Capped XP vs Staggered XP?


  • Tutorialist

    Most games these days tend to have a staggered XP policy:

    Full XP at X to Y weeks/xp total. 3/4th XP at Y to Z weeks/xp total. 1/2 XP at Z to N weeks/xp total. And so one until you're at something like 1/5th xp or 1/10th xp a week. Or getting 0.

    The point of this-- in every case that it has been pitched to me --was to allow "new players to catch up to old players". e.g. New players get more XP vs the old players getting less, so someday there's something resembling an even ground.

    However, since most games also offer XP as rewards for PrPs, does this model actually work? Or can the old players just keep supplementing their auto-xp with PrP-xp? Do we really care if it doesn't work all that well?

    Occasionally, I also get the idea that people do staggered XP because it puts a soft cap on XP without looking like it. I've contemplated XP caps before. The last time I talked about it, however, I got an overwhelming amount of negative feedback, even when the XP cap was suggested as something pretty high (that most characters would never actually hit).

    Anyone have any thoughts?

    I've been thinking about if I were ever to do a game again, instead of doing staggered XP I'd do an XP cap. Something suitably high that hitting it didn't feel completely arbitrary but low enough that you can't be maxed out in every single trait.

    (e.g. if it took like 150xp in nWoD 2E to max out every trait-- this is not true it's an example --you'd get maybe 125xp at the cap.)

    Thoughts?


  • Coder

    At least in the case of GMC, the xp staggering is actually in the book. After so many XP spent, cost goes up. I can't say though that I ever heard any complaints about the XP staggering. As to just having a cap, I think most people react negatively to a hard cap and I don't think hard caps solve anything really. The problem with places like TR is that the XP gain was too fast so everyone had too much XP before they knew what to do with it.

    Just having a hard cap though, the only thing that really does is ensure that players hit a wall where they feel like advancement is blocked for them. You can fix that in other ways, by providing them advancement through secondary means (political, etc) but most players probably won't be satisfied with that. Also it's weird if every person, no matter how long they've played, eventually is equal to every other person.

    Personally, I don't see an issue with staggering costs and it's a good middle ground to the problem.



  • I've had fun on games that ran in 'seasons.' You basically have the same sheet for a season of the show/major plot arc, and then at the end of a season, before the start of next season, you can rearrange your sheet and if you were around for a complete cycle, you get a few bonus points to add up.

    Noms can be used to provide bennies and rerolls that you can spend to not screw up.

    People that run PrPs that tie in with the season's theme can get an extra couple points or at the rate you want sheet inflation.

    I think the biggest concern for me as a player looking to join a game is having new characters not suck and swallow when they come out of chargen. If all the bad guys have monster sheets to provide 'challenge to the old players' and I have to sink all of my points into dodge and shoot in order to just have a fun romp with the gang, then I think something needs to be looked at for sure.



  • I like the concept of diminishing returns/staggered XP. After you have X amount of XP or time or whatever, the max you get per period goes down. It's what I'm doing at TheatreMUSH and is a concept in the new MET: Vampire the Masquerade. It has worked out well in LARP so far, and it keeps people able to get XP without a cap.

    My thoughts on 'newbies' is a combo of both XP floor (a flat bonus based on how long the game has been going) and potential other bonuses.


  • Coder

    @Alzie I seriously must have missed that because I do not recall seeing that in the main GMC book. Could you enlighten me?



  • @Seamus said:

    @Alzie I seriously must have missed that because I do not recall seeing that in the main GMC book. Could you enlighten me?

    You're not the only one that missed that. Nobody that I've talked to about it is aware of this either. Can you give an example in the books of where this is located?


  • Pitcrew

    @Derp said:

    @Seamus said:

    @Alzie I seriously must have missed that because I do not recall seeing that in the main GMC book. Could you enlighten me?

    You're not the only one that missed that. Nobody that I've talked to about it is aware of this either. Can you give an example in the books of where this is located?

    Thirded.

    As far as the original topic goes:

    Staggering XP does work, to an extent. There are exceptions. For example, if you have a player like Spider, whose obsession with gaining every little mote of XP possible leads her to obsessively running as much stuff as possible--sure, you'll have someone who is consistently supplementing their diminishing returns. (This is as close to a compliment as I am ever going to give her.) But that's an exception. And even she has never been able to keep the constant PRP running for long enough for it to make a very big difference (or perhaps that was just the way TR did XP that prevented it) without burning out.

    There's no one better way to do XP; but each way does promote different styles of play and character building. A hard cap, no matter how high, will make players consider their character sheet "end game" a lot more than otherwise, for example, while a system like The Reach's/Fallcoast's will allow people to spend whatever on whatever because there's always more XP down the pipe as long as other people are active and running stuff.

    Different strokes.


  • Admin

    While I agree with @Coin (that always makes me feel bad) about there not being an one XP system so they'll all need to be adjusted to the type of game you're running, that doesn't mean we can't still take a few lessons from online games which use various methods as a way to measure progress but also as incentive for desired behaviors.

