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Forum » General Topics » Running the Game » Bonuses for Backgrounds or Journals (Giving bonus XP or items to characters)
Bonuses for Backgrounds or Journals
MichelleDate: Monday, 25 Mar 2013, 7:47 PM | Message # 1
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There was a game a few years ago where we started giving out a small bonus for character backgrounds (after creation, before the first game), and character journals written between each game.  I thought it was kind of nice to give incentive because it enhances the game, but it isn't specifically necessary or required.

For the character background it was 250 with an additional bonus of 100 possible for extra effort as deemed by the GM.  It had to be a minimum 1 full paragraph for the base bonus.  In a different game I think we did bonus items after character creation, based on the background submitted.  It was completely up to the GM.  I think one character came from a clan known for raising horses so gained a horse and a mount without spending initial gold.  Another was adopted by the Captain of Guard in a large city and got a better quality sword.  That sort of thing.

For the journal XP was 250 for the first one, 100 for the next 3, then 50 thereafter per campaign.  I thought it was nice even if I never did write more than 1 or 2 journals myself.  There was a fella that did it for the whole campaign and I felt he deserved the extra bonus.

Thoughts?
 
RussDate: Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013, 10:07 AM | Message # 2
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I like that idea.  What do you also think about XP penalties for players acting out of character during gameplay?
 
Bad-AshDate: Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013, 5:35 PM | Message # 3
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Speaking both personally and generally, Russ, I don't agree with negative XP. I believe it's also something that Pathfinder shied away from, changing the rules so, for example, you don't use XP to create magic items anymore. I don't know if that continued with DnD 4e.

(But then I'm not a fan of XP anyway. It's a really clunky system that could so easily be refined or done away with (and has been by many games). I often think it's really funny how much has changed about DnD/Pathfinder and how much has stayed the same, and in the latter case how we're still using rules that were written for a wargame more than forty years ago. But that's another rant for another day. :p)

As a GM, I also don't mind out of character behaviour. Naively, years and years ago when I first began role-playing, I expected it to be like acting. Curtain goes up, the GM says action, the game begins, and players never leave character until the session ends. I learned quickly that it's not like that at all. Players are rarely in character, especially new players, and that's okay. I occasionally step in and get things back on track if someone gets carried away or an out-of-game discussion goes on for too long, but other than that I'm willing to let things go along. The important thing for me is that everyone has fun. For some that's role-playing, for others it's rolling dice/killing things and taking their stuff, and for some it's just hanging out and playing a game.

I really don't expect players in my games to stay in character all the time. Of course, I'm aware that every player is different too. Some find role-playing easy, some don't. Those that don't get more XP from me when they do though. smile

Sorry, that's a longwinded answer.


Message edited by Ash - Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013, 5:48 PM
 
MichelleDate: Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013, 6:26 PM | Message # 4
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I'm more of a carrot vs stick person.  I've known a lot of players to get XP bonuses for role-playing well or acting very much in character.  If someone had their character do something 'out of character' it tended to be questioned at the time of it happening.  Same thing for any disruptive behavior which was also handled by sidebar with the GM rather than any penalty.
 
RussDate: Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013, 8:37 PM | Message # 5
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Once again I didn't type clearly.  What I meant to say is penalties for having their characters act "out of character".  After re-reading my post it sounded like I wanted everyone to act in character like in LARP.  I mean if someone has a character who is lawful good and then they do something of a selfish nature in game, would that be a basis for a negative XP gain?  Or would some other sort of penalty be in order?
 
Bad-AshDate: Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013, 9:03 PM | Message # 6
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My misunderstanding. I was actually just saying to Michelle that "out-of-character" could mean two things and I might have got the wrong end of the stick. And I did too, it seems. Oops! wacko Sorry, Russ.

Okay, to answer your question for real this time. smile No, I still wouldn't give out negative XP in that case. It would be another penalty though, if it kept happening, less so if the player adjusted his or her role-playing afterwards. So if a good Cleric did something evil once, but then the player made a big thing about atoning for that evil, I'd have no problem with it.

