Talking about XP in yesterday's post got me thinking about, well, experience points. It has always - at least since I got into design - interested me how different games handle it, and one of those key ways of handling things is by choosing how much XP is needed for anything. So, today lets continue to look at XP and see just what it has to do with pinball and scoring.
A Bit Of History
What is the Pinball Effect? Well, for the purposes of this discussion it is this. Years ago, like decades, pinball machines gave scores in the hundreds and thousands. Then, when releasing some new machines, the designers upped the scores into the tens of thousands and higher. This trend continued, until the scores got to the point where we think of them today. The games weren't really that different, it was just as hard to get a high score, and the high scores were even proportional to what they were on other machines - once you accounted for the inflation in points. However, it just seemed cooler to a lot of people to say they got "thirty million" points, rather than a measly "three thousand". Now, you don't see many pinball machines that don't casually break a million points, do you?
So, why am I talking about point inflation? Well, because you can see it in some games. Now, players can be rationally aware that 100 XP is the same as 1 XP if the costs to buy things is on a proportionally equal scale, but it still sounds cooler to get 100 xp. You can see this fairly clearly in Dark Heresy. If you remove the Contact system in Dark Heresy (which wasn't added until the Inquisitor Handbook), you can divide all XP costs by 50 and get a proportionally equal cost in XP, but on a smaller scale. A skill that costs 100 XP, suddenly costs 2 XP. Instead of having 5000 XP in your character, you have 100.
Which I haven't checked it thoroughly up through Deathwatch, I am fairly confident this scaling would work all the way through. Very few aspects of the game take advantage of the 100 point baseline scale, which ultimately makes it fairly superfluous. So why not have it be 2 XP instead of 100? Well, because everything in the 40k universe needs to be bigger. So why not reflect that in XP as well?
Is It Really A Problem?
The question remains on this, is it really a problem? Does it matter if in one game you get 10,000XP for four hours of play, and in another you get 5? I don't think so, not as much as it effects Pinball or other games. The reason for this is while XP is a reward mechanism in RPGs, it is not the ultimate reward mechanism. When telling your friends about the last session, you don't boast about how much XP you earned. Well, maybe you do, but I'd wager that most don't.
The reward for an RPG is the fun you have in playing it, the challenge of the monsters you face, and the story that is told in the process. "We fought four dragons!" is a lot more likely to be the tale you tell, and while that can vary from game to game, it isn't really the system that decides it. If I am running a system, any system at all, then odds are it will be a bit more epic in scale than if one of my housemates runs it. That isn't to say that my house mate is a bad GM, just that I tend to favor running more epic games, and they more gritty games. In his games, going against six dragons as level five characters is a death sentence. In mine...well, ok, maybe it's also a death sentence, but it is a lot more likely to come up as a story element.
So Why Talk About It?
Honestly, I'm not sure. Even if it isn't one of the big things to have, it does still seem to be important. There is a simplicity when dealing with smaller numbers. If I asked a random person what is 7-3, they probably won't hesitate long before telling me 4. If I ask the same person what is 7000 - 3000 there will very likely be a longer hesitation before I get the answer of 4000 from them. Why? Because the numbers are bigger, and that has to be processed at least on some level.
It seems to me that the big difference - if all else is equal - comes down to simplicity versus appearance. Neither is necessarily wrong here either. The appearance of large numbers can give players a better feeling of reward when they do things - it also frees up the GM for giving smaller rewards for various things. Simplicity on the other hand, helps with getting things done, and getting them done quickly. This can be invaluable when running a game.
So, which do you prefer? Do you see any other key differences between a game based around 100 XP and one based around 1 XP? Let me know in the comments below.
