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Bonus Experience (of the Solar, Dragon, and Lunar varieties)

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  • Bonus Experience (of the Solar, Dragon, and Lunar varieties)

    I've been running Exalted 3rd edition for a while now, and the rules that I've had the hardest time adopting are the bonus experience rules.

    Let me give you some background. For years, I've always awarded bonus experience for good roleplaying. Typically, that's been both an ST fiat and a players' choice award at the end of each session. That worked pretty well, but the players' choice especially tended to go to the players who were more vocal in portraying their characters rather than the quiet or subtle moments. So part way through my Solar game, I switched from our ad hoc system to the system of Solar experience in the book. That worked pretty well; most sessions, most of the players earned the expression bonus, and would sometimes earn the caste bonus. The Solar castes are fairly archetypal and well understood, so even when characters are a little off cast, the caste bonuses still resonated.

    Now, however, we're playing Dragon-Blooded. The expression bonus is still going smoothly; the players are all active roleplayers and are good at keeping their intimacies in mind. The aspect bonus is going far less smoothly. Fist, I find the elemental aspects are less archetypal than the castes, so we all have less of a strong feel for what they mean. Second, the combination of specific 'elemental' behaviors crossed with intimacies has been hard to keep track of during play. Ultimately, this has lead to no aspect bonuses being given out most sessions because we're just not sure if any of the conditions have been triggered.

    The added complication is that my players are not driven by mechanical character advancement. So if I ask players to petition for Dragon experience, it just won't happen.

    What has your experience been with experience, and have you found any clever ways to help remember the conditions?


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  • #2
    Originally posted by ElfSpeaker View Post
    I've been running Exalted 3rd edition for a while now, and the rules that I've had the hardest time adopting are the bonus experience rules.

    Let me give you some background. For years, I've always awarded bonus experience for good roleplaying. Typically, that's been both an ST fiat and a players' choice award at the end of each session. That worked pretty well, but the players' choice especially tended to go to the players who were more vocal in portraying their characters rather than the quiet or subtle moments. So part way through my Solar game, I switched from our ad hoc system to the system of Solar experience in the book. That worked pretty well; most sessions, most of the players earned the expression bonus, and would sometimes earn the caste bonus. The Solar castes are fairly archetypal and well understood, so even when characters are a little off cast, the caste bonuses still resonated.

    Now, however, we're playing Dragon-Blooded. The expression bonus is still going smoothly; the players are all active roleplayers and are good at keeping their intimacies in mind. The aspect bonus is going far less smoothly. Fist, I find the elemental aspects are less archetypal than the castes, so we all have less of a strong feel for what they mean. Second, the combination of specific 'elemental' behaviors crossed with intimacies has been hard to keep track of during play. Ultimately, this has lead to no aspect bonuses being given out most sessions because we're just not sure if any of the conditions have been triggered.

    The added complication is that my players are not driven by mechanical character advancement. So if I ask players to petition for Dragon experience, it just won't happen.

    What has your experience been with experience, and have you found any clever ways to help remember the conditions?

    My experience has been fairly good so far, mostly because STs usually remember a couple of things that help: 1) Getting 5 XP and 4 Splat XP every session, even if people don't get the Caste/Aspect and Expression bonuses, is completely fine and breaks nothing, neither does being lax with when to award XP; 2) Aspects are more a reflection on personality than on role, so you kind of need to switch gears when addressing them. Mainly, my rule of thumb is this:

    As an Air Aspect, did you go full nerd during the session, or full wise ancestor, or fully altruistic or idealistic or head-over-clouds? And more importantly, did it help your Hearth or defend something you believe in?

    As an Earth Aspect, did you stand for your convictions and belief against the world? Endure the worst Creation had to throw at you? Kept your Hearth together or create something long-lasting?

    As a Fire Aspect, did you have an extremely reckless and perhaps dumb moment or did you defeat a powerful opponent or convince people to follow their emotions, all for the sake of your own emotional beliefs and relationships?

    As a Water Aspect, did you circumvent a recurring trouble by trying new ways to solve it, exploit rules and laws to uphold your beliefs or relationships, help allies recover from a setback in a way that helps them and or the rest of the Hearth, or remove trouble through what could be described as being a good ol' dick?

    As a Wood Aspect, did you experience something that helps you protect or advance your beliefs or relationships? Resolve ailments or obstacles impeding the Hearth from advancing? Pursue new sensations and experiences to further said beliefs or relationships? Build an ally's strengths or prune away their weaknesses in order to create an advantage for them or the others?

