Wednesday, February 3, 2010

XP Distribution

I have been wrestling with the issue of how exactly to distribute xp in my current Arandish campaign for awhile now.  My initial set of house rules, posted on December 9, proclaimed:

Experience points are earned by defeating monsters and completing objectives, but NOT for finding treasure.

I did this because I have always been uneasy about giving xp for treasure at a direct 1-to-1 ratio.  Although James Raggi has defended this position well, and I admire its simplicity and straightforwardness, I seem ill-suited for it.  My own proclivities lean more toward those described in this great post by Ripper X which explains how to award experience for "objectives" and supports my initial instinct not to award xp for treasure.  I like Ripper X's overall approach to the concept of xp distribution a great deal.

My revised house rules post, dated January 7 -- still before game play had begun -- amended my previous house rule about xp, instead claiming:

Experience points are gained from two sources, treasure and monsters. Characters only gain XP from treasure of a non-magical nature, at a rate of 1 XP per 1 gp value of the item. [. . .]  This only counts treasure/money gained during adventuring, NOT from opening a profitable inn or becoming a ruler and taxing one's subjects.

I also briefly considered -- and am still quite intrigued by -- this interesting alternate leveling-up system:

At the conclusion of each session, each player rolls 1d20 for his character. On an adjusted roll of 20, the character gains a level. The roll is modified by +1 for each previous failed leveling roll at this level only.

Thus a newly 3rd level fighter completes a session. He will gain a level again on a roll of 20. If he fails, the next time he completes a session he gains a level on a 19+, then 18+, etc.

To which Carl replied with this insightful comment:

The Carl Nash method of giving out experience is to completely disregard monster experience tables, gold, and everything else... I just pick a number that seems right, and I keep track of what I have given for every previous session on a big list with a one sentence reminder of what the party did, so that I have a frame of reference for awarding subsequent experience.

If I had to make a suggestion to you (if you are dead set against simply using experience as written in Labyrinth Lord, and it really sounds like you are struggling with that) it would be to completely eliminate experience points. Just tell the party when they get to level up, based on when you feel like it is appropriate.

Ah, wisdom!  In the end, now that game play is underway and I am forced to award something to the players in the wake of each session, I find that while I am doing some of the math to factor in xp for both monster defeats and for non-magical treasure, I observe that I tend to fudge the numbers a lot if I don't like how they turn out, usually rounding down some in order to keep character advancement moving a bit more slowly, or rounding up to a close even number.  Actually, while this is not set in stone by any means, the formula that most accurately expresses my xp distribution method over the first three sessions is:

full xp for defeated monsters 
+ 1/2 xp for non-magical treasure 
+/- DM "fudge factor" 
= total xp awarded per participating party member

Session by session, here's how that scheme played out:

First session:
7 trogs defeated x 38 xp each = 266 xp
no treasure
DM "fudge factor" = round down to 200 xp each

Second session:
8 orcs defeated x 10 xp each = 80 xp
200gp treasure = 100 xp
DM "fudge factor" = round up to 200 xp each

Third Session:
16 orcs defeated x 10 xp each = 160 xp
250gp treasure = 125 xp
DM "fudge factor" = round up to 300 xp each

In truth, as you can see, I might as well be (and perhaps already am in a de facto sense) using Carl's simple suggestion that I just make up xp totals, given how much I manipulate the final xp calculations anyway.  I guess I really just use the monsters and treasure as a rough guideline or starting point, then hedge my bets from there.  Also note that rather than split up the xp, I find that "sweet spot" for the xp total then award that amount equally to each party member.  That seems contrary to the official rules, but screw it, I'm the fuckin' Labyrinth Lord and my word is Law.


  1. You and I read the GP for XP rule differently - for instance, I would take that 200 GP found by the party and divide it by the number of people in the party if I was actually doing GP for XP rules - you only get XP for GP that your character actually gets. So once that 200 GP was divided up amongst the party, we each got 50 GP.

    I was wondering about this because of some comments that you made that you were being stingy with XP, and I had been thinking that you were giving out FAR more than would have actually been awarded according to Labyrinth Lord rules.

    Not that I am at all upset with getting the amount of XP that I have been awarded, nor am I a stickler for XP rules in general as my method that you outlined above certainly shows!

    edit... oh, I see that you actually note that you are not dividing amongst the characters.

    Carry on!

  2. I my play by email campaign - which for logistical reasons is combat light - I give XP for creatures killed but mainly for character development, heroic acts, enhancing the enjoyment of the other players (and for making the DM laugh). One of these actions will earn 1-10 points. At the end of a 'chapter' I will calculate the amount of XP needed for the lowest ranked character to go up, divide by the total number of points scored to work out the number of XP per point and assign the XP accordingly. It encourages regular turns and turns that are more than "I go east".