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XP for Missing Players?

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22 hours ago, Archlyte said:

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. 

 

Beautiful response all around.

As for the missing players, my take is that if a player is missing just because they are a jerk that blows things off...I would talk to them about it and/or just remove them from the group.  I'm not saying the game group is top priority, but if we have a set plan, a set schedule, and you don't show because you took a nap and overslept, or you didn't feel like it, or you forgot...then you don't care about the GM, the other players, or the activity, and we're better off without you. 

I think ultimately you have a GM perspective issue here also.

I don't let people that flake out for no reason continue to participate.  It drags down the enjoyment of all.  I'm more than willing to accommodate real life issues though.  I see no reason to make that person fall behind because they have a realistic grasp on life priorities.  Had they been able to make it, they would have, and they would have contributed, so they get the XP.

The other side continues to let people be in the group even when they flake out all the time (after all, if they don't allow this, then they don't have an argument to make).  So they 'punish' that person by not letting them have that xp.  They didn't put in the work, they don't deserve it.  I see and understand that, I just don't let it fly in my groups.

I don't allow players to sit like a lump and do nothing in the adventure.  Those people don't get invited back for future adventures.  Everyone that shows up, shows up to play and participate.  That being said, I have people that have been playing RPGs for 30 years and have experience with dozens of systems both as a player and a GM, and I also have people that have only played 1 or 2 systems, as a player only, and only for a year or two.  The difference in player capability here is HUGE.  The more experienced player is going to outshine the rookie 9 times out of 10.  But the rookie isn't phoning it in, he just doesn't have the wellspring of experience to draw upon.  I see no reason to 'punish' that rookie player by giving the experienced players even more advantages over them.  The rookie and the veteran are both playing to their best ability.  They are both making the experience a positive one.  No reason for individual rewards that could be seen as a slight against anyone.

If you allow players to sit like a lump and do nothing, then I guess I see the reasoning behind rewards for the participating players.  They carried the group and the adventure, they should be rewarded.

The thing that gets me though is that if you reward the group, the reward may or may not encourage participation, but there isn't a downside.  If you give XP to people that miss a session, there is no downside.

However, if you give bonus xp, or withhold xp for missing a session, you risk negative reactions.  On top of that, have you ever had a success story from this?  Has any lump that failed to participate just up and said "Oh ****, I get it, if I actually participate I can get a bonus too!" and then start doing stuff?  Has the slob that can't be bothered to show up for sessions finally changed their ways?  These people don't care about the game by default.  The lack of rewards (which they will perceive as a punishment or personal slight) will only encourage their negative behavior.  "I'm so far behind in XP, it won't matter if I show up this week or not, so F'it."  The people lacking enough interest to become involved one way or the other won't be persuaded by xp rewards, however they may be even further dissuaded by lack of xp rewards.

It almost seems like the people giving bonus xp, or not giving xp to people aren't actually trying to improve their behavior.  It's the excuse behind the behavior, but in reality they are trying to dissuade that person from playing at all.  It's a somewhat cowardly way to deal with a problematic person.  Instead of confronting them "Dude, you need to start showing up, or we're just gonna cut you out of the group because it's disruptive."  It's more of a passive aggressive thing that they can pitch to themselves as positive reinforcement.  "Why does everyone have 2 full spec trees and I don't even have 1 yet"  Because you never show up to adventures you tool (although they don't say that last part to maintain the positive reinforcement angle).

Bad players are bad players.  They aren't looking to improve.  Inexperienced players however aren't encouraged by other people getting rewards.

Flaky players are flaky players.  They aren't looking to show up more often.  A player that had an emergency however isn't going to be encouraged to skip the birth of their child in order to keep up with other players.

The good players play well because of their attitude towards the game, not for the bonus XP.  The players that show up, show up to play the game, not to get ahead of other people in xp.  

The rewards don't actually encourage the behavior you want.  While they do punish the behaviors you don't want, they don't actually encourage them to change the behavior.  They are in effect, pointless.

19 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?  

This seems even more dangerous.  And it defeats the encouragement aspect that people are defending.  If you don't show the bad players that the good players are getting rewards, whats to encourage the bad players?  But, what happens when Player Z finds out that Player X and Y both have 200 xp more?  Why the **** is the GM giving you guys all this bonus stuff?  Do they hate me?  Screw this, I'm not playing anymore. 

