So my previous post on What to do When PC’s Go Missing got a little notice from the Id DM, who asked me about “choosing a side” and writing a little dueling perspective on XP distribution. So I’ve agreed to take the Capitalistic side and present the pro’s and con’s of Capitalistic XP compared to Communistic XP. (I’m a child of the cold war so don’t hold it against me) Anyway I hope you guys check out the other perspective and please comment on both.
Like I mentioned in my previous blog When PC’s Go Missing, I have been playing recently in a campaign where XP is given equally to all players no matter what you do or don’t do, or whether you show up or are absent. It’s been over a year in that campaign and likewise I’ve been trying this in my own campaign as well to see how it worked. For the previous 20+ years I’ve been conditioned to only giving/receiving XP for actually participating in the encounter(s) where XP can be earned. The old rule of “you have to be a threat or a target” to get XP is still very much a part of what I learned through the years. “Sitting on the bench does not experience grant.” I’m sure that is something Yoda would say. You get work experience from going to work! Not from going to school.
So after about a year of exposure to Communist XP (as I’ve come to call it), I’ve come to the conclusion that capitalist XP is the better way to go. My reasons are fairly simple in principle, but are actually linked to simple Id like desires. Yet however selfish they may seem, merely just make sense. First and foremost, if you earn the XP, you should get the XP. If you don’t earn it, you shouldn’t get it. That seems pretty basic to anyone whose ever been to school or had a job.
Communism fails because sacrificing for the majority reduces a sense of drive in the individual. Why should one work hard when everybody is going to get equal share no matter what? Ask any Russian who went through the cold war. Or in gaming terms, why should I show up tonight for the big dragon fight and risk death when I’ll get the XP for it anyway? Yes I know this sounds like a rather big dick move but I’m speaking in hypotheticals here. People missing a gaming session is always a pain. First and foremost its disappointing to the players who do show up especially if the person who missed is going to get credit too. Sure sometimes things happen, but if your crew has a regular day, regular schedule, and Johnny makes a date on that day, does Johnny deserve the XP for the final fight of the module? I say no. If Johnny knows he’s not going to be left behind, why should Johnny show up next time when he gets another date on the same game night?
The question was posed to me, “should attendance be linked to XP?” Well, yes. I mean I can not show up for work and expect someone else to do my job for me? Or to get paid for it. Sure I get vacation days, but those are things I’ve earned. Not something I’m given without going to work. So when it comes to gaming, I shouldn’t expect experience points for and experience I wasn’t present for. First and Second edition D&D even had alternate experience tracks for different classes. They were very upfront about the fact that classes didn’t have to level at the same time. And all editions of D&D say to divide the XP earned by the number of players present. Second edition D&D even had XP handed out for specific actions performed by class. Rogues got XP for picking locks, Clerics got XP for healing, Fighters got XP for killing etc.
I think handing out Communistic XP is easier for a DM, but in my opinion the psychological downside is that it promotes a nonchalant attitude. For example, if all XP is given equally, and new characters are brought into the group at the same level, what is the detriment for silly actions? What is the fear of death? After all I could simply bring in the twin brother and be right where I left off! “Hey you look like a trustworthy fellow, we just lost our fighter, here is his stuff for you to use!” As a player my “care factor” is now reduced. This happens all around as well. My incentive for solving the puzzle is reduced to letting the others toil over it. My incentive to even show up is reduced if something else presents itself that night. And my incentive to be careful is reduced because if I die, I’ll pop right back in at the same level I was.
Now I know this sounds like I’m not being a team player, but let me once again state that I’m not speaking for myself personally. I’m more of a table leader than follower, but from the DM chair I’ve seen the falloff on participation, and I’ve had to field the “why is he getting the same XP” questions. So I definitely see the ambivalence beginning to take place.
The solution? Good old-fashioned XP for those who participate. Yes that means you have to show up. Either that or have someone play your character. If they don’t want too, then you are our of luck. Simultaneously any “new character” will come in at the same level as the lowest level party member. After all veterans should have a little prestige and be seen as veterans.
This only creates one small problem as the Communists will point out. Level disparity. Fortunately D&D history has given us an easy solution to maintain or close the gap. Third edition introduced a catch up mechanism with XP by awarding lower level characters more XP per encounter. This allowed them to catch up to the higher level party members. However in some cases they could even leap-frog the higher level members. I would suggest a toned down solution. Merely add a 10-15% bonus to party members who are of a numerically lower level than the highest level party members. Once they catch up in level let the disparity remain or come to an equal level. That way the higher level party member will always be a veteran, and the lower level party members will catch up! Ergo both sides are happy. I’ve been a player on both sides of that coin, and in my opinion it’s fair and justified. If I know my character’s death means I won’t be back at the same level then I’m a bit more careful, which is really what you want from a player. A certain amount of risk is good for the game, but silly “no fear” game play is just that. Silly. Yes we know it’s a game but D&D isn’t checkers or even chess, you don’t just sacrifice pieces to get through the dungeon. You are supposed to be playing with the goal of survival of the whole party.
So let us know what you think? Capitalistic XP = Earn it to own it! Or Communist XP = equal shares for all no matter who tows the line.
I have a hunch the ones who show up the most will vote one way, while the ones who show up the least will vote the other way. Such is the nature of the Id.=) No pun intended…