Awarding EXP and avoiding combat

Hatox
Level 7
Kickstarter Backer Weaponsmith (Bronze)
4 months ago

Hello everybody,

today I want to talk about a gameplay-mechanic that is rather important to me personally: Rewards (especially exp) for avoiding combat

Now one thing to say beforehand, as far as I understood there will be random encounters, so there will theoretically be ways to "grind" for exp. but if I am wrong here, or said "grind"-exp are held low (maybe to discourage grinding) there is one huge thing that must be considered: What rewards does a player get if they avoid combat.
Why is this important to me? I (and many others) have played the Divinity games, and something that bugged me to no end in my Divinity II playthrough was, that the game really encouraged me to fight everything. Lets say there is a quest where I have to retrieve Item X but I have to get past guards.

First Option: I could sneak past the guards and get the 100xp for the quest.
Second Option: I could Persuade/Deceive/Intimidate/etc. the guards and get 50xp for the social interaction and 100xp for the quest.
Third Option: I could just defeat all of the guards and get 100xp for the fight and 100xp for the quest.

Now I do not mind different rewards for how you complete the quest, even if some of them are better, thats just unavoidable if you have different rewards, but what was really frustrating in divinity was, that when I played in on a high difficulty, missing exp could REALLY mess you up. Being just 1 level below what you should be in a fight can be huge, and it sucks if youre like "man I dont have any encounters left that are easier where I could get some exp, but if I reload and do that one quest again, I COULD murder everyone instead of choosing the peaceful option, so I get more exp".

Now the "this fight is insanely difficult because im missing a level" part is probably restricted to higher difficulties, but even in easier modes it can suck if you feel like youre being punished (by not getting rewarded) for choosing the peaceful/non-combat options.

I think in 5e it even says somewhere that exp is rewarded for "completing" an encounter (or something like that) not for killing all the enemies, so as a DM you should give the same amount of exp to the party that fought all of the guards to get the item, as to the party that cleverly bribed the guards to look the other way.

I dont know what the best approch for a computer game would be, maybe award the exp value for the encounter when the party has managed to sneak past (but dont award it again if they come back afterwards and fight). I think the best way to describe it is actually the way a friend of mine put it that actually murders everyone after theyre "useless" in divinity, not because he likes to, but because he just hates missing out on stuff. Hes played the game so much he can actually run past npcs like "oh yea that one can live he doesnt give exp", now of course that fear of missing out is a whole other problem, but for me it would be enough to just not feel like I am being rewarded for being merciless and brutal, just because "killing gives exp".

What are youre opinions on this? Does someone have experience with games that handled this in a different way?

shout27
Level 4
4 months ago

I get what you're saying, but it's a hard line to skirt. Classically speaking, the trend has always been 'no kill, no xp' with quests sometimes granting XP and others only treasure. 

The only time it has never made sense is if the enemy runs away. I've always thought you should get XP for an enemy that flees battle, but most rpgs just let them get away and give you jack for that happenstance.

Besides, what you want is unlikely to bear fruit for one reason: loot. 

Can't take that awesome +3 battleaxe for yourself if the enemy is still alive to wield it... unless they actually enable sleight of hand to pickpocket that kind of stuff.


Nortar
Level 8
Kickstarter Backer Mayor's Ring (Bronze) Weaponsmith (Bronze) Armorsmith (Diamond)
4 months ago (edited)

It's great when a game provides different ways for solving quests.
And if XP is granted for overcoming a challenge, it should not matter how exactly you've done it.

A silver tongued diplomat who diffused an explosive situation with charisma and persuasion deserves to be rewarded just as a battle-hardened barbarian who slaughtered everyone to bloody gibs without blinking an ear. Sneaking past, arguably, is not overcoming, but avoiding challenge altogether. ;) 

But basing your actions solely on the reward, disregarding the kind of character you play, is a borderline munchkinism.
This would be the case if the said barbarian started pleading for mercy, just so would get an extra heal potion; or if the diplomat cold-bloodily murdered a guard for that +3 battleaxe. 

A good example of a game that does it right is Age of Decadence.
There are almost always several ways of dealing with quests, from direct combat to trickery and diplomacy.
And, depending on your actions, in additional to "general skill points" that could be used any way you like,
you get either extra Combat or Civil points to further develop battle or socials skills.
So it's important to always play to your character strengths.