    For starters we need XP to trickle in capped. If it didn't then people with waaaay more time on their hands than others would dominate utterly. Even in games where the distribution method exists but is capped high some players will file endless streams of whatever-it-takes to reach that cap; taking dramatic failures and breaking points for everything, for instance, could swiftly lead to powerhouses in nWoD 2.0.

    Now, let's take games like WoW. WoW started out with no way for newbies to catch up at all, but the cap was still very tangible; you could reach a state where you had your full item set and complimentary and that was it; until more items came in, the character was 'complete'. That led to players losing interest between content updates. A secondary issue arose which quickly became critical; new people coming in couldn't play with their friends, since everyone was doing 'end game' content (say, three patches with improved items past launch) which they'd need to gear up for but they couldn't, because no one was raiding the old content so they could get outdated items from previous content updates.

    This applies well to MU* if we consider the abstraction here. Consider the following:

    • Oldbie characters need to be challenged, or they will get bored, so increasingly high end plot has to be present for them.

    • New characters come in who need content to match their own more limited abilities. Stick them in a high-end plot and they're useless, stick oldbies in theirs and they 'solve' everything.

    • If there's a total cap of XP you can reach then players reaching it get bored. Roleplaying games are built toward advancement, it's no fun when you run out of shinies.

    It's not as clear cut as that of course since roleplay isn't about winning encounters like WoW is, but the point still exists that some way of compromising different levels of players should exist, especially in the ever-existent lack of enough plot-runners.

    To make matters trickier not everyone enjoys playing a proverbial sidekick - if the most you can earn in a week is X XP then new players will always be lagging behind older ones, assuming roughly equal amounts of activity.

    I believe a catch-up method to be the most efficient way of dealing with these issues, but safeguards need to be in place. That is, allow XP to trickle in faster for those who are behind the progression leaders - but don't allow that TR silliness where new characters came in with triple Masteries despite Awakening the day before. For example:

    • Allow twice the rate of XP for characters until they reach 90% of the leaders' total gains.
    • Spending delays (more liberal than the normal ones but still existent for new players).
    • Background checks. If a PC is an IC fledgling they get a smaller amount of catch-up XP.
    • Promote activity. Too many games allow 'backup PCs' to be set up, who basically are gotten through CG and just accumulate XP without being played. XP should be a yummy carrot towards a goal.
    • Allow XP transfers in character death/legitimate retirement. There is no reason to not do this other than people doing it constantly. Much of the OMG-I-DIED! drama can be avoided with just that.
    • And above all make sure your cap is set high but not too high, or some players will abuse it. Constant. Breaking! Points!

    You may want to allow some things to encourage plot running besides the above but those are the basics of what I'd consider a decent system. Good luck defining 'activity' though. :)


  • Politics

    @SG said:

    I've had fun on games that ran in 'seasons.' You basically have the same sheet for a season of the show/major plot arc, and then at the end of a season, before the start of next season, you can rearrange your sheet and if you were around for a complete cycle, you get a few bonus points to add up.

    I concur here. This is what I called a "moving cap" in the eleventy-billion times I've railed against current XP-gain models.

    Capping also forces people to do shit. If you want to sit around jerking each other off, that's fine, but if the story isn't moving, who cares?



  • I find the idea of incremental stat improvement after major plot arcs - maybe while agreeing with staff that you're "training" certain abilities you want to raise - a lot more appealing than just hoarding points until you can be the Best At All Things.


  • Coder

    @Cobaltasaurus said:

    The point of this-- in every case that it has been pitched to me --was to allow "new players to catch up to old players". e.g. New players get more XP vs the old players getting less, so someday there's something resembling an even ground.

    However, since most games also offer XP as rewards for PrPs, does this model actually work? Or can the old players just keep supplementing their auto-xp with PrP-xp? Do we really care if it doesn't work all that well?

    Well. One could set the auto-XP curve to be based on the active game population as a whole. More interestingly, the far end of the lotsa-xp curve could have a negative value. This would force the top-XP characters to participate in PRPs with a large population of players-- or start losing XP.

    How that would equate with already-spent stats... less clear.


  • Coder

    I really don't like 'catchup XP' as presumably when you first decide how much XP a player should earn per week, you pick the number you think feels good. Giving new characters truck-loads of XP can feel weird and disorienting.

    I am however a fan of limiting the XP that the older characters can earn. The purpose of this is not actually to 'let the new characters catch up' but rather prevent the older characters from buying literally everything. As you've pointed out, XP staggering is effectively a soft-cap on XP that noone complains about and as such achieves the objective without much fuss.

    @Coin said:

    Thirded.