20 hours ago, Stan Fresh said:

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

That's not even a necessity.  If player Z is not just sitting on their hands and rolling the dice when told to, it's a punishment.  If Player Z is trying as hard as they can to participate, but gets outshined, then he will punished as the GM recognizes the activities of the other players but ignores his contributions.  The GM sees it at rewarding activity.  Here's some actual scenarios I've seen.

Player Z is a quiet person, but smart.  He comes up with the plan almost every time, but player X who is loud and boisterous listens just long enough to understand the plan then talks over Z and takes over command of the operation using Z's plan.  X gets bonus xp every time.  Z feels slighted and grows upset at X and the GM, but bottles it up.  Eventually they quit showing up because they don't enjoy it anymore.

Player Z is a thinker.  They tend to plan out things and consider consequences before acting.  I'm not talking AP level game slowing stuff, just that they take 5-10 seconds to consider major actions (should we try stealth, or go in shooting).  Player Y just fires from the hip and does things based on instinct and split second decision making.  Player Z is left to just follow along with everything happening even if they would do things differently.  Y gets rewarded for his actions and role playing while Z never even gets a chance to do anything.

Player Z attempts to role play constantly, but the GM never really runs with it as it's not the RP that the GM favors.  Z likes background RP that establishes characters while the GM really only likes RP with major story characters.  How you interact with the bartender doesn't matter to him.  Z never gets rewarded for his behavior, but the guy that acts as the 'face' for the party with major story characters is constantly rewarded.

In each of these cases I was neither Z nor the GM, but I got to casually observe the situation.  Each time Z shrugs it off after a couple times.  Then it starts to bug Z.  In the cases where Z raises a complaint about it, the GM or other players fail to understand the issue.  Z eventually comes up with some reason to leave the group.

No mater how it shakes out, GM rewards are subjective, not arbitrary.  Depending on the day of the week, how much sleep they got, the last time they ate, how work was that day, what their parents/significant other said to them before leaving the house, the weather, the time of year, etc...the players may agree or disagree with that subjective rewarding of points.  One disagreement can sour a game.  I've never seen or experienced anyone getting miffed because everyone got the same experience, even if someone was phoning it in.

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XP isn't a real life commodity.  It's a subjective reward handed out by the GM.  Interestingly enough, this means it DOESN'T work like currency in exchange for work.

If 2 people work at the same place of employment and one watches youtube all day and the other actually works.  The one that works will get bitter when the lazy slob gets paid the same.  This is because the industrial person feels cheated, they put in effort and should reap more of the reward, while the other person shouldn't receive any reward.  When it comes to XP though, if everyone gets the same amount regardless of effort, no one feels cheated because there is no actual value in the reward.  The industrial player doesn't hold a grudge about getting the same XP, they are simply happy and are thinking about how they can apply the XP to their character.  However an interesting thing happens when you shortchange someone.  In real life, the slob recognizes why he's getting paid less and honestly doesn't care (he may want more, but he's not going to work any harder to get it).  He realizes he doesn't put in any effort, so he gets paid less.  When it comes to XP though, since it has no value, and you can give it out freely, the shortchanged person (even if they don't 'deserve' it) can feel like it's a personal slight against them.  It has no value, so why give more to someone else just to spite me.

This isn't an opinion, it's an observable, testable, fact of human psychology and sociology.

Interestingly enough, another issue can come into play even if everything is even, but rewards are handed out subjectively.  Confirmation bias.  What happens is even if the rewards and the difference between two players is minimal or even non-existent, confirmation bias can rear it's ugly head.  People, when rewarded, seldom remember the event, as it's to be expected.  But when people are shortchanged, punished, etc, this event will stick out.  When it happens again, it creates an idea in their head that they never get rewarded.  When it happens yet again, it confirms their believed bias of the situation.  So you can have situations where the player that is rewarded the most is under the misconception that they are rewarded the least simply due to confirmation bias.

