Friday, May 27, 2011

The Bonus Situation

Last night was another pretty good game, though none of the PCs died and that always makes me fell like kind of a wuss.

On the other hand, Greg's 1st level cleric DID manage to survive (and the party helped him do it!), which is cool because Greg's a nice guy and killing him two or three times a night was getting a little old.
; )

Anyway, as I said last week, I am enjoying running my own dungeon quite a bit, without worrying about the politics/weirdness of the campaign (see Goblin Wars)...building my own has allowed me to stock it as God and Moldvay intended with plenty of treasure to compensate for the dangers the characters are facing. We even got 1 character to 4th level after last week's session (granted he started as a 3rd level thief with 2500XP and is one of only three PCs to manage to survive every single session so far...but still, 4th level!). It looks like even the magic-user might be going up in level after last night's session (he also has been around since the beginning)...which is fitting as he got to use BOTH his spells, and even the Charm Person worked (which is only the 3rd time in my history of coming to Baranof that the DM has failed a saving throw against this spell...Steve-O charmed Witherdrool the Gnoll who outlasted the entire party, and Luke charmed a bugbear during the Goblin Wars campaign that was eaten shortly thereafter by a white dragon).

Anyway,, fun. So to add to the fun, I decided to institute a house rule whereby the DM gets to award a Fat XP Bonus once per excursion, an "excursion" being defined as an outing away from town that results in significant adventure and gathering of treasure.

Yes, yes, totally lame on my part...but F it. I like to be entertained, too, and I figure if I dangle a juicy enough carrot, the players will step up and dance for my amusement. Here's the rules of the bonus:

- only one bonus can be awarded per excursion
- DM can opt not to award bonus if he chooses
- no bonuses will be awarded to the same PC twice in succession
- bonus is equal to 10% of the XP needed to achieve the next level
- no bonus XP (say, for a Prime Requisite) is added to the bonus
- only a PC that survives the excursion is eligible for the bonus
- bonus is awarded completely by DM fiat and players must abide by that; reasons for award may be doing something cool, or something funny, or something clever, or something courageous. The only stipulation is I must be entertained by it.

Finally, I required complete consensus before any bonuses were awarded...if any of the players objected to me showing partiality, than I would NOT be handing out any bonuses.

However, since there seemed to be no "downside," all the players agreed to institute "the bonus situation." Game on!

I awarded bonuses for past excursions retroactively (I track all campaign XP on an Excel spreadsheet over time to see how players/characters are doing anyway, so this is no sweat)...none of which would have resulted in anyone "leveling up" sooner than they already had. However, it was nice for the players to hear what actions in the past had added to their point totals (and give them an idea about what I was looking for). For posterity, I'll provide the list here:

Excursion #1 (goblin cluster-f**k): I would have loved to award the bonus to Steve-O, but he died and thus rendered himself ineligible. Instead bonus went to Stanley the thief for being one of only two survivors of the massacre (Luke bugged out early that night and missed the slaughter) AND for felling the ogre with a well-placed arrow.

Excursion #2: Awarded to Fletch Sr. (archer) for recovering the remains of his dead son from the goblin warren and avenging his son's death.

Excursion #3: Awarded to Muerte (summoner/necromancer) for negotiating with the lizard men in their own language and offering to trade them a hireling (as food!) for their magic potions.

Excursion #4 (Tomb of Horrors "dream sequence adventure"): Awarded to Thane the barbarian for getting himself fried by the altar, and also having the balls to follow his hireling into the mist (and the cleverness/luck to get out of the oubliette). Unfortunately, Thane died in the next session, so his bonus was lost...

Excursion #5 (kobold/giant rat cluster-f**k): Awarded to the Violet Seer (magic-user) for his quick thinking of dashing his lantern to the ground and making a barrier of flame, allowing most of the party to escape being gnawed to death by a horde of rats.

Excursion #6: Awarded to Neckbeard the dwarf, not only for being the only PC to survive the Mad Hermit and his pet mountain lion, but also for finding the hermit's treasure and hiding it from the NPCs (i.e. keeping it all for himself).

Excursion #7: Awarded to Muerte for using the magic cauldron to bring the dead halfling back from the dead (as a zombie) all in the name of his necromantic curiosity. And then shooting said zombie with a harquebus.

Last night would be Excursion #8 for the party and I'm still debating who I plan on awarding the bonus. I've got it narrowed down to two (or three) possible candidates, and I even considered splitting the bonus...but that goes against my own rules (One Excursion, One Bonus). A lot of the PCs were more effective than usual last night, and while that by itself might be grounds for an award, the main purpose is gifting someone who entertains me. And that's a whole different question.

See, this is the reason I don't usually provide any kind of "role-playing XP awards" in Dungeons & Dragons...reward mechanics drive behavior and I want players to know what it is that gets them leveling up (i.e. defeating monsters and...mainly...acquiring treasure). I generally HATE DM fiat when it comes to giving out any kinds of "rewards;" those stupid White Wolf games for years had me wracking my brain to see how I could award "good role-playing" or "learning something" without looking like I was playing favorites with certain players. In the end, you ARE playing are giving out XP based on what YOU think (in your subjective mind) is "good" role-playing or whatever.

That's why I'm just going to call this one what it is: a bonus for making the DM chuckle or applaud. Period. One award per excursion, and only one player can get it. No player character can get it twice in succession.

Ah, well, I know I'll probably end up hurting someone's feelings at some point...them's the breaks. That's why I insisted on total group buy-off...if they decide in the future they don't want it , we can always 86 the idea.


  1. Give the experience points to Witherdrool! He deserves them!

  2. correction: there were three survivors of Excursion One. Neckbeard made it out as well, cursing Steve-O and his suicidal playing style all the way.

  3. @ IG: I count Neckbeard as one of the two survivors...that may not be clear in the post (the Violet Seer left the dungeon before the massacre even occurred, is what I meant to say).

    Sorry, Heron...Neckbeard is a survivor, no doubt about it!
    ; )

  4. oh sure...jinx it! Now he'll get eated by bears or something.

  5. @ IG: I solemnly swear, as much as I wanted them, there are NO BEARS in the Necropolis. least, no LIVING bears...
    ; )

  6. I came home and rolled up, then shredded, four characters last night, just because I didn't feel comfortable living through a Thursday.

  7. @ Gatz: Obviously it is my ecological duty to kill you next Thursday so that no more paper need be wasted.
    ; )

  8. I'm just going to start forest fires if you do that. Only you can prevent forest fires, JB.