2. Experience Points
The inherent goal in any role-playing game is to gather experience points (EP). They represent what a character has learned, how he has improved and grown throughout the adventure – and they also have a direct influence on the character.
In the GRPG, you can improve the characters through experience points. You can buy new skills, you can enhance those you have already acquired, and you can improve nearly all the values that characterize the player’s alter ego in the Gushémal fantasy world.
Growth and experience are directly reflected through EP, and the improvements a player can purchase with them.
They are also a magnificent steering mechanism that the GM employs in directing the adventure. It is the game master who decides when to grant EP to the player(s), and how many they are given. Choosing when to award EP gives the players indications how to approach the game, how to play. Ideally the GM can lead the players through EP to a fuller, richer game, and have them fully immerse themselves in their characters and the world.
As you can tell from the preceding paragraph, EP are an integral part of being a GM, and using them right has a large influence on how the game is run.
In any adventure, there are certain goals that the characters have to achieve – be it the vanquishing of a foe (or a group), the solving of a riddle, or the final resolution (which might be that the party frees a kingdom from a cruel and unjust oppressor). Each of these goals is the most important reason to award EP.
They are the turning points of an adventure. If the characters successfully master them, they deserve to be rewarded richly. EP are the perfect solution in this case, for they also reflect the experience that the characters have just gathered.
Defining these turning points is a tricky affair. Basically, the characters should be awarded for every task they accomplish – including such apparent banalities as routing the band of orcs in the forest yonder -, but the amount of EP they get must vary based on two factors:
· The importance of the event to the entire storyline
· The difficulty level of the accomplishment: destroying two ratpeople, for instance, rates much less EP than vanquishing an evil high-level wizard.
Of course this is far from everything. As mentioned in the introduction, EP are guiding posts for good role-playing, for good adventuring.
The question is, what does good role-playing mean?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. One might say that good role-playing occurs whenever a player is so fully immersed in his character that each and every action or reaction of his is exactly what the character would do. No trace of the player’s personality remains – unless it is akin to the character’s -, and you feel as if you are talking to the PC rather than the player. That is a sign of good role-playing.
(Of course the player should still be fully aware of his true identity. Let’s not get mixed up in this pot of troubles. Rather think of a method actor who sheds all traces of himself when the camera starts rolling, but resumes being himself once the director has called, “Cut!”, and the scene is over.)
The more individual a character is, the more fun he is in the game. That is a rule of thumb which has prevailed over decades of role-playing.
And that leads directly to another factor in good role-playing. The gaming sessions are about fun, that’s the be-all and the end-all of RPGs. It’s called a “game” for good reason! The player’s goal should be to enhance the fun for everyone, not just himself. Often that comes out of immersing himself fully in the character, but there are also other opportunities – including those when a player falls “out of character” to make fun suggestions, to simply enhance the mood of everyone involved.
But that is a tightrope that one has to walk. Falling out of character way too often makes the others lose sight of the character, and just joking up an evening can destroy a gaming session just as effectively as sulkily playing a boring character.
It’s the GM’s job to decide what is beneficial to the game, and according to that she can distribute EP to award the right kind of behavior. There’s no firm guideline for this; it depends too much on the personalities at the gaming table – and these personalities are as diverse as they come. Experience as a GM will teach you how to handle this, but unfortunately you won’t get any EP out of this. What you will get is the ultimate joy of leading a great game, and that is worth more than a million EP.
The characters in Gushémal belong to specific classes. Each class has its own set of goals, and a PC should receive special EP for accomplishing one of these goals. In the following, we shall list a selection of such goals.
Do not treat this list as exclusive. They are merely guidelines which you should follow as a GM. In a game, situations will come up that are completely unexpected, but your own understanding of what the character class means should allow you to ascertain when and how to award a player.
· Killing a dangerous enemy. Here it needs to be considered whether the fighter managed to vanquish the foe on his own, or whether the received considerable help from the other characters. In the latter case, there are no bonus EP for the fighter, and the “regular” EP are distributed among the party. Another factor to consider is whether said dangerous enemy posed any threat at the moment – if the enemy is drunk or asleep, there is no challenge at all and therefore no reason at all to award any EP. Basically, the bonus EP can run up to 10% of the opponent’s EP value.
· If the character has behaved particularly honorably (especially if the character has subscribed to an honor code), bonus EP can be awarded to him.
