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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 61 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: [D20 Arcana Evolved] The reward/hero point discussion  (Read 7552 times)
ffilz
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« on: August 31, 2005, 11:37:30 AM »

We had another session last night. After a somewhat long social time (partly because I was cooking dinner for myself - note to self - I really need to work harder on taking care of my dinner needs before thre session), I opened a discussion about keys, rewards, and hero points.

What I got out of the discussion is that the players really aren't into the idea of the keys. I think a big factor is that they just don't understand that they could be empowered as players to set their own rewards, though perhaps instead they are scared by the idea, or don't feel like they can be creative enough. I'm not sure I did the best job in the world of conveying this point, but in any case, it became pretty clear the players don't really want the keys.

We also talked about what hero points could do, and how sometimes it might take more than one to actually pull something off (Arcana Evolved does give a definition of what a hero point can do, so they aren't nebulous, so the failure a couple weeks ago of the balcony jumping heroic action wasn't because I didn't let the player get enough for the hero point, but that we didn't really think through how hero points worked and that he should have spent another to get an extra action).

In the end, we settled on that I will award hero points when I think someone did something cool, plus players can nominate each other. When I brought this up, the young husband immediately asked what stopped them (as a couple) from nominating each other, even if what they did wasn't all that cool. I pointed out it was a nomination for a hero point, not a grant of a hero point. If what they did wasn't all that cool, the group wouldn't support the nomination. With that settled, we moved on.

I also talked about going back to the DMG XP system since that at least rewarded them for being efficient in play. They seemed cool with that (though I think they felt they would be just as happy if I told them every 4 weeks they leveled up - but I think deep down, they are better off with a more explicit reward system, even if it ends up amounting to the same thing).

I suspect hero points are going to not play into things that much. Several players did burn hero points to make a save at one point. I'm actually considering granting them a hero point each time they level just so they have a small bank for use as "get out of death free" cards (because I really do like something that allows a player to deny death - we also talked about that aspect of hero points, and how a player could choose not to use a hero point to avoid death, or could use a hero point to accomplish something more as they go down [take an enemy with them, give another character a reprieve or whatever]).

Frank
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Frank Filz
Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2005, 11:57:29 AM »

I use something like your hero points.  I just call them Tokens.  Here's what I do and it works really well for me.

I have a small bowl filled with a bunch of blue Tokens (little glass stones from Walmart) and a few red Tokens.  At the beginning of a session each player blindly picks 3 Tokens.  Blue ones are a +2 on any roll.  Red ones are a +5.  They can spend them whenever and on whatever roll they choose.  If they haven't been used by the end of the session, they are lost and they draw again next session.  Multiple players can lay down multiple Tokens on a roll if they like.  I don't limit their use in any way really.

The system is easy and requires no extra bookkeeping at all.  When a Token is used, they toss it back into the bowl.

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Sean
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« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2005, 12:25:59 PM »

Hi Frank,

I'm confused, because in your last post you said they were into the idea of Keys because it gave them an opportunity to (or maybe they would say 'forced them to', I don't know) play their characters. I sort of liked the idea of creating a few character-defining traits and then getting hero points for acting on those in the right sorts of ways. Obviously if your players don't you shouldn't do it - but maybe you could shed some light on the apparent difference in their attitude from before and after?

As simple as it is, your 'anyone can nominate someone besides themself, community consensus to validate' approach for awarding hero points is actually a great system for bringing everyone into play together. Hopefully you can use that to build trust with each other as well as to get everyone focused on explicitly rewarding the moments of play that you all enjoy the most.

Best,

Sean
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ffilz
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« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2005, 12:29:54 PM »

Andrew,

Your system is similar to Deadlands.

Yea, that's another way to do it. I'll consider that if rewarding for doing cool things doesn't pan out (actually, Deadlands does both, as a reward, and getting a pool each session). The trick will be how many to give each session.

AE hero points do more than your tokens, and I see no reason to change the rules on what they actually do, which also means there wouldn't be two levels. Actually, this is a pretty good design, it's pretty hard to whiff with AE's hero points (they add +20 to a roll, if you use them on an attack roll, if the attack would have hit without the +20 you automatically crit). +2 in D&D would result in a lot of whiffs (unless you can throw them down after you make the roll).