    That's the gist of it. Air is idealistic and nerdy, Earth is tough and magnetic, Fire is emotional and explosive, Water is underhanded and persevering, and Wood is nourishing and sensation-seeking. If you feel the player character has behaved roughly like this during the session, feel free to award them the 2 XP for Role, and very likely the 2 for Expression since many of these depend on upholding Intimacies.

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    • #3
      The personality basis for Aspect makes a lot of sense to me and matches my understanding of the Aspects as well. I appreciate you taking the time put into write up your understanding. I'm totally going to nab that for my group!

      And I totally agree that 9 XP a session is really not a problem in terms of advancement.


      Check out my RPG podcast: The Story Told
      Follow my ongoing Exalted Campaign: The Fall of Jiara
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      • #4
        Don't forget how the Dragon Blooded Great Curse works now.


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        • #5
          So, when I started running 3rd ed, it was a continuation of a 2nd ed game that had reached about 500xp.

          So I started 3rd ed at 200xp (weaker than they'd got to in 2nd ed, but 3rd ed characters get more charms, more backgrounds and a ton of free excellencies, so it works out okay).
          This, I felt, was a lot of XP already, and I wasn't keen on giving different people different amounts of XP. So I just didn't give any Solar XP at all, I felt 5xp a session was enough for such experienced characters.

          Some people complained that meant that, for example, sorcerous workings cut into their charm XP, but most players didn't mind. I did at one point offer to change it to 4xp and 2 Solar xp, but most of them preferred 5xp.
          I just occasionally gave out Solar xp at the end of stories.

          This might seem a bit harsh, but getting challenges for high-xp PCs is very hard. I ended up giving up the game partially because I couldn't challenge the PCs.

          Now another guy runs that game, and the PCs have reached 435xp and 30 Solar xp I think (something like that), which is ludicrous. He has challenged us... mostly because we fight each other, which has its own problems.

          In that game, we are getting 7-9xp a session, and my character sheet is 14 pages long because I have 50 charms. I'd say only 1 player knows his charms well.

          In my friend's game, to convert from 2nd ed he gave us 200xp and 160 Solar xp, and just gives us a flat 5xp and 2 solar xp a session. It's much easier for everyone when you're not worried about exactly the way role bonuses are written, but on the other hand some of the PCs are rather inactive, and maybe they'd do more if their xp depended on it.

          In another friend's game, which I don't play, he's always used the standard rules. He said he found the scene-ceding bonus very useful. However, I know that one player dislikes it because his character didn't really fit into any obvious Caste, so he picked one that kind of fit, but playing his character true to themselves means he basically never gets the Role bonus for his Caste.

          So, with my new Lunars game (which started at 0xp, so I don't mind so much if they get 9xp in one session), I've been trying it out.

          It seems to be... okay. A bit awkward, because I often look at the guidelines and go "hmmm... should they be getting it?" It's not always clear. And it can be difficult to remember at the end of the session.
          The bonus they get most is for ceding the scene, which I think is good for the game. The PCs all co-operate well, as they consult the appropriate person for the appropriate situation. Though they might have done that anyway.
          It's good as well because the 2 Casteless and 2 Changing Moons haven't got their Caste bonuses at all, so need that. They seem much harder (the Changing Moons especially) than the Full Moon and No Moon ones, but we've only had 3 sessions so far (the No Moon got his Role bonus twice, the Full Moon once).
          Though this may also partially be because of, like my friends game where the one PC never gets their Role bonus, some PCs being more stereotypical than others. The Full Moon who's a big viking with a big axe was quite happy to fight a monster and claim his Lunar XP; the merchant grifter who's new to being a Lunar and so is Casteless just isn't that into shapeshifting, and hasn't got a Casteless role bonus yet

          Expression bonus seems moderately difficult, they get it sometimes. I wonder if it'll get harder over time though; the Casteless has revealed his intimacy of selfishness, he can't really reveal it again.
          Though putting yourself in danger for a Major or Defining intimacy seems like it might become more common as the game gets more dangerous.

          What I was most worried about is players whining, but I've only had a bit of grumbling so far, it's been okay.
          Last edited by The Wizard of Oz; 05-19-2019, 05:14 AM.


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          • #6
            I think a good and healthy rule of thumb is that, if you're in a situation where you think "Does this count for the Expression/Role/both bonus(es)?", just go with yes. If you literally can't think of any moments that could count that session, then alright, they don't get it. But Splat XP is very important for advancement and most games I've been in (and am still in) just give out 5/4 every session instead of doing the conditions thing, or are very lax when it comes to handling them. "You did warrior-athlete/trickster/nerd/shapeshifter stuff, get your XP" kind of lax.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by ElfSpeaker View Post
              I've been running Exalted 3rd edition for a while now, and the rules that I've had the hardest time adopting are the bonus experience rules.

