Event Driven HERO
This document describes an alternate method of awarding experience that is more
collaborative and story-oriented than the standard approach. This method requires
players to have solid character concepts and to have a vague idea of where they
want their characters to go from the perspective of the character's personal life
This method can be used in conjunction with the standard method of XP awards, so
if a particular player did not want to participate in it with their character, it
would be ok. A non-participating character is simply awarded XP in the normal fashion
while some or all of their fellow PC's earn XP using this method.
This method has some overhead to implement it, requiring up front discussion and
collaboration between GM's and players to define some "Life Events" for player characters
to strive towards. It also requires the GM to make a few up front decisions about
how much total XP they want to tie to Life Events vs normal XP rewards. The various
considerations are detailed below.
Player Defined Life Events
Each player defines between three (3) and ten (10) possible Life Events that they
envision as being meaningful for their character. These Life Events can be anything
significant, such as acheiving some accomplishment, reaching a goal, attaining a
rank, defeating an important enemy, traveling to some exotic locale, and so forth.
Life Events should be sufficiently descriptive as to be meaningful, but not so specific
that they tie the GM's hands or constrict the flow of plot too heavily. "Slay a
Dragon" or even "Slay the Dragon Pyrimazius" could work, but "Slay the Dragon Pyrimazius
with the Sword of Ballen, on the sides of Mount Vassar on Midsummers Day, during
an eclipse", is probably far too specific and restrictive.
However, Life Events shouldn't be so generically described as to
be easily accomplished without deliberate effort or intent. A good rule of thumb
is that a Life Event should be a milestone in a character's life; a memorable, key,
and / or defining event that has a real impact upon their characterization and /
or capabilities and stature. Thus if a defined Life Event is insufficiently significant
to a character, it is probably not valid.
The definition of Life Events should be a collaborative process whereby players
clearly express momentous and meaningful goals for their characters, and the GM
can help interpret that into something that they actually want to spend time working
into the game.
The GM does retain the right of interpretation or outright veto on specific Life
Events. For instance, if a GM felt a particular Life Event was not in the spirit
of the campaign setting, or would be too disruptive to the fun of others, they could
reasonably negotiate a more agreeable version or simply say "no", at their discretion.
GM Defined Life Events
The GM can also add one or more events if they so choose, and may or may not disclose
the nature of them to the player. However if the GM exercises this option they should
indicate that they have defined some number of events and further should write them
down so that if the players later express doubt that the GM is playing it straight,
there is a record of fair play.
If the GM adds events, they shouldn't add more than half as many events as the player,
to avoid the perception that the GM not the player is really architecting the character.
Thus if a player defined five (5) events, the GM shouldn't define more than two
(2) or three (3) events if any.
GM defined events generally should not be contentious or run counter to the player's
vision as indicated by their defined events. This should not be an opportunity for
the GM to rail-road or stick and carrot players into portraying their characters
in ways the GM prefers. Life Events are intended to be a realization tool for the
player, not a prodding tool for the GM.
GM defined events might follow the general idiom of the player defined events, in
which case they offer the GM the opportunity to help the player acheive their underlying
vision of their character, but still inject some mystery and unexpected twists and
GM defined events might also run at right angles to the player's defined events
and represent "extra credit" or "easter egg" opportunities. Obviously the nature
of such events shouldn't be disclosed to the player, and when they occur they should
be a pleasant surprise, not an unwelcome one.
Modified XP Allocation
Characters using this system are awarded chunks of experience in lump sums when
they acheive a Life Event. However they earn less experience than characters typically
do in the standard fashion of experience allocation.
Characters using this system earn half (1/2) as much XP via the standard XP allocation,
rounded down. Thus, if after a session a player would normally have been awarded
five (5) XP for their character, they are instead awarded two (2) XP for that character.
To implement this method of XP awarding, the GM must first decide what the starting
and max point levels of the game are, and determine the difference between them
For instance, if a campaign started at 150 points, and was intended to range all
the way up to 650 points, then the maximum potential XP gain (or at least a working
approximation) would be 500 points (650-150).
The GM splits the maximum XP potential in half. This number represents the Life
Event XP Cap.
In the case of our running example, 500 / 2 = 250 points.
For each character the GM divides the previously figured Life Event XP Cap by the
number of Life Events defined for that character to determine the Life Event XP
Value of each Life Event.
In the case of our running example with a Life Event XP Cap of 250, if a character
defined ten (10) Life Events, each Life Event would be worth 25 XP. 250 points /
10 = 25 points.
Alternately the GM can modify the points each particular Life Event is worth, taking
points from less momentous events and putting them on more significant events.
Not all Life Events are necessarily equal. A GM might identify some easy ones and
reallocate points from them towards more difficult Life Events.
Each time a Life Event is accomplished, the character gets its Life Event XP Value
and can use the points to develop in ways appropriate to the Life Event or the character's
new status or level of accomplishment. In the case of GM-defined events the GM might
instead spend the points and assign abilities to the character (though this approach
be used lightly if at all).
- Collaborative Story Plotting
- This kind of up-front story plotting is a form of collaboration with the players
and can ease the GM-ing burden of constructing a fun and involving game, rather
than adding to the burden.