Frank
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Frank Filz
Eric J.
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« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2005, 12:53:59 PM »

I agree with Frank.  It's rather confusing.

You sortof changed how you presented your players' perspectives on the whole thing.  What I'm most conerned about is your advancement system in general.  An advancement system has to start where most behavioral psychology.  Encouraging and discouraging behavior.

Personally, I think it's strange for RPGs to have advancement systems at all but whatever.  Keys seem like a great idea but the ones you chose seemed to disbalance it.  But most importantly is what you said about hero points:

Quote
I suspect hero points are going to not play into things that much. Several players did burn hero points to make a save at one point. I'm actually considering granting them a hero point each time they level just so they have a small bank for use as "get out of death free" cards (because I really do like something that allows a player to deny death - we also talked about that aspect of hero points, and how a player could choose not to use a hero point to avoid death, or could use a hero point to accomplish something more as they go down [take an enemy with them, give another character a reprieve or whatever]).

Couple questions:

Do your players seem eager to aquire and use Hero points?

Is death a common risk that the PCs have to face?

Finally, if your players would be satisfied completely with leveling up once a month why don't you do that?

May the wind be always at your back,
-Pyron
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ffilz
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« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2005, 01:19:10 PM »

Sean,

I think I overestimated their understanding of keys. One thought I do have is that I almost mentioned that I thought the young husband is the one who gets them the most. Guess who actually made the comment about them seeming to encourage character definition? (No this learning disabled player is not dumb!) So, yea, I'm a bit confused myself. It seemed like the other long term player and the new player who has come every time since he joined were also on to keys (the other long term player was the most effective at making his keys happen in the early game - I do wonder if I accidentally screwed him and taught him a wrong lesson).

Definitely the everyone can nominate is a good way to empower everyone to reward play they enjoy. Hopefully they will really feel they are allowed to be empowered (and hopefully I won't inadvertently shoot them down - I'm going to try real hard to grant all nominations as long as I don't sense general disagreement or have strong feelings of my own).

D20 (or at least in it's D&D like incarnations) is totally built on advancement so advancement is definitely part of the picture.

Death is definitely part of the picture. The young husband has lost two characters in the current campaign to combat (and I think he was out of hero points at the time - which was before we switched to keys generating hero points, so they all started with one hero point, and almost no one ever earned another). Other losses have been close, and I think at least once or twice people have used hero points to avoid death.

Why not just advance a level every four sessions? I guess I could do that, but that puts the reward cycle purely into the non-text parts of system. Though perhaps it's there already. I do like the thought that it does reward being efficient with combats. I'd like to get us to the point where we manage more than two encounters in an evening (based on my previous campaign we should be hitting at least 3, if not 4).

Frank
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Frank Filz
Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2005, 05:02:44 PM »

Frank,

I let them throw them down whenever they want.  Before or after a roll.  And they can pile on all the Tokens they have available, if they like.  Their fellow players can also throw in Tokens at the same time.  My players use it to good effect.
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Jason Lee
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Posts: 729


« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2005, 09:13:51 AM »

I've fiddled around in play with a number of different methods of using tokens (hero points) as a rewards system.  Thus far I've discovered:

The resource (tokens) should be attainable fairly often.  If you only receive new tokens every few sessions then your rewards system isn't really touching play.  This leads to the necessity of balancing their effectiveness down, which has the advantage of the more pack-rat type of player being more likely to use the resource.  However, in doing so the relative worth of each instance of reward also drops (people aren't as happy when they get a token).  I'm currently experimenting with a dual resource system to solve this - common "little" tokens and rare "big" tokens.

The acquisition of the resource should have a clear tie to events in play and mechanics.  For example, handing out tokens for cool actions will work provided you can put "cool" in context of play, like cool equals swashbuckling genre actions, or cool equals dramatic failure.  Basically, the rewards system need to be clear about what a player needs to do to be rewarded, or the cycle won't work.  Also, the advantage spending the resource provides should be clear mechanically, so the player can get a sense of the worth of the resource.

