26 thoughts on “Anyone replace the xp on a miss mechanic with something else?”

  1. There are other ways they get more deliberate xp – End of Session move (which echoes the pillars of D&D), alignment moves, and resolving bonds.

    I personally like the ‘learn from your failures’ approach – in addition to the other forms of XP. In my experience, in a typical session, XP from misses is about half of their total gain.

  2. You could always do highlight stats ala Apocalypse World. Each session, players hand there character sheet to the player whose character they have the most (or least) bonds with. That player highlights a stat; whenever they roll that stat, they mark XP. Then each player hands the sheet to the MC, who highlights a second stat. Whenever a highlighted stat is rolled, mark XP.

  3. I know there is the end of session move for other xp gain. I have two tables running Masks, and my experience with the xp on a miss in Masks has resulted in VERY lopsided xp gain at both tables. I’ve actually had to create a few custom moves for two players at one table and another at the other to address concerns about not gaining advancements. Not much I can do about a player missing nearly every roll in a session vs another hitting dual fives and boxcars all session long.

    I do like the highlighting move as a workable method.

  4. Joshua R. Leuthold Sorry if my response sounded like it’s sacrilege to consider something else. LOL. I guess I was just pointing out that the XP on a miss is only half the story. I don’t think changing it would affect the game that much. But one nice thing about XP on a miss is that it takes the sting of failure away … a little.

  5. Ray Otus I didn’t take it that way, I just wanted to explain where I was coming from with my group. Some folks at my table are just really lucky on their rolls and others are just really unlucky. The lucky ones tend to use my communal dice too (meaning theybuse different dice almost every session).

  6. Has anyone done an addition to Bonds that include the character’s goals?

    Either replacing Bonds with Goals that have two categories, People & Things, or adding a Goals in addition to Bonds.

    Goals would be things characters want to investigate or accomplish.

    I’m mostly just brainstorming here.

  7. I believe the early drafts of Dungeon World still used the stat-highlighting from AW. If you listen to the Walking Eye podcast’s first Dungeon World playthrough, they were doing it.

    The problem they had with that approach was that The Fighter had Strength highlighted, and there was a lot of combat, so The Fighter was rolling Hack and Slash a lot and getting XP every time. They discussed that a bit in the post-session review episode.


    With regards to the problem of wildly asymmetrical XP gains at the table… would it work to make a house rule that on a miss, the GM makes a move, and whoever things go badly for gets the XP? That could play as written (someone rolls a 6-, the GM makes a move that focusses on their character, they mark XP), but the GM would also have leeway to swing the spotlight onto another character on the miss and make a move against them, and they get the XP.

  8. Robert Rendell That’s actually pretty genius! I might give that a try. Could even allow for situations where the whole party gets xp because someone’s failure resulted in something crazy (failure to strike with a hammer on a cliffside trail starts a rockslide that the party has to defy danger to avoid sliding down). Obviously, those cases would be reserved for times when the whole party could use the xp.

  9. Joshua R. Leuthold the link I posted is misbehaving… if you click on it from G+, you get a 403 “forbidden” error, but if you then just reload the page, it loads. I guess the Walking Eye server doesn’t like requests with G+ in the Referer (sic) field? Peculiar.

    Just to be clear, the link is to the Walking Eye podcast’s crew’s review of their 2012 play through of Dungeon World, using the “red box” rules, where they discuss marking XP when making a move with a highlighted stat.

    The idea of giving the XP on a miss to whichever character has the move made against them is something I just came up with thinking about your problem.

  10. Joshua R. Leuthold Ooh, I like the idea that on particularly consequential misses, you might get everyone in the party to mark XP. The party is creeping down the corridor, the Thief tries to use Trapfinding and rolls a 6-, and clang steel doors slam down ahead of and behind the party. Everyone mark XP as you all hear a hissssssss and green gas starts to fill the air…

    Although, if you open up the possibility that a miss can lead to XP for more than one character, and depending on the players at the table, the house rule might need careful phrasing to avoid players trying to get in on the action and arguing that they should mark XP too, because the move against someone else also affected them. Like, if your move was to Put the Wizard at the back of the party In A Spot by saying a secret door right next to him opens up and he finds himself face to face with a startled ogre, the rest of the party might be like “we have to fight this ogre too, we should get XP!”

