Chapter 15: Experience

Personas in EXP become steadily more experienced with time, just as we do in our lives. We puny humans gradually learn through events, eventually affecting our reactions in the future.  To try and record the complete personal learning history of a persona would be impossible. Instead, personas amass experience points, or EXPS, and the number of EXPS a persona has determines how good she is at doing things like combat or class skills. Virtually everything a persona does earns her EXPS: if she identifies an artifact she gets experience points, if she completes a class procedure she gets experience points, if she wins a fight she gets experience points, if her player comes up with some good role playing during the campaign she gets experience points. Generally EXPS are only awarded for success. There is no reason why failure should be any less educational, but this is a game, and a standard requirement of all games is that success be rewarded. Thus doing things correctly—whether through a lucky die roll or a player’s smarts — is how personas can improve themselves in EXP.

Omnilingual by H. Beam Piper Illustrated by Kelly Freas Astounding Science Fiction Feb 1957

Player vs. Persona Experience

As a player does more and more role playing, her personal skill level at role playing will improves. No longer the incompetent neophyte that she once was, an experienced player won’t even consider actions that might have sorely tempted her personas gone by. Her current persona will exhibit an increased level of consciousness in even the simplest of her actions. There is nothing wrong with this sixth sense that personas run by experienced players seem to have. There is nothing that a referee can or should do to make a player forget her hard-won skills. But the player must be careful lest her persona seem to possess information she could not possibly know. A brand new persona should not display in depth knowledge of a ruin mapped by the player’s three previous personas. However, it would be perfectly acceptable if the persona, on a hunch, acted in a very cautious manner while scrounging through those same ruins. The problem is one of differentiating knowledge from intuition: a persona cannot know everything her player does in precisely the same terms as the player does … but deductions from minimal evidence lie at the heart of role playing.

Experience Points

As the expedition progresses through the scenario, the ref totals the personas’ experience points. Over the course of an adventure, the persona might earn 100 EXPS for using her class skills, 200 EXPS for identifying a toy, 75 EXPS for combat, and 1000 EXPS for good roleplaying. Historically experience point totals are updated at the end of the scenario or evening of play. Real time EXPS compilation is not healthy for flow of roleplaying.

Each person’s EXPS total is converted to an experience level through the appropriate experience level table for her class (see Chapter 8, Classes). A spie who has collected 6243 EXPS is at third level, and a veterinarian with 18402 EXPS is at fourth level. The experience level represents how well the persona performs in combat, in class skills, and in life in general. PT and to hit rolls both depend on the experience level of the persona.  Different classes progress in their class skills at different rates. A biologist going from 4th to 5th level needs to earn 10000 Exps, while a knite crossing the same boundary must earn 24000 EXPS. A knite simply has many more skills to practise and contemplate than a biologist does, and so she must take longer to bring all of them up to a fifth-level proficiency. The number of EXPS needed between levels also increases as the levels get higher — so the knite who needs 24000 ExPs to get to the fifth level only needed only 3000 EXPS to progress from 1st to 2nd. This reflects the greater effort required for already highly skilled individuals to improve their craft.

 A single EXPS has the same value regardless of how it was earned or who did the earning. A mercenary who received 50 EXPS for combat would have gained just as much life experience as a biologist who earned 50 EXPS for  field work, or a nomad whose player earned 50 EXPS  for good roleplaying. 

Robot Experience

Robot personas are not mechanical servants in any sense of the word. As described in Chapter 5: Robots, they are insane machines whose internal damage has given them a mind of their own. Robots can collect experience by destroying their internal programming—that is, by misusing their equipment and by sustaining further damage. A robot would earn no experience points when using any of her peripherals properly. For example a combat robot would get no experience for combat, but would for using her cannons to plant trees.

For every point of damage a robot takes, it receives 20 EXPS. This method of accumulating experience, however, slowly destroys the robot, and so the player cannot depend on it as her sole source of experience points. Instead, she must be resourceful in earning role playing experience. If a robot were to paint its opponents mauve in combat, blinding them, or break into a safe by drilling a hole with dental equipment, it would gain EXPS aplenty.

