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XP for Missing Players?

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Individual xp is problematic.  Clearly this is my opinion and not shared by all.

If a player misses and adventure, we make up some in game story for why they aren't there, and their character still receives xp.  If a new player joins the party, they get xp matching the current players.  If players participate in the adventure, they get the same xp as anyone else.

If a player is missing a ridiculous amount of sessions and it's disruptive to the game, that's a separate issue and needs to be dealt with outside the game.  Same for if someone is phoning it in with effort to play the game.  There are ways to reward RP without tossing around XP.

Good role players are good, bad ones are bad.  You'll seldom turn a half way decent player into a great one while bribing them with xp.  However you will make people bitter when someone is getting rewarded for something and other people aren't.  XP rewards are subjective, and unless you are infallible (just to be clear, you're not), chances are you will make a mistake, or players will disagree with your decisions.  Most people will just go along with it and not complain because they don't rock the boat.  That doesn't mean they agree or are content with your ruling, just that it's not worth their effort to risk a friendship over something as minor as a few xp.

I've seen good players rewarded fairly time and time again only to have their character start to get noticeably more powerful than others in the group because of it.  I've seen GMs that favor a player, or a certain type of role playing and reward it/them more creating imbalances.  I've seen people fall behind in xp due to an occasional absence or reward xp and then they start to resent the GM or other players.  I've seen those players quit, often citing other excuses but after discussions finding out that it was due to the XP.  I've seen players get upset because the adventure doesn't give them an area to apply their expertise or role play their character in a meaningful way while another character has had the limelight for a couple adventures.

I've seen cowardly GMs intentionally do xp related gimicks specifically to drive players away by constantly giving them the short-end of the stick.  I've seen bonus rewards of XP lead to ridiculous situations where people are trying way to hard to get the bonus xp that it becomes disruptive.  My favorite story of this was a player in a D&D campaign where the GM rewarded xp for role playing or for using class related skills.  After several sessions of mages, warriors, and rogues getting loads of bonus xp while the bard barely had anything to do, the bard player went off the deep end in order to get xp.  He literally started play music and singing EVERYWHERE.  We go to the bar, music, we go to the weapon shop, music, we take the road out of town to the castle on the hill, music, we talk to the guard captain, music.  It became annoying, but was also funny as the guy had a valid complaint about what was happening and found a funny way to exploit it.

This is one of those areas where the potential pros simply don't outweigh the potential cons.  More games will be ruined, more people will be hurt, more people will silently stew with anger, then will be encouraged to play the game when dealing with xp like this.

Remember folks.  It's a game.  Games are meant to be fun.  Punishing people isn't fun.  Creating inequality or inequity isn't fun.

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1 hour ago, kmanweiss said:

Individual xp is problematic.  Clearly this is my opinion and not shared by all.

If a player misses and adventure, we make up some in game story for why they aren't there, and their character still receives xp.  If a new player joins the party, they get xp matching the current players.  If players participate in the adventure, they get the same xp as anyone else.

If a player is missing a ridiculous amount of sessions and it's disruptive to the game, that's a separate issue and needs to be dealt with outside the game.  Same for if someone is phoning it in with effort to play the game.  There are ways to reward RP without tossing around XP.

Good role players are good, bad ones are bad.  You'll seldom turn a half way decent player into a great one while bribing them with xp.  However you will make people bitter when someone is getting rewarded for something and other people aren't.  XP rewards are subjective, and unless you are infallible (just to be clear, you're not), chances are you will make a mistake, or players will disagree with your decisions.  Most people will just go along with it and not complain because they don't rock the boat.  That doesn't mean they agree or are content with your ruling, just that it's not worth their effort to risk a friendship over something as minor as a few xp.

