A to Z: E is for Experience Points

Perhaps this should be under ‘X’ for ‘XP.’ Too late. When playing a game like D&D, the ‘transactional’ nature of some of the actions within the game soon become obvious. Your character performs an action (like killing a hobgoblin). You are awarded with some experience points. Once your XP reach a certain point, you “level up” and suddenly get better at doing the things your character does. I used to be really ‘down’ on the D&D XP system (even before I played video games, like Baldur’s Gate, where XP is awarded every time you do something rather than at the end of a session like we usually do it in ‘pencil and paper’ games… or when you get back to town (the really old school system)). XP obtained for treasure used to really stick in my craw. These days it really doesn’t bother me; in fact I kind of like it. I think part of me has come to peace with the idea that D&D is, at it’s core, a video game from before video games existed and XP is just a part of that. So XP is part of your reward for playing (since it is one of the indicators of progress). Some of the games I have been involved in include XP simply being awarded periodically, or at the DM’s fiat… or players all level up every X number of sessions. I’m surprised to admit to myself that I don’t find that as much fun as ‘the pinball game’ method where you can see the numbers building up and when you reach X, suddenly you get a little reward. Admittedly, default XP rules in D&D are a pretty bald mechanic, but they have become so ingrained in the game system that I miss the XP rules when they are gone. In my mind, one of the advantages of the XP rules as written is that players have a certain amount of control over their own character’s advancement. “A goblin is worth X number of points. You need Y number of points to get to level 2. Defeat Z number of goblins and when X*Z is equal to or greater than Y, you level up.

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