Alien Experience

Aliens present another EXPS challenge altogether. Aliens can range from unintelligent planetary denizens to important dignitaries of intergalactic empires. A player role playing a sapient or sentient alien would be able to pursue all kind of experience available to any intelligent anthro. If the alien is a tool using species with a class then they would function as that class for earning experience. However non-sentient aliens will have no interest in identifying artifacts, and doesn’t know what money is in order to hoard it. It would be the height of role playing skill to properly play  a non sentient alien, let alone determining how to earn EXPS. 

Anthro Experience

Every anthro will be pursuing a class of some sort. Use the experience point adjustments, and experience point tables for their respective persona class.

Experience for Class Maneuvers

The most straightforward, and honest, way to earn EXPS is to practise one’s class skills. Whenever a player makes a successful. PT roll, or her persona achieves a goal directly related to her class, ExPs are awarded. Thus biologists get ExPs for identifying aliens, nomads get EXPS for finding shelter, and nothings get ExPs for collecting cash.

The amount of experience awarded depends on the degree of difficulty of the PT roll required. Some classes require higher PT rolls than others to complete tasks, and so they receive correspondingly more EXPS for a successful roll — so a biologist would get 270 ExPs for successfully completing a 3 DD maneuver, while a knite would only earn 60 EXPS for a 3 DD maneuver. The respective EXPS values of successful manoeuvres for each class are given in Table 15.1, Experience for Class Maneuvers.

If a persona is exercising a using a  skill to lower the degree of difficulty of a manoeuvre, she still receives EXPS  for the full degree of difficulty (DD). A skill at rock climbing is equivalent to a higher experience level for endeavours involving the climbing of rocks: it only makes the player’s roll easier, and does not affect the difficulty of the procedure.

Any referee or players who feel that granting experience for rolling dice is not in the spirit of proper gaming should remember that PT rolls are represented by descriptive and enthusiastic role playing. The chance of success at any given manoeuvre, and hence the chance of getting EXPS, does depend on the level of role playing the player exhibits. Class skills EXPS aren’t just the result of lucky rolls.

There is no need for the referee to lower the EXPS awarded to high-level players because their Performance rolls are easier. This is unfair because the difficulty of the tasks hasn’t changed, and  because high level players need more EXPS to progress up levels. The more easily obtained experience points must be obtained much more often to be useful to high level personas.

Table 15.1 Experience for Class Maneuvers

Personas are rewarded for successful completion of maneuvers and tasks with EXPS.
ClassExperience Points
Biologist90 per DD
Knite42 per DD
Mechanic80 per DD
Mercenary30 per DD
Nomad30 per DD
Nothing1 per 10 eps
Spie50 per DD
Veterinarian80 per DD
Robot20 per HPS of damage

Nothings: With no class skills, nothings have no way to rise in experience by exercising them. They do, however, treasure money, and so receive 1 EXPS for every 10 eps of treasure they earn. The standard money unit in EXP is the eps, or electrum piece. They are described in greater detail in Chapter 23: Money. Earned treasure must be stolen, found, sought, or gathered with at least some risk to the nothing persona: it cannot be given, granted, won (as in a lottery) or inherited. Thus a nothing would receive 100 EXPS if she cashed in an antique chair worth 1000 eps, but only if the chair was taken from the lair of a vanquished denizen. If she cashed it in for less than its worth, she would simply receive less EXPS. If other personas funnel money to a nothing, or improperly divide their spoils in the nothing’s favour, or turn a blind eye to the nothing’s blatant embezzlement, the treasure is considered given, and the nothing receives no EXPS for it.