I've seen good players rewarded fairly time and time again only to have their character start to get noticeably more powerful than others in the group because of it.  I've seen GMs that favor a player, or a certain type of role playing and reward it/them more creating imbalances.  I've seen people fall behind in xp due to an occasional absence or reward xp and then they start to resent the GM or other players.  I've seen those players quit, often citing other excuses but after discussions finding out that it was due to the XP.  I've seen players get upset because the adventure doesn't give them an area to apply their expertise or role play their character in a meaningful way while another character has had the limelight for a couple adventures.

I've seen cowardly GMs intentionally do xp related gimicks specifically to drive players away by constantly giving them the short-end of the stick.  I've seen bonus rewards of XP lead to ridiculous situations where people are trying way to hard to get the bonus xp that it becomes disruptive.  My favorite story of this was a player in a D&D campaign where the GM rewarded xp for role playing or for using class related skills.  After several sessions of mages, warriors, and rogues getting loads of bonus xp while the bard barely had anything to do, the bard player went off the deep end in order to get xp.  He literally started play music and singing EVERYWHERE.  We go to the bar, music, we go to the weapon shop, music, we take the road out of town to the castle on the hill, music, we talk to the guard captain, music.  It became annoying, but was also funny as the guy had a valid complaint about what was happening and found a funny way to exploit it.

This is one of those areas where the potential pros simply don't outweigh the potential cons.  More games will be ruined, more people will be hurt, more people will silently stew with anger, then will be encouraged to play the game when dealing with xp like this.

Remember folks.  It's a game.  Games are meant to be fun.  Punishing people isn't fun.  Creating inequality or inequity isn't fun.

If it's gonna come down to having to give XP because of pressure and some subjective sense of fairness then the GM should be a buddy and just give everyone 5000 XP up front and say ok give this to yourself as you feel is equitable and fair. 

That's maybe not a good solution though because it is one-sided. Perhaps it isn't quite so simple as there are two sides to the problem and simply capitulating to one side may not be a viable solution to every GM. Especially if you want XP awards to actually be tied to experiences of the character through the story. To me the character just needs to be adventuring or learning not the player, but to some GMs the XP award is for being there in the game. That seems to me like something that is their prerogative. 

As to the cost/benefit analysis I would say that in some cases players will be mad or mortally wounded by not getting that XP, and in other cases the player will respect that you are metering the XP and therefore increasing its demand. They may see your game as actually having some weight and consequence on that front and respect that the game has more dimensions of reward than just the end of session XP dump. 

I think this XP gain issue is also most important to a segment of the population often referred to as Munchkins. Munchkins are Unicorns though, because I have never had a single person trying to get into my game admit that they are a power gamer or anything even close. I have had people enter the campaign that pretty quickly are revealed to be about the mechanics and not much else, and in the time it takes to try to ascertain what amount of change they are capable of they may decide to quit due to not getting their fix. I do try to kick people outright when I know it's not going to work, mainly in the interest in saving everyone time and irritation, but sometimes things shake out the way they do and it can be a bit unclear as to how much they are actually willing to try a different style of play vs. what they say. 

 

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1 hour ago, Archlyte said:

If it's gonna come down to having to give XP because of pressure and some subjective sense of fairness then the GM should be a buddy and just give everyone 5000 XP up front and say ok give this to yourself as you feel is equitable and fair.

Seems like an extension of the "everyone gets a trophy so nobody has ... them feelings" yet again, no? 

 

4 hours ago, kmanweiss said:

Remember folks.  It's a game.  Games are meant to be fun.  Punishing people isn't fun.  Creating inequality or inequity isn't fun.

I think this is the root of the issue for me - if it's just so important that everyone has the exact same number of fake game points despite their contributions that it's not fun when people don't have the same number, what other recourse does a GM have?  This does not sound like a fun environment to me, but everyone finds their own path. 

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5 hours ago, kmanweiss said:

Remember folks.  It's a game.  Games are meant to be fun.  Punishing people isn't fun.  Creating inequality or inequity isn't fun.

(Emphasis mine.)

