Mining for Mechanics: Player-awarded XP

I homebrew my game, and I regularly change things up to try out new ideas with my group and see how they work. One I’ve been trialling is player-awarded XP. It’s a simple enough concept, but there are at least a couple of ways you can actually implement it in your game.

Why do it at all?
XP is one of those systems where we accept the standard equal distribution because it makes for simple bookkeeping and equal level progression. Thing is, we all learn at different speeds in real life, and the PCs take different actions and would learn different things from them. Having each player pick up XP at different rates adds a new dynamic where the groups roles shift as one player levels up and others might take an extra session or encounter to do so. Depending which of these methods you choose

Give them the whole pool
When you total up the XP for your encounter, just give the players the total amount and let them divide it up. The advantage of doing it this way is it gives the players a greater sense of control and allows them to dissect how an encounter went and decide who deserves a reward. This method does have significant disadvantages though. The most obvious being players just likely to split the XP evenly and move on. The other being that this can easily cause an argument or disagreement in the group.

Half and half
Divide the XP from the encounter in half and split it between the party members. Then give them the remaining half to play with. By everybody getting some as a starter amount for surviving the encounter, there is more likelihood the players will split it based on the encounter, or who is most in need of XP, or some other logic. There is still the chance players will want to split the XP evenly, which is fine. There is something you can do to encourage a different split.

The breakdown method
Instead of giving the players a grand total, give them a breakdown by creature or event for the encounter and get them to allocate each one to the player that deserves it. This clear method means that even if the players favour an even split, they often won’t be able to get one, and there will be a very clear “I killed that goblin, but I’ll pass the XP to you.”. This way of doing things can build links and camaraderie between your players, especially if it’s a group who are new to each other.

The ranking method
When your players have finished an encounter, don’t give them any XP numbers or anything, simply get them to rank the group from who performed best to who performed worst. Once they have completed this, give them four different XP numbers based on the rankings. Let’s say your four players are due 2000XP between them. The top ranked player would get 600XP, second and third 500XP, and fourth gets 400XP.

The token method
Sticking with the ranking idea, but making it more transparent we have the token method. At the end of the same four-player 2000XP encounter, write down the four amounts on some post it notes, or make some XP tokens to give out at such times. Then the players debate who gets each one. They can’t just decide to split evenly, and there are clear boundaries to how it is broken up so this can work well. Poker chips can work really well for this.

The MVP method
Give out the XP from encounter as usual, with an even split, but hold a little back. Once you’ve given the players their usual split, tell them to select a most valuable player for the encounter. They get extra XP token to add to their total. This method lets your group reward that player who rolled a crit and one-shotted the troublesome ogre.

All of these methods can work in the right group, as can good old evenly-split XP. Try out one or more of these in your group and let us know on Twitter how it goes for you. If you’ve got other XP or level up systems you use in your games, we’d also love to hear about them.


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