Cinematic XP Techniques

XP (Experience Point) Techniques

Cinematic System Character Advancement Table

XP Total

Character Level

Feat at this Level?

Total Initiative Bonus Due To Level

0

Level 1

Begin with 2

0

2,500

Level 2

No

0

5,000

Level 3

Yes

0

10,000

Level 4

No

0

20,000

Level 5

No

+1

40,000

Level 6

Yes

+1

65,000

Level 7

No

+1

95,000

Level 8

No

+1

130,000

Level 9

Yes

+1

170,000

Level 10

No

+2

215,000

Level 11

No

+2

265,000

Level 12

Yes

+2

320,000

Level 13

No

+2

380,000

Level 14

No

+2

445,000

Level 15

Yes

+3

515,000

Level 16

No

+3

590,000

Level 17

No

+3

670,000

Level 18

Yes

+3

755,000

Level 19

No

+3

845,000

Level 20

Yes (@#$% it)

+4

 

XP Award

Player/Character Performance

25-50

Interesting, but nugatory (impractical, unproductive) idea or action.

100

Cunning, sagacious, clever, quick-witted, productive, or worthwhile idea or action.

50

Well delivered, witty, or interesting role-playing event.

200-250

Exceptionally well delivered role-playing event (deeply in character), particularly in regard to personality traits or separation of player/character knowledge.

100-300

Recalling data/events from prior game sessions that enhance play.

20

Class skill used appropriately, successful or not.

10

Cross-class skill used appropriately, successful or not.

50 per spell level

Spell (gained through levels in a class) used to overcome foes/problems.

100 per spell level

Spell used to overcome foes/problems in particularly clever, unique, or memorable ways.

50

Notably cinematic, dramatic, or clever combat maneuver.

200

Encouraging role-playing (“Hey guys, let’s play “) or helping others learn the game or rules or being honest when this would hinder your character (“By the way DM, the monsters on my character didn’t act this round..”).

150-450 at least

Clever metagame ideas or rule suggestions that grow the game system or provide insights into existing rules.

125

Making a key saving throw or ability check where danger is present (or perceived to be present by the player).

265

Making a key saving throw or ability check in a life or death situation.

100

Bravery, courageousness, gallantry (even when a cautious approach would have been better).

200

Employing insight to solve problems, holistic understanding of a situation, or using deductive reasoning.

200

Steering clear of unnecessary conflict or violence; using force only as a last resort.

X per hit dice overcome, or 200

Successful use of channel faith to overcome foes or problems.

½ X per hit dice overcome, or 100

Unsuccessful use of channel faith to overcome foes or problems.

300-1000

Endangering the character’s life to help others or self-sacrifice or potential self-sacrifice in a life or death situation (leaping in front of a lightning bolt to save another for example).

400-1000

Decisive action (or pivotal plan) that saves party members or other NPCs.

2,000 per target character level!

Spending a fate point to help another character, especially a player character or party NPC.

100-300 per point

Spending a minor special point (like a character point or toughness point) to help another character, especially a PC or party NPC

10 per PSP or 40 per Power Point

Psionic points spent to overcome foes and challenges in the course of adventuring.

100 per hit dice

Psionic opponent defeated with psionics (above and beyond normal XP award for winning).

100-300

General creative use of spells or powers.

250+

Bringing snacks, drinks, food, recreational drugs (let’s just label this one as a joke before the subpoena is written), art supplies, prostitutes, (and so forth) for the group.

150

Interesting, memorable, appropriate use of an extraordinary or supernatural class ability, like a ranger's wild empathy, a monk's slow fall, a bard's countersong and so forth.

125 per spell level

Divine spell used to further the priest's ethos or to overcome/defeat enemies of the God.

10 per hit die of creature

Opponents defeated in combat by characters with the best base attack bonus, including Fighters, Barbarians, Rangers, Paladins, and so forth.

120 if successful, 60 otherwise

Using a skill unique to a class, such as rangers using tracking, Psychic Warriors using stabilize self, or Rogues finding traps.

50+

Active participation in the in-game action and story, periodic award.

250-500

Scene or Plot/Story Awards: completing a hurdle in the adventure, completing a storyline, co-constructing particularly groovy scenes, and so forth.

300

Demonstration of superior teamwork and cooperation.

300 per surge!

Wild Mage bringing into being, through their direct action or fuckup, a wild surge.

A LOT

Bribing the DM with checks, sexual favors, under the table cash, gold items, winning lottery tickets, old coins, out-of-print RPG books, etc.