  11. I can see how that might be a problem at some tables, but I don’t think it will be with these players.

    Definitely something to look out for though. Maybe couching responses in fiction would help. Like, Quint the Wizard, you’ve never seen a secret door work quite like this one as it opens, there’s a moment where you are marvelling at the mechanism as it shifts upward into the ceiling. You’re swiftly brought back to your senses though, as the surprised face of an ogre stands before you on the other side. Mark xp and what do you do?

  12. Ray Otus Why is that?

    My reason for liking the idea is that it allows me to make sure I’m evening out the progression of my players. It was one of the things I liked about pre-PbtA games that I played. Many of them gave me the freedom to give xp for creative solutions or really tough encounters.

    I know PbtA games have moved away from that, does anyone know the reasoning behind xp being handled as its own mechanic in AW?

    I might ask this in the PbtA group as well actually, since I know Vincent and Meguey both check that periodically.

  13. Well. It’s a design change for sure. And I’m always leery of design changes that aren’t clearly thought out (Not saying you haven’t). You are asking the right questions – before you put XP in the hands of the GM, it’s good to wonder why the game took XP out of the hands of the GM in the first place. I have thoughts on why, but they would get into that weird realm of trust issues and whatnot and people would just tell me it’s sill to worry about a GM playing favorites, intentionally and otherwise, and that I should only ever play with perfect people that I trust implicitly. I agree, don’t play with Wangrods is obviously the first and best way to fix any game problem. But let’s assume people aren’t perfect, even if they try real hard. When you take something that is handled by the system in a clear fashion and turn it into something discretionary, it could go wrong. Not that it will. But it could. Let me ask this? Are you taking control of XP because you don’t like it being tied to failure or because you want to even it out? Those two things seem at odds to me. Because tying it to failure DOES even it out. Those who fail advance quicker and stop failing as much. Those who succeed a lot get less XP. Right? Am I off base?

  14. That may actually be true with Dungeon World, I’m not sure.

    My experience with Masks has shown that not to be true at all. Even with some of my custom move changes, I still have two players who are far behind the others. This has lead to a situation where one storyline is waiting until a character who has only 3 advances gets to their 6th, while other players are nearly on their 7th.

    Now, some of this is the fault of the player in question, because he’ll go out of his way to use labels that are high. He has also done very well when holding to his view of himself, etc., such that any adjustment of labels gets corrected in the fiction via the end of session move.

    My experience with Dungeon World is limited. The first table I put together for it fell apart. This time, it is one of my already existing tables that meets twice monthly and they want to switch between Masks and Dungeon World.

    It could end up being a non-issue, however I enjoy these discussions as I’m currently editing my own PbtA game after its first playtest and game design is new to me.

    So, when you advance in Dungeon World, you get an increase to an ability score. This eventually results in an increase to your modifier, which means your less likely to miss, correct?

    So, the issue that has cropped up in my Masks games would self-correct if it popped up in my Dungeon World game, as the modifiers don’t change the same way. I hadn’t considered that aspect of DW. I may stick with the mechanic as is for this table, though I do dig flags more than bonds.

  15. Joshua R. Leuthold You got it. Advance leads to stat change, stat changes lead to dice bonuses. So yeah, it ends up being pretty self-corrective. I guess the best advice I have is two-fold:

    1. It’s okay to play with XP a little. Rewrite the end of session move or add flags or whatever. Give them more ways to earn XP and incentivize the play you want.

    2. Maybe leave the XP on failure and see if the group gets really out of whack. In my experience it just hasn’t ever been a problem. I rarely have characters more than one level apart and one level isn’t really a big difference in DW. But if they do (get way imbalanced) then yeah, tweak it.

