This is the system I use for Age of Swords. But it could be used with any game system. You just have to use the table provided instead of the one that comes with your game.
As the Hero adventures, they will progress in level.
The class level represents the Hero’s capability compared to others. The higher level the Hero, the more powerful they are compared to the world’s average.
There are 4 ways to gain experience during play.
- Hourly Rate.
- Story Achievements.
- MVP player awards.
This system does not give any experience for meaningless combat, shoe shopping, or filibustering. The majority of the points come from defeating bosses, achieving goals, and playing the game in general.
Without an award for combat, players should not feel a need to kill everything that comes across their path. Instead, the big XP amounts come from completing adventures, advancing themselves in the world, and reaching personal goals.
The following chart is used for all classes.
Players earn 10 XP for each hour played.
If they miss the session, they earn 5 XP for each hour that was played without them.
This serves two purposes. It rewards players who show up and play. At the same time prevents people who miss a session from falling too far behind.
There should always be 1 or more stories going on with the party. Even when playing in a sandbox style game, there should be stories building.
When the players have major achievements in one of this story, the GM should award extra XP. It can be any amount, but here are three recommendations.
Minor: Winning an important battle, discovering a significant clue, or coming to a needed decision. These are worth 10 XP.
Major: Defeating a major Boss villain and saving the day. This is worth 50 XP.
Epic: The end of a long adventure arc. This is worth 150 XP.
If the Heroes spend three months relaxing and enjoying themselves in a city or town, they earn downtime XP. Each winter, the GM should encourage the Heroes to find a place to relax, enjoy themselves, and spend gold.
This is about entertainment, training, and socializing. It is a means to represent the lifestyle of the Hero. Some examples of spending time without downtime: sea travel, in a dungeon, in the wilds, in a small village, or traveling.
The more gold the Hero spends during downtime, the more time they have to focus on their own lives. Note the gold amounts are for the game Age of Swords. For 5e D&D, x10 the amount.
Why does the money earn XP?
The money spent gives the Hero more time to improve themselves. It is hard to practice and learn spells if the Hero has to cook their own food, wash their own clothes, or work for extra silver.
At the higher spending, their life includes going to music halls, lectures, and dinner parties with informed people. They have more opportunity to expand their reason and knowledge. They will have access to private libraries, trainers, and other people who can help them.
At the end of each session, each player awards a Hero 15 XP. Or they can award themselves 10 XP. They can use any justification how they award these points.
The following are some examples:
- Exceptional Role-playing.
- Heroic Deeds.
- Mentoring another Hero.
- Selling to another (in the form of services or training).
- Under threats by another (Hero is forced into servitude).
There is a concern about this being meta-gamed. Mostly by raising one Hero to be more powerful than the rest of the group. If this is how the players have their fun, then so be it. After a while of watching 1 Hero dominate over the others, they might change their strategy.
In the Game
Giving a Hero, you MVP point represents giving them your time and attention.
If your Hero has been forced into giving the MVP award, imagine serving a cruel leader. You cook of them, doing their laundry, or spend your days teaching them.
If you volunteer to help another, you might be mentoring them or training with them. They might be your friend. Or you might for some reason be doing their chores.