This post discusses the how’s what’s and why’s behind the new XP system I recently implemented in the game. As always, scroll to the bottom for a TLDR.
I am changing the XP system in the game to one that uses hard, guaranteed yields for any successful roll depending on difficulty. 1 Xp for easy, 5 for medium, 10 for hard. I’m going to call this Tally XP, because I kept track by marking tallies for each player. I believe Tally XP removes room for unfair favoritism, inconsistent XP yields, and tedious mathing.
I originally had a pretty traditional XP system. Beat enemies and get XP. Each enemy giving a predefined yield. Successful social interactions would get XP at the whim of the GM. And what’s worse, I felt myself giving more to some characters than others. Usually, with perfectly acceptable reasons like “You didn’t actually participate in the action,” but sometimes with shakier ground caused by poor memory of who did what.
Even when I try to imagine the most ideal version of GM Me, I still find myself liking one character more than another. In one session I host, I continually root for a specific character even more so than the others. He just appeals to me on a personal level. I try not to let it cloud my judgement, but- can I stop it 100% of the time? I don’t know, so I want to remove the possibility.
The Tally XP system prevents a GM from favoring one character with extra XP because every roll has a specific yield. Your XP correlates absolutely to how many successful rolls you made. Each character might get different yields per encounter depending on effectiveness, but that’s by design!
Admittedly, a GM might still play favoritism by rewarding Hard XP yields more often to one character, but hopefully that is only coming from hard actions so that character is in constant fear of death anyway.
Deeply related to what’s discussed above, how do I know how much XP to give? Does one huge bear equal more or less xp than 5 green pirates? Does an unarmed enemy have less yield than an armed one? Is a series of social rolls that successfully avoids combat less value than the combat itself? I don’t think that would be fair.
This kind of moral and mathematical dilemma ultimately makes progression speed fairly unpredictable, which I think hurts the immersion of the system.
I struggled for a while with a way to rectify this, and I entertained a few different options. Ultimately, I like Tally XP for this because all players always know exactly what they should be getting. Before a roll, a GM might announce, “Roll Nature, and this is going to be easy.” Well, that’s 1 XP.
When we fight 4 guys who each yield 19 xp and one of the characters also got a couple of successfully diplomacy checks in there and a perception check, what do I do? How should the xp be divided amongst the group? What if one character uses all his or her turns on support actions that do no damage. Does it yield an equal share?
On top of each of those having a probably not whole number answer, we also need to continually add that number to what you already had. In my system, which levels up every 100 XP, that’s not very hard, but it does feel annoying to me as the GM to have to stop after an encounter and start doing division, aka using a calculator.
Essentially, I don’t like it, so I dropped it.
Tally XP means I have three columns (easy, medium, hard) ready for each character on a piece of scrap paper, and on each roll, I just mark a tally in the correct column. Once those start to pile up, I stop to count to see if they’ve hit 100. I also encourage the players to tally for themselves. I’m only human and sometimes get too excited by the game to trust myself fully.
I’ve tested it out twice now and I’m really happy with how it’s working. Takes a little while to build the habit of marking each roll, but once I had it, things were really smooth. I think that some players and designers are going to really be against this, but I’m happy with it.
Trying a new XP distribution system I’m calling Tally XP. Every successful roll yields XP; 1 XP for easy rolls, 2 for medium, and 3 for hard. Should make progression speed more predictable and consistent.