I had a great time playing Hearts of Wulin on Hangouts the other day. But one thing that struck me was how much the game leaned on XP to motivate player behaviour, yet how little I really cared about totting up how many points I had collected.
It was a two-session game, so I was more focused on getting to use the playbook moves I already had, rather than trying to unlock even more. And increasing my stats seemed fairly irrelevant as well in light of the abstract ‘scale’ system used to measure relative character strengths.
I wouldn’t say the XP system was detrimental to the game but it didn’t seem to be doing much either. At most it felt like the game designers giving me a little thumbs up for playing into the tropes of the genre.
I realised that I felt much the same way about XP in the four-part Dungeon World game I played. In fact I think I was due a level up in the last session but I forgot to do it because I was much more interested in the story.
Granted that advancement would be more relevant in a longer campaign, but I think in the indie RPG scene it’s short campaigns that are becoming the norm.
I’m curious if anyone else feels this way about XP in PbtA and beyond. And if it is vestigial are there other ways the game could give that “thumbs up” more effectively? What other rewards could you give instead of increasing character power?
Bennies that let you succeed on future rolls (or describe yourself being awesome)?
Narrative control over the endgame? (Final Girl sort of does this… whoever died the most times gets to narrate the ending)
Real money? (This might sound weird but people do play poker with their friends…)