Today may come across as a bit ranty, and it may be a bit shorter than normal. I apologize for both of those things if it bothers you, but I want to talk about something that I absolutely hate in games. Now, this notion is from old school games, but has also showed up in a few new games as well. Heck, it's even in some old MMO's. What is this thing that I hate? Well, quite simply, it is permanent XP loss.
Permanent XP Loss?
Some of you, some blessed few of you who have never run into this before, are likely wondering what permanent XP loss is. To put it simply, I define permanent XP loss as anything that reduces the level, skills, or abilities of a character permanently as a form of damage. The classic example would be Ability/Level Damage some negative energy creatures in D&D can do, which work by literally making your character lose levels (and all that go with those levels) when you are hit by an attack. Suddenly your level 13 fighter is a level 8 fighter, and you're probably a very frustrated player.
As a GM and Player
I want to be straight forward on this. I dislike XP loss as a player, as a GM, and as a game designer. Can I see a use for it in some situations? Sure, I can, but there are usually better ways around things then permanently docking something a player has worked and put points into. The fact that it is a permanent loss just makes it worse. It is, in my opinion, something that is both unnecessarily cruel and specifically designed to make characters less fun to play. Sure, that one encounter may be awesomely tense and fun, but does that really matter when half your players no longer have fun with their characters afterwards?
Make It Temporary
One of the things that bothers me about it is that it is pretty easy to fix all things told. Make the loss/drain temporary and it becomes a lot better. The character isn't screwed, they're just injured for a while but will recover given time and rest. The player doesn't have to re-buy whatever was just lost, they just have to wait a bit.
The other way to handle this could be to just add penalties instead of actually taking away things. This may effectively be the same thing, but it feels a lot different as a player. I'm not having something I bought taken away, I am just having a curse added. And while logically I can see that either way I have effectively had the same thing done, presentation matters a lot here.
How About You?
Have you run into this in your games? How did you deal with it? Am I a fool for not liking it? Can you make a point in its favor? I'd love to hear your views on it.