Character rewards are important in any RPG. Character rewards encourage players to do well, work together, and try hard to be successful in their quests. In the Atomic RPG System the primary goal is to have fun. Players have fun playing the Atomic RPG System with friends, socializing, and creating awesome stories. That is, and always should be, the primary goal and character reward for playing games. However, nipping at the heels of fun is the players’ expectations to gain experience, fame, treasure, and strength. They Atomic RPG System has both PCs and GMs covered with the streamlined way it handles character rewards in the RPG.
Atomic RPG System does Not Use Experience (XP)
The Atomic RPG System does not use experience points (XP) as character rewards. In many other RPGs, XP is handed out to individual players as character rewards for individual tasks. This character reward system is OK, but it has a few inherent problems.
Problems with XP as a Character Reward
First, XP character rewards adds more character management work for players. The GM often has to spend a lot of extra time calculating, dividing, and explaining XP. This isn’t much fun and takes away from time better spent playing!
Second, individual character reward XP systems can actually encourage players in the group to work against each other to get the biggest amount of XP. This seems counter intuitive in an RPG that is meant to be group-based. Why play a system that pits players against each other instead of working together?
Third, if someone misses a game, they miss out and fall behind the group. This can easily be compounded if a player or two is consistently late or missing due to other life obligations. A player shouldn’t be punished for being a good parent and staying with a sick child. Players should not be punished if they are responsible employees and stay late at work to finish a project. Real life happens and there’s no reason to punish players for it.
Leveling as a Character Reward
The Atomic RPG System gives the power and authority to the GM to level the group up as a whole. Generally in Atomic RPG System games, the group will level every 2 to 4 quests. However, the GM can have the group level between battles or never level at all. Either is OK depending on the type of game you’re playing. This flexibility ends up being a huge advantage in many ways.
RPG Benefits of No XP
First, it cuts out time spent by both the players and the GM doing math homework to see if they can level up or not. All of that saved time can be used to play more of the Atomic RPG System!
Second, succeeding or failing as a group encourages the group to work together. Players no longer fight over scraps of XP. Instead, they can focus on their strengths to help out the entire group. It is amazing the changes in players when they are rewarded as a group for quality group effort. Instead the Atomic RPG System uses a group reward system instead of a character reward system.
Third, not having XP allows those with other obligations to not worry about falling behind. Players that occasionally miss games don’t have to deal with not leveling along with their friends and having their characters become weaker than the other characters in the party.
The Atomic RPG System gives the GM the ability to give character rewards at their own pace. The players benefit because they don’t have to compete against each other for XP or other character rewards. Instead players can work together towards greater glory!
Atomic RPG System Character Leveling
When to Level a Group
Here are a few guidelines that most games should follow in order to have a good progression through quests and campaigns.
- Every 15-20 Hours of Gameplay
- Every 10-15 Encounters
- Every 3-4 Game Sessions
This is a super simple guideline to follow. This has proven to be a pretty good measurement of the pace of the campaign. Even though there are not specific character rewards, the players feel like this is usually a good pace of improvement.
The GM can stretch this out or shrink it depending on the situation. The best gauge is to follow what your players would like. Generally it is nice to have a couple of play sessions after a level up so a player can use their new Powers and enjoy the new perks of their character. If after 3 or 4 sessions your players get tired of using the same old stuff, level them up! By keeping pace with the players, GMs are sure to run a fun and properly paced game.
To Level or Not to Level
Here are some good examples of when the players SHOULD get a character reward to level up, even if they may not have hit one of the benchmarks described above. When they:
- Defeat a Boss.
- Survive through a series of important battles.
- Accomplish amazing tasks in Real Time or Turn Time.
- Complete a mission or face a situation that shifts the direction of the campaign.
There are also times when the players should not get a character reward of a level up. When they:
- Flee a Boss.
- Get killed. (They can die in a fight, and be “saved” by enemies or allies should it be important that these specific characters continue in the campaign.)
- Are taken Captive.
- Have horrible failures in Real Time or Turn Time.
- Do something that hurts the campaign.
A Happy GM is a Level Up GM
Ultimately it is up to the GM in the Atomic RPG System to determine how often characters will level up. The pace of any campaign should be discussed before it begins. Character rewards like leveling can easily be adjusted from quest to quest. The important thing is that players feel that their character rewards match the time and effort they spend in game.
I hope this helps both players and GMs with leveling expectations. It might be strange not to have character rewards like XP, but the benefits of this style of character advancement will become apparent as you begin to advance through levels!
PC Fame and Renown Character Rewards
Fame often comes to a character or characters who save people from some great peril. Or it can come from defeating a powerful foe. Usually in RPGs the fame and renown is earned and shared through roleplay while a player is acting as their character. This can be a powerful character reward in of itself. This should be fostered by the GM and other players to provide a rich and fulfilling RPG gaming experience. Earning fame and renown are a lot of fun. It really does put the RP into RPG.
There are no set rules on how to do this. The best way is to provide a good example as a GM and roleplay your Non Player Characters (NPC’s, or characters or creatures that are controlled by the GM instead of players) as much as possible. They should react to the good the player’s character does. Goodly NPCs should be appalled at evil the player characters commit.
