I’m not sure the experience rules as written (v13) are doing their job as well as they could. There are a couple aspects to this.
- Clarity. First, parts of the experience rules are scattered throughout the rulebook. Most are on pages 85-86, at the end of section 5. But there are also rules on how retainers gain XP (earlier in section 5), on bonuses from high ability scores, and leaving XP to heirs via gratuitous expenditures of money–none of which are even cross-referenced on pages 85-86. Second, while the basic rule (you get XP from monsters defeated and, more importantly, from adventuring wealth gained) is pretty clear, various marginal cases are not well explained. The blog mentioned that a thief’s follower thieves gain XP from the wealth they gain on hijinks–that’s awesome, but I’m not sure it’s made clear anywhere in the rulebook. But does the PC thief get XP from the wealth gained by followers’ hijinks? I assume not, since that seems more like business income than like adventuring income, but I’m not sure. Do a fighter’s retainers gain XP from the income from their domains (once a fighter has vassals who rule parts of the realm)? I can’t tell. If they don’t, I’m not sure how they keep advancing once they start being nobles in their own right (and thus presumably not going on that many adventures with their fighter liege), but they sorta need to keep advancing to keep the demographics in line: if a PC becomes a Baron with 4 or so vassal manor lords, and then builds over time to being an Earl, then a Duke, then a King, you want the vassals to advance with the PC to a significant degree–maybe some die, and some fall by the wayside, but some should remain important vassals. But I’m not sure where they get the XP for that–maybe from mass combat, but then that should be flagged as a major source of XP, or maybe from income from lands, but then that has to be “adventuring” income. The same concern applies for wizard’s apprentices–we know how the 0-level normal folks become 1st-level wizards, but I don’t understand how the 1st level wizards advance (except for maybe one who is a PC’s heir, and if they actually go on adventures as either PCs or NPCs). (For that matter, can you make a retainer or other active NPC your PC’s heir? It seems like you should be able to, and one of the best uses for the heir rules is to allow landed PCs to build up their children to playable levels through gratuitous expenditures of money on tutors, fosterings, and the like, but the rules don’t make it clear whether that’s legit).
Anyway, explaining a couple more of the edge cases and how this works in practice would be really helpful, as would consolidating and cross-referencing the XP rules.
- Magic items, fairness, and logic: I find the rule limiting xp from magic items found to immediately sold magic items to be artificial, unfair, and illogical. Consider three PCs: Sally goes on an adventure on July 1, and gets as her share of the loot 1000 gp. Fred misses that adventure-maybe he’s in a different party, or lower level, or maybe Fred’s player was sick that day. Fred goes on an adventure on July 8; for ease, we’ll assume he’s the sole survivor. The major loot is a +1 sword. Sally wasn’t on that adventure. Immediately after the adventure, Fred’s player agrees with Sally’s player to sell the +1 sword to Sally for 1000 gp (Fred’s a wizard, and would rather have the cash). On July 15, Tim goes on an adventure, where he recovers a +1 sword. He decides to keep the sword and use it as his weapon. I submit that Tim and Sally are exactly similarly situated from a fairness perspective. They both went on an adventure; they both got phat loot; in both cases, their phat loot ended up being a +1 sword by the start of their next adventure. However, Sally gets a +1 sword and 1000 XP, whereas Tim gets only a +1 sword.
Sure, magic items are their own reward… but so is all useful treasure. You can use that gold to buy new equipment, whether magical or not, you can use it to hire retainers, you can use it to build a stronghold, you can use it to hire mercenaries, you can use it to give XP to your next character. Those are all useful things. In fact, the rules already call out one, very specific instance when gold has to be spent on “non-useful” expenditures. That implies that most of the rest of the gold is spent on something useful. The reason to make treasure the principal source of XP is to make sure that incentives are aligned correctly–it’s supposed to be more valuable to get the bag of gold from the giant’s cave than to kill the giant so that PCs can be clever and grab the treasure without killing the giant without being (badly) penalized. But that remains true of magic items as the big treasure, too. If the big treasure in a dungeon is the enemy wizard’s staff, then getting the staff should be fully rewarded. Otherwise, it gets back to the old “but I guess we have to kill him to get the XP, so let’s kill everything that moves.”