    As far as the original topic goes:

    Staggering XP does work, to an extent. There are exceptions. For example, if you have a player like Spider, whose obsession with gaining every little mote of XP possible leads her to obsessively running as much stuff as possible--sure, you'll have someone who is consistently supplementing their diminishing returns. (This is as close to a compliment as I am ever going to give her.) But that's an exception. And even she has never been able to keep the constant PRP running for long enough for it to make a very big difference (or perhaps that was just the way TR did XP that prevented it) without burning out.

    There's no one better way to do XP; but each way does promote different styles of play and character building. A hard cap, no matter how high, will make players consider their character sheet "end game" a lot more than otherwise, for example, while a system like The Reach's/Fallcoast's will allow people to spend whatever on whatever because there's always more XP down the pipe as long as other people are active and running stuff.

    Different strokes.

    The way that RfK choose to handle this was by staggering the XP spends rather then XP gains, the beats per XP were raised by 1 every 50 XP. So even though the older characters were at over 1000 beats, they were at that point paying double the cost of everything compared to someone new.



  • You could also do a Call of Cthulu type of advancement scheme. When you want to spend a bucket of your +xp on a skill raise, you roll a test to see if it went up or not. Once you get up to the higher tiers it would be very difficult to raise a skill.

    With a system like this, you'd need to have actual buckets of XP handed out through +noms and all that, but I think most mushes have that covered.



  • Hate the CoC aka RuneQuest method of XP advancement. It makes sense in a mathematical way (1), but it plain drops accumulation. If you fail your advancement checks, those opportunities are gone. People who demand accumulation of XP for showing up won't like that luck might cost them xp. The mechanism is mainly to cease tracking xp totals.

    It really turns out to be Skill % * 1 - Skill % chance to get an increase per story, so you get a curve where its hard to advance early in the skill, and late in the skill, but quick in the middle. If you assume people will always get to try to improve, you get a mechanism where for the first third or so you are fairly certain to progress, but then you get to the point where on average you should expect 2, 3, 5, 10 rolls before you improve.

    In xp terms it might look like this (image a 1-10 dice pool scale like WoD or SR ): First 1-3 dice 5xp each. 4-6th dice 10 xp each, 7-8th dice 25 xp, 9th dice 50 xp, 10th die 100 xp. Thats assuming that you are mapping to someone who makes their roll when they have exceeded a 50% cumulative chance.

    (1) if you make a skill check during an important moment in the story, you get to roll to improve at the end. To improve, you have to fail the roll, though at least many systems remove the skill roll bonus from your high attributes, thus capping you more or less at 100% + attribute bonus as a skill level. Some variants allow you to auto fail on a 96-100 roll, or a 99-100.


  • Admin

    In a discussion like this it's (once again!) becoming obvious why there is no "one best" XP system; we all have different goals.

    My goal is parity. Someone else's is IC plausibility. Another's is encouraging long-term activity.

    So @Cobaltasaurus, what is your goal for a game using an XP system? What are you intending to do (assuming it's something in particular rather than encouraging conversation about systems in this context). Because unless we can answer that we'll all be tailoring systems toward whatever our personal preferences are.



  • Don't forget "Get the most players" as a goal.


  • Pitcrew

    I see no reason why newbies should 'catch up.'

    A MUSH can either have character advancement or balance, but not both.


  • Admin

    @il-volpe said:

    I see no reason why newbies should 'catch up.'

    You mean you don't agree with the reason, the same way I can see why newbies shouldn't catch up but I believe its drawbacks to be worse than the benefits.

    This is one of the cases it's quite alright to disagree. People just want different things out of XP systems, it's natural.


  • Pitcrew

    @Arkandel Yes, that is what the colloquial phrase "I don't see it," means in this case. Though with slightly more emphasis; somewhere between "I don't agree with the reason," and "the reason is incoherent." I am aware of the stated reasons.


  • Pitcrew

    I haven't played at a capped XP game--that's something I'd be interested to try. I did like the increasing expense for spent XP system that RFK had (though I don't know if that would work all that great in a passive XP system. Or maybe it wouldn't make a difference at all).

    I think if the concern is not wanting everyone to have everything, then maybe instead of trying to accomplish that through a general XP policy, maybe it would be better to just say outright "no matter how much XP you have, you can only have 3 skills/attributes at 5 or a combination of 523 points of merits max or whatever. I guess maybe that feels too controlling or upfront maybe, rather than people feeling they can do whatever they want with their XP.

    I don't think any XP system solves the problem of mixed ability/power levels though. Unless you shut down approvals, you'll always have people who are left out of high power stuff when they first get in (though sometimes high powered people get left behind too if lower powered people want to have a fun thing where they want to be able to do something, they may not invite the dinosaur because they don't want to be shown up or perhaps the dino has a reputation of not really being able to handle mixed power scenes well). Most of the places I've played at seemed to solve this organically by different power level folks running PrPs, sandboxing, or the like. It's been seldom that I've ever played somewhere with constant staff plot driving stuff, it's mostly just been the players, who seem by and large to do an okay job of dealing with it.