Wednesday, June 24, 2015

XP bonuses, disadvantages, and gaming on hard mode

Erik Tenkar was wondering about reversing the old-school D&D approach of giving earned XP bonuses for high stats. Have a high STR as a fighter or a high WIS as a cleric? Get +5% or more XP. Reversing it would just mean low STR and low WIS means more XP for that fighter and that cleric.

I said, in the comments:

"Sure, it could. It depends:

- Are you looking for something simulationist, that says people better suited for a job learn faster?


- Are you looking for something gamist, which says you get a bonus for playing on hard mode?

If it's the former, high stats get a bonus. The latter, low stats.

Both are valid choices, really, but end up with different curves. I'd bet, given the utility of high stats in most systems and the paucity of XP bonuses, most people will go for high stats over bonus points given the latter approach."

Pretty much this is how Disadvantages work in GURPS - are you really a better swordsman, a smarter scientist, or a more effective assassin because you are Greedy or have a Sense of Duty to your friends? No. But as a reward for making a deeper character, and giving it flaws that restrict your actions as a player, you get some more points to make a stronger, more effective character.

Talents cost points, and give you all sorts of bonuses (including learning faster, which isn't the same as an XP bonus but it's not totally alien to the concept.)

As I see it, any time you reward a player for making it harder to do well with their character or restrict their options, it's a game balance / gamist decision. It's giving a boost for playing on hard mode. Any time you reward in-game ability with more rewards because the stronger, the more talented, the more wise, the more agile should do better and learn faster you're making a simulationist decision. Neither is a bad thing, and you can do both- GURPS has disadvantages and talents, and encourages giving XP out to people whose disads trip them up (and less to those who ignore them) while coupling higher stats with higher skills.

It's just what you want - if you want people to get a bonus for taking on something hard, sure, give them bonuses for doing so. If you want an in-game effect of the top people are the top people, give a bonus for high stats or its equivalent. How you decide will matter in the game, but they are both valid approaches.

1 comment:

  1. If someone takes "hard mode" as a character trait in a game - say, a ST 8 Fighter in D&D - then I may well reinforce them in some way, simply because it's an interesting character. That said, in the meta, they're almost certainly holding the group back, so it balances out a bit I presume.

    I once had a player who chose Monk. I guess that's actually the same thing...

    I've only read some of the older editions, and not played. I'd not heard of XP bonuses before (it has been many years since I've read any of the O/1st/2nd ed stuff though). I actually like the idea of higher INT or WIS giving some form of bonus.

    Perhaps a way to make this a thing is to do a set amount of XP for just showing up - say, for example, 50 - then issuing bonuses to anyone who can pass an INT or WIS check. Reflecting deeper upon one's experiences, and all that. Bonus may well be tied to margin of success, or something like that.

    You can provide some group support element by allowing a single character to roll INT or WIS for others, spreading the bonus XP between professor and pupil.

    Hm, something for me to mull over, maybe hamhand a post about...


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