There is another issue, which is valuation–we don’t know how much that sword +1 is worth until it’s sold. But I think that’s mostly a fake dilemma. First, we could award XP when it’s sold, even if it’s used first (which ACK explicitly does not do). Second, we could have a fake sale–the GM could figure out, however the GM would handle an actual attempt to sell it, what price the magic item would fetch. Then the PCs split that amount of XP, regardless of whether the PCs sell it. (This also avoids the problem of PC-PC sales at weird values resulting in strange XP awards–“I really want a sword +1, and you’ll be more useful to adventure with me if you level up, so here, have 10,000 gold.”)
My conclusion: if you want to reward players for getting treasure with XP, reward them with XP. If you want to reward players for treasure if and only if the treasure is not intrinsically useful to the PCs, then only give XP for spending money, and only for spending money on “worthless” things.
- When the business is the adventure: A PC buys a caravan. They travel with the caravan across the dangerous Cathorn Pass, fighting off the nasty monsters that attack them along the way, because they know that there’s a great market for the elven hardwoods if they can only get them over to the dwarven dominion on the other side of the pass. They fight some tough battles along the road, against raiders with little or no treasure, but they make it, and they make a fortune selling their hardwoods. As I understand it by the rules, the PCs would only get XP from the XP value of the monsters. That seems wrong to me–the PCs went on an adventure to make money, they succeeded, they should get the XP from that. But if the conclusion is that yes, they get XP from that, then when a different set of PCs starts plying the route between two nearby cities, with minimal risks of a combat encounter, they should also get XP–after all, they’re going on “adventures,” too, just low-risk adventures. They could get really unlucky on an encounter roll or something. But that seems wrong as well, based on the first principal that only “adventure income” generates XP. Of course, we could rely on the GM to determine which merchant runs are adventures, and which are just business… but I find that solution unsatisfying.
I would prefer a solution that either treats all income as producing XP, or treats (some? all?) expenditures as producing XP. Yes, that means that a PC who sets up shop as a sage, or as a merchant or innkeep, will slowly level up over the course of years. But so what? As long as their advancement is relatively slow, that’s okay–they’ll still have incentives to pursue the faster advancement of adventuring. And of course, they can be pulled into adventures–maybe the merchant is targeted by a thieves’ ring, or the sage finds out dangerous knowledge that some people will kill to protect, or maybe while they sit in their comfortable rooms the barony is burning because they’re not being heroes. And at some point, that becomes just recording XP for a retired character. But it seems easier and more manageable than drawing the lines that the current rules draw (or at least, that I understand the current rules to be drawing–as I said, I’m a little uncertain about what they mean.)
Thanks for the awesomely detailed thoughts.
- Regarding clarity - thanks for pointing out all the loose threads! Most of the edge cases you describe are a result of the fact that I haven’t yet written the XP rules for Campaign activities out. My intent was to have ‘XP for Adventuring’ in the Adventuring Section and 'XP for Campaign Activities in the Campaign section, but perhaps this is not the smartest way to do it. Perhaps it might make sense to move all of Experience Points into the Campaign section, along with the rules for Heirs and back-up XP, since that is (by its definition) the section which is about gaining levels and character advancement.
Without pre-empting our own rules-writing, the intent is that adventurers do gain XP from campaign activities such as mass combat, running strongholds, magic research, mercantile activities, and so on.
- Magic items, fairness, etc. Where your view and mine differs is in the awarding of XP to Sally for selling the sword to another PC. Perhaps I need to be more explicit about this in the rules. A magic item has to be sold to an NPC. Otherwise it’s just being shuffled among players - it hasn’t really been sold at all! This is particularly important when you start to think about XP for business activities, too. “My character charges his character 1000gp for healing him… do I get xp for that?”
- Income from Business. Adventurers should gain XP from business activities that involve adventuring. My approach has been that there is a distinction between passive "investors’ and active ‘entrepreneurs’ in terms of XP. More on this needs to be fleshed out in writing for the rules though.
Re 1: It might work to split it up in the logical sections, as long as there are cross-refs (I’m not sure whether the prime requisite modifiers belong with the discussion of stats, or with the experience system), but I bet that the more that you keep all of the experience rules together, the easier it will be in play. You want to avoid disputes of the form “But the XP for adventure section says ABC”/“Yes, but the XP for campaign activities is more relevant, and it says…” But the key is cross-refs if it’s split up. I look forward to seeing the campaign activities XP rules.
Re 3: Makes sense; the rules as written currently don’t make that clear, but I bet that distinction works pretty well.
