Dungeon World gives experience from a number of different sources. To gain a level of Dungeon World, you must spend experience points you’ve gained equal to your level + 7, so 8 points to gain 1 level to level 2, 9 points to gain a level to level 3, etc. They’ve ditched the 29,000 experience point issue that has plagued D&D from the outset of the game.
Next, Dungeon World gives you experience for a variety of different things. At the end of each session, you answer a few questions about the session to determine whether you earned an experience point for each question. Just simple enough to be very usable, just complicated enough to encourage a wide range of behaviors – not just combat.
So what kind of questions do you answer? At the end of the session, you can take the End of Session move:
End of Session
When you reach the end of a session, choose one of your bonds that you feel is resolved (completely explored, no longer relevant, or otherwise). Ask the player of the character you have the bond with if they agree. If they do, mark XP and write a new bond with whomever you wish.
Once bonds have been updated look at your alignment. If you fulfilled that alignment at least once this session, mark XP. Then answer these three questions as a group:
- Did we learn something new and important about the world?
- Did we overcome a notable monster or enemy?
- Did we loot a memorable treasure?
For each “yes” answer everyone marks XP.
For each question answered yes, each character gains an experience point. You also answer some questions about your own character
So – at the end of each session, 2-5 experience points are up for grabs. There is one other major source of experience though, and that is baked into the core mechanic. Any time you miss (6-) on any roll, you mark an experience. This means that when your character attempts an action, you either succeed in that action, succeed with a complication, or the GM makes a move and you gain an experience. Really takes a little sting out of failure doesn’t it? This “learn from your mistakes” method is a great little mechanic! The system now rewards players who get involved in the game with actions, including actions that aren’t necessarily their character’s strengths. This is a power equalizer as well. If you have a character that’s weaker than the rest, that character will likely fail more rolls over time, and gain experience faster, and become a stronger a little faster. Rewarding an experience point for failure means that, conceivable, if you’re a first level character and you are asked to attempt at least 8 rolls in a session (certainly you’ll attempt more than this), and you fail 8 rolls, you’re going to gain a level for that session.
I haven’t gone through the math of this, but I’d like to see how that works in practice. It seems that, with the experience gained on a failure rule, level progression would be quite fast in Dungeon World – maybe a level every session. The number of rolls a player might make during the course of the game could vary drastically, I think, based on the way the game is handled by the GM. The GM is given a lot of leeway in triggering the players to make certain moves, and this frequency will directly impact level progression. This is a minor issue though, since this is an easy threshold to house rule so that level progression meets the group’s expectations.
So, Dungeon World creates an experience advancement system that rewards all the behaviors the system is looking for in players and builds in a little bit of relief from the strict failure that poor dice, weaker characters, or “sub-optimal” actions can cause in a standard game of D&D.