XP systems



  • Nearly every RPG system out there uses some form of 'do the thing, get the points, buy more stats.' Some way that your character gains in ability and grows through a story. For a LOT of people, character stat progression is a vital part of what makes roleplaying enjoyable. In a tabletop format, where everyone's at least within an order of magnitude of each other's XP totals, little more than GM/DM/ST discretion is needed to keep the ship from listing one way or the other. In a massively multiplayer context, with a persistent world and so on, there's a fair bit more variance which can make STing and running a site an issue even before we get into the ways in which a lot of people lose sight of the roleplaying in favor of the pursuit of stats for their own sake.

    There's three basic categories of XP Policy (and then combinations of these) I've observed over the years and each has their weaknesses:

    1. Players Give Out XP To Each Other (+vote/+recc) - The most common by far involves players using commands to nominate each other for XP gains, ostensibly in reward for providing content. The ideal is that good RP is what the site is about and players should be rewarded for creating and participating in it. In practice there's all sorts of shenanigans to the effect of collusion, vote trading, and a social expectation and sense of entitlement to +votes even from people for whom you've provided no value in the scene, etc. There's PvP motives written all over these failure modes, too, which is why I consider them an issue worthy of addressing rather than hand-waving it off as 'some people suck, that will always be true.' A lot of the +vote circles are about ensuring that they 'keep up with the Joneses' in some kind of imagined 'they will try to kill us with their X so we need to have maximum stats to keep playing' defensiveness, at best... and 'we need to kill so-and-so, so let's get some stat bloat on' at worst.

    2. Automatic XP - Just by having an approved character or by being logged in, or by passing commands to the server while in a room with other people passing commands to the server or whatever, the XP just happens. Usually this is small amounts per hour or per day or whatever... it adds up though. MU* stuff happens on timescales of months, sometimes years. XP here is definitely an entitlement, not a reward. The stat bloat happens in order of the date you were approved, essentially. There's something fundamentally anti-meritocratic about such systems: the most powerful character is the one that's been around since the game started (usually a friend of the founders) and that will never change, essentially. Insofar as stats matter, the pecking order becomes a bit of a pyramid scheme. Stories often involve disruptions of the status quo, however, so there's also something fundamentally corrosive to good story in such systems.

    3. Staff assign XP awards - Going back to these games' roots, the ST determines appropriate XP awards based upon player/character deeds. This is the system my staff and I chose for FTA, but we're not thrilled with it. It seems to have meant that there's a LOT less coffeeshop/bar RP (which isn't necessarily a bad thing given how universally 'bleh' people seem to feel about that being the main source of RP in a lot of places), and to my eyes as an ST a lot more TP/PrP stuff. Stat bloat occurs to content creators, prime movers, and people who are interested in Doing Meaningful Things(tm), which is good (or at least better). On the other hand, when staff aren't around to run TPs and PrP STs are saturated or need breaks, there's just no XP, no character progression, no matter what else you do. This makes good staff even more critical, and they're already damned hard to find. XP is no longer visibly coming in, it shows up in comparative large windfalls (it comes in points?!), which is cognitive dissonance for people used to the steady trickle.

    FTA is reviewing it's XP policies, so I'm open to being persuaded as to the merits of particular systems over others. No system is perfect, all have their failure modes, and in the end it's a question of which failure modes are (more) tolerable or justified by the direct benefits the system offers.



  • @Ninjakitten said in Finding roleplay:

    @The_Supremes
    The difference in my head between +vote and +recc is that +recc requires an explanation, and in my experience that seems to have been enough to prevent most of the rewards-for-one-brief pose, since most people aren't willing to do more work to reward someone than that person did to earn it. I think people tend to feel it requires more than "X showed up."

    On the other hand, I also find +reccs weirdly hard to write, and where they exist I've always ended up feeling like I was failing the people I play with because of how rarely I actually manage them even when they're highly deserved.

