Technical blog and writings by Micah Webner.

Blogrimage 2014 Day 11: Experience Points

Well, we've gotten to the point where it feels like I'm constantly doing homework. No matter how far I go or don't go with gaming, I'll never be in this position again, but right now, the only way out is through. I know full well that I've brought this on myself, of course. It would be a lot easier if I just guided the players through some relatively straight line path from adventure to adventure, and I suppose that's all that's really expected of a new GM, but I would really like the characters to have some options about how they proceed. That would definitely be easier if I was starting this adventure with a back catalog of ideas, NPCs, and a reusable adventure or two. But like the first-level player characters, I'm starting out with zero experience points and very little accumulated wealth.

That being said, I do believe things are progressing nicely, and I will be ready this weekend at the level of preparation I'd hoped to achieve.

One of the more intriguing aspects of tabletop roleplaying games is character advancement. As characters face challenges, they are awarded experience points. These are generally fixed values for certain types of encounters, but the GM may also award experience points when a player finds a particularly clever solution to a challenge that doesn't necessarily involve killing something. As characters accumulate experience points, they go up in levels, which allows them to learn new skills, improve their combat ability, gain better health, and even attain bonuses to their most basic attributes. in other words, as they go up in levels, characters get better at what they do.

That's a lot like life. As you gain experience, you should be getting better.

I went through a period of years where it seemed like I was constantly learning the same life lessons at work and through volunteer positions at my church. There were a lot of parallel situations between the two that fed similar types of experience. It really didn't matter where I learned something first, it would soon be reinforced in the other.

This morning, I listened to another podcast episode, Be Better By Gaming, that questioned if and how the social, problem-solving, and creative aspects of gaming could make you better at life in general. I couldn't help but think that it's all experience. Do your characters advance differently if they defeat a mummy, or a pack of wolves? No, it's 1,600xp either way. Should applying logic in one situation make you better at applying logic in other situations? Of course it should. Will eventually realizing how I over-planned every detail of an upcoming adventure help me identify ways I tend to over-plan on every project? Gee, I really hope so!

I guess what I'm trying to say is to learn from your experiences, not just to be better at a thing, but to be better overall. Experience becomes even more valuable when it can be applied across a broader range of situations. Let's use it to become better.