Alinoria
Level 5
Discord Link Steam Link Kickstarter Backer Mayor's Ring (Bronze)
4 months ago (edited)

Hello,

This issue I have seen tackled in different ways accross different game, and I share your initial statement that it feels unpleasant when you *have to* be a murderwagon because otherwise you just miss half the xp and the loot.

what I have seen that made sense was the quest (or encounter) grants a set number of xp, and only the quest itself, not the kills, not the persuasion, not the bribery, ... therefore whichever your course of action, you do not miss out on xp. And loots working in the same way, of course, or you would still have to kill everybody to get rich and equiped (note that you could not loot the stuff of ennemies you snuk past, but in your sneaking you could stumble upon a hidden cache containing an equivalent value of loots. Bribery being the only one less or not at all materially rewarding but ontherwise it would not make sense, if you get richer by bribing people, your way through would be pretty straightforward : bribe them all to the end !!).

That being said, I agree with Nortar when he says that RP is to be considered too. And it would make sense that someone rather generous and disinterested accumulates less wealth than a greedwagon, and that by avoiding certain ordeals you strengthen yourself less than if you had dealt with them, but when it gets to the point where the difference in xp is as much as several levels at a given point (such was the case in the recent two Divinity) it feels indeed too punishing.

A very different way to approach this can be found in The Age of Decadence, which indeed does it very much right ! But the game is nowhere near D&D in its mechanics. Nor in its paradigm, the game can be completed without fighting a single fight, provided you have other skills to get by, which was never in the spirit of D&D, where fights are a part of the essence of the universe.


Alinoria

shout27
Level 4
4 months ago

So, if I'm getting this right, you are both arguing for more of a 'milestone' like arrangement? So that no matter what you do, or how you go about it, the party is getting the same general XP or Money? That kind of thing generally spits in the face of exploration unless done REALLY well. Even then it would just piss some people off, and at that point you might as well make X-Com: Solasta edition to cut out everything that doesn't relate to the scenarios presented. 

Yes, Age of Decadence did it really well, but it also had a custom system that separated Combat and Civil into two literal separate sources of XP with a general pool on top of that. Additionally, Everything was something you could pick up off of bodies, it's just that combat was really dangerous most of the time and someone who didn't focus on combat was going to die if they messed around and got into fights they shouldn't.

Alinoria
Level 5
Discord Link Steam Link Kickstarter Backer Mayor's Ring (Bronze)
4 months ago (edited)

It does not have to contradict exploration at all, because yes, you receive a somewhat identical reward no matter the way you solve situation A, but you still have to meet with situation A in the first place, so you do need to explore to see all there is to see (it concerns not only story progression, but every side encounter too).

And as I mentionned, it does make sense that the reward are tweaked by the way you choose to do things, but granting xp for "situation solving" instead of "slaying monster A" lets you handle situations in very different ways, without having your xp progression completely sabotaged by the fact that sometimes you want to be more subtle, or more discreet, than a bludgeon in the face (not that there is anything wrong with a bludgeon in the face).

And... X-COM does reward by kills, in a given encounter, units making the kills gain way more xp than the other units.

As for pissing people off, whatever TA chose to do there will always be people pissed off by some aspect of it or another. We are formulating an opinion, and trying to know where the dev sit regarding that aspect.


Alinoria

shout27
Level 4
4 months ago

Oh, I know that X-Com rewards the guy who gets the killing blows more, but I was making the comparison that if you were to make it truly milestone in nature with treasure also being a standardized criteria based on game passage there would be no reason to have true exploration with secret boss fights, because suddenly at the end of the level everyone has the same general treasure no matter how much extra they did to try and obtain more.

There would be no need for a town, all you would get is a main set of screens like in X-Com and any given level, which with a true milestone set-up has nearly no bonuses.

In short, I may be being a smartass about it, but i would like to see you two and whoever else is interested in... that... to come up with a good solid system for the implementation of such a a thing using the SRD ruleset before you say you are formulating an opinion for everyone. Because mine, albeit influenced by my OCD when it comes to being a completionist, is that I don't want that sort of milestone BS anywhere near my computer games (unlimited XP for exploration and treasure you can only get by doing certain things is something i like, a lot). However, I don't necessarily mind the thought of it if that's an option for those interested in changing their settings to such a thing. The problem, is that I have no desire to see game resources wasted on that kind of thing until something coherent can be brainstormed by the community, maybe over several polls, in such a way that it would disappoint the least number of people. 

