Earning Bonus XP

There are a few ways that people can make up for missed sessions or earn some bonus XP in our game. Most of these serve a singular purpose – shoring up my personal weaknesses as a GM. I’m basically asking you to do things that I should or could be doing as GM, but I either suck at them or don’t have the time or motivation. However, my flaws can be turned to your profit! Please note – none of this is required at all, this is all optional. However, the people who have put in the effort for these are already pushing ahead of most others in levels, and it only gets bigger as you go along.

Now, I don’t want to give out huge amounts of bonus XP, I want to keep things within a certain range so that the levels between the characters don’t start stretching too far. However, I also want to give people the chance to earn a bit of extra if they miss a session or something, so here’s how it will work: You get base XP for attending a session, basically ¼ of the total required to progress to the next level. You can earn bonus XP for a session, either by writing a journal OR creating some maps. Journals are worth 20% of the XP award you would have gotten, and maps are worth 10% of the award, but only two maps per session to keep it to the 20% to keep bonus XP from growing out of hand. Journal XP is calculated based on the XP for that session (or what you would have earned had you been present.) Map XP is applied to the oldest session you missed or the oldest session you don’t have a bonus for already.

Now, if you miss a session you can still write a journal entry about what your character did that session while they were “away” from everyone, and you can create up to five maps for up to 50% of what you would have gotten for that session. Or, if I come up with something extra for you to do you could take on a GM Special Project in place of the maps, for up to 50%. Those projects tend to be rather huge though, so you might get a better time investment on your map-making. However, if you hate making maps, then that’s an alternative.

Attendance Journal Map XP earned
Attended Session No Journal No Map 100% XP
Attended Session Journal No Map 120% XP
Attended Session No Journal 1 to 2 maps 110-120% XP
Missed Session Journal No Map 20% XP
Missed Session No Journal 1 to 5 Maps 10-50% XP
Missed Session Journal 1 to 5 Maps 30-70% XP
Missed Session No Journal GM Special Project 50% XP
Missed Session Journal GM Special Project 70% XP

Basically, nothing earns more XP than attending the session. The bonuses can add up over time, but they’re all optional and not required.

Everyone can write an in-character journal entry of for each session. Journal entries are not judged on quality, because this isn’t an English class, but on effort and creativity. Journal entries can be submitted after the fact at any time, there’s no cut off for entries, and the bonus XP counts immediately towards your character so if you’re edging up on a new level it can be a great way to push yourself over the line. In addition, if you miss a session you can write a journal entry on what your character did while everyone else was in the adventure, and at least earn the bonus XP you would have gotten for that session. Unfortunately, if you were not part of the game at the time the session was played, you can’t write back journals for those sessions.
I’ve only got a couple of standards for journals – they should be lengthy, and they should be as descriptive as you can. Lengthy is entirely relative. I know not everyone’s an Ernest Hemmingway, so you don’t have to hit a certain word count, but I would like more than 1-2 paragraphs. The purpose of the journal is to help keep track of the details of the story, because when we’ve been playing this game for 2-3 years you’re just not going to remember everything that happened, and you’re going to wish you had. I know I wish I had written down more of the awesome sessions we’ve had in previous games, and this is your chance to keep from losing any of the great times we’ve had.
When I talk about descriptiveness, I’m mostly saying that I want to hear things from your character’s perspective. Every character has their own unique voice and their own perception of the events that transpire each session. One of the things I really enjoy when reading each journal is seeing who noticed what, or what events were important to what characters. Other people are going to pick up on things you missed, or see things in a different way than you and that’s part of the fun. In addition, journals are a great way to find your character’s voice, and come to flesh out what kind of person they are.
When you write a journal, make sure to enter it as a player secret in the journal page, to date the entry the same date as the session, and to tag it as “<character name="true"> Journal” and with the session number. Keeping it secret keeps the other team from gathering details on your exploits, and dating and tagging makes it easier to find. When everything’s dated with the same date it keeps them in order for anyone starting to read from the beginning, and using the tags makes it possible to find all of the journals you’ve done, or all the entries for a particular session. I also use this to make sure I’ve given XP for everything people have done. As the game goes longer and longer, this will become more and more important, because there’s going to be a LOT of entries.
In the end, I only write half of this game, you all write the other half with your actions and decisions. I strongly encourage everyone to write down their half, because it’s arguably the most important half in the game.

