Rating Your Players for Fun & Profit

I have been tinkering with an idea; on one hand it is rather gamy, but it would increase the difficulty level of the game, and can help players become better then they normally would be.

In the past I have written about training and leveling up. Implementing the training rules does encourage the players to collect as much money as they can. While it does make the milieu economy meaningless, there are other benefits to charging gp to level up, namely being that the level up rate will be more evenly distributed.

First Edition had an interesting take on the leveling up process, one in which how the player acted and played the game determined how hard or how easy it was to level up. Now my idea takes that theory a bit further, I do want to see some competition going on as I find that when people compete with each other, they become better players for it.

My idea is to assign everybody a grade based on the player’s nightly performance. I will only pass out 1 of each high score, and I must pass out a very low score as well. The scores will reflect on how many weeks it will take the PC to level up, as well as how much they will have to pay. Now please understand that this hasn’t been play-tested yet, and currently it is just a theory, but it could be fun!


It is the DM’s job to track how the players are doing individually, and look for problems. Is the player properly role-playing his character? Is the wizard smart enough to use a magical item at a critical moment? Is the Cleric role-playing devotion to his faith? Is the thief fighting in face-to-face melee combat in the front with the warriors? Players some times chose to play the game to accomplish a goal that perhaps the character itself would be incapable of. If you offer the chance for extra gold to a thief, he should always take it! Wizards should always refuse to fight in the front, and Paladins will never guard a door when their fellow warriors are fighting in the front.

It is the DM’s job to look for inconsistencies. Is the ranger renting a room in the city? Is the Druid fighting plant-based monsters right along side his fellow players? We shouldn’t comment on it, but make a note of it to the side. Not to say that we shouldn’t let the players role-play their characters, but once they have chosen their personalities, such as a cowardly cleric, then it wouldn’t make much sense for him to run into combat later on down the line just because his party needs help. Let the player’s have their fun, but if they do it too often then it will cost them money and time later on down the road.

Many tables also have problems with how players conduct themselves. Are they argumentative, not show up regularly, or worse, show up late without calling first? All of this can also be factored into how the DM judges the players ability to play.


A scale of grading will determine how many weeks a PC requires to train based on his in game actions. Alternatively you can limit A’s and B’s to only one player per game. These grades should be assigned at the time that you give out XP at the end of the night.

A—Superior gaming skills = 1
B—Above Average Skills = 2
C—Average Player = 3
D—Weak Playing Skills = 4


Once a player qualifies to level up, the DM must tally up all of his grades and determine which was most common. This way, an off night once in a while won’t affect your over-all score.

C should be average, but truly good players will have access to A’s or B’s. And truly bad players will get the hint that they need to improve. While it isn’t required for the D category to be used, I think that some tables might enjoy it being given out, especially if all of the players are equally good.


The base cost to level up is 1,500 gp per level, per week of training. This money is to pay the teacher, and pay for his time, supplies, expertise, tithes, whatever. Characters with a C or below must seek out an NPC of the same class and of a higher level to have them teach them. A character with a score of B or higher can opt to do independent study which may be a bit more expensive, but doesn’t require one to seek out a teacher.

No adventuring can be done while the character is in training, and if for some reason he must stop training, he must start over from the beginning and the money that he spent will be lost.


Independent study still takes the same number of weeks of dedicated training, and training only. A place must be located which is suitable to accomplish the training, and the cost below reflects that.

FIGHTER: 1,000 gp per level/week
MAGE: 4,000 gp per level/week
CLERIC: 2,000 gp per level/week
ROGUE: 2,000 gp per level/week


A character can only level up once per training session. A 1st level character who has gained enough xp to level up to 3rd must first train and level up to 2nd level before he can level up to 3rd.

A character may still earn XP until he has collected enough to level up twice. At that time, no more XP can be earned until he spends the time and the money to level up.

Thus, Fran the Terrible, a 1st level Fighter, has collected 3,985 xp. He qualifies to level up to 2nd level, however he hasn’t been able to escape the hellish pit that he and his mates have been exploring. Killing a monster worth 50 xp, he’ll only get 25 of that, as it will push him into qualifying for 3rd level. All other XP is lost until Fran can surface and train to become 2nd level. After he is second level, he can either spend more time and money leveling up to 3rd, or go back down into the hole as a 2nd level fighter and keep earning more XP until he’s earned enough to level up to 4th.


