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Rewarding players with XP

Written by Expy - Published on December 18, 2007

A lot of people chimed in on the recent article about real-time based leveling instead of XP based leveling.

Rewarding players with XP

I’d like to know if anyone uses some kind of reward system for players who are performing better than expected, or better than others.

I remember a White Wolf game in which about half our XP was awarded on roleplaying  and plot or character advancement.  I personally enjoyed this approach very much and it encouraged all of us to play better – or at least try to play better.

Penalizing players for having a life

Handing out bonuses to top performers has one major drawback – it can penalize players who have less energy to devote to RPGs.  Since it is a major drawback, I have given out equal XP to all party members for years.

Using fluff to justify rewards

Could it be possible to give XP based on an in-game of the party’s performance after a game and reward players accordingly?  Maybe some temporary bonuses to top performers?

Does anyone have suggestions?  I’ve never done this in a game but it sounds like fun.

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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12 Responses to “Rewarding players with XP”
  1. wizofice says:

    I’ve been giving them extra money for writing up session summaries. The in-game explanation being they’re contributing to a patron’s newspaper.

    Otherwise, I give level XP but they deduct their negative XP pool from that for magic items they’ve had commissioned (the buyer/user can pay the XP if another PC makes it for them).

  2. Tommi says:

    When using any reward mechanism (be it XP or hero points or gold), the key is to make it immediate. The player does something cool in play and gets the reward. That way it is actually rewarding and favouritism is quickly noticed and hopefully curbed.

    Personally I don’t like character advancement as a reward. I much prefer organic systems, like Basic Role Play (Runequest and Call of Cthulhu) or Burning Wheel, in which skills increase according to use. BW has artha, which are essentially hero points, to use for rewarding. I don’t remember if BRP has anything similar.

    I like to reward players who play in a dramatic way, but I like dramatic play, which kind of explains that. Entertaining performances get lesser rewards, but still noticable, because everyone enjoys a good performance.

  3. AlvaH says:

    In the past, I always handed out XP for roleplaying and the like. At the end of every major adventure, we also had a MVP award. (Most Valuable Player – Yes, an idea I basically stole from Knights of the Dinner Table.) Each player wrote down on a piece of paper who they thought the most valuable player that adventure was. We made specific note that it was “player” not just “PC that dealt the most damage”.

    Recently, I’ve been running Chronicals of Ramlar, which has almost entirely replaced D20 for me. That system is specifically set up around awarding points for things like role-playing. In fact, you can easily get fewer points by refusing to roleplay. In CoR, there is no “XP per monster” system. It’s all based on achievements, role-playing, etc.

  4. AlvaH says:

    I can’t believe I just misspelled “Chronicles”. It’s Chronicles of Ramlar, of course.

  5. Russell says:

    What I usually do is after each games session I go around the table and ask everybody, what has this player done tonight. Then, depending on the more they do, be it come up with original ideas to beat a problem, good role-playing, staying focused on the game instead of having conversations about other stuff, being prepared when their combat turn comes (this really applies to spellcasters) and other things. I do it publicly with everyone’s input so it 1) shows people I am not showing favoritism, and 2) it hopefully will encourage others to participate.
    It seems to work.

  6. Dave T. Game says:

    I love to reward players for the little things, but I’ve found it’s too much of a hassle when it comes to most leveling systems like D&D.

    When running my favorite homebrew setting D20 Modern, I give out Action Points as rewards. That way, they don’t advance faster, but they can do cool stuff more often.

  7. Deez says:

    Maybe its just laziness, but most exp. systems are a pain to actually use. D&D, for example expects you to use challenge ratings and other things. Honestly, the points are meaningless. When a character has done something particularly cool, or has endured enough punishment and come out alive, they get their next level after the session. Most of the time, I advance the party as a whole to keep it fair. It tends to make for a little faster advancement, but most players enjoy building up their characters. After all, the true customization shows up at higher levels for most classes. And the challenges can be made harder as needed.
    One thing I picked up from a friend of mine is called “dick magic” (I’m not sure where the name came from). The idea is that, after a session, the players are each given a “point”. They then assign the point to another player. No reason is necessary, though it is usually accompanied by an explanation of something particularly cool that that character did or the time that they stayed in character even though everyone knew it would screw the party. The player then marks the point somewhere on his sheet.
    What you do with the points is up to you, but we’ve used them to add to die rolls in dire situations, ensure that a particular NPC will be home when we visit, using several to avoid a random and undignified death, and other things that allow the players to ensure a dramatic scene they envision won’t be ruined by die in a bad mood.
    I think it adds a fun element and allows the players to reward each other. This way, no one can say the GM plays favorites.

  8. Peter says:

    One thing I dont like is leveling up all characters at the same time. That way I would feel bad for killing one of them and make him start one level below everyone. I like it when they fear that their character could die in the next encounter. They get more tactical and use more ressources in combat, on information gathering about monsters, etc… which lead me to a good reason to give more XP !

  9. Benjamin says:

    I have a tally chart divided between category and quality. Roleplaying of substantial merit? Tick. A good idea that ranks as outstanding? Tick. Each of these boxes has an xp value that you multiply by the character’s level. Then you can keep track of individual totals or combine everyone’s results for a group award.

  10. Fox says:

    I really like Deez’s system of reward in there. I hope you don’t mind me stealing it. :) Thatks for the idea, I think it will help my game quite a bit.

  11. Rob (NG) says:

    I had this conversation with one of my newer players who also DM’s some times. He gives out XP for telling stories, extra role-playing, character histories, and otehr things. My issue is, I don’t ever want to reward a Character for a Players actions. I don’t give a magical sword to the player who brought food, and I have a hard time justifying giving XP to a player who wrote a cool story about his character.

    I can understand the merit of doing so because it may increase player interactivity. Instead I generally use all the information players give me. If a player writes out a large past for his character then his character will be more important de-facto because he has given me material to work with. So the character still has to earn his rewards, but the character has the potential to earn more rewards in-game because the player gave the DM more information to add to his campaign world.

    Their is something about directly correlating player action to Character reward (that is an event the Player did that the character had little or no say in). For example, if Writing a Diary gave you XP then it should give you XP regardless of whether it is only the character or the player. Which is why I would never give XP for writing a diary.

    It’s arbitrary I know, and perhaps not 100% logical, but it breaks the 4th wall of my DM style.

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