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« on: February 14, 2012, 04:24:23 PM »

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I alos love having players advance at differing rates...healthy competition is a wonderful thing.
I'm not going to derail Xathan's thread with a long rant on why I think this is a terrible idea.
 

Sparkle did not want to derail...and I respect that so I brought it here.  But 'Terrible' is a strong word.  I am at work so I'll post and run.

I guess I have a few thoughts on this.  Borne out of playing very balanced games and not so balanced ones, and running both.  And after doing this for 35 years, I'll probably never run a long-term game again that does not give out explicit rewards for actions, which leads to differing rates of growth.

Note: must be coming out of my crazy season

 I actually am taking time out of the work day...to get back in the META-saddle.  Crayon, see!  
One of them is that I like rewarding better gameplay, and trying to reinforce it.  My system of choice specifically tries to reward and encourage roleplaying...not just as a philosophy, but a mechanical reinforcing.
"The last piece of advice is to err in favor of roleplaying. .. But on the other side, maker sure that superalative roleplay is rewarded.  Skills are supposed to encourage roleplay, not used to avoid it."
Players literally get an exp reward for every skill use.  the more skills they use, the faster they advance.  And my players, in all sorts of venues, seem to like this.  

On top of that, and my players all know this, I give out a Roleplay EXP bonus at the end of every single session.  And it is based on how well they roleplay.  I will let the SIG players comment how it works for them.
Part of the thing I like is that some of the worst rolled or statted characters can excel in roleplay...and many have.  

So, I leave this hear to be commented on.  This is my experience, and no one can tell me it does not work, since I have a waiting list in my Igbar game right now.
But it does not mean it works for everyone or every style game.  


 
« Last Edit: February 14, 2012, 04:33:30 PM by LordVreeg » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2012, 05:05:19 PM »

LordVreeg

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I alos love having players advance at differing rates...healthy competition is a wonderful thing.
I'm not going to derail Xathan's thread with a long rant on why I think this is a terrible idea.
 

Sparkle did not want to derail...and I respect that so I brought it here.  But 'Terrible' is a strong word.  I am at work so I'll post and run.

As strong as the word is, the simple phrase "I also love having players advance at differing rates...healthy competition is a wonderful thing" evokes some pretty bad ideas in my head. It feels like the game would be combative and unbalanced. However...

Quote

And after doing this for 35 years, I'll probably never run a long-term game again that does not give out explicit rewards for actions, which leads to differing rates of growth.

Please, allow me to beat sparkle to the grognard comment. ;) And this makes...moderately more sense, especially when viewed in context of below.

Quote

One of them is that I like rewarding better gameplay, and trying to reinforce it.  My system of choice specifically tries to reward and encourage roleplaying...not just as a philosophy, but a mechanical reinforcing.

Every game I've played in/run gives out roleplay experience. Maybe it's just that I've been lucky to play with good roleplayers, because this always ends up being mostly balanced (people tend to stay within 50-200 XP of each other and fluctuate) and leading to an equal rate of progression. I can see how poor roleplaying is a bad thing, but I guess this depends on how big RP rewards are - especially because, in my 10 years of experience (holy crap I've been roleplaying for 10 years), players who aren't great on RP are big on combat and the nitty gritty stuff. Question: Do you give out roleplaying experience for things like describing attacks/abilities in flavorful and unique ways?

Quote

"The last piece of advice is to err in favor of roleplaying. .. But on the other side, maker sure that superalative roleplay is rewarded.  Skills are supposed to encourage roleplay, not used to avoid it."

What's that line from? I'd be interested in reading the blog or whatever it came from. And I do agree with it - but it feels rough to punish less skilled roleplayers.

Quote

Players literally get an exp reward for every skill use.  the more skills they use, the faster they advance.  And my players, in all sorts of venues, seem to like this.

Is this something you do in non-guildschool systems? (I know guildschool is build around this very concept, but for many other systems this isn't part of design, and I was wondering if that philosophy applied to, say, AD&D) And my above question about good description from a bad roleplayer applies here as well.

Quote

On top of that, and my players all know this, I give out a Roleplay EXP bonus at the end of every single session.  And it is based on how well they roleplay.  I will let the SIG players comment how it works for them.
Part of the thing I like is that some of the worst rolled or statted characters can excel in roleplay...and many have.

I know I've asked similar questions, but I guess what it comes down to is simple: what constitutes "good" roleplay? It's a fairly vague term, and I think the opinion differs from GM to GM.

Quote

So, I leave this hear to be commented on.  This is my experience, and no one can tell me it does not work, since I have a waiting list in my Igbar game right now.
But it does not mean it works for everyone or every style game.

Emphasis my own.