This circles right back around to the same question that still hasn't received a logical answer:

How, exactly, is not receiving something that one was not present to receive "punishment?"

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2 minutes ago, Nytwyng said:

(Emphasis mine.)

This circles right back around to the same question that still hasn't received a logical answer:

How, exactly, is not receiving something that one was not present to receive "punishment?"

Isn't the current trend to allow the "victim" to define the existence of the phenomena? In that case, take five players and award some of them XP. Now ask those that don't get it if they feel punished.

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8 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

Isn't the current trend to allow the "victim" to define the existence of the phenomena? In that case, take five players and award some of them XP. Now ask those that don't get it if they feel punished.

Don't know about "the current trend," the term "punishment" has a pretty straightforward definition.

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18 minutes ago, Nytwyng said:

Don't know about "the current trend," the term "punishment" has a pretty straightforward definition.

If you're not being punished, you don't get to say what punishment is even if you read it in a dictionary. /s😉

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While I disagree with the whole give everyone 1000xp at the beginning of the campaign bit,  as I do believe it's important for characters to grow, and for the players to make choices as they spend their xp.  I also tend to give the same award regardless if someone makes game or not.   The reward of playing in the campaign is the reason why my players show up.  If they don't make it they tend to miss out on opportunities to further their own stories, and bonus equipment etc.     I imagine if we had bothered to discuss it, my group probably would've been fine with individual rewards/caps, though I am fairly certain I'd have had a couple of players lose interest as they had to miss several game sessions in a row, and they are the ones who tended to be the gamists of my group.  

I know I say this a great deal, but really go with what works for your group and game.   Group harmony is valuable to me as a player and a storyteller.

What I find amusing about this whole subject, is a few years ago I had this exact same debate in a large scale networked larp I was a regional storyteller for.   The primary schools of thought basically boiled down to: If you give everyone the same xp every month then they have no incentive to go to game/ it's unfair to the players who haven't missed games  -VS- If we just give everyone the same xp, players will show up regardless, and it makes paperwork/audits easier, and the  focus on the xp is missing the point of the games.     

In the end a compromise was reached, of course it was one that no-one was really happy about. 

Any way, there's my long winded .02, Game on and may the force be with you!

 

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, themensch said:

Seems like an extension of the "everyone gets a trophy so nobody has ... them feelings" yet again, no? 

 

I think this is the root of the issue for me - if it's just so important that everyone has the exact same number of fake game points despite their contributions that it's not fun when people don't have the same number, what other recourse does a GM have?  This does not sound like a fun environment to me, but everyone finds their own path. 

Yeah I wasn't serious about the 5000 xp but in editing my post it became unclear that this was my original intention. 

I just don't think it is the case that you have to bow to this idea of everyone has to get the same amount of XP or anything else. As a GM I don't make sure everyone has the same amount of Obligation either, is that also a problem some how? 

XP Award > All other aspects of play ? That's what was posited: that players would actually get so resentful that they would just have to quit the game because they didn't get XP in the dosage they imagined. Makes no sense to me.

Edited by Archlyte

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The GM sees it as a reward for doing something (Role playing well, using skills, participation beyond just shooting things, showing up).

The players have a different perspective.  I made a combat focused character that has no people or non-combat skills.  I'm good at what I do, but player X gets bonus xp for this, player Y gets bonus xp for that, and I get nothing.  I'm being punished for being good at my thing which the GM doesn't see as role playing, or skill usage.

The issue at hand is that the GMs perception is not shared by the players.  Unless the GM is infallible and the players don't have their own opinions, xp differentials will be seen as punishments.

I'm not saying that you can't reward for things like RPing, or accomplishing goals, but reward the group as a whole.  Ok, sessions over, everyone gets 10 xp, and do to X's quick thinking and talking your party's way out of that dire situation along with Y's very in-game behavior at the event, I'm throwing you all an extra 5xp, so 15 total xp this session.  Now Z sees there are rewards for RP and creative solutions and is encouraged to try to add to the groups total next time.

