Experience 360s

I have found it difficult to get a large enough group of characters together to play without supporting NPC's (henchmen, hired guns, etc.) present to assist. I have also found it difficult to update these NPC's along with the PC's. Another difficulty I have found is that of keeping the story interesting, consistent, and fun for the players. In an effort to kill multiple birds with one stone, I tried out the following solution and found that not only did it work but the players also enjoyed the opportunity for feedback and for… retribution… . Both of these solutions work better with "character point" based rather than "experience point" based systems (for instance, Vampire: The Masquerade could represent the first and AD&D the second type of experience system)—I have recently developed an experimental solution for the AD&D-type game and would appreciate any comments on it..

The first part of my solution deals with the players—keeping them in character and interested is sometimes a chore. The simplest solution I have found for this is to make the players individually track his or her character's participation in the story: I require all my players to inform me of the most important or most noteworthy three or four things his or her character did at the end of each session and suggest how this should factor into character development. Not only does this lighten my burden as game ref. (I sometimes forget very interesting things in the course of a twisted gaming session, and this really helps me to remember how everyone did) but it also keeps the players interested in each character.

The second part of the solutions deals with the aforementioned "retribution." I have compiled lists that mirror the game system suggestions for number of points per story but that base character experience partly on the storyline, partly on the characters' actions, and partly on the "fun factor"; these I hand out to the players to keep with their characters. At the conclusion of each session after I have figured PC experience I ask the players to huddle and decide how many points MY characters (aka. the henchmen or hired guns or whoever) get for development. Given, this is only important if the characters plan to remain in contact with the NPC's in the session; however, I have found that my players prefer to make contact with and keep along for the duration one or two NPC assistants. I usually end up getting very into these core NPC's and complete their personalities to the degree I would for a PC in a game I am not managing, so it really burns if I don't get as much experience as I gave to the PC's. This is a great reminder for me; whenever that happens, I know that I need to put more effort into the story and the storytelling for the next session. This also gives me an indication of which direction the players want to go with the story. After all, I'm just in it for the fun… .

The experimental solution for the AD&D-type campaign works along the same lines; the major difference is in the experience manipulation. The characters modify via a positive or negative percentage value the ‘normal’ amount of experience the NPC’s would receive. For example, during the adventure the group has collected 1,400 experience per character. The players, however, somehow feel cheated and decide amongst themselves to reduce this value by 10%, a fairly harsh reduction—their characters receive the full 1,400 XP, while my major NPC’s receive a mere 1,260.

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