 

This experience point table draws bricolagically from several game systems (none of which we’re going to mention here…), as well as many thousands of hours of DMing mismanagement. It takes some practice to use this table: the numbers are merely base awards. A really good, clever idea might carry a x3 multiplier for example, making the award 300 instead of 100. A case where a PC went out of her way to avoid violence, especially where she took some insults, might carry a similar multiplier, earning her 600 experience points. As I DM, I keep a running listing of XP awards, labeled with particular symbols I have developed over the years. Asterisks represent good role-playing events for example, and I raise them to a power for multiplier. Thus, a really good role-playing moment might be recorded with an asterisk cubed in my notes. We recommend that if you use the XP awards listed above you develop your own system of symbols to represent each type of award. It is good practice to review with the players at the end of each session what things they think the DM should remember when awarding XP (for their own characters and for everyone else’s). A DM’s XP listing can be used as a metagame tool to improve overall game play: it can be showed after game sessions so players know what earns them experience points, and it allows for some back and forth communication on a particularly delicate RPG topic. As a player, when I feel that my role-playing and good ideas aren’t being rewarded, I tend to get frustrated: the shared fantasy breaks down. If nothing else, using the awards above will encourage more thinking and less hack and slash.

Unusual House Rule – “Dice!”: If at any point the DM points at a player and says “Dice!” (usually when said player makes a particularly inappropriate comment, an incredibly bad joke or pun, or otherwise puts their foot in their mouth as determined by the atmosphere of the gaming group) the other players are encouraged to be the first to throw and hit this player with a die. The type of die will be recorded and awarded with XP (experience points) to the player throwing it. At the time XP is awarded, players can roll all their back  (previously awarded) Dice! awards – these become experience points (thus, players can and should keep running Dice! totals).

Dice! events are one of the more unusual house rules to derive from my history of gaming. In my gaming groups, when a DM (and only an active DM has the right to do this) points at someone and says “Dice!” the other players will immediately attempt to be the first person to throw one of their dice (typically the one with the most sides) at the targeted player. This ritual is complex; the DM can also point (even subtly) at the person to be diced, or point and say things like “dice the fuck out of him!” (for example). There are several ways in which a player becomes eligible for a Dice! event, but the most common way is by making a dice!able comment. These kind of comments are usually bad puns, obnoxious jokes, and similar utterances. A legendary dice!able comment goes like this: (after the DM described an orchard scene) “Are they angry grapes?” “Why?” “Then they’d be the grapes of wrath!” Sometimes players purposefully create dice!able situations, and since there is a tangible reward for being the first player to hit the targeted player, occasionally a player will make a diceable comment so other players can benefit, thus “Taking one for the team”. DMs can also blatantly call Dice! as a means of social control; they usually announce this fact playfully, partly as a means to defuse the situation. A DM might dice someone in this way for acting too much like the gamemaster (by, for example, asking for rolls as a gamemaster might), or for trying to order (or even ask) the DM to do something. Thus, Dice! events are a part of the stereotypical player-gamemaster tension idiom (that is fun to act out). When throwing dice, players usually won’t try to harm one another, unless they fell like being jerks…

When a Dice! event takes place, after the DM targets a player and some other player hits them with a die first (you can’t self-Dice!), the type of die is recorded by the DM in the throwing player’s XP listing. Thus, if a player were the first to hit other players when Dice! was called two times in a game session, and these dice were a d20 and a d30 respectively, that player would be “awarded” a d20 and a d30 to keep in their “running dice list.” This award does not involve an actual exchange of dice. Whenever a player gains XP, they are allowed to roll all of the dice in their “running dice list.” These die rolls all become bonus experience points. Thus, the player in the example above who earned a d20 and a d30 for their character will roll (at least) a d20 and a d30 each time that character earns XP, and will thus gain from 2-50 extra XP each time. When characters die, their Dice! lists usually go with them.

Dice! awards to be added to “running dice lists” can also be made by the DM as one more possible asset to award with experience points. I might throw in an extra 2d24 or so each game session to each player character’s running dice pool while DMing to each character participating in the story. Some other weird house rules in regard to Diceing are listed below…

  • If a player who gets diced catches any dice thrown at her, she earns two times the usual Dice! Thus, if she caught a d30 the DM would award her 2d30 to put in her dice pool the next time XP was awarded. The rules for this are identical to those of kickball or dodge ball, and seem to reflect a longing for older times among players. Anyway, a player who has their thrown die caught is “out.” The DM will usually threaten players that being “out” matters in some way, but actually it seldom does. Occasionally, I’ll subtract the same kind of die thrown from an “out” player’s dice list, but very rarely.
  • In the past players have tried to throw dice with non-numeric characters, like d30’s with letters on each face or the roman-replica die. In these cases I have tried to think of a scientific physical constant to use as inspiration for the experience point value of the rolled die.
  • Throwing an entire bowl of dice at someone after the DM calls Dice! Is bad form, but it has happened. Throwing a dice bag full of dice is a fowl, as well as a waste of time because no actual dice would have hit the player being diced (the die has to physically touch the player – thus the dice bag is not like the glove in baseball). It is acceptable to tag a player being diced with a held die.
  • There is usually a window of opportunity of only a few seconds to capitalize on the Dice! event, and once this window has expired players can be penalized for “late hits” (double their Dice! awards going to the player who was diced in the first place). Players who dodge dice, or deflect them off books and papers, earn a Dice! award for each deflected die (assuming there was no physical contact between themselves, their clothing, and the dice).