Ok, sessions over, everyone gets 10xp.  X gets 5 bonus though due to his quick thinking, and Y gets 5 extra for some stellar RP.  Sorry Z, no bonus for you again.  Now Z falls further behind, lowering his ability to do cool things in the future, limiting his ability to shine in future adventures, increasing that some other group member may actually surpass his abilities in an area.  Now Z feels slighted as he too participated in the game, and role played to the best of his ability, but only Y is getting rewarded for it.  Z didn't have any chance to really shine like X, so no chance to get that bonus.  Z could complain, but that makes him look like a tool, so instead Z just takes it on the chin and moves on.

I wonder which environment is more rewarding for Z?  Which group provides more fun for Z?

You can reward good behavior without leaving people out.  You can encourage good behavior without concrete rewards.  

As for absences, if FOMO alone isn't punishment enough for the players, then I don't know what to tell you.  Being involved is what is fun about RPGs.  If someone has to miss sessions due to real issues, assuming they actually want to come and play, there is no reason to kick them while they are down.  They already missed out on the adventure, which they regret, no need to rub it in their faces.  Have some compassion and let them continue to develop their character at the same rate.

Again, if you have someone phoning it in during sessions, or someone that skips sessions because they are too **** lazy, then this is a problem that needs to be addressed. 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, kmanweiss said:

The GM sees it as a reward for doing something (Role playing well, using skills, participation beyond just shooting things, showing up).

The players have a different perspective.  I made a combat focused character that has no people or non-combat skills.  I'm good at what I do, but player X gets bonus xp for this, player Y gets bonus xp for that, and I get nothing.  I'm being punished for being good at my thing which the GM doesn't see as role playing, or skill usage.

The issue at hand is that the GMs perception is not shared by the players.  Unless the GM is infallible and the players don't have their own opinions, xp differentials will be seen as punishments.

I'm not saying that you can't reward for things like RPing, or accomplishing goals, but reward the group as a whole.  Ok, sessions over, everyone gets 10 xp, and do to X's quick thinking and talking your party's way out of that dire situation along with Y's very in-game behavior at the event, I'm throwing you all an extra 5xp, so 15 total xp this session.  Now Z sees there are rewards for RP and creative solutions and is encouraged to try to add to the groups total next time.

Ok, sessions over, everyone gets 10xp.  X gets 5 bonus though due to his quick thinking, and Y gets 5 extra for some stellar RP.  Sorry Z, no bonus for you again.  Now Z falls further behind, lowering his ability to do cool things in the future, limiting his ability to shine in future adventures, increasing that some other group member may actually surpass his abilities in an area.  Now Z feels slighted as he too participated in the game, and role played to the best of his ability, but only Y is getting rewarded for it.  Z didn't have any chance to really shine like X, so no chance to get that bonus.  Z could complain, but that makes him look like a tool, so instead Z just takes it on the chin and moves on.

I wonder which environment is more rewarding for Z?  Which group provides more fun for Z?

You can reward good behavior without leaving people out.  You can encourage good behavior without concrete rewards.  

As for absences, if FOMO alone isn't punishment enough for the players, then I don't know what to tell you.  Being involved is what is fun about RPGs.  If someone has to miss sessions due to real issues, assuming they actually want to come and play, there is no reason to kick them while they are down.  They already missed out on the adventure, which they regret, no need to rub it in their faces.  Have some compassion and let them continue to develop their character at the same rate.

Again, if you have someone phoning it in during sessions, or someone that skips sessions because they are too **** lazy, then this is a problem that needs to be addressed. 

I think you are right about the perspective thing. My personal response to this is to get people on the same page. For me it's about building a culture in the group that devalues XP gain and progression so that this is not such an issue. 

