The KB3 Experience System

Draft version 0.9, 4 May 2001.

Last Updated 4 May 2001.

Not content to rest on his laurels, Kenneth now gives us an experience system that integrates seamlessly with The KB3 Traveller Task System.

  1. Introduction
  2. Awarding Experience Points
  3. Improvement Tasks
  4. Improving Statistics
  5. The Experience Point System In Action
    1. The Game Session
    2. Experience Point Awards
    3. The Improvement Throw
  6. Final Points to Note

1. Introduction

At the end of each gaming session, the GM should award experience points to the player characters. These points allow players to develop and enhance their characters. Allowing increases in skills and characteristics encourages character participation, keeps players interest at a high level, and keeps players aware of the benefits they can achieve during a game session.

Experience points are not a measure of absolute learning. Rather, they are a measure of potential: "There's a chance that your PC learned something new about her skill; maybe she learned enough to improve it to the next level". Think of experience points as a method of measuring "the potential a character has of improving a skill".

This system is designed to reflect character growth based on standard CT/MT/T4 character generation. This means that the system improves your character slowly - one skill level per game year for a character that does not adventure that often, more points for characters who are placed in adventure situations more often.

2. Awarding Experience Points

Awarding experience points shouldn't be a big production. Simply award points to each skill that was used "in an important manner" during the game - the ones that had an impact. That is, you wouldn't give a PC an experience point for every skill they used in the session, just the skills that had some sort of dramatic effect on the game. The awarding of experience at the end of the night should be a time the players enjoy - when they can look back on the game and be rewarded for the things that they attempted. The roll in question did not even have to be a successful one (at the GM's option). As long as the roll was dramatic, and the GM deems the PC "learned something" from his skill roll attempt, an experience point can be awarded.

The award is typically one point per skill. Players simply keep a tally of points next to their skills on their character sheet.

The GM can award discretionary points too - for great ideas during the game, or for fantastic role-playing, for example. Since no roll is involved with these points, players can use these points wherever they want, grooming their characters in the direction they want them to go.

Points can also be awarded for skills the PC does not have (this is how a PC learns new skills through experience), and for a PC's statistics (to improve STR, DEX, etc). When a PC earns experience points for a skill they do not have, simply write the skill on the character's sheet (in their skill list), but put it in parentheses. The parentheses indicate that the character does not yet have the skill. Experience points for statistics are recorded the same way; for example, (Dexterity) may be written on the character's skill list on their sheet, indicating that the PC has earned experience points for that stat. Note that a PC can only earn experience points for stats via Attribute-only rolls, or by placing discretionary points toward the stat.

[The experience system is designed to improve characters through their experiences, but there is another way characters can improve: through instruction and practice. People can lift weights, start running, read books, take classes, and have experts show them how to do things. I want to incorporate this aspect of character improvement into my system - and I haven't quite got that worked out yet. But, it will probably entail the awarding of experience points based on what the character does to learn something new. The improvement tasks (below) will be the same, just the method of obtaining experience points will be different.]

3. Improvement Tasks

At the beginning of a game session (or at the end of a session after experience is awarded), the GM will allow players to make Task Throws to see if skill improvement has occurred. Since this is a skill throw, the players roll the E-Die plus a number of Skill Dice equal to whatever skill they are trying to improve (if the PC is learning a new skill, the player rolls 1D - which also happens to be the E-Die). This throw is made against a Difficulty Throw, based on the skill level they are attempting to reach.

For example, Ted has Pistol-0 and is trying to gain Pistol-1. He rolls 1D versus 2D.

This is a skill throw, so Ted's player may use KB3 Skill Options if they wish.

In order to improve a skill (or gain a new skill) through experience, the roll has to achieve Greater Success - all other results are Failures. Use the stat most appropriate to govern the throw.

In the example above, the GM may decide that INT is the appropriate governing stat for Pistol to be improved instead of DEX.

Skill improvement attempts may be made on any skill that has enough prerequisite points. You have to have a number of points equal to your new skill level in order to attempt skill improvement.

In our example, Ted has Pistol-0, and is attempting to gain Pistol-1. He must have at least 1 experience point to attempt the improvement throw.

If the player does not succeed on the improvement throw, their PC loses 1 experience point for the attempt (the cost of trying). If a PC has more than the prerequisite points needed to attempt an improvement throw, then these extra points may be used like Skill Options. That is, you can use them to lower your target number, or improve your stat for measuring purposes. Any experience points used as Skill Options are lost after the throw is completed, whether successful or not.

In any one task improvement session, the player can keep attempting to gain skills for their PC as long as the PC still has experience points remaining.

In our example, if Ted starts with 3 experience points, his player can use the remaining 2 points to lower the target number or raise Ted's stat, or he can simply try the basic improvement throw three times. It's the player's choice. In the first instance, all the points that are used either as prerequisites or Skill Options are lost if the task fails; in the second, only 1 point is lost each time.

If a skill improvement roll is successful, all experience points are lost (you've got to start with a clean slate at the next level).

Optional Rule: If a character's total skill levels is higher than their INT + EDU, but lower than double this amount, double the prerequisite points and double the penalty for a non-successful throw. If the character's total skill levels are higher than 2 x INT + EDU, but lower than 3 x INT + EDU, then triple the prerequisite and penalty points, etc.

In our example, if Ted was just over his INT + EDU limit, he would need 2 experience points to attempt the improvement throw, since the normal amount is doubled. If he failed the improvement throw, those same 2 points are lost - again, the normal amount is doubled.

This is an optional rule because some GMs simply do not allow characters to have more skills than INT + EDU, and conversely some GMs don't care about skill limits at all. It's up to the GM to decide - after all, it's their campaign!

