15
\$\begingroup\$

Recently, I have started playing Dungeons and Dragons with close friends and family. We have 4 players, ages ranging from 12 to 25. Just now, I had a conversation with one of my colleagues over experience rewards, and he was completely in favour of experience-per-member, instead of the same experience for each member. In his opinion, awarding players for specific actions, role-playing and creative thinking is one of the most important parts of the game, since it incites players to play a character instead of a game.

Personally, I dislike this approach. I can reward players playing well with inspiration if I choose to, but more importantly, when anyone plays their character well, everyone is laughing and happy. This in itself is, as far as I'm aware, more important than experience points. Since I have a young player, I do not specifically keep track of experience anyway, I advance them all to the next level when I see fit.

Is this a good way to do this? I am afraid player-tailored experience will favour my two younger players, who are very creative and not afraid to go with their character's personality, while my older players are more hesitant to play their role. For instance, one of my older players has been following the group for the first two hours of the first session, since she didn't feel like showing herself. This is completely in-character, since she's a Druid and hasn't had much contact with people lately. However, as such, she missed out on a combat encounter and a couple of decision-making moments (inherently role playing as well).

Now I would like to add all of them are getting better, we haven't had many sessions yet but each of them had some highlights that set the mood for the rest of the game. For now, I do not see trouble with my approach, but my colleague has stirred doubt in my system. Is my method fair enough?

TL;DR: what are the pros and cons of awarding individual experience?

\$\endgroup\$
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ "Should I...?" questions generally don't work very well on RPG.SE, for the reason that no two people tend to agree on what should be done. No one can tell you what you should do. Currently this question is too opinion based, but could be reworded to generate more answers based in objectivity. My suggestion would be to change the question to something along the lines of, "What are the pros and cons of awarding XP individually vs. to the group as a whole vs. 'session-based' leveling?" \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Aug 18 '16 at 12:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, it is recommended on RPG.SE that you wait a bit before accepting answers. You accepted an answer after waiting only an hour, which is fine, but is likely to reduce your chances of getting other good (and possibly better) answers, as accepted answers tend to ward off new contributions to a question. The recommendation is to wait a few hours or even a day before accepting any answers. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Aug 18 '16 at 13:13
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you all for your responses. I have edited the final paragraph of the question to keep it more objective and less opinion-based. My apologies for quickly accepting an answer, I was unaware of issues with accepting answers early. I am very glad to have learned not only how others look towards awarding individual experience, but also how to post on RPG.SE. Thank you all! \$\endgroup\$ – Mithra Aug 19 '16 at 11:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another option is not bothering with XP, see rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/19965/… \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Aug 19 '16 at 16:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ In previous editions you'd get awarded the whole XP amount for the monster, no split. But then each class had its own XP tree, so characters would level up at different times - a different form of balancing classes. I'm ok with the current experience method, but I'd definitely go with milestones like in the link from @mxyzplk than individual XP. That can only lead to trouble. \$\endgroup\$ – James Alday Aug 25 '16 at 19:07
21
\$\begingroup\$

Generally speaking, if you reward people for things that are fun, it will gradually become less about the fun and more about the reward.

Personally, when we used XP per person, gaming was more focused on doing something cool with your character, as opposed to having fun and reaching the groups goal.

This is basic psychology, it's how the human mind works.

Now whether you want that is plain opinion. That's something you need to decide for yourself.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The second part is what made me shoot down the "xp per member" from my game almost immediately. I give my group EXTRA xp % for each time ANY player does something cool. I keep track of what I call "xp marks" secretly and then modify the total xp for the session. \$\endgroup\$ – Punkgeon Aug 18 '16 at 11:01
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I did upvote this answer because it's entirely correct, but I just want to note - I do give individual XP for role play moments, cool character things, etc as well as combat/social encounter XP, but all of the players at my table are very comfortable RPing in their character, so it definitely depends on your group too! :) \$\endgroup\$ – Jamie Brace Aug 18 '16 at 11:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Punkgeon I LOVE that idea. Rewarding everyone in a group for when a player is good (instead of just that player) changes the dynamic completely; when someone rises to the occasion, group members will cheer them on, instead of feeling like the other player is "getting ahead". \$\endgroup\$ – Beska Aug 18 '16 at 12:47
12
\$\begingroup\$

In my opinion group XP is a better method of allocating experience. It isn't even really necessary to award XP at all, you could just tell your players to level up when you think they are ready or when you are at a suitable point in the campaign.

