Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Damage-Based XP

Reading The Tao of D&D yesterday, I found this interesting take on making Experience Points based off varying aspects of damage. To quote the relevant bits:
A) 20 X.P. are awarded for every point of damage a character suffers.

B) 10 X.P. are awarded for every point of damage a character causes. This is subject to a few addendums: a magic spell which affects multiple persons gives experience to the caster only for the damage total of the spell; thus, a fireball which delivered 26 h.p. to four creatures would only award 260 x.p. to the caster, and only if one of the four creatures failed its saving throw. If all four creatures succeeded, the fireball would only give 130 x.p. to the caster. Other spells like burning hands, magic stone, magic missile, call lightning and so on work similarly. I am at the moment unsure of how to deal with certain death dealing spells such as telekinesis or cloudkill, which do not have a specific hit point motif. Thankfully, no member of my party has a spell of this level as of yet.

C) All damage caused against the party is totaled, multiplied by 20 and then distributed to those party members who were witnesses and who specifically took some kind of action in the events, even if that action failed to cause damage or the member was unharmed. This is in lieu of at least attempting to take an action, taking a risk, and thereby gaining experience from it.

The principle of this method is that experience is something that is gained more through suffering and failure than through success, and that it is a much more profound experience to endure damage than to inflict it.
(Emphasis mine).

Wow. This, I like. I really want to try it out in my next Castles & Crusades game. The entire idea, I think is a bit morose, focusing on learning from Bad Things Happening To Us. But I see the argument. A kid learns a lot faster the stove is hot when it's his hand that is the one burnt.

I also like the fact that you can get X.P. without defeating the opponent. You're fighting a Wyvern, do a bit of damage, hang in for a few rounds, then have to retreat. You're still getting credit for hanging in the fight as long as you did. I'm not sure how my magic-users will feel about it, but I plan to at least throw it out there.


Alex Schroeder said...

Sounds like a lot of bookkeeping to me...

Mad Brew said...

Besides bookkeeping, which I've never really been shy of, this method seems to neglect those moments of epiphany that I think deserve XP too (not saying this method totally disallows it).

Say a party outwits an opponent and defeats the encounter without dealing/receiving damage. What do you do then? You could go back to the default XP value, but then that raises another question...

How does this method compare with the default method? Are characters gaining XP at the same rate? Do warriors outpace their comrades simply because they take/deal more damage? Is the socialite support character forever doomed to remain level 1 cause all he does is support the team and do PR?

I think it's a cool idea if used in conjunction with other methods.

Zachary The First said...

@Mad Brew: I do think I'd still allow "epiphany" and "badass" XP. That's pretty core for my game. But I think I might like to try this in conjunction with that.

Blotz said...

"The entire idea, I think is a bit morose, focusing on learning from Bad Things Happening To Us"

And you found it on The Tao of D&D? Color me not surprised...

Joseph said...

Hmmm... I can't help but wonder if there's not some room for abuse here. Soaking up damage just to gain x.p. To wit, a 6th level fighter goes against an orc in one-on-one combat. He deliberately pulls his blows, taking maybe half of his total, until he decides to actually kill the poor humanoid. He could get upwards of 200 x.p. for that one orc...

FASERIP said...

Shoot, Joseph--- why not cast healing spells on monsters that deal weak damage?

Shriekers become instant XP piñatas.

Zachary The First said...

@Joseph: I'm curious if my players would do exactly that. Would be poetic justice if they milked it too long, then an orc got a lucky shot in and offed 'em. :)

Zachary The First said...

@Blotz: LOL!

Ryan said...

I've been thinking about trying this myself. In the case of healing a shrieker, well... the longer they keep it alive, the more wandering monster it will attract, and then they've blown all their healing spells.

At any rate, I think that you learn a lot more from failures and setbacks than you do from success. I'm not saying you *don't* learn from success, but looking back over my own life, I'd say that failures and mistakes are a lot more illuminating.

Also, anything is better than the AD&D 1st edition experience point system as written, IMO.

Alexis said...

Since this is my system, I’ll answer a few points:

Alex: “...bookkeeping...”

Have you played D&D???

Mad Brew: “Say a party outwits an opponent...”

I’ve never seen this happen in a session except when the DM specifically wanted it to happen to move his pre-determined plot along...but let’s say it happened. Why shouldn’t the DM simply award X.P. for the total hit points of the creature outwitted? Or for the value of the treasure gained? Or might it be that obviously the character is “experienced” enough? I just don’t see experience as a “reward” system for good play. I expect my players to play well or die. I award experience for risk. What you describe is swindling, and that’s only a risk if you mess up. Whereupon, you ARE learning from your mistakes.

Blotz: “...found it on The Tao of D&D? Color me not surprised...”

Thank you. That’s very kind of you.

Joseph: “Soaking up damage...”

I laughed out loud at this. I think if I ever have a player dumb enough to play for additional damage during a combat, it won’t be long before they are slaughtered by something, as Ryan suggests. I don’t know if you’ve noticed from my blog, but my world is pretty deadly. People need all the health they can get.

Besides, I think I could justify ruling that a player received zero experience if they demonstrated masochistic tendencies...insanity denotes not learning from mistakes.

FASERIP: “...XP piñatas.”

I haven’t thrown a shrieker at a party since the 80s. Stupid monster. But if I introduced the suggestion that one shrieker in ten was infected with yellow mold...I think I could make parties think twice before swinging at them.

I don’t use monsters that aren’t threatening. If they’re not threatening, they have 1 hp., and thus aren’t worth much X.P.

Alexis said...


I do appreciate the plug.

Zachary The First said...

Alexis: No prob! Thanks for writing it!