Re 2: Clarifying that sales to other PCs don’t count solves my example, but I’m still displeased with it as a rule. Partly that’s an aesthetic preference–I prefer rules to, as much as feasible, treat characters as characters, not to have strong distinctions between PCs and NPCs. (I have no objection to distinctions among active adventurers, retainers, and random ordinary folks–I’m not saying that 0-level characters are objectionable, or half-xp for people who are after all just following orders.) There need to be rules to prevent abuse, but I just don’t see the abuse in selling a magic item to another PC, except if the price is a sham and affects XP. Imagine that Sally bought her sword +1 from an NPC wizard (either who made it on commission, or who happened to have a +1 sword available, or because she’s been asking around six counties over a year of game time and finally found a seller). She’s still in the same position as Tim, but (except insofar as she did more legwork to find a seller) she gets an extra 1000 xp for no reason. And that’s leaving aside questions like “does a sale to an NPC with a connection to a PC count as a sale to an NPC?” (Examples: sales to retainers, sales to liegelords of PCs, sales to a PC’s brother). And what about characters that shade the difference between an NPC and a PC, like mostly retired PCs? It’s not insoluble, but it’s inelegant. I’d rather have rules to prevent abusive transactions (“I heal you for 1000 gp (which I’ll advance on credit), and then you guard me for 1000 gp, and we both level up.”) rather than rules that say “you can get XP for this transaction if and only if you do it with an NPC.” Also, I really dislike the notion of a player choosing to sell a magic item because they’re close to leveling. It makes rational sense–it’s the expected response to incentives, if for example you’re 50 xp short of 9th level but found a minor magic item on that adventure–but I find it revolting.
More generally, though, I just don’t understand why magic items are different. Money is a form of power; that’s its point. It’s one type of wealth. Magic items are another type of wealth, another type of power. Getting wealth makes a character more influential and more powerful–it lets the character do things the character couldn’t do before. That’s true if it’s money, which the PC can use to buy things (including magic items, to the extent that they’re available) or to buy services. It’s also true if it’s a magic item, which can be used in commerce or to buy services, but more typically is just used directly as is. Yes, magic items make a PC more powerful without xp awards for finding the magic items. But all wealth makes a PC more powerful without xp awards. That’s not an argument against xp awards for treasure–that supports important gameplay incentives. But it is an argument for treating all adventuring derived wealth, whether magic or not, the same.
Anyway, that’s my argument on it, and I’ve probably either persuaded you or not by now. But thanks for your thoughtful response. I really am looking forward to the revised version of these rules, even if I have to add in XP for magic items as a house rule.
Good thoughts, good thoughts. Nothing you’re saying above is unreasonable and I definitely can see why XP for magic items makes sense. Here’s my reasoning, by and large, for being against it:
- Absent giving xp for gold, I think wealth actually doesn’t do much for players of the game. Put another way, players can’t experience the difference between 1gp iron rations and 100gp fine food, or 1gp coarse wool or 100gp fine silk. All players can feel are differences in game mechanics. Ergo, in the absence of XP for gold, players treat money as something far less important than characters would consider money. So I think XP for gold motivates players to have their characters treat money as highly valuable in and of itself. Whereas in, say, 3.5, money is only valuable in so far as what you can immediately spend it on to game effect. Magic items don’t need this incentive.
- If XP gets given for magic items, it makes it impossible for the GM to give out a more-powerful-than-expected magic item without destroying the leveling curve. Using the lame LOTR example, Frodo couldn’t have sold the One Ring, but can you imagine if he got XP for it? In our playtest campaigns, selling magic items is hard - like selling stolen goods or used cars, you always get much less than the real value, for the same reasons - people are suspicious of why you’d sell something valuable, so they assume its cursed or hunted, or that you’re desperate for cash.
- While the systems are still under internal testing we expect to provide additional (bonus) XP on gold spent on things like castles and magical research. That changes the XP dynamics a bit, but it’s again part of rewarding actions to provide game incentives.
Alex - where do you fall on the question of NPC rulers and classed abilities? Normal men, high level guys, or a mix of both? It goes to the question of whether the rules simulate the world or apply only to PCs.
If the PC’s are getting XP for mercantile activities, or building castles - I suppose that justifies why the King is a 12th level fighter or the merchant in charge of a long-distance caravan fights like a 6th level fighter.
