Monday, March 5, 2018

Regarding XP Bonuses: The Worthless 10%

I've often felt intuitively that a 10% bonus to earned XP doesn't give you much, if anything. I decided to look at some actual numbers to see whether that was true. It is.

I made a series of calculations, using the OD&D Fighter XP progression as a baseline:

Level 1: 0 XP
Level 2: 2,000 XP
Level 3: 4,000 XP
Level 4: 8,000 XP
Level 5: 16,000 XP
Level 6: 32,000 XP
Level 7: 64,000 XP
Level 8: 120,000 XP
Level 9: 240,000 XP

I did my calculations based on the pace (in terms of number of sessions) needed to level up.
I did this for three scenarios:

1) earning enough XP per session for an unmodified fighter to level up once every 20 sessions
2) earning enough XP per session for an unmodified fighter to level up once every 10 sessions
3) earning enough XP per session for an unmodified fighter to level up once every 5 sessions

I then plugged in the numbers for XP per session for a fighter with no XP bonus, and a fighter with a 10% bonus for each of those three scenarios.

This is what I came up with. The yellow cells are where each fighter (bonus and no bonus) levels up.

As you can see, the fighter with the 10% bonus gets no significant edge over the fighter with no bonus at all.

In a campaign with an extremely slow level progression (averaging 20 sessions per level),  the fighter with the 10% bonus starts to pull ahead around session 37 of the campaign – leveling up three sessions before the fighter with no bonus. But of course in this scenario, it's taking 40 (or 37) game sessions to hit level three.

In a campaign where PCs progress at twice that speed  (averaging 10 sessions per level), the fighter with the 10% bonus starts to pull ahead at session 19, but only levels up one session sooner than the fighter with no bonus. The fighter with the bonus stays exactly one session ahead for the next 20 sessions and for some time beyond (though the next scenario suggests he will widen the gap a bit more much later on).

In a campaign with relatively rapid level progression (averaging 5 sessions per level), the fighter with the 10% bonus pulls ahead only at session 35, and only by one session, and then only because the XP requirement to progress suddenly stops doubling. If the XP progression kept doubling, it appears the fighter with the 10% bonus would never pull ahead of the fighter with no bonus.

So it seems that unless a) you play with a really slow level progression or b) you get to higher level play where the XP requirements flatten out, a 10% XP bonus will have no appreciable effect on game play.

1. Looks like I'll have to change some of my Castles & Crusades house rules for Humans and Half-Elves raised by Humans... I'd gotten rid of the Primes and replaced them with +10% and +5% bonuses. :p

2. Now do fighters with a net 30% bonus.

1. Actually, I was thinking of doing that and adding it on to a new post.

3. Very interesting. Not surprising.
I would love to know what percentage does make a difference. I'm guessing a +25%.

1. I think you're right. I tried 20%, 30% and 50% in the follow-up post. The 20% still didn't seem to do a lot, but at 30% it definitely starts to get meaningful. I just did a few quick sample calculations, and 25%, as you suggest, just barely seems to give the same rhythm of advancement as 30%.

4. So all of this happened because of your post: http://eyerayofthebeholder.blogspot.ca/2018/03/house-rule-for-humans-and-half-elves-in.html

1. Then my work here is done. =)