How Do You Prefer to Spend Your XP?

Slightly inspired by a complaint leveled at menus/leveling systems in another thread recently (but moreso another futile set of chest compressions and a couple breaths into the near-lifeless body of this site,) how do you prefer to spend your experience points? There are myriad specific types, but I believe most boil down to a couple generic categories: base stat increases and one-time perks of increasing benefit. I've missed one or more I'm sure, so please feel free to offer them up and explain/comment.

Base Stat Increases: The method wherein you've got several base states (e.g.: Strength, Magic, etc.) and as you acquire XP through various methods, you eventually earn enough to increase one or more stats a single level for negligible benefit, the idea being that cumulatively, multiple increases in a single stat are necessary to yield appreciable benefits, i.e.: going from 5 to 6 in STR might not make much of a difference, but the difference between 5 and 15 in STR is life or death.

One-Time Perks of Increasing Benefit: The method wherein you still earn an equivalent of XP, but instead of increasing a single stat, you are awarded a "perk" or like analogue (often within a skill tree type set up) that awards you immediate and appreciable benefits. E.g.: the first might unlock Fire damage in a skill tree leading to increasingly powerful fire-based skills and defenses, effectively changing how you affect the game world and not so much how much so as in a stats based system.

I think I fall into the latter category, at least I think I want to, but either works well if done correctly. I feel like I work to earn XP; something about finally spending it to do, what, TWO more points of damage to an enemy? And having to do that multiple times before I can finally say I feel like the grind has paid off? I think Dark Souls does this method best simply because, particularly early on, it's easy to pump a single stat for quicker benefit as you tailor your build, then pad supporting stats as the game progresses (a hard lesson to wrap your head around when you're new to the franchise.) Downsides of perk progression systems though is that often, particularly powerful/significant perks cost multiple "points" or they've got myriad, intermediary "meh" perks that are required to unlock and you find yourself going long periods without the "a-HA!" moments. It's also harder to feel you're truly customizing your experience when you're progressing with "off the shelf" bonuses, but again, when a perk or two significantly changes the way you play, it can serve to keep gameplay fresh, something I felt Borderlands and Deus Ex: Human Revolution did really well.

Defence. Defence, defence, defence.

I recall seeing a thread shortly before Skyrim first came out, asking about the first things everybody would be doing. Someone said "duel wield shields". I understand this perfectly.

In Bloodborne I only went for health, endurance and strength. Everything else felt useless, when the point of the game is to kill the enemies, and a giant sword doing one-hits on most enemies felt like the best way to achieve that goal.
I know some people think skill and magic and whatever is the best way to go that, arguing that you can hit a church giant 50+ times with the blades of mercy, doing 50 damage each time and wear the thing down. But my counter would be the Ludwig sword with high strength does 1000 damage per hit, and can kill most enemies with 1-3 hits.

I always felt simple, practical, straight forward leveling was the best way to go about things.

Silvanus:
Defence. Defence, defence, defence.

I recall seeing a thread shortly before Skyrim first came out, asking about the first things everybody would be doing. Someone said "duel wield shields". I understand this perfectly.

Tangentially on topic (guessing you're of the former variety of leveling systems,) but you do bring up an interesting point; I'm of the exact opposite mindset: offense, offense, offense! Spending on defense (to me) feels like a waste; it tells me I'm planning on taking damage when I should be planning on dealing out the damage in biblical proportions, 40 days and 40 nights so pure, unadulterated PAIN. I watched a Dark Souls challenge on YouTube of people one-shotting Darks Souls bosses in NG (after the Asylum Demon) and it was orgasmic. I tried to replicate their processes and do it myself, but needless to say, I ain't "gud" enough; running around with a quarter health using Power Within and Red Tearstone Ring at the same time sets off pretty much every Dark Souls alarm in my pea-brain and I don't perform so well under that kind of pressure.

I prefer to buy abilities/skills/perks/etc, and my base stats increase automatically.

Every time I get the choice to increase a stat, I'll always pick whichever one allows me to deal more damage first.

I try to design a 'theme' of a character, even if it's not going to be the most combat effective.

In my current D&D campaign I have a Warforged Cleric I'm trying to turn into a library/temple/castle, in both the metaphorical and even literal sense. He's big, solid and can take hits many couldn't. But he's slow as sin and unchanging in belief and methods.

It means I end up taking strength and intelligence feats, when almost all clerics just grab maybe one or two casting feats and the rest go into upping wisdom.

