The group of gamers that I play with regularly are a mixed bunch as far as their styles and tastes go in their rpgs. In my recent Dungeons & Dragons game this has really become apparent. Some of my players are more combat and adventure oriented, while others enjoy character interaction with other character, NPCs, and the environment.
5th Edition should take a different approach. Mike Mearls stated the goal of the new edition as this:
"We want a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions, one that takes the fundamental essence of D&D and brings it to the forefront of the game. In short, we want a game that is as simple or complex as you please, its action focused on combat, intrigue, and exploration as you desire."
With the current system of gathering experience in 4th Edition D&D this is almost impossible to achieve in my opinion. The reason is that those who enjoy gaining in numerical power (hit points, feats, powers, etc) will want to fight things because even with a few meager quest rewards the bulk of all the experience gathering is done during combat. I would like to propose a different way for a DM to deliver XP to the characters that allows everyone to play the game with a relaxed feeling that doesn't favor one type of player versus another. Give massive quest rewards for completing the story. Give far less XP for completing individual elements of the story. This allows the adventure to unfold at any pace and rushing off to combat something doesn't necessarily gain you a level. Lots of other systems use reward systems like this.
Now I will explain what I mean and how I propose it to work. Let's say that you are designing an adventure about a kidnapping of a princess that will take characters from 1st to 2nd level and that takes 1,750 XP to achieve. What if the successful return of the princess was worth 1,350 XP for successfully completing. Then the other 400 XP were made up of combat, information gathering, trap finding, or whatever else you as the DM think is worth some experience points. This could be smaller quest rewards if you choose like befriending the local druid or return the signet ring found to the rightful owner. I believe much more than combat should gain experience. In life I have learned many things and my ability to drive a car is in no way because I was streetfighting earlier in the week.
This system might not make combat the focus of some of your players as there is less to gain. Some players will still want to get in fights, that is just the nature of some gamers and the game. There is no right way to role-play as long as your style doesn't interfere with the other players ability to enjoy themselves. That is also true of the actor style gamer who enjoys long interactions with other PCs and NPCs. Your style is fine as long as you bear in mind that other players may enjoy a different style. The system for XP I have described above awards all the players when there characters interact with the environment that pushes the story forward as finishing the adventure is where the bulk of the XP are to be gained.
This would change the way parties operated when it came to encounters. I rarely find myself in 4E taking the time to prepare a battle field, have the rogue sneak up and lure the fire giants back into a well designed trap. I am tough enough and am aware that the rules are designed that whatever is challenging me should be defeated assuming I began the encounter with a reasonable amount of resources still available. If your bow ranger lures the fire giants out of their lair while the rest of the party infiltrates and steals all of their loot and rescues the princess the adventure is successfully completed. If the party goes in with swords and spells blazing and defeats the fire giants the the adventure is successfully completed. The experience point reward would be the same because the mission was completed. If you choose to give out XP for the encounter with the fire giants does it matter what tactic was used to defeat them? Should the manner that the party used to defeat the fire giants and rescue the princess adjust the XP reward? I don't think it should.
The current XP award system discourages creative thinking. Since 4E isn't as deadly as previous editions and other systems this is magnified even more. If we only learn by engaging in combat then why do school systems have zero tolerance policies in our public schools? If we want to produce children who are capable then by the current system schools would be gladiator camps. In my life I have learned many things from talking to other people. I have learned much from researching. A good role-playing game will include the opportunity for many elements for the players. That is the duty of the Dungeon Master. We could all learn to share the game better by experiencing the same goal regardless of how we get there. Until next time Roll Hard!
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