    Word. I've seen +reccs break down before, mind you, but it's always because staff are just rubber stamping whatever comes through the system (it becomes +vote with an extra text field).

    @Coin said in Finding roleplay:

    More and more I start to think that the best way to give out XP on a game is by providing every avenue possible and limiting it to an amount during a specific time frame.

    If we're talking, say, CofD:

    Automatic XP
    +vote
    +recc
    PRP (running)
    PRP (participating)
    Conditions
    Aspirations
    Dramatic Failures
    Breaking Points

    Just provide all the ways and then limit the amount you can get from each per, say, week--and then limit the amount you can get per week, period. That way, the people who like to play in large groups can vote for each other, the people who like to use Conditions and Aspirations can do that, and to really max out you have to participate in a little bit of every kind. It also stops people from feeling like one style or RP is running roughshod over another.

    It requires more thought, obviously, but I am really starting to think this is better than some other stuff we have so far.

    When I've thought about systems like that, my knee-jerk reaction is that they offer the worst of everything for little material benefit, but I recognize that's an emotional reaction that has no real evidence or theorycraft behind it. Setting a cap on XP gained per period of time seems to result in folks defaulting to OOC idling the moment they hit the cap. Some of that is player attitude for sure, and I've made it a personal policy that I generally don't want to cultivate a player base who pursue XP as their only motivation... but I've been guilty of it myself after being on a game with such a system for long enough. There's definitely some propagation of those attitudes built into having that system in play.


  • Pitcrew

    I've always liked, and wanted to see coded, a variation on the Chaosium CoC system. When you successfully use a skill during play, it gets flagged. And at the end of the session or adventure, you roll your flagged skills, and if you /fail/ that roll, you gain a couple of points in that skill. It creates a curve where skills you're good at are easy to flag, but progressively difficult to improve (because the better you are, the harder it is to fail). In a MU* setting, I suspect it'd be something like 'successfully checked skills get flagged (automatically or manually), and at the end of the week, you may choose to execute a command like +improve, that automatically rolls every flagged skill, tells you which ones improved, and by how much. Now, this works better with percentile systems - I note that the new version of UA seems to be leaning towards this, as well.

    I hate automatic XP, though. I like XP from dramatic failure, aspirations, breaking points, and negative Conditions - those are fun, and incentivize play in interesting ways. I like vote for selfish reasons - mostly that I like to vote for people, but I do /not/ want votes that they automatically know they receive, because that leads to that bullshit of <OOC> Player says, "Voting for you all, now." and then obviously waiting to receive notices of return +votes. I also liked Darkwater's little message where you could show your appreciation with puppies and all sorts of silly things - no XP, but it still incentivized showing people hey, you were awesome.



  • XP is often a crazy thing, particularly in a persistent-world environment like a MUSH, because of the disparate personalities and goals of people who play a game. Plus many times games have different goals, even from one game to the next in the same genre, which also contributes to weirdness.

    Some things I've seen on other games or thought about:

    • 'Rebuilds' - This is more coming from a game where you play robotic characters, but allowing one 'add to/subtract your stats' every X months. One game that I had been on did rebuilds every 3 months, for example, It was essentially a written app to staff stating what you wanted to change, and why you wanted to change it, and included any justification; you'd have a specific number of increases that could be done per rebuild. Been RPing learning how to repair a character? Been RPing firearms training? Been getting plans together to rebuild from a cassette altmode into a hovercar? altmode Cool. This was tied with a relatively higher-powered starting character though.
    • Rotating review teams - This is something that I recall was done at TF2k5 for a long time in the early years of that game, in that you got +votes but it wasn't an automatic thing. Essentially staff recruited a group from the playerbase to review +votes (which were done like +recc's there, as you had to put a what the vote was for).
    • Increased XP costs - Bump up the number of required XP; breaking things down into Beats in 2e CofD is a pretty good example of this. I was looking at one point at Dark Heresy or other WH40k RPG-style 'advancements,' where you bought the advancements with hundreds of XP at a time. It was slower build than a lot of people probably would enjoy on a game, though; again, tied in with a somewhat higher-competency starting PC.
    • Justified Increases - One game I was on was trait-based; you had to submit 3+ logs of you doing things, with others in the scene, that tied into what you were wanting to increase. You could only increase something once every other week, and staff had final adjudication in what would be a viable time frame. This was for a superhero game though, so you would have things like training Super Strength and things like 'I punched Thanos through seventeen buildings and gave a World of Cardboard' speech.
    • No advancement - Characters start at a higher competency and are relatively static, statistically, throughout. This is the anathema of most games, but I've played on plenty of games where advancement wasn't a thing, and people played and things were fine.