I prefer systems based around 1 xp for the simple reason that I am unreasonably uncomfortable around large numbers. I can obviously work with them, but I am always happier dealing with 3 than 3,000 even if I'm always working with multiples of 1,000. It's just another step in my mind. Another thing is that I feel that there is no reason to over complicate by using high point cost systems, just find what the minimum you can spend in the system and define that as 1 and work from there I think works out just fine. I can't think of a system where there's a 637 xp anything outside of CRPGs.ReplyDelete
The major impact that you have not really addressed is the psychological impact on bth players and referees. To some extent this is a function of prior experience and resulting expectation, but the effect would be very real. Giving a player 1000 xp when they are used to getting 100 would seem incredibly generous to the player psychologically even if it doesn't buy anything more, while giving 1000 when he or she is used to giving 100 would seem bloated and excessive to the GM. As a consequence, when xp values inflate, GMs would tend to grow more scroogelike and players more willing to accept this behaviour without realising it. Note that this response would only exist in individuals who were accustomed to the prior xp scale; players coming into the game fresh would be unhappy with the reduced flow of xp that would come from an experienced GM in these circumstances, because they would be judging from a different standard.ReplyDelete
I think that was a point I was trying to get at Mike, but didn't actually make it. Very well said too by the way.ReplyDelete
I also agree with you Atraties. I'd rather have smaller numbers than having to deal with the larger ones. It just feels cleaner. I think Gurps is the only system with weird costs like that, just because certain things give you a "15%" discount or increase in price.
Psychologically when getting players to enjoy your game the evidence falls squarely in favor of handing out 3 mil xp a session. It's interesting that so far everyone likes the low numbers.ReplyDelete
I also like small numbers, just because it takes up less space on a character sheet.
My players speak in awe of a 400 point character. I wonder if that's easier to comprehend? What if I multiplied everything by 2000? An 80,0000 point character sounds more impressive but the pinball effect might make it hard to fully imagine.
Talking about superfluous numbers I had the idea of handing out some kind of points that had nothing to do with game mechanics. It would be on the character sheet for players to track how they did, but would have no other effect than bragging rights. It makes me think of Zaphod's line "Plus 10 for style but minus several million for clear thinking." Sure it's goofy but I think it could have a real impact on the players psychology.
It goes without saying that people - at least some people - really like points, so you probably could do something with that. It would also likely make the game a bit more light hearted and silly, but that isn't a bad thing.ReplyDelete
I agree that it is interesting most people here have expressed liking smaller numbers, but at the same time, most people here are GMs. Our experiences are tempered by the giving out of experience, and thus the view Mike expressed of being a bit stingier. We're used to, and probably like, lower XP systems like White Wolf, L5R, etc, etc and so think that low XP is just fine. It is also easier to calculate when working for a group.
I know one of the reasons I don't mind XP at all in my Deathwatch game is because my rule for it is very simple. If a player has access to buying something on their chart, and the XP to buy it they can have it. Everyone gets 750 XP per session. Done. So, really, I'm not very involved in how XP works in the game aside from having set a standard rate.
I have to say that I actually prefer lots of points over fewer points for XP when I'm running and fewer points when I'm playing a character.ReplyDelete
When I'm running a game that has lots of points it's easier for me to hand out XP for minor things like recalling the previous sessions or coming up with a neat way to solve something in-character. When a player levels at, say, 1000 points, I'll give him around 10-100 XP for different things, and leveling the XP down wouldn't allow me to do something like that. It may not be significant amounts, but I still like to do it as some way to reward the player.
When I'm the player, I like the smaller amounts because it's easier to handle and, in my mind, it seems more significant whenever I receive the XP. If I need 5 points to get the skill I want and I just got 2 points, I'm already 40% there. Of course, this may be because every system I've played with small amounts of XP work like Shadowrun where you spend your points to buy skills and such and I just really enjoy that kind of advancement. As a player, I don't care how many points I get, I just want them to be significant. I don't care if I got 1 million points at pinball, I was just trying to beat the high score.
finally a dissenting opinion! Thanks Onedtwelve!ReplyDelete
You do have a point on the 'cookie reward' being easier with the larger XP points. I've also found those small cookies to be an issue as a player. Atraties can tell you how often I grumble at the "25" XP I regularly have left over on my Sister of Battle in his Dark Heresy game. It wasn't a cookie, but it is 25 points I ended up with somehow, that just will never add up to, or conform into, a spendable amount of XP.
Granted, that is a minor gripe, and it likely wouldn't show up in a system where the GM regularly handed out rewards for good things. Worst case there, the player would have to earn another cookie to move on.
Playing Dark Heresy & GM'ing Deathwatch - you were getting your fill of Warhammer 40k.Delete
Hoping to try Deathwatch for the first time at a conference near me over Memorial Day weekend.