Thursday, September 17, 2015

New XP House Rules ideas for DF

I have a set of XP house rules I like a lot, especially with some little tweaks we made after the initial writeup.

But one of my players suggested a more "mission oriented" or "exploration oriented" reward system. I thought about that, and decided I had some changes to make, too. Ideally I would make a system that is:

1) loot-centric, so gathering loot is the name of the game (keeps it light, fun, and cheerfully profit-oriented.)

2) mission- or exploration-oriented, so you always feel the need to do need things or push further.

3) encourages risk instead of punishing it.

#1 is fun because the drive to make a profit makes people do crazy risky things something.

#2 I like because it discourages attrition-based raiding strategies that eat up sessions without really providing any excitement. There is a big difference between, "Today, we go for the dragon!" and "Today, we wear down the orcs with some low-level attrition and hope to steal enough swords off of them to get nearly full points!"

#3 means the risk of losses is minimal compared to the gains of success.

Here is what I am thinking - we'll hash this out with the group, and maybe I'll hash it out more across additional posts.

XP House Rules Proposal

Base XP for a session is 1 xp - even a bad delve teaches you something (plus, it leaves something to lose for poor roleplaying and other penalties.)

Loot - Gaining sufficient loot to reach your threshold - $200 each, to start - is worth 2 xp. Less than your threshold is 1 xp. Coming back with no loot or almost no loot (1/5 or less than the threshold) is 0 xp. Vastly exceeding this number (5x your loot) is worth 3 xp.

Minimum 0 xp, maximum 3 xp.

Exploration and Mission Completion - Exploring a significant new area (staircase down in a megadungeon, exploring multiple areas of a large level, find a new location and making efforts to clear it, etc.) is 2 xp. Minimal exploration (minor new areas, little real exploration) is 1 xp.
No exploration of new areas of significant at all is 0 xp.

The usual bonuses for special tasks completed will also accrue - exorcism of an evil shrine, destruction of a source of malign power, overcoming a difficult puzzle or task, etc.

Minimum 0 xp, Maximum is 2 xp plus bonuses.

Casualties: Two ideas here:

Never Leave a Man Behind! - No casualties is 1 xp. Losing 1+ PCs or NPCs is 0 xp, so long as the bodies are recovered, given Final Rest, buried or burned in a safe spot, or otherwise safely and respectfully disposed of - or if they are utterly unrecoverable (lost at sea, fell down a nearly bottomless pit.) If the casualties are all Resurrected or otherwise brought back to life (Zombie doesn't count), this counts as No Casualties (1 xp)! Summoned creatures don't count, usually (I'll note special exceptions.) Losing characters where they can come back as undead, or otherwise when bodies are treated poorly, is -1 xp.

Maximum XP is +1, minimum is -1.


Casualties, Smasualties - Casualties have no effect on XP at all except from a Roleplaying standpoint.)

Maximum/Minimum is 0 xp.

Roleplaying, Awesome Bonus, MVP - all unchanged from the original document. Note that Sense of Duty will mitigate against abusing the "Casualties" rule. It will be okay if they happen, but running out on your buddies so they die on the ground that "maybe we can make it back and rescue your corpses" will cost you points if you have Sense of Duty or the appropriate Code of Honor. You took the disad, you have to play the disad.

Assuming Never Leave a Man Behind:

So a solid bit of looting (2 xp) plus significant exploration (2 xp) plus no casualties (1 xp or 0 xp) plus the base (1 xp) means 6 xp for the session, one more than now.

A solid bit of looting (2 xp) with just a little exploration (1 xp) and some casualties not resurrected (-1 xp) would be 3 xp including the base 1 xp.

A careful delve with minimal loot (1 xp), no exploration (0 xp), and everyone is safe (1 xp), plus the base, is 3 xp. (which seems high, actually)

A bad session with a near TPK (-1 xp), no exploration (0 xp), no loot (0 xp), and plenty of PCs left behind (-1 xp), plus the base points is 1 xp - 2 = 0 xp. Better hope you were MVP.

Assuming Casualties, Smasualties, those same delves would be:

5 xp (2 + 2 + 1), 4 xp, and 1 xp.