Player Z gets 5 bonus xp.  This is to be expected as Z did something interesting.  Next session X and Y get 5 xp.  Z wonders why he didn't, but lets it slide.  Next session X and Z get 5 XP.  Next session Y gets 5xp.  Z again notices this and thinks it's odd.  Next session Y and Z get 5 xp.  Next session X and Y get 5xp.  Z thinks to himself 'Of course not, I never get bonus xp'.  Next session, Z predicts that he won't get XP as he never gets bonus xp, and no one gets bonus XP.  Z has now confirmed that he never gets bonus XP.  In reality, X and Z have the same amount and Y only has 5 more xp.  But in Z's mind, the difference is much greater and he has convinced himself that he doesn't get rewarded as much as the other players.

Confirmation bias can carry over into gameplay also and then have a bounce back effect.  I'm not going to be successful on this attack because I've missed out on so much experience.  Rolls and fails, this confirms that the reason they failed is the missed experience which would have been directed at that skill.  This becomes yet another point of confirmation bias confirming that they don't receive any bonus xp.

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I'm not going to change anyone's mind.  This is simply my take on the issue.  If you want to reward or withhold experience for various reasons, have at it.  It's your game after all.  Your experience handling has no effect on me whatsoever.  You're also not going to change my mind.  So game on and have fun!

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@kmanweiss Thank you, and I have to agree and say well done on the longest post I have ever seen lol. I think that two things stand out as your best points:

  • Talk to your players
  • Using individual experience is not a good way to incentivise improved performance. 

On the second one I have had success stories with that, but in one case the person was just worried about losing the rate of advancement they wanted and therefore it was not a heartfelt response. In the other cases as I recall it worked but I think I could have just said Do it this way and I would have had the same result because the players wanted to make an effort to have a game that was not just the same old. I'm just going to say that on the whole you are right about this one though, and it's not an effective tool on its own. 

One thing that I do with my games is insist that we try to be better as the game proceeds. Mistakes and screw ups will happen, and we will evaluate it and strategize as a team as to how to do it better next time. If I address a deficiency (mine or someone else's) in my game then it almost always something that goes away. This is the power of Talk to Your Players. Sometimes it's tempting to just try and indirect method but you are right that this is generally not that effective.  

If you have something like confirmation bias or a distortion you can confront that distortion in a tactful and friendly manner. New information is useless unless it's palatable to the individual who is intended to consume it, so there is an art to that that requires having that positive relationship with your players. In the situation where you have someone who simply refuses then it may come to ultimatums and parting ways, but in my experience there is usually a lot of room to work with the situation. 

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@kmanweiss

I rather not quote everything from you, because you make valid point, but mainly I see 1 big theme of your post which I don't agree.

You seem to assume, that GMs, who doesn't hand out equal XP are trying to punish the missing player, trying to change them.

But you misunderstood us.

We are all about the good players, and rewarding effort. It's not about punishing someone who doesn't show up, or trying to passive agressivly chase away a lump, but acknowledging effort to contribute to the game. I don't want to change bad behaviour*, I just think that good behaivour* is more important to reward then consoling those who missed opportunities.

(*Definition of this definitely varies from table to table)

I also don't agree you with assuming participation rewards has no downside. Equal rewards can always make those who contributed more, feel put aside, and vice versa, performance based rewards (not the best choice of words, but you get it) can discourage people, who doesn't agree with the assesment, or just feel it unfair. 

Neither way is infallible, but I think if these things are clear when you sit down to the table, both can work, regardless of the playerbase. 

 

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On 5/17/2019 at 4:04 PM, kmanweiss said:

XP isn't a real life commodity.  It's a subjective reward handed out by the GM.  Interestingly enough, this means it DOESN'T work like currency in exchange for work.

If 2 people work at the same place of employment and one watches youtube all day and the other actually works.  The one that works will get bitter when the lazy slob gets paid the same.  This is because the industrial person feels cheated, they put in effort and should reap more of the reward, while the other person shouldn't receive any reward.  When it comes to XP though, if everyone gets the same amount regardless of effort, no one feels cheated because there is no actual value in the reward.  The industrial player doesn't hold a grudge about getting the same XP, they are simply happy and are thinking about how they can apply the XP to their character.  However an interesting thing happens when you shortchange someone.  In real life, the slob recognizes why he's getting paid less and honestly doesn't care (he may want more, but he's not going to work any harder to get it).  He realizes he doesn't put in any effort, so he gets paid less.  When it comes to XP though, since it has no value, and you can give it out freely, the shortchanged person (even if they don't 'deserve' it) can feel like it's a personal slight against them.  It has no value, so why give more to someone else just to spite me.