I’d say the rules should cover PC activities, and NPCs are classed or leveled by DM fiat. If you see the game formally transition from dungeon delving to ‘name level activities’, than yeah - some of those name-level activities could reward XP, but keep it secondary to adventuring XP.
Did you use the Glantri Magic-User / alternate XP rules for long periods? (I remember one of the ACKS guys had a Glantri game…)
Beedo, I believe the Glantri game you’re thinking of is the Glantri campaign being run in the NY Red Box group. Tavis, the NY Red Box guy who’s involved with ACKS, runs the “other” NYRB campaign, White Sandbox, with OD&D rules.
The Glantri campaign, in which I happen to have been a player for about half a year, used the B/X D&D rules. None of the BECMI stuff was used.
Yep, that must be it. The Glantri Gaz has all sorts of alternate XP rules for MU’s doing MU-things. Incidentally, is there a game journal some where? Glantri is the best supplement that doesn’t get played - would definitely read about it.
The New York Red Box website has session summaries for the Glantri campaign.
To be honest, I don’t think much of the Glantri GAZ material is used, if any at all. It’s a fun (but brutally lethal) campaign.
@Beedo: I wonder whether the Glantri Gaz actually plays well. It reads incredibly well, but a lot of the design decisions seem quite difficult to turn into an effectively functioning game. Maybe it’s awesome in play as well, but I don’t know.
My impression is that the NYRedBox campaign does not rely a lot on the Gazetteer material, but I don’t know if that’s right or just my impression.
If a wizard adventures and gains 1000gp and then makes a magic dagger+1, he both earns 1000xp and a dagger +1. The fighter on the other hand has no means of turning gold (and therefore xp) into magic items so he is stuck never getting xp for magic items.
However, a fighter can take 1000gp that he earned and have his buddy, the magic-user make him a sword+1. In this way the fighter gets 1000xp and a sword +1. This being the case you should just give the sword+1 an xp value of it’s creation cost by a PC magic-user because a PC magic user can take any amount of gold and turn it into a magic item of it’s same value. xp for magic items is the cost of a PC magic-user creating that very item. The reason potions of healing are worth 500xp in 0d&d is because that’s what it costs a PC wizard to make one–one need only look at Gygax’s DMG xp for magic items tables and then look back at the creation costs for magic items from the LLB’s to see the connection. By not granting XP for magic items, the only negative externality is on non-magic item creating classes.
The Frodo argument is taken care of by the fact that you cannot advance more than one level regardless of the treasure haul. Frodo winning the ring may have been woth 50,000xp, but he could only use 3,999 of it to advance to 2nd level and on the cusp of 3rd.
I am very interested in how you ultimately deal with gold earned and xp gained. Both in Mass Combat, and economics. A bandit-king gets XP every time he way-lays a caravan, but the PC running the caravan may earn no XP for getting from point A to point B successfully. A possible answer lies in 0d&d where gygax and arneson discuss XP from weaker encounters. An 8th level fighter who kills an ogre only receives 4/8th’s XP from the kill and from the ogres treasure. Likewise, the 8th level fighter on the 6th level of a dungeon only receives 6/8th’s the XP from the treasure on that level.
A possible means of rewarding economic activity is by how dangerous an area through which you are traveling. A 8th level fighter who successfully takes a caravan of silk worth 20,000gp through hexes that only have goblins as wandering monsters may only receive perhaps 1/8th the XP for that adventure/activity.
If you are leaning in the direction of a fighter not getting any xp from leading a silk caravan from point A to point B, but reward him XP for hiring–with that gold, 100 men-at arms I can see what your aiming for perhaps. If a wizard then gets XP for research and making magic items, then I can totally see why finding magic items wouldn’t be worth XP, as the XP is in their creation.
anyway, look forward to seeing what you come up with.
Sorry to have left this thread hanging.
Beedo – The rules simulate the world. The assumption of ACKS is that powerful people become powerful in their society. In highly stable societies you might have normal men as rulers, but ACKS assumes unstable societies such as the decline of Rome, feudal Japan, etc. In such cases, NPC rulers are likely to be classed and leveled characters, or to be governed or protected behind the scenes by classed and leveled characters, because if they are not they will quickly be deposed by powerful and ambitious people. This is not far from history, really. Nobility up until the modern era was based on either military or divine power (force or faith). The Emperors of Japan ostensibly ruled, but warlords were the true power.
The campaign XP rules are in the new draft I’m uploading today, so I hope you like them.