Recording Data Relevant to Special Points: In 3.5x House Rules, the DM records a lot of information while the game progresses. She makes note of individual experience awards using either a system of symbols or actual numbers, she records dice! events (denoted with entries like “[d20]” in her notes), and she records a few other bits of information, all of which are listed below…

  • As a DM, I keep a special “DMing page” where I list each character’s name, their alignment, AC, hit points, perceptual characteristics (do they have darkvision? Good hearing?), and any personality characteristics relevant to how that player character will be role-played (so I can better evaluate that performance). To the right of each entry in my notebook, I leave a wide open blanc area for that character’s earned experience (usually denoted with my special symbols) and dice notes. I refer to each of these entries as an “XP entry.”

[insert image of the DMing page]

  • Under each XP entry I have a place where I record the damage that character takes since I gave experience points last. This number is used to calculate how many toughness points that character earns. The basic rule is this: a character earns one d4 standard toughness point for every X points of damage he takes, where X is equal to the sum of their maximum hit die rolls divided by 2. Thus, a level one fighter (d10 hit dice) earns one toughness point for every 5 damage taken, while a level 6 sorcerer, level 2 bard earns one toughness point for every 18 points of damage taken. Alternatively, you might award one toughness point each time a character survives a critical hit, or each time a character takes an arbitrary amount of damage. In the past I have used 6, 8, or 10 hit points as this value.
  • I also keep a running listing of the natural 1’s and natural 20’s each character rolls somewhere under each “XP entry”; this relates to the role of the Luck stat on saving throw DCs. Characters can apply their Luck stat’s bonus (or avoid it’s penalty) to saving throws if they pass a DC 10 luck check. This DC increases +1 for every natural 1 rolled, and decreases -1 for every natural 20 rolled since XP was last given. Additionally, the DC is at a +1 for every time the character tries (successfully or not) to apply their luck bonus to saving throws (since XP was last given), so I record these in this list as well. Rolling the maximum-best on a non-damage, non-d20 die roll (like rolling 100 on d100 where this is a good thing) results in a “20” entry in this list, and the reverse is true. Thus, a 2nd Edition style ability check on d20, where the result was a 20 (the worst possible) would result in a “1” entry in the 20/1 list the DM keeps. Any character with more 20s than 1s in this record when XP is given receives a bonus d10 stat points in luck per extra 20 entry. Particularly evil Dungeon masters might apply the reverse: applying d10 negative stat points in a character’s Luck stat for each 1 entry that exceeds 20 entries in a character’s 20/1 listing. The 20/1 list is started fresh with no entries after XP is given out.
  • The awarding of character points is a function of good role-playing. The method I use is simple: Each “Exceptional role-playing event” as per the XP listing up above usually earns a character one character point when XP is given out.
  • Stat points are earned as a function of total experience points earned. The amount of experience points required to earn a stat point is a function of character level (before XP is awarded), using the table below. After level 7 experience point awards are divided by 500 to determine the number of stat points earned along with XP. By level 12 using these rules, a PC can expect to earn approximately 777.5 stat points, for seven total possible stat increases. See the following table:

PC Level

Experience Points Required Per Stat Point

Approximate Number of Stat Points Possible This Level

1

40

62.5

2

40

62.5

3

80

62.5

4

160

62.5

5

320

62.5

6

400

62.5

7

480

62.5

8

500

70

9

500

80

10

500

90

11

500

100

 

  • The awarding of fate points and conditional fate points is a qualitative and subjective process. There is nothing to rely on except a DM’s memory of the game sessions leading up to the XP award. I suggest awarding at least one conditional point per character each time XP is given out, based on things the characters did in the game. If, for example, someone survived a particularly gruesome critical hit, you might give that player a conditional fate point to do the same again, or a conditional d12 toughness point useable for critical hits. These kinds of points give a unique flavor to campaigns which use them.
  • A partial list of all the kinds of things a DM can give out in addition to and complementing XP includes: dice to place in “running dice lists”, special points (fate, conditional fate, character, toughness, and stat points), bonuses to saving throws in particular contexts, an extra hit point, a bonus to AC in particular contexts, a base move bonus, damage reduction against particular attack forms, bonus skill points: the sky is the limit, and players will appreciate awards which relate to in-game events. For example: after one particular battle in which a character named Sindar was attacked perhaps 100 times by giants wielding long spears (who nearly always missed), I gave Sindar a permanent +1 AC bonus versus long spears when XP was awarded.The Session Challenge: It is not unusual for a Cinematic DM to announce contests and prizes each game session such as “the character role-played the best this session, as determined by secret ballot, will win 3 bonus character points”, or “the most creative use of a skill this session wins d4 skill points”. Other challenges might include things like: “PCs are worth double XP this session!” (grim) or “Whoever gets “Dice!”ed the most this session wins a bonus d100 in their running “dice!” total.

