Discussions/ExperienceSystemComplaints

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I have a serious problem with the way not only White Wolf, but every role-playing game I've ever played does experience. I was wondering if anyone had ideas as to how to fix it?

Mainly, my problem is this: Say you're in a typical game, with 4-5 xp a week (assuming one game a week, that is). On week one, your troupe visits Nexus. You almost get called out as Anathema, but thanks to your quick social skills (Presence, Performance, Socialize, what have you) you manage to talk your way out of it. ~phew!~ Good job. Week two, you're attacked by some ruffians, gotta fight your way out. Congradulations, you did it without killing anybody! You're a good Solar, aren't you. Week three, you get news that the Mask of Winters has his eye on Nexus. Time to use those stealth skills to sneak in and see what his spies are plotting! Now, three weeks have gone by, and you now have 13 xp (you did really well one week). You take a look at your character sheet, and decide that you would like you Solar to have some more Ride. He already has 1, and its not favored, so you spend 2 xp and--viola!--now have 2 dots in Ride. You also would like your character to be able to build artifacts, so you spend 10 xp to get Occult 2 and Craft (metalworking) 2--not enough to make artifacts yet, but you're getting close. You have 1 xp left, and decide to save it. Of course, all those skills are going to take a lot of time to learn, so you ask your ST if there can be some downtime. She says, "sure, take a month or two to train and spend those XP!" Yippee!

Anyone else see where this is rubbing me the wrong way? Why do characters build up an "essence pool" of XP in order to allow them to train for new things? XP they earn for doing one thing can be spent on another thing--provided the Exalt take time out of their busy schedule to train for it. Wherefore is the justification? I just don't get it. It seems totally ridiculous, almost as ridiculous as the d20 system ("You just killed a hundred goblins! Congradulations, you're Rope skill went up!").

Does anyone out there have any alternate systems, or perhaps recommendations on how to fix it? It would almost make sense to me to just have the characters take the training time as listed exactly in the book, and then just take the dot when they're finished, and not worry about experience. But experience is a major factor in role-playing games; it's a good way to judge other characters (OOC), and it gives players something to strive for. What do y'all say on the issue?

~~Gorol

Ars Magica has the system whereby at the end of the session the SG for the session says "Ooo, you did quite well, take 3 XP each, and Megaera can have a point in Hebrew for talking to those Jews all session, and Iosif can have a point in Craft Stoneworking for the statues". Each of those three base XP have to be in something relevant to the session, but the player is allowed to argue this with the SG of course. Ars XPs work somewhat differently to Exalted ones, but I'm sure a similar system might work -- Senji

In a different game, I'd accept your complaint.

In Exalted, such simulation concerns are extraneous... you sit down, you train awhile, you get better, That's the way it is. Experience makes sense (somewhat) from a pacing standpoint - it's boring to have people just train for centuries and get really good at stuff, and it's outside the wuxia pattern for everyone to just accidentally get better at stuff.

Honestly, I don't see any problem with, "I was struck by a shot of inspiration watching that Abyssal's anima unfold; its Essence patterns solved an Occult problem that had been baffling me for a long time."\\ "Okay, take a dot of Occult." That's just a stunted Occult roll. - FourWillowsWeeping

The logical alternative would be to keep tabs on how many times a character uses a given ability, and draw up a chart which allows you to determine how much they need to "practice" before the skill goes up. That would be an enormous pain in the ass, though, especially since if you care about "realism" that much, you'll need to account for the fact that it's virtually impossible to attain certain levels of skill without formal instruction.

