First, an apology for missing Friday's post. I'm in the process of moving houses and so had half the week off last week but it was used to pack and get things moved. The big move is next weekend/week after next, but early work was done and it was good. Hopefully a slip like that won't happen again.
Now, on to the good stuff. In the end of my friend's L5R session they used one of my favorite ways to dole out XP: they opened the table to XP nominations where anyone could nominate someone to receive 1 and only 1 XP on top of what they'd already earned. The only catch was, you couldn't nominate yourself and it had to be for something done during the session. Why is it my favorite? Because as a GM it has a lot of uses. Today I want to talk about some.
It Makes The Players Think Of The Other Characters
No one wants to be the only one not nominating other people for XP. Because of this, it gets the table talking and talking about PCs other than their own. Sometimes it takes a bit for the conversation to spark, but that's ok. Once it gets started it tends to go on. While the conversation is going on, your players are talking about cool, awesome, or tragic things that happened to other people which means that, in turn, they're also hearing about their character from everyone else. This is an awesome way to get feedback as a player, but also something to watch as a GM (more on this later.) It helps players feel more appreciated in the game also. Why? Because the other PCs are talking about them and why they deserve more XP.
Who Is Coasting?
Is someone's character always the last to be nominated, or worse, not nominated at all? Monitoring the discussion around nominations is a great way as the GM to see who the players are watching and what they are and aren't seeing. It is also a way to judge when you may need to take additional steps to get someone else into the game a bit more. Is Carly not being talked about alot? Why not? Is Carly not doing much or are people just not seeing it? If the former, how do you pull Carly more into the spotlight? If the latter, how do you make other people see it? Either way, you've found some potential trouble.
It Opens Dialogue About The Game
Once your players start talking about the game, what is going on, and who did what, it is easy to steer the conversation to other things. What do they want to see? What plot hooks are they interested in? Which NPCs are they hoping show up? Are they waiting for Carly to come off the bench? Were they expecting that twist or this turn? Any dialogue about the game can help you shape it. What's a few XP to start that conversation? Not much.
It CAN Backfire
While the way I described is pretty safe, a variant is that everyone receives 1 XP they can give to a player other than themselves under similar circumstances. Both can backfire when characters are regularly not mentioned and thus start to fall behind in XP. The way I described (everyone can only earn 1 XP, and everyone has infinite nominations for other people to earn it) helps use a lot of gamer and group psychology to make everyone get an XP (it's in the best interest of the group for everyone to get their point, people will feel bad that Aaron didn't get his extra XP, etc.) Just remember to watch for people who aren't getting XP and see what you can do to help out. Someone shouldn't be punished because they're not sure how to interject into the game. Nor should they be if their character is just quiet and subdued. This is supposed to be a bonus, so don't let it become a punishment.