              Let me give you some background. For years, I've always awarded bonus experience for good roleplaying. Typically, that's been both an ST fiat and a players' choice award at the end of each session. That worked pretty well, but the players' choice especially tended to go to the players who were more vocal in portraying their characters rather than the quiet or subtle moments. So part way through my Solar game, I switched from our ad hoc system to the system of Solar experience in the book. That worked pretty well; most sessions, most of the players earned the expression bonus, and would sometimes earn the caste bonus. The Solar castes are fairly archetypal and well understood, so even when characters are a little off cast, the caste bonuses still resonated.

              Now, however, we're playing Dragon-Blooded. The expression bonus is still going smoothly; the players are all active roleplayers and are good at keeping their intimacies in mind. The aspect bonus is going far less smoothly. Fist, I find the elemental aspects are less archetypal than the castes, so we all have less of a strong feel for what they mean. Second, the combination of specific 'elemental' behaviors crossed with intimacies has been hard to keep track of during play. Ultimately, this has lead to no aspect bonuses being given out most sessions because we're just not sure if any of the conditions have been triggered.

              The added complication is that my players are not driven by mechanical character advancement. So if I ask players to petition for Dragon experience, it just won't happen.

              What has your experience been with experience, and have you found any clever ways to help remember the conditions?
              If you think the Dragon Blooded xp does not work as it should in your campaign, then I would discard it, and just give players Dragon XP for role playing or fulfilling their personal concepts of their characters (the latter is nice at times because not all players are equally good at role playing, and as a Game Master I am sometimes wary of the wide gap in xp that can be created when the better role players get a lot more xp than those who by nature just don't role play as well, though this depends on your group and their maturity).
              In any case, I don't see why one should follow the rules as written slavishly as a game master. Personally, I think I would try to give my players relatively equal solar XP in the campaign I will start next week for 3ed, and maybe just a tiny bonus for those who does something remarkable in role play. I also never follow the xp guide lines slavishly in most games (though it has happened). In Exalted for instance, I give out the normal 5 xp for most sessions, but if there is a session where I as a GM feel that the players have learned something significant (perhaps about their previous incarnations etc.), then I am certainly not afraid of doubling it to 10 xp or something along side those lines. For sessions where my players do nothing but talk to each other, I have sometimes given them less than 5. IMO you should do what you yourself think makes sense in cooperation with your own players. Note that I am generalising a lot here. I ran an exalted 3ed campaign for a year or so in 2017, then it died,( though I am starting a new one the coming weekened, which I am truly looking forward to, now that much needed source material has been released) so when I am talking about handing out xp I am talking bout role playing games in general, and not just Exalted.
              In any case, I find myself agreeing a lot with Alistair above.

              ps. Thanks for that podcast! It was fascinating.
              Last edited by Magnus K; 05-21-2019, 08:58 PM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Magnus K View Post
                ps. Thanks for that podcast! It was fascinating.
                I'm glad you enjoyed the podcast!

                I don't feel tied down to using the rules as written, but I did want to give the system a try. It sounds like folks are having a similar experience to me.


                Check out my RPG podcast: The Story Told
                Follow my ongoing Exalted Campaign: The Fall of Jiara
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                • #9
                  If you do want to use the requirements as written Iā€™d suggest holding any missed bonuses in reserve for the next time they do get it instead of that XP being lost forever. As in, if someone misses their role bonus one session but earns it the next session they get four [splat]XP from it that second session instead of two (the two for that session plus the two they missed the previous session).

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                  • #10
                    Our group has been experimenting with Player-facing Splat XP, and we've liked it so far. We keep the requirements as they are, but instead of ST handling out XP, each player can decide if their character is qualified for the Role and Expression bonus. ST and the other players can offer opinions and suggestions, but the final word is always the players.

                    Blades in the Dark has a similar XP system as Exalted's Role XP and it uses this method. It saves a lot of the ST's work as they don't need to remember every players XP triggers and everything they did in the session. It also lets more quiet players tie their unshowy roleplaying to their Intimacies and (retroactively) tell, how it portrayed their character.
                    Can it be abused? Sure, a player could just take the full 4xp every session. But that doesn't matter, because they will still highlight some stuff their character did to earn that XP and it builds their character.

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                    • #11
                      Taleksi I really like idea. Thanks for chiming in.


                      Check out my RPG podcast: The Story Told
                      Follow my ongoing Exalted Campaign: The Fall of Jiara
                      Check out my Community Content: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse....hazz%20Kellner

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