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Group Experience vs Personal Experience

I have been thinking about this while I have been cycling to the office and back this week. At present I use a hybrid of the two versions and those that will get to play in my pbp game will be under these rules. I like the idea of group experience because it keeps the supporting characters advancing at the same or similar rates as the group super stars but on the other hand personal experience can favour the players that put the most effort into game.

Group Experience

I can see the logic that the whole adventure is a shared experience and the result of team work. The player is not necessarily playing every minute of every day yet the characters live those minutes. You play out the combats but not the hours of practice around the camp fire. As such the sparring partner could have just as much input into the final played out battle as the fighter wielding the sword but is never featured in the game.

I have seen two group experience methods. The first you just keep a tally of all the experience earned by the party and then divide that by the number of characters. Everyone earns the same. You can then of course add a bonus here or there for good play, ideas and such.

The other option is that you don’t bother keeping a tally of the experience earned. You just have a total award for completing the adventure. Once the adventure is over the party earns that amount of experience, again with or without bonuses for good play.

The pros are that the party all stay at roughly the same level and that characters such as the party healer do not fall behind the fighters because they cannot rack up the experience.

The cons are that some players may feel they are contributing a lot more than others to the success of the party but are not rewarded for that effort.

Individual Experience

Here you are keeping a personal tally of all the experience earned for each character in the group and that is what they earn. Logically this is rock solid. The character used these skills and learned this much from doing so. The problem is that although the party wouldhave been nothing than a smear on the floor if it wasn’t for the healer, healing wounds does not attract the same experience as delivering them.

The pros are that effort is rewarded, the more you do the more you earn.

The cons are that it is easy for non combative characters to fal behind and that some characters can advance much faster than others creating an imbalanced party. When that imbalance equates to whole levels then the higher level characters find it easier to earn experience because they are stronger, tougher and more skilled than their colleagues and so they continue to earn proportionally more experience in a vicious circle.

The Compromise

I have adopted the experience system from RMU into my RMC game. RMU uses individual experience awards for defeating creatures and such (100-500exp) but also story awards (upto about 1000exp) for completing certain key elements of the story and finally plot awards that can be up to 10,000exp for completing major plot milestones. I am using the story and plot awards as party experience but with individual awards on top. I also do not see defeating a creature as having to kill the creature. If there are guards between you and your objective then killing the guards is only one option, sneaking successfully past them would be just as valid and, in my game, earn the same experience.

Each game session may contain several story milestones. In the last session I ran defeating the drow priestess was an important milestone as was the disposing of the drow magician and rescuing the dwarven slaves. The party sucessfully did all of these but only the priestess died (actually a lot of Drow warriors died but the party caught them by surprise during a religious vigil and it turned into a masacre), the drow wizard was forced to flee sacrificing his apprentice along the way and all the dwarves got out alive with their few possessions recovered from the Drow coffers. So in this case the party picked up three story awards.

So here we get a mix of the two with the largest awards going to the entire party but with individual awards to top them up.

2 thoughts on “Group Experience vs Personal Experience”

  1. I think there is always going to have to be a compromise in anything, from playing the game to rewarding the players.

    For our RM2 game I stuck pretty closely to the XP chart laid out in ChL&CaL. I gave every player a base XP for the night’s session. If you showed up, rolled some dice, then got a crit and put in a coma for 2 weeks, you were there and received the base XP for being part of the party that night, XP for taking a severe crit because even taking a beating is a learning experience. That’s true in gameplay as well as in real life.

    From there, I went on with feats and accomplishments and such, which I go into great detail in a thread in the ICE Forum. No need to copy/paste that here.

    However, you touch on a good point. Delivering the HP damage isn’t as rewarding as Healing the HP damage…

    Why not?

    Isn’t the Healer delivering “negative HP damage”? If the Healer cast a healing spell on an undead, doesn’t that actually do damage to the undead and would therefore count as “damage dealt”? The Healer gets XP for that? If it’s cast on the living, it heals, but now doesn’t count as damage dealt?

    The healer now get XP for successful spell casting, and in my mind, delivering XX points of Healing (or healing damage).

    But there are also other skills that the healer could do that hack n’slashers don’t do as well, and I try to reward the healer for doing those things.

    I still don’t see the power creep that posters in the ICE Forum are touting. The GM can easily balance that. In this example, the Healer is getting double XP for 1) successfully casting spells, as is stated in the Core Rules and 2) Healing/Damaging HP, as is stated on the core rules, whereas the fighter only gets points for dealing HP damage. He doesn’t get XP for “successfully swinging his sword” and for “dealing HP damage.” Hooray for the Healer!

    1. With our group we found the biggest single source of experience was coming from kill points and criticals taken. When the first ‘breaking 150’ rules came into play that really ramped up the experience but both sources were pretty much denied to the suppporting characters from the healers to most non-magician spell casters. It was probably just something from our group. The thing we also found was that as soon as you got a level ahead of the rest of the party it was easier to then earn even more experience in a virtuous circle. You had more skills, more chance of making successful skill checks, higher OBs delivering better criticals, gathering more kill points and you even had more hits so you could take more damage.

      It isn’t that different to playing monopoly where the more money you have the more property you can buy so you earn more rent and so it goes around. The longer the campaign the more obvious this became.

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