    In any case, it has been an interesting/cool conversation!

  16. Here’s the thing. Your job as a GM in Dungeon World is not to make xp fair, or to arbitrarily give it out for creativity or hardship. The GM role in DW follows the MC role in Apocalypse World fairly closely, and there’s a very good reason that role was called that, instead of the other thing.

    The GM is there to do explicitly three things. (And, implicitly, one other thing.) Portray a fantastic world. Fill the characters’ lives with adventure. Play to find out what happens. Letting XP fall with chance is part of that last one.

    As MC/GM, it’s not your job to “make it fair”. It’s your job to make the game go by telling the players what’s going on around them, and to help interpret and execute the rules when you need to. (Technically, I don’t think that AW/DW needs an MC/GM to run properly; although the GM carries a lot of the responsibility for world-building, once everyone’s got the rules down and feels good about building the world together and triggering moves as they happen, it almost runs on its own.)

    So, ultimately, it’s not the GM’s role to act as a “judge” as to who should get XP, or when it should happen if they feel like it. They’ve already got plenty to do. Running XP rules as written takes that burden off the GM’s shoulders, and makes the game run smoothly and fairly.

    (From a design perspective, I think that “XP on failure” is a brilliant move. Instead of the XP pyramid that many gamers are used to, it just gets harder to get XP as you get better at a thing, which provides a similar pacing experience… unless you start doing stuff you’re not good at. Which, to me, makes things super fun/interesting!)

  17. I love the xp system in dungeon world. Failing I get xp, I get rewarded for trying things and being risky which drives game forward. I find in play it works out like others say, characters are only 1 or 2 levels out of whack, which doesn’t impact the game play much. Plus it paces the game, if you call a lot of rolls we usually end up leveling every session or every other one.

  18. Marc Majcher Thanks for the perspective shift.

    For folks who enjoy the xp on a miss, have any of you played Masks? Did you find folks getting more out of balance in that game than DW?

    My interest in this topic has shifted a bit to trying to figure out how that has been the case for both of my tables. I may head over to that community to ask about it.

  19. Joshua R. Leuthold I do have some recommendations for things that might soften the blow, so to speak, on having so much experience come from 6- Rolls. They relate to your comment on expanding Bonds.

    Firstly, Keys. They see use in a few places (Lady Blackbird, most notably), and are the inspiration behind DW’s Alignment system. Yochai Gal fixed up some Keys for DW that you can find here: https://plus.google.com/+YochaiGalUSA/posts/TFfLGEUDamt

    So instead of having a single Alignment/Drive, you have two Keys, each providing experience. They could relate directly to your character, or to other people.

    Something else I’ve seen is Hooks, from Impulse Drive. They take the place of Alignments, Bonds, and everything else, and provide experience for bringing those aspects up in play. They aren’t permanent – you can change them at the beginning of every session – so you could play one session emphasising your character relationships, another emphasising your character’s instincts and flaws, or another pursuing a written goal or two.

    The game is free if you’d like to take a deeper look: https://plus.google.com/communities/113955340569202928350

    I’m rather fond of pairing either of the above methods with something based on the revised Make Camp/End of Session questions presented in Jeremy Strandberg’s Homebrew World: https://plus.google.com/+JeremyStrandberg/posts/Tam6CeMCL9X

    Basically, replace the existing three questions (defeating a notable foe, collecting rare treasure, etc. – those can be handled by Keys or Hooks) with the following (which each PC takes turns answering):

    ● For each (Key/Hook), give an example of how you’ve met it’s requirement or expressed it in play. If you can, mark XP.

    ● Describe how your opinion of or relationship with another character has changed. If everyone agrees, mark XP.

    ● Point out something impressive or memorable that another character did, something that no one else has mentioned yet. If everyone agrees, they mark XP.

    The alteration to the last questions means that, if you rolled really well in the session and achieved a lot of noteworthy things, you’ll get rewarded for that too.

    The result is that while XP on 6- Rolls still play a fair part in character development, these other aspects take on some of the burden, too.

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