Runic Rants: Experience Checks (part 2)

2021-10-21

Runic Rants is an irregular series of thoughts, opinions, and experiments about RuneQuest.

In the previous part of this Runic Rants series, we looked at all the situations in which an adventurer can get an experience check on their character sheet. And if all these checks give you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, you’re not alone!

Check Hunting

“Check hunting” (there are probably other names for this) is when some min-maxing player does random stuff just so they can get an experience check in a skill that doesn’t have one yet. This might happen more towards the end of an adventure or when the player knows that some downtime is coming up.

I haven’t encountered this problem much, so I don’t have any real good insights here. The only two players I know that have shown signs of “check hunting” are self-conscious enough to at least be upfront about it! So in my very limited experience there are really only two ways to go:

  1. If what they’re trying to do is dangerous, dramatic, or risky in any way, I let them attempt it and suffer the consequences if they fail. It can totally derail the game, but I tend to be a Gamemaster that likes going with the flow, unless I’m specifically running a linear campaign (which is uncommon but happens… I’m running one now). This quite often ends up a few months later with something like “the adventurers are not welcome in Sartar anymore“, but that’s fun, right? No? Well in that case the gamemaster can warn the players of what might happen if it fails, can invoke Passions, or can have spirits witness their shenanigans and tell on them so that the players know to think twice next time.
  2. If what they’re trying to do is inconsequential, mundane, or plain stupid, I say no. And by “no”, I don’t necessarily mean “they can’t do it” (although that can be the case too). I mostly mean that it just auto-succeeds. No roll, no check.

Check Generosity

The only difference between a “check hunting” player and well behaved player is that the well behaved one is, well, just well behaved. Inside, they all want experience checks just as much as everybody else. So how can the gamemaster be generous?

Augments

Your gamemaster lets you get an experience check for abilities used as augments, right? ’nuff said.

Fumbles

Sometimes, you learn just as much from succeeding as you do by failing spectacularly. So the gamemaster could occasionally award an experience check on a fumble, especially if that fumble put the adventurer in serious trouble.

Group Rolls

You might remember my article on group rolls (if not, go read it now!). I tried to address the very common RPG problem where more rolls increase the chances of at least one failure or one success, which is a problem with, say, stealth rolls and scan rolls respectively. The solution I offered was to do “group rolls” where one adventurer takes the lead with the “main roll”, and everybody else can, if they want, provide support with augments.

Some players might resist the idea of group rolls because they’re afraid this will “rob” them of some experience checks. In that article I therefore mentioned that the supporting characters get experience checks in the ability they used to augment the group leader, and that I was considering letting them get an experience check in the “main” group skill instead if they wish. So if an adventurer was helping the group Move Quietly with a Darkness Rune roll or a Scan roll, they could get an experience check in Move Quietly (instead of Darkness Rune or Scan), because the adventurer witnessed the leader demonstrate it in a practical way.

The gamemaster can twist and tweak this many ways, depending on how generous they are:

  • Supporting characters could get awarded an experience check in the “main” group skill even if their augment failed.
  • Supporting characters could choose to get an experience check in any of the abilities used in the group roll, not just choosing between their own augment or the “main” group skill. That is, they could choose to get their check in another supporter’s augmenting skill. The reasoning here is similar to getting a check in the “main” group skill: the adventurer witnessed a companion demonstrate that ability in a practical way.
  • Supporting characters could get awarded experience checks in both the “main” group skill and the augment skill (assuming the augment succeeded). In this case, you may want to let the group leader also get a second experience check, maybe in an ability picked from any of the successful augments.

I think that using these aforementioned rules can actually be good for group cohesion, incentivizing players to act as a team because that gives them up to twice as many experience checks. It also makes some adventurers effectively be teachers to the other adventurers, which adds roleplaying opportunities. Of course, it might also lead to excessive “group hugging”, another form of “check hunting” where your players do all kinds of things with group rolls to get more experience checks even when it doesn’t make sense… although that could also lead to interesting roleplaying: imagine a group Charm roll at the Uleria temple! Hey, I’m not here to judge! You do you!

Other House Rules

Austin Conrad recently told me about some ancient rule inherited from a previous generation of RuneQuest gamers, where a special success grants a second check, and a critical success grants two additional checks (so a total of three experience checks maximum). You could therefore be rolling for skill increases two or three times on the same skill between adventures.

Another player reported a variant of this rule, where special and critical successes granted checks in dedicated checkboxes… so to get, say, two skill increase rolls in the same skill, they had to get two different successes in the course of the adventure.

Joerg also just mentioned to me that if we wanted to be a nice gamemaster, he might allow experience gains of 1D4+2 instead of 1D6.

Do you have any other house rules for giving out experience checks? I’d love to hear about them!

Guess what, I got a bit over-excited with this series, and what I thought would be a two-parts series is actually a three-parts series! I hope you’re sitting down because the next and last (I promise!) part will have grraaaaapphs!

If you have any comment about this Runic Rant, or some ideas for a future installment, please send them to us!

Update: I had misunderstood Austin’s old group’s house rules. It has been fixed now.

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