I think this is the most critical thing about any meta decision like this. For example, I'm running a d20 game soon IRL that has two players that are very new to roleplaying. I'm going to have to be careful with RP experience or they could fall behind very quickly and we could lose them or turn them off roleplaying. This entire thing is game dependent, and it's good that it works for you. Maybe I'm overly cautious, but I can't help but wonder if you've just gotten lucky with the crop of gamers you've gotten - though I could be totally off base there, in my experience this would be more harmful than helpful.

Then again, that's just for my games. ;)


 
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2012, 05:06:03 PM »

I key xp to the completion of quests. Player sets a quest, player achieves goal of quest. Player gets 1xp, in addition to whatever in-game stuff the quest earned them. When the player's xp equals the next level, they spend it and level up.

I use this system because it encourages roleplay, tells me pretty much exactly what I need to prep, and actively narrows gaps (so said gaps are minor or temporary setbacks).

I sometimes use xp bonuses to encourage attendance or recruitment, but in such cases I'd multiply the required xp to level by the max xp per session. So if three factors weigh in I call for three times the xp.

I don't worry about players being different levels so much, though.
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« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2012, 05:10:06 PM »

I suppose, as with so much else, this depends on good player-GM communication. As you said in your post, your players all understand that your game is going to work like that, and that their characters will advance in that particular way, so it's cool. The only way it would be an issue is if they were expecting to advance in a different way, and have their characters be balanced differently.

I tend to think that as long as the players know roughly what to expect from a game before going into it, they should be able to enjoy it. And as long as they're enjoying it, then it can't be "terrible"
In fact I think that applies to pretty much everything about gaming really, the whole player expectation bit. But then again, I am reminded of this

EDIT: Just realised how much of a non-reply this was, sorry! I may as well have just said "Yeah man, whatever"
« Last Edit: February 14, 2012, 05:20:40 PM by Kindling » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2012, 05:36:53 PM »

I agree with Xathan. I used to always do roleplaying rewards for everything. Made up the majority of rewards in many of my games. Sometimes players liked this...

However, one pointed out, that either the XP balances, in which case the whole idea is moot. Or it doesn't balance, and this creates problems. Not only does it mean it's harder to balance encounters, but some players may feel less useful.

Moreover, players that get lesser rewards may feel cheated. You could say, "well next time, roleplay more." You could also lose friends and players that way. Some players just come to hang out and have a good time. But they're there on time, week in, week out, bringing the snacks, and generally being swell friends. I don't need to penalize them for poor acting, because getting into the roleplaying is it's own reward.

Moreover, it raises the same issue Xathan raises--I've become the sole judge a what constitutes good roleplaying. A player may be entirely in character doing little, because he feels his character has a reason to be morose or taciturn or whatever. From my perspective, he might just not be roleplaying, but not from his. I hesitate to tell him, "you're playing D&D wrong."

Sometimes, players like getting rewarded for clever ideas...and I've had this work well. Just saying, there are two sides to the issue.

Xathan

Is this something you do in non-guildschool systems? (I know guildschool is build around this very concept, but for many other systems this isn't part of design, and I was wondering if that philosophy applied to, say, AD&D) And my above question about good description from a bad roleplayer applies here as well.
The Riddle of Steel works in a similar fashion. So have most versions of my own Echoes systems (currently Echoes: Dreamwalker is being revamped).
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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2012, 05:57:28 PM »

Studious Xathan

Vreeg

"The last piece of advice is to err in favor of roleplaying. .. But on the other side, maker sure that superalative roleplay is rewarded.  Skills are supposed to encourage roleplay, not used to avoid it."
What's that line from? I'd be interested in reading the blog or whatever it came from. And I do agree with it - but it feels rough to punish less skilled roleplayers

am still at work or would answer more...
It is from the Guildschool rulebook.

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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2012, 05:59:02 PM »

Haven't read much, but I think two reactions triggered this thought on my part.

LordVreeg

I alos love having players advance at differing rates...healthy competition is a wonderful thing.

I strongly agree with the idea. Having a sort of soft competition between the players, I think, will make them work their brains even more for more creative ways to accomplish their goals. And I think this is nice for a RPG, being what it's supposed to be.

