RPG Talk: New School Experience Rewards

Some role-playing games, like the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG I'm ramping up to resurrect this spring, are just New School enough to have done away with any real Experience Point system. DWAITAS has Story Points, which can be used to affect game play and refill automatically at the start of the next adventure or session. Players can be rewarded IN play, when they do something cool, funny or self-sacrificing, but these points aren't used at the end of any given session to improve the character in a permanent manner. Such improvements are made in-story, when something life-changing happens to a character, or when events in the game justify a change (for example, Turlough might help defeat the Black Guardian and lose his Obligation Bad Trait, or Martha could train with UNIT and pick up a few skills). It's suggested players might be given a few chargen points to spend in between "seasons". And that's all well and good, I agree with this narrativist/simulationist approach.

But game in, game out, I'd like to be able to reward players a little more by... wait for it... allowing them to make life more difficult for ME. Here's the thing. Having run one season already (now a couple years ago), I think I've got a good handle on the game and its relatively free-wheeling style. I'd like this NEW season to be a lot more improvisational (it's in all our skill sets, improv is how we all know each other). One of the ways I'm going to accomplish this is by using the Anniversary sourcebooks and generally poach from the classic episodes, with various twists even though my players aren't Classic Who-conversant. That makes it a bit more hands-free. But in addition, I'm creating special rewards to be handed out at the end of each session that give players more power over the game's plotting. In short, the ability to throw a wrench into my plans and force me to improvise, just as they are. Here's how it would work:

At the end of each session, I will ask each player to vote for their favorite performance, be it sustained or in a particularly memorable moment (I also get a vote). The winner will receive a Reward card that allows them to influence the story in some way (see below). It might be given randomly, or it might be tied to their particular performance (That Interests Me! for play-acting one's Insatiable Curiousity Bad Trait above and beyond the call of duty, for example), depending one what I have on hand. This is flexible; I give myself the right to give two cards in a session, or give everyone a card for a stellar game. Just as flexibly, players would be allowed to give their cards away, or trade them among themselves if they wanted to. Each card still requires some Story Point expenditure to trigger its effect, but the way the game works, a particularly cool use of the card might well refund the points immediately. Here are some of the Reward cards I've come up with.
Please, don't be shy about suggesting others. As you can see, some of this stuff has appeared on the show, and damn my simulationist eyes, I had to find a way to make them work in the game. The Reveal, for example, provides for the Doctor and River's banana confrontation in Let's Kill Hitler, and Narrator has been used by both Amy's and Rose's players. More are coming to me all the time, and my players will likely find new rewards replacing tried and trusted ones as the campaign progresses. And of course, Old or New School, any game could adapt this concept to make things more interesting for the GameMaster and players alike!

Edit from the future: Five more cards and the printable pdf later posted.


Jeffry Willis said...

This is brilliant.

Siskoid said...

Thanks! I hope my players think so too. It's not too far from what I've allowed in other, more free-form games, so it'll probably fly.

idiotbrigade said...

"The Reveal"

Feels essentially like the final scene against De Nomolos in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, where they theorize about going back in time after the fight to set up stuff before the fight, to use during the fight.

Headscratching for a while since both Bill, Ted & De Nomolos (Joss Ackland ftw) are using this quantum method of McGuffinin' until B&T go "ONLY THE WINNERS CAN DO IT THOUGH! WE SET UP EVERYTHING!"

Ridiculously clever and Doctor-like; and out of character for two dudes who were failing history and thought Joan of Arc was Noah's wife.

Siskoid said...

Let's call it streetsmarts.

They are, after all, analogs of the Doctor, what with their time traveling phonebox and all.

Pout said...

This is the kind of thing I liked doing with my story points already so I'm game for sure.

Are you still gonna be open about us being creative with our points even if we don't have the cards? Or are SP gonna be strictly used for stats and cards with this system?

Pout said...

What I mean is:

If I get an idea for a Reward Card type effect in the middle of the game but don't have a card to do it, can I still spend some Story Points to have that effect happen?

Siskoid said...

You're used to HKAT. In DWAITAS, Story Points have slightly different possible effects which simulate the show quite well. Yes, some plot manipulation is possible, though not the exact effects I've put on cards.

I imagine that if you wanted the throw a curveball only possible via a card, I might allow it at a higher cost. (I find that Story Point attrition too slow anyway.)

We should really start talking about chargen! (Not really here, mind you, but elsewhere.)

Craig Oxbrow said...

In case you haven't seen them:


Not all directed at complicating matters for either side, but plenty of them certainly could be. Like Get Intro Trouble!

Siskoid said...

There are some very inspiring ideas in there, thanks Craig!

Craig Oxbrow said...

You're welcome! (And Rose liked yours!)

Also... "Get Intro Trouble?" Gah. Stupid fingers.

Siskoid said...

I'll have more to post later this week.


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