As for the whole limiting the ability to shine thing I just think that isn't as much of an issue in this game as it is in say D&D where if a player is levels ahead of his compatriots you have an issue, as the whole system is built on the zero-sum game of progression for PCs met with progressively more mechanically advanced foes. I have had players be more than a hundred XP behind other PCs in the group in EotE and it was only even apparent in like two situations over a number of sessions. 

Also the ego monster is a bit to blame as well because in reality if you have a tough teammate you should be happy about that rather than bitter. A good GM is going to give everyone their chance to shine regardless of whether or not the character has YYYYG in a skill or has the Succeed Like a Boss talent. The story should not be built around successful checks alone.

I think a good idea or well executed action as described by the player should get them boosts to help reflect that the proposed action is heroic. A check made every time and without any chance of failure is not heroic, it's just easy.

 

Also in this thread the missing player seems to be always depicted as the hapless misfortunate player who wants to play more than anything but cannot make it to this seminal event in his/her life. Sometimes players just blow off the game or choose to do something else. Let's face it, TTRPGs have a lot to compete with in today's world of short attention spans and high value of time.

 

No/Low XP is only a punishment if the player characterizes it that way. Players should be dissuaded from seeing it as the point of the exercise in my opinion. 

 

Edited by Archlyte

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2 hours ago, Archlyte said:

No/Low XP is only a punishment if the player characterizes it that way. Players should be dissuaded from seeing it as the point of the exercise in my opinion.  

A GM using it as a punishment contributes to that perception.

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Stan Fresh said:

A GM using it as a punishment contributes to that perception.

 

It's only a punishment if they see it that way. When I lift weights my muscles hurt but I don't consider that a punishment. When my neighbor gets a raise at work I don't see that as a punishment for me. 

If XP isn't considered a mandatory magic cookie for showing up, or if progression isn't worshiped as the only reason to play it's not an issue. 

Edited by Archlyte

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35 minutes ago, Vorzakk said:

I wonder... if a player didn't know that they were behind in XP (and assuming that they weren't sticking their noses in other people's character sheets), how much of a disparity would there need to be before they actually felt it?  

This is interesting. So would it be like a player asking the GM if they have enough to get X skill increase or Talent? I think it would be like when you aren't supposed to discuss wages at work and players would do their damnedest to figure it out and tell the others.  Still it's an interesting idea and would help take the emphasis off of the low-level dealers and the product being moved at the end of each session. 

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2 hours ago, Archlyte said:

This is interesting. So would it be like a player asking the GM if they have enough to get X skill increase or Talent? I think it would be like when you aren't supposed to discuss wages at work and players would do their damnedest to figure it out and tell the others.  Still it's an interesting idea and would help take the emphasis off of the low-level dealers and the product being moved at the end of each session. 

My point was that, unless the XP divide was very large, I don't think most people would even notice unless they were really being busybodies with other people's stats.  But if they know that there's a divide, even if it's small, a defeatist "my character is totally useless" mentality might set in for some players.  I could be completely off; it's just a speculation.  

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7 minutes ago, Vorzakk said:

My point was that, unless the XP divide was very large, I don't think most people would even notice unless they were really being busybodies with other people's stats.  But if they know that there's a divide, even if it's small, a defeatist "my character is totally useless" mentality might set in for some players.  I could be completely off; it's just a speculation.  

Ah I see and that is a good point and I agree. It's essentially the comparison to either other PCs or the player's feeling that they know how the XP should be given and whether or not the GM is living up to that. 

The defeatist attitude is something that sounds like a distortion in thinking by said players to me. Can't play unless I am leading the game in stats. 

Still the idea of allocating upgrades instead of XP is something I used in one of my alternate progression rules experiments for this system. It got rid of the whole XP-hungry baby bird thing. 

 

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5 hours ago, Archlyte said:

It's only a punishment if they see it that way. When I lift weights my muscles hurt but I don't consider that a punishment. When my neighbor gets a raise at work I don't see that as a punishment for me. 