The NPCs are also usually part of a community. So if the PC does something with one, for good or bad, it is often reflected in the NPCs around them. Thier fame helps to immerse players in a more believable setting. This can also helps to teach them that their actions have consequences.
PC Wealth and Treasure Character Rewards
One of the biggest motivations for players is treasure seeking. In so many books and movies the centerpiece of plot revolves around treasure. Often times it is a specific item of incredible strength or worth, or both. With the treasure the party gains on their quests, they can get better gear, buy nice places to live, and afford luxuries for their character.
So the questions GMs ask is “How much treasure and wealth should my players have?” Check out the table below to see the numbers. There is a target a GM should hit as well as a poor and rich threshold. This is designed so that characters remain in the “right” amount of strength coming from their items.
As a general rule, this should allow a character to have 1 close to maxed out item for their Character Tier. This means that a Tier 1 character should have 1 item that is a +3 item. +3 is the maximum that a Tier 1 character can use. See the Crafting Skill for more details on items and level restrictions. A Tier 3 character should have 3 items that are +7.
This does not mean that a character has to have these exact items. Instead it means that they have enough items that would equal that cost. It is far more likely they may have one or two items that are “maxed out” and a whole handful of items of lesser quality. The amount of wealth a PC has will regulate the strength of their items. All players in a group should be near equal to one another in wealth. This way the game remains equitable and fair for everyone.
The GM for the game can make decisions whether to allow more or less wealth into the game. This all depends on the type and style of the campaign. As long as the PCs are all close in wealth it should be just fine.
Campaigns that are either too rich or too poor have problems of their own.
In a campaign that is too rich, the party will soon find themselves with the best of everything. Where this might seem fun at first glance, it takes away from the goals they might have. It may also trivialize the game if no problem is unsolvable if they just throw cash at it.
In a campaign that is too poor, players we have a frustrating and difficult journey. They will not be able to get the supplies they need or upgrade their equipment as expected. This can make even trivial encounters deadly if the party is under equipped. It also stands to sour the mood if players feel they are not rewarded enough for their efforts in the game. This then leads to them giving up or making a halfhearted effort, worsening the gaming experience.
The best place for character rewards to be is somewhere in between these two wealth markers. Below is a chart that GMs can reference to quickly assess the economy of their game. Then they can check their players to see if they fall into the range of reasonable PC Wealth.
The best way to give these character rewards to the players is through payment of service, cash they find on their enemies, selling loot they find, and of course finding treasure caches. NPC’s do not have specific items on them but they do have a Cash value. This is an easy tool for a GM to use to add up the Cash on each NPC in a fight and then give it to the party as money they loot.
Character Cash Table – Click to Enlarge
|Level||Tier||Poor Limit||Cash Target||Wealthy Limit||Per Level|
- Level – Character Level
- Tier – Character Tier
- Poor Limit – The lower threshold for PC cash.
- Cash Target – The target total cash value of a PC.
- Wealth Limit – The upper threshold for PC cash.
- Per Level – Target amount of cash to give out each level for each character. (Divided between quests of the level or given as character reward horde.)
How to Fix PC Wealth Problems
There are a number of ways to solve PC wealth issues. It is important that these issues are fixed while playing the game. To suddenly strip a player of cash because they exceed the wealth limit will not be well received! Instead, tackle these issues through story and roleplay.Here are a few ideas that can be used to bring the PCs back into game balance.
Wealthy PC Solutions
- Rob Them – Thieves take their money. Then have a fun adventure tracking the thieves down, who unfortunately lost some or all of it along the way.
- Entice them to purchase property or upgrade what they have. PC’s will love to build a house, castle, or dance club. It is a great way to get a lot of money out of the game while adding some fun and rich RP. This property doesn’t need to grant any other benefit than simply being a cool place to hang out.
- Natural Disaster – Causes damage or loss they have to pay for.
- Destroy some of the items/wealth. Perhaps through magic, malice, or simply by accident. Adventure can be had in the loss of things as much as in gaining them.
- Taxes, meals, bribes, or ransoms can be alternatives. However, allowing them to pay off all guards will certainly backfire.
Poor PC Solutions
- They find a treasure map!
- A treasure horde is found after a victory!
- Healthy bounties are paid for easy work.
- Items and wealth are gifted due to heroic service.
- A messenger arrives with news of a sudden inheritance. This is good for balancing a single PC.
These are just a few examples. Whole quests can be written around these circumstances allowing for more RPG fun. It is much better and far more fun to balance things out through stories and quests. This helps move the game along. It builds character relationships. These problems can give ideas to the GM to create more quests. If done right, the PCs should never even know they are being balanced.
Character rewards, as with many things in the Atomic RPG System, all boils down to whatever the GM wants to do with the character rewards in their group. These are guidelines to follow for character rewards to make GMing easier and to keep the PCs in check. However, if the GM has other ideas or plans for character rewards for the PCs, that is the GM’s prerogative!