The Sweet20 System: Experience

Author: Clinton R. Nixon
Copyright: The Sweet20 System is copyright 2004 Clinton R. Nixon. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.
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The point of a new experience system

The current experience system for the world's most popular role-playing system (WMPRPS) is wonky. Your character gains experience in one of two ways:

In the Sweet20 System, you get to choose things you want your character to get experience for, focusing the story where you want it.

Levels

For Sweet20, you can throw out any experience charts in your standard WMPRPS rulebook. According to that rulebook, it should take approximately 13 encounters to gain a level. So, in Sweet20, 13 becomes a very special number. Your group should decide what rate of speed you want for your game. If you want heroes to gain levels quickly, it will take 13 experience points (XP) to gain a level. If you want a more standard rate of progression, it will take 26 experience points. If you want a slower progression, it will take 39 experience points.

Keys

The first way you get XP in the Sweet20 system is through Keys. These are kind of like Feats, but they do not give your character any special powers. Instead, they determine behaviors that will get XP for your character. Keys are motivations, problems, connections, duties and loyalties. You should pick one at 1st level, and one every odd level after that. You can never have more than five Keys.

Counters

Each Key has a Counter. If you go against the Key - that is, act according to the Counter - you can choose one of two options:

  • Lose 2 XP.
  • Remove the Key and gain 7 XP. You can never take this Key again.

Key Scenes

The second way to gain XP in Sweet20 is Key Scenes. Key Scenes are made up by the GM when she is creating the adventure. Key Scenes are similar to some RPG experience systems in that they are particular junctures in the play session that the GM has decided beforehand are worth experience to the characters. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is one game that uses this.

These are not particular outcomes, though. "Saving the princess," "killing or thwarting the evil overlord," and "taming the wild beast" are not good examples of Key Scenes. Key Scenes should be tense, have multiple outcomes, and force players to make a decision for their characters.

"Discovering the princess is trapped in a high tower," "meeting the overlord," and "confronting the wild beast" are good Key Scenes, as each can result in multiple outcomes and do not put restrictions on what the player decision is for his character. Key Scenes do not have to tie into any particular overarching plot or story-line; they can be light and humorous or grim and serious.

Whenever a character is present in a Key Scene, he earns one to three XP as determined beforehand by the GM. These XP are given as soon as the scene is over.

Key List

Key of Bloodlust
Your character enjoys overpowering others in combat. Gain 1 XP every time your character defeats someone in battle. Gain 3 XP for defeating someone equal to or more powerful than your character (higher combined CR than your side of the battle.) Counter: Be defeated in battle.
Key of Glittering Gold
Your character loves wealth. Gain 1 XP every time you make a deal that favors you in wealth. Gain 2 XP every time you finish an adventure with more wealth than you started with. Gain 5 XP every time you double your wealth. Counter: Lose or give away over half your fortune.
Key of Fraternity
Your character has someone he is sworn to, a friend who is more important than anyone else. Gain 1 XP every time this character is present in a scene with your character (maximum 3 per adventure). Gain 2 XP whenever your character has to make a decision that is influenced by them. Gain 5 XP every time your character defends them by putting himself at risk. Counter: Sever the relationship with this person or the person dies.
Key of the Guardian
Your character has a ward, someone who depends on him for security and protection. Gain 1 XP every time this character is present in a scene with your character (maximum 3 per adventure). Gain 2 XP whenever your character has to make a decision that is influenced by them. Gain 5 XP every time your character rescues them from harm. Counter: Sever the relationship with this person or the person dies.
Key of the Vow
Your character has a vow of personal behavior that he has sworn not to break. This could be a dietary restriction, a requirement to pray at sunbreak every morning, or something else like that. Gain 1 XP for every adventure in which your character does not break this vow. Gain 2 XP every time your character does not break this vow even though it causes him minor harm or inconvenience. Gain 5 XP every time your character does not break this vow even though it causes him great harm. Counter: Break this vow.
Key of the Mission
Your character has a personal mission that he must complete. Gain 1 XP every time he takes action to complete this mission (2 XP if this action is successful.) Gain 5 XP every time he takes action that completes a major part of this mission. Counter: Complete or abandon this mission.
Key of Faith
Your character has a strong religious belief that guides him. Gain 1 XP every time he defends his faith to others. Gain 2 XP whenever this character converts someone to his faith. Gain 5 XP whenever this character defends his faith even though it brings him great harm. Counter: Your character renounces his beliefs.
Key of the Coward
Your character avoids combat like the plague. Gain 1 XP every time your character avoids a potentially dangerous situation. Gain 3 XP every time your character stops a combat using other means besides violence. Counter: Leap into combat with no hesitation.
Key of Conscience
Your character has a soft spot for those weaker than their opponents. Gain 1 XP every time your character helps someone who cannot help themselves. Gain 2 XP every time your character defends someone with might who is in danger and cannot save themselves. Gain 5 XP every time your character takes someone in an unfortunate situation and changes their life to where they can help themselves. Counter: Ignore a request for help.
Key of Vengeance
Your character has a hatred for a particular organization, person, or even species or culture. Gain 1 XP every time your character hurts a member of that group or a lackey of that person. Gain 2 XP every time your character strikes a minor blow at that group or person (killing a member of the organization or one of the person's lackeys, disrupting their life, destroying their property). Gain 5 XP every time your character strikes a major blow at that group or person. Counter: Let your enemy go or destroy the entire organization.
Key of the Masochist
Your character thrives on personal pain and suffering. Gain 1 XP every time he is bloodied and 3 XP every time he is broken. Counter: Flee a source of physical or psychic damage.

Making new Keys

You are encouraged to make new Keys for your characters, working with your group and GM. The rules for making Keys are:

  • A Key must involve a motivation, problem, connection, duty, or loyalty.
  • Keys come in two types: * Motivations. When the motivation is fulfilled in play, gain an experience point. When the motivation is fulfilled against good odds, gain three experience points. * Everything else. When the Key comes up in play, gain an experience point. When the Key presents a minor problem, gain two experience points. When it presents a major problem, gain five experience points.
  • All Keys have a Counter, which is a reversal from the Key by the character.