Saturday, February 15, 2014

Variations on Experience Points for One Shots and Conventions

One of the main incentives during roleplay games (other than, ya know, playing the game!) is to gain XP to level up. But in convention games or one-shot adventures, there's really no chance of continuing that session later on. So what's the motivating factor for players to earn XP?

Top image: Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World

Here are two ways players can get more out of XP in games that are short-lived:

Idea 1: Use XP to Fuel Next Encounter

Call it insta-leveling! We all agree that there's no incentive to hold on to XP in a one-off game to build their character, right? So players might as well try and acquire XP to do more in the current game. Since no one's leveling up let's award XP after each encounter. Players are rewarded for roleplaying (highest value), achieving game goals (medium value), dispatching foes (lowest value).
  • Step 1: Make the XP awards nice and round, so everyone gets 40 each for helping to slay the space dragon and 60 each removing the eggs from her lair. Total = 100
  • Step 2: If they choose to now, players can divide their XP total by 10 (In this example, 100 /10 - 10 points.
  • Step 3: Players can elect to use those points to add to future rolls, spells, impossible feats, or just add to damage. They get to parse it out as they choose in the next encounter, be it combat, checking for traps, fixing the warp drive, etc.
  • Step 3: Repeat through next encounter.

XP earned = XP used!
NOTE: While you may get a fair amount of XP in the first encounter, the next one could be really light on XP. So, think strategically about how you want to spend your XP bonus. You can spend and save, splurge, or save it all up for the end.

A variation for in-game encounters might be to award for solely for roleplaying, so as not to highlight combat as much and really drive them to get into the setting more. The more engaged you are, the more you're rewarded for the next encounter.

Idea 2: Roleplay For Your Rolls

So this is more abstract, and would take some explaining at the table. It's feeling right now like this might be more geared toward newbies specifically.

Basically, anytime a roll is required, the players need to give a deeper explanation of what they're doing. We're dropping XP all together--if we play this style--to make it as simple as possible:

Scenario: During a cantina encounter a PC finds himself in a gunslinging showdown. His dexterity is the same as or lower than his opponent, so he'll need to roll to see if he can pull off a shot before the other dude.

"Hey Bobby, take off that helmet and show him how ugly you are!"
There's not so much, steps, as a scoring system:
  • Roleplay to Roll: Provide details about how you'll pull of feat = +1 to hit 
    • "I lift my head ever so slightly to throw him off, reach for my , but I'm sweating up a storm!"
    • GM confirms this is enough detail to allow the PC to fire his weapon 
  • Signal Your Wingman: Include another PC in your attempt = +2 to hit
    • "I wink at Hoss in hopes that he'll get my cue to throw a drink and distract my enemy."
    • Hoss complies by tossing a shot onto the floor. (Note: Hoss can only roleplay a solution, he can't really perform a separate action like shoot the badguy himself.)
  • Call the Calvalry: Get your whole team involved = +1 to hit for each team member
    • "I whoop and hollar at my crew to shout alien obscenities the moment his hand reaches for his weapon."
    • Team members each roleplay something to help the PC gain an edge in distracting foe.
    • He earns a +1 from each of them to add to his roll
The idea here is for PCs to gain some sort of advantage in the situation. It's essentially everyone understands that the modifiers only apply to whatever action the PC is currently attempting in this round. GM's prerogative: add in extra +1s or give a damage bonus if the your compadres really go for it with the roleplaying antics.

Sometimes, not every situation may lend itself to this kind of co-operative roleplay. The other party members might choose to comply, choose not to, or choose to do something so off-the-wall that it garners more points on their pal's behalf. But it's worth experimenting with to see how your party members get involved.

Remember that RPGs are a "team sport." When you and other players are faced with a situation, this is a chance to encourage one another to think about engaging the team--and be rewarded accordingly!

NOTE: These concepts in are a test phase. Feel free to comment with questions or suggestions!

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