Personally, I look at the xp system like so: as with so many other mechanical aspects of RPGs, it only fails to make sense if you're a complete ass about it. Yes, there's nothing in the system to stop a character from magically picking up dots, as in your example. However, any player (or ST) not deserving of public ridicule will not do what you describe. They'll come up with a story for why the thing in question is increasing. This is what training time is for; it should be assumed that the downtime contained a training montage.

e.g.:\\ Player1: "Dorac decides that he wants to learn Crafts. He finds a blacksmith who needs some extra help, and spends a couple weeks working the bellows in exchange for basic training in metalworking."\\ ST: "Okay, it takes a month for you to get Craft 2. The blacksmith is amazed by how quickly you learn the skill, and offers to take you on as a full-time apprentice."\\ Player1: "'Thank you, my good man, but I cannot accept your offer. Perhaps I shall one day return, when there is no longer need for me to fight evil!' Dorac vaults up onto his horse and rides into the sunset."\\ ST: "Okay, you meet back up with the rest of your Circle."

For favored Abilities, which require no training time, you can come up with dramatically-appropriate ways for them to increase. In one of Domino's games, a player was chasing a stealthy Abyssal assassin, and decided that he was going to spend his banked xp to instantly raise his Awareness by two or three dots. He described the character concentrating fiercely, pushing his perceptions to the limit, we came up with a neat camera effect to accompany it, and it was all good. You could also gloss it as "Raven has a flashback to one of her past lives, in which she's fighting zombies! She 'remembers' the Melee specialty, (Fighting Zombies +2)!"

In short, experience systems are only as arbitrary and dumb as the people using them.\\ _Ikselam

But that misses my point. The example of the craftsman makes perfect sense. What doesn't make sense is why the craftsman character can't do that anyway, whether or not they've earned experience for fighting evil. Why should a character have to earn experience first, and then train for it? ~~Gorol


*restrains the urge to call his nametag-less, faceless minions on the d20-hater* :-)

I have no fundamental issues with any experience system, first of all - who amongst us could truly define a fast, simple way to simulate how we learn to live life? But I know what you mean, just the same. As I see it, if you would like to tweak the experience system, you have several routes you can take. I'm at work, so I can only rattle off the first thought I have, but the system is pretty pliable and easy to keep an accounting on, so variants are easier'n pie.

If you're the sort that enjoys your experience purchases to make total sense, then require training times only for those things your PCs have not used frequently in the game. For example, melee and ride training are worthless to a knight who's been defending his kingdom for the past month - he's been fending off spears too much in real life to worry about a few practice bokken coming at him. But if he's interested in learning the language of his new foes, to better anticipate their field actions, then he'll have to call in a tutor and spend a few weeks in training.

If you're as friendly with your XP as I am, you could complement the above idea by paying attention to the traits your players use, and grant bonus experience to them when they improve these traits, to represent their already-in-progress training. This can also work all on its own, if you just modify all training times to work like this. For example, the above knight would have all of his experience primed for Melee, Ride and Linguistics. You rule that he's been in-training already for Melee and Ride, and give him a three point training discount on those. However, when it comes time to buy up Linguistics, the price is unmodified (or even increaed to simulate lack of training) - unless he'd like to spend a few weeks of downtime with a tutor.

Had to repost this, there was such a huge response while I was writing it! ;-) Balthasar


What doesn't make sense is why the craftsman character can't do that anyway, whether or not they've earned experience for fighting evil.

Experience systems exist for three major reasons. The first is to reward players, by giving them a "score" which shows them that their characters are becoming more powerful. The second is to enforce some degree of parity between player characters. Finally, and most importantly, they exist to ensure that characters who contribute to the story (e.g., by fighting evil) are rewarded more than those who don't participate.

You might wish to divide xp into several different types, depending on what happened during the session. Like, say you fought bandits. You get 5xp that are marked "Dawn," and you can only spend them on Dawn abilities. Or whatever. This would solve the problem of using bandit-fighting xp to increase Socialize. It wouldn't really address your basic concern, the "why can't I train without xp?" one, which I don't understand. I mean, I understand what you're saying, I just don't understand why I should see it as a problem.\\ _Ikselam

I like that thought. Five categories of XP for the five categories of systems :-) Balthasar

The major problem with training without xp is that it hamstrings xp as a reward mechanic. - FourWillowsWeeping