Why not both? I like system where you have base stats and need your stats to be at a certain level to get the perks you want (think fallout). This way you get interesting situation where you have to decide if you want to go high in one stats just for that one great perk or spread out more.

Even better when some perks are locked behind doing something, like say to get the "the decapitator perk" you need to kill a certain number of enemy with headshot or something. This way I'm always changing the way I play to focus on getting certain perks.

Tale of grace F as a really cool system. Every character as 100+ title, they can equip one title at a time and the exp they get in battle goes toward leveling the title itself, each title as 5 level, each of which boost the character basic stats or unlock new ability and on top of that title have a bonus attached to them, which become stronger if you fully level the title to it's max rank. The title are obtain in all kinds of way, from using certain ability a lot in battle, to win battle fast and even for doing some stuff in the world that are non combat related. This made every battle interesting because I was always changing the way I played and the character I used to maximize unlocking title, and since you get certain title for using some ability a lot I was spamming my ability all the time, which means I was often out of ability point and made the game challenging but in an organic way. Shame the game outside of the combat system was shit.

Neither of the two, I just want the exp bar to fill and automatically level me up and that should give preset stat bonuses. The skills/abilities should be tied to a different system, of which you can have many, some can be tied to which weapon you use and having weapon-specific experience gauges, others can be tied to plot (go to this master and do this quest to learn this move) and you can also have some which you learn automatically as you level up every few milestones.

In games where you are allowed to allocate your stat increase, I find I tend to make myself too OP through my min-max tendencies so unless it's a game where levels aren't too important I'd rather the game itself leveled up the characters as they fit. Also, I think that the stats that the game chooses to increase more serve as a storytelling component, since you'd expect the tiny fragile mage girl to not be very high on strength (or conversely she could be super strong as a plot point) but if you let me choose those things then that element of the character is kinda replaced with what I came up with based on my own imagination and gameplay convenience which doesn't feel quite as significant as the char just being how they're supposed to be like independently of my input, as a citizen of the game world.

Meiam:
Why not both? I like system where you have base stats and need your stats to be at a certain level to get the perks you want (think fallout). This way you get interesting situation where you have to decide if you want to go high in one stats just for that one great perk or spread out more.

Even better when some perks are locked behind doing something, like say to get the "the decapitator perk" you need to kill a certain number of enemy with headshot or something. This way I'm always changing the way I play to focus on getting certain perks.

Tale of grace F as a really cool system. Every character as 100+ title, they can equip one title at a time and the exp they get in battle goes toward leveling the title itself, each title as 5 level, each of which boost the character basic stats or unlock new ability and on top of that title have a bonus attached to them, which become stronger if you fully level the title to it's max rank. The title are obtain in all kinds of way, from using certain ability a lot in battle, to win battle fast and even for doing some stuff in the world that are non combat related. This made every battle interesting because I was always changing the way I played and the character I used to maximize unlocking title, and since you get certain title for using some ability a lot I was spamming my ability all the time, which means I was often out of ability point and made the game challenging but in an organic way. Shame the game outside of the combat system was shit.

A good mixture of both is ideal of course, Fallout being a decent example. But my issue with Fallout is it's too easy, and your "choices" never really seem to hold weight; I never got to a point in the game where I felt investing in one stat/perk or another would have dramatically changed my experience; the perks served primarily as bonuses, and not so much critical leveling up elements that helped define your character. Still, I'll take that combination over some other titles that fall on their face trying to do one or the other exclusively.

Dreiko:
Neither of the two, I just want the exp bar to fill and automatically level me up and that should give preset stat bonuses. The skills/abilities should be tied to a different system, of which you can have many, some can be tied to which weapon you use and having weapon-specific experience gauges, others can be tied to plot (go to this master and do this quest to learn this move) and you can also have some which you learn automatically as you level up every few milestones.

In games where you are allowed to allocate your stat increase, I find I tend to make myself too OP through my min-max tendencies so unless it's a game where levels aren't too important I'd rather the game itself leveled up the characters as they fit. Also, I think that the stats that the game chooses to increase more serve as a storytelling component, since you'd expect the tiny fragile mage girl to not be very high on strength (or conversely she could be super strong as a plot point) but if you let me choose those things then that element of the character is kinda replaced with what I came up with based on my own imagination and gameplay convenience which doesn't feel quite as significant as the char just being how they're supposed to be like independently of my input, as a citizen of the game world.

Yes, that's a system you see as well, but then you're delving into the realm of games that pretty much defeat the purpose of leveling (or at least the purpose of any significant RPG elements;) you're just playing the character at given stages of their predetermined development, not being the character and developing them in such a way that befits your personal preference. I'm talking more about games where player choice is key to game design and how the manner in which you're offered those choices affects your enjoyment.