- Further, when plotting out the campaign the GM doesn't have to guess as to what
kinds of things will make their players happy -- they already know! And the players
are strongly incentivized to actively pursue their character's goals proactively,
so the GM doesn't have to deal with the frustration of baiting random plot hooks
and hoping players bite only to have them blithely ignore / not even notice them.
- In fact, the GM could compose their campaign around the skeleton provided by the
PC's Life Events by injecting the necessary content to address the individual characters
goals while mixing in their own material as well.
- Organic Character Growth
- Using this method, individual characters will flourish in conjunction with story
elements rather than as a simple by-product of X number of session times Y amount
of average XP. Instead, characters experience growth spurts as they accomplish goals
that are important to them personally within the context of the campaign. This more
closely models both real life and a lot of genre fiction as well and can have a
more "organic" or natural feeling flow.
- Reciprocal Returns
- Under this method the players that are most active at defining Life Events,
(which translate directly into story elements) and in pursuing those events
(which translates directly into game immersion and activity) are the players that
are most heavily rewarded.
- It actively encourages players to proactively drive the story in directions
that seem likely to help them attain their character's goals / Life Events which
should increase the quality of the game for everyone.
- Use It Or Lose It
- If a character never successfully accomplishes an event, the character simply
doesn't ever get the points attached to it. Put a different way, the character will
never reach their full potential if they fail / pass up one or more of their defined
- In some cases, if circumstances occur beyond the player or character's control that
make a Life Event impossible to complete the GM might instead swap out the Life
Event for another one, but such an approach should be a special occasion to avoid
diluting the significance of Life Events.
- Asymmetrical Progression
- Using this method it is very likely that various characters will acheive Life
Events at different times and thus not progress in the fairly typical lock-step progression
whereby everyone is more or less equivalently pointed throughout the life of the
campaign. For many groups this isn't a problem (and could even be a Pro rather than
a Con), but for other groups it could cause petulance and feelings of inferiority
for some players.
Working with our example Life Event XP Cap of 250 XP, lets pretend a campaign composed
of four players, as follows.
Let's say Joe is playing the Mage Andronicus.
Joe comes to the table with a pretty good background worked out involving a kindly
master, and another apprentice who betrayed the master and took his spellbooks and
tried to kill Andronicus.
Leveraging his backstory and where he wants his character to go, Joe defines five
Life Events for Andronicus. Looking at the list, the GM adds two more, but only
tells Joe how many there are keeping the Life Events themselves a secret.
- Get revenge for the Master
- Recover the Masters spellbooks
- Be recognized as a Master Mage by the applicable in-game community
- Build a tower and establish a power base
- Take on at least one apprentice
- ?: Create a personalized spell or a significant magic item
- ?: Overcome some significant challenge using abilities other than his magic
So, 250 points / 7 = ~35 XP. Unless the GM opts to divvy the points up by hand,
accomplishment of each event would grant +35 XP (or using the 1/4 option each event
would be worth 18 points instead).
Mike has a Halfling Thief named Gibs Lightfingers. Mike defines three Life Events for Gibs,
and the GM adds one more secret Life Event.
- Steal something valuable that is protected by high security
- Become a big player in a major thieves guild or equivalent thereof
- Acquire a kingly fortune with his skills, only to spend it all frivolously or whimsically
- ?: Escape a real life or death situation via clever action without resorting to
Uaga the Bold
Fred has a barbarian named Uaga the Bold. Fred defines four Life Events for Uaga, and
the GM adds two more secret ones.
- Get a bitchin sword (magic or historically important)
- be disarmed and imprisoned and manage to escape from it
- defeat some kind of powerful / noteworthy unnatural beast in hand to hand combat
- seize the throne of a nation
- ?: Face danger to rescue at least one slave girl from a fate worse than death
- ?: Slay a powerful magic user
Vailia the Pure
Amy has a cleric named Vailia the Pure. Amy defines three Life Events for Uaga,
the GM adds two more secret ones.
- Become a High Priestess of her Church
- Contribute to the temporal presence of her Church in a significant way (found a
new congregation, personally gain some significant converts (like a head of state
or a large community or a champion / hero), rescue a lost relic, etc)
- Gain an audience before the Most High (Pope-equivalent) of her Church due to her
service to the order
- ?: Deescalate a major conflict, fued, war, or similar threat without using force
There are many variations on this basic model; a few are discussed below.
If the Life Event XP Reward numbers are too large to suit a GM, the
impact of Life Events can be easily dialed down. Instead of awarding 1/2 normal
XP and basing the Life Event XP Cap off of 1/2 of the maximum XP potential for the
campaign, award 3/4 standard XP and base the Life Event XP Cap off of 1/4 of the
maximum XP potential.
Using the 500 point differential of our running example, that
would work out to a Life Event Point Cap of 125 XP.
It is all simply a numbers game, so the GM can find a place on the slide that works
for their purposes.
Suggested by AmadanNaBriona
Alternately, instead of awarding partial XP and defining events which grant chunks
of XP when accomplished, the GM can instead award XP normally but not allow players
to spend XP on their characters as a matter of course. Under this style of arrangement
events are instead opportunities for players to spend however many XP they have
This leads to more of a stepped progression. On the plus side it prevents / discourages
players from busting through their events too quickly since they gain little benefit
for doing so if their "XP tank" is dry. On the con side events become much less
of an accomplishment to be looked forward to and more of a probably unwanted complicating
factor interfering with a character's progression; some players do not like "visit
the trainer" schemes.