One of my favorite "experiance" systems is Call of Cthulu, which, ironically, is a game where you will earn experiance rarely. :) CoC works on a percentage system; you have Guns at 75%, and if you roll under your stat, you succeed, shooting the horrid monstrosity which will inevitably not die, or even slow down. If you succeed at a Guns roll during the game, the ST makes a note, and at the end of the session, you get a chance to roll for XP. If you roll under your stat, you get a percentage point. If you roll over, you get nada. Therefore, the people who are mediocre or even bad at a stat succeed in-game are more likely to learn something from the experiance and get better. On the other hand, more seasoned individuals are merely exercising their skills, and probably won't bother to take anything away from the event. This system allows characters to build organically and rewards trying new things. This is an experiance system in the truest sense of the word. The system breaks down though when you want to learn new things on the side, tho. I've never played the game, so I don't know how it works in actual play. hplovescats


I've played both Call of Cthulhu and the game its rules were adapted from, RuneQuest, and they seem to work fine in actual play. Learning things on the side is pretty straightforward--practice by yourself or find a trainer, and after X days of training, you get a chance for a skill check. As a general rule, RQ characters don't get more skilled by adventuring as much as adventuring gives them the resources to train to get better. (This is more of an issue in RQ than in CoC, since most Investigators in CoC won't LIVE long enough for training times to be an issue. :)

I think one good reason for 'XP per adventure' rules like Exalted's is to get the players to quit sparring and go smite some evil already! --Arbane


That system sounds really good. I think that one makes a lot of sense. Of course, I don't think it would work too well for Storyteller systems, but it's a good idea.

I didn't mean to stir up so much of a fuss; perhaps my initial language was too harsh or something, I was really just wanting to see if anyone else felt the way I did, and whether anyone else had other systems or, at least, ways of justifying the way it is now in such a way as to make sense to me. I didn't mean to rile everyone up so, and I don't hate d20. I love it, actually; I just think its XP system is even more unjustifiable than White Wolf's. Thank you for all your comments, and I think I will take several of your suggestions before my Players.

~~Gorol


You might be OK with our storyteller's system: state that you're training up for ________, and you and he will work it into the daily routine. (Alternatively, if you've been visibly practicing a trait in-game, he will accept that as training time.) After enough time, you spend your XP to actually get the item. You shouldn't have skills and things come out of nowhere...but we see no reason for training to tie up all your XP for months. So long as it's not abused, he even lets us get away with a gap between the end of training and buying the item, but mostly for big purchases, like Essence 5, which can be an extreme disruption to a game. (It's just not plausible for the entire group to agree to go meditate at the same time.)

Paul tries to stick to the book instead of making up house rules, since we use almost all the books, but he doesn't want the rules to get in the way of having a good session either.

--ArndisAsgeirsdattir


As I read it, everyone is off on a tangent (except for Arndis' last post). ^_^

Gorol's problem is not the experience system (though he might think it is). The root problem he states is that XP is earned before training.

I simply do it the other way round. My theory is that XP is earned because of training that has already been done (or learning experiences that have already happened). The fact that you are rewarded with XP indicates that you have already had these learning experiences ... and no further training time is required. It has taken place while out doing things.

I do still use the training times - but I don't regard those as training times after earning the XP but time before earning the XP. So if you want to raise an attribute that requires six months training, the increase will happen six months after the previous training period ended - irrespective of whether you have spent those six months adventuring, farming, travelling etc. And the XP isn't truly considered "earned" until that time has passed, even though it has been allocated. ^_^\\ --BrokenShade

Hey, Gorol :-) Just wanted to drop you a note to say It's Cool. I wasn't trying to be aggressive - I was having a really great day when I wrote that! The fact is, I notice a lot of people who are completely ignorant of d20 in the WW crowd routinely mock it. To encourage people to grow up a bit, I always try to mention that I like the system a lot, and will rabidly defend it ;-) Sorry if you felt I was being rude to ya! - Balthasar


Ultimately, Experience is a reward and a pacing aid, so mechanically, it's obvious. What you're upset about is the philosophy of experience. Experience that permits training, when nothing really stopped you from training in the first place. Strictly speaking, you're right. Nothing should. However, there are finite speeds at which we can learn things. It is a tendancy of people well traveled and with interesting lives to be more skilled than those who are not, or at least more broadly skilled.