Now, notice he said, and I underlined; healthy? I do agree that if the competition reaches a point where a player has supremacy over all others and that it's not fun for everybody anymore, then it ruins the entire point of "gaming". Though, if there is still balance and like Vreeg said, there's a fun, healthy competition... then why not? I don't have any bad ideas that come to mind when I think about "healthy competition", nor do I think it's a terrible idea (though I respect the opinion).
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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2012, 06:56:31 PM »

LordVreeg

Terrible' is a strong word.
It is a strong word. I stand behind it. It's already been mentioned the corrosive effect that too much "healthy competition" can have on the party, so I won't waste a lot of time going into detail on that. Suffice it to say that it's a significant issue. However, it's far from the only problem. Another significant issue is that the entire notion of an "encounter that is appropriate to the characters' skill level" goes out the window. Now, I'm not saying you have to use something as meticulous as the D&D CR system or whatever, where encounters are meticulously calibrated to the party level-- I think both you and I like a more organic world where characters are free to wander and see what they can find-- however, when designing the kinds of things that the characters can find, you still have to think, in broad terms, about what they can deal with. Too much of a disparity means a monster (or encounter, or whatever) that is not a challenge at all to the upper-achieving part of the party, or something that can completely obliterate the lower level members-- or, worst of all, quite possibly both.

LordVreeg

I give out a Roleplay EXP bonus at the end of every single session.  And it is based on how well they roleplay.
What does that even mean? At this point you might as well just throw out experience points and base leveling up on GM fiat like True20.

It seems more like this is your safety valve for when all the above problems become too evident, so you can just give an underachieving player a "roleplay bonus" to catch them back up to somewhere close to the party's experience level. It's easy to justify, because when their character sucks at everything appropriate to the skill level of other party members, all they'll be able to do to contribute to the game is "roleplay."

LordVreeg

This is my experience, and no one can tell me it does not work, since I have a waiting list in my Igbar game right now.
These are two different things. I'm not trying to say you're having badwrongfun or whatever-- it obviously "works" for you in the sense that it allows you to play the kind of game that you and your group want. Good for you. However, that doesn't mean it's not a mechanically broken approach that only functions in-game because of extensive use of GM fiat.

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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2012, 07:34:35 PM »

The following has rant-like qualities, but it's intended as politely as possible, not as an attack...

I'm not sure I like the idea of rewarding players with xp at different rates depending on how well they roleplay.  It might work for certain groups or under certain GMs, but personally I feel it would tend to create a feeling of stress during a session, a feeling that the player is constantly under pressure, that they're being constantly evaluated, and that they might be found wanting.  I want my players to roleplay because they have fun roleplaying, not as a means of obtaining more xp, and I've never felt that by not giving out character-specific xp rewards at the end of each session I'm discouraging roleplaying.

That's not to say that I don't give out xp for quests or story, just that I don't tend to differentiate between players.  Sometimes I do do solo sessions to help develop characters and give players who've missed sessions a chance to catch up xp-wise, but I think that's a different ballgame.  There are some significant level disparities between players in my CE game but they arose not because I rewarded players differently but that certain players (TMG & Ghostman, prominently) attend sessions religiously.  In other words, I strive to award xp based on roleplaying time, not based on a subjective measure of roleplaying quality.

I think that having the GM hand out xp for roleplaying emphasizes the GM's role too much.  I'm often struck by how amazing my players are, and how little the session is often about me.  For example, during a recent session, seven of my characters had a rich, involved conversation for about fifteen minutes in which I barely interacted; I went and got a cup of coffee and just watched the show.  I feel that if I stepped in and judged that conversation and picked "winners" and "losers" I'd somehow be cheapening the purity of that interaction.  Who am I to say who roleplayed "better"?  What if a comment or line of dialogue I thought sucked other players loved?  By giving the player whose line I disliked less xp, I'd be moulding and constraining the roleplaying experience in a way I don't think the GM should.  For me a good GM is like a piece of really adaptive, organic software, presenting a world that reacts, evoking images, playing the NPCs; the GM is not a judge or a god, not a teacher or a critic.  The GM is there for the players, not the other way around.

I can see situations where selective, variable xp rewarding might be useful.  I've played in tabletop games where some players spent the session playing World of Warcraft and only interacting during combat while other players actually played the game, and I can see the temptation/utility to reward those players less.  But really, if you're just in the game for the xp, you're in it for the wrong reason, IMO.  Crunch/mechanics/xp are a means to an end (story, fun, narrative) not an end in and of themself (I have the best character, look how awesome I am).

EDIT: I do occasionally hand out quasi-facetious "+5 xp for insane badassery" rewards, but I keep the amount intentionally super-low so as not to mechanically incentivize roleplaying in a certain fashion.
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2012, 08:07:20 PM »

On the iPad now, so can't really cut and paste...
Happy this got a lot of responses and got people responding.
I think to some lesser degree it got some people thinking. 
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« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2012, 08:16:32 PM »

I more-or-less agree with everything Steerpike said. Also:

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« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2012, 08:35:39 PM »

This might be a slight aside, now that the discussion seems to be about roleplaying-based rewards, but I think the level disparity Steerpike mentioned in the CE game also shows how fallacious the concept of party balance as an integral necessity is. As far as I'm aware there has been a significant level gap between my character Vetter and some other characters (Kaius is the only one I'm sure of) since I first joined the CE game, but I've never felt he was overshadowed or useless. Sure, he doesn't have as much HP and can't deal as much damage, but he's still a nasty little bugger in his own right and contributes significantly in combat.
Obviously that might not be the case in other systems or with different party dynamics, but I think it does show that it's clearly not necessary for everyone's characters to be mechanically equal (if that's even possible) for the game to be fun.
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« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2012, 08:54:41 PM »

Well, I need to go on in a few minutes, so a full response needs some time.

