit Tier 3, you can only spend half your XP on advancement. The other half must be spent on other benefits. This will reflect the slower advancement, while encouraging the PCs to start building things outside their character stats, i.e. wealth, a home, connections, etc. It would help to record the different types of XP in different columns. When you reach Tier 6, there is no way in canon to advance any further, but I would say that you could still buy skills, and character schticks like Esoteries, etc. But only a quarter of your XP could be used for advancement, if you want to continue to advance at all.

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