Gold For XP?

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0923

Table of Contents:

I’ve been thinking about a gold-for-XP system for a campaign. At the end of each session, the value of loot (art, magic, coins, gems, and so on) becomes an equivalent number of experience points that gets divided equally amongst the party.

This is the way D&D used to be played long ago. The approach appeals for several reasons.

Why GP For XP?

Simplified mechanic. XP calculations are simpler and not derivative of various calculation schemes. One number gets me two functions — reward and advancement.

De-emphasizes combat. I loves me my action scenes, but I do not want the core reward system (which is levelling up in D&D) to make combat the primary choice. This should help draw the agendas of power gamers and roleplayers a bit closer together.

Tough choices. It’s been so long since I played GP = XP that I forget how it went. But I plan on experimenting with treasures too unwieldy to put beside the 10-foot pole on an equipment list, such as just stealing the demon statue’s eyes for at least some treasure instead of lugging the entire priceless thing around. Also, tough choices like using the potion now instead of getting GP for it back at the Keep.

Avoids awkward encounter results. Do PCs get XP for avoiding combat? For monsters that flee? For winning just by talking to someone? With this system it’s clear and simple. Regardless of the how, the reward remains consistent and obtainable with any character skill set.

Simpler economy. I have just one campaign budget now instead of both treasure and XP.

Balancing Treasure

On the topic of budget, my approach might be:

How many sessions on avg. to level-up:

  • To second level: 2
  • Early levels: 3
  • Mid-levels: 4
  • High levels: 5

Then take total XP needed for next level and divide it into session count.

That gives me a per-session XP/GP budget per player.

For example, if 1500 XP are needed for level four, then it would be:

1500 XP / 3 Session Goal = 500 gold pieces’ budget per session or five room dungeon.

It’s easy now to list a bunch of treasure and rewards for each adventure or night’s gaming. Don’t forget about the value of NPC possessions.

I would likely divide XP equally at the end of sessions.

Some groups will base XP per character based on what treasure the character managed to get out and return to town with. However, I am not wanting PvP play at my table.

Equal XP from a party loot pool minimizes conflicts and tensions between players.

Have you ever run a gold for XP game? How did it go? How did you fare with treasure planning?