But I am going to quickly describe the roleplay rewards.  I thought it was more obvious, but I must have done a poor job describing or explaining in this and the last couple threads, because what is beiong attributed is completely contrary and backwards at times.  I think in some systems and games equal level and reward is needed to make up for other lacks, but often it is not the case.

ST

LordVreeg

I give out a Roleplay EXP bonus at the end of every single session.  And it is based on how well they roleplay.
What does that even mean? At this point you might as well just throw out experience points and base leveling up on GM fiat like True20.

It seems more like this is your safety valve for when all the above problems become too evident, so you can just give an underachieving player a "roleplay bonus" to catch them back up to somewhere close to the party's experience level. It's easy to justify, because when their character sucks at everything appropriate to the skill level of other party members, all they'll be able to do to contribute to the game is "roleplay."
"What does that even mean?"
It means I reward players that play their role more and try to use the abilities of their characters in context of the game world.  It is called a an 'RPG".  Roleplaying game, y'know.

GM Fiat?  Safety valve?  Wow.  No.  I make hashmarks on my logs when characters exhibit immersion and stay in character and use in game logic, with absolutely no concern where they are compared to anyone else.  And one of the reasons I hand it out at the end is so it does not effect the game as we play it.  Since there are no 'Above Problems" that become evident, that whole statement cancels itself out.  the in game rewards for using skills and Roleplay has been remarkably consistent.

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« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2012, 09:09:56 PM »

Steerpike, you'd be amazed how psychology actually works with RPGS and behaviors. 
Mechanically rewarding the behavior you want and that makes the game more fun as a tandem is...more powerful than the latter by itself.  It has a wonderful synergistic effect.  Most of the experience still comes from use of skills, direct mechanical rewards for in-game decisins.  The Roleplay is a motivational bonus at the end based on good roleplay.

I am not saying you have to be wrong, and that what you worry about would not have to be guarded against.  But characterizing use of a positive reinforcer for pro-roleplay behavior as negative feedback or even a negative social experience is I think emphasizing the trees for the forest.   
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Old, evil, twisted, damaged, and afflicted.  Orbis non sufficit.Thread Murderer Extraordinaire, and supposedly pragmatic...\"That is my interpretation. That the same rules designed to reduce the role of the GM and to empower the player also destroyed the autonomy to create a consistent setting. And more importantly, these rules reduce the Roleplaying component of what is supposed to be a \'Fantasy Roleplaying game\' to something else\"-Vreeg

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« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2012, 09:51:16 PM »

Lord Vreeg

But characterizing use of a positive reinforcer for pro-roleplay behavior as negative feedback or even a negative social experience is I think emphasizing the trees for the forest.
I can see some legitimacy to this.  I still feel that rewarding some over others will inevitably make those who got a smaller reward feel at best somewhat deficient ("that wasn't my best session, I must do better next time") and at worst cheated.  I can totally see giving xp for something like a skill challenge (scaling a cliff, disarming a trap) but as with other encounters (fights, etc) I would usually add that xp up at the end and divide it amongst the group.  I don't consider skill challenges of this sort to be "roleplaying" in the social sense of the word, however, i.e. I could consider them closer to combat than conversation.

My bigger or more metaphysical point is less about the positive/negative aspect as it is about the "point" of roleplaying.  Giving a mechanical reward for roleplaying seems to me to turn the experience on its head: the "point" of roleplaying becomes about accumulating xp, not about the roleplaying experience itself.  And once the GM's subjective judgment comes into play to decide who roleplayed better than the others, you open the door for disagreement, resentment, etc.

Lord Vreeg

Mechanically rewarding the behavior you want and that makes the game more fun as a tandem is...more powerful than the latter by itself.
This is where I think we disagree philosophically speaking.  You're suggesting that part of the GM's job is to "reward behaviour you want" (and, consequently, and inevitably discourage behaviour you don't), which suggests that as GM you have a bigger say in how the game should be played, what proper or good player-character behaviour is.  This is where I differ as a GM.

I'm sure that as an uber-experienced GM playing with people you've known for years, you handle these situations with finesse, subtlety, and nuance, and avert the potential hazards.  As sparkle noted, I don't the idea that you're not having fun properly is absurd: clearly it works for you, and that's awesome.
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