Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What Actions Are You Encouraging?

This is just going to be a quick post for today, but it was inspired by one of my classes. Often, when making our games, or running them, we try to reward people for the things they are doing. We want to give as big a reward as possible too in a lot of cases, something to make the person receiving it feel good, and want to continue down that vein. However, when setting up your reward structure it is important to look at what you are actually rewarding.

So, in one of my classes yesterday, the teacher went over how he grades our Reading Responses. Now, these aren't anything huge, just a two paragraph response to what we read for class to keep us honest. However, when he put up the grade scale I couldn't help but notice something about it. Here, I'll put it up for you to see as well.

Grades are out of 3 points.
3 points - Outstanding Work
2.75 points - Good work, but could be better
2.5 points - Satisfactory
2.25 points - some grasp of reading (see me)
2 points - very limited grasp of reading (see me)
1.5 points - passed it in late, but good work
1.0 points - Passed something in late but unsatisfactory

Do you see it? Because it jumped off the page at me. You get 2 points for passing the reading response in on time, but only 1.5 for being late with a good grasp of the material. Further more, as long as I pass in something about the reading on time, I get 2/3 credit for a perfect assignment. Meaning that my mastery of the reading is only 1 point, while being on time is 2 points. The greater reward here isn't for doing the reading, and thinking about it, like the teacher wants. It is on passing in 2 paragraphs of writing on time. Meaning that if I am ever overwhelmed with work, I am actually better off not doing the reading and banging out something stupid and passing it in, then I am taking an extra day to do the work right.

This applies to games as well. How many times have you been in a game where the GM said he wanted more role play, and to really play up the story aspect of things, but then gave no rewards for doing so? Or if there were any, they were paltry. 3000XP for the casual monster fight, 50 bonus XP for RPing. Not much incentive is it to RP now is it?

This is one of the reasons that I like how my group does its XP rewards at the end of a session, something that I have put into M.A|C.C as the suggested way of doing things.  How that works is as follows (though, has been posted before here)

You get XP for something you learned in the session, either IC or OOC, if you didn't learn something big you can give off a bunch of little things, or even just revelations about your or other characters. You have been encouraged now to explore your character and let it grow.

You get XP for objectives. Either ones you accomplished in the session, or ones you are setting for yourself to go after down the line. A lot of little ones, a few big ones, it doesn't matter as long as you have them. You've now been encouraged to go after things, have goals, and try to achieve them.

Finally, you get XP for RP discussion. Going around the table, and talking about what you saw and liked, or disliked, about the other characters around the table. How your character views them, how your character views themselves. Things that you are looking to see how they happen. It's also a great time to point out things your character does that othersmay not see in game. Either way, you've now been encouraged to actually RP, and to pay attention to how the characters of the game interact.

Each of these gets the same reward, and aside from attendance (encouraged to show up) there are no other rewards for XP unless it was a particularly big or dangerous session. In which case you may get more XP, but at an equal amount to everything else. For that matter, that extra XP you earn for surviving the big and scary fight, can also be matched by extra XP for truly profound revelations on learning curves, or big to nigh impossible objectives being accomplished. The reward isn't on the combat, but on the game, something I agree with.

How about you? How do you hand out rewards? Do you use them to encourage certain behaviors? Or has this pointed out to you a way you can do that? Let me know.

Oh, and Atraties is the guy who came up with that XP system I believe, he posts here on occasion. (credit where it is due and all that)


  1. I should pass credit for further parts of the system on to someone else by the name of Cooper who doesn't game in our area anymore. I took some of his ideas and modified them.

    Cooper was frustrated with both slow progression in games every other week, feeling restrained by the lack of points, and people not putting points towards what they were using all the time, and instead putting it where ever they wanted. To combat this he did something very interesting that I initially kept whole cloth, and then as I trusted my group more moved away from to the system you outlined. Cooper's system was that for learning curve and objectives he would give an earmarked point that went so something specific to the skills you were using in that session related to the learning and the objective.

    I actually think the initial iteration of it was very elegant for a new group especially, or one that tends to "twink". In working with a regular group that I trust and that understands to ask before buying things, I don't have to earmark anymore and just give back the freedom. The role play discussion point is for exactly what you said it is for, and I'm very glad it works!

  2. One of the reasons I was (and am) really down on the way that D&D did experience was the fact that it did NOT take into account many of things I like the most about roleplay. In the original iteration of the rules (and in most that followed), you got experience for A) Killing stuff and B) Looting stuff. So...yeah. That's what players concentrate on (though a lot of 'old school' gamers say this is the only 'true measure' of the game, and that roleplay is attitude I just don't get).

    Since my 'go to' system is D6 (specifically Star Wars), I use a model that gives out points for how well the group accomplished the mission as well as rewards for particularly clever ideas, good roleplay, etc. The total you can get for a session is usually between 6 and 12 for a 'standard' session, less for shorter. I am also known to give out extra points 'on the spot' for particularly clever or downright funny things (occasionally, I have been known to give out an extra point for a great OOC joke- so.. yes, I guess I'm encouraging my players to be funny).

    I've played systems where experience was based upon what skills you used, and you could only go 'raise' those skills you used (either automatically, or by spending points). But with the wrong kind of attitude, this can just be abused. I recall some players just going down the list, attempting to do EVERY skill on their list just to they'd have a chance at raising it. In general, I play with a very well known and trusted group. I trust them enough to spend the points on 'logical' skills, either ones they've been using a lot or ones that they are spending off-camera in-character time trying to develop.