Episode 303 – the gamification of an RPG

* (0:29) How movies once made songs famous, but now seem to generally select songs that are already famous.  You’re The Best by Joe Esposito.

* (2:50) Thrift Shop, Pat, a stripper, and his son.

* (6:43) The gamification of an RPG.  What the term means in business or learning, and how it can be applied to the meta-game of an RPG.  The language site we mentioned was DuoLingo.

* (11:51) The potential pitfalls of gamification, including too much focus on the meta-game, overburdening players, or growing disparities in power.

* (14:09) A defense of the idea.  How it’s already a part of RPGs, even if not acknowledged or codified.

* (20:29) Additional examples of where these systems already exist in RPGs.  Whether the very act of naming and describing the system can make gamification problematic.  The psychological value of being able to choose the type of carrot and stick a Game Master wants to use.

Hosts: Dan, John, Julia, Pat

Comments (5)

Apos'tropheJune 27th, 2013 at 1:09 pm

If I recall correctly…. Blur’s Song 2 was featured prominently in Starship Troopers. (what an awesomely bad movie!)

Jordan I.July 6th, 2013 at 9:27 pm

It’s completely unrelated to RPGs, but it brings me no small amount of joy that when I google ‘Pat Roper’, these are the images that come up: http://puu.sh/3wNbN.png

Hope that brightens everybody’s day.

AgrentumAugust 16th, 2013 at 11:29 am

I actually tried to codify such rules and in my case most of things that worried Dan happened. Even though perks given were almost cosmetic almost without any mechanical effect, I was suddenly flooded with written material about their characters. One player even attempted novelization of my campaign (it was good to read, but most of failures were omitted etc). To be honest, I got fed up with all materials they started making and when I revoked whole reward system, flow of materials slowly dried up. Five-seven sessions after that all players restricted themselves to giving me bullet-point lists with plans, thoughts and short summary of last session.

I thought I dropped ball back then for not accounting for their competitive needs. But it recently happened again, with group of new players. Mostly because I was influenced by this episode. From a bit passive gamers I made them compete for undefined reward, despite the fact that I stated explicitly it will not grant any mechanical bonuses. This is probably how human brain works in general. I would seriously advice against codifying any rules. If players trust in GMs fairness, no one needs that. If they do not trust, something more then reward system must be changed.

As a side note: because we all have comparable amount of spare time to work on game, I did not see anyone annoyed about being left behind with rewards. Both in past and in recent experiment.

ZachOctober 15th, 2013 at 7:20 pm

The gamification discussion seemed a bit out of character (pun not intended) from the “FTB Way”. A couple of thoughts and/or observations:

1) Don’t mix in-game stuff with out-of-game stuff. If you want someone to update the website, offer them a dozen donuts. Don’t reward XP unless you want their CHARACTER to update your website. Whoever shows up late for a session has to bring a case of beer to the next session. You don’t turn in a character backstory, you have to go into the other room and write one up while the game starts without you (that one might be a bit harsh).

2) As David St. Hubbins would say, “By the grace of your, of your, uh by the stroke of your hand…you…is that what you’re gonna do?” The GM is whoever is running the current game. He or she is not the King or Queen of the group. One of the key FTB philosophies is that a game is a joint storytelling effort BETWEEN the GM and the players. Having a GM that deigns to hand out rewards to his or her subjects based on how well they please him does not seem to fit with that way of thinking. In conjunction, what method of behavioral modification are the players able to use on the GM? Should they not be allowed to dole out (or withhold) treats and trinkets to the GM for particularly desirable (or undesirable) performance?

3) It just frickin’ kills immersion. It’s enough challenge keeping everyone’s focus on the story without introducing a side betting system that will alter motivations, be they in-game or out.

This is proof that there is such a thing as a bad idea. : )

ArkmerinDecember 15th, 2014 at 2:05 pm

An idea for a system like this for D&D 3.5 that I thought of while listening to the podcast.

Write all the PC’s names on a piece of paper. Whenever the character does something good, whether it be heroic, hilarious, good RP, character story advancement etc. give them a little check next to their name.

However, if they do something out of character, stupid or just display poor RP, write down a little ‘x’ next to their name.

At the end of the session, tally together the good and the bad marks for each character. Check marks grant bonus xp, while the ‘x’s grant a xp penalty, this xp modifier would be applied at the end of the session when the final round of xp is being handed out. The good and the bad marks scale similar to the level up table in D&D 3.5, however the bad marks are more severe. Good marks grant 15xECL bonus xp, while bad marks slap you with a 20xECL xp penalty.

Do not tell your players the value of the bonuses and penalties, but do tell them what causes these modifiers to be applied and also state that bonus baiting will be punishable by a penalty. (you can give them a warning first)

Then at the end of the session, tell the player who received the most xp, why he got more xp. And tell the one who got the most penalties why he got less. No need to be super specific though and tell them exactly what action caused you to mark him with a penalty. Just tell them what you want to see them improve.

If a trend starts to occur within the group where one player is constantly getting these rewards or penalties, then you could reduce the xp penalty modifier by 5 for every 5 ‘x’ the player has, and do the same for the good check marks.


Arkmerin: ✓✓xx✓xxx (3 bonuses and 5 penalties)

Thadius: x✓✓✓✓✓✓x

Ni’ira: ✓✓

Hrishka: xxx✓

Planned XP reward for session(encounter): 3725

Party level: 10 (let’s assume that everyone in the party is level 10 for simplicity’s sake)

good bad

450 750
Arkmerin: (10x15x3) – (10x15x5) = -350 + 3725 = 3375 xp

600 400
Thadius: (10x10x6) – (10x20x2) = 200 + 3725 = 3925 xp

300 0
Ni’ira: (10x15x2) – (10x20x0) = 300 + 3725 = 4025 xp

150 600
Hrishka: (10x15x1) – (10x20x3) = -450 + 3725 = 3275 xp

XP needed for lvl 11 = 10.000

750 xp difference between the highest and the lowest player.

Ni’ira is now 7.5% closer to lvl 11 than Hrishka.

I don’t think that’s TOO horrible. Hrishka could easily catch up during the next session.

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