This isn't a competition between your players (I assume?) so there doesn't need to be a concept of 'playing their character better'. That's purely subjective and I'm sure each player believes they are playing their character as well as they can.

With that in mind, here are some pros and cons for each:

Indvidual XP

Pros: Encourages attendance and participation amongst the players. Players will feel like they don't want to miss out or fall behind, and it might encourage people to do exciting things with the hope of reward.

Cons: Punishes players who miss sessions or encounters due to valid in, or out of, character reasons. Encourages players to act in their own best interests rather than in those of the group.

Certain players may progress comparatively quickly if they are good at earning XP in an efficient manner (e.g. combat, disabling traps). This could create discontent amongst those who don't feel they are being properly rewarded for their style of play (e.g. talking, stealth) so care will need to be taken to appropriately reward all kinds of game-play.

Group XP

Pros: Promotes cohesiveness and collaborative working as players will be more inclined to find solutions together rather than doing their own thing. All players are guaranteed to be at the same level and you can dictate when the party gains a level as necessary.

Allows players freedom to work out the best solution to encounters/plots and roleplay true to their character without feeling forced to optimise XP gain.

Cons: Might encourage 'lazy' play if players realise they don't need to contribute or put their character in harm's way to progress. You will need to find another way of rewarding players for particularly inspired ideas/actions, assuming you think a reward is warranted.

\$\endgroup\$
3
\$\begingroup\$

I keep XP awards static among all players, and I'm firm on it as a rule in my games.

I had a terrible experience with a DM who handed out XP based on individual achievement and this was during a time in my life when I had extra family responsibilities. Whenever I missed a session my character slipped a little behind, and by the time I was a couple levels lower than the other players I was much less effective in combat.

I felt like I was being punished twice. Once for missing out on the fun by not being able to attend and then a second time by being made to play a character who could not contribute on par with the others. It ruined my fun and I quit the game.

There are lots of other ways to reward players for their individual contributions. Inspiration points, treasure, storylines that intersect with their character's history, to name a few.

Using XP as the differentiator is increasing the fun for some players at the expense of others, in my opinion.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Not only in your opinion, but in your experience (as stated in your answer). I'd suggest you close that last sentence with that. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 19 '16 at 18:17
3
\$\begingroup\$

You have to think of it like you're designing an incentives system, because you are. What do you want your group to be doing? How do you want them to act?

I have what's essentially a hybrid approach:

The group gets experience for overcoming challenges

Combat, traps, stealth, diplomacy, finding the magical treasure of X, rescuing the mayor, whatever. This is where most experience will come from, and they all get the same amount.

Individuals get experience for enhancing the game

Roleplaying well, finding ways to include other characters better, teamwork, having the right unexpected skill/ability at the right time, overcoming personal character challenges, getting the right crit at the right time, getting a crit failure at the wrong time and handling it well. Essentially, these are DM discretionary XP bonuses. At the beginning of every session, I hand out the bonuses earned from last session. These bonuses are on the order of 1% what they're getting for challenges, and I can almost always find a bonus for each player, so they don't drift apart.

It allows me to highlight behavior I want to see, reward players for it, and keep people who otherwise might be on their phones invested in the non-combat aspects of the game. If anyone ever tried to game the system (e.g., dominate a session "roleplaying" their character in minute detail), it's discretionary, so I can simply give them nothing, assuming I didn't just stop them doing that at the time.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ "What do you want your group to be doing" is how the second sentence in your opening paragraph should end. "being doing" doesn't quite work. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 19 '16 at 18:16
1
\$\begingroup\$

IME young players can react badly to seeing their friends get rewarded when they do not, but YMMV.

