Thursday, August 4, 2011

Two Potential Thought Experiments

JB at B/X Blackrazor and Jeff at Jeff's Gameblog have inspired in me a pair of questions that could lead to interesting thought experiments. I am not sure I will have the time to pursue either of them in the near future, but I wanted to throw them out into the blogosphere to see if anything comes flying back.

JB did a fascinating summary of how various editions of D&D have described (and therefore utilized) traps. The observation that sparked my imagination has to do with what JB calls D20. He notes:
Unlike earlier editions, PCs gain XP from surviving traps, so it is in the adventurers best interest to find and set-off as many as possible.
This, in turn, drives the way the game is played. Thus, players are encouraged to optimize their characters for the purpose of surviving traps and killing monsters (the only other way to earn XP). This drive for optimization (and, in turn, the discouragement and downright punishment of not optimizing) is one of the reasons I find D20 incredibly frustrating. It doesn't leave a lot of room for organic development — players are not free to allow their characters to interact with the campaign world in any other way than to optimize them for more efficient killing and trap solving. To do otherwise would be to invite a nasty death.

So I ask the question:

What would happen to the D20 system if XP were rewarded as it was with older editions of the game — primarily with the accumulation of treasure? Would this reduce the pressure to optimize for combat and allow more player freedom to experiment with skills and feats according to what makes sense for the character rather than combat and traps?

Jeff posted a "to-do" list for B/X magic-users based on textual evidence in the rules. He pointed out how the first three levels are apprenticeship levels.

My question:

What happens when those apprenticeships don't go as planned? What if, for whatever reason, a magic-user is denied access to the goods that allow for the ability to cast 3rd + level spells?

Given how often Jeff intuits the phrases "Joins a band of Brigands/Buccaneers/Pirates" and "Lead up to 30 bandits" there is an implication that this sort of thing happens more often than not (how desirable is it to a bunch of cutthroats to have someone who can cast a couple of Sleep spells?)

Do they stop gaining XP? If they don't, what are the benefits for gaining levels when you cannot cast 3rd+ level spells? Would they start acquiring thief- or fighter-type abilities?

Let me know if anything comes flying back...


Anthony said...

"Would they start acquiring thief- or fighter-type abilities?"

This last sounds like it's veering toward WFRP's career system, something I'm very fond of, since it allows for a more organic development of the character based his/her interaction with the world. A PC might start as a wizard's apprentice, become a level 1 wizard, then a bad turn forces him to become a bandit, which leads him to being a bandit chief. While the character could not advance any further as a wizard (until resuming the career), he would, as described in the quote, start acquiring "thief and fighter-type" abilities.

Dennis Laffey said...

I've actually considered running a d20 D&D game with gold=XP, but then I remember that I decided I'd never run another d20 D&D game.

I definitely think it could alter the way the game is played, and at worst you'd just add optimized stealth/theft builds to the combat and trap-buster optimization that currently rules the roost.

As for the masterless MU, they need those bandits to steal the gold for their spell research!

Unknown said...

XP for Gold, XP for Killing, or XP for Traps definitely steers players towards a certain type of behaviour. Out of those 3 I think Gold is the best pick, but it limits the game to certain types of adventures.

This is what I went with for WW for deciding when characters level up:
Your group will decide on how often this will be. It could be as frequent as each session, or as infrequent as whenever a major adventure is completed.

aka getting rid of XP altogether. :)

ERIC! said...

I have drifted towards not awarding xp for anything but the characters interactions with the world at large. I always liked Palladium's xp reward system, while a bit ambiguous it allowed a certain amount of freedom for the GM to control and encourage the characters relationship, with NPCs and interaction with the World.

I would be more quick to reward a character/player for insight or problem solving as I would for Orc slaying. If a player can dynamically and successfully pull off a elaborate plan I would feel better rewarding said player.

I also like rewarding good behavior, general good attitudes, team playing and roleplaying. A paladin that sticks to his alignment deserves rewards as does a player that names all the tunes his bard sings.

Rewarding character development is huge for me also, a detailed character history, a heated exchange with a long time villain or concern for a NPC relative deserve rewards.

I'm not shy about reward xp for defeating enemies in combat don't get me wrong, and recently a buddy asked if we could use the GP standard for XP in a upcoming game, I'm kewl with that. I just like to roleplay, thats all.


frijoles junior said...

IMHO, one of the most interesting implications of applying the xp-for-gp rule to d20, with its 1000xp X level advancement across the board is what it says about level distributions in the wild.

Since most NPC-classed individuals can be assumed to earn a few coppers per day (a big discount from the unskilled hireling rates in the PHB, but not everyone can sell their services in the labor market every day), assuming careers start at the traditional age of 13, most people will hit 2nd level some time in their 20s.

Since historical age distributions skewed heavily young, most people you meet will still be callow, first-level commoner youths, but most adults will be 2nd level. I envision a lot of commoners taking that second level in one of the more useful NPC classes (warrior and expert, mostly - adepts are rare and so training would be hard to come by and one doesn't get to choose their way into aristocracy).

As a practical matter I often just added a level of commoner to the typical warrior or expert encounter. - it had the happy effect of adding a couple extra hit points and reducing the number of skill points to assign, always a good thing for a DnD3 DM to be able to reduce NPC complexity

For PCs, I had planned to start everyone at 2nd level and require level 1 to be in Aristocrat, but then I started souring on the buildiness of DnD3 as incompatible with the DMing style I learned with the B/X/ADnD mishmash I learned to play as a callow youth