Saturday, January 20, 2007

Final Reality

Why not live life by experience points?

From their dice-and-paper roots to the modern user-generated worlds, role-playing games have always had to deal with the question of how a character develops. This is normally handled through experience points (XP). Kill a were-turtle, get 5 XP. Accrue 500 XP and you gain a level. Et cetera.

While certainly an attempt to recreate in some way a person's actual skill advancement in real life, it would seem that XP would work in the actual world similarly to the way it does in the digital. For example. Let's take a skill you want to develop, say running. Set a series of levels in front of you, and choose XP amounts for given tasks:

Go for a 1 mile run, get 1 XP. Go for a 3 mile run, get 4 XP. Run in a charity event, 15 XP. Finish within 1 minute of the leader in a competitive run, 200 XP. Run a marathon, 10,000 XP.

Level 1: 30 XP. Level 2: 500 XP. Level 3: 3500 XP. Level 4: 5000 XP. Etc.

So, you could get to high levels just by running a mile at a time, but getting there would take forever. Doing bigger things yields bigger numbers, and thus faster level-ups.

Here's a wrinkle: in games, a higher level means better stats. A level 2 character is stronger than a level 1, and that means an easier time killing beasties. Aside from the fact that you would actually improve, how would this work in real life? I say you'd have to have your friends involved, and the bragging rights would do it. Either that or have specific level tasks, e.g. you can't get to level 4 until you run the Turkey Trot, no matter how many XP you've got.

This could work for all kinds of things.

  • Career -- go to a seminar, 10XP. Get the corner office, 5000XP.
  • Arts -- participate in Nanowrimo, 150XP. Get published in a magazine, 500XP.
  • Education -- go to a class, 1XP. Get a PhD, 10,000XP.
  • Fandom -- read the Lord of the Rings again, 5XP. Go to Marquette and lie about doing a research project to get the Special Collections guy to bring out the secret not-for-display Tolkien stuff, 10,000XP.
  • Connoisseur -- try a new beer, 5XP. Go to a wine tour in another state, 1,000XP.
  • Family affairs -- email your mother, 2XP. Don't yell at Shannon on Xmas, 50,000XP.
Unfortunately, it could also work for negative things. Smoke a pack, 100XP. Perhaps this could be factored in. You want to stop doing something? Take the XP away from something you're working towards. So, say the F-word, take 5XP from your Runner class count. That's 5 miles you just lost. F indeed.

If you're willing to spend hours of your life pretending to be a druid and running around killing lizards until you can get that robe you want, why not take that rewards system and move it to real life? I'll DM.


  1. I've just sat down at my computer. I want to make a will power check to see if I am capable of not playing WoW and actually do some work. What should I roll? Is that 2d6?

  2. It would be either a d20 or a d100, depending on system. And modified by your Will score.

    'Course you most likely will play the WoW anyway. Because the Crusade, she BURNS baby.