I’ve talked for a couple weeks now about the philosophy of the Infinite Earths experience system. Today I’d like to walk through an example of how it works in an actual adventure.
Room 209 Gaming’s upcoming “Escape from Monthos Vil” adventure (still on schedule to be released, with quick-start rules, in June) focuses on soldiers who are fleeing after the rout of the Ninth Legion of Amarantha by the Undying Army. The final order by their commanding officer was to escape so the Players could evacuate Monthos Vil – their hometown and the site of a temple to the pacifist god Jaheb.
The end of the scenario lists the various Story Objectives in the adventure that can award XP. These goals vary from the basic to the nearly impossible. The range is meant to give Guides running the game an idea of what is worth XP so they can judge the value of any additional story goals that Players set for themselves during the scenario.
Surviving until the end of the scenario is worth 1 XP. The entire module is about the Players’ race to escape an approaching military force that converts slain enemies into the Turned – soldiers who serve the King of Sorrows. In this case, survival equals the most basic level of success.
Along those same lines, saving the lives of friends, family and neighbors in Monthos Vil is worth additional XP. Here’s a look at how reducing the number of NPC fatalities impacts the final XP total for the Players:
- +0 XP if 10 or more townsfolk die to the Undying Army
- +1 XP if only 6 to 9 townsfolk die to the Undying Army
- +2 XP if only 3 to 5 townsfolk die to the Undying Army
- +3 XP if only 1 or 2 townsfolk die to the Undying Army
- +4 XP if none of the townsfolk die to the Undying Army
Slain and wounded townsfolk can potentially transform into more of the Turned. Each additional Turned person can join in attacks on the Players and townsfolk that might occur later in the module. But those additional combatants are not worth extra XP because Infinite Earths does not award XP for each and every combatant. XP represents the completion of a story goal. This follows the same reasoning as other game systems that do not provide extra XP for summoned creatures.
What this means is that, yes, it is possible for a group of Players to struggle harder in order to earn less XP. Cleverness and foresight on the part of Players can make the game much easier than a lack thereof; this is, in fact, one of our design goals.
Players also have an opportunity to rescue and cleanse a specific NPC who was wounded by scouts and is slowly Turning, gaining both a valuable ally during the module and earning another XP. Preventing any delays to the evacuation by the Undying Army or its agents is also worth 1 XP.
The most difficult story goal has not been achieved in any of the playtests so far: Prevent the Undying Army from harming any of the NPCs once play begins. This goal is worth 1 XP, which might seem low. But remember, it adds in with the 4 XP the Players would earn for preventing any NPC deaths for a total of 5 XP. It is essentially a small bonus for excellent forethought and good luck.
Players did not know this was even an option. Story Objectives are not announced to Players ahead of time, because the XP they earn is dependent upon how their characters behave: how heroic, or not heroic, they are. The most basic Objective, surviving the module, can be achieved by characters who arrive in Monthos Vil and keep on trucking, leaving the town and its people to its fate. Only characters who have heroic impulses have the opportunity to earn more XP.
This, of course, can be turned on its head. If a table wanted to play more villainous characters, for instance, XP could be rewarded for acting on evil impulses, such as turning the town over to the King of Sorrows or murdering its people to give the Undying Army an easier time of things. As a philosophical choice, we prefer to leave this arrangement of play to other creators and individual tables.
One of the complications in “Escape from Monthos Vil” is the presence of a saboteur who is secretly working for the King of Sorrows.
Killing the saboteur does not award any XP. Why? In part, because simply killing bad guys is never a Story Objective: stopping their evil plans is. And in part, because the Players are under orders to save as many of the townsfolk as possible. This saboteur isn’t a member of some faceless horde; he or she is a neighbor, a friend, a mentor. This is someone who the Players trust. Killing them is easy. Saving them is hard.
And this is all before the goals set by the Players for themselves in the scenario. For example, one group of Players decided that patching up a years-long feud between two NPCs in Monthos Vil would be the fastest way to organize the evacuation. They spent a long time finding out the causes of the problem and working on temporary solutions and the beginnings of a long-term change. That was worth +1 XP because the Players explored part of the story with their actions that otherwise would have gone unremarked.
These additional XP for story goals by Players should be awarded to the whole participating group, even if only one of the Players was the major push behind the idea. This represents the fact that all the Players at the table are part of the story (even if that just means being quiet for a few minutes to keep from messing things up). It also helps avoid cases where some Players gain more rewards than others by virtue of getting to an idea or plan first.
The lowest possible result was 1 XP for Players who just survive the scenario. This would be someone who either leaves Monthos Vil to its fate or does a poor job organizing and protecting the evacuation. Players whose characters book it out of the town, leaving the rest of the Fellowship to deal with the situation, would receive only this amount of XP instead of the full XP earned by the rest of the party (participation counts, lack of participation doesn’t!). Those who excel (and have a bit of luck on their side) could finish the scenario with 9 or more XP.
This scenario is designed for lower-level characters in mind, who might only need 2 to 5 XP in order to level. This provides characters who exceed the basic requirements to have extra rewards from their XP. Each XP could be turned in for 5 Gold or 2 Fame (note: these numbers subject to change). They also could be used to gain Rapport – the social currency of Infinite Earths – with three different groups: the Jahebite Priesthood, the survivors of Monthos Vil and the Legions of Amarantha. There is even an opportunity to spend 4 XP on infusing a piece of equipment with magic: because characters are helping to protect a religious people, they can infuse armor or a shield with Holy magic, giving it the ability to completely absorb the damage from an Unholy opponent once per encounter.
All this in addition to the default rewards which include gold, a Renown (which shapes the behavior of anyone who recognizes the Player Characters), Fame, and the Rapport they’d already earned through play with the various townsfolk.
Experiences should be rewarding. That is a key philosophy behind Infinite Earths, and is at the heart of this system. Let us know what you think, or any questions you might have, in the comments below!