  • Pitcrew

    There is not one XP system that should be used all over. To me who to structure advancement or weather or not to have advancement at all is part of the design phase discussion those building the game should have, because it all comes down to what kind of game do you want to run.
    I mean i have my personal preferences, slower gain then most places but also a heavy aversion to justifications, but honestly barring a few extreme examples the XP format of a game has very little to do with weather I play somewhere. Now it can color my attitude towards a place. I played on HM for years and I think i only ever put in like three spends, mainly because of the justification requirement, not that I couldn't write them I just didn't bother. As a result I never really became fully invested in the game as others did. I would play for a bit drift away then return with that cycle repeating.
    Though as I think about it I am far more concerned with policies on spending XP on games then I am with those pertaining to earning it. Giving out tons and heavily restricting the use to me is worse then giving none.


  • Pitcrew

    I liked the vote review system with a panel of players on Aether as well. I don't remember the specifics -- I think votes were anonymous but with no explanation? @Thenomain I summon thee.


  • Coder

    @ThatGuyThere said in XP systems:

    There is not one XP system that should be used all over.

    I agree. XP systems are not intrinsically "better" or "worse" than each other; they each have different pros/cons, and motivations. The one that works best is the one that has pros you like and cons you can live with.

    As systems go, I favor a very slow automatic XP gain (as anyone who's played FS3 knows). Slow because chargen reflects all your collective experience over a lifetime prior to the game starting. Compared to that, the amount you'll change over your 1-2 year IC timespan is miniscule. Automatic because I personally detest the idea of tying popularity to IC ability.

    However, my personal favorite XP system is "justified increase". You're RPing about taking some dance classes? Great, I'll toss you a dot in Dancing. Tell me you're going to practice at the firing range every day for three weeks? Sure, I'll increase your Shooting skill from 1 to 2 next month. But that tends to be way too arbitrary for most folks, and nobody wants to hear the answer of "No, I won't raise your piloting from 10 to 11 because that takes years and you've only been on the game 6 months."


  • Pitcrew

    I think that for a tabletop system, Use-it-to-Gain-it works great. But from my (brief) experience with Pendragon, mostly it meant that people were rolling things as often as they could remember to do it, hoping for crits. So you have those people who are just throwing skill rolls into everything, and those who only rolled when it was important, and got fewer chances for crits.

    I like a Justified Increase system, but it involves a good amount of Staff monitoring. You have to check logs and be the nexus of all improvement (and let's face it, players like to see their numbers go up, because, to quote Calvin, if your numbers go up, you're having more fun).

    I think that FS3 (with a little Staff oversight at higher skill levels--I want to know when someone is going form 10 to 11, and 11 to 12) has a really nice system in that, as @faraday mentioned, you have slow automatic gain... and you can control how slow it is. If you're moving at increased time ratio, you can increase XP gain. You can also set the costs for various levels of skill so that your XP costs are flat, linear, or logarithmic, however you prefer.
    The thing I really like about FS3's system is that there are actually two resources: XP and Luck. You get XP at a steady rate every week, and Luck (which boosts skills and keeps you fighting in +combat) is based on votes. It encourages interaction to get votes, without letting you boost your combat skills for tea party RP.

