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Give XP Only for Treasure?

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In the original edition of D&D, characters received experience points both for defeating monsters and for the treasure they gained doing so. For some reason this was not well-liked -- especially the experience for treasure. Later editions started moving away from this. First, experience for treasure was dropped. Then experience for defeating monsters slowly transformed into experience only for monsters slain -- at least in most campaigns. Additional sources of experience were added along the way (like a few hundred xp for good roleplaying), but most of these additional sources did not provide nearly as much experience as treasure did, so the emphasis of the game slowly shifted from exploration and treasuring hunting to killing things.

Last night, I wondered what might have happened if experience awards had shifted the other way. What would a game be like that only gave experience for treasure collected?

After thinking about this a while, I decided it might make for a far more interesting game than one might expect, especially if the campaign was set up around this idea. Let's establish some interesting ground rules.

1) Treasure is converted to experience by spending it on training. If you need 10,000 XP to go from level 5 to 6, you get the xp by spending money on training. When you've managed to gather and spend 10,000gp on training, you go up a level. Unlike in AD&D 1e, training need not involve finding a teacher and taking time out from the campaign to train, it is just something you can do in spare time.

2) Treasure that you choose to spend on other things (like upkeep, healing potions, equipment, taxes, etc.) does not earn xp.

3) NPC rulers often give bounties on certain monsters killed (a bounty about equal to the xp the monster would bring for killing it). However, you usually have to bring some type of proof that you actually killed the monster (a head, a tail, etc. depending on the monster) to the NPC ruler. Which monsters have a bounty and how much can change with location and time in the campaign.

A campaign using this experience system would put more emphasis on finding treasure or otherwise making money than it would on killing things. Given that bounties are only given for certain monsters, there would be less reason for players to have their characters want to kill everything that moves. Having to bring proof of kills to get bounty money would make some spells (like disintegrate) and some tactics (e.g. pushing monsters into lava) counterproductive with bounty monsters. Finally, by requiring buying training with gold to convert it into xp, there is a somewhat logical campaign world reason for treating treasure as xp.

As you can tell from this short writeup, I have not completely thought this idea through -- let alone tested it in play. I'm interested in hearing what others think of it before I do much more with it.

Stuart said...
January 10, 2010 at 6:49 PM  

I like the idea of giving players choices for where they get their XP. For example Lawful characters get XP for defeating Chaotic enemies. Neutral characters get XP for collecting Treasure. Chaotic characters (which would be NPCs in my game) get XP for defeating Lawful enemies. You could then give out XP for something like "attendance" if that's another player behaviour that you want to reward (I'm *definitely* using that one).

So then your players can pick what sort of character they want to play, and that will reflect where they get their XP... :)

Anonymous said...
January 10, 2010 at 7:00 PM  

Works for me. I like the Classic D&D way of doing things where XP is gained for treasure first and foremost. The thinking was that a large part of XP was fame and fortune. If you're the guy who killed the Orcs, that's just 20XP per Orc. But if you're the guy who killed the Orcs and discovered the Lost Treasure of Yith, that's 20,000XP!

If also meant that heroes who preferred stealth and cunning (rogues, wizards and solo players, for example) could be rewarded for their efforts with not a drop spilled - not theirs, at least.

Dropping XP for treasure meant the game shifted closer towards being the combat-centric creation it is now.

All imho, of course :D

Adam Thornton said...
January 10, 2010 at 9:35 PM  

I've been doing something I stole from (I think) Jeff Rients.

Namely, XP for killing/defeating monsters, some minor roleplaying bonuses (since I'm using Microlite74, each XP is about 100 old-style XP, so roleplaying awards are rare).

But then:

When the players haul their loot back to The City, they get one XP for every 100 gold pieces that they just blow on carousing. If they buy new armor/weapons, no XP award. But they can state how many hundred gold pieces they're going to blow on gambling, drinking, drugging, and whores. Then they get those XP, and make a saving throw, at -1 for every 100 gp above 100 they spent. If they FAIL, they get *double* XP but also roll on the Rients Carousing Mishap table.