I know a fellow, by the name of Phil. He's lived all over the world, done lots of interesting things, and as a result, he can do a lot of neat things. I on the other hand, have lived in a much smaller region all my life. However, I am VERY good at computer programming and logic and math, because I focused on it.

I think in Storyteller terms, Phil accrued more experience than I did. He spread it around a lot, and thusly he's got a lot of skills. I didn't get as much exp and thusly, I focused to get good at something.

Now, keep with me here. We tend to associate experience in the D&D fashion, you kill something, you get experience. You find treasure, you get experience, etc... The Storyteller system instead says that a session just intrinsically rewards experience. This is saying that just living life will get you a ton of experience. Imagine how much "experience" someone like me, an average college graduate has. Probably quite a bit. Phil has more, because he's got "some wild stories to tell."

Don't think of Experience as saying, "You can and cannot train now." or "You have practiced in skill X, thusly you will now gain mystic experience rewards." Think of it as how much your environment has prompted you to grow. Thusly, people like Exalts in constant conflict and dangerous situations will rapidly gain experience, which is really just a way of saying, "How much more can you learn now?".

When you consider it in that regard, the WW system actually makes a lot of sense, and I think this reflects the "reality" of learning growth more.

-- DaveFayram


I look at experience in rpg's and in real life as how dynamic you are towards life. Let me explain by an example. Older people are more set than younger people and are therefore less dynamic and learn slower. People doing the same routine every day is less dynamic than people experiencing something fresh and new and therefore are learning slower/nothing.

I think that a cool and "realistic" and balancing way to resolve this in rpg games is to have a dynamic rating. The rating should represent how open your character is to new information. During exciting adventuring the dynamic rating increases and the charecters get to be more dynamic towards learning. That meaning that they are learning faster/better from their training time. The characters still need downtime to do training. And all training have to be relevant to the actuall ability/attribute/charm beeing raised. But instead of a fixed training time of 1 month for each level for a attribute it would be (new-attribute-level^2 * 30)/dynamic rating.

If a normal mortal living a normal life have 0.5 in dynamic rating it would take him 960 days/32 months of full day training to get 4 in strenght. This explains why so few normal people have high stats. Adventuring characters on the other hands may have a dynamic rating from 0.5 to 5 and can train for the 4 in strenght in only 95 days/3 months. The dynamic rating decreases(jumps) back to 0.5 after dynamic rating * 2 months. So if the character has adventured and gained 5 in dynamic rating(DR) he can train in 10 months and have three attributes go from 3 to 4. Of course that is if he can use time(4-8 hours a day) for training and not have to work to get money or do some other time consuming distracting task.

This system represents that boored characters learns slower than characters that are excited about all the new stuff that they can't wait to use. At the same time the excited characters will get boored after a while if not given a chance to practice their newfound knowledge. The system also explain the progress of all the npc's in the worls. Older charcters tend to be better than younger charcters simply because thay have had a longer time to train their skills. Wealthy characters tend to be better than poorer charcters because they can aford taking time off to practice. And player characters learn really fast because thay are so excited about everything around them. For varius other characters than humans I use another base(minimum) dynamic rating than 0.5.

Vampires and Tolkien elves have a minimum of 0. That is why they are that old and not having a insanely high score in all attributes and abilities. Human children below 16 have 1 and humans above 50 have 0.1 as minimum. This info is rarely used but I think it is nice as an explanation for why older people are learning slower.

Training times in days are:

Increase Ability = (new-ability-level^2 * 5)/dynamic rating.

New Ability = 20/dynamic rating).

Increase Attribute (new-attribute-level^2 * 30)/dynamic rating

Gaining a speciality = 10/Dynamic rating

Increase Essence = (new-essense-level^2 * 60)/dynamic rating

New Charm = (5 * minimum ability)/ dynamic rating

New Spell = (10 * circel)/ dynamic rating

Willpower, virtues and backgrounds can not be increased with training only with roleplaying or story development.