Experience for Practice

When personas are experiencing a long layover of some sort —a snowed in winter, or a prolonged space voyage — they might wish to practise, or study, in an attempt to improve their skills. During practice (non-gaming) time, the ref can assume that the persona was making use of whatever facilities were available, and that the persona was careful enough not to die while rehearsing a particularly complex manoeuvre. Then again, depending on the circumstances, accidents do happen…

Whether or not to grant EXPS for practice is a distinct dilemma for the referee. Practice constitutes getting something for nothing — a heinous sin in role playing games —but to ignore its effects completely is unrealistic — if anything a worse crime. Exactly what the referee arranges is up to her, but one useful method is to award the practising persona a lump sum of experience equal to the DD of the manoeuvre, times the standard modifier for her class, times the number of weeks she spends in practice. The persona would then roll on the General Performance Table, with a DD determined by the referee, to see if her practice was successful.

For instance, a biologist given free rein in a zoo for two months would have plenty of opportunities for learning, while a mercenary counting money in a warehouse would not. Thus, if both were trying to study their class skills on the side, the biologist would have a relatively easy PT roll to earn her EXPS while the mercenary would not

If an EXPS award doesn’t suit the circumstances, the referee could issue specific skill  instead. A mercenary who promises to practise swinging her long sword around might earn a skill level in that weapon, while a mechanic who spends her entire space voyage in the drives section could earn herself an exatmo drives skill. The mechanic would then enjoy a bonus for the rest of her persona’s career when applying her knowledge of exatmo drives. This makes it easier to get EXPS later, but would earn no EXPS for the practice period.

The EXPS for class maneuvers shouldn’t be abused by the players or the ref. Unless a persona is utterly insane, there is no reason to keep performing simple tasks over and over again. Farming EXPS is not allowed. To prevent players from behaving so  the ref might make the campaign more interesting and keep the players busy enough that they have neither the time nor the inclination for such frenzies, or penalize them for poor role playing in Exps equal to those they have just earned, or possibly introduce a referee persona from the local asylum to relieve the persona of the stress of her adventuring days.

Experience for Artifact Identification

Artifact Identification (AID), is described in detail in Chapter 20: Artifact Identification. Suffice it for now to say that when an artifact is found, the personas will generally have no idea what it does. When a persona figures out its function, she has identified it, and receives EXPS accordingly.

The best way to identify an unknown artifact is to roleplay the object in every capacity the players can think of until something works. For instance, upon finding a slippery white cylinder with no visible markings, they might plug it into their space vehicle drives, wave it at their enemies, examine it under a microscope, spin it at high speed, and attempt to eat it with curry. 

The only problem with these two methods of artifact identification is that the object’s identity might already be known to the player. With a skillful bit of role playing the players can then earn the persona some EXPS by pretending to not have a clue, but still successfully identifying the artifact. If the device under scrutiny has previously been identified by some other member of the expedition it is up to the referee to decide if  EXPS can be awarded for artifact identification. 

Besides role playing there are  two other methods of identifying artifacts: a mechanic can use her class skills, or a player can roll on the Artifact Identification Table in Chapter 20. Since neither of these methods involve the player’s pre-knowled the persona can always receive EXPS for successful identification. If the EXPS award for an artifact has already been awarded the persona should not receive EXPS. No persona should sit down at the breakfast table, announce, “Ah! Scrambled ham!” and expect to get any EXPS for it.

Most toys can be used the moment they have been identified. If a referee feels that an item is particularly complicated, she can make the player identify it a second time before operating it — in which case the player should receive another set of EXPS for the object.

The basic experience awarded for the identification of a toy is listed with each artifact in Part 4: Hardware. If a persona identifies an object via role playing, she receives double the indicated EXPS; if the object is related to her class, she receives another 25% bonus. It is usually easy to determine if an artifact is class related in its description. Most TOYS mention what persona class they represent . Weapons and armour are class-specific to both mercenaries and spies; drugs and medical equipment are class-specific to veterinarians. Nomads have no class-related equipment. Objects from higher tech level are correspondingly more complex, and so harder to identify; their basic EXPS are to  be adjusted.

