Stunt Dice, Role Playing XP Rewards and How Not to be a Jerk While Game Mastering

Perhaps this does not deserve a whole post but I came across this while reading up on D&D 4th and found it to be quite interesting.

“I’ve seen a lot of games (both in early RPGA and home games) that gave XP for good roleplaying. By good roleplaying do I mean the quality of your character acting? The problem with the roleplaying reward is this: You’re almost always going to give out the maximum to everyone at the table. Why? Because telling someone that they didn’t do a good job of roleplaying in a game where everyone is there to have fun seems overly judgmental, can create hurt feelings, and is… well… just downright crappy. It’s also so very meta and arbitrary that it begs questions about other forms of bonus XP. Why not give similar bonus XP for rule knowledge? Playing well with others? Bringing the most snacks?”
Stephen Radney-MacFarland

This comment fascinates me. The majority of the article talks about the new Quest XP Reward System (and does comment that most DMs gave Quest XP before they decided to include it themselves) but it also talks about things that used to give XP but no longer do (the silliest of these being Treasure… “Look Grug, five hundred experience points laying right here on the ground!”).

I have to agree with Mr. Radney-McFarland; I don’t think I would feel right about giving someone extra XP for being a good roleplayer. I have on occasion given extra XP for someone doing something amazing that made a lot of players laugh and in one of my World of Darkness games we had a system called Cool Points (yes, that is what we called them… shut up) where a player could get a cool point for… well… doing something cool. Often someone would do something and the other players would laugh or react in some other way and then point out that the player deserved a Cool Point. (I also gave Cool Points for recapping the game and other silly things.)

Still even though I accept that sometimes in the moment a player deserves a bonus of some kind, a bonus at the end of the session for “good roleplaying” seems harsh to the other players that are there to have a good time as well but, quite frankly, might not be as good at the acting parts. Heck, it also becomes problematic because the stoic fighter type that sulks and then hits things is a heck of a lot easier to play well than the dynamic transvestite wizard type who is afraid that the sky is falling (yes, that’s a type). Also it leads to players not wanting to play something that might be beyond the scope of their roleplaying abilities. This fact can be rather unfortunate as I find that roleplaying is supposed to be a place we can be anything and if all we can be is something we are good at pretending to be… well… that takes away some of the fun.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Stunt Dice

This is why I love Stunt Dice. I think the Stunt Die system in Exalted and Scion has got to be one of the coolest things anyone has ever come up with. While it’s not an XP bonus, it is a bonus that is measurable and makes one player feel cool without necessarily making other players feel lousy. Sure, when one player gets more dice than the others people can feel a bit bummed but I do try to give the rewards based on effort and I allow other players to chip in a bit if someone is really trying but can’t say it right.

I guess my point is that while Roleplaying XP sounds great because it encourages people to roleplay, it ends up being exclusionary and arbitrary and has great potential to lead to hurt feelings. At best it seems like you would end up with some amount of XP that you give out if you feel a couple players did enough roleplaying to warrant the whole party getting it and at worst you end up with a mechanic for playing favorites.

What Will You Do for XP?

In conclusion I would like to say that the end of the above quote made me laugh. It is true of course that if person A (a good roleplayer) should get XP for doing what he/she is good at then person B (a rules lawyer) should get similar XP. In Paranoia XP (well it was XP and then just became Paranoia because some company took issue with it…) you could get Perversity Points (sort of a combination of XP and free modifiers for rolls) for doing just about anything including bringing food for the GM but then, that’s Paranoia and being unfair is only fair.

I will admit here that I have seen GMs of more serious games accept bribes for XP. I don’t think I have ever done this myself unless I gave the bonus to all players at the table. In general I find bribery too uncouth and I find singling out any player for a bonus (or worse, excluding one player from a bonus) to be rather poor GMing.

Anyone out there have any fun stories about this? Let us know!


    If you liked Scion’s Stunt Dice, check out the Wushu RPG. It’s whole mechanic is very much like Stunt Dice, except better. The cooler your description, the more dice you roll, but a bad roll can never screw up your description / action! There’s even a very simple rule to set up how many dice you get, so it’s non-arbitrary and there’s no allegations of favoritism.

    I played Wushu about a week ago, and it blew my mind. Such a good game.


    Interesting. I don’t know if I need to get myself interested in another game right now but I will certainly need to check that out.


    I just read the Wushu Open rules, and I have to say it does sound like a really cool change of pace from all the other role playing games on my shelves.

    While I don’t typically go in for completely over-the-top amounts of action in my role playing sessions, I may need to make an exception and try this out; seems like it would make for a great exercise of certain role play skills (gone a little rusty) in a more free-form environment.


    I read through it last night as well. It does look pretty cool but I have to admit that while 60% of me loves it the 40% rules lawyer twitched at the thought. I have an odd imbalance to maintain when it comes to games. :o)