I prefer unlocking skills/perks, stats barely feel like progress unless it takes X strength to wield a weapon or something like that.

Xprimentyl:

A good mixture of both is ideal of course, Fallout being a decent example. But my issue with Fallout is it?s too easy, and your ?choices? never really seem to hold weight; I never got to a point in the game where I felt investing in one stat/perk or another would have dramatically changed my experience; the perks served primarily as bonuses, and not so much critical leveling up elements that helped define your character. Still, I?ll take that combination over some other titles that fall on their face trying to do one or the other exclusively.

Well investing in gun versus melee makes a pretty big difference on the experience. You might want to check out age of decadence, you can go trough the game purely by fighting or diplomacy depending on how you spend your point.

The big problem I think is that most game are just too easy, a hard game you have to agonize over every choice since they can make or break you but other games are so easy you can pick whatever and still do just fine, making the leveling system little more than flavor text. Add to that the idea that every build must be viable means you end up with game that have to cater to the lowest common denominator can't have a section that require the player to use a range attack because some people won't have them. (Here I'm using difficulty as a mix between complexity and actual difficulty, doubling the enemy health doesn't make it more difficulty, just more tedious).

How did you find mass effect 2 skill system? At first I disliked it, but once I played the game on insanity I found that the choices were far more interesting than mass effect 1 choices since they weren't just stats in the background. Having to choose between spending a large number on getting my favorite ability up versus a small amount on multiple ability was something I quite liked and the branch at the end of every ability was quite fun and made things unique.

I prefer getting new skills and abilities over stat increases. Stat increases usually just serve to keep the game the same (basically your damage, defense, health rise equally with harder monsters you face) while getting new abilities changes gameplay.

Silvanus:
Defence. Defence, defence, defence.

I recall seeing a thread shortly before Skyrim first came out, asking about the first things everybody would be doing. Someone said "duel wield shields". I understand this perfectly.

I'm mostly the opposite. The enemy can't hit you if they're already dead.

Having said that though, I'll definitely invest in defense if I have some points left for it.

In terms of the whole perks and skill points, I really liked the way the older fallout games worked. Enemies got tougher, you did more damage with your weapons, perks gave you certain quirky bonuses that helped your playstyle, or honed it. The RPGs I have played have mostly got me into the habit of min-maxing, with a possibility of trying another stat in another playthrough. Rarely got around to it though.

I tend to pick the stats that go with my character class, but strictly prioritize DPS. So it can be a combination of very heavy hitting, or quick dual-wield and crit chance (which goes with Dex/Agility for dodge as well). With melee weapons, I tend to go for the dual-wield and speed (Neverwinter Nights, Grim Dawn, Titan Quest), but with ranged weapons, especially guns in FPS games, I always, ALWAYS go damage and accuracy first. When I played Evil Within 2, I spent almost everything on maxing certain guns out in damage alone. I only upgraded fire rate later, then ammo capacity, then reload. I was never short on ammo throughout the game. Same for Deus Ex HR and MD.

I'm mostly fine with either leveling system, probably leaning towards preferring the Stat increase one especially if it involves some integration with a talent tree for skills that isn't tied to levels (Dragon Age: Origins is the closest I've played to it but still has level requirements on it's talent tree). However what really annoys me is the system that sets your base stats at the start but then doesn't inform you that you're unable to increase those stats naturally for the rest of the game and instead changes are dependent on the equipment that you acquire and wear. Gee thanks game now I'm sat looking like a real twat because I decided to maximize intelligence on a rogue for the exp gain buff and extra skill points early on but my dexterity and constitution are shit so I can't survive combat or deal any real damage to enemies *leers at Pillars of Eternity*.

Silentpony:
In Bloodborne I only went for health, endurance and strength. Everything else felt useless, when the point of the game is to kill the enemies, and a giant sword doing one-hits on most enemies felt like the best way to achieve that goal.
I know some people think skill and magic and whatever is the best way to go that, arguing that you can hit a church giant 50+ times with the blades of mercy, doing 50 damage each time and wear the thing down. But my counter would be the Ludwig sword with high strength does 1000 damage per hit, and can kill most enemies with 1-3 hits.

I always felt simple, practical, straight forward leveling was the best way to go about things.