The referee should never reveal when a persona has succeeded in identifying an artifact by announcing that she has earned however-many EXPS. If the value she cites is high, the players will instantly realize that this isn’t just any seat belt, it’s a very-high-tech-level seat belt with special powers; if she makes a regular practice of telling players about ExPs as they earn them, the player who just identified the bar of soap as an industrial lubricant will know she’s wrong because she hasn’t been given any EXPS yet. Instead, the referee should simply mark down who’s earned what, and tell the players their totals at scenario’s end.


Experience for Combat

The best way to gain combat experience is to fight. Personas gain EXPS for vanquishing any opponents they might come across.  Vanquishing being defined as knocking unconscious, paralyzing, stunning, killing, or otherwise rendering inoperative and non-threatening. Some subtleties of this definition may not be entirely obvious: creatures with mental powers cannot be vanquished simply by being paralyzed, since their mental attacks can continue. Creatures that naturally regenerate are not considered killed until they have been thoroughly destroyed. Simply engaging a target in lethal combat does not guarantee the earning of EXPS. To begin with, the opponent must have posed a threat to some member of the expedition: slaughtering all the kittens in the local pet store might count as a class skill for an anti knite, but will give no persona combat EXPS. The opponent must have posed an unreasonable obstruction to the goals of the expedition. A bailiff who threatens to throw a persona into jail certainly meets the first criterion, and is certainly posing an obstruction to the expedition goals — but the obstruction might be quite a reasonable one, and moreover, bailiffs tend to be satisfied with bail and a promise not to misbehave.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to award EXPS for a given round of combat rests with the referee. But if she believes the combat did meet the criteria, and if the personas win, then the EXPS total for all vanquished opponents is divided equally among all expedition members who took part. Taking part is a rather broad term which includes taking damage from, attempting to hit, succeeding at hitting, being chased by, attempting to chase, and/or aiding anyone in the combat.

Non-combat persona classes do not glean as much useful knowledge from the combat, and they suffer an EXPS penalty. A veterinarian, for instance, whose life’s work involves healing, will not learn very much from killing something. What percentage of combat EXPS a persona actually earns is given by Table 15.2: Combat Experience. For example, a mechanic whose share of combat experience was 400 EXPS would earn only 20% of it, or 80 EXPS.

The EXPS value of a vanquished opponent is equal to 100 plus its initial HPS, times its combat ratio (CR). Note that the opponent’s initial HPS might be far lower than its maximum HPS – the party only earns experience for what it actually accomplishes, not what someone else started. So an alien with 40 HPS and a CR of 14 would be worth 1960 ExPs, as 100 + 40 = 140, and 140 x 14 = 1960. Likewise, a robot with 350 HPS and a CR of 29 would be worth 13 050 HPS – 100 + 350 = 450, and 450 x 29 = 13 050. The EXPS granted is the total of the  EXPS value of each vanquished opponent.

EXPS value = (100 plus HPS Total) times Combat Ratio

Under certain circumstances, this total is further adjusted, for higher, or for lower. Table 15.3, Combat ExPsAdjustments, enumerates these situations. The adjustments are cumulative: if three personas died in a 5-unit combat scenario, the combat ExPs total would first have 30% added to it, and then be cut to 60% of its new total that is, to 78% of the original.

The referee reserves the right to reduce the number of ExPs awarded for combat whenever she sees fit: it is up to her to strike the very difficult balance between what this equation indicates and what the personas deserve. An opponent’s combat ratio supposedly indicates the number of personas it needs arrayed against it to make for a fair fight, but as personas find powerful artifacts and generally increase in ability, the CR begins to look artificially high. The referee is the final arbiter as

Combat EXPS, like artifact identification EXPS are doled out at the end of the scenario or the end of role playing session. The players might demand to know why they haven’t received any EXPS for the evil hideous narwhal-thing they just dismembered. Revealing why could ruin an entire scenario by revealing that it wasn’t actually attacking them.

