Monday, February 3, 2014

Al’s XP System for Roleplaying

So last week I mentioned that a more in-depth system of giving XP to roleplaying situations needs to be put into place. I find that the current systems are a bit lacking and it’s not very difficult to understand why. How do you quantify something that can be so varied and unpredictable? How to you put a number on talking to someone, or a performance, or a negotiation/intimidation? Not an easy thing. So here is the short version of a system I’ve been tinkering with and it is by no means a finished product:

Any roleplaying system is dependent on two things: the DM presenting good roleplaying opportunities and the PCs willing to run them. This can be harder than it sounds for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the players don’t see the value or the opportunity to roleplay until it is too late. Other times the DM might be so focused on the next big event or battle coming up that they miss the perfectly good opportunity in front of them. My experience tells me that most good roleplaying situations grow out of one or more of the following: 1) A character want or need; 2) Provocation from either another PC or the DM; and 3) A required situation for the story to progress. With these three things in mind, let’s look at each one in depth.

1) All characters want something, whether it comes out of their backstory, their need to improve themselves, their need for revenge, or what-have-you. The reason why really doesn’t matter. What does matter is how the DM handles it. Roleplaying can play a huge part in making the characters work for what they want. Urge them to ask questions, talk to NPCs, and spend some time searching for clues. While they do this, roleplaying opportunities should abound. Just keep it simple and balance it out so they have to work for it without dragging it out unnecessarily.

2) Provocation can also be a great motivator for roleplaying. Sometimes this is done via the DM such as introducing a new NPC to the group, having a few monsters or enemies surrender, or throwing a riddle/trap in the PCs path. All of these events practically force the PCs to discuss, debate, solve, or even argue. However, provocation can also happen, quite often in some groups, between PCs. One player challenges another, or questions their morals, or disagrees with their thinking and the roleplaying explodes. Maybe two PCs are fighting over the same magical item, or there is a disagreement about money, or maybe one PCs decides to do something behind the backs of the other PCs. These are the situations that I, as a DM, love. When these happen I try not to spoil it by jumping in the middle. Instead, I let them run their course and standby as more of a referee than a DM.

3) Finally, there are points where the overall story itself demands a roleplaying opportunity. The antagonist shows him/herself, a rough looking NPC needs to be convinced to “guide” the PCs to a dungeon or secret location, a negotiation needs to take place for a crucial item, etc. I always try to give these situations their due weight and telegraph their importance to the PCs. That way there is no doubt how important they are. Similarly, these are the turning points of the campaign and they deserve the highest attention.

So then the questions must be asked: How do you give out XP for this? How do you take these situations and give them a hard number value?

In the system I’m working on, all roleplaying situations are divided into three categories: A) Low Stakes; B) Medium Stakes; and C) High Stakes. The “stakes” in these categories refers to the overall importance of the current roleplaying situation as it relates to the main story. Each category is then subdivided into good, very good, and excellent. These sub-categories refer to the effort of the person roleplaying as determined by the DM. With all of this in mind, you get a table that looks like this:

Very Good
Low Stakes
Medium Stakes
High Stakes
The numbers inside of the boxes would apply to a first level character and could be adjusted as the characters gain experience if desired. Say a 10% to 20% increase per level. Also, these numbers would reflect a per-character award and not a total award to be divided up by two or more PCs.

This system seems reasonable to me as, on average, I engage in three roleplaying situations per game session. Usually one of high stakes and the rest vary between medium and low. Of course, not all players are involved in every roleplaying situation, so the amounts per-person can be quite different.  The real trick comes in when you have to keep track of which PCs were involved in what situation. Is there a way to simplify this? I suppose you could do a group average and give everyone the same RP XP at the end of the day, but that seems a bit too accommodating. Remember, the whole point of offering roleplaying XP in the first place is an incentive to get the players to roleplay. Why should the player who does nothing get the same XP as the player that actively engages and tries to get the most out of the game? Still, there are times when a unified group roleplaying XP amount is justified when everyone truly engages in the moment. Use your own judgment and be tough but fair.

Essentially, when you look at this system as a whole, it is simple yet effective. There are only three things a DM has to do in order for everything to work: 1) Present frequent and tangible roleplaying situations to your PCs; 2) When roleplaying happens mark down who is involved; and 3) At the end of the session determine the “stakes” and the “quality” of the roleplaying to calculate the amount of XP as per the table above. Tahdah!

I encourage all the DMs out there to try the system out for yourselves and get back to me with the results. Or, if you think another system is even better, drop me a line or a comment below.         

1 comment:

  1. haha I like this. my rp xp was based on xp derived from potential treasure and kills in that adventure. So an encounter with ten goblins (say 100 xp if killed) and a potential treasure of 100gp (100xp) would result in 200 potential rp xp if the whole encounter was roleplayed well. with 1/2 for an OK performance and 1/4 for a lackluster performance and 0 for none - if they just went through the motions.