As we all know, one of my other weaknesses is maps. They’re not that hard to create most of the time, it’s just something I can’t always get to. There are a lot of maps out there for a lot of systems, and while the most useful ones will be modern or sci-fi based, it’s not impossible to make use of fantasy maps as well. Star Wars has a bajillion possible environments, so almost anywhere can be converted for use in our game. I personally steal maps from a lot of existing sources, including d20 Modern, Star Wars d20 itself or other Star Wars sources, or the good ol’ D&D 3.5 map archive which is still active as of the time of this writing.
Now, finding or choosing a map is one thing, but if you want to get the XP I need it drawn on a surface where I can just lay it out and run the game without effort on my part. Ideally, this means you drawing the map on a sheet of grid paper like the one hanging on the wall in the game room. However, you can also draw it up on the dry-erase mat on the table if you want to borrow it sometime. Just remember that that mat is used for other games during the week as well.
To earn map XP, your map must take up at least 26×26 on the grid but no more than 26×32. Now this doesn’t have to be all one giant map, and in fact one giant map is less useful to me. You could make a variety of smaller maps, or one medium and two small, whatever. You also don’t have to use every square inch, it actually helps if there’s some space for me to cut the maps into smaller sheets as needed. As long as at least that much space is used somehow, you don’t have to cover every inch.
Maps can be drawn in whatever medium you like, with as much detail as you would like. If you make a crappy map, it’s going to make for a crappy scenario for you and the other players. At the same time, don’t spend two weeks etching every single detail out either. It’s possible we’ll use these maps maybe a total of twice, so don’t kill yourself. Much like journals, put as much detail into it as you would like. If you want to sketch out the service tunnels in the spaceship or draw the decorative carvings on the temple floor, feel free.
One of the things I have found when making maps is to try and picture how the space will actually look, or how it will be used by the beings in it. Don’t forget to add essential details like doors, and don’t make movement spaces so small that beings can’t get through them (unless that’s the point of the area.) Try to come up with a story behind this area. What’s happening in there? What usually happens, and what will change when the encounter starts? Is this an eating area that will suddenly become a firefight? Was this a carefully planned droid manufacturing facility, with space for droids of all sizes and shapes, that is now seeing use as a hideout for Rebel agents? Was this a Sith temple full of traps still occupied by the ghosts of those interred there? Perhaps it’s an open-air meeting space in the climate controlled section of Cloud City that never has to worry about bad weather, or a series of paths through a jungle planet leading to a small hut, or a massive temple in the Great Dune Sea that the Sand People are too afraid to go anywhere near. No beings anywhere just throw up a structure for no reason, they all have a purpose, so consider what that purpose is before starting to draw it.
Lastly, remember that while your characters might visit massive locations, you don’t need to map every corner of those locations. Create maps for interesting sections, or for places where a battle or similar encounter might take place. This is what can let us have adventures on the Death Star without drawing out the entire damn Death Star.

Special Projects
Sometimes I might create a special project based on something I need or want as a GM, but can’t get done. These are usually going to be one-time things, and it’s likely no two will be alike. For special projects the XP award will be variable, but never more than half of the XP reward for the session. I can’t always promise to have a special project in mind, sometimes I don’t know myself that I need something until I don’t have it. As an example, Jeff went through every single book and made a list of all the various creatures listed in every random corner of every book, and made me a searchable spreadsheet with their stats and what books I could find them in and the page numbers. That was a big, big project and it’s helped me a lot. If you’re dying for that last XP chunk, talk to me and we’ll see what I can work out for you.

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Earning Bonus XP

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