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A question about Experience Points


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I read the QW SRD text about Story Points and Experience Points and I think it sounds odd.

  • So, the expected average XP per session is 2.
  • You get 1 XP for a Defeat.
  • Buying off Defeats with Story Points is discouraged.

Wont that limit you to very few Contests per session unless you very easily blow past those 2 XP per session?

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On 5/23/2023 at 2:59 PM, AndreasDavour said:

Wont that limit you to very few Contests per session unless you very easily blow past those 2 XP per session?

Good question. Sorry for the delay — only now had a moment to pull out the SRD and have a quick look. May as well insert the section for reference:


8.1 Earning Experience Points

You gain one experience point for any of the following:

  • When your outcome for a contest is a defeat.
  • Your GM uses a flaw or other ability against you in a contest with you (see §2.6). This happens either when the story forced you to confront a flaw, or the GM gave you a hindrance (see §3.4), if the hindrance results in a penalty.

Note the following restrictions:

  • You only gain an experience point for each of your abilities or flaws once in a session of game play.
  • You do not get experience points for an augment, AP gifting or assist

You can gain a maximum of five experience points in any one session. Once you have earned five experience points, you cannot gain further experience points in that session.

Questworlds SRD, v0.97, pp. 61–62

So the difference between expected XP and the hard limit is only 3 XP.

Each ability — and we expect some ability to be involved in any contest defeat, right? — or flaw can only earn you 1 XP/session, so how quickly you accumulate XP would seem to be a matter of at least these five things:

  • how varied the GM-posed challenges are
  • how tough the GM-posed challenges are
  • how varied the player/character approaches to the challenges are
  • how many abilities and flaws characters have
  • how abilities are structured

The first tthree depend on play style and the last two on how the SRD is used to build a more determinate game (perhaps), but it is all a bit ‘how long is a piece of string?’

The last maybe needs a little explanation: a keyword is an ability and presumably if an XP is gained via a breakout (also an ability) of a keyword, then it can also be said the parent ability (the keyword) earned an XP. I don’t mean you get 2 XP (you just get one), but rather that you can’t get any more XP in the session from the other breakouts of the keyword else the keyword would have earned > 1 XP in the session. That would put a brake on accumulation of XP. I assume this is the way to read the SRD, as buying breakouts as character improvements is — I am guessing — not supposed to be purchasing opportunities for XP accumulation.

However, just as we could have:

      Detective 15
          • Deduction +5
          • Hard Drinking +5

… Deduction and Hard Drinking could exist as standalone abilities and thus present a possible 2 XP/session. Which would make a difference.

I can imagine structuring things so the sum of top-level abilities and flaws stands in a certain relationship to the XP/session ceiling: to get the maximum XP, you need to take a kicking across most of the range of your character. For example, characters might have 4 top-level abilities (keywords + standalone abilities) and 3 flaws for a 7:5 ratio. I dunno.

I haven’t gone carefully over the whole SRD in search of an answer, so maybe I have missed some key advice from the authors. If so, my apologies. Have you tried asking @Ian Cooper for his wisdom on the matter? Say his name three times, and perhaps he will appear.


Somewhat irrelevant aside, safely ignored

I confess to being a bit of a Luddite when it comes to “character improvement” — if there is a pass–fail rate that makes for a good game, then adjusting character abilities and opponent (NPC) abilities up all the time to keep difficulty constant sounds like a lot of work for nothing. Just say today: resistance 10 = 1 goblin; a week next Tuesday: resistance 10 = Galactus? And even then, if Galactus is not a more interesting opponent than a goblin … (Changing the set dressing won’t improve the drama.)

Does Philip Marlowe get to be a better detective from book to book? Does a chess queen gain new moves from game to game? Is this all a hideous D&D hangover?

Of course, if the fun is really the players racing each other to the top of the heap, that puts a different complexion on it.

Edited by mfbrandi
second –> last


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I think the intention behind that rule is to encourage players to use flaws and suboptimal abilities: you may fail but in that case you get an XP, win-win!

I'm guessing the missing part is that those contest should be meaningful. I've read some QW actual plays where rolls were constant, and others where just two or three per session did the trick. I think the system is geared towards the later option, and rolls should be kept at minimum, just for really uncertain outcomes or meaningful/climatic scenes.

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Yes, maybe the intention is to only have one or three rolls per session, or maybe the math is based on the idea like mfbrandi suggests of only getting XP for the few keywords you have for your character. Personally I'm not that much for XP anyways, and find character progress to be more or less broken or uninteresting in almost every game. But, it would be interesting to hear how folks have played it (which I gather is "not much") or how it's intended as written. I'll try to invoke the spirits and see if @Ian Cooper will manifest!

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  • 7 months later...

Been pondering experience since I started a short campaign. I don’t think there have been contest failures, and I haven’t been using flaws at all often. I don’t know if I have awarded any XP at all! I’ll probably award 1 per session on top of the rules.

I have been granting a few specific improvements, such as everyone adding the Tradetalk ability after a couple sessions with the God Learners. But that’s not under player control.

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