The campaign premise I posted earlier was prompted by an idea I had regarding an alternate set of goals characters might have, and how that might be encouraged.
Early editions of Dungeons & Dragons focused character advancement largely on treasure acquisition — you got most of your experience points by escaping with treasure, and you could get some by defeating various monsters and the like. The treasure was generally worth several times as much XP as the monsters you might encounter, though.
Second edition AD&D added class-specific rewards to encourage certain class-oriented behavior — thieves got bonus XP rewards for stealing treasure, fighters for killing things, wizards for creating magic items and researching spells, and so on. I don’t know how much these rules actually got applied, we quickly decided they weren’t worth the bother, but they were on the books.
Third edition D&D and after, though, most of the XP rewarded came from defeating monsters. Treasure wasn’t really work anything toward advancement, and in fact it was generally considered a good idea to constrain how much treasure PCs had access to because it became problematic if they had the wrong amount (too much or too little).
Gaining Experience Points, Depth and Scope
For this campaign, I’m going back to basics. The idea is to recover that which was lost — knowledge, special items, locations, and so on. Because this is the behavior I want to reward, this is where the bulk of the experience points gained will come from. Monetary treasure is useful in and of itself, so is a reward of sorts, but “won’t get you anywhere” — the largest dragon’s hoard won’t make you higher level. Similarly, just killing monsters or otherwise defeating opponents won’t lead to advancement either — the largest dragon just mentioned is now dead, so your lands are safe and you can cart away his hoard, but that’s about it for benefits.
Going into the unknown, however, risking your life to discover what is there, what has been lost, and what to do with it? That is what separates adventurers from the stay-at-homes.
This is a little rough yet, but I imagine having basically two axes to consider when allocating experience points: scope of discovery, and depth of discovery.
Depth of Discovery
The depth of discovery is pretty straightforward. Consider what the scale might look like if the ‘discovery’ is a new monster. In rough order of ‘value’:
- If you hear from locals or find pictographs or what have you of the creature’s existence, it gives an idea of what people might look for, and possibly where to find it (“do not go into that valley, the Thoren whisperers will find you”).
- If you actually encounter them and return to tell the tale, there is reason to believe there may be some truth to the rumors! But then, only your word for it, and you might be exaggerating.
- If you bring back evidence — uniquely-shaped scars or other physical trauma, or trophies taken that are clearly something new — well clearly you found something, and found it hard enough to be able to prove… something.
- If you actually capture one, or several, and manage to bring it back alive for examination, that is both more difficult and incontrovertible proof you discovered something… and others can study it.
- If you manage to form an alliance with it, conquer it, or otherwise find a way to exploit or make use of them, that might be the ‘truest discovery’.
For a rediscovered fortress, rumors of its existence and location, actually finding (and returning to tell of it… with directions how to get there), details or a map of the interior, and so on, culminating in actually capturing and making use of it as a new base in the wilderness, complete with staff/troops, and so on, settling the immediate region, could be a similar progression.
For a rediscovered branch of magic, learning of it, finding a magic item, learning the spells, crafting a magic item, mastering the new magic could be a progression.
For a rediscovered god, learning of the lost temple, finding it, returning with evidence that it is sacred ground, up to becoming a priest of the god and empowering the temple could be a progression.
Scope of Discovery
The scope of discovery is perhaps harder to describe. The main question is how broad an impact does the discovery have?
For example, if the discovery is a previously unknown branch of magic, “a few spells” is probably only small scope. Finding a larger source (a book dedicated to the new magic, or even bigger) would have increasingly large scope. If a new college is created around the new magic and the magic comes to be known by a large number of wizards, scope is larger yet.
Similarly, if a small fort is found and recovered, supporting a dozen troops, the scope is much smaller than if the recovered fortress is much larger and capable of housing (or requiring the support of) hundreds of troops and controlling (or providing access to) a mountain pass into an important area.
I feel like scope is inadequately defined, almost as if it is trying to combine two ideas. I think perhaps ‘completeness’ (do you find a handful of spells, an entire spell book, or a whole library? Do you have just a piece of something larger, the entirety of something smaller, or most of something huge?) and ‘impact’ (how many people are affected?) would be better measures.
This bit needs some more fleshing out and definition.
Isn’t that XP for science at the tail of the article? Sort of anti-Cthulhu? Find a man driven mad by the Mi-Go and you get 200XP. Prove the Mi-Go follow the laws of science and get published in a respectable journal and it’s 1000XP. Summon a Mi-Go into Times Square? 10000XP, and half the world goes mad. Find a cure for Mi-Go madness and instigate a diplomatic trade mission with them, you win.
Wait, can I buy mysteries from collectors? Buy a rare scroll from a mad witch, give it to the local library, XP gained. Can I recover a mine by first losing it to Kobolds and then winning it back? Because you can bribe Kobolds. Hmm, XP penalty for the loss, regained for the recovery.
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