Not sure if we'll go with this. We'd need a good understanding of what "exploration" means. For example, my feel that for exploration, opening a door, seeing monsters, and running away is not significant exploration. But equally it means the area is known in the future, so going back doesn't count as a new area.

But is exploration a new room? 5 new rooms? How many hexes? How many new things? That I'm not sure about.

I may have to jigger the numbers around a little, and get rid of the base point. Maybe make the loot numbers 0, 1, 3, 4 instead of 0, 1, 2, 3, so "made enough" is 3, and loot is still front-and-center.

Overall, though, I think changing the concept to a loot minimum, loot assumption, and loot bonus is good. I like the idea of making casualties less of a concern - if you risk less xp cost, or nothing, from pushing into new territory and trying to loot treasure at the cost of dead characters, will you risk more?

That's a rough draft, in any case. Except changes!


  1. I like this, particularly the "Never Leave a Man Behind" approach to casualties.

    1. I like "Never Leave a Man Behind" as well but I'm also much more likely to do risky / stupid things. I'm also much less likely to actually make it to a session. Basically, my voice is useless in this discussion, but I dig the new rules a lot.

  2. It seems to me that Never Leave a Man Behind will encourage risk-adverse gaming, and I'd avoid it. On the other hand, some form of bonus for working to extract someone from a disaster (like happened in the last session) seems like a good idea. (Though in this case, it'd get reduced for only having one survivor out of two that technically 'got out'.) Not sure how you'd quantify it.

    On the other hand, I like the exploration idea, even if it too is problematic. Awards for mission completion also seems like a good thing. Possibly even base it off of the party's own 'to do' list. Restore headless statues? Points. Find and clear out a lizardman room with gigantic idol? Points. Defeat the Lord of Spite? Points. Pure 'exploration' side should be finding and interacting with a major new section. Connecting up maps doesn't give anything, but working their way up an underground river should.

    1. I worry about the same thing, too - but the point structure is such that you get a bonus for getting people out, really, and a clean run is still the best run. But I might just go with "casualties don't count." Guys with Sense of Duty, Code of Honor, and guys with the IQ to worry about dead PCs coming back as ghosts can haul out the bodies - it's its own reward, or else they already got the points for that kind of action.

      I worry about the "to do" list because it means I'm rewarding XP for them making the choices they want to make. I'd rather have it purely concrete - most of the "missions" in the megadungeon are things they feel they need to do because it either smooths their path to loot, or ends up in loot, or gives a non-loot reward worth having. So I worry that it's circular - I give them XP for hanging out in the same old areas trying to figure out how to open the unopenable doors, and then give them whatever loot is behind it.
      Giving points for killing the Lord of Spite is right out - combat is a means to an end, not an end. That's a campaign given for me.

      I do like the "find and interact with." Maybe I can scale it off of there. I was thinking during my commute today that "one new area of significance" would be enough. Just like "just enough loot" is enough. You'll know an area of significance when you find it and interact with it.

  3. What about an area counts as 'explored' when, for the first time, they remove all hostile (if any) creatures/items/things from it. This means that they can open that door and run away, but don't get the XP for exploration until they kill, trick or otherwise "clear" the area of hostiles. It also allows for 'freebie' areas like shops and empty rooms (few though they be)

    1. I like that - but I wonder, would it mean that the players are actively seeking fights to earn exploration XP? If you have to find occupied rooms to ensure XP, and clear the occupants, it feels more like "XP for clearing rooms" than "XP for exploration."

      Unless that's what you mean by freebies - and empty room still counts as cleared.

  4. Yeah, sorry I wasn't clear. Any room they control/"fully enter" counts including empty and friendly ones (first time)

  5. OTOH, perhaps the idea of "control" is still too much like "XP for clearing rooms". Why not allow PCs to get XP for exploration IF they spend long enough in a room "to be able to map it". This would allow for PCs to use stealth, invisibility, etc to enter and look around and get the credit for exploration without a fight. Probably a good tactic for players until you get a room full of creatures who can see invisible and have a keen sense of smell .... :)

    1. That's a neat idea. I'll have to try to remember if my players map after combat or during. The characters are assumed to do it after, or from memory, but the players generally are mapping just to keep the dungeon all straight.


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