Review of Unearthed Arcana: Three Pillar Experience

Review of Unearthed Arcana: Three Pillar Experience

The Unearthed Arcana is a source both strange and untested. While many great ideas pour from its pages, it should always be considered carefully.
by John Squyers   Twitch   Twitter

Review of Unearthed Arcana article “Three Pillar Experience” accessed here:

http://media.wizards.com/2017/dnd/downloads/UA-ThreePillarXP.pdf

There are two things going on in this article: a method of rewarding XP for interactions other than combat, and a revised XP economy instead of the usual way of accumulating points.

The article first mentions how important the idea of the “three pillar experience” is to DnD. The three pillars are exploration, social interaction, and combat. Combat usually takes the focus of a session and it is where most of the XP is earned, but that leaves the other two pillars relegated to minor status especially if the players are really pushing for character advancement. Most DMs that I know will reward XP to players for solving a puzzle or for a clever use of skills and spells, but since most of the rules and game balancing concerns combat, players tend to spend a lot of their time engaging in and preparing for this activity. This article is an attempt to realign the three pillars so the DM can run a campaign with a more rounded experience.

I am very happy to read that. I have always favored “RP over roll” and I feel it makes for a much more interactive game. To encourage my players to actually become a character I give out XP for good roleplay or at least inspiration. Exploration is not something I usually give XP for as I believe it rewards players in other ways but I can be convinced to do it if it is more fun for the players.

Before we go any further, we need to discuss the new XP economy mentioned in the article. It offers a simplified method for gaining XP and levels. Essentially, when you reach 100XP you level up, no questions asked. Once you level your XP is reset to 0. Obviously encounters will no longer be in the hundreds of points, but instead ones or tens. Why they decided to slip this into a discussion about encouraging more exploration or social interaction I am not sure. This seems like two separate ideas that are trying to be married into one article.

The article then offers examples for XP awards based on some scenarios in each of the pillars. For example, the exploration pillar offers rewards for discovering locations or finding magic items. It gives 10XP for discovery of something based on tiers. Tier 1 is a single item worth 100gp or a nonconsumable rare magic item, and tier 2 is an item worth 1,000gp or a very rare item and so on. For social interaction you get 10XP for gaining influence over an NPC or town, going up in tiers depending on the power and authority level of each. For combat you now get 5XP for a vanquished monster, or 15XP if the challenge rating is twice your level or more. These all seem okay to me, but the new XP economy really muddies the water when I try to imagine how it works in a game balance sense.

I completely support giving out XP for other interactions besides combat, but this article is very confusing with its inclusion of the new XP system. I would like to the two ideas separated into their own articles as I feel the 100XP level could be workable if more time and thought was devoted to it, but since it is such a drastic shift from what is in the core rulebooks of DnD I don’t think it really needs to be utilized at all. DMs should reward an appropriate level of XP for players succeeding in one of the pillars. Use deception to convince a bad guy to stop instead of killing him? Give the same XP as if they had defeated him in combat. Snuck around the castle using stealth and spells to discover hidden entrance? Throw some XP at them for good use of exploration to solve a problem. This is how I see the three pillars being utilized: encouraging players to solve a problem with something other than combat.

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