Well if it helps nearly all the other stats were useless when the game launched, strength was the only viable stat for consistent damage and skill was highly dependent on specific high level blood gem drops whilst bloodtinge and Arcane had such terrible scaling that they were pointless to use unless you specifically wanted to use heal or buff items. I mean the cannon used to scale amazingly with strength and people worked out how to get four shots with it so that was another reason why it was really popular. Of course everything slowly got buffed to be more in line with strength the cannon scaling was reduced and it's shot cost increased, then bloodtinge scaling got buffed so pistol builds were viable then Arcane was buffed so that spells were barely usable and then the spells themselves were buffed to be more effective then skill scaling was made more consistent and that is what gave birth to the Arcane Rifle Spear build which scaled from bloodtinge, Arcane and skill creating a weapon of mass salt induction.

By default I tend to go with HP for stats and healing perks and skills. But it really depends on which game we are talking about.

Arnoxthe1:

Silvanus:
Defence. Defence, defence, defence.

I recall seeing a thread shortly before Skyrim first came out, asking about the first things everybody would be doing. Someone said "duel wield shields". I understand this perfectly.

I'm mostly the opposite. The enemy can't hit you if they're already dead.

Having said that though, I'll definitely invest in defense if I have some points left for it.

Me too, I'm more likely to favor the glass cannon build. I don't like to artificially draw out a fight if I can just finish it in a few hits.

@OP - I would like the second choice, but only if done well. Take a game like Deus Ex Human Revolution where some of the abilities were pointless (most of the hacking abilities) or some of the Ubi games like Far Cry Primal and AC Origins.
Or there's games I like, such as Divinity 1&2 but a lot of people have legit complaints that the perks they chose crippled their build in the end.

But then I think of games like Skyrim, Fallout 3, NV and 4 where you get both stats and perks and very few perks are pointless or cripple your character. (Of course your character is highly OP by halfway through the game, so...)

Xprimentyl:

Dreiko:
Neither of the two, I just want the exp bar to fill and automatically level me up and that should give preset stat bonuses. The skills/abilities should be tied to a different system, of which you can have many, some can be tied to which weapon you use and having weapon-specific experience gauges, others can be tied to plot (go to this master and do this quest to learn this move) and you can also have some which you learn automatically as you level up every few milestones.

In games where you are allowed to allocate your stat increase, I find I tend to make myself too OP through my min-max tendencies so unless it's a game where levels aren't too important I'd rather the game itself leveled up the characters as they fit. Also, I think that the stats that the game chooses to increase more serve as a storytelling component, since you'd expect the tiny fragile mage girl to not be very high on strength (or conversely she could be super strong as a plot point) but if you let me choose those things then that element of the character is kinda replaced with what I came up with based on my own imagination and gameplay convenience which doesn't feel quite as significant as the char just being how they're supposed to be like independently of my input, as a citizen of the game world.

Yes, that?s a system you see as well, but then you?re delving into the realm of games that pretty much defeat the purpose of leveling (or at least the purpose of any significant RPG elements;) you?re just playing the character at given stages of their predetermined development, not being the character and developing them in such a way that befits your personal preference. I?m talking more about games where player choice is key to game design and how the manner in which you?re offered those choices affects your enjoyment.

I find that if a game is expertly balanced, you simply can not make as deep of a game experience by virtue of your own imagination or desire to RP whereas the developers who have a broader perspective and know how the game will advance are way better equipped to give you a stat progression that is most conducive to a good experience.

I don't think that whether this or that stat is higher really affects the rpg experience because the game can still have choices you make and can give you more meaningful ways of sculpting the role you wanna play as the character. It could just have various pre-set paths that you can choose to follow, each with its own set progression, so you can both express yourself and at the same time enjoy a very well-calibrated experience. For example, something like the Job system in final fantasy I think is a good medium. There's dozens of jobs to pick from and each has a set of pre-set attributes so you get to pick the one that you want. It may not be quite as flexible as something like DnD where you can put almost all your points in 1 stat but I also don't think that being able to do that for the few people who enjoy playing that way is worth everyone else getting a sub-par experience.

Out of those two, I usually take the second choice.

I also find myself buying the cheapest thing I want (i.e. If there are 3 skills I want costing 4,5 & 6 points each I'll almost always get them in that order.)

I like one time perks. Incremental increases of stats are kind of dull, in comparison to a perk that immediately lets you shoot knives out of your hands or ride an elephant. I also tend to hoard XP/money in games for big purchases, rather than lots of small incremental purchases (In Driver, San Francisco for instance, I saved all my cash to buy the single most expensive upgrade before anything else).

HORDE THEM ALL!

Until, you know, I'm forced to use them.

 

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