XP For RP? The One Thing I Reward Roleplaying Experience Points For Now

If you have time, I’d love to hear how you award XP for roleplaying. I love the idea but my concern would be that I might turn into a judge – “your roleplay was pretty good, but not great, so you get 100 XP” etc. And players roleplaying for my amusement would become a not-fun mini game.

I hear you, Michael. My stance on experience points for roleplaying has changed over the last decade, in part, for the reason you state.

My situation might be a bit different than yours, so let me give some context before I share. My group consists entirely of experienced gamers. Every player is also a past or present GM. So they’ve got their roleplaying chops.

And remember, what we reward, we get more of.

So, with such an experienced group, I focus on rewards for overcoming in-game challenges. These can be challenges I’ve pushed into play, or troubles they’ve caused for themselves.

I don’t award XP for attendance. With an experienced group, they’re either motivated to show up or they’re not. They know what the game is, and if it’s not for them, they can bow out. We don’t need gold stars for turnout. If you have a group of new players, that might be different. You might want an incentive to nudge uncertain players over. But with an experienced group, I expect intrinsic motivation to roleplay.

I also don’t award XP for jokes and eloquence. My experienced players show up to have fun, and such things are just an aspect of regular play. I see it as part of the game to speak in-character and to take a stab at portraying your character. Again, your group might need encouragement to roleplay, so you might dangle some XP carrots.

However, if clever elocution gets the party out of a jam or advances them one step closer on their quest, then that is worth some XP in my game.

I believe a key part of our job as GMs is to ensure every encounter worth XP has some sort of challenge. There must be conflict. Without conflict and challenge, we’re not playing a game (lack of interesting choices), we can’t really call the PCs heroes (anyone could’ve solved the problem), and we’ll get bored (end of campaign).

I also don’t impose a specific solution onto characters unless I’m serving up a special puzzle. It’s up to the players to decide whether to attack, sneak past, or roleplay to “beat” my encounters. And if they choose roleplay, then it’s up to the approach they take and potentially some dice rolls to determine if they overcome the conflict or not.

That said, if a player does a great job with their words and portrayal, they might get a bonus to their roll. So good roleplay in that sense can lead to more XP because of improved chances to beat the conflict.

So this is how I approach awarding XP for roleplay. Roleplay is one tool of several that players and their characters can use to overcome challenges.

Your situation might be different. So I would take a moment to reflect on what the gaps are in play with your group right now. And then decide if XP to reward different desired behavior, such as roleplaying, is the best tool in your GM Toolbox to solve the problem. You might have a shy group, be GMing kids who need to learn how to participate in a group, or have players who make the game too serious or comedic.

I hope this helps, Michael.

Have more fun at every game!

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