A Note on the XP System from Lamentations of the Flame Princess

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I’m loving it.

Here are the basic rules for gaining Experience Points and leveling:

1. Player Characters receive XP for defeating enemies (not sneaking around them; not tricking them; not negotiating with them). XP is based on Hit Dice, with the following formula. (Please note how relatively low the XP award is compared to the reward for hauling back thousands of silver pieces, as described next.)

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2. Player Characters receive XP for recovering treasure. One silver piece worth of treasure is worth 1 Experience Point. Here is the text from Rules & Magic:

Recovering Treasure 

This is the primary method for gaining XP in the game. However, not all monetary gains are counted as “treasure.” The following will gain the characters wealth, but they do not count for XP purposes:

  • Coins looted from bodies outside of adventure locations
  • Rewards
  • Selling equipment stripped from foes
  • Selling magical items that have been used by a player character or retainer
  • Tax income
  • Theft of wealth from mundane merchants, rulers, and citizens
  • commerce, and other business activity (including selling of mundane items stripped from foes)
  • The following treasures do count for XP purposes:
  • All valuable objects recovered from uncivilized or abandoned areas
  • Money hoarded by creatures who have no actual use of it

3. Experience awards are to be divided equally amongst the surviving participants of the adventure. (So when it comes to XP, there’s no point in pilfering gems out of a companions pockets or sneaking off to grab some silver candlesticks while no one is looking.)

4. Treasure is calculated for XP only after it has been returned to a secure location.

Notice that there is no XP offered for role playing, spending the silver, carousing, or any other activity than defeating monsters and recovering treasure from adventure locations.

What does this system do?

  • It focuses play on exploration rather than combat, since PCs will gain much more XP by finding treasure than defeating monsters
  • It focuses play on exploration rather than combat, since PCs who enter combat might die, and the best reward is for finding treasure over combat
  • It focuses play on the group, since there is no reward for going off on one’s own to roleplay or carouse
  • It focuses play on the group, since finding treasure for XP and hauling it back to civilization to level up depends on the efforts of many
  • It focuses play in general–everyone knows and understand quickly what the game is about. No matter what else is going on in terms of roleplaying or big plots in the campaign, everyone knows that what we are ultimately focused on:
    • Going to adventure locations;
    • To find treasure;
    • And bring it back to civilization.

There is a clarity to all this that is great at the table becauseif the players get lost in terms of what to do with their PCs (which happens sometimes), these rules always guide them back to simple principles: Go find an adventure location; find the treasure within; bring it back to civilization.

Notice, too, that the game focuses Player goals for their Player Characters in a very simple and stark way. No matter what else is happening in terms of roleplaying and campaign plots, there is one ambition everyone at the table can always agree on: Leveling up is a good idea.

Keep in mind that when I run my Lamentations of the Flame Princess game, there is an open and honest chance the characters can die during play. So the Players very much want to level their characters, because they want those extra Hit Points, if nothing else.

Keep in mind, too, that in the tradition of Original Dungeons & Dragons, as well as Lamentations of the Flame Princess, balancing encounters is not a concern for the Referee. The Players might very well encounter a creature or situation that overpowers them. How they choose to engage new and mysterious creatures is part of the adventure. If they are clever and play well, they’ll understand they are outgunned and make decisions about how best to handle a creature. They might avoid it, trick it, trap it, and more. But the key is, sometime situations go south… and having more Hit Point, more spells, more modifiers to hit are all a great thing to have. Again, this drives the Players to want to level. Which in turn provides clarity of play.

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