-- Trueform


I don't think this will work. See, players want EASY systems. Even my simple proposed change was to much for them

I figured that if I made the players spend a constant amount of XP, I would give them a bonus for not spending XP but cap the amount of XP they could haev at any time at 50. Basically, I would give them their XP / 10 (rounded down) at the beginning of the game and then give them more later.

But they seem to think even that is too complex, so... bah


It is not in any way more complex than the XP system that exists today. It is just a new approach that favors training time above improvement points. --Trueform


I have a system that my friends and I all play with that works fine once you get used to it. Don't criticise me too heavily for it, 'cause you shouldn't knock it til you try it, and I don't really expect anyone to like it. It's two-fold.

First, for one-nighters, of which I run quite a few, successful characters get a dot in an ability and a charm, or something equivalent of thier choosing, subject to my whim.

For campaigns, my players tell me what they're doing/training in/thinking about/trying to increase/working on in their downtime, etc., and I tell them when whatever goes up and when they learn a new charm or whatever. Basically, there is no system. It's up to the storyteller to keep the players happy. Characters are still dynamic and can still grow just fine. There's just no XP, cause I hate it. - Morpheus



For my campaign, we've been running at an average of 8 experience a week. Training times are as per the book, save that you can devolp Charms of Caste or Favored Abilities (or combos consisting purely of Caste and Favored Charms) without training. However, if you do train as if they weren't caste/favored Abilities, you get an experience break. reducing the cost of the Ability or Charm by 3xp, to a minmum of 1. It's been working pretty well so far- one of the facets of the game I'm trying to emphasize is the sheer size of Creation, which means it's not uncommon for chunks of the Circle to spend weeks traveling. Other members of the Circle train in this time.  :) DS


8 per session?

How many STs here give out the suggested 4 XP per session? Is that too slow for most folks? --Arbane


I also give out around 8 XP per session in my Exalted game, with an additional 5 - 10 at the end of story arcs. A large part of my reasoning behind this is the fact that my Exalted sessions run at least 8 hours and we only get to play once every 4-6 weeks. - redconsensus


I basically give out 5 XP per session--four base, plus one which you have to justify by naming something cool or useful your character did during the session. I give out an extra one to five points for wrapping up major storylines. We have weekly games that run three-and-a-half to four hours.
-- Mapache


Personally, I use a system for awarding XP that encompasses things like what the characters are doing. Basically, I have the players make a list of the things they want their characters to advance in. For instance, a player might create a list that looks like this:

Melee (4) Heavenly Guardian Defense Endurance (3) Ride (1) Willpower (6) Dexterity (5)

etc. Then, at the end of each game session, I hand out XP and "time trained." Basically, if the game consisted of a week of cross-country travel with two running battles during that time, when I give the PCs their 4 XP, the player with the above list asks about two points of that going into Melee, one into Heavenly Guardian Defense and one into Ride. I retort with a suggestion that he take one in Melee, one in Endurance and two in Ride, with the reminder that he technically didn't note any time practicing on Heavenly Guardian Defense. We then divide that week into days, with seven days of Ride/Endurance (divided up the way he wants) and a day of Melee.

Then, once both the XP and time allotments reach the numbers that they're supposed to for a Trait increase, it is done. -- Oakthorne


There was a game, Bushido I think, wihch didn't use xp at all, but rather just tracked skill use. My recollection is that it tracked failures of skill rolls. The more you failed, the better you got. (And, since the better you got, the less you failed, the slower your skill improved.) There was also a system for spending training time to improve, which was limited by the availability of teachers better than you. I forget all of the details. The basic idea, though, was that use is what mattered.

You could probably convert Exalted to work entirely without XP and base everything on training time and skill use. Such a game could be extremely cool if you also added in an additional caveat: it is nearly impossible to learn a charm without a teacher. In such a game, the focus would be an almost endless search for beings that could teach you things (or other beings searching for you), which leads to a lot of plot motivation and some interesting stories.