I also do not subscribe to the school of thought which says to use XP to encourage modes of play (more roleplaying, more co-operation, whatever), for reasons already outlined by another poster. It is human nature for players to start trying to game the system, and the DM cannot possibly be fair to everyone at the table, all of the time (not least because everyone's definition of "fair" will differ).

If you want to encourage roleplaying, simply have an NPC address the PC in question: that player can then decide how to proceed. If you want to encourage team-play, design problems and encounters whose solutions require co-operation. Dishing out XP like a treat seems much too Pavlovian for my taste. I don't even like dishing out Inspiration dice, and have handed that responsibility off to the players as well.

Over the years I've dropped into two systems of level advancement in D&D: a party-wide XP award, no matter who did what or who was present, or milestone awards, where I simply inform the group they've leveled up at significant points in the game.

So, in answer to your question: no. As you say, this is a shared experience and everyone should enjoy everyone else's fun.

\$\endgroup\$
1
\$\begingroup\$

Team awards are the default for a good reason

... he was completely in favour of experience-per-member, instead of the same experience for each member. In his opinion, awarding players for specific actions, role-playing and creative thinking is one of the most important parts of the game, since it incites players to play a character instead of a game.

I'll suggest that you invite this colleague to run his own game and that you trust your own judgment for the game that you are running. In D&D 5e DM rulings and DM judgment are integral to the game experience

Personally, I dislike this approach. I can reward players playing well with inspiration if I choose to, but more importantly, when anyone plays their character well, everyone is laughing and happy. This in itself is, as far as I'm aware, more important than experience points.

You have answered your own question beautifully, right there. I've seen it done both ways over the past 30+ years. Team award is the better way to go.

About the individual award.
You ask about Pros and Cons

  • Pro
    Some people will find their getting experience based on their personal input more rewarding, personally. But that has an imbedded ...

  • Con
    (1) DnD 5e is, by design, a team game. If you reward XP individually you will not encourage good team play, which @nvoigt points out in his fine answer.

How do I reward good/excellent individual play?

There is a tool for recognizing excellent individual play: the DM awards an Inspiration Point. (DMG p. 240-241). Use that tool.

  • What will the expenditure of that point do for the player? Allow one more cool result.
  • What will it do for the team? Improved the team's chance for success.

Recommendation
Award XP as a team to keep the team flavor strong at your table. Use the Inspiration awards to recognize excellent individual contributions to the collective experience at the table.

Since I have a young player, I do not specifically keep track of experience anyway, I advance them all to the next level when I see fit.

Is this a good way to do this?

Yes. While it's not how I do it, many players and GMs have found this method to be a good method. The DMG (p. 261) offers this as a choice for how to award XP. (Level Advancement Without XP).

If in your judgment that's the best way to do it, at your table, then remember that you are the DM. Do it the way you think best.

Best wishes in your campaign.

\$\endgroup\$
0
\$\begingroup\$

Giving people XP rewards spear tell is great for those who are in their own personality outgoing and capable of articulating themselves in a way that gets your attention. If you have a group with a player or players who is more nervous about speaking out and catching your attention, or just less skilful at roleplaying for whatever reason, they are younger, or just have a quiet personality then they can lag behind in their characters development.

It also can lead to a cycle of one upmanships with everyone trying to do things to get the rewards for themselves.

It really depends on the style of gaming that you wish to create for your PCs one were everything is competitive amongst each other, or one were everyone cooperates and plays their part.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What does "spear tell" mean? What did you mean to say in your first sentence? Please edit that sentence to make your opening clearer. Welcome to RPG.SE (we are not all grammar tyrants ;-) ) Please take the tour and visit the help center to see how this Q&A site works. Thanks for your answer and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 19 '16 at 18:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.