This isn't an opinion, it's an observable, testable, fact of human psychology and sociology.

Bolded for emphasis.  Your argument only works if people truly feel that XP holds absolutely no value to a player.  However it's an observable, testable fact of human psychology and sociology that it is quite valuable to a player.  In fact, many players covet XP dearly.  It's how their characters advance, how they get better, how they grow to overcome challenges that were once beyond them.  If Luke never learned to be a Jedi, Ep 6 would have ended very differently.  The industrial player is going to hold a grudge or at least they're going to realize that they don't have to put in near as much effort to get the exact same in game reward.  There are intrinsic rewards of having fun with your friends but when the beer and pretzels guy who's on his phone most of the night gets just as much XP as the industrial player they stop being as industrious.

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14 minutes ago, Ahrimon said:

However it's an observable, testable fact of human psychology and sociology that it is quite valuable to a player

I'm pretty sure the other poster is talking about the difference between the various kinds of value. Sure, you can buy up your character's skills and talents with it, but you can't use it to pay for pizza, and it doesn't cost the GM anything to hand it out.

XP has absolutely no real-world value, but it has value to the participants of of a game. It doesn't have value like money, or even like points scored in sports.

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8 hours ago, Ahrimon said:

Bolded for emphasis.  Your argument only works if people truly feel that XP holds absolutely no value to a player.  However it's an observable, testable fact of human psychology and sociology that it is quite valuable to a player.  In fact, many players covet XP dearly.  It's how their characters advance, how they get better, how they grow to overcome challenges that were once beyond them.  If Luke never learned to be a Jedi, Ep 6 would have ended very differently.  The industrial player is going to hold a grudge or at least they're going to realize that they don't have to put in near as much effort to get the exact same in game reward.  There are intrinsic rewards of having fun with your friends but when the beer and pretzels guy who's on his phone most of the night gets just as much XP as the industrial player they stop being as industrious.

Good stuff this. I agree that it is functionally valuable to the player, and as you said is a reinforcer. The reinforcer need not be paired with a certain type of behavior it can simply have an antecedent in the form of the end of the session. GM ends the session, the bell rings, the subject experiences anticipation. 

This is the functional heart of hobby's dark underbelly, the industrial experience point complex. 

See my thing is that I feel like the mechanical aspects of play are just one part of playing these games, and if behavior toward XP gain and progression becomes maladaptive and/or disproportionately the focus of the whole activity, it needs to be addressed. Failure to do so out of a sense of keeping it casual and letting the beer & pretzels flow or seeing it as a constitutional right seems to lead to things like people going into sulk spirals because XP was not awarded exactly the same. 

The driving force behind this is Progression. How did Luke learn to be a Jedi? Well at some point his abilities did indeed progress. We are given a glimpse at some of this in training sessions with Yoda, also he does a few things that would have been learning experiences. Progression of a character's abilities is something that can make a character more interesting or less interesting. When a character walks through every challenge and is not threatened by anything the character has been rendered narratively inert. Any character can reach this state if progression is not tethered to the story and circumstances of the character. If Luke would have shown up in RotJ and was pulling Star Destroyers out of the sky while blaster cannon rounds bounced off of him the movie and franchise would have been ruined. Might have been cool for superman fans and cartoon lovers, but it would not be Star Wars. It's not just Star Wars that functions this way either, if you give John Wick laser eyes and flight powers you do the same thing. 

These are exaggerated examples, but there are grades of overdoing it even within the range of the what is close to the normal range of power for the character in the context of the setting and story. 

Do people actually think about progression in this way? I would say no. 

Progression is always seen as only a positive thing; to some people it is **** near the only reason they play. XP is the fuel that feeds it, so getting your XP is absolutely essential if you are gonna get your progression. To be denied it is to deny the fun. 

Only what if XP and Progression are actually not necessary for every session of the game? What if you could advance as it makes sense for the character's story and context in the setting? What if that progression seemed largely unseen and seamless instead of being the build-a-bear minigame used to close each session? Probably then players would have other priorities and not get petulant over XP. Maybe feel like other things were more important on the whole. 

 

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