If XP isn't considered a mandatory magic cookie for showing up, or if progression isn't worshiped as the only reason to play it's not an issue. 

In the space of a few hours, Sheldon Cooper demonstrated awareness of others, empathy, personal growth, and genuine appreciation of others...and I find myself agreeing with Archlyte.

Truly these are the End Times.

I've said it before in this thread, but XP is generally given out at the end of a session, so that it might be spent by the next session. If Bob isn't there, he's not part of the group that hears, "Great game everyone. You all get 20XP." That's not a punishment.

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12 hours ago, kmanweiss said:

The GM sees it as a reward for doing something (Role playing well, using skills, participation beyond just shooting things, showing up).

The players have a different perspective.  I made a combat focused character that has no people or non-combat skills.  I'm good at what I do, but player X gets bonus xp for this, player Y gets bonus xp for that, and I get nothing.  I'm being punished for being good at my thing which the GM doesn't see as role playing, or skill usage.

The issue at hand is that the GMs perception is not shared by the players.  Unless the GM is infallible and the players don't have their own opinions, xp differentials will be seen as punishments.

I'm not saying that you can't reward for things like RPing, or accomplishing goals, but reward the group as a whole.  Ok, sessions over, everyone gets 10 xp, and do to X's quick thinking and talking your party's way out of that dire situation along with Y's very in-game behavior at the event, I'm throwing you all an extra 5xp, so 15 total xp this session.  Now Z sees there are rewards for RP and creative solutions and is encouraged to try to add to the groups total next time.

Ok, sessions over, everyone gets 10xp.  X gets 5 bonus though due to his quick thinking, and Y gets 5 extra for some stellar RP.  Sorry Z, no bonus for you again.  Now Z falls further behind, lowering his ability to do cool things in the future, limiting his ability to shine in future adventures, increasing that some other group member may actually surpass his abilities in an area.  Now Z feels slighted as he too participated in the game, and role played to the best of his ability, but only Y is getting rewarded for it.  Z didn't have any chance to really shine like X, so no chance to get that bonus.  Z could complain, but that makes him look like a tool, so instead Z just takes it on the chin and moves on.

I wonder which environment is more rewarding for Z?  Which group provides more fun for Z?

You can reward good behavior without leaving people out.  You can encourage good behavior without concrete rewards.  

As for absences, if FOMO alone isn't punishment enough for the players, then I don't know what to tell you.  Being involved is what is fun about RPGs.  If someone has to miss sessions due to real issues, assuming they actually want to come and play, there is no reason to kick them while they are down.  They already missed out on the adventure, which they regret, no need to rub it in their faces.  Have some compassion and let them continue to develop their character at the same rate.

Again, if you have someone phoning it in during sessions, or someone that skips sessions because they are too **** lazy, then this is a problem that needs to be addressed. 

And what about X, who thinks ahead of the game, making creative one linera, trying to narrate. Shouldn't he feel bad, because Z sat there like a potato,  throwing dice and taking reward for his preparation?

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7 hours ago, Vorzakk said:

I wonder... if a player didn't know that they were behind in XP (and assuming that they weren't sticking their noses in other people's character sheets), how much of a disparity would there need to be before they actually felt it?  

You are absolutely right. They don't. My group has a wide range of XP from 130 - 350 (a newcomer) also I hand out 5 XP for out of session work (Session write ups, NPC designs, etc). They don't bother with each others XP and noone seems to feel it is a problem. I was clear with the group, I reward taking effort from your free time, and noone has problem that X got XP for spending 2 hour writing a story about an upcoming ally NPC. 

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21 hours ago, Vorzakk said:

I wonder... if a player didn't know that they were behind in XP (and assuming that they weren't sticking their noses in other people's character sheets), how much of a disparity would there need to be before they actually felt it?  

Could a farm boy, a seasoned smuggler, a princess, and a jedi knight still have a fun adventure?

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