Tentative XP plan for a Ravenloft campaign, tell me how I'm stupid

Shipyard Locked

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Here's a very tentative plan for an alternative XP system in my upcoming 5e Ravenloft campaign. Let me now if this is dumb for reasons I haven't foreseen. The goal is for the campaign to run from 3rd level to no more than 10th level over about two-dozen sessions, reaching a clear conclusion.


The entire party has only one experience score, and you only need five experience points for everyone to level up each time. You get experience under the following circumstances.
Successfully completing a ‘mission’, either one you got from a patron or one your party decided for themselves, is always worth at least 1 point, and possibly more if you accomplish secondary goals.
Horrible yet interesting failures for the party are worth 1 point. You cannot deliberately arrange such a failure unless it would be “in character” and the rest of the party is ok with it.
Uncovering one of the campaign’s key mysteries is worth 1 point.
Notice that simply fighting enemies is not worth experience points. You will of course find yourself in fights all the time, but your goal should be to minimize that risk.
 

Voros

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Seems good, I would usually add a XP goal tied to the PC's class concept to ensure a more rapid pace of advancement but you seem to be shooting for a slower rate over 24 sessions so this should be good.
 

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Successfully completing a ‘mission’, either one you got from a patron or one your party decided for themselves, is always worth at least 1 point, and possibly more if you accomplish secondary goals.
Define Success, unmitigated successes are hard to come by in Barovia, so what shade of grey is acceptable?
 

Shipyard Locked

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Define Success, unmitigated successes are hard to come by in Barovia, so what shade of grey is acceptable?
This is actually Ravenloft the campaign setting, not the module, so this will all take place in Dementlieu, a different country. Success will be defined and agreed upon before each mission starts, and will usually be handed out by an NPC with a clear sense of what they want accomplished.
 

Ladybird

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XP is an out-of-character reward; I don't feel an NPC should be allowed to hand out OOC rewards unless your game is intentionally meta. I'd be inclined to remove the "success" reward and replace it with "participation" (You turned up to the session and at least made a fair attempt at progressing the mission) and give them an IC reward for actually achieving their goals (Or consequence for failure).

Broadly you're probably expecting them to succeed at their missions, so their progression rate shouldn't be affected, but you already have "uncovering key mysteries" as a category you can easily fudge if needed.
 

Shipyard Locked

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XP is an out-of-character reward; I don't feel an NPC should be allowed to hand out OOC rewards unless your game is intentionally meta.
I think I was unclear. Obviously I don't intend for NPCs to say, "Get those vandals off my property and I'll give you 1xp."

What I intend is the NPC says, "Get those vandals off my property by any means necessary and I'll pay you in cash."
It should be pretty clear that success in this case was defined at the start of the mission as 'the vandals are gone now', and in addition to the cash which is the in-universe reward they also get the xp.
 

S'mon

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I played around with this sort of system, but settled on 20 XP per level as it gave me a lot more flexibility in awarding for minor achievements.
 

Armchair Gamer

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Sounds good to me, and varying up the experience system has precedent going back to the original Black Box:

"In a Ravenloft adventure, PCs may not have the opportunity make "the big kill" to earn XPs. To compensate, we recommend you use the optional rule for experience points in the DMG (2nd Edition). This awards characters for using their brains when "brawn" alone would fail"--Realm of Terror, 137.
 

S'mon

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The goal is for the campaign to run from 3rd level to no more than 10th level over about two-dozen sessions, reaching a clear conclusion.
The entire party has only one experience score, and you only need five experience points for everyone to level up each time.
OK so about 24 sessions, no more than 8 level-ups. So you are looking at no more than 1 level up per 3 sessions, so awarding 1-2 XP per session on average. You may find this a rather awkward number to fit with your awards system IME, especially as players get sad if they play a session and get 0 XP. IME you'll find that increasing the XP to level gives a lot more flexibility and keeps players happier. I tried 5, 10 and 20; IME 20 is ideal for levelling up every 3-4 sessions as it gives space to award something for a quieter session, and to give more for a big session.

An alternative that I use in my E20 Runelords 5e game is to not use XP but give an advance about every 5 online sessions (more like 2-3 offline 4 hour sessions), when there has been a major achievement. That kind of milestone levelling may work better for you.
 

Shipyard Locked

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That kind of milestone levelling may work better for you.
I won't do milestone levelling anymore. XP is the strongest motivator of player behavior, so it's a tool I've regretted giving up on several occasions. Your other points are great though, you can't go too long without dispensing a treat.
 

S'mon

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Your other points are great though, you can't go too long without dispensing a treat.
To be fair, 20 XP was the recommendation I got when I initially asked about doing this, on ENW I think. I ignored the wise advice as I was thinking about 4e D&D's '10 standard awards per level' system, so I went with 10, or 5 for fast levelling. But I found there was too little space for minor awards and I tended to give too much XP in consequence. At 20/level you have the space to give minor Pavlovian XP fillips without accelerating advancement too fast. :smile:
 

CRKrueger

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XP is an out-of-character reward; I don't feel an NPC should be allowed to hand out OOC rewards unless your game is intentionally meta. I'd be inclined to remove the "success" reward and replace it with "participation" (You turned up to the session and at least made a fair attempt at progressing the mission) and give them an IC reward for actually achieving their goals (Or consequence for failure).