All of my players love this. So do I: the fallout from the table can make an entertaining adventure all by itself.


Fat Alibert said...
January 10, 2010 at 11:45 PM  

An alternative is to give xp for completing objectives. If the objective was to get the big stash o-loot u get it for that, if the objective was a mission or completion of a character sub-plot you get xp for that. It's another approach that means players don't have to fight everything to get the best levelling progress. Spycraft and a few other systems use this approach. The ad-hoc "I'll tell you when you level" is almost the same difference.

Eric Wilde said...
January 11, 2010 at 2:45 PM  

Interesting idea. It would be instructive to see how such a game turned out wrt player enjoyment. For myself, I would steer away from this idea. It smacks too much of earning a living in the real world and could destroy the escapist nature my gaming.

Randall said...
January 11, 2010 at 4:09 PM  

Stuart - I've never liked giving different xp based on alignment, probably because I downplay alignment in most of my campaigns. Alignment is more philosophical position than personality -- at least until the end of the world.

Greywulf - I agree, dropping xp for treasure is probably what started D&D down the road to the the more combat-centered editions of the last 10 years or so.

Adam - The "Rients Carousing Mishap table"? I'll have to head over to Jeff's site and find this.

Fat Albert - The problem with objective or mission-based xp awards is that tghey only work well in games when the players get "assigned" missions somehow are are supposed to complete them. Characters in a sandbox campaign (like those I usually run) seldom have a mission to complete, they just wonder around the world doing whatever insterests them at the moment.

Eric - Too much like earning a living in the real world? I don't see it that way (unless one is Indiana Jones), but I can see how that could ruin the fun.

Andreas Davour said...
January 11, 2010 at 4:20 PM  

The carousing mishaps are hilarious. They can be found in Fight On! Magazine.

Since I personally think gp=xp is the most splendid idea Dave and Gary had, I think your suggestions is great!

If this creates a Monty Haul campaign, using gratuitous spending for xp is a great way to handle that problem. Dave is supposed to have originated that rule. I so wish it had been in the LBB and later editions.

Anonymous said...
January 13, 2010 at 9:24 PM  

Interesting idea.

Although I thought 3rd ed gave XP for monsters that were defeated, wether by killing them or turning them into allies.

I'm not fond of the idea that spending gp while romping thru the forest to go up levels. Big objections are:
- where does the treasure go? obviusly not up in thin air.
- how is it that they can learn new spells with no outside sources, time or such.

I have "solutions" to the issue, but it adds more rules such as permitting partial advancement until they get to a town where they can train, etc.


Randall said...
January 13, 2010 at 9:48 PM  

Peter: 3e did allow XP for monsters defeated or handled without combat, but many groups apparently did not use it. As for spending gold while wandering through a forest, I assume some common sense on the GM's part. I would not normally allow it. However, as I write "old school" rules, if I were to ever write this up as an actual rule (instead of an idea tossed out), I doubt I would have special rules for this, I'd just say the GM has to rule spending the gold for training possible. After all, perhaps in some campaigns a character can drop gold in forest pools and a sylvan spirit would train you in your dreams.

I'm assume the characters are learning all along, they just don't get the benefit of it until they convert gold into experience by spending it on training. If the GM doesn't want players acquiring new spells by simply discovering them during training (e.g. by meditation or the like), the GM could simply rule that new spells can only be added to one's spells by finding them in other (treasure) spell books, scrolls, etc. All you get for experience/training is new spell slots.

Anonymous said...
January 15, 2010 at 10:18 PM  

Experience for gold spent is a great way to force the characters to make strategic decisions, especially at low level -- do they get a new spell for the spellbook/upgrade their equipment, or buy their way to the next level.

One thing I would add, though: the money spent has to have been gained through adventuring. A character who owns a keep or who makes money as a merchant trader cannot gain XP by spending that money on training -- they will merely be gaining abstract book learning, which, since it's not based on having survived a trip to the dungeon, is worth 0 XP. IOW, the money spent on training is merely a way to codify/refine/practice the raw field experience they gained in the dungeon.

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