If this rule is used, here is a point to note: rather than being penalised through prerequisite points and failure cost, players may choose not to improve skills even if they have enough experience points to make the attempt. Players may keep an eye on their total skill levels, only attempting to improve the ones they want to improve and not just blatantly improving everything they can. This is another fashion in which the players can groom their characters.

4. Improving Statistics

[I haven't quite worked out how I'm going to throw for attribute improvement, but it will be some sort of attribute check with the prerequisite points being equal to the level of the stat (you will RARELY improve your stats this way--which is how it should be).]

5. The Experience Point System In Action

How does all this play out? Here's an example...

A. The Game Session

Ted the PC has Pistol-0, and during the night's gaming session, he makes a spectacular shot with his pistol. It was a great moment in the game, and the player is pleased.

B. Experience Point Awards

After the game session is over, the GM awards 1 experience point to Ted for making that shot. Ted's player marks this point on Ted's sheet, right next to his Pistol-0 skill. Ted already had 1 point of experience on that skill from previous game sessions, so now he has 2.

The player running Ted also did a superb job of role-playing that evening, and the GM recognised this. As a reward for great play, the GM awards Ted a discretionary point for the outstanding role-playing.

This discretionary point can be put on Ted's sheet wherever the player wishes - allowing the player to guide his character's growth. The player really wants Ted to improve his Pistol skill, so he puts it there. Ted ends the game session with 3 experience points on his Pistol skill.

C. The Improvement Throw

The GM always allows improvement throws before the beginning of the next game session, and the player running Ted has decided to give his Pistol skill a try (he could wait and try to rack up some more experience points if he wanted to).

Ted has INT 7, EDU 6, so he uses a total of 13 points to measure his prerequisites. Adding up all of Ted's skills, the player sees that Ted has a total of 11 skill levels (two spare "slots"), so he only needs 1 experience point to attempt an improvement throw.

The player looks at Ted's character sheet and sees that he has racked up 3 experience points for Pistol. He's got what he needs to make an attempt.

The player running Ted knows he will be rolling 1D (the E-Die only). One of his three experience points is used as the prerequisite point, and this same point will be lost if the roll fails. Two experience points are left over. Ted's player decides to use these points to his advantage, and he can use them to either reduce his target number or raise his stat for measuring purposes.

The GM states that either DEX or INT can be used to measure the throw, at the player's option. Ted's player decides to use INT, since it is higher than Ted's DEX 5. As well, since an improvement throw only succeeds when Greater Success is thrown, the player decides to use one of Ted's extra points to increase his INT from 7 to 8 for measuring purposes. The other point will be used to reduce the target number.

Ted is attempting to attain Pistol-1, so the GM will throw 2D (the E-Die + one Skill Die) for difficulty.

The player running Ted rolls 1D for the Task Throw, and rolls a "5". The GM's rolls 2D for the Difficulty Throw and rolls a "6" (with neither a "1" nor a "6" on the E-Die), reduced to "5" by one experience point. The throw succeeds!

Measuring the level of success, the player compares the Task Throw of "5" to the Governing Stat of "7", raised to "8" by one experience point. The players has achieved Greater Success!

Ted's skill increases to Pistol-1, and all 3 experience points are removed from his character sheet.

If the player's Task Throw had failed, Ted would still have lost all 3 experience points, since he used them as Skill Options.

If the player had rolled a "6" on the Task Throw, the total would have doubled to "12". This succeeds ("12" still beats a modified "5"), but is only a Normal Success (measured against the modified INT of "8"). Since Greater Success is required, Ted's Pistol skill would not improve this time. Again, all 3 experience points are lost. The game session starts, and Ted moves into the game with his skill remaining at Pistol-0 and no experience points next to the skill. The player can try again when Ted has racked up enough experience points to do so (at least 1).

Finally, if Ted was over the INT + EDU limit (and the optional cost rule is in force), the player would have had to use 2 experience points to even attempt the improvement throw. If the throw failed, Ted would lose those 2 points. If the player had used the remaining point as a Skill Option, Ted would lose it as well. He would need to earn at least 2 more experience points before trying again.

6. Final Points to Note

It is interesting to note that this method of awarding experience points reflects the standard Traveller character generation system, only this time in game play. How? Well, under most of the chargen systems, players can pick skill charts but still have to roll randomly to see which skill they obtain. Under The KB3 Experience System, players can groom their characters both through their choice of skills to improve, and through the application of discretionary points. However, they have less control over which skills will be awarded experience points, because they never know which skills will have a dramatic impact on a game session, and result in the GM awarding experience.

Finally, awarding points at the end of a gaming session should be fun! The GM and players should be looking forward to it. It is a time of sitting back, laughing with your gaming friends, reflecting over the night's gaming. At the same time, the GM should not award experience points too freely. One point per topic seems about right:

"Your Piloting roll tonight saved the ship and kept your vessel from being boarded! Give yourself an experience point on your Pilot skill!"

"Oh, that EDU attribute check you made was incredible - that one roll changed the whole game! You now know so much more about the scenario than you did before. Have an experience point on your EDU stat!"

"You don't have Intrusion, but you were able to make that incredible roll against all odds, deactivating that alarm. If the alarm had sounded, you and the group would have been in a world of hurt... give yourself an experience point on a new skill... Intrusion!"

"OK, you did some great role-playing tonight - better than usual - so here's a discretionary point! Put it on anything you wish to improve!"

The KB3 Experience System, copyright © 2001 Kenneth Bearden.
Compiled and edited by David "Hyphen" Jaques-Watson.
Used by permission.

Return to Top of Page