The best place to start might even be something similar to the optional oddity system in Underrail.

 

Nortar
Level 8
Kickstarter Backer Mayor's Ring (Bronze) Weaponsmith (Bronze) Armorsmith (Diamond)
4 months ago (edited)

I'm a completionist too and I never leave a side quest unfinished or a corner of a map unexplored.
But I fail to see how rewards for "problem solving" instead of "monster slaying", as Alinoria put it, ruins exploration?
Just treat a combat encounter as another problem to be solved, and what solution works best is up to you and the way you build your character.
If anything, it would encourage exploration in my opinion.


Alinoria
Level 5
Discord Link Steam Link Kickstarter Backer Mayor's Ring (Bronze)
4 months ago (edited)

I think there is a slight misunderstanding here, because we are not talking milestones. We are talking rewarding situations on other criteria than number of ennemies slain, but, as I said, rewards remaining linked to solving a situation, not to reaching a certain point in the game, so no, not everyone get the same at the end of a "chapter". If you did not meet the troll guarding the bridge (got to love the classics^^) then you won't have earned the related xp when you finish the chapter.

Also, I said we were each giving our opinion, I never said it was an opinion for everyone.

If you have played Expeditions Viking, for instance, then that is an alike system I am talking about, when (if) you unthrone the king, you get a set amount of SP (SP replaces XP in that game) whether you did him away by killing him or through political manoeuvre. But every side quest you don't do, you miss the rewards from.


Alinoria

kanisatha
Level 7
Newsletter Link Kickstarter Backer
4 months ago

I agree very strongly that XP rewards should be comparable among different approaches taken for overcoming obstacles and solving problems/quests. So yes, a good approach would be to have encounter XP awards rather than individual enemy XP awards such that you get the XPs for getting past a couple of ogre doorguards, for example, regardless of whether you bribed them, conned/intimidated them, sneaked past them, put them to sleep, or killed them.

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Deleted user
4 months ago (edited)

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MicTEST
Level 2
1 month ago

In Wasteland 2, if you choose to avoid a random encounter on the world map, they give you EXP. Not sure if it's a reduced amount, but I think it's a good mechanic. Rewards players who have skillful characters.

shout27
Level 4
6 days ago

In Wasteland 2, if you choose to avoid a random encounter on the world map, they give you EXP. Not sure if it's a reduced amount, but I think it's a good mechanic. Rewards players who have skillful characters.

That's not what was being referred to, in fact, it's a mechanic at odds with what was being presented. They are talking about milestones, in that no matter what you do you will have the same general XP AND TREASURE as someone who didn't do what you did.

W2 simply allows you to use your skills to avoid battle and earn XP in that secondary method, getting a chance to gain XP at the expense of whatever loot you might have obtained from participating in the fight that was skipped.

Milestone would simply put money/gear in your pocket and give 'X' XP for every fight that was skipped or fought (with no change in gain between the two). Thus in any true Milestone system, if you want to save time you're better off spending your time talking down the enemy or running from them.


Trent
Level 3
4 days ago

In 5e there is a set amount of experience you gain from every monster. In the starter set campaign module, it instructs you to award experience for every monster that is "overcome," which means talking your way out of a fight should gain you exp. However I think there should certainly be times when fighting gains you more exp and vice versa. For example if there is a situation where talking your way out would be more helpful to your mission you should gain more than just murdering the bad guy. Or if your mission is to be stealthy, you gain more if you sneak past everyone.

Baraz
Level 9
Steam Link Newsletter Link Kickstarter Backer Weaponsmith (Bronze)
4 days ago (edited)

In the next update, they stated officially that : 

"Diplomacy will now give you as much XP as if you fought the encounter, so that you don't feel forced to take every fight just for the sake of optimizing your experience gain."

That said, will bypassing a situation or creatures, with stealth for example, give XP, that is harder to program though not impossible, but of course they cannot predict all the possibilities, except that the game could register if you reach Spot X, you necessarily survived all the encounters in the previous area. 


Steam profile : https://steamcommunity.com/id/baraz/