Broadly you're probably expecting them to succeed at their missions, so their progression rate shouldn't be affected, but you already have "uncovering key mysteries" as a category you can easily fudge if needed.
Eh, the only problem with ”XP for Time” is that spending a whole night tavern crawling, attempting a mission with colossal fuckups and abject failure and attempting a mission with perfect planning and critical success are all worth the same amount of XP, which means the characters learned the same amount about their careers in each instance.
It makes no sense. It also doesn’t incentivise the ONLY thing XP should incentivise...being good at what you do.

Gaining Experience should be tied to what you do, and how well you do it (with lesser experience for failure, because you still learn).
Missions and Personal Goals are really the only thing that makes sense, unless you go to a skill system and track what people actually do, like BRP/RQ/Mythras or Rolemaster, which have the most logical XP systems by far.
 

CRKrueger

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Also, @S'mon is right, I’d go with a more granular system as it allows for more minor rewards and objectives. Yeah, it means the players get more feedback, but to me it’s more important to simply have more room to maneuver. Only giving out rewards for finishing a whole module/mission gives the impression that everything along the way doesn’t matter.
You may want to reconsider XP for kills in some cases. For example, sneaking into an old ruined castle held by orcs, stealing back the stolen Statue of <Deity> and hightailing it back may fulfill the Priest’s request, it also means the Orcs are going to come right back and level the village in reprisal.
Eliminating major threats, especially if done particularly well, certainly should count as the PCs doing what they do well and should be worthy of some XP, even if minor.
Going to higher XP, gives you more options.
 

Ladybird

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Eh, the only problem with ”XP for Time” is that spending a whole night tavern crawling, attempting a mission with colossal fuckups and abject failure and attempting a mission with perfect planning and critical success are all worth the same amount of XP, which means the characters learned the same amount about their careers in each instance.
It makes no sense. It also doesn’t incentivise the ONLY thing XP should incentivise...being good at what you do.
I prefer multiple "progression tracks" so I can reward the PC and the player separately; I don't feel that a player who comes up with sensible ideas and plays the game well and seems like they've got a strong handle on their character should be penalised because their character messes it up, which "XP for success" can do. So I like to reward the player for being good at what they do by giving them XP, and the character for being good at what they do with stuff, status, and rank. In many traditional games, there's also a big penalty for failing at too many mission-critical tasks (eg, death), so I don't really feel the need to add any more than that.

If a player showed up to the session and didn't even try to progress their mission (In a mission-based game)... well, that's not worth any XP, as far as I'm concerned. I'm an easy-going GM but you gotta at least meet me halfway. That's why I like fuzzy rules in things like this, so I get the final call.

(I get that, strictly speaking, XP is something that straddles the IC/OOC divide; it's a thing the player is given that benefits the PC. My general rule of thumb for traditional games is if the PC can interact with it, it's IC, and if not it's OOC.)
 

CRKrueger

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I prefer multiple "progression tracks" so I can reward the PC and the player separately; I don't feel that a player who comes up with sensible ideas and plays the game well and seems like they've got a strong handle on their character should be penalised because their character messes it up, which "XP for success" can do. So I like to reward the player for being good at what they do by giving them XP, and the character for being good at what they do with stuff, status, and rank. In many traditional games, there's also a big penalty for failing at too many mission-critical tasks (eg, death), so I don't really feel the need to add any more than that.

If a player showed up to the session and didn't even try to progress their mission (In a mission-based game)... well, that's not worth any XP, as far as I'm concerned. I'm an easy-going GM but you gotta at least meet me halfway. That's why I like fuzzy rules in things like this, so I get the final call.

(I get that, strictly speaking, XP is something that straddles the IC/OOC divide; it's a thing the player is given that benefits the PC. My general rule of thumb for traditional games is if the PC can interact with it, it's IC, and if not it's OOC.)
The PC can’t really react with their Intelligence stat either, but since they know they’re smarter than the Half-Orc Barbarian, you can’t really call Intelligence OOC, even though the number itself isn’t known to the character.

The mechanics of any system that’s a Physics Engine needs to represent things existing in the reality of the setting in which the character lives. There needs to be a way to represent the differences between Legolas and Merry as well as the differences between Merry when he leaves The Shire, and Merry when he returns to it.

XP therefore isn’t a player reward at all, that makes no sense to me. XP is a measure of getting better at something, whether a skill, class, career, profession or however game systems measure such things. It is directly related to the character. Sure the character doesn’t know that their Longsword skill went from 72% to 75% anymore than they know their Dexterity is 18 instead of 17, but they know they have gotten better over time. You may as well say that since a PC has been spending months training Strength, you’ll give the Player a +1 Str as a reward.

The Nature of the Beast in RPGs is that the character will be defined in mechanics the character does not know. The character also doesn’t roll dice, however, that’s all part of the Physics Engine that defines the Reality of that setting.

Are you immersed, In Character, when the GM gives you XP? No, of course not, but that doesn’t mean the XP is for the player.
 

Chris Brady

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The only issue I have is the XP for failure. That one seems arbitrary and will end up not likely mattering because it'll be a matter of perception.

I mean, this is Ravenloft, if something goes horribly bad and everyone survives? That's not a failure, that's an unmitigated success!
 
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