You might complain that this could lead circles to say "hey, we're immortal. Let's just go train for 50 years" and come back with massive stats under such a system. While there are some ways to prevent this, Exalted is the type of game where you could actually just say "well, so what?" Let them have the massive stats. It's a whole different game, but the wide power curve in Exalted means that it could still be very fun. -- Wordman


Experience is only broken in that it may diverge from how you view experience in your games. It does what it was meant to do very well, which is allow a player-guided increase in competence as the series progresses.

As previous posters have pointed out, the current model for XP assumes a few things:

  • Roleplaying and attendance is the work you do to earn mechanical benefit
  • Mechanical benefit increases your chances of achieving your character's personal goals
  • The Storyteller should control overall power level
  • The player should control the direction of character competence

Which of these do you, as ST, disagree with? GURPS has a system where you CAN spend experience to boost stuff, but that some things (like skills or, in some settings, cyberware and other artificial augmentations) can be obtained with an expenditure of in-game time and money but not necessarily experience. Some systems limit what skills or abilities you can increase; others let you apply earned XP to anything on your sheet.

The important thing to remember here is that Exalted (specifically) is PERMISSIVE without being NECESSARILY PERMISSIVE. In other words, it gives players the freedom to build their PCs out, and relies on you to apply any necessary lockdowns. The original poster seems mostly bothered that players can guide their PCs' progress independent of the actions they used in a session, so the lockdown in this case is to say "no" when someone asks for a stat increase, or at least to say "X of your points must be spent on Y".

But ask yourself why you are saying no, and make sure the refusal fits with the overall tone of the series. Exalted is a game where "unrealistic" and "undesirable" are not at all the same thing, and while dark and gritty games should have realistic advancement trends, a more cinematic game should not be so limited. -- BillGarrett


I think another way to look at this discussion is to say that NPCs don't get XP. The ST may assign a number of "XP" and apply it to an NPC as a method of developing the NPC, but the XP there is just an abstraction used for a very broad measurement of power, a way of assigning value to things. A normal extra doesn't gain XP, even if he experiences the same things as the PCs. The extra is simply a creation of the ST, and he can assign him better scores as he sees fit.

XP would better be described as protagonist points which are assigned by the ST to the players as a reward. How many XP received is determined by /that/ relationship (Did you show up? Were you clever while playing the game? etc.), not by the relationship between the characters and the world. So, how does a player resource make the jump from the player into the player's character, and what is the justification for a player reward determining character advancement? That's what happens, after all: the player's behavior affects the character's ability to attain power. Quite simply, character power is a player resource that the player desires, and he gets it because he's playing a game. It's as much an abstraction as playing characters that happen to have a roughly equivalent level of power, and tend to stay at about the same level (if you're playing the same type of Exalt). It's perfectly reasonable to assume that different characters have different levels of inherent talent, and you could even make a stat for it, which would determine the rate at which you gain skill. But I don't think that would work especially well in this game. - Kintara


In the Exalted game I play in, the Storyteller uses experience points as a story guideline only. Things the characters do in game count as training for those things they do, or downtime can be used for training if those aren't the traits the player wants raised. In addition to this, if a character takes extra time out to train, especially during a session, and especially with a stunt-quality description, trait purchases are often allowed without XP required. This is especially applicable to most Backgrounds, which reflect material possessions or people the character knows. In the case of abilities, attributes, and the like, the quality of the description and the time put aside for training influence how much "training XP" is awarded.

This in mind, he is also less likely to award bonus general XP, and more likely to give a purely in-character reward for nifty actions. Oh, so you really impressed everybody with your audacious stunt to seduce the queen? You gain her as an Ally, or perhaps she gives you an Artifact as a parting gift. You came up with a clever plan, allowing your army to slaughter a force ten times their size? Gain a dot of Intelligence, or an XP discount on purchasing your next dot of it. Stuff like that. - IanPrice


In case anyone new was interested, I think MoExperience is up. I came up with it to try to balance a lot of things and make experience realistic from an ingame, character perspective. Feedback is always appreciated. - Morpheus

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