House Rules of Experience Points and Raising Levels

Initiative bonuses as a function of level: [added 7/19/15]: At levels 5, 10, 15, 20, and every 5 levels after that, Cinematic characters gain a +1 bonus to initiative checks. This reflects their experience and skill as heroes.

Giving away experience points: the Cinematic System assumes that players can do what they want with their own experience points. Players can give other players their experience points under the following restrictions. First, this can only happen as an “out of game action,” never during actual game play where characters in question are actively exploring the shared fantasy. Second, a character can never lose a level by giving away too many experience points (but the character could avoid raising level by giving experience points away). Third, only positive experience points can be given away. Fourth, players have the right to refuse experience points given to their character from any source – including from the Gamemaster oddly enough! By convention, characters can give away their experience points to NPCs and familiars as well, as long as they all reside in the same campaign (they don’t have to be on the same plane of existence or anything). Thus, you can’t soak up XP in one campaign and transfer it to another…unless your DMs agree and you properly bribe them with currency and sexual favors.

Characters can only raise 1 level at a time: When characters are awarded experience points by the GM they can never gain enough to raise more than one level – those characters who could raise more than one level fall short of the next tier of achievement by 1 experience point. The “extra” experience points are not lost – they can be spent by the player on such things as feats and ranks in skills (or given to other players for their characters to use). Alternatively, the DM can rule that these extra experience points convert to special points (character, fate, toughness, etc.) at a rate determined by the DM, such as 1 character point per 1,000 XP.

Purchasing feats for experience points: Feats cost 3,000 XP at levels 1-6; at levels 7-12 they cost 6,000 XP; at levels 13-18 feats cost 12,000 XP; at levels 19-24 feats cost 24,000 XP; at level 25 and up feats cost 48,000 XP. When purchasing feats, you have to meet all the prerequisites normally. You can never expend so many experience points so as to lose a character level when purchasing feats, unless the text of the feat says differently.

PC Level

XP Cost for 1 Feat

1-6

3,000

7-12

6,000

13-18

12,000

19-24

24,000

25+

48,000

 

Purchasing skill points with experience points: It is also possible to gain additional skill points by spending experience points, using the following XP costs..

  • Class Skills: 150 times the new rank
  • Cross Class skills: 300 times the new rank
  • Special Skills, such as those requiring a feat as a prerequisite, psionic skills, or those that produce magical effects (such as control): 600 x new rank.

You cannot skip ranks while purchasing – each rank must be obtained in order. You cannot purchase more ranks than your level limit. Thus, to gain 4 ranks in a class skill you have no ranks in, you would have to spend 150 XP + 300 XP + 450 XP + 600 XP = 1,500 XP. To gain 1 rank in a cross-class skill you have 3 ranks in to start (giving you a total of 4 ranks) would cost 1,200 XP. The following table summarizes the cost of each rank:

Rank

Class Skill Cost

Cross-Class Skill Cost

Special Skill Cost

1

150

300

600

2

300

600

1200

3

450

900

1800

4

600

1200

2400

5

750

1500

3000

6

900

1800

3600

7

1050

2100

4200

8

1200

2400

4800

9

1350

2700

5400

10

1500

3000

6000

11

1650

3300

There are better Cinematic ways to achieve these ranks (using feats)

12

1800

3600

13

1950

3900

14

2100

4200

15

2250

4500

16

2400

4800

17

2550

5100

18

2700

5400

19

2850

5700

20

3000

6000

 

It is the right of the DM to rule that some degree of role-playing must be used in addition to the expenditure of experience – to learn how to move silently a character might have to practice, learn from another character who can do it, etc. This leads to more realistic advancement.

Does purchasing ranks in skills with XP get more expensive at character levels 7 and above?: That’s up to the GM. In some of our play-testing campaigns the cost of purchasing ranks in skills was multiplied by x2 at levels 7-12, x3 at levels 13-18, x4 at levels 19-24, and x5 at level 25 and above.

“What else can we purchase with XP in a Cinematic Campaign?”: Whatever you can con the DM into letting you buy, of course! Since there are skills that raise the base stats, and since you can essentially buy stat points (500 XP buys 1 character point which converts to 5 stat points as a metagame action) it shouldn’t be possible to buy +X to an ability score. If the DM allows, by convention, additional level zero spell slots can be purchased for 500 XP per character level – additional level 1 slots for 1000 XP per character level, etc.

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