Motivation & Experience

epi418Gaining new power and abilities through accumulating experience points and raising in level is perhaps the oldest form of motivation and meaningful progress evident in roleplaying games. New things are fun and a character rising in skill can feel like a tangible reward and a sign that you are doing well in the game. Compared to some other roleplaying games, FFG Star Wars is very nebulous in its guidelines for handing out experience points, with a wide range of values automatically distributed without qualification and arbitrarily set by the Galaxy Master. While I do appreciate the design intent of simplification, I feel that the games I tend to run deserve a more rigid set of incentives for advancement. Taking a cue from some more experimental indie RPGs (Torchbearer and Dungeon World), I’ve put together some solid guidelines as an alternate method of awarding experience points and incentivizing good roleplaying.

What is “good roleplaying“?

It’s challenging your character, and by extension a part of your own psyche, with tough situations that cause the character to question his or her beliefs and deal with situations outside of your comfort zones. It’s a Kobyashi Maru scenario, a test of your character. It’s not talking about speaking in funny accents, wearing a goofy outfit, or recalling vast amounts of worthless trivia.

In lieu of standard experience point awards, whenever one of the following four conditions is achieved during play, award experience points as indicated to each character in the group.

  • A player character rolls a Despair. It is only through challenge and adversity that we can grow. Tell everyone how you’re really going to learn a lesson from this one. (1 XP)
  • Act on your Motivation in a way that is considered unwise, causes difficulty, or increases the complexity of the situation. Tell everyone that you are doing this for the greater or moral good. (2 XP)
  • Challenge your Motivation in a dramatic, emotional way that represents a crisis of faith. Tell everyone about your spiritual struggle. (2 XP)
  • Lead to the adventure to a point where your Motivation is resolved and no longer applicable to the story, changing your Motivation. Tell everyone about this new focus in your life. (5 XP)

Sidebar: What other activities are worth earning XP for?
Tell us in the Comments.

Failings of Empire

At the heart of every character in an Empire-centric Star Wars roleplaying game, such as CRUSH the REBELLION, is a seed of discontent. The Empire has failed them in some way, and it is those failings which propel the character down the path of treason. The degree of insubordination varies; some characters are Rebel traitors operating to destroy the Empire from within, while others legitimately believe in the principles of galactic civilization and strive only to correct the corrupt elements that are hurting it. There are no player characters who display complete, unwavering loyalty to the Empire. A character that does not question his or her beliefs is a boring automaton and not fit to be a player character. Use the following Motivations to supplement those available to characters to reflect their involvement in the bureaucracy of Galactic Government.

HubrisThe Empire arrogantly and unfairly imposes its misguided views, wasting valuable resources and garnering ill-will among the people.

  • Religious/Jedi Persecution
  • Human Superiority
  • Immoral Scientific Experimentation
  • Political Persecution
  • Wealth Inequality
  • Environmental Degradation

Dark DeedsThe Empire is rotten to the core, filled with evil men and women who have crossed your path and need to be stopped.

  • Betrayal
  • Blackmail
  • Genocide
  • Torture
  • Assassination
  • Sentient Enslavement

Special thanks to Andy Kotch for editing, etc.

About C. Steven Ross

C. Steven Ross is the founder of Triumph & Despair. View all posts by C. Steven Ross

3 responses to “Motivation & Experience

  • Thomas Wonneberger

    I’ve actually started giving skill specific XP to players for completing tasks with that skill, provided the skill is of a difficulty equal to or greater to that player’s skill level. So completing an easy task when you have 3 ranks doesn’t really stretch that character, but if they manage a daunting on raw ability, well kudos to you, gaining a rank in that skill just became easier (i.e. you now have bonus XP that can only be spent on that skill).

    The downside is now the characters have more XP to track than just one lump sum, but the upside is that they get to advance faster with more XP and also, characters who want to “practice” a new skill are encouraged and rewarded for doing so.

  • Brandon

    Hmm. Perhaps XP can be rewarded for overcoming adversity, specifically in regards to accumulated crits. i would say that meeting some of the goals you state can be modified, granting additional XP equal to the number of critical injuries a character has sustained. I feel like something is lurking in Obligation as well, waiting to be teased out.

  • GM Adeptus

    RE: Motivation & Experience
    I have been awarding 1-2EP when a player does something truly insightful, extraordinary, or unusually heroic. (like when the other players all say, “Oooh, yeah!”)
    When a player includes reference to their Motivation, Background, Obligation/Duty in their narration of what/why/how of their actions, I also give 1-2EP as encouragement.
    I try to keep track of which players have received “bonus” points and then I try to give the players that haven’t received any points the chance by presenting “opportunities” for them to ‘step into the spotlight.

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