Saturday, October 24, 2009

Alternate Experience System - Final Notes

You may recall that I'd been working on an alternate experience system for Savage Worlds in order to better suit the needs of my play group. Well, the system has been done for a while, but I finally got around to making it vaguely understandable to anyone else. In short, this system provides a different method of character advancement based -- to a great extent -- on what a character actually does in the course of a game. Skills and Characteristics earn distinct experience points called IXP - Improvement Experience Points. General Experience Points (XP) also are earned, and may be spent on Edges or be used as IXP to round out points to improve one or more traits.

[Assigning Experience]

Every Skill and Characteristic gains its own set of Improvement Experience (IXP) that may be spent only on improving that particular ability. General Experience, however, may be spent on anything, provided the GM approves an improvement. It is spent as IXP when a character is improving a Skill or Characteristic and is used to purchase Edges and Action Cards.

[Improvement Experience]

The Skill or Characteristic was:


Used unsuccessfully


Used successfully in an unimportant way


Used successfully multiple times, in unimportant ways


Used successfully in an important or unique way


Used successfully multiple times in important or unique ways


Used in a way that had significant impact on game events


Used in a way that changed the course of the game


Use of a characteristic is considered to be any time in which:
  • A character is called upon to make a Characteristic roll
  • A characteristic is actively tested or trained
  • A characteristic is used during role-playing narrative
A characteristic is NOT considered used when:
  • A skill roll is made
  • A characteristic roll is made for general knowledge or to default a skill test
  • A damage roll is made

[General Experience]

The Character:


Was active/present in the game


Contributed meaningfully to the game


Had an outstanding contribution to the game


Overcame a major personal obstacle


Met a major personal goal


The Group:


Was successful in their efforts


Succeeded admirably due to skill and ingenuity (not sheer luck)


Overcame a major long-term obstacle or


Achieved a significant long-term goal


Completed a minor storyline


Completed a major storyline


The average General Experience issued per session should be somewhere between 3-5 points. More points should be granted if important Character goals are met. The resolution of story-lines may even offer double, or even triple that amount if it is a long-running story arc.

[Unified Experience Costs]




XP Cost

New Skill (d4)

New Edge



















For non-humans, consider each improvement value as the basic die before racial modifiers are added. For example, Dwarves, who would gain a +1 Vigor Die and suffer -1 Agility Die (from their maximum), treat Vigor as being one step down the table, and Agility as one step up. So, a Dwarf increasing Vigor from a d8 to a d10 would pay 80 (instead of 100) XP and increasing his Agility from d6 to a d8 would pay 100 XP (instead of 80).

[Edge Tracks]

Any Edges that build upon each other directly in sequence are considered part of a Track. Most of the time, Edges further along in a Track may be identified by the inclusion of “Improved” in their name. For example, Rapid Recharge and Improved Rapid Recharge are edges comprising the Rapid Recharge Track.

The first edge in a track costs its normal value. However, improving to the next Edge in a track – e.g. to an Edge’s Improved form – costs only the difference between the two point costs. If there is not a difference in point cost (likely because both edges have the same rank prerequisites), then ¼ of the point value for the edge must be spent to make the improvement.

There are some cases where an edge track lacks the inclusion of an “Improved (X)” form; in the SW:EX rulebook, the only such examples appears among the Legendary Edges – for example, the progression under the Professional Track from Expert to Master.

As per the rules for point expenditures on Edge Tracks with no cost differences between edges, all Legendary Edges after the first one in a particular track cost 30 Experience Points.

[Bennies (optional)]

While SW:EX did away with the old rule of converting unspent bennies into experience points, the Experience Improvement System outlined herein can easily accommodate either preference. If you do not like bennies included in potential experience, then simply do not offer the option. However, if you wish to allow bennies unspent at a session’s end to be used to augment character experience, then have every one so spent count as a single point of General XP.

I’d recommend removing the old mechanic that required dice rolls for unused bennies in order to determine if they convert. Experience points in this alternate experience system do not mean as much individually. Also, to promote dramatic game play and to reward player contributions, I’d also recommend allowing only those bennies earned during the course of the game session to be spent as experience at the end of the session. Thus, normal bennies, luck-derived bennies, and bennies earned from being a kid would not apply – there would be no “free” experience.

[Example of the Experience Improvement System in Use]

Dick Daring, Cavalier of the Spaceways has survived another session of adventuring. It was an active session in which Dick thwarted his rival, the nefarious Nick Nasty, in his attempts to seize control of a backwater spaceport (for reasons still unknown). Dick had a pretty nasty running gun battle with Nick and his cronies, he had a short and pointless brawl, stealthily researched the port manifests (discovering Nick’s presence before Nick could spring an ambush!), and pumped the locals for information before sneaking into the old warehouse on the outer docking ring where Nick and his cronies were hatching their schemes.

The Game Master decides that Dick:
  • Used Fighting in an unimportant way: [1 IXP]
  • Used Firearms multiple times in important ways: [4 IXP]
  • Used Investigation in a way that had significant impact on the events: [5 IXP]
  • Used Piloting in an unimportant way when he landed his ship at the Spaceport: [1 IXP]
  • Used Stealth multiple times in important ways: [4 IXP]
  • Used Streetwise in an important way: [3 IXP]
  • Did something important by forcing open an old airlock with a Strength roll: [3 IXP]
  • Did something important by sneaking through the airless ducts while holding his breath (a Vigor roll): [3 IXP]
Furthermore, the GM grants the following General Experience:
  • Dick was active in the game: [1XP]
  • Dick’s actions contributed meaningfully: [1XP]
  • Dick met a major personal goal (thwarting Nick Nasty!): [1 XP]
  • His group was successful: [1 XP]
  • His group used skills and good thinking to overcome problems: [1XP]
  • His group completed a minor storyline: [2XP]
At a total of 7 General XP, in addition to all those IXP he earned... It looks like a good day for Dick!

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