Table 15.2 Class Combat Experience Adjustment

Not all classes learn from combat in the same fashion. Below are the percentage deductions for each class.
ClassPercent EXPS Earned
Alien100% for natural
25% with weapons
Or by Class

Table 15.3 Combat Results Adjustment

Below are adjustments to the total combat EXPS award for a combat encounter. It is a goal to reflect the difficulty of the combat encounter.
Combat EventsEXPS Adjustment
Personas KilledAdd 20% per persona
Duration <1 unitReduce to 20% Total
Duration 2-6 unitsReduce to 40% Total
Duration 7-12 unitsReduce to 60% Total
Duration 13-25 unitsNo Reduction
Duration >25 unitsAdd 10% to Total
Combat EventsEXPS Adjustment

Experience for Role Playing

Role playing is the single m9st entertaining aspect of EXP. It creates the mood of the game, instills that thread of reality, or surreality, and provides an essential source of comic relief. For these and many other reasons, players should always be awarded experience points for high quality role playing. This is a coercion which can make good role players out of even the dullest dice-rollers.

In order to assign EXPS for role playing properly, the ref must be keenly attuned to the players’ choices. If at any time the player seems to be stepping beyond the bounds of necessity to use language appropriate to the situation at hand, the ref should note that EXPS are deserved.

“I hastily rummage through the filing cabinet with my little clawing paws, always pricking my ears, and sniffing the air for the first signs of a sentry” — this player is emphasizing the physiological abilities of her persona while simultaneously giving a vivid description of her situation. Such a description should earn her a decent EXPS award.

“I execute a thunderous, trumpeting charge with my imposing bulk.” This player, who also demonstrates her alien’s width by placing her arms in a yoke-like position and lurching back and forth, would also come due for a sizable EXPS reward.

“I head to the bank and take out a five thousand eps loan.” This player has left no opportunity for role playing at all — she treats the loan as a foregone conclusion, and she has omitted the entire journey to the bank. While she should not be penalized for this, she would certainly not receive any EXPS. The referee would do well to affect a bank manager’s stance and demand just why she thinks she has any right to this fine establishment’s money.

Enthusiastic descriptions are not always clear ones, however, and if the ref doesn’t have a clue what one of her players is talking about, she should not hesitate to ask. If the player’s description is so general that it causes confusion for the ref— and players should remember that refs are easily confused — the ref might invoke a minor EXPS penalty. For example, “I roll to hit” is a statement that if taken literally could be disastrous for the persona. Better comments would be, “I try to shoot it with my trusty laser pistol,” or, “I’m punching at this sucker as hard as possible.” Not only are these more colourful, and worth EXPS, but they also help the referee by giving more information about the nature of the attack.

There is no objective system for allocating role playing experience points. To avoid unfairness as much as possible, Table 15.5, Experience for Role Playing, below gives ExPs values for some typical role playing actions in ranges that are easily rolled. For example, acting in a manner appropriate to one’s class is worth between 50 and 300 ExPs, or 5d6 times 10. It is easiest for the referee to keep track of the type of experience bonuses for role play and then assign the actual EXPS value at the end of the session.

Table 15.4 EXPS For Role-Playing

Below are some example EXPS rewards, and penalties, for various activities around role-playing. Note that this list is not exhaustive and contains elements of intentional amusement.
Role PlayingEXPS Awarded
Completing Scenario1042
Creating Rhythmic NoisesNegative 1-20 (1d20)
Description, Good1-20 (1d20)
Description, Excellent2-100 (2d50)
Description, Fabulous3-300 (3d100)
Description, Game Stopper4-4000 (4d1000)
Dice, Accepting Bad Rolls100
Dice, BorrowingNegative 100
Dice, Keeping on Table100
Dice, Knocking Over MinisNegative 200
Dice, ThrowingNegative 300
Dice, Whining AboutNegative 400
Employing, Ability10-100 (1d10 times 10)
Employing, Attribute10-100 (1d10 times 10)
Employing, Class Ideals10-100 (1d10 times 10)
Employing, Equipment10-100 (1d10 times 10)
Employing, Mutation10-100 (1d10 times 10)
Employing, Persona Appearance10-100 (1d10 times 10)
Employing, Persona Beliefs10-100 (1d10 times 10)
Nuclear AttackForfeit all. Play for real.
Quick Thinking (right or wrong)42
Ref, AbusingNegative 1- 10 (1d10)
Ref, Being Nice To1-10 (1d10)
Ref, Feeding1-10 (1d10)
Ref, Throwing Heavy Stuff atForfeit Experience
Spectacular Displays of Insight1042 times 1d4
Role Playing EffortEXPS Awarded