    In my mind, it's not as good as "Submit logs and mention your training in RP to see if your skill increases," but it's a whole lot easier on Staff.


  • Coder

    @Ide said in XP systems:

    I liked the vote review system with a panel of players on Aether as well. I don't remember the specifics -- I think votes were anonymous but with no explanation? @Thenomain I summon thee.

    Reccs were a small paragraph of text that were anonymous to players so a blind group of 10 players would vote if the reccs for that character that month were worth 0-3, with 3 meant to be pretty rare.

    Getting a rotating group of 10 players together once a month (so about 20 players, different sets each month if possible) became stressful. It was reduced to 5 later on, which would be my bare minimum to make this system work.

    After the process, the players got to see the nominations for themselves, including the name of the person who submitted the good vibes.

    Nowadays it's the occasional bonus kudos, one at a time.



  • In my imagined Savage Worlds mush, I'd have people able to give out a couple bennies a week, divided by how many +noms they have. If my experience with Shadowrun has taught me anything, it's that banked bennies/karma is more important than phat stats.

    Actual Xp would be given out for adventuring and stuff.



  • @Thenomain said in XP systems:

    @Ide said in XP systems:

    I liked the vote review system with a panel of players on Aether as well. I don't remember the specifics -- I think votes were anonymous but with no explanation? @Thenomain I summon thee.

    Reccs were a small paragraph of text that were anonymous to players so a blind group of 10 players would vote if the reccs for that character that month were worth 0-3, with 3 meant to be pretty rare.

    Getting a rotating group of 10 players together once a month (so about 20 players, different sets each month if possible) became stressful. It was reduced to 5 later on, which would be my bare minimum to make this system work.

    After the process, the players got to see the nominations for themselves, including the name of the person who submitted the good vibes.

    Nowadays it's the occasional bonus kudos, one at a time.

    I kinda like the peer-review process there, but it seems like you'd need a fairly large player base to consistently get the panel. Any estimate of how large a group of regulars you feel like you'd need to implement such a thing?


  • Pitcrew

    @Seraphim73 said in XP systems:

    I like a Justified Increase system, but it involves a good amount of Staff monitoring. You have to check logs and be the nexus of all improvement (and let's face it, players like to see their numbers go up, because, to quote Calvin, if your numbers go up, you're having more fun).

    I used to be in favor of justification for this reason, until I was on a game where I was complimented on my justifications.
    The staffer paged me thanking me for putting thought and effort into my justifications, that was awesome, then they went on to say a lot of players wrote justification they felt guilty about approving. I didn't say anything at the time but that convo is what changed my mind on justifications. If both good and bad ones are going to accepted why bother having it as a hoop.
    And I don't think the staffer in the conversation was unusual most will say yes and shrug then say no and risk drama over something minor.


  • Coder

    @ThatGuyThere It depends on what you look for in terms of justification. Improving a skill at "hobby" levels was basically automatic when I did it, unless they were trying to do something weird like pick up Fighter Pilot when they're a doctor :) At higher levels, it's more about time and training, so no amount of goofy justification would help if they didn't have the IC experiences to back it up.


  • TV & Movies

    Oh, we're having this thread again.


  • Pitcrew

    I like automatic increase for most things, except those you can't get straight away without IC justification (such as getting some special psychic power or whatever). Why begrudge someone their sword/courtier/whatever raises?


  • Coder

    @The_Supremes said in XP systems:

    @Thenomain said in XP systems:

    @Ide said in XP systems:

    I liked the vote review system with a panel of players on Aether as well. I don't remember the specifics -- I think votes were anonymous but with no explanation? @Thenomain I summon thee.

    Reccs were a small paragraph of text that were anonymous to players so a blind group of 10 players would vote if the reccs for that character that month were worth 0-3, with 3 meant to be pretty rare.

