Leveling without Using XP
Contributed by Michael Burnside
Any game master will confess that adding up experience points at the end of a game is not one of the more entertaining aspects of role play gaming. Pulling out the Dungeon Masters Guide™ and consulting tables to determine just how many points killing an enemy is worth is tedious work. And much of the player activity that makes a game like Baptism of Fire really work isn't something that can be covered by a points table. How many experience points should be given for convincing a superior officer to authorize an extra patrol just because one of your men has a gut feeling that something isn't right? How many points should be given for successfully tracking an enemy soldier? How many points should be awarded for the wise choice of not engaging a superior force and thus surviving to report the enemy activity?
In Baptism of Fire, game masters should feel free to simply level the characters when they successfully achieve an objective. An objective can be as simple as completing a foot patrol or as difficult as infiltrating enemy lines, locating a hidden ammunition supply depot, and then destroying it. Dispensing with the need to track experience on a points based system ends the problem of having to arbitrarily assign points for accomplishments that go beyond simple combat. It allows game masters to set the pace of level advancement based upon the type of campaign he or she is running.
1st or 2nd level players' objectives may be attainable in a 3 or 4 hour game play session. As the players rise in experience, achieving their assigned objective will require more time because those objective should be growing in difficulty and complexity. This means achieving these objectives could take 2 or more sessions.
Players whose characters have achieved high levels of 15th or more should expect the objectives to not only be more difficult, but to multiply. For example, a POW rescue objective reveals new intelligence about the location of a high level German officer. His capture provides the players with information about the location of a hidden weapons development facility. Its destruction provides the final objective the players must succeed in before their characters gain their next level.
There's nothing wrong with using an experience point system if the game master and players feel that works best for them. But it's good to keep in mind that a campaign need not be bound by traditional leveling rules. Ultimately, if a game master and players agree, there are no rules that cannot be modified or done away with entirely. The important thing is to create a campaign that is challenging yet fun.