Benefits of Experience Levels

If you recall from Chapter 9, Combat Tables, one of the factors that adjusts a persona’s ability to hit her target is her experience. The statistics on her Combat Table will change as she advances EXPS levels. Ultimately, the persona’s fighting experience will have a more significant role in determining her success rate than her raw ability or special combat skills.

Your persona has survived her first level, you’ll eventually need to update her Combat Table to reflect her battle-hardened condition. Every time a persona advances a level, the player should consult Table 15.5: Level To-Hit Bonus. Listed therein are number values for each weapon type (A, B or,C), for each persona class.

The level to-hit bonus is added to the person’s Bonus Proficient (BP) every new level. There is no level bonus at first level, and the amount that is added to the bonus proficient decreases each level. The level bonus is subject to the law of diminishing returns: more work produces less improvement. this essentially means that one must do more and more to get less and less. The difficulty in attaining combat skills increases under two separate criteria: experience levels become more difficult to acquire as they get greater, and then the persona keeps getting less in return. This makes the increase in combat skill asymptotic.

There are several reasons why EXP does this. One reason for decreasing the level bonus is to deliberately limit the level to which the persona’s BP can increase, ensuring that high level personas remain manageable in combat. Another pseudo-reason is that in the real world, it becomes increasingly difficult to improve any skill, whether it be combat or technical. Eventually there remains no more room for general improvement in combat.

Personas have no Level Bonuses at first level. As soon a a persona has been awarded enough EXPS to push her up to second level, she consults Table 15.5: Level To-Hit Bonus and finds the increase she should add to each weapon type of her combat. Those base values hold true for that particular class, regardless of experience level. The actual number that is added to the persona’s Bonus Proficient is the base value from Table 15.5, divided by the persona’s new level. For example, a second level Vet would add 10 to her BP for Weapon Type A (Base value divided by experience level: 20 / 2).

Table 15.5 Base Added to Bonus Proficient (BP)

As the persona acquires more EXPS of any type they enjoy and improvement in their combat table (CT).
ClassType A Type BType C
AlienDouble PSTRDouble INTTriple DEX
ClassType A Type BType C

The level bonuses are listed both on Table 15.6 to Table 15.8 are Incremental Level BonusesThe Increment Level Bonuses tables are included for easier implementation of the level bonus. Since the game EXP predates personal handheld computers. We kindly did some arithmetic for you here.  The Increment tables are particularly useful for referees that are generating referee personas. It allows them to create combat tables for high level personas without carrying out endless divisions. The tables can be scrolled from left to right and back again.

Table 15.6 Type A Incremental Bonus Proficient

The law of diminishing returns presented as a table from the era before calculators were everywhere. Now calculators are nowhere to be found. Technology marches on.
ClassBaseLevel 2Level 3Level 4Level 5Level 6Level 7Level 8Level 9Level 10Level 11
AlienDouble PSTRVaries

Table 15.7 Type B Incremental Bonus Proficient Improvement (BP)

The law of diminishing returns presented as a table from the era before calculators were everywhere. Now calculators are nowhere to be found. Technology marches on.
ClassBaseLevel 2Level 3Level 4Level 5Level 6Level 7Level 8Level 9Level 10Level 11
AlienDouble INTVaries

Table 15.8 Type C Incremental Bonus Proficient (BP) Increases

The law of diminishing returns presented as a table from the era before calculators were everywhere. Now calculators are nowhere to be found. Technology marches on.
ClassType CLevel 2Level 3Level 4Level 5Level 6Level 7Level 8Level 9Level 10Level 11
AlienTriple DEXVaries