· Representing his god well. A priest has subscribed his soul to a specific god, and his goal in life must be to do deeds that please his god (or goddess). These deeds may be expected of him – such as a Darawk priest gathering and spreading knowledge -, but they may also go beyond the “line of duty”, so to speak. What you need to remember as a GM is that the clerical class is somewhat limited: Other classes can do pretty much as they please, whereas a priest must follow the rules of his god. Following these well constitutes good role-playing (even when it might go against the spirit of an adventure or the general mood of the party), and it should be awarded. These bonus points should range from 50 – 250 EP per event; since they are relatively common, that range should easily satisfy the player’s desire for experience points. In special cases, the range can be exceeded, but there ought to be a very good reason for it.
· Converting “unbelievers” or recruiting new candidates for the clerical office: Both actions constitute major services to the god and therefore must be rewarded accordingly.
· Should a wizard create a new spell, he receives bonus EP. For each spell level, he receives 100 EP.
· The sensible use of spells in an adventure also warrants EP. The word sensible means here more than just using a spell in its intended sense: When a spell is used just to inflict damage, that may make sense, but it should not receive any particular attention. If the same spell, though, is used to save another character from certain death, now that is a worthwhile and sensible use.
· Succeeding in their particular field should be a source of EP for thieves; e.g. finding and disarming a trap, or the successful heist of an item (which is important to the adventure).
As mentioned before, good role-playing deserves being rewarded. By the same token, though, bad role-playing deserves punishment. Characters acting against their stated personalities should receive demerits – or more precisely, EP must be withdrawn from their account. (Should the player have already spent his EP, then the character will not receive any fresh EP until his punishment is used up.)
When does this happen?
An example is when a priest acts against the precepts of his god, such as a Darawk priest burning books – destroying knowledge, whereas his single goal should be to gather and preserve knowledge.
In general, most characters in a party can be considered noble and heroic, so all “evil” acts go against the nature of these characters. For instance, no character should be permitted to kill or torture innocent people just to get some information.
(Note: There are exceptions. Occasionally, players can assume characters who are clearly evil, but that is not the rule.)
Another big example of bad role-playing is when a player carries personal grudges (or preferences) from real life into the game. They have no place in the game, since the character does not bear any animosity against another player’s character simply because of who that player is. Such behavior must be punished as well.
Of course, in an ideal world, there are only friends at the gaming table who would never bear grudges against their fellows. In the real world, though, friends do have disagreements, but those should be solved aside from the gaming table.
The EP are not distributed for each event individually. Rather the game master notes all the EP that accumulate during an adventure, and at the end she awards the total sum to the players.
Here you have to distinguish between the party EP and the personal EP. The personal EP are the bonus points that a player/character is awarded specifically for achievements only he has accomplished, whereas the party EP are those that have been achieved by the entire group.
The party EP are added up on a separate list. At the end of the adventure, they are divided by the number of characters, and the result is awarded to each player.
In addition the personal EP are added to each player’s character.
At the end of an adventure, a player may use 10% of his EP to increase the character values. There is no requirement to do so, these 10% may just as freely be spent on different purchases or kept for future acquiries.
Please note that they may only increase pre-existing values, preferably those that have been used during the adventure, e.g. attack values or skills.
The remaining EP (90%) can be spent on training – i.e. acquiring new skills, class abilities and the like. To do this, the character needs a teacher. It’s not possible to acquire a new skill – e.g. a new language – on your own; where would the knowledge come from, after all?
Now where might one find a teacher? That can be any person who already possesses the desired skills, so that e.g. another character in the group might fulfill that function. Generally though the teacher will be a NPC controlled by the game master; someone who tags along with the group, or whom the character encounters in a town (or under any other circumstances).
It is noteworthy that it takes time to learn something new. As a rule of thumb, for each 1,000 EP spent, the character needs to devote a week to his training. Which also means that during this time the character cannot possibly take part in adventuring, he is too busy.
In other words, the party should plan in a considerable rest period at the end of an adventure so that they can properly invest their EP.
If a character wishes to learn a new class ability, there are a few prerequisites to consider for each of the classes:
· Wizards need to find another wizard to teach them the new class ability. Such a wizard may demand a payment in coins, but he might just as easily accept payment in magical appliances or new spells developed by the player character.
· Priests must go to a temple to learn a new class ability. That temple does not have to be one of their own god; class abilities are the same for each kind of cleric. (It should be noted that there are certain animosities between the gods which might make it more difficult for a cleric to find acceptance at a temple. For instance, a priest of Mannannan is unlikely to be welcomed at a temple dedicated to Olmawi.) Education/training is free at a temple of the priest’s own god, but at another deity’s temple, payment must be brought in the form of either money or specific tasks at the temple.
· There are no such particulars for fighters or thieves, since they are not bound by any specific order or the profession of wizardry. They can learn their class abilities anywhere – and usually do so -, but they require a teacher as well.