It also depends on the class, and the alignment, and tons of other stuff. For instance, if a player playing a lawful good Paladin did something really evil, I'd warn the player of the consequences and advise against it, then if they still did it, well, that's a forced alignment change (which means no longer a Paladin) at least and possibly the end of the character at most. But on the other hand, if a player playing a chaotic good Rogue did something to help restore law and order in a city for instance, I wouldn't do anything. That's a classic staple of fiction, after all, the somewhat bad thief finally doing the right thing, just once.
 
MichelleDate: Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013, 9:11 PM | Message # 7
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I'd probably agree with what Ash is saying about not dong any XP penalties.  I'd defiantly do a warning in the situation like the paladin that there might be consequences play wise, but that tends to be a bit extreme   To me "out-of-character" is more based on the character background provided and previous actions that alignment, though as in the paladin example it can apply it generally tends to be a bit fuzzier.
 
RussDate: Wednesday, 27 Mar 2013, 10:13 AM | Message # 8
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Ash, sorry.  It was totally my fault I didn't clarify my question.

I do know there are built in penalties for Paladins not acting Lawful good and good Clerics acting evil incurring the wrath of their deity.  How would you handle other characters acting against their alignment or against their backstory/personality?  Do you just build in your own negative consequences during a campaign?


Message edited by Russ - Wednesday, 27 Mar 2013, 10:13 AM
 
Bad-AshDate: Wednesday, 27 Mar 2013, 5:11 PM | Message # 9
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I try to follow that ancient adage of keeping it simple. smile Most of the time that's an alignment shift without penalty (except for the afore-mentioned Clerics and Paladins, naturally). If a player acts against their alignment, it's a quick word and either fix it or shift the alignment. If a Lawful Good character keeps acting erratically, then it's just a matter of explaining that they really should be Chaotic Good. Most players are willing to adapt like that, I've found.

However, I'm not above bringing in penalties within the game, by which I mean those that aren't rules per se but instead part of the background. Another example: if a Neutral Good Rogue keeps following the law and suddenly refuses to steal, yeah, he is drifting towards Lawful Good. But his Thieves' Guild is not going to be happy when he stops paying his dues and keeps refusing to steal even the simplest things. He might get a visit from a couple of bruisers. And if that doesn't convince him, good luck trying to find support anywhere from other thieves.

Of course, the big problem with alignment is that it's so vague. Have you seen those alignment grids, usually made up like motivational posters? There's all manner of them. Let me see if I can find one.
 
MichelleDate: Wednesday, 27 Mar 2013, 5:23 PM | Message # 10
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I'm still thinking I wouldn't do any penalties, but if so more like Ash's example of the thief.  Personally, unless it is a HUGE shift I don't think it matters and even then as long as there was reason behind it it's all well and good.  Per the thief example the only problem there would be if he was part of a guild to begin with and/or he was routinely counting on support from other thieves.  I'd also expect there to be something that happened even if only internally that caused the change in the character.  The only constant is change and lets not forget the more chaotic characters too.  I've surprised a GM or two with how well I play that and you never know what they are going to do.

happy
 
RussDate: Thursday, 28 Mar 2013, 9:54 AM | Message # 11
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Sorry for the weird questions.  I have been working on a campaign world for a while now and DM'ing it when it is ready.  I know the basics of being a DM but I had questions about obscure situations and how other DM's have handled it.
 
Bad-AshDate: Thursday, 28 Mar 2013, 4:54 PM | Message # 12
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No worries, Russ. Weird questions are always good.

So have you ever GM'd before? If not, here's my incredibly wise advice. tongue Learn to wing things. If you can think on your feet and make crap up on the fly, you'll be fine. Don't worry about the details too much. Most of the time players are an easygoing bunch and as long as they're having fun they'll go along with whatever you say.

Don't be afraid to ask more questions. I've GM'd for years (not that I'm much good at it... ;)) and Michelle's GM'd off and on too, so we can both offer opinions.
 
RussDate: Thursday, 28 Mar 2013, 5:01 PM | Message # 13
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Not counting the recent time I DM'd for my son, wife and one other friend, it has been since the 80's that I ran a game.  I was OK at it but I felt I was wildly unprepared for it.  I know there is such a thing as being over-prepared which I am trying to avoid.  I am ok at improvising but I was just wanting to get some feedback for some possible situations that may arise.  I also want to make a game as interesting as possible and avoid the trappings of standard hack n slash dungeon crawls.
 
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