    Getting a rotating group of 10 players together once a month (so about 20 players, different sets each month if possible) became stressful. It was reduced to 5 later on, which would be my bare minimum to make this system work.

    After the process, the players got to see the nominations for themselves, including the name of the person who submitted the good vibes.

    Nowadays it's the occasional bonus kudos, one at a time.

    I kinda like the peer-review process there, but it seems like you'd need a fairly large player base to consistently get the panel. Any estimate of how large a group of regulars you feel like you'd need to implement such a thing?

    Roughly around 60-80 players for pulling 10, 40+ for pulling 5. This really only works if the people who help are fairly random; if the same five or ten people are seeing the nominations then half of the system isn't working; the half where people get to see how awesome their peers think this other person is.

    It occurs to me that this system would work pretty well pulling five people from a group of 20, as this might make it even easier to see what your peers are doing, but you're not going to get a "community" feeling for 20 people, as they're a pretty light community.



  • @Thenomain said in XP systems:

    Roughly around 60-80 players for pulling 10, 40+ for pulling 5. This really only works if the people who help are fairly random; if the same five or ten people are seeing the nominations then half of the system isn't working; the half where people get to see how awesome their peers think this other person is.

    Do you not anonymize the recipient of the +recc as well as the author?


  • Coder

    I remember on AmberMUSH there was xp by committee. Essentially a group of random people were asked if they wanted to process noms, and then we'd be put onto a separate channel. Staff would say: So and so got this many noms. Anyone feel they deserve xp? And we'd discuss the person being named, and depending on how many 'yesses' you got determined how much xp you got.

    AmberMUSH was /huge/ though, and it was something similar to a popularity contest in a lot of ways but what +vote/+recc system isn't?

    I do think you'd need to have a pretty huge player base to pull it off though, AmberMUSH had over a hundred people on at any given time for a long while there. This was the days when 30-40 people was considered a small possibly dying game though.

    Essentially it comes down to how fast you want your players to advance and what kind of control do you want to have over it?

    A lot of /that/ depends on the scale of the game and the system you're using as well. Some systems require vast amounts of xp before you can do a significant upgrade, some require much less. Some require vast amounts before a /minor/ upgrade can be purchased.

    There is no one size fits all XP system, or if there is, I haven't heard of it yet.


  • Coder

    @The_Supremes said in XP systems:

    @Thenomain said in XP systems:

    Roughly around 60-80 players for pulling 10, 40+ for pulling 5. This really only works if the people who help are fairly random; if the same five or ten people are seeing the nominations then half of the system isn't working; the half where people get to see how awesome their peers think this other person is.

    Do you not anonymize the recipient of the +recc as well as the author?

    No. Everyone gets to see the things said about a specific character. I'm trying to imagine how it would look if the recipient were also anonymous, but things like "an amazing plot about two penguins and the police car" would probably out them pretty quick.


  • Pitcrew

    What I would like to see in a MU* is a combination of all three. The main source of xp would be time based. If your character is X years and Y months old, they have Z amount of xp to spend at character creation. Every IC month after that earns a proportional amount of xp, so that every 40 year old will have the same amount of xp no matter if they hit the grid at 20 or 39. This helps alleviate the 20 year old who can out-politic Machiavelli while going toe-to-toe with Brock Lesner.

    On top of that I would have a karma system which takes into account staff gifts and fellow player votes. For the player votes the +recc review system Thenomain summarized sounds good. Players would be able to trade in 20 karma for 1 xp for a character that they have on the grid. If the player had a character recently die, then they can exchange at a rate of 10 karma for 1 xp with one new character. Karma could also be used for other minor benefits. This lets a person's RP earn them benefits without moving them too far off the track of age-based xp.



  • @Ominous

    this help alleviate the 20 year old who can out-politic Machiavelli while going toe-to-toe with Brock Lesner.

    You mean you don't like teenaged admirals? You MONSTER!


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to MU Soapbox was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.