If you plan on using this experimental rule system, you may want to let the encumbrance rules slide, a least in regards to transporting gold, as it will take a hell-a-lot of it to pay to level up.

On paper, this system looks kind of fun, and it is based on an AD&D rule found in the 1e DMG, all I did was make it a bit more competitive. I am interested to know if anybody has ever played under that particular leveling up rule, and how it worked. I suppose that in this day and age players will bitch because they want their damned level up right NOW!!! But why should they instantly get it? I mean many of my players laugh at a player’s ability in 4th edition to demand specific magical items from the DM, who says that Leveling up should be a freebee too?


Anonymous said...

Unnecessary, irrelevant and condescending. You will only breed inter-party jealousies that will destroy the group dynamic as you hand out your 'grades'.

Cease and desist lest I call the gaming police. You have been warned.

mthomas768 said...

Sorry, I can't see grading your players as anything other than a negative for the game.

limpey said...

I wouldn't simply because I would feel like I was reinforcing the behavior at the table that I liked instead of letting the players do what they want. One of the things I'm currently thinking about is that there may be as many approaches to the game as there are people sitting at the table, and, in the past, I assumed that as DM my opinion was the one that mattered.
I'm no longer so sure about that. For example, if I were a teacher in the classroom, I would issue grades based upon tests... and tests would hopefully reflect the student's understanding of the material.
But playing a game shouldn't be like school in my opinion. Unlike calculus, I don't want there to be one answer to a problem. Faced with the typical dungeon door, the players can pick the lock, listen, bash it down, turn around and walk away, etc. If I am DM and I know what is on the other side of the door, I might know which choice is most advantageous... but that would be grading players on information they don't have.

I was always intrigued by the Hackmaster 4e 'most valuable player' concept (every game the players vote one of their own number MVP and that player gets an XP bonus). That's as close as I might come... and as DM I would abstain from voting unless there was a tie.

Tala said...

I have got to put in my two cents on this one...I don't like it, I don't like it AT ALL! I don't see this working. I agree with the above comment about inter-party, and inter-player, relationships going to hell in a hand-basket. I could see it breeding animosity, especially if somebody felt like they were getting picked on all the time. And you know damn good and well, that I'm not above voicing my opinion at the table either. Our table has a combination of those players that are more apt to hang back, and those of us that charge the front. That's just "our" natural personalities shining through, not the character's. Granted it should be the character's, because that's part of role-playing, but to give somebody a "bad grade" just because they're having an off night, or don't really feel like playing, but is doing it because they don't wanna let everyone else down, and then gets punished for it later, sucks.

Sorry honey, but this idea, is a total lemon.

Barad the Gnome said...

I tried something akin to 'rating' the players back in the day (aka 1E and too much time on my hands). I won't bore everyone with the details but it was in summary an ABDC scale that made an adjustment to a players XP awards. Rating was on game play, character & alignment role play.

It created a bunch of work on my part, very little change in character behavior, some hard feelings and a mismatch in character levels that made designing encounters more difficult. Idea abandoned.

Fast forward to today. XP are doled out equally if you participated in the adventure. Alignment is more of a 'guideline' that a measuring stick. Good or poor game play is rewarded in game with success or failure. Players critique each other as appropriate. Sometimes the DM takes a player aside and gives advice. Not following your character personality and/or alignment has in game consequences only - wholly dependent on circumstance.

Examples: Behaving in consistently to your personality makes it hard for people to like/trust you - because they do not know what to expect. When you are in an organization with a behavior code, there are benefits for following the code & consequences for not.

That is it - nothing more than that. I find the 'in game' rewards are more powerful than the XP, plus it is immediate or nearly so. Just like with your dog, players learn better if they are corrected or rewarded immediately for behavior.

.... now there is a Blog topic..... training your players like dogs. :)


Ripper X said...

It was just a fleeting thought, thank you all for your feedback, I shall not explore this idea further.

Anonymous said...

Good but if you disrupt my sense of proper D&D play again your gaming license will be revoked. We will be watching.

AWizardInDallas said...

I tried a system wherein the players rated one another on roleplay. Basically I gave them a points pool they could give to one another for good roleplay. Unfortunately it didn't work out so well because the players ended up mixing up most effective in combat with roleplay. :|

The best way seems to award points on the fly. I think it encourages roleplay in what is a combat-heavy game. If a character makes you laugh or cry during the session then just give 'em points. :)

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