The resource should not be increased except through the behavior that is meant to be rewarded.  So, replenishing tokens at the beginning of a session (or whenever) is working against using the resource as a rewards system.  That's a fine thing to do, but it makes the resource a karma resolution system and not a rewards system, because it shifts expectations from needing to work for the resource to needing to ration it between refills.

Without an upper limit on the amount of the resource that can be attained the rewards cycle will lose value, because some players will feel the need to store them up for winter.  Thus, they will not be being rewarded, as they will not be gaining from the resource.  Contrarily, placing a limit on the amount that can be attained can cause a drop off in the behavior you seek to reward when the player reaches the limit.  However, I find that an upper limit encourages use of the resource, because once a player reaches the limit he feels more comfortable spending it if he is the squirrel type, and hence he'll start to feel the effects of the rewards cycle.  So this is very tricky.

Some of these pro/con situations can be "solved" by making the resource a necessity for play - making it so that without the resource the character will have trouble succeeding.  This is not a solution.  It turns the positive reinforcement that a rewards cycle is striving for into negative reinforcement for actions that aren't sanctioned.  Thus, the rewards cycle will not be fun, it will be a chore.
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- Cruciel
ffilz
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« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2005, 01:22:41 PM »

Jason,

Excellent analysis. I'm pretty convinced my players just aren''t interested in seeking this kind of reward though. With Sweet20, advancement was purely tied to the keys, and to advance at a decent rate, you really had to seek out your keys, but for the most part, players didn't do this.

Thinking about your thoughts on handing out periodic hero points not being a reward, have some thoughts. The reason I want to see some periodic refresh of hero points is to allow players to avoid character death. But something I just thought about, I use a completely non-random character generation, further, new PCs basically come in at the same level as existing PCs. There is nothing mechanically (and little socially) stopping a player who isn't done playing Fred when he dies from creating Fred II. So why not just be open and upfront. If your character dies, and you're not done playing him, just say so. No need to burn a hero point. We'll jointly work up as much explanation as we need for why Fred didn't actually die. If you're ready to move on from Fred, well then that's cool.

So then do I need hero points at all? Possibly not, though I'm still mildly inclined to hand them out for cool playing and letting them be cool play enablers. But maybe we shouldn't focus on cool play in that way, perhaps reward for cool play is almost entirely social.

Frank
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Frank Filz
Pôl Jackson
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Posts: 33


« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2005, 02:41:45 PM »

Quote
So why not just be open and upfront. If your character dies, and you're not done playing him, just say so. No need to burn a hero point. We'll jointly work up as much explanation as we need for why Fred didn't actually die. If you're ready to move on from Fred, well then that's cool.

I'd advise caution. In my Arcana Evolved group, it came out that we didn't want "immortal" characters. We wanted the risk of death on the table - maybe not for all encounters, but at least for the important ones. At least one player felt that without the risk of character death, conflict becomes meaningless.

I suspect that most gamist-oriented groups have similar philosophies, spoken or not. What's the point of showing what you've got if you're not putting anything at risk? Then again, some people really hate to lose a character. Like so many things, it comes down to knowing your players.

Our solutions boiled down to "it's OK for the DM to discuss stakes with the players, both before and after the fact", and "you get to narrate your death scene". We're playing tonight; if I get time, I'll post an Actual Play of my own.

 - Pôl Jackson
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Jason Lee
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« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2005, 06:58:19 PM »

Frank,

Thanks.

I think you're completely right on the issue of character death.  If you find you need to work around something to enjoy play then just ditch that something.  And there is nothing wrong with keeping the hero points even if they aren't much of a rewards system.  Player control mechanics have plenty of value aside from being a reward.  You also don't even need a rewards system if you aren't trying to push for specific types of behavior (and your group feels play is its own reward).
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- Cruciel
ffilz
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« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2005, 08:25:18 PM »

Pol, not sure what our CA is, but I don't think it's particularly gamist (who knows, we might actually be zilchplay), or maybe it is gamism, but not really on the level of character survival. I'm still very up in the air about how to read CA, but I'm not too stressed about it as long as we seem to be having fun.

But you're right, perhaps taking death off the table in that way is not good, even if players can normally avoid death with the use of a hero point.

Since you're playing AE also, I'd love to hear how hero points are working in your group (but you probably should start a new thread for that).

Frank
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Frank Filz
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